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Get to Know the Bristlenose Pleco

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Most anyone who has had a fish tank has kept a pleco at one point or another. Oftentimes, it is the Common Pleco – that’s because it’s easy to find them at local pet stores. But did you know that they grow too large for the average aquarium?

That’s why I want to introduce you to the Bristlenose Pleco, a lesser known variety of pleco and smaller variety that is much more suited to be kept in smaller home aquariums. Bristlenose plecos (scientifically known as Ancistrus) grow between four and eight inches depending on the specific variety, and can be kept in tanks as small as 20 gallons. Bristlenose plecos are found in South America. They are peaceful fish, and unlike larger members of the species, they don’t tear up planted tanks.  Bristlenose Pleco can coexist with just about any community fish, as long as their tank mates are not aggressive and wouldn’t try to make a meal of them.

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The appearance of the bristlenose pleco is startling. The male, as he reaches maturity, will grow branches from his face – kind of like Medusa of Greek mythology. Females will also sprout branches, but they won’t be as noticeable as the males’ facial tentacles. These fish come in a wide variety of colors including albino, brown, green, and red.  The most commonly seen colors are albino and brown.

Caring for a bristlenose pleco is simple, as they are vegetarians. They do require wood in the tank to aid in digestion, but will eat algae wafers, spirulina, and enjoy fresh vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. They will also assist with algae reduction within the aquarium itself, but shouldn’t be used as the solution to this problem.

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Breeding bristlenose plecos is straightforward. They require a cave, such as a piece of aquarium decor, a PVC pipe, or a Terra cotta pot. The female will lay her eggs in the cave, and the male will fertilize them. At this point, the female’s job is done; the male will guard the eggs until they become fry and grow large enough to leave the cave.  As long as there are no tank mates who would eat the fry, they will grow quickly, and the process repeats itself. A healthy breeding pair of bristlenose plecos will spawn often, so much that hobbyists sometimes will choose to separate the pair before they’re overrun with fry.

If you’re starting out in the aquarium hobby, the bristlenose pleco is the perfect addition to your tank. Thanks to its easy care, the simplicity of breeding, and its overall fun nature, it’s no wonder why the bristlenose is one of the most highly recommended plecos for aquarium keepers.

summerSummer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas.  When she’s not talking about fish, Summer “spins” her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization.


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