Freshwater Fish

The Long Fin Bristlenose Pleco: Appearance, Care, Tank Setup And Breeding

The Long Fin Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most unique algae-feeders hobbyists can keep in their fish tanks. They have long, flowing, and elegant-looking fins that dance in the water and put anyone who views them in a trance.

Although most aquarists consider these plecos fun and engaging to watch, some find them creepy and odd. 

Getting Longfin Bristlenose plecos for your aquarium (or not) requires understanding their appearance, care, and other essential aquatic life aspects. Only then can you make an intelligent decision whether this fish species is an excellent addition to your tank or not.

Don’t worry because this article will give you the best start for keeping this species in your fish tank.

Overview Of Longfin Bristlenose Plecos 

A Long Fin Bristlenose pleco is a variant of Bristlenose plecos belonging to the Loricarilidae catfish family. Yes, you read that right. The Longfin is a catfish because of its distinct ‘whiskers’ or ‘beards.’ 

However, the Longfin looks more like a cross between a Scorpionfish and a goldfish because of its extended fins. It makes Longfins fascinating to watch as they move in the water, making them popular among aquarists.

These fish are best for beginner aquarists because they are straightforward to care for and help improve water quality.

A native of the Amazon and other South American rivers, Longfin Bristlenose plecos can grow up to four inches. They are peaceful yet voracious algae feeders that will leave aquatic plants alone unless not properly fed.

They are omnivores that thrive on various food items and are nearly hassle-free to breed.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos thrive best in slightly acidic and warmer waters, with moderate hardness. Their appetite for algae makes Longfin Bristlenose plecos excellent tank keepers, working with other algae feeders.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos have different names, including Longfinned Bristlenose plecos, Longfin Bristlenose catfish, and Longfin Bushynose plecos.


Longfin Bristlenose plecos are almost similar to other Bristlenose pleco subspecies, such as Albinos, Super Reds, Starlights, and Calicos. They also look like catfishes with a bony head and several ‘whiskers’ or ‘bristles’ on their snouts; hence, the name.

They have suckermouth at the bottom front section of their bodies, perfect for grazing algae, detritus, and other substances on aquarium surfaces.

Longfins and other Bristlenose plecos also have bony plates on their bodies, like body armor protecting them from more aggressive fish.

Male Bristlenose plecos have fleshy and lengthy tentacles high on the head. Meanwhile, female species tend to have more subdued tentacles only around the mouth but none on the head. The tentacles are also shorter than male Bristlenoses.

You’ll also see tentacles in male Bristlenoses’ pectoral fin spines and odontodes on their cheeks and along the snout. Females don’t have these structures, although some might have but are less developed or less pronounced.

Did you know that Bristlenose plecos are also excellent camouflage artists? They have color patterns allowing them to blend seamlessly into the murky waters of the Amazon.

Bristlenoses have a dark body – olive, gray, dark brown, or black – and yellow or white spots resembling small pebbles on the river floor.

Their fins are also impressive. There’s a dorsal fin, a couple of abdominal fins, and a pair of pectoral fins. Their light-colored bellies or undersides have a flat contour, allowing them to stick onto the aquarium glass and other surfaces with greater efficiency. 

A Longfin Bristlenose pleco is one of the most stunning algae-grazing catfish you can have in your aquarium. It has lengthy, nice-flowing, and elegant fins that produce a mesmerizing motion as the Longfin Bristlenose swims around in the fish tank.

It’s like watching a goldfish put you into a trance with its beautiful fins or a peacock fanning its colorful tail feathers. 

Although most Bristlehouse plecos can grow up to six inches, Longfin Bristlenoses are relatively shorter (about three to four inches). Their diminutive size accentuates the beauty of their fan-like fins, creating a marvelous spectacle in the aquarium. 

Caring For Longfin Bristlenose Plecos

Longfin Bristlenose plecos and other Bristlenoses make excellent fish for first-time aquarists. These fish species don’t demand too much care and attention. They are also more resistant to common illnesses or diseases affecting other fish species.

Caring for Longfin Bristlenose plecos is a joy, especially if you’re already familiar with the fish and its fundamental requirements.

These species are hardy, thriving in various tank conditions and setups. However, they still need a well-maintained fish tank to help them live happily and healthily with other aquarium living organisms. 

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Tank Size And Setup

Setting up an aquarium for Longfin Bristlenose plecos might prove challenging to the uninitiated. Experienced Longfin Bristlenose pleco keepers recommend replicating the fish’s natural environment in the Amazon – adequate oxygen, moderate water flow, and warm water temperatures.

Tank Size

Although Longfin Bristlenose plecos are at the smaller end of the Bristlenose range, they still need plenty of space to swim around. It’s best to get a 10-gallon fish tank to ensure these fish species thrive. You can also pick a more spacious aquarium if you want your Longfin Bristlenoses to live with other fish.


Longfin Bristlenose plecos are bottom-dwellers, scavenging the aquarium floor for food. It’s best to keep the substrate safe for these fish species while encouraging their foraging behavior.

Most aquarists recommend fine or medium-coarse aquarium gravel, although other substrate types might work, too.


Driftwood is a must for the Long Fin Bristlenose pleco. This fish tank element is the perfect medium for promoting explosive algae growth, giving your Longfin Bristlenose plecos plenty of material to graze.

Scraping the driftwood surface also gives your Longfin Bristlenoses access to fibrous material, keeping their digestive system healthy.

You can choose Cholla wood, Malaysian driftwood, grape wood, or any other soft driftwood type. You don’t want to add hardwood varieties for your Longfin Bristlenose plecos because they can’t scrape the wood’s surface.

Driftwood is also essential as a hiding place for Longfin Bristlenose plecos.

These species are only three to four inches long, making them easy prey for larger predatory fish. Driftwood crevices can also be a haven for Longfin Bristlenose pleco eggs, fry, and juveniles.

Ancistrus cf. cirrhosus

Artificial Cave

In the wild, Longfin Bristlenose plecos lay their eggs in natural underwater caves to protect their young against hungry Amazon predators. It’s a refuge for fry and juveniles, allowing them to grow unhindered until they can swim out into the open waters of rivers as adults. 

You don’t need an artificial cave if you have driftwood in your fish tank or don’t intend to breed them.

Otherwise, this aquarium element is a must-have if you wish your Longfin Bristlenose plecos’ eggs to develop and grow to maturity. 

However, most aquarists recommend having an artificial cave for Longfin Bristlenose plecos. It’s an excellent place for Longfin Bristlenoses to rest and feel secure and safe.


Aquatic plants are always excellent additions to any aquarium setup. However, it’s best to go easy on the plants you’ll put in your fish tank with Longfin Bristlenose plecos because these living things tend to compete with algae. The more plants you have in your fish tank, the fewer algae that grow.

Unfortunately, limiting algae growth robs your Longfin Bristlenose plecos of their principal food source.

It’s best to add slow-growing aquatic plants or floating plants in your aquarium to help prevent algae competition.

Adding aquatic plants to the aquarium makes perfect sense because Longfin Bristlenose plecos love attaching themselves to the leaves. They can devour the algae forming on the plant appendages without eating into them.

However, eating the leaves of aquatic plants is often a sign that your Longfin Bristlenose pleco isn’t getting enough food.

Filtration And Oxygenation

Although Longfin Bristlenose plecos are voracious algae eaters, they still produce waste. Unfortunately, they don’t eat their poop or that of other fish in the aquarium, despite Longfin Bristlenose plecos’ scavenging efficiency.

It’s not uncommon to see your fish tank looking dirty and murky because of dissolved organic materials from fish waste.

Veteran aquarists recommend using canister filters to help keep fish tanks with Longfin Bristlenose plecos clean. These filtration devices are effective at eliminating aquarium waste and work exceptionally well with under-gravel filter systems.

Moreover, this device can produce moderate to strong water currents perfect for the Longfin Bristlenose pleco.

A big plus of using a combination of under-gravel and canister filtration for Longfin Bristlenose pleco tanks is improved water oxygenation.

Here’s a tip. There’s a good chance your Longfin Bristlenose pleco isn’t getting sufficient oxygen if you see it going to the water surface more often than usual. 

These recommendations should help you mimic the Longfin Bristlenose pleco’s habitat in the wild. You can add other elements, ensuring they resemble the fish’s natural environment.

Water Parameters

Setting up the fish tank for your Longfin Bristlenose pleco is one thing. Now comes the more challenging aspect of balancing the ideal water parameters.

Although Bristlenose plecos, including the Longfin, can thrive in different conditions, they live better in a more controlled ecosystem.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos grow best in freshwater with a pH of 5.8 to 7.5 and a temperature of 71 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 22 to 27 degrees Celsius. They also need a water hardness level of 107 to 178 ppm or 6.25 to 10.4 grains of carbonates per gallon.

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Although Longfin Bushynose plecos are omnivores, they prefer plant matter while sifting the bottoms of rivers and streams. They can also attach to leavers submerged in the water to feast on algae.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos can also derive nutrients from tiny insect larvae.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos thrive on a low-protein diet when kept or bred in captivity. Its principal diet consists of algae and plant matter. Spirulina-based flakes and pellets and algae wafers are excellent foods for Longfin Bushynose plecos. 

Some aquarists give their fish insect larvae or blood worms as occasional treats to develop their muscles and other organs. You can also offer your Longfin Bristlenose plecos blanched cucumbers and zucchinis, lettuce, spinach, peas, and canned green beans. 

Seasoned aquarists recommend feeding Longfin Bristlenose plecos once or twice daily. You can give protein-based food sources and blanched vegetables once or twice weekly because Longfin Bushynose plecos thrive on a diet made principally of algae.

Give your Longfin Bristlenose plecos about two hours to sift the tank bottom and retrieve their food.

Despite its voracious appetite for algae, the Long Fin Bristlenose pleco is not a fast eater. It’s best to remove any leftover food to keep the aquarium clean.

One way you’ll know your Longfin Bushynose plecos are eating enough is their color. Although the Longfin Bristlenose’s body has muted tones, you can still check their color patterns.

Anything that suggests softening or dulling of the colors is a sign that your fish isn’t getting balanced nutrition.

longfin bristlenose pleco full size

Temperament And Behavior

Despite their appearance, which some people find creepy and odd, Longfin Bristlenose plecos are peaceful fish species. They’re relaxed and docile, spending their time doing what they do best – graze at the aquarium’s bottom to keep the fish tank clean.

These fishes won’t mind other fish species as they’re busy scavenging on the substrate floor.

Longfin Bushynose plecos seldom move around. If you don’t have keen eyesight, there’s a good chance you won’t spot them because of their stealthy colors and patterns. Your best bet to find them is in driftwood crevices, artificial caves, and other dark hideouts.

Longfin Bristlenose plecos come out to play as soon as darkness sets in.

As nocturnal creatures, they’re most active when almost every other fish species in the tank are slumbering. You’ll most likely find them in areas with robust algae growth, eating away at the green blanket until early morning the following day. 

Although they’re peaceful, having two male Longfin Bristlenose plecos in the same aquarium is an invitation to disaster.

Males are intensely territorial, especially when breeding. Male Longfin Bushynose plecos like to claim a hiding spot or cave and make it its territory.

It’s still possible to put two male Longfin Bristlenose plecos in the same aquarium, provided the tank is sufficiently spacious to give each fish a territory.

Tank Mates

The Longfin Bristlenose plecos peaceful nature makes it an ideal tank mate for other docile and peace-loving fish species. They make perfect tank mates for community fish, such as Guppies, Platy fish, Neon tetras, and more.

Some aquarists pair peaceful Longfin Bristlenose plecos with aggressive fish species, such as African Cichlids and Bettas. They say the fish has a bony body armor that should protect it against any attack from predatory fish.

However, we’d still advise you to keep your Longfin Bushynose plecos safe by pairing them with equally docile species to prevent stressing them out. 

Breeding Longfin Bristlenose Plecos

Longfin Bushynose plecos are excellent fish species for beginner aquarists. And if you decide to breed them and spread the joys of caring for these algae-feeding fish, breeding is never a problem.

You only need to observe the ideal water conditions – correct pH, temperature, hardness, oxygen levels, and water flow – and you can have baby Longfin Bristlenose Plecos within a few weeks. 

Longfin Bristlenose plecos start breeding in the wild during the wet South American months when the water temperature is lower than the usual 71 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Experts recommend replacing 75% of the fish tank water with slightly colder water to increase the chances of breeding success.

Another must-have is caves or well-placed hiding spots for your Longfin Bristlenose pleco to lay her eggs.

The male fish scouts for the best place for spawning and tidy it up while waiting for the female. If the female Longfin Bushynose pleco deems the breeding site acceptable, she’ll stay and lay her bright-orange eggs on the cave floor and walls. 

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The male Longfin Bristlenose pleco then moves in to fertilize the eggs. After fertilization, he aerates the Longfin Bushynose pleco eggs with his tail to clean them while the female fish guards the cave entrance. You’ll have baby Longfin Bristlenose plecos within four to ten days.

One admirable trait of Longfin Bristlenose plecos is their overprotectiveness over their fry.

You won’t see Longfin Bristlenose plecos gobbling up the little ones. They make excellent parents, ensuring their babies’ optimum survivability.

Newly hatched Longfin Bristlenose plecos stick to the cave’s sides, feeding on the egg sacs for three to four days. They should be ready for their first fish food once you see the young ones swimming freely in the aquarium. Longfin Bushynose plecos can mature within six months.

How long does it take for Bristlenose plecos to mature?

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take For Bristlenose Plecos To Mature?

Bristlenose plecos have a robust growth rate, reaching full maturity in six months. Fertilized Bristlenose pleco eggs hatch within four to ten days, with the fry latching onto the cave wall.

The juvenile Bristlenose plecos obtain their nutrition from the egg sac in the first few days. You should see the baby plecos swimming in the tank, a sign you can start giving them food.

Algae are a must, although mashed veggies can supplement their diet. Around this time, the Bristlenose pleco develops tough skin but will start to grow its iconic bristles only after several months.

Is A Bristlenose Catfish A Pleco?

No, a Bristlenose catfish is not a pleco. It’s more appropriate to label a Bristlenose pleco as a catfish because plecos belong to the catfish family known as Loricariidae. It is not surprising to hear aquarists call Bristlenose plecos Bristlenose catfish or Bushy Nose plecos.  

It’s also worth knowing that taxonomists call loricariids plecostomus or armored suckermouth catfishes. The largest genus of locariids is Ancistrini, where you can find Ancistrus cirrhosus or Bristlenose catfish. 

Adding to the confusion is the labeling of Bristlenose catfishes as Bristlenose plecos by aquarium fish traders.

You must realize that ‘pleco’ is a catchall term for loricariids belonging to the Hypostomus plecostomus. On the other hand, Bristlenose catfish is a Hypostomus cirrhosus species (now called Ancistrus cirrhosus).

How Much Does A Bristlenose Pleco Cost?

Bristlenose plecos can cost $5 to $100, depending on the subspecies. For example, albinos and wild Bristlenose plecos can cost $5 to $20.

On the other hand, green dragons, blue-eyed lemons, and other Bristlenose plecos with unique color morphs can cost aquarists $100 or more. 

It’s worth pointing out that unique Bristlenose plecos aren’t readily available. The store might have to order it first before you can enjoy it in your tank. The shipping fee should cost you an extra $35.

Do Bristlenose Plecos Need Wood?

Yes, Bristlenose plecos or Bushy Nose plecos need driftwood to thrive and be happy. Failure to add wood elements in the fish tank can cause premature Bristlenose pleco death.

These fish species love nibbling on wood to aid digestion and supplement the diet. Driftwood in aquariums also serves as natural hideouts for Bristlenose plecos, especially the young ones.

Adding a place for them to feel safe and secure is necessary for Bristlenose plecos to lead happier aquatic lives.

Although any wood will suffice, Bristlenose plecos have a special preference for soft woods. You can put Cholla wood, grape wood or Malaysian driftwood in your fish tank and ensure your fish feels safe and thrives.

Bristlenoses are shorter than plecos, never growing beyond six inches long. They also have a fatter, flatter, and wider head than loricariid plecos.

What pH Do Bristlenose Plecos Like?

Bristlenose plecos thrive best in environments with a pH of 5.8 to 7.5, although they thrive best in slightly acidic waters in the wild.

Besides the water’s pH, Bristlenose plecos also need water hardness levels between 107 and 178 ppm or 6.25 and 10.4 grains per gallon.

Increasing the dissolved minerals in the water can tip the pH level to alkaline, making it less favorable for Bristlenose plecos.


It makes sense to add a Long Fin Bristlenose pleco to your aquarium. This catfish species is an efficient algae feeder, keeping the fish tank clean and minimizing water changes and other inherent aquarium maintenance activities.

It is easy to care for, straightforward to breed, and peaceful, making them the perfect aquatic pet for beginner aquarists. 

You don’t have to start breeding Longfin Bristlenose plecos right away. You can begin with several female Longfin Bristlenoses and master the art of caring for them before introducing a male species.

You now have all the knowledge to make this aquatics hobby more meaningful.


Passionate fishkeeper. Nature lover. Creative thinker. Music junkie. Adventurer.

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