Of all the varieties of plecos, the Bristlenose is the most popular aquarium species, largely because they are easy to care for and don’t grow too large, reaching just five inches in length at maturity.
In this guide, we take a closer look at the Albino Bristlenose pleco, a quirky little creature that brings interest to the display tank, as well as helping to keep the environment clean by grazing on algae and finishing off any uneaten scraps of food that it finds in the substrate.
Albino Bristlenose pleco – overview
Known by the scientific name of Ancistrus, the Albino Bristlenose pleco is also referred to as the Bushynose catfish, Common Bristlenose catfish, and Brushmouth pleco. The fish is a member of the Loricariidae family of suckermouth catfish, originating from the rivers and streams of South America.
These primarily herbivorous fish are very easy to care for and adjust well to life in the home aquarium, having a peaceful temperament that lends itself perfectly to a community setup. If given the correct care and diet, the Albino Bristlenose can live for five years plus.
These pleco fish make the ideal beginner’s choice, being very hardy and adaptable to a variety of tank conditions.
Albino Bristlenose plecos live on the tank bottom, spending much of their time foraging in the substrate and grazing on algae. These catfish are mostly nocturnal, coming out at night to feed, and spending the daylight hours resting in caves or under dense vegetation.
The Albino Bristlenose pleco is a small aquarium catfish, growing to measure between three and five inches when mature.
The Bristlenose pleco is considerably flatter and fatter in body shape than the common pleco, and also has a wider head. The fish’s body is flattened and covered with bony plates, forming an armored covering that protects the catfish from assault by predators attacking from above.
On reaching maturity, the fish sprout numerous tentacle-like appendages from their head, with those of the male typically more prominent than the female, whose tentacles protrude from either side of her mouth. Plecos have a pair of abdominal and pectoral fins and a mouth that is round with elongated lips, making these excellent suckerfish.
The Albino Bristlenose pleco is immediately recognizable thanks to its variable yellow and pink marbled pattern and pinkish-red eyes. In general, the healthier the fish, the brighter the coloration.
Care of the Albino Bristlenose pleco
The Albino Bristlenose is pretty easy to look after, provided that you provide your new acquisition with the correct diet and tank conditions. In this part of our guide, we give you all the information that you need to ensure that your fish thrive.
In nature, Albino Bristlenose plecos live in the streams and rivers of South America. So, if you can replicate that environment to some extent in your home display aquarium, the fish should settle in quickly and thrive.
Although Bristlenose plecos only grow to around five inches in length, males like to establish a territory, so you will need to provide a large tank if you want to include one of these unusual creatures in your collection. Ideally, the tank should be a minimum of 25 gallons’ capacity, and the design should be longer, rather than tall.
Albino Bristlenose catfish are nocturnal, spending the day resting in sheltered areas and emerging at night to feed. So, it’s very important that you provide lots of hiding places in the form of caves, overhangs, driftwood, and dense planting. That said, Ancistrus are bottom-dwelling fish, so you must make sure that you leave plenty of open areas of the substrate on the floor of the tank so that the plecos have somewhere to forage.
The inclusion of driftwood in the tank decoration scheme is also important, as that gives somewhere for algae to grow, providing fiber and a valuable source of nutrition for the Albino Bristlenose plecos.
Plants will be safe, as your pleco won’t eat them provided that you give him plenty of nutritious food.
The Albino Bristlenose pleco is a freshwater, tropical species. However, these fish can live happily in a broad range of water temperatures from 600 to 800 Fahrenheit.
Ideally, the water hardness should be between 20 to 25, and the pH range from 6.5 to 7.5.
As these freshwater fish live in free-flowing rivers, you will need to provide well-oxygenated water with a moderate flow. Also, plecos are notoriously dirty fish, producing a lot of waste. For that reason, you should ensure that you install an efficient, effective biological and mechanical filtration system in your tank.
Many pleco keepers find that an under-gravel water system is best, as it keeps the water very highly-oxygenated and crystal clear. A canister filter works very well with Bristlenose plecos.
An important tip to note is that juvenile Albino Bristlenose plecos are more sensitive to pH levels than adults. So, if possible, try to buy a young, mature specimen.
Like most fish, plecos are sensitive to high levels of ammonia and nitrates in the water, as well as a lack of oxygen. Keep a close eye on your fish’s behavior. If you see your Albino Bristlenose pleco rushing to the surface and taking gups of air, don’t be unduly alarmed unless that becomes a frequent habit. If your fish is continually gulping air, that is usually a clear indication of poor water quality and a lack of oxygen in the water.
Be sure to maintain your filter systems properly and carry out partial water changes weekly, changing 25% to 30% of the tank water.
Diet and feeding
The Albino Bristlenose pleco is a bottom-feeding fish that mainly eats a vegetarian diet, grazing on the algae that grow on tank surfaces. However, starvation and malnutrition are often a common problem with all pleco species, as inexperienced fish keepers assume that these catfish can exist solely on algae and scraps that they find within the tank.
Also, because the fish are nocturnal, it can be difficult to work out just how much they have eaten overnight, and that can lead to serious underfeeding.
A balanced diet for Bristlenose plecos should consist of around 85% plant matter, as well as 15% protein. Make sure that you feed the fish a fish food that has been specially developed and formulated for bottom-dwelling herbivores, including wafers or sinking algae pellets. Plecos also eat blanched vegetables, including lettuce, cucumber, peas, cabbage, and carrots.
Fiber is an important element of the Albino Bristlenose’s diet, and that can largely be provided by giving the fish some vegetables every day. Also, placing a piece of driftwood in your tank will keep your fish supplied with a fibrous material that it will ingest as it scrapes algae from the wood’s surface. It’s also necessary to include a small quantity of meaty protein in the fish’s diet to balance the ration properly. That is also essential if you want to try breeding from your Albino Bristlenose pleco.
Feed your fish once or twice daily, ideally just before lights-out and early in the morning before you switch the tank lights on.
It can be tricky to tell if your fish is eating properly, as you’ll be tucked up asleep in bed while the pleco is at his most active. One good way to tell if Albino Bristlenose plecos are eating enough is to take a look at their color. If the fish are receiving everything they need in their diet, they will have a vibrant coloration. Fish that appear faded are probably lacking protein or high-quality fish food.
Albino Bristlenose catfishes are peaceful with other fish of similar temperament. That said, they can be highly territorial with other males of the same species and with fish that have a similar body shape to theirs. For that reason, it’s not recommended that you house two plecos together unless you can be sure that you have one male to one or two females.
Other fish of a similar size or smaller should get on fine with the pleco, as will shrimp and snails. Just be aware that tiny shrimp fry may be viewed as food by your pleco.
It is possible to breed the Albino Bristlenose pleco in a home tank setting, as long as you make sure that the fish are well-fed and the tank conditions are correct.
Obviously, if you intend to breed from your specimens, you’ll need to know that you have a mixture of boys and girls.
When the fish are juveniles, telling the difference between the sexes is extremely challenging as both look almost identical. Once the fish reach four to six months of age, you will begin to see a few subtle differences between the sexes.
The male fish begin to grow small spikes on the top and around the front of his head. Female fish do grow the same protuberances, but they are much smaller and tend to be more around the sides of the fish’s face. The males use their spikes to display and show dominance to others of the same species, especially toward rival males, whereas female fish do not.
Also, a female Bristlenose pleco is generally fatter and rounder-bodied than the male.
Creating a spawning environment
Before you embark on your breeding project, you’ll need to set up a special breeding tank. If the fish spawn in a community tank, it’s unlikely that the fry will survive, as they will probably be eaten by the other tank occupants. If spawning does take place in your main display tank, you can move the eggs, together with whatever they are attached to, and put them into your designated breeding tank.
In the wild environment, the Albino Bristlenose pleco spawns in the winter months, during the Amazon’s cooler rainy season. So, to replicate that, it’s a good idea to reduce the temperature in the breeding tank slightly.
Plecos are cave spawners, so you will need to make sure that there are plenty of caves and pieces of driftwood that the males can adopt as their territory and potential spawning sites.
Always try to have more females than males. Males are highly territorial, especially when placed in a breeding environment. The male will choose and claim a suitable cave or other territory and will prepare it for spawning by cleaning the surfaces ready to receive the eggs.
Males are prone to fighting over territories, and they will eat any rival male’s eggs if they get the chance. If you have more than one male Bristlenose pleco, you should, therefore, provide plenty of caves, ideally spaced well apart, and the tank should be very large.
The male will await the arrival of a female. The female fish will check out the cave, and if she is suitably impressed, she will deposit some bright orange eggs that stick firmly to the surface. The male fertilizes the eggs, and then chases the female out of the cave, leaving him to guard them. Interestingly, more than one female will be permitted to lay eggs in one male’s cave.
During the four to the ten-day incubation period, the male Bristlenose pleco cleans the nest and the eggs, aerating them with his fins. When the fry hatch, they attach themselves to the cave walls until the egg sacks have been completely absorbed, which usually takes around two to four days. The free-swimming fry then begins to feed on algae, and you can supplement their diet with mashed peas and other vegetables.
Albino Bristlenose pleco fry grows very quickly, reaching almost the same size as their parents by the time they reach six months of age.
Bristlenose plecos are generally very hardy fish, in part due to their armor plating, which helps to prevent them from knocks and scrapes that could result in bacterial infections.
That said, you must make sure that you keep the water conditions in the aquarium clean and suitable for the fish. Dirty water that contains high levels of ammonia and nitrates can stress the fish, leaving them vulnerable to attack by fungus, bacteria, and parasites.
One common disease of tropical freshwater fish that may affect the Albino Bristlenose pleco is Ich. The condition is caused by parasites that are often already present in the aquarium, although they don’t generally bother strong, healthy fish.
Remember to put any new fish into a quarantine tank for at least two weeks before introducing them to the main display aquarium so that you can be sure that your new arrivals are disease-free and in good health. Similarly, when buying plants, driftwood, or other decorations, make sure that you wash everything thoroughly before introducing it to your display aquarium.
Ich is also known as “white spot disease” because of the scattering of tiny white dots that appear on the fish’s body, gills, and fins. The disease is caused by the ectoparasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.
Affected fish can be seen rubbing themselves against aquarium decorations, plants, and the substrate as they attempt to dislodge the irritating parasites. Since the Ich parasite is already present in the water, you must treat the whole tank.
To disrupt the Ichthyophthirius multifiliis’ lifecycle, increase the water temperature to between 780 and 800 Fahrenheit for four days. Also, buy a proprietary white spot disease treatment from your local fish store and begin dosing the tank at the recommended rate. Remember to remove any carbon-activated material from your filtration system; otherwise, it will filter out the treatment. That two-pronged attack should kill off the parasites within a week or so.
Meanwhile, check the water quality in the tank and make any necessary adjustments. Also, double-check that the fish are receiving the right diet and that they are eating enough.
The Albino Bristlenose pleco is readily available and stocked by most good fish stores. You can order one of these unusual, quirky fish from online suppliers, too, although you must remember to add shipping costs to the price of your fish.
Thanks to the fact that the species is easy to breed and, therefore, numerous, the cost of this pleco is low at just a few dollars for a juvenile specimen. That makes these enchanting creatures a great choice for the beginner hobbyist who is looking to buy stock for their new aquarium.
In this section of our guide, we answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about the unusual and fascinating Albino Bristlenose pleco.
Q: How long do Albino Bristlenose Plecos live?
A: Albino Bristlenose plecos have a life expectancy of five years or more.
Q: What do Albino Bristlenose Plecos eat?
A: The Albino Bristlenose pleco is an omnivore, eating mostly plant and vegetable matter, algae, and a small amount of meat protein in the form of freeze-dried tubifex worms and bloodworms.
Q: How much does a Bristlenose Pleco cost?
A: Bristlenose plecos are readily available in most fish stores for a few dollars. If you decide to order your specimen online, be prepared to spend a little more to cover shipping costs.
Q: How can you tell if a Bristlenose Pleco is male or female?
A: The male Albino Bristlenose Pleco has spiky tentacles that grow over its head, whereas the female fish’s tentacles are not as numerous and grow more around the sides of the mouth. Female fish are generally fatter and rounder-bodied than males, especially during the breeding season.
If you have a community tank with peaceful fish that dwell primarily in the mid to upper areas of the water column, the Albino Bristlenose pleco could be a good choice for you.
These unique-looking fish will also help to clean your tank clean by grazing on algae and eating scraps of food that fall down into the substrate from above. These fish are very easy to care for and also make a very interesting breeding project for more experienced hobbyists.