Bristlenose Catfish Care

Ancistrus Cirrhosus

Bristlenose Catfish
Wikimedia Commons

The name Ancistrus is derived from the Greek word a cistron, meaning hook. The epithet translates to hair or hairy, in reference to the bristles. Bristle Nose Plecos look like a standard Pleco, but with bristles on their nose, head, and lips. These bristles grow with the fish as they age.

There are many species of Ancistrus, and several have become prominent within the aquarium hobby. This is attributed to the fact that they stay relatively smaller than their cousin catfish, the pleco stomas, usually maxing out at 5 inches in most species.

Their diet of vegetation, consisting of mostly algae, also makes them an ideal tank addition. With a price tag of three to four dollars, they are fairly easy to find and purchase. They're peaceful and sociable fish, fitting into a community tank nicely.


Bristle Nose Plecos originate from rivers and streams in South America, primarily the Amazon. Naturally, they prefer water that is well aerated with some sort of current. Because they are bottom dwellers, make sure to provide plenty of driftwood, roots, plants, and caves for them to hide in during the day. They are nocturnal and prefer to do their eating mostly at night. Driftwood can provide a good spot for algae to consistently grow, giving the bristle nose pleco a sufficient amount of food. Although they are herbivores, they should not harm live plants.

Bristle Nose Plecos do well in a tank that's 20 gallons or larger and can handle a wide range of water conditions from soft and acidic to harder and alkaline.

Some hobbyists have found success with Bristle Nose Plecos in cichlid tanks. This may hold true, but it would be best advised to not add them with larger Central and South American cichlids. If you're looking to breed them, do not add into a tank with substrate spawning cichlids because they are likely to devour the eggs.


Herbivores, eating mainly algae, so feeding algae or spirulina wafers are best for feeding once or twice daily. Granules, flakes, or bloodworms are also good, while the occasional zucchini slices and blanched romaine lettuce or spinach are good treats. Just make sure to never overfeed. Well, fed plecos have good coloration so it's easy to tell when their nutritional needs are being met.


Relatively easy to breed, as well as determining gender. Males are usually larger, have whiskers and have larger bristles. Breeding conditions are fairly simple, most of which you should already have set up in their normal habitat. They prefer to have plenty of caves or driftwood to work with.

Once males mature, they will claim a territory that is most suitable for spawning. The next step is for the female to arrive and lay her eggs during mating season. It's suggested to do a 75% water change to promote mating because their natural mating season is during the Amazon's rainy season. (November at best to align with the natural timing of the mating season).

The male will defend his territory from other males until a mate finally shows up. Often they get into fights with other males, resulting in their bristles getting tangled together.

Once ready to breed, the female lays her eggs in the male's territory. Eggs are stuck onto hard surfaces such as driftwood, ceilings of caves, PVC piping, or a suitable tank decoration. The male will guard the spawning area for the 5-10 days it takes for the eggs to hatch. After hatching, the fry will absorb their egg yolk for a few days and once finished with that move on immediately to algae.

  • Scientific Name: Ancistrus cirrhosis
  • Common Name: Bristlenose Catfish, Bristle Nose Pleco, Bushynose Catfish, Bushy Nose
  • Family: Loricariidae
  • Origin: Amazon, rapid-flowing tributaries
  • Adult Size: 5 inches (13 cm)
  • Social: Peaceful, suitable for large community tank
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dweller
  • Minimum Tank Size: 40 gallon
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Breeding: Egglayer
  • Care: Easy to Intermediate
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.8