Bristlenose Pleco – Species Profile & Facts

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The Plecos are a vast family of fish and the Bristlenose Pleco is without doubt the most popular of them. The reason why fish enthusiasts love it so much is because they are small and easy to care for. This is definitely not the case with its bigger version, the Common Pleco which is bigger and more demanding.

They have a unique flat and short body with a wide head. The whole body of the Bristlenose Pleco is covered by bony plates. As they grow, they become more and more interesting as their tentacle like branches grow out from their head. These get bigger and bigger with age, especially on males.

People who are familiar with this species know it well that it’s not a surprise if they can’t find it in the tank. Thanks to their peculiar appearance, they can easily disguise themselves.

Another great thing about them is that algae is one of their main meals. It is important to be aware that not everyone calls them Bristlenose Plecos. In the fish store, you can find them by the following names: Brushmouth Pleco, Brushynose Catfish, Bristlenose Catfish and Common Bristlenose.

In this article, you are going to learn everything about taking proper care of a Bristlenose Pleco. Then you can decide whether you want to add this species to your community aquarium.

Bristlenose Pleco Aquarium Requirements

Bristlenose Pleco Aquarium Requirements

Bristlenose Pleco Aquarium Requirements

Out in the wild, this species can be found in the rivers and streams of South America. These are all freshwaters with moderate water flow. They feel the most alive in highly oxygenated aquariums. Plants, caves, rocks and driftwood are all essential if you want to keep a Bristlenose Pleco.

They thrive during the night and when the day comes, they try to find places to hide and stay there most of the time. You should set up an aquarium that is not fully bathed in bright light. There should be at least a few shadowy spots for this species.

Of all the plants and decoration, we mostly recommend you to buy driftwood. It is a great surface for the algae to grow, giving the Bristlenose an additional place to return to for more food.

Bristlenose Pleco Water Parameters

Bristlenose Plecos won’t require you to set the water temperature to a specific degree. As long as it is between 60 and 80°F, they are going to be just fine. The fact that the difference can be as much as 20 °F only proves their hardiness.

Furthermore, the acidity should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5 pH while the hardiness should be 20 to 25. These are the perfect conditions Bristlenoses require in order to thrive. The tank size also depends on the other species you accompany them with but the default tank size for them is 25 gallons.

Set up your aquarium in a way so that they have enough space to swim around in the bottom layer. We highly recommend you to install an under-gravel water system which will guarantee high levels of oxygen.

Now although you can take care of Bristlenose Plecos quite easily as a beginner, there is still a way to make things even easier for yourself. You can buy an adult species, which is even less demanding than the juveniles. The latter is more susceptible to water acidity, while an adult Bristlenose not as much.

If you notice them swimming up to the surface and breathing in some fresh air, then you should be cautious. This usually means that the water in the aquarium is too contaminated for them or not oxygenated enough.

Bristlenose Pleco Tank Mates

You won’t see the Bristlenose wander around the mid-layer of the tank. They will stay in the bottom layer, either on the substrate or sucking on the glass on the side. This species is a bottom dweller and it doesn’t interact with the other peaceful fish who swim in higher layers.

Their company will be mostly other bottom dwelling fish. These also need to have a calm nature in order to get along well with your Bristlenose. Just make sure not to buy two males because they get very territorial together. Once they spot a similar looking tank mate, the competition between them is going to be rough.

Ideally, they are very calm if there are at least twice as many females around them. It is not that you can’t include aggressive or semi-aggressive fish in your tank but you need to do it carefully. It will require you to frequently monitor their behavior.

If other fish get too excited to attack the Bristlenose, they can easily hurt themselves. Those bony tentacles and their armored body will do a great job by themselves in damaging the attacker.

Check out my other article for full list of bristlenose pleco tank mates.

Feeding Bristlenose Plecos

Feeding Bristlenose Plecos

Feeding Bristlenose Plecos

When it comes to the Bristlenose Pleco, we are talking about algae-eaters with a mostly plant-based diet. They thrive the most if their food consists of at least 80% plants, while the rest of it should be plant based. This way, they can get all the nutrients they need for a healthy life.

If they are not hiding, they are usually searching the bottom of the aquarium for algae. Eating only algae can make them vulnerable and potentially sick but giving them some meat can satisfy their need for protein.

Tablets for feeding bottom dwellers such as the Bristlenose Pleco can be found in any fish store. These can be bought in the form of wafers or pellets. You can prepare their food at home by blanching vegetables like carrots, peas, cucumber or cabbage leaves.

Your Bristlenose might not eat all of them so you should check back later and remove the leftovers. Deteriorating vegetables will negatively affect the water conditions in the tank. While meat-based food is a great resource of protein, plants give them fiber which is essential for their well-being.

Giving your Bristlenose meat is crucial during their breeding period.

Bristlenose Pleco Diseases

Bristlenose Plecos are such hardy species that there is very little chance for them to get sick. There is not a single particular disease they are sensitive to. Of course, the aquarium should be as clean as possible. You should take out the waste on a regular basis and make sure the filter works properly.

Try to mimic their natural habitat by adding plants, driftwood and decorations where they can hide easily. If Bristlenose Plecos feel at home in your tank, they will be as happy and healthy as it gets. Even though they are rather adaptable, you should still monitor the pH, temperature and chemical composition of water.

If those are close to the desired values, then your Plecos are going to be fine.

Breeding Bristlenose Plecos

Breeding Bristlenose Plecos

Breeding Bristlenose Plecos

Although the appearance of the Bristlenose Pleco might seem complex and unusual, it is not hard at all to breed them. There are only a few simple things you should know in order to get ready for it. First off, buy another, smaller tank for the juveniles.

It is almost impossible for the fry to not get eaten in a community aquarium. You better remove them right after your Bristlenose lays down its eggs and before they hatch. They will likely be attached to some rocky cave or other decoration in the tank that you can simply remove by hand.

Some species breed in warm seasons, while Bristlenose Plecos breed when it gets cold and rainy in South America. Your job will be to make the water a few degrees cooler and it will encourage them to mate.

They prefer to lay their eggs down in caves or driftwood so make sure to put down plenty of those. Then, they will swim around and eventually choose the perfect spawning spot. Now the question is: How to distinguish the males from the females?

This is simple. The female Bristlenose Pleco has much shorter bristles on her head than the male. Once the male prepares the perfect spot, the female lays down the eggs and the male will go in and fertilize them. The reason why you need many caves and driftwood is because the males will compete for these spots.

Are Bristlenose Pleco Aggressive?

Bristlenose Plecos are mostly harmless and get along well with many other species. In most of their time, they are either sucking on the aquarium glass or on the top layer of the substrate. Other fish hardly bother them, especially the ones that swim around in the mid-layer of the tank.

Bristlenose Plecos are bottom dwellers so they are hardly going to interact with any fish in the upper layers. However, this doesn’t mean that you can put them together with aggressive species. Their peaceful temperament makes them a great choice both for beginners and experienced aquarists.

They not only have a hard bone cover but also are hardy species, ready to adapt to different aquarium conditions. Just avoid keeping only male Bristlenoses together because they get territorial with each other. You can keep a group of them in the tank as long as the majority is female.

The reason why it is not recommended to keep aggressive fish as tank mates is because of the outer bone structure of the Bristlenose Pleco. If they decide to attack this species, they are going to do it without forethought and they will hurt themselves for sure.

If the Bristlenose male lives together with similar looking fish, then it will get territorial with those too.

Do Bristlenose Pleco Need a Filter?

Now since Bristlenose Plecos usually consume a lot of food, they produce plenty of waste as well. The problem with waste is that it contaminates the water. It is important to constantly clean it by installing a filter on your aquarium. Your best option for this is a top-notch canister filter.

It is also what every experienced fish enthusiast would recommend. This is the more expensive option. If you are looking for something cheaper, then there are hang-on-back filters as well. This has to be combined with a sponge filter and these together will do a decent job.

Despite the filter, you still need to ensure that the aquarium is big enough, otherwise the waste they produce is going to become a problem.

Do Bristlenose Pleco Need a Heater?

Plecos in general are tropical fish from South America. In the wild, they live in waters that average a 75°F temperature. Since they are quite adaptive, you can go below or above that but try to keep it close. You will definitely need a heater for the Bristlenose Plecos because they are not so lively in cold waters.

Also, if the water is colder than 60°F, they can get sick more easily and won’t be able to grow as fast either. With a heater and a thermometer where you can check the temperature, you will be able to keep it in the desired range. It is enough to check it every couple of days.

Are Bristlenose Pleco Good for Beginners?

The Bristlenose Pleco has interesting habits, it has a unique body structure and it is also great for beginners. If you want to add a peculiar fish to your tank, then you should go and buy one without hesitation. There are not a lot of things you need to know in order to keep them healthy.

The breeding process of a Bristlenose is also not a big deal. In addition, they get along well with a big number of other species thanks to their calm personality. This allows you to populate a diverse community tank that you will be proud of for years to come.

Thanks to the eye-catching appearance of this fish, it is a popular choice among more experienced fish enthusiasts too.


Bristlenose Plecos have such an unusual appearance that it makes them a must have in every community aquarium. These small and hardy fish are not sensitive to incorrect water parameters and conditions. Furthermore, they can eat a wide range of foods without problem.

The diet of the Bristlenose includes algae as well, which makes it a very useful part of any aquarium. You can literally forget about the algae and let them do the job. If you follow our advice, you can populate your tank with a selection of peaceful fish who will get on well with each other.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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