Ancistrus cf cirrhosus (Bristlenose pleco)

The Bristlenose pleco is the most common algae eater, as well as, the most common Ancistrus species in the aquarium industry. This well-known catfish belongs to the Loricariidae family and the Siluriformes order and is known as the:

  1. Jumbie teta, 2. Sp3,
  2. Bushynose pleco 4. common Brushmouth pleco.

The species is native of South America (Parana river basin). As Ancistrus species live in a wide range of habitats, the Bristlenose pleco inhabits from stagnant and muddy water streams to free-flowing clear water rivers. Furthermore, the water parameters of the natural habitat of the species are low in minerals and rich in oxygen.

In general, the Ancistrus genus consists of about 70 species which many of them share anatomical similarities except the patterns and the colors of the body. As some species may be difficult to distinguish from other species, the Bristlenose pleco is usually misidentified by people as Ancistrus dolichopterus, A. temminckii, etc. Furthermore, some individuals of the species may differ from others in color and patterns that may result from hybridization with other species as most of Ancistrus cf cirrhosus in the aquarium industry are farm bred and not wild specimens.

The Bristlenose pleco has bony plates that cover the body, a flat belly and round mouth which indicates is a bottom dweller like most catfish. The species has a black, grey or brown coloration with white, brown or yellow spots. Furthermore, there is an albino form and a long fin strain due to selective breeding.

The most distinguished feature of the Ancistrus genus from other family members of the Loricariidae family is the developed ”tentacles” on the head. However, the tentacles are developed only on the male’s head while females rarely develop tentacles around the head. In that case, the female’s tentacles are shorter from the male’s.
In contradiction with other species, the Bristlenose pleco is smaller in size, that grows up to 12-15 cm and has a lifespan of 5-12 years.

Temperament and tank mates:
Ancistrus cf cirrhosus is an excellent algae eater for beginners because of his hardiness and easiness of reproduction. Moreover, they are nocturnal species that spend most of the time on the glass or at the bottom of the tank.
In general, the Bristlenose pleco is compatible with many species due to its peaceful temperament. Furthermore, the species is an excellent choice for community tanks, since almost every aquarist has at least one pleco in his aquarium as an algae eater without problems. However, Ancistrus cf Cirrhosus doesn’t get along with similar or territorial species due to its territorial behavior, so keep an eye on them as their aggressiveness may increase:

  1. in smaller tanks
  2. in the breeding period, especially when the male cares for the eggs.

Water parameters:
Although the Bristlenose pleco can survive in a wide range of water parameters because of the natural habitat should be kept in A pH between 6.5-7.5, with a temperature between 21-27 Celsius, and hardness between 100-150 ppm.

Aquarium size & Decoration:
A community aquarium of 113 liters (30 gallons) could be enough for a Bristlenose pleco. The Bristlenose pleco is mainly a nocturnal species like most catfish species, so, decorations such as caves, rocks, and woods are essential for them to hide during the day.
An aquarium without plants is a naked one, in my opinion, but do plants and Britslnose plecos get along? Some individuals may eat plants while others not. Plants like anubias or java ferns are a good choice. The fish may stop eating the plants of the aquarium when it gets fed with a plant source such as vegetables.

Bristlenose plecos are mostly herbivores and famous to aquarists as algae eaters. However, it’s not rare to see an Ancistrus eating a dead fish in the tank. Furthermore, many beginners use the species to clean the bottom from the leftovers of other fish in the aquarium as well as the algae but like all animals need a proper diet. Some even think that plecos are coprophagous which is a myth. You should provide them with prepared food (tablets), as well as blanched vegetables (zucchini, lettuce, cucumber, etc.).

Ancistrus sp. (aka)
/ by Aka / is licensed under
CC BY-SA 2.5

As the species are somewhat easy to breed in the right conditions, there are a lot of successful reproduction stories from hobbyists. Many managed to reproduce the Ancistrus species even in community tanks. However, you may use a breeding tank for a better outcome to ensure the survival of the young.

Trigger breeding:
In the aquarium, you can trigger reproduction by changing a large amount of water (20-30%) and lower the temperature a bit (2-3 Celsius). One way to reduce the heat is by cooling water changes (recommended). Another way to reduce the heat is with a heater. I have to mention that Lowering the temperature in community tanks can cause negative consequences on other species. Furthermore, the addition of a varied diet of high quality aids the reproduction of the species, as well as raising the amount of the food than the usual portion.

How does Bristlenose pleco reproduce?:
In general, Ancistrus males spawn with one or more females in cavities of woods or rocks like caves. The male guards the nest and cares for the eggs and the larvae.
In the beginning, the male will declare and prepare a cave as a nest. After that, the female inspects and deposits about 20-150 eggs if impressed by the male’s preparation. Then the male fertilizes the eggs and chases away the female from the cave. Next, the male aerates the eggs with his tail as well as cleans the cave until the eggs hatch which happens after 4-10 days depending on the temperature.
After the hatch, the fry stays inside the cave for 2-4 until the absorption of the yolk. After that, the young start to search for algae and you may supplement them with mashed vegetables or prepared food for fry.

Nursery tank:
In case that the reproduction and spawning happen in a community tank is best to transfer the eggs in a nursery tank because the snails and other species may try to eat them. Furthermore, if the male Ancistrus get stressed may not fertilize the eggs or stop caring (rarely seen as the species has good parental instincts), especially an inexperienced male. Another way to protect the eggs from predators is to use an incubator for the eggs.

Breeding tank set up:
A breeding tank is necessary for a better outcome.

  1. I suggest not to use gravel in the tank. The bottom of the breeding tank gets cleaned better without gravel and prevents ammonia rising.
  2. Decorate the tank with rocks, caves, as well as plants, to trigger spawning as the Bristlenose pleco needs a nest for the eggs. Most hobbyists use ceramic caves for plecos.
  3. Right water conditions: strong filtration, neutral ph (6.5-7.5), 4-10 dGH, a temperature of about 23-25 Celsius.
  4. Acclimatize the fish to the new water conditions if needed.
  5. You may remove the parents after the hatching of the eggs.

Fungus infection:
A common issue in the aquarium hobby is the infection of eggs by fungus. The fungus infects eggs when:

  1. the male doesn’t fertilize the eggs
  2. eggs don’t get aerated by the male’s fin.
  3. low water movement due to poor filtration.
    For the prevention of mucus production, requires filtration to aerate the eggs as well as medication (hydrogen peroxide, etc.) for a better outcome.

Ancistrus sp. — NOT dolichopterus
/by Billyhill /is licensed under
CC BY-SA 3.0


  1. Ancistrus cf cirrhosus. Retrieved from:
  2. Ancistrus sp. Common Bristlenose Pleco. Retrieved from:
  3. Greg sage, Breeding the Bristlenose Plecostomus, Retrieved from
  4. Breeding Bristlenose catfish- Ancistrus species. Retrieved from
  5. Bristlenose catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus). Retrieved from


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