Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Ancistrus. sp

Bristle nose catfish

Bristle nose catfish. Ancistrus. spBristle nose catfish. Ancistrus. sp
Photos by Andy Rapson


Ancistrus: Greek, agkistron = hook

General Notes:

An unusual looking fish which is often sold for their ability to control algae. Most of the fish labeled as bristlenose plec in aquarium shops are a mix of different species (hybrids) which lay fertile eggs, this fish doesn't exist in the wild. Although there are 64 true species of Ancistrus catfish some of which turn up for sale now and again. The true species of Ancistrus will need care which is individually suited to that particular species. In this profile we are only dealing with this one generic type of Bristlenose plec which is now very commonly available. They are extremely adaptable for both temperature and water chemistry, they will live equally well in an Amazon biotope aquarium right through to the other end of the scale in a Lake Malawi biotope. But make sure that all changes are made gradually.


Bristlenose plecs eat algae, sliced cucumber, skinned processed peas and tender new leaves of aquatic plants. They will also accept flake food, algae wafers and catfish pellets and occasionally some live or frozen food such as bloodworms.


Male bristlenose plecs have much more prominent bristles which are often referred to as antlers.


Male bristlenose catfish live in a cave when they aren't out and about the tank looking for food, the female will enter the males cave to spawn and then leave after spawning, The male alone cares for the brood until they become independent and gradually spread out. Spawning is rarely witnessed because these are quite secretive fish. The first sign that they have bred is the sudden appearance of lots of fry which generally stay close to the males cave at first. They are very easy to breed and in most cases simply keeping a pair together in a suitable tank is all that is needed. Bristlenose plecs are generally very peaceful even with very small fish or fry, but two adult males may not get along if kept together.


Although they are great algae eaters they shouldn't be added to a tank simply to keep it clean (that is the role of the fish keeper) because there are many species of algae which this fish will ignore in favour of the higher quality aquarium food on offer. They are still well worth their place in any community tank.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8.5
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Herbivore
Size: 10cm (4in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Bristle nose catfish. Ancistrus. sp

Origin: Captivity (Aquarium bred hybrid)

Habitat: Aquaria


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Sub-Family: Hypostominae
Genus: Ancistrus
Species: -

Common name:
Bristle nose catfish

Synonyms: none