Last Updated: 5/3/21
Setup and Water Preferences
My Bristlenose Plecos
Links and Pictures
For information on my bristlenose plecos' tank, visit my 20 gallon tank page.
Also, check out my common plecostomus page for more general plecostomus information and my Queen Arabesque pleco page for information on them.
New! I took a short video of my male bristlenose pleco sometime in July of 2006. I tried to capture him sucking but all it shows is him breathing. Go to my video page to see it.
Common names: Bristlenose plecostomus, bristlenose catfish, brushmouth
plecostomus, bushy nose(d) plecostomus
Scientific/Latin names: Ancistrus temminckii and related species
Maximum length: 5 to 8 inches (depends on exact species)
Colors: Mottled brown with variations of yellow and black depending on variety and species; yellowish color for albino bristlenose pleco
Temperature preference: 70 to 80 degrees F
pH preference: 6 to 7
Hardness preference: Medium
Salinity preference: Low to medium
Compatibility: Good except breeding males may fight each other
Life span: Unknown
Ease of keeping: Moderate
Ease of breeding: Moderate
The bristlenose pleco, Ancistrus temminckii and related species, is a wonderful fish to have. They come from South America. There are dozens of Ancistrus species. Like many plecos, they love to eat algae. I have read that some aquarists say that bristlenose plecos are the best "cure" for algae problems. Bristlenose's do a good job on attached algae and only grow to 4 to 8 inches depending on the species. Ancistrus temminckii grows only up to about 4.75 inches. Compared to other plecos who grow to 1 to 2 feet, that is small! My common plecostomus is over a foot long which is too big for most smaller aquariums. The bristlenose looks like most plecos in general shape except for its bristles. These fleshy appendages stick out around the lips and head of bristelnose plecos. The "bristles" or "brushes" grow as the fish grows. Males have many more adornments than females.
Setup and Water Preferences
Bristlenose plecos like water that is slightly acidic and medium in hardness (up to about 25 dGH). They do well from about 70 to 75 degrees F according to literature but my baby does fine at 80 degrees F. Bristlenose plecos are very peaceful with the exception being spawning males who may fight with other male bristlenoses. Part of their tank should include a water current from a filter or powerhead. In order for algae to grow, the tank should have a lot of light. To provide shade and spawning sites, live plants, clay pots, driftwood, and/or PVC pipes can be added. Adult bristlenose plecos spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank while babies tend to spend most of their time all over the aquarium glass (at least mine does!). My pleco when a baby also fed throughout the day while adults tend to be more nocturnal, feeding at night.
Like most plecos, they eat hard attached algae from the glass and ornaments. They also will eat sinking algae wafers or pleco foods, vegetable flakes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, peas, and other green vegetables. Cucumber, squash, and zucchini can be prepared by slicing a 2 to 4 inch piece of vegetable and cutting it in half. Remove the seeds with a grapefruit spoon. Attach it to a sinking vegetable holder (sold at most aquarium suppliers), tie it to a rock with anything aquarium-safe, or use a clip on a suction cup to otherwise hold the vegetable (well, they are actually fruits) in place. Frozen, fresh, or canned green beans or peas can be fed to the plecos at room temperature. Some suggest mashing them as well. Also, as with all plecos, the bristlenose pleco should be provided with some driftwood to chew on for roughage.
My female bristlenose had a fondness for sinking shrimp wafers. I have read that females like more meat in their diets.
Males have more bristles on their mouth and head. The bristles are much shorter with fewer branches for a female than for a male. Some might say that a male is "uglier." It is easiest to sex bristlenose plecos when you have a number of adult fish.
Bristlenose plecostomus are perhaps the easiest plecostomus to breed in an aquarium. When sexually mature, a male will find a suitable spawning location and claim it as his territory. This may be around or under a hunk of driftwood or inside or under PVC pipe or clay pots. He will defend the spot from other males if present. To promote spawning, Baensch's aquarium atlas suggests doing a 75% water change in November (in the Northern hemisphere). The shorter days of winter and the water change make the plecos think it is the start of the rainy season. If the tank has a female(s), she will enter his territory and spawning site when she is ready to lay eggs. Eggs are stuck on hard surfaces, on top, hanging from the "ceiling." The camouflaged male will guard the orange or amber eggs until they hatch about ten days later. After absorbing their yolk over three to four days, the tiny, baby plecos will immediately start to work on sucking algae off of surfaces. If there are other fish in the tank aside from the plecos, the babies or eggs can be moved to another tank to prevent those fish from eating the babies. Some breeders remove whatever the eggs are laid on into another tank and give the father a replacement site (wood, pot, PVC, etc.) to guard. Although I have not bred these fish, I would think it would be better to keep the eggs with the father so that he can aerate them and tend to them. The babies can be removed after hatching.
One aquarist reports that bristlenoses will breed in deep, narrow caves like hollowed-out driftwood or PVC pipes that are about 1.5 inches diameter and about 6 inches deep. They use soft and slightly acidic water. Their babies emerge after almost two weeks. Females laid about 50-80 eggs each time.
According to a few aquarists, their bristlenoses will breed at one year old. Mine is at least one year old though (8/02), and he is not near the 3 inch plus length of most breeders. I say he but I think she is female and still under 2 inches long.
Tom e-mailed me on 11/22/05 with the following helpful breeding and feeding tips. I have
altered the text for spelling and grammar.:
"I kept mine in a 30 long with both parents and several spawns of fry together. They need very clean water (low nitrates), pH 6.0-7.0, soft-medium water. I use 2 mm small grain size gravel. I used a round clay breeding cave with about a 1.25 inch opening. The male would guard the eggs in this pot until the free were free-swimming. I got huge spawns from this pair - up to a hundred and never lost any. The fry have a yolk sack and usually stay attached to the top of the cave. Sometimes a new father keeps the fry in the cave too long - they are very protective. After about 10 days, I would shine a flashlight in the cave - if the yolk sacks were gone, I would use a small turkey baster and squirt a little food inside twice a day (Hikari first bites, baby brine shrimp, very fine crushed flakes). There is a lot of misinformation on food. They definitely need greens. My fish (adults and fry) would go crazy for zucchini; however, it can get very messy. After a while, I used Hikari algae wafers, Kent algae pellets, Omega One kelp pellets, etc. and occasionally others with a higher protein content. Fry will take crushed flake - Omega One veggie flakes, spirulina flakes, kelp flakes, etc. The more variety the better. With the exception of young fish taking baby brine shrimp and Hikari first food, I would use 80% vegetable-based and 20% regular flake or pellet (New Life Spectrum is excellent). One more thing - keep driftwood in the tank. The fish rasp on it quite often, and I believe they need it to help aid in digestion. It also helps to keep the water soft." In a subsequent e-mail: "BTW - That red mark is normal coloration. Scared me the first time I saw that on an adult fish. My strain stays small - males - tops 5 inches, females a little under 4." The red mark to which he was referring occurs on the top of their heads and looks like hemorrhaging under the skin.
My Bristlenose Plecos
I had always wanted to try another species of plecostomus. I had had Plecy, my huge common plecostomus for a long time. When I saw a batch of baby albino "brushmouth" plecos in the fall of 2001, I could not resist. I bought one that was under an inch long. The little guy (who turned into a female) had spent every second in my 20 gallon tank since then sucking algae off the glass, in ecstasy. She had not shown any interest in the floor or eating any other food aside from the algae. What a good little worker! I could see the green algae inside the baby through her thin, orange skin. For then, I had no plans on breeding these guys ever but who knew, in a few years, if this guy was alive and well, I might have gotten a mate for her. Her darling photo is below in the photo section where she was inside a clay pot that is only about three inches in diameter. A later photo is above when she was a little bigger. By 8/6/02, my bristle pleco was about 2 inches long and did not have much bristles so I thought (rightly so) she was female. She should have been twice as big at a year old. She had plenty of food and warmth so I did not know why she was slow growing.
Update: 9/25/03. My bristlenose was still pretty small. I thought she was female as the bristles were small. She loved to eat sinking shrimp wafers. Otherwise, she was in hiding!
On 12/7/03, I bought another bristlenose as I wanted them to breed someday. They only had babies for sale. I got another albino bristlenose and put him into my 20 gallon tank as well. Then, my older bristlenose looked huge by comparison! It would be a few years before this dinky baby was old enough to tell if it was male or female. I hoped I had a pair!
Yup, I did! By 7/21/05, the male (younger one) had pronounced bristles and was almost large enough that I might have seen them become a couple. The female was fully mature. He was still half her size.
On 9/24/05, when I went to clean the tank, I wondered where the bristlenoses were as I had not seen them in weeks, maybe more like almost two months! I thought maybe since I rarely look at the tank that they simply were not there when I happened to look, just hiding, even though the male would come for the daily sinking wafer. But this day, I finally decided to find them, dead or alive. I found both of them trapped under a plastic fake rock sold to anchor plants (an Anubias is attached to the top of it). How they got under there I do not know but they could not get out. I propped up one end on a rock so they can get in and out now as they please. I put in a bunch of food for them. The male started eating right away. The female was more shy. Both were anorexic from their experience but not lethargic. I felt bad and stupid for not searching for them sooner. When I did find them alive under there, I thought they might have some eggs or babies but did not see any. There is a photo below of the female in the fake rock planter.
On 3/18/06, when I went to clean the 20 gallon tank, the female bristlenose pleco was not where she normally was. I was confused. Then, when gravel vacuuming, I came upon a partial skeleton, already stripped of flesh. Based on its size, the only fish it could be was her. All the other larger fish were accounted for. I do not have a clue why she died. The week before, she was fine. She was one of my favorite fish. Not only do I miss her but my hopes to have her spawn with my male bristlenose pleco were dashed. I do not know yet if I will get another. I went back and put references to her in the past tense and changed all her references to female since when I first got her, I did not know her sex.
On 4/19/06, I bought a new bristlenose pleco. This one is a longfin albino bristlenose pleco. She was very small, dwarfed by my male bristlenose pleco. They immediately hooked up and hung around together.
I measured my bristlenose's on 11/18/06. The male was 3.5", and the female was 2.75" (but she had a lot more fin). She appeared egg-laden. Photos from that day are linked to below.
In late 2006, I noticed that my new bristlenose had dark things moving in her gut. It seemed too much to be peristalsis (food moving in the intestines). I suspected intestinal worms so I treated the tank with two different series of parasitic "medications." This is something that I almost never do because the medications are so dangerous. The medications killed off my large colony of Malaysian trumpet snails but had no effect on the assumed worms in my pleco's gut. My older pleco, the male, did not seem to have this problem but got a larger gut in early 2007. I was shocked to find him dead on 1/17/07. I measured him at 3.5 inches long. The remaining younger female has the black "stuff" in her upper abdomen and white "stuff" in the lower abdomen which could be eggs (wishful thinking?) or perhaps fish tuberculosis (all my fish have been exposed as it is ubiquitous in my tanks). She may be next on the casualty list. Do not worry, I do not plan to buy any more bristlenose plecos even though I like them. While my common pleco is 15 inches long, and I have had him for 12 years, apparently the bristlenose plecos do not do as well in my care (or lack thereof).
As of August 13, 2007, my surviving female albino bristlenose pleco is three inches long. I got to measure her. She was up against the glass again in July of 2009 and was 4 inches long.
I was able to hold up a ruler to measure her on 10/18/10. With her long tail, she is now 5.75 inches. I got to measure her again on 11/14/13 (and get photos), and she is still 5.75 inches!
On 10/22/16, I realized that my female albino bristlenose pleco was deceased and removed her body. I had noticed her in the same position a few days prior so she had been dead a few days. Many of her fins had either been eaten off or rotted so I did not bother to get a final length. After 10.5 years, I have no bristlenose pleco. Goodbye girl!
On 4/19/21, I bought two baby regular-finned albino bristlenose plecos. I quarantined them until 4/24/21 (the ammonia was going up too quickly; I had new discus with them) when I put them in the 50 gallon tank which only has a colony of rosy barbs and lots of plants (mostly java moss and plenty of algae). For a few days, they gorged, and I watched their little tummies turn dark, and they pooed a lot. Then, suddenly, one was dead on 4/27/21 (I think, I might be a day off as I did not write the day down), and the other was lethargic. I felt so bad. I thought he was gone because I did not see him/her for days but finally saw him again a few days later. Instead of zipping all over like they were doing, he/she just sits in one spot.
Photos of my bristlenose plecos are below under pictures.
Links and Pictures
Bristlenose Pleco - a few comments from keepers of bristlenoses, includes a photo.
Breeding Bristlenose Plecos - one aquarist's breeding experiences.
Ancistrus - Mike Edwardes account on keeeping and breeding bristlenose plecos.
Albino bristlenose pair and babies - two photos of a "real" male albino bristlenose, his mate (her head is in the bottom photo in the pot, I presume), and some of their progeny. By "real," I mean he has LOTS of bristles! I looks like he has sprouted a fungus!
Planet Catfish - a UK catfish page with information on lots of catfish.
Scotcat.com - a site dedicated to catfish.
Photos are listed from oldest to newest.
Here are five photos of my older female bristlenose pleco:
Albino bristlenose pleco on 9/20/01. She was just a baby then. This photo was at the top of this page until 10/8/05.
Albino bristlenose pleco on 4/28/02.
Albino bristlenose pleco on 9/22/03. She liked to hide!!
Albino bristlenose pleco on 10/18/03. This was her underside as she was stuck to the glass!
Albino bristlenose pleco on 12/28/03 hiding amongst some Anubias nana.
Here is a photo of the male bristlenose when he was a baby.
Albino bristlenose pleco on 12/28/03, about twice actual size.
Here are three photos of the two bristlenose plecos in my 20 gallon tank on 6/25/05:
Female bristlenose, female bristlenose on the net breeder (anyone know why she always had that red mark on her head, just blood showing through?), and the male bristlenose in a pot.
Here are three new photos (10/05):
Female bristlenose inside the fake rock planter that they both got stuck in (it is now propped up) on 10/1/05.
Both bristlenoses on 10/3/05. The smaller male is in the front. This is the last photo I took of the female as she died almost half a year later.
Male bristlenose in the front on the right along with the false Siamese algae eater in the back and head of the young male paradise fish on the left, 10/5/05.
I took these two photos on 11/18/06 of the male bristlenose and his new mate, a much smaller,
longfin albino bristlenose. I think she may be developing eggs already. I found the two stuck
up in the fake rock planter (no eggs though).
The couple - male albino bristlenose on the left stuck to the glass, female longfin albino bristlenose on the right stuck to the glass
Male albino bristlenose - top view
Female longfin albino bristlenose on 10/6/07. She is attached to the side so you see her underbelly. Note the swelling of concern.
Some 20 gallon tank animals on 1/13/08. The female, longfin albino bristlenose pleco is at the top.
Female albino bristlenose pleco on 5/17/10.
Female albino bristlenose pleco on 10/19/10; this shows her underbelly. There is a panda cory behind her.
Female albino bristlenose pleco on 4/22/12.
I took these photos of my female, albino, longfin bristlenose pleco on the glass on 11/24/13:
Female albino bristlenose pleco
Female albino bristlenose pleco with ruler
Female albino bristlenose pleco showing her beautiful dorsal fin!
I took some photos of my female, albino, longfin bristlenose pleco on 6/1/14:
Female albino longfin bristlenose pleco
Female albino longfin bristlenose pleco - close-up
Videos - includes one of the male bristlenose.
Photos of other people's bristlenose plecos:
Lindsey sent me these photos of Spike (male albino bristlenose pleco) and Spot (male regular
bristlenose pleco) on 4/27/06. There is also a photo of a common pleco sent at the same time on
my common pleco page.
Richard sent these photos on 1/4/08 of a very large pleco but it has long fins, and he thinks it is a
bristlenose/bushynose pleco. My bristlenose plecos have always been small but there are many
species. I am not sure which species of pleco this is but the fish is nice and big with long fins so
I am putting the photos up here.
Live Aquaria sells bristlenose plecos. Click on the photo below for more information. They are supposed to have albino and regular (but only a photo link for the albino).
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