Bristlenose Pleco Care

Bristlenose Pleco Care Guide

The Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most popular species of Pleco fish you will find in home aquariums all over the globe.

Also known as the Bushy nose Pleco, these easy to care for tropical freshwater fish are perfect for beginner aquarists and advanced aquarists alike.

Most commonly found in the Amazon river basin of South America, the Bristlenose Pleco is a hardy fish that can survive and thrive in a variety of different habitats.

Not only are they incredibly hardy and easy to care for, but their sheer size allows them to consume massive amounts of algae, as opposed to a smaller algae eater such as a snail or a shrimp (I have a list of my favorite algae eating fish here).

Bristlenose Pleco Tank Conditions

Bristlenose pleco water chemistry

Let’s jump straight into the Bristlenose Care specifics…

What Size Aquarium Do Bristlenose Plecos Need?

Bristlenose Plecos are not small fish. They can reach up to 6 inches in length relatively quickly, so it’s recommended that you keep them in a tank size of at least 30 gallons.

Remember that this is just a minimum recommendation. The bigger your aquarium, the better it will be for your pleco. Especially if you decide to keep other fish in your aquarium. Plecos are amazing fish, but you don’t see many Bristlenose Pleco specific aquariums. They are typically in a larger, communal tank.

If your Pleco is sharing the tank with a bunch of other fish, then it’s recommended that you either house them in something a little bit bigger than 30 gallons.

bristlenose pleco tank

Water Parameters

Bristlenose Plecos are hardy fish meaning they can tolerate a broader range of water parameters. With that being said, our goal is to replicate the natural environment of the fish we are keeping and keep it as consistent as possible.

I have put together a table to highlight the most important parameters. Stick to these and your Pleco will thrive:

ParameterOptimum Range
TemperatureTropical (60F – 80F or 15c – 25c)
pHNeutral (6.5 – 7.5)
Oxygen LevelsHigh
Minimum Tank Size30 Gallons

A Note On Filtration

Bristlenose Plecos live in fast-flowing rivers with a high current and a fast turnover of water. This means that good filtration and oxygenation are crucial for them to live a healthy life in your aquarium.

High-powered filters with an oxygen intake hose will work wonders. Not only will the high-powered filter create the necessary flow for the Plecos to thrive but also the additional oxygen being introduced into the tank will make sure the water is sufficiently oxygenated.

For extra oxygenation, you could install an air pump at the bottom of your tank. I have an article all about the benefits of aquarium air pumps that is worth checking out.

How big do Bristlenose Plecos get?

Bristlenose Pleco Tank Decorations & Plants

In the wild, the Bristlenose Pleco will generally spend the majority of it’s day doing two things:

  • Foraging for food or searching for algae on your aquarium walls, plants, and decorations.
  • Hiding in a safe, cozy place such as under a rock, or a piece of driftwood.

With that being the case, it’s no surprise that Bristlenose Plecos love an aquarium with a lot going on.

They like lots of places to forage for food and lots of places to hide.

There are so many aquarium decorations available online or from your local pet store. As long as there’s enough space, almost any tank decoration will work. You could even use a piece of PVC pipe or an upside-down plant pot.

Bristlenose Plecos Tank Setup

What Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat?

Bristlenose Plecos are predominantly herbivores. At least 75% of their diet should be a plant-based food such as algae wafers. Vegetables such as zucchini, cabbage, and cucumber can be fed occasionally as a treat.

Don’t forget – Bristlenose Plecos are bottom-feeding fish. Any food you feed them must sink to the bottom of the tank, or you risk them not seeing the food at all.

A plant-based sinking pellet would be the best choice for an ‘all-rounder’. The one that I use and recommend is the Tetra Pro Pleco Wafers. They are nutritionally adequate, they sink quickly and they don’t murky up the water like a flake food tends to if left uneaten.

Bristlenose Plecos and Algae

Bristlenose Pleco have an insatiable appetite for algae, so much so that they many people often add this fish to tanks simply to keep algae under control.

Your Bristlenose will forage constantly. All-day long. Your aquarium walls, the substrate, plant leaves, decorations and anything else in your aquarium that could be harboring any of the green stuff will be routinely checked.

But that alone is not enough… Bristlenose Plecos are huge fish and require a large amount of food as well as algae. The algae is simply a dessert.

To supplement their love for algae, and to keep them as healthy as possible, you can also offer them an algae wafer from time to time. (These Tetra wafers are the best bang for your buck)

bristlenose pleco care

What Vegetables Can Bristlenose Plecos Eat?

In terms of the vegetables that Bristlenose Plecos like to eat, you can’t go wrong with anything green. Green vegetables are nutritious, cheap and we often have them in our refrigerators anyway.

A few of the vegetables that my plecos will never turn their nose up at are:

  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Romaine Lettuce

However, as always, make sure you remove any leftover vegetables from the tank within a day of feeding them, as to prevent them from fouling the water in your tank.

bristlenose pleco diet

A Quick Note of Fiber

Bristlenose Plecos, being predominantly vegetarian fish, require a large amount of fiber in their diets to stay healthy.

If you are feeding them enough vegetables, you should not have a problem with this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in case you ever forget to stay consistent or you are unavailable to feed them fresh vegetables.

If that is the case, then the Bristlenose Pleco will need to obtain fiber from somewhere else. Logs of wood such as driftwood are made up of fibrous matter, which can provide the Plecos with all of the fiber that they need. A small piece like this one will take up barely any space and will keep your Plecos snacking for a long long time.

What About Frozen & Live Foods?

Live and frozen foods are not an essential part of the Bristlenose Plecos diet, so don’t stress too much over these. Plant-based wafers and pellets and plenty of green vegetables will be more than enough to keep them happy.

Again, the Bristlenose Pleco is a bottom-feeding fish, so it’s important that any live or frozen foods sink to the bottom of the tank, in order for them to be seen.

How Long Do Bristlenose Plecos Live?

Breeding Bristlenose Plecos

If you are interested in breeding the Bristlenose Pleco, then you are in luck, as they are one of the easiest Pleco fish to breed at home. The first part of the breeding cycle is to induce spawning.

To increase the chances of a successful breed, I would recommend at least a 2 to 1 ratio of females to male.

Remember the hiding place that I mentioned earlier? This is where your Plecos will generally breed, so make sure there is plenty of space for them to do their thing.

Inducing Spawning

To induce spawning, we recommend a water change of at least 50%.

This will trick the Plecos into thinking it’s the rainy season, which is when they prefer to start breeding.

The only other tip when trying to induce spawning is to make sure you are feeding the fish plenty of high quality food. More live foods would be recommended during this time.

Once the water change has taken place, the rest of the breeding process will pan out on it’s own. The male Pleco will find his territory and will make it his own, defending it from the other male Plecos in the tank, if you have any.

Male Bristlenose Plecos are very territorial, and when they are looking after their eggs, they will be constantly having to defend themselves from other fish in the tank.

The females will enter the ‘cave’ with the male, and will deposit the eggs to the upper surface of it. The eggs will hatch around 10 days later.

It’s worth noting that other fish will constantly be on the lookout for ‘free food’ and will not hesitate to eat the Pleco fry if they are left to their own devices.

To increase the chances of a successful breed, you can simply transfer the container with the eggs attached to them to another tank.

What Shall I Feed Bristlenose Pleco Fry?

Once the eggs hatch, the newly born Bristlenose Plecos will begin feeding on algae around the tank. However, the fry can also be fed a variety of foods including Infusoria and powdered spirulina.

As the fry start to grow, you can begin introducing more live foods into their diet and eventually more and more plant based foods and vegetables.

Sexing Bristlenose Plecos

how to sex bristlenose plecos

Identifying the sex of your Bristlenose Pleco is pretty straight forward.

Males tend to grow a lot faster than females, and the bristles on their noses tend to be much larger in size.

Sexing Female Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Temperament & Suitable Tank Mates

The Bristlenose Pleco is a brilliant fish for beginner fish keepers thanks to their peaceful and sociable temperament.

You can successfully house Bristlenose Plecos with most other fish in a community tank. Their hardy nature also allows them to feel comfortable in a wide variety of tank conditions.

As we mention early during the breeding section, male Bristlenose Plecos can be extremely territorial and competitive when it comes time for breeding, so keep that in mind when deciding on how many of them to purchase.

Other than that, you are free to peacefully house your new Plecos with almost any other community fish, including:

Commonly Asked Questions

Are Bristlenose Plecos susceptible To Diseases?

This species of fish is not known to be prone to any specific diseases. As long as your tank is in good condition, clean, and the fish have plenty of hiding places, you should have no problems at all.

What Is The Scientific Name For The Bristlenose Pleco?

The scientific name is Ancistrus Cirrhosus.

What Is The Lifespan Of The Bristlenose Pleco?

They will generally live around 20 years if they are looked after correctly, and they are healthy.

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  1. Aidan Zollner says:

    Love the article ☺ Just a little grammar check I think you meant to put “hardy” instead of hard.

    “Not only are they incredibly hard and easy to care for”

    1. logan Fish Keeping Advice says:

      Hi Aidan,

      Well spotted. :D Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Hi there. In your opinion would it be possible for different Plecos to interbreed i e albino bristlenose and L236 !! as I have these two types of Plecos getting rather friendly in a cave , hope to hear from you. Kind regards john.

  3. My Plecos has laid eggs but I don’t have a spare tank to separate them. How big does the surface area need to be and at what temperature (as I don’t have a spare water heater either !)

  4. Chuck Belew says:

    I have been keeping and breeding Pleco for over 15 years. In the last 2 weeks I have lost over 200 fish. They hang on the glass , wont eat dart around the tank then back to hanging on the glass,Ihave not changed anything except daily water changes. The water checks checks fine. Are there any suggestions you might be able to pass along?

  5. Trying to find out how to clean my Aquarium with baby fry pleco all over glass dont want to harm them
    Can you give me some direction?

  6. Hazelmay Adams says:

    Hi I have a brissle nosebplec hes got so very promant white patches on him, would he lighten him self if say on a White House in tank? Hope to hear from any of you soon

    1. Hey Hazelmay! Did your Bristlenose Pleco always have these patches? Bristlenose Plecos turn white in unfavorable conditions such as stress, disease, and poor tank conditions. Have you noticed any signs of illness?

  7. This is some really useful information. I am wondering though we are having trouble getting our fry to last more than a few months, should we be removing them from the tank where mum and dad are? it’s a 2foot tank with only breading pair but can’t seem to get fry to last?

    1. Hi Natasha! Separating them won’t do very much, especially considering that Bristlenose fish don’t usually consume their young. I’d normally lean toward their feed as the culprit. What do you feed them?

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