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How Long Do Bristlenose Plecos Live (With Helpful Tips)

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I remember when I got my fish Bristlenose Pleco from the pet store, it was an odd feeling. The fish didn’t do much, except for the whole sticking on the glass thing. But as days passed, We got attached, and I started to fear losing it. And that’s when my research for Plecos’ lifespan began. Here’s what I found.

Bristlenose Pleco, commonly called suckermouth Pleco, or the cleaner fish, is a species of catfish. It grows up to 5 inches and, with proper care, lives for more than 5 years. The lifespan can also reach up to 10-15 years if properly cared for. It means providing the best food, tank, tank mates, balanced temperature, and well-oxygenated water.

Just knowing the lifespan of Bristlenose Plecos is not enough. You need to ensure they live up to it, and for that, you need to provide them with a proper habitat. They need a spacy tank, food, and a peaceful environment. Even slight stress can reduce their life. And this post will help you ensure that it never happens.  

How Long Do Bristlenose Plecos Live?

Bristlenose Plecos come from the Loricariidae family that originates in Streams and Tributaries in the Amazon Basin. It’s a novice fish and often kept as an algae eater in the tanks. Kept with proper care, it can last up to 5 years without any problem. Some Plecos even live up to 12-15 years. 

It can also grow anywhere from 3 to 5 inches during this time. It will need at least 6 months to reach its full potential and mature. You might also see a definite tentacle growth in the first few months. 

Habitat To Ensure Long Life Of Your Pleco

The most amazing part about the Bristlenose Plecos is their hardiness. The scaleless fish has a solid shell and can endure every minor spike in the temperature or pH. But, it’s still delicate and will get affected by a non-healthy environment. Here’s what you need to ensure its stress-free living.

Tank Size

The Bristlenose Plecos, like every suckermouth catfish, is a bottom dweller. It’s not that active during the days and mostly spends time sticking to the glass and other surfaces in tanks. 

So, people often think they won’t need much tank space, but they do. The full-grown fish will need a tank of 25-30 gallons capacity. And, if you are keeping tank mates, you will need to compensate for that as well. 

And don’t forget to add a good quality filter to the tank. It’s also recommended to use air stone to keep the water oxygenated and a light source to keep things lit. 

Water Conditions

The Pleco fish comes from South American regions and need fresh water for their survival. The tank you use needs to have moderate water flow with high oxygen levels. 

It’s also essential that the water pH stays at 6.5-7.5 and the temperature stays within 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also good to control the water hardness and keep it between 20-25 ppm.

Tank Mates

Tankmates are one aspect that doesn’t need much consideration here. The Bristlenose Plecos are very peaceful fish and don’t interfere with other fishes in the tank.

You can keep them with both aggressive and community fishes. The following are some options that you can consider.

  • Neon Tetras
  • Platys
  • Guppys
  • Hatchetfish
  • Danios
  • Cichlids
  • Bettas
  • Goldfish

It’s also possible to keep multiple Plecos fish in the same tank. You can also find some good snails for the Pleco tank.  

Though, you need to consider the size of the tank mates. Adult Plecos can get territorial and will eat small fishes. 

Food Habits

Bristlenose Plecos’ food is never a big issue. Most of the time, the fish can live off on the algae and residue in the tanks. 

The fish is herbivores, and you can easily feed it several vegetables when needed. Sometimes they can also eat wood to fulfill their dietary needs. 

However, that is not all. Bristlenose Plecos are also opportunistic carnivores. And though it will not harm other fishes (mostly), it can eat bloodworms and small insects. 

Thus, you can feed them pallets, Zucchini, Cucumber, Broccoli, Peas, Lettuce, blood worms, and more. Just boil the hard vegetables to make them edible.

Basically, their diet includes 85% plant matter and 15% proteins. 

Can Pleco Fish Breed In Your Tank?

Bristlenose Plecos fishers are the easiest to breed Pleco fish species. It doesn’t need any special breeding tank or even special water conditions for it. All you need is some hiding spaces for them to spawn.

As the Plecos fish mature, it will claim territory. Then when the mating season arrives, the male will find a female to mate. The next thing you see will be eggs sticking against solid areas such as driftwood, PVC, or plants.  

The male will then guard this area for the next few days. The fries will hatch out within 5-10 days. They will initially develop in the egg yolk and then move to algae-like their parents.

However, it’s best that you don’t keep more males in the tank during this time. Plecos can get into fights over territorial areas at this time. It’s also good to consider keeping two females for every male to keep things simple. A water change of 75% is also good during the seasons. 

Gender Difference In Plecos

Finding the gender of fishes is not that easy, especially for small and non-mature fishes. But you can use the whiskers of the Bristlenose fish to determine their gender. 

Usually, the males have larger whiskers than the female. Moreover, the whiskers tend to grow all over the head for male and on snouts for the female fish. The male Plecos will also have spikes on their fins. 

Another parameter for gender is the body shapes. The female Plecos have a rounded body and a slightly round abdomen. The males on the other side are skinnier and look slightly longer from the side view. 

Are Plecos Vulnerable To Any Specific Diseases?

The Bristlenose Plecos fish’s shell makes them hard and resistant to diseases but not completely invulnerable. Here’s a small list of diseases possibilities you may need to consider.


It’s the white spot disease that looks like someone sprinkled salt crystals on the Plecos’ body. The problem usually occurs due to poor water quality and stress that lower the immunity of your Plecos.

And you cannot use the aquarium salt for treating this disease in Plecos. You have to depend on medication and temperature for it. 


If you see white or black cotton-like growth on the Plecos body, it’s a fungal infection. It’s called water molds and occurs as a secondary reaction to skin problems. Lower temperature and stress can further increase the issues.

So, it’s best to maintain an adequate temperature and clean your water regularly. Maintaining ammonia level and cycling can also help. If the problem remains, use anti-fungal medication. 


The Bristlenose Plecos don’t have scales, so dropsy can be a little hard to detect on them. There will be no pineconing. However, there are some signs like loss of coloration and bloating.

A regular water change of 25% every second or third day can prevent this issue. Regulating their diet and feeding quality food can also come in handy.

Fin Rot

Fin rot in Bristlenose Plecos is not that common, but it occurs. You may not notice it at the very beginning, but soon you will notice disappearing Pleco fins. It will look like the fins are slowly melting. There’s also noticeable discoloration in the fins.

It usually occurs due to low water quality, and you can prevent it with proper cleaning. It’s also good to ensure that no tank mate bullies your Plecos(rare but possible). Using tetracycline can also help with it. 


Popeye is rare not just in Plecos but in any type of freshwater fish. It occurs due to inferior quality of water and bacterial infection. The eye of the fish will look like it’s swollen and coming out. 

Sometimes the bacteria will also cause erosion in the head area. It is called the head in the hole infection.  

Treating these diseases is tricky as you never know the exact cause. So, if you see it, try using antibiotics and balance nutrition intake. If you have activated carbon in a filter or tank, remove it. Overexposure to carbon contributes to the problem. 

Quick Tips For Healthy And Long Life Of Pleco

Basically, a proper diet and clean water parameters are the utmost requirements to ensure the health of your Bristlenose Pleco fish. The following trick can come in handy for this part.

  • Include some sinking algae wafers in the tank.
  • Treat your Pleco with zucchini or other vegetables once or twice a week.
  • Anchor your vegetables to the bottom as Plecos like to avoid eating on the surface. 
  • Consider feeding Plecos at night while they are active.
  • If you see any symptoms like cloudy eyes, slime, or weird swimming patterns, don’t ignore them. It’s a red flag. 
  • Never use salt in a Pleco tank as they are scaleless and will lose the slime coat due to it.
  • Plecos can eat live plants, so be careful with them.
  • Check water quality at least once a week and change 10-25% water frequently.
  • Consider using driftwood to maintain slightly acidic pH levels.
  • Don’t use an acrylic tank. The Plecos will scratch it.
  • Avoid using spikes or hard edge articles in the tank. Pleco’s belly doesn’t have armor and is vulnerable.
  • Add some plants and caves in the tank so the Pleco can get some dark areas to hide during the day. 

Final Words

While the Plecos fish may look like a big deal, it’s relatively easy to keep and maintain. The fish doesn’t need much protection or special care, except when it’s infected. 

So, if you are planning to keep them, go ahead. Just maintain the water quality, feed them regularly, and you can expect the fish to live a really long life.