Bristlenose Plecostomus

Here's a picture of a young female Bristlenose Plecostomus taken by littleme3333. This little pleco seems to be enjoying her lunch!


The Bristlenose Pleco belongs to the genus Ancistrus. Within that genus, there are about 60 recorded species. Primarily bottom dwellers, don't be surprised to catch the Bristlenose Plecostomus sucking the algae off the sides of your fish tank. They love it. When they've cleaned the algae up, feed them zucchini or algae wafers. I like to steam my zucchini and keep it in the fridge to use as needed.

Here are a few facts to keep in mind if you're thinking about stocking your aquarium with a Bristlenose Plecostomus:

  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallons
  • Easy to care for
  • Adults can reach up to 4" (it varies among Ancistrus species)
  • The Bristlenose Pleco is a peaceful fish (loves to 'chill')

The nice thing about the Bristlenose Plec is that it has a voracious appetite for algae, but won't grow as large as the Plecostomus usually sold at your local pet store. Those can grow as large as one to two feet!

Breeding the Bristlenose Plecostomus is fairly easy, so have plenty of fish loving friends if you're going to try that. Bristlenose have whisker-like appendages around their nose and mouth. It's fun to watch when they flare them out.

The Bristlenose Plecostomus is a great fish tank addition for an aquarium enthusiast looking for a fish that can get a little tank cleaning done. Do you have a favorite Bristlenose Pleco species?

137 thoughts on “Bristlenose Plecostomus”

  1. Hi Emily!

    I often feed my plecostomus zucchini. I’ll steam it, and give it to them after it cools. You can keep some extra in the refrigerator or freezer after steaming it.


  2. belive it or not i bought a bristlenose at my local pet store and put him my betta tank witch is filtered by the way and they’ve gotton
    along real well ever since before i got my brislenose my betta was sitting on the bottom of his tank wasent eating and seemed very alone now hes eating every day ang swims all day long all he really needed was a true friend so let the truth be told some male bettas can have friends!!!

  3. Hey Trillion,

    I’m glad to here your fish are getting along so well! Your pleco is going to help with your algae cleaning too!

  4. I have (2) 14 inches plecostomus that i would love too sale to a good home,I have to many for my tanks.

  5. Hi Barbara,

    I’d suggest putting an ad in craigslist for your area, or contacting the local fish shop.


  6. hi,
    im kind of worried when i go to feed my beta his beta pellets my bristlenose keeps eating them to should i be worried or is it no big deal?

  7. Hi Trillion,

    Your betta should be fine. I feed my betta’s just a small pinch of food every three days. As long as the betta is eating something, he’ll be ok. His stomach really isn’t much bigger than his eye. When you think of that, you can see how easily you could actually overfeed a betta.

    Maybe try feeding your bristlenose a couple algae, or shrimp pellets at the same time.

  8. hi, our bristlenose has a whitish patch over one eye. This is the best photo we could get of it. Do you know what this is? Is it bad?

  9. Anna,

    That could be a gram-negative bacterial infection. TMP Sulfa Powder, or Gentamycin Sulfate Powder is recommended

  10. Hi, my plec has only been in my tank for a short while – 2 months, and although she/he seems fine (she’s called Pocahontas!), her spots seem have faded around her sides at the middle of her body.

    Is this normal (growing pains? – she’s growing very fast!)


  11. Hi,

    My Plec has gone pale. Its been in my tank for 2 months and otherwise seems fine. It eats well and is quite active (as far as it goes) but has developed pale patches on its otherwise brown and orange ‘spotty’ body.

    Is this normal?

  12. Hi Tony,

    It doesn’t sound normal.

    That could be a fungus. If anti-fungal meds don’t work, it might be Flexibacter columnaris. More info on that disease here.


  13. Hello, I’ve just bought a Plec.
    It’s the first one I’ve had and it’s just in a regular fish bowl for now, with plants and a rock and stuff.
    I know it might sounds stupid, but I was wondering if they get lonely? He always looks really sad, and never seems to eat the algae flakes I put in.
    Basically I’d just like some advice on keeping him (or her :S) if you would.

  14. Hi Emma,

    Most of the Plecos I’ve had like to hide. Mine have especially enjoyed the driftwood I’ve included in my tank.

    What’s the temperature of the water in your fish bowl? Plecos usually do best in water 73-79 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 23-26 degrees Celsius. If your water is much colder than that, it could endanger the health of your pleco.

    As for eating algae flakes… Your Pleco may be getting enough nutrients out of the natural algae. Does your fish bowl grow algae? Do you see the plec eating it. Geverally they’ll do it at night when it’s dark. They’re very shy fish.

    My only suggestion would be to get a bigger tank when you can, and add a few friends 🙂 Plecos generally need the environment of a heated fish tank with an air bubbler to “thrive”.


  15. I just got 2 bnp in my 20-29 gallon fish tank (not sure of the size) and i was wondering what i should put with them. There is one small castle.

  16. Hi Adog!

    You’ve got plenty of choices for a nice community tank. You could do a Dwarf Gourami with a school of neon tetras. Danios, Guppies, or Swordtails would also be nice.

    Just remember that for every gallon of water you should get 1 inch of fish. So a dwarf gourami and 5 neon tetras would = about 8 inches total. Add your 2 bristlenoses which would be 8 inches as adults and you get 16 inches, so you could add a few more until you reach the 20-29 inch area.

    Have fun.


  17. I just started feeding my pleco steamed zucchini but my bettas eat it and then turn all fat and almost bloated (look like the pregnant) Is it ok for them to at the zucchini to?

  18. Hi Rochellemay,

    I wouldn’t feed the bettas zucchini. Stick with betta food, and give them very little. I feed my bettas about 3 times a week with just a pinch of food. Remember their stomach is no bigger than their eye. They won’t stop eating, and could die if overfed.

  19. What’s up! I’ve got a 55 gal tank with 6 African cichlids that are about 2 inches each, 1 blue crayfish that’s about 3 in and was wondering if it would be safe to add a pleco to my aquarium. My grandpa has 1 and its getting too big for his little 10 gal so he wants me to have it. I keep the temp at about 76 deg. Really, my main concern is how the pleco would get along with the crayfish. The pleco is about 5/6 in long…

  20. hi,i got a 40 gallon tank i think maybe bigger i have 2 gourami 3 clown loach and a red tailed black shark and i just brought a new pleco i think it might be a common its only about 1 inch big but im worried its not eating its pooing and stuff but i dont see it eat any veg or algea tablets is there anything i can do? thanks

  21. Hi Olly,

    My pleco hangs out by the driftwood all day. I never see her come out and eat like other fish. Do you already have plenty of algae in the tank?

  22. Hi,

    I’m just starting to set up my first fish tank. I started with two blue gourami’s about a week ago and went to the fish store yesterday and got a dwarf gourami, a blackfin cat fish, and a pleco. I didn’t really know much about pleco’s when I bought mine, I just told the store owner I wanted something to keep the sides of the tank clean. Unfortunately I didn’t realize how big pleco’s get! I only have a 20 gallon tank. My pleco is about 2 inches right now. How fast do they grow and what can I do? Thanks

  23. Hi,
    Nevermind about the pleco, it died this afternoon but now I have a new problem. I have two female blue gourami’s (with rounded dorsal fins) in my 20 gallon tank. One is about 2.5 inches and the other is only about 2 inches. The larger one won’t stop chasing the smaller one around the tank and is eating it’s fins. I’m afraid that the smaller one won’t be able to survive and I think this constant combat is stressing out my other fish. I’ve already got shelter but it doesn’t seem to help. Do I have to remove one of the fish permanently or is there a way I can get the big one to mellow out? Thanks for the help.

  24. HI! I have a Pleco in a vase with Bamboo. Lately I have noticed that his under belly is turning a redish colour and at night he continuously cirlces the vase. I he ok in the vase?

  25. Hi,

    I have a red claw crayfish and was wondering if he would get along okay with a pleco of similar size?


  26. Hey Jenny,

    I really don’t know. You have something unique. I would check to see how aggressive that crayfish is before placing with others.

  27. hi,
    i just got a Bristlenose catfisk it is about 4 cm long i was just wondering what would be the best food to feed him in the community tank to make him grow quicker??


  28. Hi Cam,

    I feed mine algae wafers, shrimp pellets, and sometimes cucumbers. There’s no way to speed up growth. Often, Plecos get enough nutrients from just eating the fish tank’s algae.

  29. Hi.

    I hope that person with the crawfish comes back to say if it worked. We have a crawfish in a little tank and I’d like to put it in the big one with the pleco but I don’t want it eating the pleco.

  30. Please can someone help!!!
    My pleco has a really swollen belly and looks very unhappy, does anyone know what the problem is and what i can do to make her better????

  31. Karen, have you been doing regular water changes and keeping the the ph close to or under 7? Is the temp 80%? It may be a slow build up something less than desirable in the water that your putting into the tank. If you don’t have a Tap Water Deionizer Filter, you can get 1 from a decent pet store. They are pricey ($60-100) so if that’s not an option, you can buy DI or RO (reverse osmosis) water. These filtered waters are stripped of almost all traces of impurities. But it also strips all good minerals. There is an additive that needs be mixed with the new filtered water that is suited just for our plecos, discus, angelfish and others from thier region. This is the best way to make sure your fish are getting what they do need without what they don’t need.

  32. hey um i just bought a pleco a few days ago and this morning i found him dead. why is that? i have two goldfish (about two in. long each) and my tank is about 5-10 gallons.
    please tell me what went wrong?

  33. Hi, I just got a new tank, I just planted a few plants, I only have 2 rosy barbs in their atm. If i put in a bit of shelter do you think I could have a pleco?

  34. Hi, I just got a new tank around a month ago and got a pleco about a week ago. Now I am feeding the algae wafers but it seems that the other fish are eating them and I am wondering if my Pleco is getting enough to eat. The pet stores say that we shouldn’t have a pleco for about 4 mos, (enough time for the algae to build up) but if we had the wafers it would be fine. What do you think?

  35. Hi Nova,

    I RARELY see my plecos eating algae wafers. They’ll get plenty of food just eating the scraps of food left on the bottom, or algae on the sides of the tank. If it takes 4 months for your tank to grow algae, I want to know your secret. 🙂

    I give mine a few shrimp pellets now and then too. The yoyo loach likes ’em too.


  36. HI,
    Me and My boyfriend have a ten gallon tank with our pleco, PeeWee. I dont know what kind, but when we bought him he was smaller than an inch, hence how he got his name. Now after 2 months, he is almost 5 inches long. There are no other fish in the tank, and not alot of algea. At night we feed him 1 tablet and it is gone in the morning.

    Is the water absorbing the tablets, so it looks like he is eating them?

    And we’ve upgraded him to 2 tablets a night, they are about the size of a dime… I dont want to overfeed him… how much should we feed him every night, and how often?

    Thank You!

  37. Hi Alexia,

    If the tablets are disappearing, and your algae is staying under control, then I’d say you’re feeding about right. Your pleco sounds healthy if it’s grown that much!


  38. A friend of mine has a pleco, and has had it for at least 4 years. It was in a tank with a goldfish, but that fish died about 2 weeks ago. There are no other fish in the tank, and now my friend has found 2 little fish with whiskers. Could these be baby plecos, and how did the one reproduce without a mate? I have searched the internet, but can’t seem to find a lot on how these fish mate. Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

  39. hi, i have a 20/30 gal (not sure) tank with about 10 small guppies. my tank is always getting little spots of algae on the sides and i am constantly trying to get rid of them and nothing ever works. i am thinkning of getting a pleco, but i think that a 4″ long pleco would be too big for my tank? am i correct and if so can u recommend a smaller species? thansk! 😀


  41. Sarah,

    You’ve already got the tank plenty stocked. Plecos really need a bigger tank than that. Algae takes scrubbing, and yes everyone gets it, and it’s a pain.


    Your plecos are probably fine eating the natural tank algae. You can throw in a few algae wafers peridically, if you don’t have much algae.

  42. hello there,

    i bought a pleco, don’t know the type, but he was basically a light brown with darker brown, circular spots – two days ago. when i came home to check on my fish, i noticed something weird about him, and he was dead. he is in a 10 gallon tank with two baby angelfish, about 4 months old, and they did not die.
    something must have been wrong with simon, my pleco, don’t you think? i know how people say you need a 30 gallon tank for one pleco, but simon was about 2 inches, so i thought he’d grow out of it eventually, and i’d get him a bigger tank.

    do pleco’s need some kind of special water? i have a good filter, and a heater for my angelfish, and i was feeding him the algae wafers, he seemed alright last night, but today he just died!

    if you have any advice, or if you could direct me to some kind of site or something i could go to in order to read up about pleco’s, that would be greatly appreciated.


  43. hi,
    I recently purchased a lg pleco(idk wat type) annd he/she has developed stripes! is this bad or normal?

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