Caring for bristlenose pleco

Caring for bristlenose pleco

  • Author Ouse
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The bristlenose pleco, also known as the bushynose pleco is a medium-sized bottom-feeding fish that often entices beginners to keep them due to their small size in comparison to other catfishes available in the hobby. They are in the loricariidae family, a group of omnivorous armored catfish species that are primarily nocturnal.

Size - up to 15cm (6in)
Tank size - 25 gallons (110l)
Distribution - South America, Amazon basin
Diet - algae wafers, vegetables, wood, and general waste in the aquarium
Temperature - 23-28.9°C (73-84°F)
Lifespan - between 20 and 25 years
Compatibility - community and semi-aggressive tanks

The bristlenose pleco is often chosen by beginners for its appearance, which includes a spiky face and a plated body. What most beginners are unaware of is that all plecos including the bristlenose are generally inactive fish that require a hiding spot and a special diet. To give your bristlenose adequate hiding, provide decor that can keep the pleco out of sight such as a cave or driftwood. The diet of a pleco varies between species with the bristlenose being mostly herbivorous, preferring algae wafers, vegetables, and only occasionally wood. When feeding your bristlenose wafers it’s best to do so once the tank light is off, triggering the fish to exhibit it’s nocturnal behaviour and actively seek out the wafers before other fish find it. If feeding vegetables consider blanched cucumber, zucchini or carrot on a stainless steel fork. Avoid using fruit because of the abundance in acids. For a source of protein shrimp and catfish pellets, bloodworms and other frozen food will satisfy.

A minimum tank size of 25 gallons should allow a fully grown bristlenose to explore freely and should also create room for the pleco’s hiding spot. If using a light substrate such as sand be prepared for the pleco to rearrange it by stirring up hills and digging out craters to expand its hideout (this can be beneficial as it oxygenates the substrate). In a 25 gallon aquarium you should keep only one bristlenose due to their territorial behaviour. Males will fight to the death and plecos of opposite genders will breed insatiably. To keep multiple bristlenose plecos ensure that the tank is much larger than the minimum requirement for one fish and densely decorate the tank with plants and wood to provide secure hiding.

The lifespan of the bristlenose pleco is much longer than most aquarium fish, lasting up to 25 years. Most individuals available at retailers are captive bred and are very young, given that bristlenose are very prolific fish. Many display tanks will include some pleco fry that have traveled through the filtration system of the fish shop. Males have large spikes on their face which gives them their name, while females have very few or lack them. These spikes develop when the pleco is maturing.

In terms of compatibility with other fish the bristlenose pleco is versatile. It can be housed in community tanks with little issue and even semi-aggressive tanks of rainbowfish and small cichlids. Avoid keeping your bristlenose with large predatory fish that might display aggression towards the pleco or try to eat it.

That’s about it for my bristlenose pleco care guide. They are very rewarding fish when kept in appropriate conditions and are good for hobbyists who are new to plecos.
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I appreciate reading this. I had a couple a year ago in a 40 gallon tank who were fine awhile, then both disappeared. Possibly they weren't finding enough to eat, I never gave them vegetables. My LFS wasn't helpful about that. If I try again, I'll reread this first.
Thanks for your kind words.

It’s strange for plecos to just vanish like that... I don’t feed mine vegetables very often but when I do I feed cucumber because he doesn’t accept carrot, plus carrot is messy. I feed my bn plec catfish pellets and a big wafer containing spirulina and algae every other night before bed.

In a 40 gallon there could be a scramble for territory between the bn plecos which will encourage some lethal fighting. It’s safest to keep just one pleco in each tank unless there’s thick decoration and lots of floor space.

I wish you good luck with your new pleco.
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