Bristlenose Pleco fish – scientifically known as the Ancistrus Cirrhosus – is one of the most beautiful fish species that is loved by aquarium owners from all over the world. It is a member of the Ancistrus genus of the nocturnal freshwater Catfish family, native to South America, and Panama. This fish species has multiple trade names including the Bushynose or Bristlenose Catfish. It is a unique-looking fun species of fish that creates an amazing environment in your aquarium.

Anthony Corda, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has a unique body shape, color pattern, and scales that make it stand out from most of the other fish species for aquariums. Also, it is a larger but passive or peaceful fish species. Meaning that it minds its own business for most of the time, but if intimidated, it would not back out of a fight. This fish species is also known for being social, meaning that you can pair it with other fish species and create a community aquarium of multiple species. It is an excellent water cleaner as it feeds on algae. Also, it requires minimum care that is why it is good for anyone’s aquarium. Below is a complete guide about this species and how to take care of it inside an aquarium.

Basic Facts Table

LifespanMore Than 5 Years
SizeMore Than 5 Inches
ColorsMultiple – Brown, Black, Gray, Albino
DietOmnivore, Algae Eater
Freshwater or SaltwaterFreshwater
Care LevelMinimum, Beginner Level
CompatibilityPeaceful Community Aquariums.

Tank Companion

This is a large fish species but has a peaceful nature. So, you will have to look for suitable tank mates that show similar behavior and have a similar size. You cannot pair them with larger fish species or smaller species. Because in those cases, it might get bullied, or bully other fish. Also, you cannot pair them with aggressive fish species of any type. This would give rise to regular skirmishes inside your aquarium. So, when you are selecting a tank mate for the Bristlenose Pleco, you should consider three things and then decide about tank mates.

First, all the possible tank mates should display peaceful behavior. You can pair them with fish species that do not fight or attack the other fish species in the tank. It would help you maintain a peaceful environment inside the tank. There are a lot of peaceful fish species of similar size that you can choose from. So, be careful and select those species that are peaceful Second, remember the size of your fish and buy tank mates that have the same size. You should not buy large or small fish species for the tank of Bristlenose Pleco. This is because there is a chance that it might eat the small fish, or might bully them.

There is also a chance that larger fish species might bully the smaller Bristlenose Pleco. So, make sure that you select the same size and fish of the same peaceful behavior. Third, do not select other bottom dwellers for their tank. Bristlenose Pleco is known for being bottom dwellers. It spends most of its time in the bottom layer of the tank, foraging, and feeding. So, you can think of the bottom layer as their territory and any other bottom feeder would be invading their territory. This can give rise to territorial disputes. You can avoid such a condition, by introducing those fish that live in the middle or top layer of the tank and rarely visit the bottom layer.

Here is a list of the possible tank mates for the Bristlenose Pleco.

You can keep them with aggressive species such as Bettas, African Cichlids, and Goldfish as the Bristlenose Pleco can protect itself from the attack. But it would not be an ideal situation because the Bristlenose Pleco would face a lot of stress and this can lead to health complications in the Bristlenose Pleco fish.

Species Overview

The Bristlenose Pleco fish are some of the most unique fish species because they have a distinct appearance and a colorful body. Also, they are a heart favorite of many seasoned fish keepers as they help maintain the algae levels inside the tank. It eats algae, hence the filtration and cleaning of water in the most natural way. Also, it is loved by the new fish keepers because it is one of those species that can live through a few mistakes made during the learning process.

This fish is found in multiple places across the world and has been introduced in many regions. But it is native to the Basins of the Amazon River in South America. This fish species was first identified and classified in the 1800s. It was brought to Europe, and North America, and here it became a very popular aquarium fish species because of its distinctive look, and peaceful nature.


Fish-Hed, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bristlenose Pleco is one of the smallest Catfish species, it can grow up to 5 inches, but most of them only reach three to four inches in length. This is because they require proper care and nourishment to reach their optimal length. It is also known as the bushy nose fish because it has multiple appendages on its nose. These tentacles have multiple uses and act as the sensory organs of the fish. First tentacles appear once the fish reaches maturity in about 180 days. Male Bristlenose Pleco fish have more apparent tentacles as compared to the female Bristlenose Pleco.

It is one of the differences that can help you identify males and females separately during the time of breeding to increase your chances of success in the breeding process. The mouth in this species is located at the bottom of their faces. Its eyes are located above its mouth. Its mouth is shaped in a way that it helps stick to different surfaces. This species has hard protective fins on all sides. It helps them fight against the aggressive species and survive. They have four fingers on the sides of their body, one on their back, and one on the tail. Fins in this species are partially transparent. Meaning that they are covered with colors but you can see through them.

This species has multiple colored variants. The most common variant of this species has brown, black, and yellow colors scattered all over its body. It has yellow spots on the face, these spots turn brownish towards the back and sides of the body. Each spot is surrounded by blackish scales. Black and brown lines can be seen on the tail fin of this fish. Meanwhile, all of the other fins have brownish spots that are encircled by the black.

Here are some details about the variants of Bristlenose Pleco.

  • Albino Bristlenose Pleco: It is an albino version of Bristlenose Pleco. This fish lacks pigmentation and that is why its entire body is colorless. It gives a yellowish-white appearance under different light conditions. The shape and size of this variant are similar to the normal Bristlenose Pleco. It is one of the most popular variants of the Bristlenose Pleco because of the genetic modification that makes it rare and unique.
  • Longfin Bristlenose Pleco: Longfin Bristlenose Pleco is also a genetically different variant of this species. It is known for its very long fins on the side and back of the fish. This species has a fin size of more than three inches. So, when it swims inside the tank, it feels like it is dancing. It is also one of the most popular but very rare Bristlenose Pleco.
  • Super Red Bristlenose Pleco: This fish has everything similar to the normal variant of this species, except its color. The entire body of Super Red Bristlenose Pleco is covered with a reddish-toned color that goes from head to toe. It has no black, brown, or yellow spots on the body.
  • Starlight Bristlenose Pleco: This is one of the most unique and most beautiful fish variants of any species. This fish has a black appearance with bright spots that cover all of the body from head to toe. It creates a night sky appearance, and that is why this species is known as the Starlight Bristlenose Pleco. The ending of its fins is also covered with a white line. This is one of the most unique-looking fish and a very rare specimen to find because this genetic mutation is very rare.

You can buy any of these variants for your tank according to your taste and choice. All of these variants need similar care and live in similar conditions. These differences in their bodies are because of genetic conditions.


The Bristlenose Pleco fish is native to the Amazon River basin area. They can be found in rivers across Central and South America. This fish species prefers to live in the flood plains and sides of the rivers. Bristlenose Pleco lives in shallow and slow-moving waters. Mature and large Bristlenose Pleco fish can swim in the deepwater of the river but they prefer living near the sides. Also, this fish lives in those places where the sunlight reaches the bottom of the river. Also, it lives in those areas where water is more aerated. This fish species has also been introduced to multiple other rivers and lakes in the region and it has managed to survive and live.

Natural Habitat

This fish needs partially sandy, stone-mixed bedding. Apart from that, it needs more oxygen as compared to any other fish species of this family. So, it lives in those areas where water is quickly aerated. Its natural habitat contains multiple other fish species of small and large size. Apart from fish, its natural habitat contains many small invertebrates. This fish eats algae and small invertebrates in its natural habitat to live and survive. It lives in those places where the sunlight reaches the bottom of the river.

Bristlenose Pleco Lifespan

The average lifespan of Bristlenose Pleco is 5 to 6 years inside the tank and its natural habitat. But some of its members have lived for more than 12 years inside an aquarium. This is a long lifespan. But to make sure that your fish crosses the average five to six years and lives more than that, you will have to provide it with a perfect environment. You will have to work on multiple things, including the tank habitat, water conditions, water chemistry, temperature, cleanliness, filtration, and other aspects of the tank. If everything is right and favorable, your fish will live longer and stay healthier.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

As mentioned in the paragraph above, if you want your fish to live long and stay healthy inside your aquarium, you will have to work on a few things. For example, you will have to create a perfect environment for your fish inside the tank. Apart from creating a livable habitat, you will have to maintain the parameters inside your tank to avoid health concerns and diseases. Here are a few important things that you will have to do to create a perfect and livable tank for your Bristlenose Pleco fish.

Tank Size

When creating an aquarium for your fish, you will have to start with the tank. The selection of the tank of the right size has a lot of importance on the quality of life and lifespan of your fish. There are two things that you need to know before selecting a tank. Know the exact number of fish that you want to put inside a tank, and know the fish/gallons ratio of your fish. If you are building a community tank, know the average fish/gallons ratio.

This will help you select a perfect tank for your aquarium. Selecting an unnecessarily large tank would be a costly decision and it would offer little benefit. Similarly, selecting a smaller tank would be a mistake because it would cause clashes between the fish over territory. So, make a decision and select a tank of the right size and dimensions. According to expert fish keepers, a tank of 30+ gallons is perfect for a healthy population of Bristlenose Pleco fish. The smallest tank size that you can use for the Bristlenose Pleco is 25 gallons tank, anything smaller than this would not work.

Tank Setup

After selecting a perfect tank of the required size, you will have to set up that tank. To set up a tank for the Bristlenose Pleco, you will have to start at the bottom layer. A lot of fish keep advising putting stones only in the bottom of the Bristlenose Pleco fish tank. But you can also add fine-grained substrate along with stones and pebbles. You can also add a small amount of sand at the bottom to make a soft layer. Make sure that all of the stones are round and have no sharp edges as they can hurt your fish.

After creating a perfect bottom layer inside the tank, you should start working on planting some plants inside the aquarium. There are a lot of plants that you can use. Make sure that these plants can reach the middle layer of the tank. You can also put some driftwood and caves to make it look more realistic. You can also put different types of ornaments inside the tank to make it look more interesting.

Once you are done with the decorations, it will be time to put a filter and water heater inside your tank. The purpose of the filter is to keep the water clean and provide more oxygen to your fish. You should use a strong filter that can quickly clean the water. Adding a filter inside the tank will also create a flow inside your tank that will make the whole environment look even more realistic. The heater should be used to maintain the temperatures at the same limits all year. You will also have to use standard aquarium lights for them. Make sure that you turn off the lights in the nighttime to provide them a feeling of day and night.

Water Conditions

There are a few water conditions or parameters that you will have to maintain inside your aquarium. These water parameters include the temperature, pH, and hardness of the water. You should make sure that the water inside your aquarium remains between 73 to 81 F (23 to 27 C), preferably at 76 F throughout the year. You will also have to maintain the pH of the water between the 6.5 – 7.5 range. Any changes in the pH from this range or temperature from the range given above can have catastrophic results. Also, you will have to maintain the hardness of the water inside the tank between the 6 to 10 KH range. All of these are very important parameters because they directly impact the health of your fish and any change in them can kill the entire tank.

Water Source

There are multiple water sources that you can use. For example, you can use the water from your local river, lake, ponds, or any other freshwater source including your tap. But before using water from any of these sources, you will have to test it to know its chemistry and to know if there are any contaminants inside the water. After that, you will have to use reverse osmosis to filter the water before using it.

Behavior and Temperament

The Bristlenose Pleco species is known for being peaceful, and social. Although it is comparatively larger than many other aquarium species, it lives with them peacefully and does not attack any member of the tank. It is known for being social as it swims with the other members of its family. This fish species has a habit of sticking to flat surfaces such as stones in the bottom of the tank. They do it to forage food (algae) from the water. You might also notice them sticking to the walls of the tank.

It is a slow swimming fish species that live at the bottom of the tank. It is peaceful and minds its own business unless it is attacked or agitated. Bristlenose Pleco has defense systems that it uses to defend itself against other fish species. That is why it is known for being defensive and non-aggressive. Bristlenose Pleco is also known for living and hiding in caves. So, if you are putting any caves inside your aquarium, it would use them. This species of fish is known for being active at night and relaxing in the daytime. So, make sure that your aquarium lights have timers on them.

Breeding Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco is one of those fish species that are easy to breed. You can identify the males and females separately and pair them inside a different breeding tank. Females would produce the eggs and males would fertilize them. You will have to lower the temperature of your aquarium and clean the water to induce the breeding behaviors. The Male is responsible for looking for a spot for the female to lay eggs. After that, it would attract the female towards that place and the female would lay eggs.

If your breeding aquarium has caves, they will use those caves to store eggs. After that, they would fertilize these eggs and would protect them until they hatch. Eggs take four to ten days to hatch and after that, fry comes out of these eggs.

Eggs and Fry Care

Eggs of this species are sticky and yellow. After fertilization, the eggs hatch and the fry comes out of these eggs. In its first days, the fry would start to eat the egg sacs. After that, it would be ready for a specialized Fry diet. There are a lot of Fry diet options that you can select for your Bristlenose Pleco and scatter them inside the tank. They would take some time to be able to properly swim. You can introduce them into the tank after 2 months.

Diet of Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco is an omnivore species, meaning that they eat a variety of foods. Algae is the major source of their food. Apart from algae, they also eat small invertebrates, insects, and their larvae. So, you can feed them the usual algae flakes, live foods, pellets, and frozen meat. Make sure to feed them twice a day and only feed a small amount of food.

Diseases of Bristlenose Pleco

There are a lot of diseases that attack the Bristlenose Pleco. It is immune to some of those diseases as it can recover by itself. But some diseases require your attention and you will have to treat your fish. Here is a list of the possible diseases of Bristlenose Pleco.

  • Ich: Ich is one of the most common fish diseases that can spread quickly and kill a large population of your fish. It is caused by a waterborne parasite that is transmissible. So, first of all, quarantine the infected fish and treat them with fish medicines.
  • Bacterial Infection: There are a lot of bacterial infections that attack the Bristlenose Pleco populations. Some of these can be dangerous. In case of any signs of disease, you should quarantine your fish in a separate tank and then treat it using medicines.

Most of the health issues and diseases in Bristlenose Pleco fish happen because of unsanitary conditions and changes in water parameters. So, you should maintain those to avoid any type of disease. A healthy environment would lower the risks of disease and infection significantly.

What is the Ideal Size For The Tank?

You can use the 30+ tank for a population of 5 to 6 Bristlenose Pleco fish. But if you want to add more fish inside your tank, you will have to buy a larger tank. The smallest tank that you can use is a 25 gallons capacity tank.

Are Bristlenose Plecos a Saltwater or Freshwater Species?

The Bristlenose Pleco is a freshwater species, native to the Amazon river basin and floodplains in South and Central America, including Panama.

Are Bristlenose Plecos a schooling species or not?

No, the Bristlenose Pleco is not schooling or shoaling fish species. Although it is a social species that swims with the other members of its species, they don’t swim in schools. Mostly, they spend their time sticking to the stones and aquarium walls.

Are Bristlenose Plecos Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Yes, they are a suitable choice for every aquarium. This is because it is one of those species that are very beautiful. Also, it is a peaceful species with a different swimming behavior and pattern. This fish requires minimum care and that makes it suitable for everyone’s aquarium.


The Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most beautiful fish species with multiple variants. Each variant of this species has a beautiful appearance and colors. It is native to basins and floodplains of the Amazon River in the South and Central American region including Panama. This fish species is easy to care for and that is why it is good for every aquarium. To create an aquarium for this species, you will need at least a 30 gallons tank and will have to fill the bottom layer of the tank with sand, gravel, and stones. You will have to maintain the temperature, pH, and hardness of the water to keep them healthy and safe. If you are looking for unique, beautiful, and peaceful fish species, it should be your first choice for your aquarium.


Question: How big will a Bristlenose Pleco get?

Answer: The average size of the Bristlenose Pleco is 3 to 4 inches. But a healthy individual can grow up to 5 inches or more.

Question: Are Bristlenose Plecos aggressive?

Answer: No, it is one of the most peaceful fish species. It is a defensive species, meaning that it defends itself but does not start fights. Also, if it is attacked multiple times, it would leave its place and hide.

Question: How many Bristlenose Plecos should be kept together?

Answer: It is recommended that you keep at least 2 to 5 individuals of Bristlenose Pleco species together. Keeping them alone can induce stress and other health issues for them. That is why it is better to introduce them into a tank as a group.

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