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.

233 thoughts on “Bristlenose Pleco”

  1. Thanks a lot for the help and advice. I’m still not sure tho. If I got a female and he is a male, good result. If i got a female and he is female too would they get on OK? Does he need/would benefit from a mate or are these lovely creatures happy solo? I had a sole peppered Cory (and two albino Cory’s) after others had died, until about three weeks ago when I added two more and the transformation is brilliant with the three together all the time. The two albinos obviously hit it off going off the eggs that are frequently in the tank. None so far survived tho. Thanks again for your help.

    1. You’ll never raise cory eggs in a tank with plec’s and sword tails in there both will quite happily eat cory eggs.

      As for fighting bn’s 2x females won’t fight. 2x males in a small tank will fight one will become a dominant male all big and bushy and aggressive the other will become a sub male and he won’t breed (the dominant one won’t let him) at the end of the day though bn’s are one of the easiest fish to breed so you stand a good chance of success.

      Plecs also seem to be quite happy solo they don’t seem to be as social as other fish are.

  2. I’ve had my bn six months and although the fish shop man said he was male, I’m not sure! His bristles aren’t over long, and if femails also have bristles, he could be she. Is there any other way to sex him? Also, once sexed, is my 125 litre tank big enough to get him/her a mate? Rest of my fish are various danios, Cory’s and swordtails. Don’t want to overcrowd, but don’t want my pleco to be an only one if he would benefit from company. Thanks v much.

    1. Tank is more than big enough for 2x Bristlenose I kept a breeding group of 6 in a 160L tank so 2 in a 125L should be fine.

      Females are generally shorter and have a more rounded head and wider just where the gills meet the upper head/face they’re also fatter around the rear males tend to be longer and thinner and have a more pointed head. Its said that female heads are more like the 20pence piece shape than males though I’ve never known that to be the case. You can also vent sex them I’m not an expert using vent sexing but I’m pretty sure if you look on the interwebs (probably you tube) you’ll find something showing the differences clearly.

    2. I have a large male bristlenose easily 6 inches long and have 2 females with him one he has bred with before I purchased her and she has no bristles at all. I only have them in a small tank at the moment with guppies but I have another 2 young pairs in my 35 gallon community tank with young common plecos and gold spot pleccos plus god knows what ever else is in their. They go great with any and all other spicies of fish also in my small tank I have cherry shrimp with them but not sure as I had to do a major water change and modification of decor so not sure if any are left.

      1. A male bristlenose has like spikes on the head
        Yes females can have but there around the upper lip

  3. I have 2 little pleco one female one male. They laid not sure how many eggs but I have only seen one baby catfish not sure if other fish ate other eggs? Or maybe they just had one? Not sure but the other fish in my tank are little balloon mollys and couple guppy some neons. All little fish. My brother in law is giving me his not sure how old pleco but she’s about 20 cm long? Will my other fish be okay?

      1. And my little catfish I’m not sure how old but t iv had them for nearly a year. There length is only maybe 3 – 5 cm. Long.and the female 20 cm pleco my in law is giving me is coming from a 6 ft tank of cichlids? Just wna make sure grown catfish will be happy and if my other fish will be okay? Thank you

    1. Depending on the type of plec they can have up to 50 eggs or so at once. Its more than likely the mollies, guppies and especially the neons have eaten the other eggs/babies. Adding a larger plec won’t be an issue on the size of your tank a 4 footer is about the minimum for the larger plecs but I certainly wouldn’t add any more after that. At 20cm long though I’m guessing its a common so still has a bit of growing left in him and he’ll eat alot.

  4. Hello I have a female pleco who is about 2 years old I have had to pass my other tripical fish over to a shop as iam moving away with work my sister is going to have my pleco which iam taking to her next Saturday will my pleco be ok living on her own in the tank with no other fish for a week I will keep feeding her Algee wafers?? Thanks for your time Annie xx

    1. Sure I’ve mentioned this before I’ve had them breed after that only 3 months ish before but I think its more common in the 6-12 month range

  5. Ok dave thanks i bet your post will help quite a few of us newbies. I have put it in now anyway i think hubby put it too close to the surface its about half an inch under and theres still quite a bit of surface agitation but not the sahara sandstorm it initially was !!. Im using the duckbil on it but ive left that other filter in for time being give the bacteria culture in it time to mature. Its quite funny watching the danios surf the two currents and theyve switched the attention to the new one and not getting trspped behind the other stumpy who lost tip of his tail is doing well and not being bullied luckily 🙂

  6. I’ve got a bristlenose that had laid eggs and they are being guarded by the male but keep moving around the tank. I’ve scooped them up along with the male and put them in a breeding net in the tank. Do the fry still require the male? There is water and air bubbles going through the netted breeding tent. Thanks

    1. No the eggs don’t require the male they just require lots of water flowing over them at all times to stop the eggs from rotting. The male achieves this with fanning his tail you can achieve it with airstones etc.

      Thing is though there’s a high chance if the eggs weren’t laid in a cave and just moving around the tank that most of them are dead anyway. Its not quite clear from your comment if they’ve hatched already or if they’re just eggs still.

      1. They are still eggs, I put the male in the breeding net too and he is fanning them. There appears to be tiny red lines appearing inside the eggs. Someone else said the male might eat them but he doesn’t appear to be so should I leave him with them? Thanks

        1. Sometimes the male can eat them especially inexperienced males but if he’s just fanning away even with the eggs free floating then that’s a good sign.
          Just watch for the eggs going whitish or fuzzy or clear those are dead eggs. Healthy eggs will stay as nice rich orange

      2. HI guys my bn have laid about 4 days ago and the eggs are getting little red dots in them is this normal? I had to separate the eggs in a breeder box with my spay bar going in to it to keep the flow as its the dads first time so he booted them out of his cave. There are around about 50 at the moment roughly how long till they hatch does any one know and is there anything else I can do to improve the chances of survival for the eggs all that is in the tank at the moment is about 120 baby guppies between 4 days and 2 months old and the bn parents.

        1. As long as the eggs have good flow going over them you’ve done the best you can if dads kicked them out. Couple of weeks before they hatch usually. Red dots are eyes developing only worry if the eggs go white/clear or furry. You may want to keep the lighting down for a while or cover the breeding trap side of things for a week or so

          1. Ok thanks man I have never had bn eggs before just guppies and angels in the past can’t wait till the next batch he only had his new cave 2 days before the eggs were laid and and I’ve only had the male a week the female I’ve had about 6 months so hopefully by the next batch he will be more at home in the cave thanks for the help dave 🙂

          2. You probably put the cave in just as they were perfectly ready for breeding

  7. Will do thanks its taken 7 weeks and investing in a test kit and my levels qre finally stable so moving forward and enjoying my new hobby ta for your advice everyone

  8. Thanks dave there was no tail left at all for her to swim with so thought it for the best nice 64l tank but not happy with how open the top of the filter is with spike the bn falling out the back the other week (hes fine though and not done it since) and now the danios goin around the back wonder if an enclosed/submerged one would have been better but it came complete my screwcumbers ave come today so a weekend treat for spike tomorrow 🙂

      1. Dave couldnt get a eheim powerball but been advised aqua one 102f is next best thing for my 64l tank ive put it just under the water level kept other filter in coz of keeping bacteria levels up turned it on and omg cant tell u how its kicking up the sand etc. Ive turned it off at mo cant see the fish …. will it be ok shall i just run it to see how it clears it says suitable for up to 70l

        1. Sorry for the delay in replying I’m going to actually turn the reply to this into a main page post as its something that can apply to anybody with a powerful filter on their tank.

  9. can someone put my mind at rest that ive done the decent thing had 6 danios until i came in from work one had got stuck in the wire section of filter took ages to find her managed free her but her tail was completely off reddening to area. she really struggled to swim so did the humane thing and got her out and hit her to the head swiftly 🙁 im new to hobby and expect casualties have no spare tank at mo and figured the others wud bully her anyway i did the right thing didnt i rip little danio :'(

    1. You probably did its difficult to put down small fish the other option is with a sharp knife to behead it but again difficult with small fish. You can also use the ice water bath method but again that’s difficult with any fish getting the containers

    2. Just FYI- the only humane way to kill a fish is with clove oil. It renders the fish unconscious and acts much like anesthesia for humans. Anything else WILL inflict pain on the fish, so you should google the method and make sure to always have some in case of emergencies.

      1. I don’t agree, there are faster ways but maybe more rude than with cloves. but the bad look of the way shouldn’t make it better or worse. For me the best way would be the fastest way you can stop their brain working.

  10. Ive just noticed the comments above about screwcumbers this may sound stupid but what are they and where do i get them from would like to try my bn on cucumber but not even a large wedge of it with skin on will sink for him and he doesnt feed on flakes from too is defo a bottom feeder presume for this reason i would struggle wiv spinach etc too

    1. Screwcumbers are marine quality metal corkscrew things that you screw into cucumber or other veg, and it sinks it to the bottom. Got my pack of two off eBay but you’ll find other sellers also on the internet. And they work fine.

      1. thanks barbara and dave will invest in them to give “spike” a change from algae wafers lucky to still ave him after surfing the filter 2 days after moving in he fell outta the hinge gap hubby went out about 230pm i didnt come home til 710pm and he was dry as a bone on living room floor held him in water and off he swam and even ate a wafer an hour later amazing little thing 🙂

    2. Get them off eBay they look like corkscrews just eBay search for screwcumber loads will come up they’re just alloy weights. With spinach just clamp some plant weights around the stems they’ll sink then

    3. You can buy small roles of lead from most fish / fishing shops. Just break a bit off, two centimeters is sufficient, and poke it through the cucumber slice.

  11. I got two pleco’s 1 male 1 female only male has bristle nose. Have had 7 or 8 batches of babies given away some still have about 50 (?) Hard to count. Very active day and night. Waiting to sell some to pet stores locally. I enjoyed reading about the bn pleco’s good information. Thanks

    1. Glad your having success breeding bn’s are a great starter fish and can easily pay for their upkeep. Talk to your local fish shops many love to buy from local breeders

  12. Thanks dave thought it may be will keep an eye on him with the filter though im new to the hobby and would hate to lose him to it …he likes surfing the flow by the looks of it plants are trashed with the digging already too oh well not a quiet or boring tank

  13. Bought a bristlenose yesterday he is lovely but he trashed the tank overnight hes burrowed in the sand until hes exposed the underneath of a large bridge and made the hole underneath his den …. he also lies up the filter and puts his nose in the water flow or even outta the water is this unusual behaviour gonna put extra filter media in would hate to lose him in the filter 🙁 he makes me smile sooo much

  14. how many times will bn breed as these here are on there sixth batch , and daddies gone again…….

    1. They’ll breed as often as they can which can lead to the male being starved so its sometimes a good idea to split the pair for a few weeks give him a rest and chance to feed up. Also cutting down on the protein in the diet will extend the duration between spawns. A lot of bought food is protein heavy feed a lot if cucumber instead

  15. 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.

    1. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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..

  18. 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.

    1. 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

  19. 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.

    1. 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

  20. 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

    1. 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

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!!

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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 🙂

      2. 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?

        1. 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.

  25. 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

    1. 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 🙁

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

    1. 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

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