Bristlenose Pleco: Tank Requirements, Diet, Breeding & Compatibility of Bushynosed Plecos


The Bristlenose pleco, also known as the bushynose pleco, is a peaceful addition to your community. Bristlenose plecos are part of the Ancistrus gensus, which currently holds over 76 different species of bristlenose plecos.

The name Ancistrus is from Latin, and stands for “hook”, alluding to the pleco’s dermal teeth also known as odontodes, found on its cheeks.


The Bristlenose pleco is native to South America and Panama. Species occur in a wide range of natural habitats, including rivers, lakes, basins, and underwater caves.

To properly house your Bristlenose, your aquarium should be able to hold at least 20 gallons of water. Since plecos live at the bottom of the aquarium, it is recommended that you provide enough space for the pleco to move around freely.

Plecos also like to hide so make sure to provide a few hidings spots. A pleco caves or a pieces of wood can help you create places of shelter for you pleco. Make sure that these hiding spots are also a little bit darker than the rest of the aquarium, as plecos like to lurk in the shadows. This will ensure that your pleco is comfortable and that it doesn’t suffer from undue stress.


Bristlenose plecos are sexually dimorphic, which means that males and female have different appereances. Males have odontodes on their cheeks which are alluded to in their name. Females do not have odontode, which makes sexing easy.

Generally, Bristlenoses are 10-12 cm long (4 to 5 inches) at maturity. Males are generally larger than females.

There are multiple species of Bristle plecos, most of them ranging in size and color. Only a few are commonly found in the fishkeeping hobby.

Blue-Eyed Albino Bristlenose Pleco (L144 Ancistrus sp.)

Common in the hobby, these albino plecos have blue eyes instead of red.

Blue-eyed albina bristlenose pleco

Starlight Bristlenose Pleco (L183 Ancistrus Dolichopterus)

The Starlight plecos, also known as the White Seam Bristlenose, are quite precious and count as one of the most expensive plecos in the hobby.

Bristlenose starlight pleco


Absolutely adorable, should I get one of these too?

Male Bristlenose calico pleco


The Bristlenose plecos are omnivorous, and they’ll practically anything you throw at them. However, their diet should consist primarily of plant matter. Generally, you’d like to feed protein to your Britlenose once every 4 to 5 feedings of plant matter.


You can feed your plecos a wide range of blanched vegetables, including carrots, salad, cucumbers. To make it easier for your fish to eat vegetables, make sure to give them a quick boil to soften them. When the pleco is done feeding, remove the vegetables from the aquarium to prevent dirtying the water.

Plecos love algae waffers. So depending on the size of the bristlenose. A 5″ bristlenose should need more than a quarter of a waffer per feeding.

Currently my favourite brand of algae waffers for plecos is the PlecoWafers by Tetra. They aren’t too expensive and the plecos seem to love them!

Plecos are food-hoggers!

If you have more than 1 plecos or bottom-feeder, make sure to divide their food throughout the aquarium. Bristlenose and other plecos tend to be territorial especially during feeding time. This ensures that your plecos can enjoy their meal without the stress of having to compete for it. The dominant pleco usually will not be open to sharing and prevent others from eating.

For protein, you can feed them small servings of bloodworms and earthworms.

Scavenging for food

While you should feed your pleco yourself, your pleco should also look for food around the aquarium. Since they are algae-eaters, your pleco can snack on the algae found in your aquarium. This is great because it also helps you reduce algae in your aquarium.

Note, however, that plecos don’t “clean” your tanks by eating some algae here and there. Plecos are actually quite messy when you think about it; they poop a lot. So water changes with a vacuum are important for the health of your plecos. Since your plecos live at the bottom of the aquarium, it’s important that we keep the substrate clean with an aquarium vacuum. If the substrate is polluted with detritus and feces, it might not be good.

It’s important that you add a least of a few pieces of driftwood as to provide a more balanced diet for your pleco.

To ensure that all your plecos are fed adequately, you can feed them directly with pincers. Simply pinch the food and slowly approach your pleco with the food. He or she will come forward and claim it. This is also a lot more fun and an opportunity to connect with your fish.

If you can, feed your plecos in order of dominance. To identify the order of dominance, compared sizes, and behavior.


Breeding bristlenose can be a bit tricky at times, as is the case with most plecos. Generally, a community tank will prey on the eggs so it is recommended that you give your plecos their own tanks. Also, if you plan on adding more than just a pair, make sure that the aquarium is large enough and has multiple hiding spots.

As mentioned earlier, plecos like to hide and this is especially true when breeding. Males will claims a cave or a hiding spot, afterwhich the female will judge whether this is an adequate hiding spot for her eggs. If she believes the male has claimed a good spot, she will lay her eggs.

The male will then tend to the eggs and protect them. Generally, eggs will hatch with 10-14 days.

Breeding tends to occurs during winter months and so to trigger breeding behaviour, set your thermometer lower.

Find Bristlenose Plecos for Sale

Bristlenose plecos are somewhat common in the fishkeeping hobby and you may be able to find some at your local fish store. The blue-eyed albino is more than common than most, but if you’re likely you might be able to find Super Reds or Orange Spots. Starlights are less common because they heavily sought after.

Like most plecos, the cost of a pleco will depend on the rarity of the species and most importantly, it’s size.

A good way to find Bristlenose plecos for sale is through social media. There are numerous groups on Facebook, who can help you find a seller. It is recommended that you search for groups of people living in the same country that you are residing in. Since many countries impose regulations relating to the trade of live animals, it’s much easier for you to find a seller within your country of residence.

Another great place way to find plecos locally is on

In the United States, a reputable online seller is Aquatic Art. They have a wide selection and update their stock often. If you want a certain type of pleco, favorite the sales page and go back often to see if its back in stock. Alternatively, you can contact them on Facebook and ask when the pleco you want will be back in stock.

Bristlenose Pleco Care

Level of careEasy
TemperamentPeaceful, territorial with other plecos especially during feeding.
Size10-12 cm (4-5″)
Tank size+10 Gallons (38 liters)
Native OriginSouth America
Specific GravityFreshwater
Temperature18-27 °C (65-80°F)
pH6 to 7.5
Degrees of Hardness15 to 25
Level of availabilityCommon
DietOmnivore, 80% plant matter, 20% protein.
Stocking Ratio1:1 M:F




“Odontode”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2020, Accessed 12 June 2020.

“Ancistrus”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2020, Accessed 12 June 2020.

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