Profile of the Bristlenose Pleco fish species

Bristlenose Catfish

The family Loricariidae has a wide variety of catfish species, some of which are well-known in the aquarium hobby. The common pleco (Pterygoplichthys pardalis), which may grow to a length of 18 to 20 inches, is one of the common catfish that are less popular due to their tendency to remain tiny. The bristle nose pleco rarely grows longer than five inches.

What Is a Plecostomus?

Plecostomus, sometimes known as plecos, is a member of the Family Loricariidae, the biggest family of catfish with over 680 different species. Numerous species of plecostomus breathe by ingesting air from the water's surface and absorbing oxygen through their gastrointestinal tracts. These species of catfish, which are native to Central and South America, are distinguished by the elaborate patterns on their armored bodies and sucker-shaped mouths used to consume algae.

Plecos are the perfect complement to any aquarium since they eat plants. They are excellent tank cleaners and regularly "vacuum" the substrate. Plecos are a quiet and social fish that work well in communal aquariums. The Bristlenose Pleco is not only a simple fish to keep, but it also has a distinctive look and is entertaining to watch.

Species Overview

Common Names: Bristlenose pleco, bristlenose catfish, bushynose catfish, bushy nose

Scientific Name: Ancistrus cirrhosus

Adult Size: 5 inches

Life Expectancy: 5-10 years


Family Loricariidae
Origin Amazon basin, rapid-flowing tributaries
Social Peaceful, suitable for large community tank
Tank Level Bottom dweller
Minimum Tank Size 40 gallon
Diet Herbivore
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy to Intermediate
pH 5.8 to 7.8
Hardness 2 to 30 dGH
Temperature 73 to 81 F (23 to 27 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Amazon River Basin in South America is where the Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus) first appeared. Other regions of South and Central America, especially Panama, include more species of Ancistrus catfish.

Colors and Markings

One of the tiniest catfish, the bristlenose pleco barely reaches a height of 5 inches. They have white or yellow spots scattered throughout their brown, green, or gray bodies. Some have uneven coloring, with brighter and darker splotches on different areas of their bodies. Most have darker backs and lighter abdomens (with the exception of the albino Bristlenose, which is mostly yellowish). With bony plates, a flat, plump body, a large skull, and a "underbite" to the set of the lower jaw, this species has an odd look.


Bristlenose Plecos get along well with any calm fish and may be housed with other fish that graze on algae, such as grazing fish or snails. They work well in tanks with other species such as neon tetras, platys, guppys, and others. Some aquarium keepers even pair them with fish that are known to be aggressive, such bettas or African cichlids, or even with species who are rivals, like goldfish. When plecos mature, the males can become fiercely aggressive toward one another.

Bristlenose Pleco Habitat and Care

Bristlenose Plecos naturally favor water that is well aerated by a current of some kind. As they are bottom-dwellers, make sure there are lots of caves, plants, roots, driftwood, and other hiding places for them to use during the day. They like to feed primarily at night since they are nocturnal. The Bristlenose Pleco can get enough food from driftwood because it makes an excellent substrate for algae to constantly develop. Despite being herbivores, they don't hurt living plants.

Bristlenose Plecos can tolerate a variety of water conditions, from soft and acidic to tougher and alkaline, and perform well in tanks 20 gallons or bigger. The bristlenose pleco has been successfully kept in cichlid tanks by some enthusiasts. Although this could be the case, it is recommended to avoid keeping them alongside larger Central and South American cichlids. Avoid putting them in a tank with substrate spawning Cichlids if you want to breed them since the Cichlids will probably eat their eggs.

Bristlenose Pleco Diet and Feeding

It is advisable to give algae or spirulina wafers once or twice daily since bristlenose plecos are herbivores that mostly consume algae. In addition to occasional zucchini slices, blanched romaine lettuce, or spinach are nice rewards, as are granules, flakes, or bloodworms. Just be careful not to overeat. The coloring of well-fed plecos makes it obvious when their nutritional demands are being satisfied. The Bristlenose Pleco spends part of its time searching through the substrate for algae and other debris, like other catfish do. This is obviously a big benefit because it makes the tank much cleaner.

Gender Differences

Breeding this species is quite simple, and gender differentiation is also comparatively simple. Although both sexes have thick tentacles around their snouts, giving them the name bristlenose, males are distinguished by having enormous bristles on their heads. Males often have greater size and spikes on their fins.

Breeding the Bristlenose Pleco

Breeding circumstances are rather straightforward; in fact, the typical tank environment is almost perfect. However, you should definitely add caves or driftwood to the Bristlenose Plecos' habitat to promote mating. When a male reaches sexual maturity, he will stake out the area that is best for spawning.

The female must then show up during mating season and lay her eggs. Since their natural breeding season falls during the rainy season in the Amazon, it is preferable to do a water change of 75% to encourage mating (November best aligns with the natural timing of the mating season). Until a partner appears, the male will protect his area from other males. Male conflicts frequently result in their bristles being entangled.

The female lays her eggs in the male's territory when she is ready to procreate. Eggs are adhered to hard surfaces like driftwood, cave ceilings, PVC pipe, or an appropriate tank ornament. For the five to ten days it takes for the eggs to hatch, the male will watch over the spawning location. Following hatching, the fry will spend a few days absorbing the yolk of their egg before starting to consume algae.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

Small catfish are a great addition to a freshwater aquarium since they are not only calm and simple to care for, but also because they have foraging behaviors that keep the aquarium clean. The Bristlenose Pleco is a fantastic choice for a novice, but if you're looking for additional catfish species that are simple to care, take a look at:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.