Bristlenose Pleco: Lifespan, Behavior, Care, & Health

The bristlenose Pleco or also known as the bushynose catfish is one of the most interesting and most popular aquarium Pelco pet. The reason for its popularity is mostly due to its small flat yet the fat structure and its ability to clean its environment.

Albino Bristlenose Pleco Source

This docile creature is a great pet to have, especially if you wish to crowd your large aquarium with different other docile pet fishes. They are sure to leave the aquarium messy, but with a bushynose catfish or two, the aquarium is to be cleaned up by those little helpers.

Facts about the bristlenose Pleco


When looking at its head, it appears to be wide, short, flat and fat, just like any other pleco fish. The bristlenose Pelco also possesses a flat body dominated with bony plates, and on the nose, they have tentacles which grow out after maturity. The length of the tentacles is much longer than that of the female.

For both genders, the mouth is round, and it has elongated lips which makes it an ideal model for a sucker fish. For control of movement, they possess pectoral fins and abdominal ones too.

How do you identify its gender?

In other species of fishes, they are differentiated according to their gender through their hue or body shapes. But in the case of plecos like the bushynose catfish, the difference is the size or length of the bristle. The males have a much broader and longer bristle compared to the females. In species of fishes like this, you only get to tell the difference in the gender a 100% after maturity.


The bristlenose Pleco is part of the family loricariidae which are usually found in rivers and floodplain of the amazon basin or also in South America. They swim in fresh water where the currents are will be aerated with atmospheric oxygen and also dominated with vegetation which allows it to express its nocturnal behavior.

They are social fishes

The bristlenose pleco is a docile and friendly pet that loves to make friends. It would love to have neighbors to play around and socialize. There is no threat of cannibalism as the fish is an herbivore which only feeds on plant and algae.

It would be best to put this fish in a community with other docile fishes of different species because it is an easy target for bullying and sometimes cannibalism depending on the tank mate. Putting a pet bushynose pleco amongst friends will make it happier and more interesting than when it is alone.

They are as messy as they are clean freaks

The bristlenose pleco can get an aquarium tank very messy if fed too much food. The best way to avoid this from happening is to ensure a proper, timely diet for the Pleco. Sometimes you can to the extreme and make sure to clean up the excess algae on the tank after feeding it, so it will not be overfed.

They are nocturnal fishes

This means they hide away in the day and hunt at night. And it’s all due to their sensitivity with direct UV rays. This is why it is best to fill their Tanks with vegetation and rocks for it to hide from direct sunlight. If the tank doesn’t have UV rays directed at it from the sun, special lightening equipment can be used.

 With the particular lightening device, you can control the intensity of the light that shines on the tank, which would be preferably in low intensity.

The bushynose catfish are bottom dwellers

This means they prefer to swim around the lower stratus of the aquarium. When feeding them, the food must be able to sink so that they will be able to eat at their comfort. This fact makes them compatible tank mates with other mildly territorial and aggressive fishes that swim or dwell in the middle and or upper stratus.

Size and lifespan

The adult male reaches the size of 15cm while the adult female reaches the size of 12cm. They usually reach their various maximum size in months. The highest amount of years a bushynose catfish can live is 12years. That if it is in safe conditions.

In the wild, the life expectancy of a bristlenose pleco is a lot shorter, and the cause of it includes predator attack, wrong water conditions, and temperature conditions.

Colors and markings

The bristlenose plecos are a diverse species. They are blessed with several colors and markings that make them unique in each of their own ways. The bristlenose plecos are one of the smallest sized catfish pets, which can grow a maximum of 3 or 5 inches. They come in various colors such as brown, gray or green with yellow or white spots on the body.

Most of the bushynose catfishes have lighter abdomens and darker backs. But in the case of albino bristle nose, they are mostly white.

Which is the perfect Tank mate?

The bristlenose plecos are docile and very sociable amongst other aquarium fishes. They are compatible with most other fishes, but it tolerates with submissive behavior. It would be best to avoid including much more territorial and aggressive fishes as a tank mate.   

Tank requirements for bristlenose plecos

Given that the bristlenose Pleco’s natural habitat is the streams and rivers of South America. The water in such places are well aerated –that means well oxygenated. So the best step to take in setting up water tanked home for a bushynose catfish will be to make sure the water conditions match that of its natural habitat.

The pH level of the water should be maintained between the ranges 5.8 – 7.8. The hardest of the water has to be within the range of 2 – 30 dGH. The tank temperature should be kept within the range of 23 – 27 degrees Celsius. 

Also, the bristlenose plecos are nocturnal animals which means they hide during the day and come out at night. Because of this trait, hiding places should be included into the tank so it can hide away from the rays of sunlight.

If tank mates are included, the tank should be as large as 25 gallons with enough space at the bottom. Since it is where they are bound to spend most of their time if they are all bottom dwellers like the bristlenose plecos.

 Keeping bushynose catfish in a larger tank is of great advantage, especially when there are tank mates present. It is due to the fact that bristle plecos are very messy. They release large amounts of wastes into the tank which can be hard to clean off. In the case of a community of plecos, there is sure to be a large messy which can be less if the tank is bigger.

There should be a well-equipped underwater gravel system or a water filter for the tank. Having both of these will be great as they will help ensure the appropriate water conditions for the best bristlenose Pleco habitat is achieved.

Note: sometimes the fish would swim up quickly to the top. The reason is that there is a large percentage of ammonia and nitrates in the lower parts water. This is an indication for adjusting them to the appropriate water condition for the bristle nose pleco.

If you are new to fish keeping and you wish a bristle nose pleco to be your first pet fish, then it is advisable to get an adult. The reason is that they can adjust to the pH level of the water better than the younger ones.

Dieting and feeding of the Bristlenose Pleco

The bristlenose plecos are herbivore bottom feeders. This means they only feed on algae or plants comfortably at the bottom of the tank. Sometimes they would go to the upper stratus of the tank to graze on algae that happens to grow on the surface.

You may be thinking you don’t need to feed such a fish since it eats algae and at the same time, it is like cleaning the tank. Well… it’s a clever one but not a good one. A fish such as an herbivore bristlenose Pleco can’t feed on just algae alone. The proper diet of such a fish should consist of 85% plant and about 15% protein.

The kind of feed to buy for a brislenose Pleco catfish should be explicitly made for bottom dwellers. That means it must be able to sink down for the catfish to feed comfortably. The feed could be sinking algae wafers or pellets. Blanched vegetables can be added to the list. There should be a large variety of feed to try out because the taste of a bristlenose catfish can be different.

What kind of feed is best for the bushynose catfish?

There are various ingredients you can put together — for instance, parboiled lettuce or cabbage leaves, cucumber, peas or carrots. You can give them any leftovers from your vegan or salad meals. Make sure to clean the ones that are not eaten so that they will not deteriorate and affect the water conditions of the tank.

When do you feed them?

The bristle plecos should be fed at least once or twice a day because they tend to get hungry all thanks to the efficient and fast digestive system. If you don’t feed the plecos well, they could end up feeding on the plant life in the tank. This is a clear indication that they are not being fed well.

Another way to determine if they aren’t fed well is through their coloration. If they are fed well they will have a vibrant coloration; the opposite will lead to a dull or bland coloration.

Breeding of Bristlenose Pleco

There is nothing hard in breeding a bristlenose pleco. Although there are a few things to note before breeding, for it to be easy. They include:

•    There has to be a special tank for breeding if the normal one has a community. If they breed in the community tank, the best move will be to move the eggs to that special tank. The reason for this step is to prevent the eggs from being eaten up by the community members.

•    The bristlenose plecos are known to mate during the winter cold rainy season in the Amazon. Recreating such conditions top the aquarium is best. Make sure to set the tank to a cooler temperature.

•    Set up caves and driftwood for the males to select a suitable site for the hatchlings to hatch.

How do you breed bristlenose plecos?

Before you commence breeding, make sure to know which is male and which is female. As said earlier, the males have a larger bristle that grows out through the middle of its head. For the females, they possess a much smaller bristle that happens to develop around the mouth.

Yellow Bristlenose Pleco Breeding pair Source

The next step to take is to make sure there are more females than males because the males tend to get very territorial and aggressive when it comes to choosing a mate and breeding.

During the commencement of breeding the males will look for a suitable place or cave for the eggs. If two males happen to find the same caves they will end up fighting and then eating the rival’s eggs. This is why it is best to have several caves built for the males to choose from.

After the males have found a suitable cave, the female laying the egg will inspect the cave. If she like the cave, she will then release golden orange adhesive eggs to the spot. The male will then fertilize the eggs.

Once that is done, the male then pushes the female away from the eggs to guard it. During a period of 4 – 10 days, the male will clean, nest and aerate it with its fins till they are ready to hatch. 

The way they hatch has two stages. They first hatch as fry which needs to absorb the remaining part of their egg sacks for a period of 2 – 4 days. After that period, they will have the full structure to swim freely and feed on algae or vegetable supplements until they grow up to the adult size. They can reach the adult size after six months of age.


This peaceful catfish is one of the best pets to consider especially if you are a first-time pet owner. The feeding is not that expensive, a community is easy to form, and cleaning is even easier with the Bristlenose Pleco’s dutiful trait of cleaning the tank by eating algae.