Ancistrus dolichopterus ( Starlight bristlenose pleco)

Ancistrus dolichopterus belong to the Ancistrinae subfamily, Loricariidae family and the Siluriformes order and is known as L183, Starlight Bristlenose/Bushymouth catfish, Bluchin xenocara, and Bushymouth catfish.


  1. Xenocara dolichoptera
  2. Hypostoma punctatum

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, Ancistrus dolichopterus is usually misidentified by people as Ancistrus cf cirrhosus (Bristlenose pleco) and A. hoplogenys.
The Starlight 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 dark coloration with white spots over the body, as well as, a white line on the top of the dorsal fin and at the edge of the tail. Ancistrus dolichopterus differs from its congeners by having a dorsal fin with nine soft rays.
The most distinguishing 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 plecos, Ancistrus dolichopterus and other Ancistrus species are smaller in size and grow up to 12-15 cm. The species has a lifespan of 5-12 years.

Temperament and tank mates:
They are nocturnal species that spend most of the time on the glass or at the bottom of the tank.
In general, the Starlight Bristlenose pleco is compatible with many species but doesn’t get along with similar or territorial species due to its territorial behavior, so keep an eye on them.

Their aggressiveness may increase:

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

Water parameters:
Ancistrus dolichopterus live in a range of 6.0-7.5 pH, with a temperature between 23-27 Celsius, and hardness between 18-179 ppm.

Aquarium size & Decoration:
A community aquarium of 113 liters (30 gallons) could be enough for a Starlight Bristlenose pleco. The Starlight 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. Some individuals may eat plants while others not. The fish may stop eating the plants of the aquarium when it gets fed with a plant source such as vegetables.

Starlight Bristlenose plecos are mostly herbivores and famous to aquarists as algae eaters. The species also eat live food such as bloodworms. Furthermore, it’s not rare to see an Ancistrus eating a dead fish in the tank. 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 may feed them with prepared food (tablets), a small portion of live food, and blanched vegetables (zucchini, lettuce, cucumber, etc.).

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

All Ancistrus species have the same breeding behavior. 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.

Ancistrus breeding behavior:
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 30-100 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 4-5 days depending on the temperature.
After the hatch, the fry stays inside the cave for 2-4 days 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 24-25 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 dolichopterus coloration


  1. Mark H. Sabaj*, Jonathan W. Armbruster** and Lawrence M. Page* 1999, Spawning in Ancistrus (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) with comments on the evolution of snout tentacles as a novel reproductive strategy: larval mimicry. Retrieved from
  2. Tarun K. Garg1,2, FabĂ­ola X. Valdez Domingos1, Vera Maria F. Almeida-Val1,and Adalberto L. Val 2010, Histochemistry and functional organization of the dorsal skin of Ancistrus dolichopterus. Retrieved from
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2018, Bushymouth Catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus) . Retrieved from
  4. Reis, R & Lima, F. 2009. Ancistrus dolichopterusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T167809A6385972. Downloaded on 15 April 2019.
  5. Ancistrus dolichopterus. Retrieved from
  6. Ancistrus dolichopterus. Retrieved from

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