Bristlenose pleco / 5 types / With videos and photos

Bristlenose pleco are popular aquarium fish from the chain Armored catfishes family or loricaria catfish. The name of the family comes from the word “lorica”, as the armor of legionaries was called in ancient Rome.

Durabilitydurablenot durable, easy to break
Opacityless transparentmore transparent
Cleaning only soft sponges / careful care / harderscrapers / any sponge / easier
Pricemore expensiveless expensive
Scratcheseasier to scratch / leaves white line marksharder to scratch
Who can useGood to households with kids and animalsOverall good to any house

General information

Chain catfish also have their “armor” – the whole body is covered with accrete bone plates that protect these fish from natural enemies. The family contains both small species, several centimeters long, and giants: some pterygoplichthys can reach up to 35-40 cm in length. Most of the Bristlenose pleco catfishes are peaceful and very hardy fish that will not only become an unconditional decoration of the aquarium but will also help the aquarist in the fight against algae – the favorite food of catfish.


The body of the bristlenose pleco is drop-shaped-flattened, it is covered with rows of polygonal bone plates. A distinctive feature is the elongated sucker-shaped lips with horn-shaped scrapers that form the lower mouth. They allow Bristlenose pleco catfishes to stay on snags and rocks in their natural habitat in reservoirs with a strong current. With the help of horn-shaped tubercles (“graters”) the fish clean off fouling from the glass of the aquarium, plant leaves, decorations, and stones, using them for food.

Body color can range from light gray to dark gray, brownish, and black with light spots. These spots form streaks on the fins. The abdomen is lighter than the back. Color may fade depending on conditions. Sexual dimorphism is characteristic of all types of bristlenose pleco. However, it is possible to distinguish male from a female with accuracy only after reaching puberty (at the age of about 1 year, and in some species, for example, stellate ancistrus L181, only by 2 years). On the head of a catfish, tentacles are located – skin processes. In females, the processes are located at the edges of the head, they are poorly developed (no more than 1 mm) and there are very few of them, in some cases, they are completely absent. The tentacles (“whiskers”) of the male grow over the entire head, reaching a length of 1.5-2 cm, and as the fish grows, they begin to branch.

The maximum size of bristlenose pleco catfish in an aquarium is 15 cm. Life expectancy is 6-8 years.


Bristlenose pleco, or ancistrus ordinary, in nature lives in the tributaries of the Amazon River, prefers reservoirs with a fast current. The habitat of the Ancistrus cirrhosis also includes the eastern part of South America in the waters of the Amazon River basin, in the rivers of Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad Island. Ancistrus leucostictus lives in the mountain rivers of South America, reservoirs in the Andes (Peru), and the upper reaches of the Orinoco River in Venezuela.

Types of Bristlenose pleco

Bushymouth catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus)

Ancistrus dolichopterus

The natural habitat of the species is the reservoirs of South America. The fish got its name for its highly developed fins, which stretch behind it like a veil. The body is slightly flattened; there are bone plates on the sides and on the back. The head is large, the mouth is sucker-shaped with powerful jaws. The color of the fish is very attractive: small white spots are randomly scattered over the body of a dark olive color. Sex differences in adults are well pronounced. Males are slimmer than females and have characteristic cutaneous growths-hooks on the head. When kept in an aquarium, the size can reach 10 cm. The movements of ancistrus in water are very reminiscent of the slow flapping of the wings of a dragonfly, hence the second name of this fish – ancistrus dragonfly. The fish is relatively undemanding to living conditions and gets along well with almost all aquarium inhabitants. The activity is twilight, so it is better to feed the Bristlenose pleco after turning off the lights in the aquarium. For good health, it is necessary to create a flow of water, as well as put natural driftwood and stones in the aquarium. For ancistrus, diffused lighting is recommended.

Starlight ancistrus ( Ancistrus hoplogenys )

Звездчатые анциструсы дети играются, starlight ancistrus (L181) playing
It is one of the most beautiful types of bristlenose pleco catfishes. It lives in large numbers in a large tributary of the Amazon – the Parana River. You can meet it both in fast-flowing waters and in almost stagnant reservoirs. The basis of food is algae growth and plankton. Body color is almost black with evenly spaced bluish-white dots. Juveniles also have a white border on the dorsal and caudal fins. The body and head of the Ancistrus hoplogenys is wider than that of its relative, the common ancistrus. Otherwise, the appearance differs little: there is also a sucker, pronounced hook-like outgrowths on the head of males. There are thorns on the first rays of the pectoral fins, therefore, when transplanting fish, you must act carefully: the fish can easily get entangled in the net and even damage it. The average life span in an aquarium is about 5 years. Star ancistrus is a fairly hardy fish that can live in a wide range of water parameters. It is necessary to ensure high-quality filtration and good aeration in the aquarium, as well as not forget about regular water changes.

Common ancistrus

Common ancistrus

In our time, it is difficult to find an aquarium in which this little worker would not be found. After all, the basis of nutrition for this pleco catfish is a bloom of algae, which often appears on the walls of the aquarium and decorations. Thus, the fish helps to keep the aquarium clean. The homeland of the common Bristlenose catfishes is the reservoirs of South America. Most often it can be found in fast-flowing mountain rivers, where a modified sucker mouth becomes a good help and allows not only to scrape off algae, but also to stay in a strong current. The body of the fish is pressed down from above, covered with bony plates, the head is wider than the body. The main color varies from yellowish gray to dark gray, the former dots are scattered all over the body. In juveniles, a bluish tint of the body and white edging on the dorsal and caudal fins can be observed. Sexual dimorphism is pronounced: males are larger and slender, on the head they have characteristic leathery outgrowths. A relatively easy-to-maintain view, an aquarium of 50 liters, or more with good filtration (preferably with a current) and aeration is required. Ancistrus ordinary does not like bright lighting. Absolutely peaceful, can be kept with a large number of fish species in a common aquarium.

Ancistrus Red

Ancistrus Red

This artificial form, obtained by German breeders, looks very impressive in an aquarium since the fish is painted in a red-brick, almost orange color. The body length does not exceed 3-6 centimeters, which means that it is easily suitable for keeping even in small aquariums. In terms of its external structure, the fish is practically no different from other bristlenose pleco catfishes. However, unlike most other related species, Ancistrus red is predominantly diurnal, so you can constantly monitor its activity. Unfortunately, it easily crosses with other bristlenose pleco(for example, albino ancistrus), resulting in non-purebred hybrids that do not have such an awesome coloration, therefore it is recommended to purchase such fish from trusted breeders. Sexual differences are similar to other species. It is advisable to keep in aquariums from 50 liters. The water must be clean and well aerated. The diet of bristlenose pleco catfish is predominantly vegetable.

Ancistrus albino (golden) (Ancistrus dolichopterus var.Albino)

Ancistrus albino (golden) (Ancistrus dolichopterus var.Albino)

The albino form of the common bristlenose pleco, which is often called golden, is loved by aquarists no less than the classic look. In terms of external structure, the fish is no different from the parent form. But the loss of pigmentation led to the fact that the color of the fish became golden-beige of varying degrees of brightness, and the eyes have a pinkish tint. The conditions of keeping the fish also differ little from related species. Golden ancistrus are calm, peaceful fish, good helpers for the aquarist, because their favorite pastime is to scrape algae from the walls of the aquarium. Golden ancistrus can be grown without problems in herbalists’ aquariums, they do not encroach on juicy green plants but provided that the fish are not hungry and receive a sufficient amount of the plant component with food.

Care and maintenance

You can keep bristlenose pleco catfish in almost any tropical aquarium. The recommended minimum volume is 50 liters. It is desirable that the soil does not have sharp edges and is not too shallow. It is very useful to use natural driftwood as decorations: ancistrus with great pleasure scrape off their top layer and thus get cellulose, which is extremely necessary for comfortable digestion. Fish are active, mainly in the evening and at night, therefore it is recommended to create periods of twilight lighting every 30-40 minutes between the peaks of bright lighting. It is useful to place a large number of shelters in the aquarium, in which the catfish will hide during the day and as needed.

Despite their origin from South America, where the water in the rivers is predominantly soft and acidic, bristlenose pleco have adapted to live in a wide range of parameters. Many ways to get along even with African cichlids in fairly hard and alkaline water. The most important thing is to provide the fish with good aeration and a temperature of 22-24 ° C.

With proper care, the lifespan of bristlenose catfish in an aquarium can reach 5-6 years.


Bristlenose pleco catfishes are one of the most peaceful fish that are compatible with almost any kind of ornamental fish. They can be kept without any problems both with small schooling fish (neons, tetras, barbus) and with medium-sized cichlids. Usually, even relatively large and aggressive fish do not touch ancistrus. Not the least role in this is played by a dense “bone” shell and the presence of spines on the pectoral fins. In addition, bristlenose catfishes are rather sedentary fish and spend most of their time hiding in shelters, from which it is very problematic to get them. However, you can often find information that ancistrus can attack some fish and even leave them wounds on the body with their powerful jaws. Therefore, sometimes they are not recommended to be kept with slow-swimming species, for example, selective forms of goldfish.

Ancistrus pleco catfish can be kept in aquariums with live plants, provided that they receive a sufficient amount of food with a plant component. Otherwise, the delicate parts of some plants may be damaged.

Feeding bristlenose pleco catfishes

The favorite food for bristlenose catfish is algal growth, which very often appears on the walls of the aquarium or decorations when there is an excess of lighting. These fish are among the most effective aquarium cleaners. In addition, they are happy to eat the remains of food for other fish. In the event of a lack of food, ancistrus can switch to tender parts of living plants, in which they can gnaw a hole or eat it whole. In aquariums with bristlenose pleco, it is extremely useful to have natural driftwood, nibbling their fish produces cellulose, which is necessary for comfortable digestion. Often, many aquarists feed their pets with vegetation from their table: scalded lettuce, cabbage or zucchini. Unfortunately, this way of eating in some cases can lead to contamination of the aquarium, especially if you do not remove the remnants of food. In addition, remember that the food must be nutritious and balanced.

Tetra offers aquarists several options for complete balanced food for bristlenose pleco and other chain mail catfish, which are in the form of sinking tablets. They immediately sink to the bottom, where they can be found by catfish, and prevent the fast eating of food by fish swimming in the water column.

Tetra Pleco Tablets is the staple food for all herbivorous bottom fish species. Bulky tablets quickly sink to the bottom and slowly soften, freeing the feed. If necessary, the food can be placed in a suitable place. The tablets contain a large amount of spirulina algae, which helps the catfish to maintain health and provide additional vitality.

Tetra Pleco Veggie Wafers are dense wafers specially designed for the nutrition of bristlenose pleco catfish. First of all, they are convenient for scraping with a suction cup. The food retains its shape for a long time, allowing the catfish to feed. Does not muddy the aquarium water. In the center of the plate is a concentrate of algae and zucchini for optimal digestion of herbivorous catfish.

Tetra Pleco Spirulina Wafers is a complete sticky catfish food with algae concentrate and enriched with Omega-3 acids that support the immune system of fish. The high fiber content contributes to comfortable digestion. Does not muddy the water.

You can feed pleco catfish with tablets once a day before turning off the lights in the aquarium. If other fish are trying to take catfish tablets, then you can place them directly in your favorite bristlenose pleco catfish hideout. The number of feeding tablets must be calculated independently, depending on the number and size of ancistrus.

Reproduction and breeding

Bristlenose pleco can easily reproduce even in a common aquarium, but fry in this case can be eaten by other inhabitants. Usually, the female lays eggs in some kind of shelter – a tube or behind decorations, sometimes behind a filter or even inside it, if there is an opportunity to get there. Ancistrus eggs are large, bright orange. Ancistrus males take care of the eggs, clean them with their mouths, fan them with fins, and protect them from other fish, driving away the female from the clutch.

If you prefer having video follow watch this good video about pleco breeding. If you like it follow to youtube and find the second part: Be careful this video has sound!

Bristlenose Pleco Breeding - Part One
In order to preserve the bristlenose catfish eggs, if spawning occurred in the general aquarium, it can be moved to a separate container with the male, if the eggs are laid in a convenient place, for example, in a tube. However, sometimes the eggs are attached directly to the glass behind stones, in crevices or behind a filter, in which case you can carefully cut the clutch with a razor blade and also move it to a suitable container, but without the male, since under severe stress, he does not take care of the offspring and may even eat eggs.

However, in order for the offspring to have a better chance of survival, when breeding, bristlenose pleco catfish are placed in a separate spawning box with a volume of 50-80 liters, with filtration and aeration. Sometimes one male and several females are chosen as producers, the volume of the aquarium, in this case, should be appropriate – about 150 liters. for 3 individuals. Before spawning, the female ancistrus gets fat, which indicates the readiness of the producers to produce offspring. Place ceramic or plastic pipes, stones, grottoes, or driftwood of the correct size in the aquarium. Part of the water is taken from the general aquarium, spawning stimulates the addition of 1/3 of fresh water and a slight decrease in the temperature in the spawning box (the temperature should be lowered by about 2 ° C). Usually, the male chooses a place for the nest – a slit or a tube – and carefully cleans it out, this process can take him several days. At the same time, it is necessary to feed bristlenose pleco catfish in the spawning aquarium mainly with plant foods; it is also desirable to increase the protein component of the diet.

Ancistrus spawns usually occur at night. The number of eggs laid by a female can range from 30 to 200, depending on her age and size. The female sticks a bunch of orange eggs in a nest prepared by the male, after which the male drives her away and starts protecting the offspring. After that, the female must be planted as soon as possible, since the male is aggressive towards her and can seriously injure her.

The development of eggs takes 4-7 days, sometimes in order to accelerate the development, the temperature in the spawning box is raised to 26-28 ° C. Ancistrus male does not leave the offspring for a minute, even for food, and constantly guards the nest.

The first few days after hatching, the larvae hang in a bunch in the nest almost motionless, after which they leave it, and from that time on the male must be planted. The larvae feed first using the yolk sac. You can feed the grown fry with dry food, tablets for catfish are especially convenient. It is advisable to provide regular meals at least three times a day. In an aquarium with fry, it is recommended to change 20% of the water daily, while small bristlenose pleco will grow to the size of adults in six months, and after about 10 months they become sexually mature and can participate in reproduction themselves.