How To Breed Bristlenose Plecos In Your Own Aquarium

Bristlenose plecos are the best freshwater aquarium fishes. They are mostly non-aggressive, hardy, easy to get along with, and super fun to watch. I already have a pair of them, but that’s not enough for me anymore. I want to breed them and watch them grow. But how do you breed a plecos fish? Let’s find out. 

The Bristlenose pleco originates in the South American regions, mainly the Amazon basin. There it mates in the rainy seasons. Thus, your plecos will need a slightly cooler climate for mating. The fish will need some hiding spaces and a stable structure to spawn. And, of course, a suitable partner for mating. 

Mating is not something you can force or be sure of. You have to provide the right conditions and then let nature take its cause. But, there are small things that you can do to boost its chances. For instance, changing temperature, setting water flow, and altering diet. Here’s a little more to help you. 

How to Breed Bristlenose Plecos?

There are almost 75 known types of Bristlenose fishes, with new ones being found every year. And the one thing that remains constant in most of them is their breeding habits.

Plecos are not difficult to breed and won’t need any special breeding tank or additive to initiate mating. All you need is a pair of adult plecos interested in mating and a tank large enough for them. When the temperature gets cooler, somewhat close to the average temperature of Amazon in the rainy season, the mating will start. You can also consider adding some cool water to replicate the mating season.

And if the tank setup is right, the fish will start its mating dance in a few days. Usually, at night as the fish is most active at that time. Once the mating starts, the pair will not need more than a day to start laying eggs.

In less than a week, you will have young baby plecos swimming in the tank. Most likely, sticking to the walls and glass, like their parents.

How to Select the Best Mating Pair?

The bristlenose plecos come in various color types and textures. It’s possible to mix two different types, but that comes with uncertainty. The newborn fish can look identical to either of its parents. 

If you are looking for a specific breed, be sure to select both your males and females from that specific breed. It doesn’t have a guarantee due to genetic variation, but the chances here are better.

Apart from breed, it’s also crucial to ensure the mating pair’s proper age and experience. Usually, a pleco aged between 1-1.5 years works the best. The younger plecos are not much interested in mating. Moreover, they are inexperienced and can’t take proper care of the eggs.

There’s a high chance that the first few times a new male mates, the eggs never hatch or get infected. If you cannot afford to lose the newborns, choose an experienced pair.

One more factor here is the females in your tanks. The male bristlenose plecos can mate with more than one female. So, if you have two females, there’s a chance that they will spawn at the same time.

An experienced male can also handle three females, but here you will see a gap between spawns. However, any more than that, and you will push your little buddy to limit. And that’s going to affect its health. It’s also a good idea to provide a little break once a while to ensure the mating pair remains healthy. 

Tank Setting and Water Parameters For Mating

The plecos usually need a slightly cooler environment to trigger their mating instincts. The fish also need a safe place to lay eggs and care for them until the fry are ready for the larger tanks. And you will need at least a 20-30 gallon tank for this part. The 10-gallon tank will work, but it will cause some stress to the fish and the newborns. 

The first thing you would need in this tank is hiding spaces. You can deploy some plants and add a few caves. Some good driftwoods and a coconut cave is also a good idea. `

Moreover, you need to maintain a proper water flow and minimum disturbances. It means that you cannot use your held-on back filter for the mating setup. Something like a sponge filter will work fine. It will also ensure that the fry doesn’t get sucked in.

Is There a Special Caring Routine For The Newborns?

The bristlenose plecos fish has a big disadvantage when it comes to fry handling-its mouth. The cup-type mouth makes it impossible for them to pick their babies. Thus, the plecos fish fry have evolved greatly. They are born ready and don’t need much care.

You will notice that they have a fully functional suckermouth as soon as they hatch. They don’t have the usual strong armor, but the outer skin is stiff enough to protect them. Moreover, they are as fast and intelligent as their parents. 

So, even if you are using a community tank, the newborn plecos have a high chance of survival. Just make sure you don’t have sand in the tank. It can bruise newborns. 

How Much Time Pleco Fish Egg Takes to Hatch?

The journey from egg to pleco is not that complicated and long. Once the female lays eggs, it will take around 3-5 days for them to hatch. Normally, it will take about 2-3 hours for the whole batch to hatch. The newborn will straight away start sticking to walls and eating algae. 

The male pleco will guide them for some time and will try to keep them inside the cave. It will also take care of cleaning the residual membranes and the safety of the fry for the next few days.

Usually, by the end of the first weeks, your newborn plecos will be ready to get out of the cave. You can then put them in another tank or let them stay in the same, depending on your choice. 

What Are the Noticeable Signs That The Plecos Are Ready to Mate?

The bristlenose plecos, like every other animal and fish, exhibit some changes during mating. The simplest of which is the time the male spends near or inside the caves will increase. The females also start to spend some time near the cave, more than usual.

Another change you will notice is in the male plecos’ breathing. It will increase while they are around the females. The male fish will also flaunter its fins.

Then the couple will enter the cave, and the male will direct the female towards the selected spawning spot. If the female approves, they will move on to the next face. 

The couple will enter the cave and start their push and pull. In a few hours, you will see eggs on the selected corner. Then the male will guide the female out of the cave. It may even use its tail to push the female. It’s because the male fish has to take care of the eggs, which is not possible if the female is on top of them.

Once the female leaves, the male will take over. It will fan the eggs, keep them clean, and will hardly leave the cave. In most cases, the plecos won’t come out of the cave even to eat until they hatch.

Once the eggs hatch, they will start to come out but still not for long. So it’s best that you provide food near the cave entrance. It’s also good to use a high protein diet at this time. 

What Are The Preventive Measures For Pleco Breeding?

The plecos fish fries are quite evolved and can take care of themselves. The same thing applies to the parent fish. They know their diet and requirements, which means you don’t need a high level of attention for breeding them. But there are some things that you should know. 

  • Mating drains the energy of your pleco fish. It’s ideal to provide them a high protein diet for it.
  • The male plecos do not leave the eggs alone. Thus, feed it well before the process begins.
  • Keep the proportion of males and females near to 1:2 or 1:3 at most. The males need time to recover from mating.
  • Plecos can spawn in community tanks, but the other fishes can disturb them or eat the eggs. 
  • Male bristlenose plecos can get aggressive in the mating season. Use a large tank, or avoid keeping two males in the same tank.
  • The fish is selective in eggs laying spots and can take days before finalizing one.
  • Avoid artificial plants as they are hard and may harm newborns.
  • Bristlenose is active at night. So, switch to dim lighting when you want them to spawn.
  • Once the fish lay eggs, reduce light entering the cave. It prevents fungus development on eggs.
  • New males will have difficulty in spawning. They lack experience and take time to learn about proper caring of the spawning.
  • Many use bristles to find the plecos fish’s gender. It’s not always right as some females can also have bristles. It is very rare but possible. 
  • Make sure to properly feed your plecos fish a healthy diet to keep them strong. 

Final Words

Plecos are far most one of the easiest to breed fish species. They don’t need any special medication, supplement, or even a breeding tank to spawn. Just a couple of caves, a minor temperature rise, and they are all good to go. 

So, if you are a hobbyist or a store owner who wants to breed them, don’t overthink. Just dive in. 

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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