Bristlenose Pleco

Scientific Name(s): Ancistrus temminckii, Ancistrus sp.

Common Name(s): Bristle Nose Pleco, Bristle Nosed Pleco, Bristlenose Catfish, Bristlenose Pleco, Bushynose Catfish, Bristle Nose Plecostomus

Family: Loricariidae

Species Type: Plecostomus

Maximum Size: 5 inches

Life Span: 20 years

Natural Habitat: South American rivers and streams

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Tank Region: Bottom

Possible Tank Mates: Community fish. Can work with smaller cichlid species.

Description: The bristlenose pleco, Ancistrus temminckii and related species, is a wonderful fish to have. They come from South America. There are dozens of Ancistrus species. Like many plecos, they love to eat algae. I have read that some aquarists say that bristlenose plecos are the best “cure” for algae problems. Bristlenose’s do a good job on attached algae and only grow to 4 to 8 inches depending on the species. Ancistrus temminckii grows only up to about 4.75 inches. Compared to other plecos who grow to 1 to 2 feet, that is small! The bristlenose looks like most plecos in general shape except for its bristles. These fleshy appendages stick out around the lips and head of bristelnose plecos. The “bristles” or “brushes” grow as the fish grows. Males have many more adornments than females.

There is also an albino version of this fish which is identical in every way apart from albino colouration/lack of colouration and red eyes.

Temperature Range 16C – 27C (although will do fine upto 30)

pH Range 5.8 – 7.6

Hardness 5° – 20°

Breeding Information: Bristlenose plecostomus are perhaps the easiest plecostomus to breed in an aquarium. When sexually mature, a male will find a suitable spawning location and claim it as his territory. This may be around or under a hunk of driftwood or inside or under PVC pipe or clay pots. He will defend the spot from other males if present. To promote spawning, Baensch’s aquarium atlas suggests doing a 75% water change in November (in the Northern hemisphere). The shorter days of winter and the water change make the plecos think it is the start of the rainy season. If the tank has a female(s), she will enter his territory and spawning site when she is ready to lay eggs. Eggs are stuck on hard surfaces, on top, hanging from the “ceiling.” The camouflaged male will guard the orange or amber eggs until they hatch about ten days later. After absorbing their yolk over three to four days, the tiny, baby plecos will immediately start to work on sucking algae off of surfaces. If there are other fish in the tank aside from the plecos, the babies or eggs can be moved to another tank to prevent those fish from eating the babies. Some breeders remove whatever the eggs are laid on into another tank and give the father a replacement site (wood, pot, PVC, etc.) to guard. The babies can be removed after hatching.

Sexing Information: Males have larger bristles and grow more rapidly.

Diet: Vegetarian – eats algae and algae wafers. Suppliment with fresh vegetables such as zucchini slices, rommaine lettuce or spinach.

Temperment: Peaceful; Peaceful, and quite sociable. Excellent for community tanks.

Common Diseases: None specific to species.

31 thoughts on “Bristlenose Pleco

  1. After 3 or 4 weeks in hiding, I was sat quietly reading when I heard shifting gravel and low and behold my beautiful bn was out and in full view! I reckon there have probably been a few panda moments, but now I know the secret – lights out, cucumber in tank and sit n wait. It was worth the wait. He’s a lovely sight to see.

    • They are lovely little fish he’ll get more confident over time as he settles down eventually he’ll start coming out for cucumber as soon as its put in regardless of light levels

  2. I have put cucumber in my tank for my bn and it’s definitely been nibbled, but could be the two Cory’s. Have a problem weighting cucumber down, as am frightened to put something bad in the water. Are screwcumbers totally safe? Fishing out a floating bit of cucumber is yuk! Only leave it in overnight then fresh piece next lights out. Screwcumber sounds like a good idea if I can be reassured its safe.

  3. Hello.

    I have tank about 50 liters of water, there are only 2 fishes male and female Plecos. today i found that there are some orange eggs but i think the female was trying to eat them ( she was holding with mouth) can anyone tell me what should i do? I’ve moved eggs to small tank.

    thank you

    • First up congrats on the eggs.
      With Plec’s the male should stay with the eggs fanning them and the female should leave after the eggs have been laid. In first time parents both the males and females can/will eat the eggs it sometimes takes them a few attempts to work it out.
      Moving the eggs was actually the worst thing you can do as unless you can keep them tumbling/moving with fresh water flowing over them they’ll quickly rot away. Once you notice them going white they’re dead. If you have to move anything you should have moved the female out and left the male in with the eggs.

      Did they lay eggs in a cave or just in the open? If you don’t have a cave or they laid just out in the open try putting a cave in you’ll probably find next spawn they’ll use the cave and the male can correctly protect the eggs from any female after aggression and it’ll make it easier for him to fan the eggs.

      • Thanks a lot Dave, I moved eggs with the same water in which they were laid.. they are still orange so i’ll put them back and remove female..

  4. Pop some shrimp pellets in the tank. That will get them out! I have a community tank, and my BN are out and about permanently. Have successfully bred them in the tank too.

    • Please remember bn’s are primarily vegetarian don’t feed them too many shrimp pellets as that will give them too much protein and lead them to get bloat

  5. Thanks for that Dave,so anyone out there whom wants to see my BNs feeling right at home with Gold fish,then go on you tube and search My fish just get bigger and bigger,first time lve done this,so l will I prove the next time.

    • You can copy and paste the link to your YouTube video in the comments here too if you like

    • You can’t post a video on the comments you would have to post it to you tube then you can link to it here

  6. Thanks, Dave. The man at the aquarium shop said about cucumber, but said it could make the water go slimy. I’m going to try it – presumably leave the skin on and weight it down? As for my bn, for most of the day I see nothing at all of him – he must get right inside the ruins ornament, as he’s completely out of sight. Will take your advice though, with thanks. Barbara

    • The trick is don’t put in loads and certainly for the first few bits don’t leave then in longer than 24h is don’t leave then to rot in the tank take it out out new piece in he’ll soon get the hang of it.
      He won’t eat the skin though so when he’s finished on the core take the skin out.
      Yes he will get right up inside I once had a male I could have sworn was dead as I didn’t see him for 6 months he was in a little hidey hole only came out late at night when I was in bed

  7. Just last week got a bn but only get a glimpse of him hiding in the “ruins” ornament. Will I ever see him or will he only ever come out at night? I think he’s lovely and would love to see him now and again just to see he’s happy. Also, I have put algae wafer in tank at lights out, but my other fish go mad for it – how can I be sure there’s some left for my bn? There’s algae on the tank for him, but he’s doing a good job of clearing it so he’ll need some wafer some time. Thanks for any advice – I’m a novice.

    • They are nocturnal fish so you won’t really see them during the daylight too often. Once they settle in they usually do start to come out a little sooner also if they’re captive bred they’re usually a little less shy.
      You should be able to tempt him out by sticking a chunk of cucumber in and he’ll come out eventually once he realises that the cucumber is food. Don’t be afraid of sticking in too many algae wafers really with BN’s they’ll pretty much just clean up over night. Also try feeding him last thing just as you’re turning the lights off so he’ll come out sooner for the food rather than letting the other fish to.
      As long as he’s looking nice and fat around the belly area and not sunken in he’ll be perfectly happy.

  8. Hi,l have an established 250 later fish tank,with 18 gold fish,and four bristle nosed pleco’s,l have plenty of clay pots ect,very clean tank,and a regular tempature of 24 C,my fish are a happy bunch,my pleco’s are reaching 6 months old,will they breed,and when ?,do l need to add more artificial plants to protect any Fry,am l a good keeper of fish,or am l doing something wrong.

  9. we thought our male and female didnt get on, but they keep having babies so i guess i was wrong! They had bout 15 a couple of months ago, and now they have had a load more. We re not sure what to do with them all!!

  10. we have 2 boys and 1 girl bristle plec,will the boys fight and kill each other,should we separate them?

    • Depends on a few things really.

      Age – young groups are fine fully mature groups will argue/fight
      Ratio males:females – Usually aim for a 2 females to 1 male ratio or a direct 1:1
      Small tanks – small tanks below about 200L shouldn’t have 2 males in. Now this isn’t 100% true if you monitor closely and have good sex ratios then you can get away with a couple of each but its key is making sure the group is balanced.
      Sub-males – you may find that one male becomes a sub male and doesn’t quite develop the big bushy head of the boss male.
      Secure hiding space – lots of hiding space = less arguing simple really.

      So while you can keep 2 males and 1 female in a tank without problems they do require a bit more care and maintenance than a smaller and more balanced group, suck it and see if needs be you can always get rid of one of the males.

      • Fairly sure I’ve mentioned that before but its a good point to make again.
        However its worth mentioning too that 2 males without any females usually won’t fight that much they’ll just keep to their side of the tank and ignore each other. As soon as you introduce a female all hell breaks loose :)

      • My two boys fought to the death….sad day!
        If I get a boy and a girl in a 55 gallon tank, will they do ok or do they fight too?

        • Males will fight when a) tank is too small to support 2 males, b) its breeding/mating/horny time for them the dominant male will bully the sub male(s) often resulting in death.

          The only way to stop this bullying is either only have one male or to use females. You want at least one per male.

          So as you said if you get a boy and a girl then you’ll have no problems. The female may not take too kindly to the male at first and bully him a little but they’ll soon sort out a pecking order.

  11. Thanks Dave, was worried. The deal I got was too good to pass up so I bought them all.I never knew they were so active…… I just Love them, Love this site too Thanks so much for the reply. You made an Old Lady very happy <3

    • You’re welcome just wish I had more time to post stuff up I’ve been so busy over the last few months I haven’t had time to do anything :(

  12. BN’s and clown’s won’t cross breed so you’re safe. Clowns are Panaqolus and BN’s are Ancistrus so you’re safe. both stay fairly small too so should all be good.

  13. I just purchased BN Pleco’s x 3 and 2 Clown Plecos. I have the 5 in a 55 gal tank with 4 Angels ,4 female Guppies, 1 pr German Blue Rams and 4 Corie’s. I don’t like mistakes and I read an awful lot about Pleco’s. My greatest question is will the 2 varieties crossbreed? If so; when should I separate the species? I have them in the 55 to grow out as they are quite small. Under 2 inches. I’ve never had Pleco’s before, and I’m in Love! They have such Unique Character. Any advice would be gratefully taken. Thanks.

    • I grew a pair from fry no longer than 1cm by time they were about 6cm I’d had my first set of babies. Think its roughly 8-12 months ish

Get in touch I'd love to hear from you