Bristlenose Pleco – 12 Types with Pictures

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The Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus dolichopterus) is a small, peaceful fish species that is an ideal addition to any freshwater aquarium.

I found the Bristlenose Pleco easy to care for and was pleasantly surprised to find that they can help keep algae under control.

The Bristlenose Pleco, also known as Bushymouth Catfish, is hardy and can thrive in various temperatures, making them an ideal fish for beginners.

Here’s everything you need to know about this unique species. Now you can play a racing game.

My article will provide an overview of everything from size and temperament to diet, healthcare requirements, and more – so read on if you want to learn how to care for a Bristlenose Pleco properly!

Types of Bristlenose Pleco:

The bristlenose pleco comes in a host of different varieties.

Listed below are the most popular and common types.

Common Bristlenose Pleco

Ancistrus dolichopterus - Common bristlenose pleco

The Common Bristlenose Pleco is a small tropical aquarium fish native to South America.

Depending on the condition of the water, it can be brownish, greenish, or greyish in color.

Its head is slightly flattened, and its body is round and chubby.

At the bottom of their bodies, they have a pair of fins that helps them swim.

Their popular name comes from the fact that they have a set of whiskers, or “bristles,” next to their mouth.

Their dorsal fin is on top of their back, while the adipose fin is situated right behind the dorsal fin.

Normally, they grow to a length of 3 to 4 inches.

They have a reputation for being scavengers and will keep the tank clean by eating algae and other debris.

In my experience they are a hardy species and are adaptable to a range of tank environments.

They get along well with other fish so are well suited to a community aquarium.

Albino Bristlenose Pleco

The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is a small, peaceful fish that is an excellent addition to any aquarium.

They typically reach around 3-4 inches in length when fully grown and have a distinct white coloration with red eyes.

They are also equipped with hair-like bristles on their snout, which give them their name.

This type of Pleco is generally quite active, but they are also very peaceful and do well in a community setting.

They prefer to live in aquariums with plenty of hiding spots and areas where they can graze on algae.

Due to their small size, they make great tankmates for other fish species.

They are relatively undemanding regarding water parameters and, provided they are fed regularly, can live for up to 10 years.

The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is a great choice for any aquarium looking to add character and color!

Super Red Bristlenose Pleco

The Super Red Bristlenose Pleco is an incredibly popular freshwater fish that has become a favorite amongst aquarists.

It’s easy to see why – this stunning pleco species has an eye-catching deep red coloration, complete with black stripes and white markings.

These peaceful fish are relatively small, reaching a maximum length of about 4-6 inches, and are relatively hardy in the home aquarium.

They can live for up to 10 years with proper care and make a great addition to any freshwater setup.

Super Red Bristlenose Plecos have a peaceful temperament and prefer slower-moving waters filled with plenty of vegetation and hiding places.

They are omnivorous, so providing them with a balanced diet of plant and animal-based foods is essential for their health.

With its beautiful colors, hardiness, and peaceful nature, the Super Red Bristlenose Pleco will stand out in any freshwater aquarium.

Longfin Bristlenose Pleco

The Longfin Bristlenose Pleco has a very unique appearance.

Its long, ribbon-like fins, which are the true star of the show, are what really make this fish stand out.

On the top of its back, the dorsal fin is a stunning feature with its long, flowing structure that appears to dance in the water.

The fish also has longer dorsal fins than the typical species, which gives it a more regal appearance.

The lengthened pectoral fins create a striking contrast to the body.

They usually grow to about 4 inches and are mostly black or dark brown.

Their diet consists mainly of vegetables, algae wafers, and frozen food.

They enjoy hiding in caves or other dark places in the aquarium and are very peaceful, making them a great addition to any community tank.

Longfin Bristlenose Plecos have an overall good temperament and are relatively easy to care for.

They require basic water parameters such as pH levels between 6-7.5, temperatures around 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit, and an aquarium of at least 30 gallons.

These fish are hardy and will make a great addition to any home aquarium.

They thrive best in planted tanks with plenty of hiding places and surfaces for grazing on algae.

With the right care, Longfin Bristlenose Plecos can live up to 8 years in aquariums. 

Starlight Bristlenose Pleco

The Starlight Bristlenose Pleco is a peaceful, small fish species native to the Amazon River basin.

It reaches around 4 inches in length.

This variant, which is sometimes referred to as the White Seam Bristlezone Pleco, has an exotic appearance.

This fish immediately grabs the viewer’s attention thanks to its black body covered in vivid dots and the white seam that runs around its tail and dorsal fins.

This docile fish enjoys hiding among plants or rocks in its tank, yet it can also be seen swimming around in search of food.

Its diet should include algae and meaty foods such as bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp or krill, tubifex worms, and prepared-to-sink pellet foods.

These plecos need plenty of clean water with moderate oxygen levels to thrive and will also appreciate some hiding caves or tunnels in the aquarium setup.

The Starlight Bristlenose Pleco is a great choice for beginner aquarists looking for an attractive fish that will not cause trouble with other tank inhabitants.  ​

Calico Bristlenose Pleco

The Calico Bristlenose Pleco has a stunning pattern of black, white, red and orange spots that make it instantly recognizable.

These plecos reach up to 4 inches in length and have a calm temperament making them ideal for aquarists looking for a peaceful community fish.

They require clean water, plenty of hiding places such as caves or driftwood, and an ample supply of algae-rich foods such as frozen vegetables and blanched zucchini.

An important factor to consider when keeping calico Bristlenose Plecos is their potential for aggression toward other males during mating season.

So keep only one male per tank unless you plan to breed them.

Calico Bristlenose Plecos can make a lively addition to any freshwater aquarium with the proper care and diet.

Green Dragon Bristlenose Pleco

The Green Dragon Bristlenose Pleco is a unique and eye-catching species of fish.

This fish is distinguished by the olive green coloring that covers every inch of its body and gives it the appearance of a tiny dragon.

The Green Dragon bristlenose pleco’s transparent, generally green fins give them a delicate, ethereal appearance.

Additionally, it shares the common name of all bristlenose plecos by having a set of whiskers, or “bristles,” next to its mouth.

This species usually grows up to 5 inches in length and is naturally peaceful.

Their diet consists mainly of algae, but they eat other foods like frozen or freeze-dried shrimp, worms, and vegetable matter.

In addition to being peaceful fish, they are social animals who can be kept in groups with other plecos, making them excellent community fish.

The Green Dragon Bristlenose Pleco is an interesting and hardy species that is well worth considering adding to your tank.

Peppermint Bristlenose Pleco

The Peppermint Bristlenose Pleco is a small and peaceful freshwater fish.

They are a member of the family Loricariidae and have been popular in the aquarium trade for decades due to their striking appearance.

These plecos look very similar to starlight bristlenose plecos except that the spots are bigger.

Their size range from 3-5 inches in length when fully grown, and they are known for being active yet peaceful bottom dwellers who enjoy grazing on algae in planted tanks.

They also have a distinctly bristle-like set of tentacles that pop out when they sense danger nearby, making them look even more attractive.

Due to their beauty and docile temperament, they make an excellent addition to larger aquariums or communal setups.

With the proper care, these fish can live for up to 10 years in captivity, making them an ideal choice for both novice and experienced aquarists.

Snow White Bristlenose Pleco

The Snow White Bristlenose Pleco is a beautiful and hardy freshwater fish.

This pleco species has a lovely white body with black spots, making it attractive and distinctive.

They can grow up to three inches and are often quite peaceful.

These fish enjoy natural plant life, scavenge for food, and occasionally like to rest on the bottom of their tank.

In addition, they have small bristles around their heads, which help with grooming and protection from predators.

These plecos can live in an aquarium setting for many years with proper care.

All in all, Snow White Bristlenose Plecos are an ideal choice for beginner aquarists looking to add something different to their tanks.

Snow White Bristlenose Pleco are available in two types, long-finned or short-finned.

The long-finned Snow White Bristlenose Plecos have elongated dorsal and caudal fins with a beautiful white body covered in black spots.

These fish can grow up to four inches in length and typically have a peaceful temperament.

They require plenty of hiding places and should be provided with driftwood, rocks, caves, and live plants they can explore.

As for their diet, these plecos will eat sinking pellets and frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms.

On the other hand, short-Finned Snow White Bristlenose Plecos have a white body with black spots and short fins.

These fish typically reach two to three inches in length and are considered peaceful fish that will do well in most aquariums.

They also require plenty of hiding places, driftwood, and live plants for their diet.

They should also be provided with sinking pellets or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Overall, long-finned and short-finned Snow White Bristlenose Pleco are great additions to any freshwater tank and can be peacefully cohabited with other compatible species. ​

Orange Bristlenose Pleco

The body of the Orange Bristlenose Pleco is flat and elongated, tapering toward the tail and becoming wider toward the head.

The length of an adult fish is typically between 4-5 inches (10–12 cm), while certain species can reach lengths of up to 6 inches (15 cm).

The dominant color is bright orange or reddish-orange.

The strength of the color can vary, with some specimens having a softer or more muted orange.

The fins may have some white or black patterns and are typically transparent.

The conditions in the aquarium, like the lighting and water quality, might affect the Orange Bristlenose Pleco’s coloration.

The many bristle-like appendages that adorn the Orange Bristlenose Pleco’s head and body are its most distinctive characteristic.

These bristles are strong and elongated, and they stick out from the fish’s sides, cheeks, and nose.

The Orange Bristlenose Pleco has two pairs of lips in its mouth, which is situated on the underside of the skull.

The lower lip is separated into two pieces and is covered by the bigger upper lip.

The mouth is designed for grazing on algae and other plant matter, and it also has the ability to suction onto surfaces to aid in the movement of the fish inside the tank.

The Orange Bristlenose Pleco is a colorful and distinctive fish that can offer personality and color to any aquarium.

Aquarists favor it because of its bristles and vivid orange hue.

Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco

The Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco, also known as the Ancistrus sp. or Ancistrus dolichopterus, is a popular freshwater aquarium fish that is native to South America.

As the name suggests, this fish has a distinctive blue eye and lemon-yellow coloration.

The primary color of the Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco is a bright, lemon-yellow, which covers the body and fins.

The fins are usually translucent and may have some white or black markings.

The coloration of the Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco can vary in intensity, with some specimens having a more subdued or lighter shade of yellow.

The most distinguishing feature of the Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco is its bright blue eyes.

The eyes are large and located high on the head. They are surrounded by a ring of black pigmentation, which helps to enhance the blue color.

The bristles on its head and body also give it a distinctive and interesting appearance.

The size of the Orange Bristlenose Pleco makes it ideal for smaller and community tanks where it will not disturb other fish species.

In terms of temperament, these plecos are very peaceful and can even be kept in schools, though they will do better kept as individuals in most cases.

They also prefer to hide a lot during the day, so if you want to watch them swim around, provide plenty of hiding spots inside the aquarium.

Overall, the Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco is a beautiful and unique-looking fish that can add a vibrant splash of color to any aquarium.

Its bright blue eyes and lemon-yellow coloration make it a popular choice among aquarists.

Gold Bristlenose Pleco

Golden Bristlenose plecos are calm and, in contrast to other species in this genus, are generally undemanding as long as they have plenty of hiding places in their tank and well-oxygenated water.

Most peaceful community fish get along with these Plecos.

However, as these plecos can become territorial, it is best to keep them apart from fish of a similar size and shape.

You should also try to steer clear of slow-moving, high-sided fish as these plecos may develop a taste for their slime coats.

This species of pleco does well both alone and in groups.

Adult Golden Bristlenose Pleco are more active at night while juvenile ones can be seen more frequently during the day.

The Golden Bristlenose Pleco has a stomach that is whitish-cream in color and a generally gold body color.

Moreover, they have larger heads and red eyes.

Compared to the typical Pleco, these Plecos are significantly shorter, thicker, and flatter.

This species also has a long-finned variation that is offered as a butterfly or veil tail catfish in the aquarium hobby.

Male vs. Female Bristlenose Plecos

Male and female Bristlenose Plecos can differ in size, appearance and behavior.


The first way to determine their sex is by size.

The females tend to be smaller than the males, with a maximum length of 6-7 cm, while the males are usually only 8-9 cm long.

Determining the sex of your fish by size alone is not a good idea as sometimes the difference is not noticeable.


Males have longer and more pointed finnage compared to the shorter and rounder fins of the females.

Female Bristlenose Plecos can also be identified by their bristles as females have smaller and shorter bristles and sometimes no bristles at all.

If you are able to view your fish from above then you will notice that females are more rounded and plumper than males.

In terms of coloration, their is no real difference. Males can become darker when guarding eggs but otherwise are similar in color to the females.


Finally, males and females will differ in behavior.

The male is usually more territorial, often claiming the best hiding spots and defending them against other Plecos and fish.

Females are more inclined to peacefully share their space with other Plecos and non-aggressive fish species.

In addition, during mating season, you can observe that males have larger bristles on their heads which they use to attract potential mates.

Bristlenose Pleco Temperament and Behaviour

In general, Bristlenose Plecos are calm and peaceful fish.

They make great additions to community aquariums due to their non-aggressive nature; however, they can become territorial when protecting their food from more aggressive species in the tank.

Bristlenose Plecos are nocturnal, meaning they will stay hidden during the day and emerge in the evening to feed.

Bristlenose pleco diet

Required Tank Size

Bristlenose Plecos require at least a 20 to 30 gallon tank with plenty of hiding spots and driftwood to climb on.

The larger the tank size, the more territory they can claim.

This helps reduce the chances of aggression between males and reduces stress levels overall.

Tank Setup and Habitat

When setting up an ideal habitat for the common Bristlenose Pleco, a few key points should be kept in mind.

First, these fish prefer well-oxygenated water with a neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5.

Second, the temperature range for them should be between 73°F and 83°F (23°C-28°C).

Driftwood, rocks, and live plants can all help provide a natural habitat for these fish and encourage them to explore their environment.

Driftwood, in particular, acts as a shelter for them and encourages breeding behavior. They also gnaw on driftwood.

Artificial caves or hiding places can be added for decoration, but keeping these out of direct sunlight is important to avoid any algae growth.

Being natural bottom feeders, it is recommended that you add a substrate like sand or gravel as they do not do well with bare bottom tanks.

Suitable Tank Mates

Bristlenose Plecos can be kept with a variety of other peaceful aquarium inhabitants, such as tetras, barbs, danios, rasboras, guppies, plays, and catfish.

Some fish keepers also keep them with African Cichlids and Betta fish but this is not recommended as these kinds of fish can be too aggressive for Bristlenose Plecos.

Bristlenose Pleco Diet

Bristlenose plecos, also known as Ancistrus, are herbivorous fish that primarily feed on algae and other plant material.

In the wild, they are found in fast-flowing rivers and streams in South America where they use their specially adapted mouths to scrape algae off rocks and other surfaces.

In captivity, it is important to provide them with a balanced diet that mimics their natural feeding habits.

Feeding them the right foods can help ensure their overall health, growth, and happiness.

Here are some suitable foods to feed bristlenose plecos:

  1. Algae wafers: These are specially formulated sinking pellets that contain a high percentage of vegetable matter, such as spirulina, to mimic the algae they would find in their natural environment.
  2. Vegetables: Bristlenose plecos enjoy a variety of vegetables, such as zucchini, cucumber, kale, spinach, and broccoli. These can be blanched before feeding to soften them up.
  3. Live or frozen foods: Bristlenose plecos also enjoy a variety of live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. These can be fed in moderation as a supplement to their regular diet.
  4. Fresh fruits: Occasionally, you can also offer them small pieces of fresh fruit, such as apple or pear, which can provide them with additional vitamins and minerals.

It’s important to note that although bristlenose plecos are primarily herbivores, they also require some protein in their diet.

However, feeding them a diet that is too high in protein can lead to health problems, such as bloating and constipation.

Therefore, it’s recommended to offer them a varied diet and to feed them in moderation to ensure they receive the nutrients they need without overfeeding.

Bristlenose Pleco Diseases

Bristlenose Plecos can be susceptible to common aquarium diseases such as Ich and fin rot.

It is important to monitor water parameters regularly to ensure that these conditions do not arise in your tank.

It is also recommended that you quarantine any new fish before adding them to the tank, as this will help prevent the spread of any illnesses.

Breeding Bristlenose Plecos

Sure, here’s a general guide on how to breed bristlenose plecos:

First, you’ll need to set up a breeding tank.

A breeding tank can be as small as 10 gallons, but it’s important to make sure the tank has good water quality, is well-filtered, and has plenty of hiding places for the plecos.

Once you have your breeding tank set up, you’ll need to select a breeding pair.

Bristlenose plecos are relatively easy to sex – males tend to have longer bristles on their noses, while females have shorter bristles or hardly any.

It’s best to choose a pair that is mature and healthy.

Provide the breeding pair with a diet high in protein, such as bloodworms, to encourage breeding.

You can also offer them fresh vegetables and algae wafers as part of their diet.

Bristlenose plecos typically breed in caves or other hiding spots, so it’s important to provide the breeding pair with suitable breeding sites.

You can use a variety of items, such as PVC pipes, flower pots, or coconut shells, as breeding caves.

It’s best to have multiple caves available to encourage the plecos to choose one to breed in.

Once the breeding pair has chosen a breeding site, the female will lay eggs in the cave.

Bristlenose plecos are known for being good parents, and both the male and female will guard the eggs and fry.

It’s important not to disturb the breeding pair or the eggs and fry during this time.

The eggs will hatch in about 4-7 days, and the fry will begin to swim and feed on their own in about a week.

At this point, you can begin to feed the fry with baby brine shrimp or crushed algae wafers.

It’s important to feed them small amounts frequently throughout the day to ensure they receive enough nutrition.

Breeding bristlenose plecos can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to research and be prepared before attempting to breed them.

Good water quality, a well-filtered tank, a healthy breeding pair, and suitable breeding sites are all important factors in successful breeding.

Should You Get a Bristlenose Pleco for Your Aquarium?

Bristlenose Plecos make excellent additions to any aquarium due to their peaceful nature, hardiness, and ability to help keep algae levels in check.

They are also relatively easy to breed in captivity, making them a great choice for those looking to start breeding fish.

With the right tank setup and maintenance, Bristlenose Plecos can be an enjoyable and rewarding addition to any aquarium.


Are Bristlenose plecos hard to keep?

No, they are not hard to keep. They are suitable for community tanks and can adjust to a range of water parameters.

Do Bristlenose plecos make a mess?

Plecos in general produce a lot of waste so you need to make sure your filter system can handle the extra bio load. They are also messy eaters and leave bits of uneaten food lying around. A regular maintenance schedule is a must.

Do Bristlenose plecos need a heater?

Yes, they do. The water temperature needs to be kept between 73°F and 83°F (23°C-28°C).

Do Bristlenose plecos only eat algae?

No, they also eat other plant matter and need some protein in their diet as well.

How many algae wafers should I feed my pleco?

You should feed at least one algae wafer per day preferably towards evening as these fish are nocturnal and like to eat a t night.

Does Bristlenose pleco need driftwood?

It is not absolutely necessary but highly recommended that their is driftwood in their tank. Driftwood gives them essential fiber needed to keep their digestive systems healthy.

Do Bristlenose plecos need a cave?

Bristlenose Plecos use caves when breeding so if you want them to breed then you will need to include some in the tank.

Why do I never see my Bristlenose pleco?

These plecos like hiding places which makes them feel more secure so they will hide away if they feel stressed or vulnerable.

Do Bristlenose plecos like to be in groups?

They can either be kept alone of if the tank is big enough they can also be kept in groups.

Will a Bristlenose pleco eat other fish?

They will not actively attack and kill other fish but they will eat the bodies of any fish that have died.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

2 thoughts on “Bristlenose Pleco – 12 Types with Pictures”

  1. Great read, lots of information. Can you recommend and ancistrus that is a bit more on un-shy side, if that is even possible?
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Joyce, thanks for the kind words.
    Plecos are by nature shy fish which can be a bit disappointing.
    But you can try the Albino Bristlenose pleco as they tend to be a little more active and bolder than other types.
    I have heard that the Leopard Pleco can also be not so shy.
    The key I’ve found is to leave out algae wafers or zucchini which they find irresistible.

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