Bristlenose Pleco Care, Size, Tank, Lifespan & More

The bristlenose plecostomus is a freshwater species of the pleco family (a type of small aquarium catfish) and is commonly known as the suckerfish or simply, the bristlenose pleco.

Bristlenose pleco catfish have brown, flattened bodies covered with white or yellow spots. The most distinguishable feature of this fish is its tentacles, which protrude from its head.

These fish are popular aquarium fish because of their hardiness and tank cleaning abilities.

Bristlenose Plecostomus Facts & Overview

A bristlenose pleco resting on the rocky surface of a tank

Scientific name:Ancistrus cirrhosus
Common names:Bristlenose pleco, bristlenose plecostomus, bristlenose catfish, bushynose catfish, bushynose plecostomus
Distribution:Fast-flowing waters in the Amazon Basin in South America
Size:4–5 inches
Life expectancy:5–8 years
Color:Black, brown, olive, gray, albino
Minimum tank size:30 gallons
Temperature:73–81°F (23–27°C)
Hardness:2–20 dGH
Care level:Easy


Bristlenose plecos originate in the freshwater rivers and floodplain areas of the Amazon Basin in South America. The fish are also found in Panama.

Their preferred environment is shallow waters. In the wild, the fish use their mouths to hold onto plants and driftwood and to climb tree roots that poke out of the water. The powerful suction mouth holds onto rocks and wood in fast currents, anchoring the fish in place.

They are commonly found in the wild and are easily obtained in the pet trade.

Adult Size & Lifespan

Fully-grown bristlenose plecos reach up to five inches long, and females are larger and rounder than males. In the wild, the fish grow up to eight inches long.

With the right care, captive fish can live beyond five years, and some live for ten years or longer.


Bristlenose plecos are easy to find in pet stores and online. Most stores sell at least one type of this fish.

The average cost is $6–$30, depending on coloring and features.

You can find this soecies at the most popular online fish stores, including:

  • LiveAquaria — sells common, orange, and albino gold bristlenose plecos.
  • Imperial Tropicals — sells longfin albino, chocolate, super red, and blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos.

Bristlenose Pleco Appearance & Behavior

A male bristlenose pleco swimming with tank mates in a planted aquarium
Bristlenose plecos are small catfish in shades of brown, green, gray, and (less commonly) red, white, and orange. They’re calm, peaceful fish that are suitable for a friendly community tank.

Colors, Patterns, Fins, and Sex Differences

Bristlenose plecos have flat bodies, wide heads, bony plates, and fleshy tentacles that protrude from their heads.

Most have a dark, murky coloring, such as gray and brown, with white or yellow spots. However, there are several captive-bred solid color variations, including red, orange, lemon, and albino gold.

Common bristlenose plecos have short, fan-like fins and tails. The long-finned variation has fins about double the length of the common one.

Males have larger bristles than females. Males have whiskers and spikes on their fins, and tentacles on their head, while females have tentacles on their snouts. Babies develop bristles and tough skin about two months after being born.

When stressed or sick, the fish become duller in color than usual. The species changes color to blend in with its environment.

Typical Behavior

Bristlenose plecos are passive, peaceful fish that get on well with other peaceful fish in a community tank. Because bristlenose plecos spend most of their time swimming around the bottom of the tank, they don’t disturb fish that occupy other parts of the water column.

During the day, the fish are sedentary, and with their brown coloring,  blend into their environment and become almost invisible. They enjoy hiding in caves and behind plants.

This species becomes active at night, swimming around and burrowing in the substrate. When the fish find a good source of algae, they will nibble at it until sunrise.

Bristlenose Pleco Care & Tank Requirements

Caring for bristlenose plecos is easy, so they’re a good species for beginner or inexperienced aquarists.

In the wild, the species lives in tropical freshwater rivers and streams, and eats a combination of plant matter and tiny insect larvae. You can replicate the habitat by setting up a freshwater tank with the right water parameters, and feeding the fish a herbivorous diet.

Habitat and Tank Requirements

The natural habitat of the bristlenose pleco is fast-flowing rivers in the Amazon Basin, with a sandy, soily substrate and plenty of plants, rocks, and algae. Mimic this environment as closely as possible in captivity to ensure your fish is comfortable and happy in the tank.

A medium tank of between 30 and 40 gallons is required, with an extra 10 gallons per additional bristlenose pleco. The fish enjoy exploring the substrate, and a deep substrate of at least three inches is ideal.

A deep substrate will also allow for deep-rooted plants to thrive. Use a clay-based substrate topped with gravel that the fish can “vacuum” with their mouths when searching for food.

Caves and hollowed decor are good hiding spots. Make sure the tank decorations are secured in place and unable to fall into the holes in the substrate made by a burrowing fish.

Hardy, fast-growing plants like Java fern, Java moss, Amazon sword, and wisteria are good decoration options, because they’re strong enough to stay rooted in place when the fish are foraging in the substrate for food.

Driftwood and large rocks also work well because these are found in this species’ natural environment.

Tank Conditions

The ideal tank conditions for bristlenose plecos are:

Water type:Slightly soft, fast-flowing freshwater
Tank size:Minimum 30 gallons, and an extra 10 gallons of water for one extra bristlenose pleco
Water temperature:73–78°F
Substrate:Clay-based, topped with a fine gravel substrate
Tank setup:Plants, hollow decorations, driftwood, caves
Acidity:5.7–7.8 pH
Water hardness:2–20 dGH
Filter:Yes. Bristlenose plecos produce a lot of waste, and a strong, powerful filter is needed to keep the tank clean. Bristlenose plecos also enjoy a moderate current
Bubbler:Not necessary, but a bubbler provides extra oxygen if desired
Lighting:No, only natural lighting is required for plant growth
Water heater:Yes, to maintain consistent tropical water temperatures

This species becomes sedentary, stressed, and sick in the wrong water parameters. Aside from mimicking a natural environment, it’s important to ensure water is consistently at the right temperature, hardness, and pH.


Bristlenose plecos are hardy fish that rarely suffer from major diseases. However, a number of common freshwater aquarium diseases can still affect the fish, including:


Ich is a parasitic disease caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, and is characterized by white sprinkles on the fish’s body. Fish with ich rub themselves against rough surfaces and appear lethargic. Ich in bristlenose plecos is usually caused by poor water conditions.

Quarantine fish with ich and increase the water temperature by two degrees. Add one tablespoon of salt per five gallons of water in the tank.

Hole in the Head

Hole in the head, also called ‘head and lateral line erosion,’ has no known cause, although early research suggests that activated carbon aquarium filters are contributors to the disease. Poor nutrition and subpar water quality are also thought to cause hole in the head. Symptoms of hole in the head include receding skin and small indentations on the fish’s head.

Treat hole in the head by carrying out a 90% water change and removing activated carbon filters from the tank.


Dropsy, or Malawi bloat, is a symptom of a bacterial infection that causes loss of coloration and bloating. This infection is caused by malnutrition or liver dysfunction, and symptoms include swelling of the abdomen, bulging eyes, dull fins, and pale feces.

To treat dropsy, change 25% of the water in the tank every two days until the problem clears up. Speak to your veterinarian for treatment if the fish’s symptoms don’t improve within a week.

Tank Mates

A bristlenose pleco swimming amongst aquarium plants and driftwood

Bristlenose plecos are peaceful fish that are compatible with other non-aggressive fish that swim in the mid and top sections of the tank.

Don’t house long-finned variations with fin-nipping fish like angelfish, kissing gouramis, tiger barbs, or some tetra species. Don’t house more than one bristlenose pleco in the same tank unless you have enough room in the tank for each to claim its own territory.

Great tank mates include:

Non-fish tank mates include:

  • Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Crabs

Diet and Feeding

In the wild, bristlenose plecos mainly eat algae. It’s unlikely that your tank contains enough algae to provide a consistent food supply, so you should offer a variety of foods every day to maintain the fish’s healthy coloration.

Fish flakes, bloodworms, algae wafers, and blanched spinach are nutritious foods for this species. Make sure the food sinks to the bottom of the tank, where it can be reached by bottom-dwelling fish.

Feed the fish twice per day, providing enough food for them to eat within two minutes. Remove uneaten food to keep the tank clean and to prevent overfeeding.


The bristlenose pleco is a beginner-friendly fish to breed. In the wild, the fish breeds during rainy seasons, and attains sexual maturity at about 15 months of age.

To breed this species, follow the steps below:

  1. Establish a separate breeding tank with cooler water than the main tank’s water, or about 72°F. Decorate the tank with plenty of caves and hiding spots.
  2. Select up to three healthy females and one healthy male pleco. Condition the fish for breeding while they are still in the home tank by feeding the fish bloodworms and reducing the home tank’s water temperature by a couple of degrees.
  3. Place the fish in the breeding tank. The male will look for a cave for the female(s) to lay their eggs in.
  4. After finding a spot, the male will clean the cave and wait for a female visitor. When a female arrives, she’ll assess the spot and lay bright orange, sticky eggs on the walls and floor of the cave.
  5. An uninterested female will swim away without laying eggs. If several females are in the tank, at least one female should be interested.
  6. The male will fertilize the eggs and the female will guard the cave. If there are other females in the tank, remove them now.
  7. The eggs will hatch within 10 days, and the baby plecos will feed on their egg sacs for two or three days.
  8. The fish don’t usually eat their babies, but you can remove the adults once the fry are born because the babies are independent from birth.
  9. Feed the fry algae and mashed vegetables until the fish reach full maturity at six months old.

Should You Get a Bristlenose Pleco for Your Aquarium?

Bristlenose plecos are peaceful, unique-looking fish that are a useful and entertaining addition to home aquariums.

You should get one if you’re a beginner aquarist looking for a hardy species for your peaceful community tank. Don’t get one if your tank houses aggressive fish species, or your tank isn’t large enough to house it.

These fish are not only easy to care for — they’re also fun to watch as they scavenge for food and “vacuum” the tank.

Bristlenose Pleco FAQs

About Robert 468 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.


  1. lanee says:

    how do i feed my pleco if my mollies keep eating their pellets. what veggies could my pleco eat that my other fish wont eat or get sick from if they take a bite?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Lanee,
      Try feeding your mollies on one side of your tank, and a few minutes later feed your Pleco on the opposite side.
      Failing that, Pleco’s are also nocturnal so you could feed him at night.

  2. Kelsey says:

    I feed my plecos at night after I turn off the lights because my Bettas eat the wafers if they see them.

  3. Chadwick says:

    I have had 2 albino and 2 regular pigmented bristlenose plecos for about 2 years in a large planted tank. Recently, I noticed all four together only now there is 1 albino and 3 regular pigment. Can the albino versions spontaneously change to normal pigmentation? I believe they are true albino as they have/had the pink eyes. I have doubled checked to make sure I was not mistakenly seeing one of my clown plecos with them, but they are distinctly different fish and the three normal pigment plecos all have the characteristic bristles.

    • Robert says:

      Whilst I have never witnessed this with my own eyes, I have heard of a few people experiencing this. It could be caused by stress, has anything changed in your tank recently? Check your water parameters just to be sure.
      Alternatively, it is thought that some albinos carry a gene which that allows the pigmentation to add more coloring.

    • Garrett says:

      Hi I am curious, will the regular pigment plecos breed with the albino? Cuz I have a regular pigment male and an albino female that just entered a cave together!!! Bristlenose of course.

  4. Nick says:

    Lost mine in my tank after I moved 3 months ago, assumed it jumped out somewhere or was stuck. Just found my 1 eyed little friend inside of my filter somehow! Gotta day it’s super clean though, I almost just want to leave him in too maintain it in there lol

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Nick,
      Yikes! He is really lucky to be alive. What type of filter do you have? How has he acclimatised back into the tank? Glad you found him 🙂

  5. Nikki says:

    Can I house one with common goldfish?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Nikki,
      What size are they both? And what size tank do you plan on housing them in?

  6. Rich says:

    Hi All
    I have a 75 gallon aquarium 5 large fancy Goldfish and 3 adult placo,s,1 dark female placo and 1 albino female then 1 albino male fully bristled and 10ish baby placo,s all dark with spots,

  7. Pete Mercado says:

    I haven’t had much success with Bristlenose. I have done all I can with keeping water conditions and feeding after lights out. Could it be that the 12 Cory cats are eating all the tablets before they get a chance to feed? I do get them rather small when I do and could be part of the reason as well. I really want to keep one in my 75 gallon community tank. There are 4 dwarf gourami, 13 neon tetras, 9 scissor tail rasboras, with sand substrate drift wood and artificial plants. Sponge filter rated for 75g and aquaclear 110 to keep things running. Thanks

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Pete, thanks for posting. Have you watched exactly what happens when you put the pellets into the tank? Perhaps you could try raising a Bristlenose alone for a few months and then adding it to your community aquarium? Robert

  8. Aileen says:

    Hi, i have discovered eggs in my plecos cave, im worried about the other fish eating the fry when they hatch, is it ok to move the cave into a breeding box? I feel bad about taking them off dad..?? Hes been a great guard. Thanks for any advice.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Aileen,
      I’d definitely recommend moving them to another tank if you have other fish that’ll eat them!

  9. Laura says:

    HELP. I am having a breeding issue. I did not plan on breeding, I have two adult bristlenose (not realizing one male and one female). Now my tank is being overrun by plecos. I know they are laying eggs in our decorative volcano. I can take that out but I am unsure what to do with all of the babies. We have well over 50, I can’t knowingly kill them, what can I do? This is not good for the other fish in our tank.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your message! I suggest contacting your local pet store, perhaps the one you bought them from and seeing if they are able to give them a temporary home and then sell them on. Let me know how you get on!

      • Rebecca Tomkins says:

        Hi, I’m in the same boat. I didn’t know until recently that I have a male and a female Pleco I’ve had them for over a year or so and until recently I noticed a few baby pleco then it clicked one must be female and one male. So now there is around 50 Plecos in the tank and I’ve just checked the log and it’s full of eggs. Do I leave them be or do I move them into a breeding box? The others managed perfectly fine on their own due to not knowing they were there. I check the log everyday and last night there wasn’t anything in it. This morning around 1:30am checked again and it’s full so literally just been laid. Do I leave them be a bit longer? Are they already fertilised?

    • Gareth says:

      I have a red Ancesterous and a common bristle nose in a 75 gallon tank, it seems they decided to breed which meant we ended up with well over 100 little ones. I managed to get about 80 of them out of the tank once they were about 3 months old but will have to wait till the other 20 or so are bigger now as I don’t want to take the tank apart again. My main issue is I keep finding more and more tiny ones! It’s like I have a constant supply of fry. Unfortunately for me the tank mates don’t seem interested in eating them so I fear I’m going to be stuck with regular trips to the aquatic centre dropping off babies! I bet their accountant will love me.

  10. Barb says:

    I just got an albino long finned pleco. This is my first time owning a pleco and it is so pretty! I know they are supposed to be nocturnal, but mine is out during the day sucking things with some resting. It has me a little concerned that it might not be getting enough food at night, I love watching him, so as long as he isn’t starving, I’m happy to see him during the day. I have small algae wafers, and would like to know – in general, how much should I give him per day? I know each individual fish can be different, but since it is an albino I guess I can’t look for “good coloration” as a sign of being well fed. With my betta’s I originally got advice that they should get 5-10 mini pellets twice a day. Is there any guidance like that for one bristlenose pleco with algae wafers? Thanks for any advice!!

  11. Shane Tipping says:

    Today hubby and I cleaned out fish tank which has 3 Albino and 3 dark ones. During the clean out to our surprise we have babies approx 6. We certainly did not expect this, however we are happy to have new editions to the family.
    We have not done anything in particular apart from the weekly clean keeping the water warm for the discus and our ghost knives, heaps of anubis, Rock’s and logs.
    Happy fish happy family.

  12. LadyVasquez says:

    The info above was very helpful. I simply have a 55 gallon tank with guppies and pleco’s. I knew the guppies would have babies monthly. My kids just pointed out 3 baby pleco’s and then I noticed 6 more. I wonder the outcome of this tank, as we are simply feeding them all fish flake food and enjoying the multiplying.

  13. Lauren Morrow says:

    I love having bristlenose in my bank! They are such awesome cleaners. I just noticed a bunch of really small ones in my large tank too. So I assumed the few that I have must of bred.. which really surprises me since I thought for sure there was no way that would happen with the size fish I have in there… but hey the more the merrier!

  14. Markus says:


    I just noticed a little guy sucking on the glass while I was cleaning the water filter and I also found like 9 of them inside the filter housing. Fortunately at least 6 of them were alive and kicking and they seemed fine when I put them back into the tank.

    But I was just wondering about how many of them are usually born in one batch? I have one about 2-4 year old male pleco, two 1-2 year old male plecos and two 1-2 year old female plecos.

    I also want to ask about the oldest pleco I have. Do you know what these weird lumps on it’s cheeks could be and why does it look like it’s blind (white eyes)? He is a lone wolf and likes to hang out next to the heater element for some reason instead of going into crevices to hide.

    And yes the oldest male plecos have scuffles but only really rarely so it’s not a problem.


    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Markus, congratulations on your pleco fry! Bristlenose Plecos typically lay in between 10-40 eggs. If you can send me a picture of the lumps, I can have a proper look at them. Do his eyes look cloudy? Do they have any goo around them or any other symptoms? Thanks, Robert

  15. Colin says:

    Hi, just purchased 2 Bristlenose Plecos,they are both very small and I can’t see many(if any) bristles to know what sex they are. Also is it better to keep more than the two I currently have, I have plenty of room for more.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      If you’re going to keep more than two in one tank, I recommend keeping one male and the rest females. Thanks, Robert

      • Alanna says:

        I’ve had my BN pleco for almost 2 years, had to downsize from 50g to maybe 20g tank a year ago but they all survived and are now full grown. All get along for the most part except my 2 angel fish but usually their fights are broken up by my rainbow shark. I noticed recently after I did a vacuum clean that Hairdo (my pleco) looks absolutely horrible! He’s sickly white and grey covered with black spots..he hardly eats or comes out of his hiding place. I use the blue one drop stuff for parasites and did water change again, also got him new driftwood and wafers. His pop is non stop 24)7 and is white sometimes thin as a strand of hair. Even at night he hardly ever sticks to the glass. He’s got a bit of color back but still hardly any appetite and not sure what else to try. Now my shark has long string poop too. Do I seperate him? I also have given him fresh zucchini and beans but he still barely ate. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

  16. Graham Williams says:

    I have a 57ltr tank with 1 male& female bristlenose with 10 endler guppies I have driftwood 2 pleco caves and well planted my bristlenose has now bred twice but I moved the eggs to a 12ltr tank and fry doing well I call my male the destroyer as I have a gravel substrate he just likes to throw this to the front so he can burrow under the log he also likes to sit on my plants for hrs on end but he bring enjoyment as like to watch his antics

  17. Graham says:

    I am considering having a tall angelfish tank in my home. would it be possible to have a bristle nose in a tall tank.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Graham, Bristlenose Plecs spend all their time in the bottom area of the tank so you’ll need a tank with a large floor area. Thanks, Robert

  18. Jeff says:

    Just had my first spawn from my chocolate Bristlenose plecos! The wiggles left the cave 2 days ago! There even seems to be one albino in the group of 9 that I can see so far. All have a brown color with white spots except this one which is completely white.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Congratulations on your first spawn Jeff. Thanks for sharing, Robert

  19. Paul says:

    I have a pair of bristle nose catfish. I didn’t realize till today that they have bred in my community tank. I shone a torch in their cave and I do see tiny catfish in there. The male keeps getting in the way lol. I can’t wait till the babies venture out of the cave and I can get a better look at them ??.

  20. Donna-Joan says:

    Hi, We have a 500Ltr community aquarium. Amongst the various species of fish, we have 8 Bristlenose of various colours (including a rare Sunshine yellow with sapphire blue eyes) and 1 large Common Pleco. When I moved an ornament yesterday, I discovered a cluster of bright orange eggs underneath, I now understand these are Pleco eggs. I put them immediately in the Nursery as I have 2 large Angels and other fish that could potentially eat them. I know which pair of the 8 are responsible and often see the male climbing the Nursery to check
    on them. Have I done the right thing?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Donna, yes you’ve definitely done the right thing. Its unlikely the eggs would survive in a community tank anyway. As our article mentions, the male usually aerates the eggs for around a week, so you might want to consider putting him with them if your nursery tank is large enough. Thanks, Robert

  21. Alison cartwright says:

    Hi , I have a bristlenose catfish and wondered if they eat baby pond snails? Cheers Ali

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Alison, they do have a mostly vegetarian diet so they should stay away from snails. Thanks, Robert

  22. Jacqui says:

    I noticed orange eggs and drift so I put that and dad in another tank u had here.
    The next day I counted 57 fry. But they are an orange colour. I wasn’t expecting them to come out so quick and wasn’t expecting orange.
    Does this seem right?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Jacqui, Yes orange is the right color! Thanks, Robert

  23. Kathryn says:

    Hello I have 2 goldfish and our daughter just put her young bristlenose pleco in my tank, Yahoo present for mum, I was wondering if I continue to add the Algae control that I have been using for my gold fish or not now the pleco is in with them, please help

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Kathryn, Pleco’s are well known for eating Pleco so if your tank is producing algae within normal levels (and not excessively) you shouldn’t need to add anything. Make sure your tank is large enough, I would suggest at least 40 gallons for 2 Goldfish and a Pleco. Thanks, Robert

  24. Mike E. says:

    Why does my Bristlenose Pleco hide between my filter and tank near the top of my tank?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Mike, do you have any plants and other hiding places for your Bristlenose? They won’t feel comfortable and safe with places to hide, so it’s possible he is looking for a hiding place. Thanks, Robert

  25. Catie Harlin says:

    Lots of wonderful information! Thank you! We had thought out Male committed suicide, as we couldn’t find him for 3 days, then he just popped out of our big cave, for about 20 seconds,and went right back in, and has been for about 2 days now, after being gone for 4 days solid. It’s a really tall cave, and I cant move it….would breeding grass help? I can put it at the largest opening, and I’ve been putting the tabs in the cave for him.
    The Neons are the only ones that go in the cave…I just keep hoping they cant see the babies, if there are any, in the darkness. Suggestions, please? And again, Thank you! Amazing article!!!

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Catie, I’m not sure what you’re asking? Do you think your Bristlenose is in the cave caring for eggs? If so, hairgrass or something similar is a good option! Thanks, Robert

  26. Andrew says:

    Hi there! I recently purchased a mid size Bristlenose Pleco. The girl at the store said that he would be alright in my African cichlid tank as long as there are spots to hide. While I do have plenty of rocks and caves for him to hide in, I’m a little worried about him getting picked on. So far he seems to be alright but what are your thoughts??? Thank you!

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Andrew, in most instances I would advise against keeping them together. African Cichlids are notoriously aggressive whereas Bristlenoses are quite peaceful. It comes down to the specific fish you are keeping though and their temperaments. I would keep a close eye on them over the next couple of weeks and if you notice any bullying, remove the Pleco. Thanks, Robert

  27. Nikki says:

    Hi there,

    My bristlenose plecos just had their second batch of eggs. The first batch got a fungus and I only ended up with 12 hatching. Shortly after realizing these guys are mature enough to breed, I set up a second tank for them to stay in until they get to 1 inch long, at which time I can exchange them at my local LFS for store credit.
    Now that I have the tank cycled and ready, my heater quit on me. The first batch of fry are in a tank at about 72-74°F. What is an optimal temp for the eggs? What about for the fry? And what is an acceptable range? Will I need to buy a new heater? (Note that nobody has been picked on in the original tank, though there are some other small fish)

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Nikki, Bristlenoses typically breed in the colder months anyway in the wild so your tank is most likely at the optimal temperature for them. Anywhere between 60-80oF is fine for them. Thanks, Robert

  28. Kathleen Robinson says:

    Hi Robert
    I have a male and female Bristlenose each about 4″ so I think they should be mature.
    The male stays in his cave most of the time but if the female swims anywhere near his cave he’s very aggressive and chases her to the other side of the tank. Is there any hope of them breeding when he is so aggressive? Thanks!

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Kathleen, it’s impossible to say whether they’ll ever breed or not. Do they both have plenty of hiding spaces, in addition to the cave to ensure they have their own space? If you follow the breeding advice in this article, including lowering the temperature of the tank, it may induce breeding behaviors. Thanks, Robert.

  29. Annica says:

    Can you have just one female? We don’t want to breed. Will she be happy by herself? Will she be healthy without laying eggs? We have other fishes and will also have 6 corydoras. It’s plenty of room and caves/hiding spots for her in our 190 litre corner aquarium.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Annica, yes she will be fine with the 6 Corydoras, she shouldn’t get lonely. Thanks, Robert

  30. Karen Morales says:

    Hi, I think my female longfin bristlenose is a killer, and was looking to see if others have had this sort of problem. She’s pretty, but I also had a beautiful albino female. I actually saw them fighting over a hiding spot, so I removed that particular hide, but placed others in the tank. I didn’t notice any more fighting, so, I thought I was successful. One evening, I noticed that every place my albino swam to, the longfin followed. Then, my albino swam to the side of the tank, and was on the glass there. It was then that I noticed a streak of blood on one of her fins. It looked bad, so I removed her to a bucket and added some fresh water and a bubbler, and some stress guard. Unfortunately, she passed within a few hours. It broke my heart that she died, and that I didn’t realize the agression had gotten that bad until it was too late. She was about 4 years old, I believe. The tank is 65 gallons, and we’ll planted, with some Terra Cotta hides. I guess the longfin is going to be the only pleco in the tank for the remainder of her life, because I put a male in there, thinking a male would be alright, and I had to move him from another tank, but she was aggressive with him, too.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Karen, unfortunately even when you buy a more peaceful fish species, there will be the odd one who is aggressive. It all comes down to the exact fish and their temperament. Thanks, Robert

  31. Eamonn says:

    Hello, im new to keeping a tank and i have 5 guppies and a little bristlenose catfish hes a baby and bareley 2.5 cm long. When i bought him i asked what we should feed him and the person at the aquarium said fish flakes would be fine. But whenever i try and feed him all the guppys eat the food before its able to sink to the bottom to him. He never seems to go for food and try and get it and just stays at the bottom. Ive tryed many methods of feeding him like putting him in a big plastic container, filling it with the tank water and putting some flakes in there. I also tried cucumber but he dosebt eat that either. He may not be eating out of shock from moving to the plastic container but im not sure what to do

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Eamonn, have you tried algae wafers? They will float right to the bottom and he’ll be able to get to them. As your tank becomes more established, it’ll also build up an algae base which they’ll be able to graze on. Thanks, Robert

  32. trevor says:

    Hi just wondering could you put a bristlenose in a nursery tank to help keep it clean while guppy and molly fry and growing

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Trevor, I can’t say for sure, but it should be OK. Bristlenoses are mostly herbivorous however about 15% of their diet should be made up of protein so they may be tempted to eat them. Thanks, Robert

  33. Becky says:

    We had unexpected babies after having two plecos in the same tank for 6 months. Its 450 litres so there was no chance of catching them and they all disappeared soon, having large gouramis and mollies in there. A month later 3 started emerging that must have survived because they were about an inch long! They are a cross between a long finned brown and a golden blue eyed 🙂

  34. Amy says:

    I have some bristlenoses and they have just started to breed, the male is in a cave with the second clutch of egged. My question is will he come out to eat at all? He’s been in the cave for a while now and I’m worried he might die if he doesn’t come out for food

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Amy, they normally stay in the cave with the eggs for 4-10 days. The the tank just for the Bristlenoses, if not, he’ll probably feel less threatened and more likely to eat without other fish around. Thanks, Robert

  35. Dita says:

    Thank you so much for you helpful advice. Was given two bristlenose from a friend who had unexpected babies in their tank. I didn’t realise they were nocturnal and I have seen them eat courgette in my local fish store can’t wait for them to get bigger than the 4/5cm they are at the moment.

  36. Carol says:

    This evening we have spotted a few baby places in our tank. We had no intention of breeding them! We have 3 plecs in the tank, one of which obviously isn’t involved, but which of the other two is Male or female, we have no idea. One appears to be a bristle nose and is about 4 inches long, the other is what I would call a common plec and is about 10 inches long. The babies are safely tucked into a corner of the tank, out of the reach of other fish and are between half and three quarters of an inch long. Is this surprise unusual?

    • Vanja says:

      Hi! I had a tank with 10 green tiger barb fish and two bristlenoses. The two grew really a lot, one is 27cm and the other 24cm long. Now my tiger barb fish started to disappear over night. I read that the bristlenoses are peaceful fish, but is it possible that they started eating their roomies?

  37. luc aalbers says:

    I put 3 bristle plecos in my tank (i thought i had 3 females) but apparantly one was a male and i now have a LOT of babies 🙂 the male was black but with brighter brown smudges, is that normal?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Luc, I’m not sure what you’re asking? It’s normal for there to be lots a babies if you have a male and two females. Many thanks, Robert

  38. ahmad azizi says:

    It is possible 4 male in 200 litr ?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Ahmad, we only suggest keeping one male per tank, unless you have plenty of hiding spaces. In a tank of this size, I’d have a maximum of two males. Thanks, Robert

  39. Judy Billen says:

    Newbie pleco owner here. I have a 5 1/2 gallon tank. I bought one albino bristle nose and one common black pleco with lighter stripes. I never guessed that they could or would breed but alas, I have 2 clutches of fry. First batch produced five. The second batch I can’t count but I’m guessing around 20. They are eating tons, I add algae tabs and carnivore tabs as they need. What do I do with all of these mixed breed fish? It’s going to get crowded fast

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Judy, your tank is way too small for those fish. They should really be in a 30 or 40 gallon tank. It might be worth seeing if you local pet store will take the initial fry, and then perhaps separate them if you don’t want them to breed. Thanks, Robert

  40. Misha says:

    I currently have one half moon male betta fish I want to get a female bristle (since I just moved my betta to a bigger tank) to keep the tank clean. My betta has never encountered other fish that I know of so I have no idea if he’s aggressive or not is there a way to check before I buy a bristle (I don’t want my betta to pick on her)

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Misha, you could try getting another fish in a tank just next to him and watch to see if he flares, however the only true way to tell will be to add another fish. Just make sure you have another tank on standby. Thanks, Robert

  41. Dian says:

    I have four tanks three of which breed albino long-finned bushy nose plecos. The mama and papa are in a 20-gallon tank. When my babies are big enough I take them to the pet store to trade for dog food. My plecos support my dogs. Lol. They are the most beautiful things. They remind me of mermaids. I don’t know why my plecos are so prolific but they are in all four of my tanks. The babies are in a 10-gallon tank and seem to do well as I take them to the pet store when they’re about an inch or two long. My albino has bred with a camo pleco and I get some really interesting variations color-wise. I feed them wafers and bloodworms and a good quality fish food. When the babies are born, I suck them out with a sucker and put them into the smaller tank to let them grow. Sometimes they get up into my filter but as I clean my tanks regularly I just strain the water through a net and put them back in the aquarium. They seem to do fine. Not sure how long they breed so I decided to keep one of the most beautiful long-finned plecos and a hearty male in my other tank. For an novice, I have had pretty good luck. Couldn’t figure out how to send a picture to show you how beautiful they are.

  42. daniel says:

    hello, i have a male and female bristle nose, they are in a 8ft cichlid tank that is full of holy rock. They are a very happy and healthy couple, the only issue i have with them is that they wont stop breading, in the 12 months they have been together they have bread on average once every 2 months, i have been struggling to provide homes for the babies. so my question is, what can i do to stop them from breading? asides from separating them, which i have done and the male becomes incredibly depressed.

  43. Linda Bailey says:

    I have a brown bristlenose pleco and an albino, had them for over 6 months maybe a year, and one day the Male (brown) was in the middle of the tank on the rocks and I noticed something orange under him. Then I realized it was a clutch of eggs! So I thought, I wonder why she laid them on the rocks? They both have their own separate caves where they hide most of the time. So I tried getting a cave to put them in while he was away (I scared him I guess) and I carefully moved the egg clutch and some of the rocks underneath, they were so light and airy, kept floating away, but I finally got them settled and I walked away and he was back looking over the place they had been and finally finding them in the cave. He made a big show of fanning and chasing other visitors then seemed to settle down, but after coming back by in about an hour he had moved them out of the cave! So I thought, what is the problem? I couldn’t get them to his cave, I wouldn’t be able to get them in, the way they floated. So I thought we’ll see how it goes. I was back a couple of hours later and he had moved them next to his cave! This was a good 12″ and around a bend. After another couple hours he had them right back where they were to begin with! So I let him alone! He was taking care of them and I figured I see what happened. I checked on them in the morning and there he was still hovering and fanning but out in the open! That afternoon they started hatching, within 2 hours it seemed they were done and most of them on the glass next to where they hatched! I wondered if they would make it through the night. Next morning they were still there in 2 bunches up in the upper corner of the tank still in the same general area and he was down in the corner fanning away! I think there might have been a couple not yet hatched. I took a picture of both corners and counted 60 little wigglers! Later that day they moved down to the corner with dad, although there were a couple of defiant rebels across the tank near the heater! It mostly remained that way for a week, by which time more and more ventured off on their own leaving a couple of siblings to crawl all over dad and clean his bristles, which he flinched a few times! He’s been back to his own cave a few times now, it’s been a week and a half since hatching, but he still spends most of the day in that same corner. Today I counted about 25 crawling around the glass and several crawling around the rocks and driftwood, he seems to have joined them in that corner near the heater most of the time but he is really more active now. I still wonder if she laid them in the cave and he moved them out or why she would lay them out in the open? They were both in his cave several times during the time they were here (6 months or more) but not really lately, she stays in hers and he in his!

  44. Neil Sibley says:

    I have just had surprise baby plecs, 4 currently. What size should they get to before they are re-introduced to the main tank

  45. DEBI COGBURN says:

    Holy cats! Yesterday, I woke up to find what appears to be 1 albino baby bristlenose. Today, I find a baby black one. What are the chances of this bit of joy?! They are both in a baby net breeding holder placed in the tank I found them in. Will they survive in there? I also have the 2 BN adults but no clue where they laid their eggs. What are the chances I’ll find another tomorrow? Do the eggs typically hatch a few daily or all at once?

  46. Norman Murr says:

    How safe are Bristle Nose eggs in a 35 gallon tank with just 10 Guppies.

  47. Norman Murr says:

    Are Bristlenose Pleco eggs safe in a 35 gallon tank with 10 Guppies and lots of hideing places ??

  48. Lise Mizzi says:

    We recently did a complete water change and clean of our 200 gall aquarium.Soon after all our bristlenoses started to die. There were 11, some of them up to 5 years old. The other fish are 6 goldfish, all of them fine. Any ideas on this sudden mortality. Could the water have been too cold? It’s winter and the tank is not heated, so maybe around 12 – 15D Celcius.

  49. Susan oyelaja says:

    Hi guys, little help. 3-4 weeks ago our Plecos laid a batch out in the open against the glass, they hatched (around 60) and we put them in a nursery tank and brought our male a cave the day after. Within 24hrs they had laid another batch. Again they hatched and we moved them to safety approx 150 of them. That very same day they have laid yet another batch. This batch looks to be just as big as the last. Do we need to separate the male? in 4 weeks we have had 3 batches this can’t continue we don’t know what to do with them.
    We have a 180ltr tank with guppies, corries, Mollies and platties with plenty of plant life, all residents are clearly very happy.

  50. Sandra Cox says:

    I have a male and 2 female Bristlenose I had babys a month ago but they died. Do the parents eat them? I have sails in there should I put the eggs out of the tank before there hatch to see if they stay alive . I was heart broken?

  51. Frances Leckie says:

    Can you put brisale nose fry in with gold fish.

  52. Sarah says:

    Last year my family and I found a 5 gallon bucket, about half filled with dirty water with a few dead fish, and 2 living fish in the bottom of a dumpster. We could see the bucket, but was covered with funiture that was thrown away. We managed to remove the bucket from the dumpster and after going to the store for fish supplies, I removed 5 dead fish from the bucket of scummy water. In the water were two goldfish. Both were scarred with black scales. I believe they were in the dumpster for about 2 days.So, never having fish before, we bought a small 6.5 gallon aquarium kit and gave them a home. Last month, one died. I felt so bad the one goldfish was alone, I got him a 10 gallon home, and a new friend koi. 2 weeks later, I got a bristlenose pleco, and my golfish keeps picking on him nipping at his tail. Today, I removed the pleco, because I thought he might have died, but when I took him out of the 20 gallon, he moved. I put him alone in a 3 gallon for now, but I’m not sure if he will make it, and what to do with him if he’s ok. I am still new to fishkeeping, but I love it. I try to give my fish the best environment I can. I just don’t know how to fix this problem. Any help will be appreciated by me and my pleco.

  53. Tina Machia says:

    My first experience with my plecos reproducing was, what I thought were water fleas, which I now believe are the eggs. They appear in large quantities, and then within a couple of days, I see a bunch of little babies. I hadn’t planned on breeding them, in the beginning, they were the only thing I could keep alive in my aquarium. I started with 1 then went and bought 2 more, with that I believe I now have 1 male and 2 females. I rarely see the male, but the females are always out and about.
    I currently have them in a 5-gallon tank but want to expand to a larger one. I’m moving soon and want to start with a new one. Do you have any advice, suggestions, help for me? I’d like to purchase a book but can’t seem to find one.

  54. Ella says:

    What a wonderful article, very informative. I recently bought a few baby bristlenose plecos: One super red, one lemon and one snow-white(albino). They are still small, but I now started worrying what may happen once they grow up. Assuming that at least one is male and one is female, will they try breeding despite being different colour variety? If they do, will the offspring be healthy?
    Additionally, can I ask you how I can recognise that my plecos are comfortable in my aquarium? Is there any specific behaviour yo look for They? They have plenty of bottom space, lots of driftwood, plants and caves. There are a few guppies in the tank with them, but they seem to ignore one another.

  55. Don says:

    Hi, My Pleco community has gotten out of hand. i started with one Bristle-nosed and a catfish.. Now there are well over 50 in there (It’s hard to get an accurate count). I have a 55 gallon tank. The only other fish I have are 2 Ciclids. They just keep breeding. I need some suggestions on what to do with this overpopulation and how to stop it!

  56. David says:

    I currently have a 40 gal breeder tank that’s been planted and has driftwood, although currently a guppy fry tank i bought a red bristlenose pleco that i believe is female but have also came into possession an albino female bristlenose pleco, both are currently still on the small young side with the albino a little bigger. Would it be okay to transfer the albino to the 40 gal tank? Its temporarily currently in a smaller tank with 2 adult guppies i also have another 30 gal tank i could put it in if they’re territorial

  57. Tony says:

    I have a community tank with a few bristlenose and they breed like crazy. We got almost 200 fry last season. There are a few caves in the tank and only mollies, guppies and a gourami.

  58. Edward says:

    Can I keep it in a 10 gallon with nothing else in it?

  59. Lynne says:

    Hi, I live in a cold climate so I have a heater in my tank. Will my fry get fried if they get on it? Cheers Lynne

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