The Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus sp.) is one of the most common aquarium Plecos and it originates from the rivers of South America. People tend to choose the Bristlenose over the Common Pleco because of their smaller size and they are easier to keep. The Bristlenose Pleco is a master of disguise, and also a great tank cleaner with the useful ability to keep algae down. Which is one of the main reasons this fish is so common in home aquariums. It’s a great fish for beginners and experienced aquarists alike.
While the Common Pleco can grow in excess of a foot long, the Bristlenose Pleco will generally grow to a maximum length of around 15 cm, making them perfect for home aquariums with at least 100 litres of water or more.
This fish is nocturnal, so during the daytime you won’t see much activity and can appear timid and hiding amongst the plants and any caves inside your tank. When they are active they will move slowly across the floor of the aquarium doing a superb job of cleaning up algae within the tank. They are very hardy, and can comfortably adapt to live in a wide variety of tank conditions. It’s not recommended that you house two males (males have longer tentacles) together as they get extremely territorial and competitive with other similar shaped species.
Plecos are happy with pretty much any substrate as long as they can forage in the substrate for food.
Make sure that their aquarium has plenty of hiding places as they will sleep in these places during the daytime by adding caves and hollowed logs. You can also use upturned flower pots. Bristle noses love to hide and forage amongst plants and dark spaces. So you should have plenty live plants and decorative ornaments in your aquarium. They also like to rest on driftwood and hide in shipwrecks.
They also prefer a tank that is heavily planted. You should make sure these plants are hardy because they like to nibble on them. Faster growing plants such as java moss are ideal. As mentioned in the dietary needs section (below) you should also make sure they always have access to driftwood to nibble on. This combination of dense debris and vegetation helps to make them feel safe and secure.
The most important thing is maintaining a strong water current and keeping it well filtered to deal with all the waste, otherwise your pleco could become unhealthy. Canister and hang-on-back filters are the best options. Be sure that they provide at least 1100 liters per hour flow. The addition of a few air stones and water pumps will help to create plenty of water flow throughout your tank.
Although Pleco do not need special lighting, we recommend LED lights to give you a cost effective way to run long term lighting. This provides the natural lighting needed and will keep your plants healthy.
Plecos generally pair well with cichlids, angelfish, barbs, bettas, other catfish species, gouramis, guppies, hatchets, loaches, mollies and platies.
Even as juveniles you should avoid placing them with Discus and Angelfish as they are known to nip at them. Bear in mind the usual rule – any smaller tank mates shouldn’t be able to fit in the Plecos mouth; if it can it won’t be long until its tank mate turns into dinner.
It’s important to note here that while they will eat algae, their diet should not be made up of that alone. Their diet should consist of around 85% plant matter and 15% protein. Most of the armored catfish are carnivorous and will eat smaller fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans. They won’t outright kill for meat, but they will scavenge making them ‘opportunistic’ omnivores.
For the Pleco, the common misconception is that they can live purely on algae. This is wrong and in fact, leads to malnourished fish that are unhealthy. Their diet should be comprised of vegetables and algae food.; they will occasionally eat meat/live food. Like always, we recommend that a high-quality sinking pellet or a fish food for bottom feeders forms the basis of their diet. For vegetables you can feed them: lettuce, zucchini, spinach, shelled peas and cucumbers to name only a few of their favorite.
For live foods: bloodworms, earthworms, crustaceans, and larvae. Worms are best because they sink, meaning in a community tank the Plecos can still eat. One important point to remember is that they require lots of fiber; feeding them a lot of vegetables helps them meet this requirement. You should also make sure they always have access to driftwood to help with their digestion.
Since they are nocturnal, it’s best to feed them during the evening just before you turn the lights in the tank off.
Just make sure to never overfeed.
They are fairly hardy fish so the water parameters aren’t as critical to maintaining when compared to other fish. As far as diseases go, they are no more susceptible to the typical ich, fin rot, fungus than other tropical fish.
See Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment at Rebel Pets for help with diagnosing and treating diseases.
|Adult Size:||8 to 15 cm|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Beginner to Intermediate|
|Minimum Tank Size:||100 litres|
|Temperament:||Peaceful, good community fish when small|
|Tank Level:||Bottom dweller|
|Diet:||Omnivore, Vegetables and some meat protein|
|Temperature:||15 to 27°C|
|pH:||6.5 – 7.5|