Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat Plants? What Happens

Bristlenose plecos are popular freshwater fish that are commonly kept in aquariums and tanks. As herbivorous fish, they are known for their ability to help control algae growth in tanks. 

But one question that often arises among aquarists is whether or not Bristlenose plecos eat plants. 

What are Bristlenose Plecos?

Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat Plants

Characteristics of Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose plecos, scientifically known as Ancistrus Cirrhosus, are small, non-aggressive species of armored catfish native to South America. 

They are characterized by their flat, wider body shape and the growth of tentacle-like branches near their mouth, which give them their name. 

They come in a variety of colors, ranging from brown to black and even albino, and can grow up to 5 inches in length.

Care Requirements for Bristlenose Plecos

Keeping Bristlenose plecos is relatively easy as they are hardy and adaptable fish. They require a tank size of at least 20 gallons and prefer a tank with a fine substrate and plenty of hiding spots like driftwood and caves. 

They also thrive in tanks with plenty of live plants and a pH level between 6.5 and 7.4. Regular water changes and a well-maintained filter are essential for the health and longevity of Bristlenose plecos.

Types of Bristlenose Plecos

There are several varieties of Bristlenose plecos, including the common Bristlenose pleco, also known as the Bushynose or Bristlenose catfish, and the long-fin Bristlenose pleco. 

The long-fin Bristlenose pleco is a newer variety that has become increasingly popular among aquarists due to its unique appearance and peaceful nature.

Can Plecos Eat Plants?

What Do Plecos Usually Eat?

As herbivorous fish, plecos primarily eat algae that grows on surfaces within their tank or aquarium. 

They will also eat sinking pellets and blanched vegetables like zucchini and spinach. A well-fed pleco will control the growth of algae in the tank and help keep the water clean.

Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat Plants?

While Bristlenose plecos are mainly known for their love of algae, they can eat live plants if not given enough food. 

Bristlenose plecos should be provided with enough sinking pellets and vegetables, or else they may begin to feed on live plants in the tank or aquarium.

How Often Should Bristlenose Plecos Be Fed?

Bristlenose plecos should be fed twice a day, with sinking pellets and vegetables like spinach and zucchini. 

They are known to have a high metabolism and will eat almost anything, so it is important to ensure they are provided with enough food during feeding time to prevent them from turning to plants for sustenance.

What Happens When Plecos Eat Plants?

Effects on Tank and Other Vegetation

When Bristlenose plecos eat live plants, it can have negative effects on the tank and other vegetation. It can lead to the uprooting of plants and damage to their leaves, which can cause their growth rate to decrease or even die. 

When plecos consume plants, they can release waste and alter the water chemistry of the tank or aquarium. This can lead to a decrease in water quality and the proliferation of algae growth.

How to Prevent Plecos from Eating Plants

The best way to prevent plecos from eating plants in the tank or aquarium is to feed them enough sinking pellets and vegetables, as previously mentioned. 

It is also a good idea to provide them with plenty of hiding spots and driftwood to graze on. 

You can try to plant a tank with live plants that can withstand being eaten by fish, such as Anubias, Amazon Sword, and Java Fern.

Alternatives to Live Plants for Bristlenose Plecos

If you are concerned about your plecos eating your live plants, there are plenty of alternatives you can employ to create a healthy and vibrant tank. 

Fake plants can serve as a good substitute for real plants, and they do not require any extra care or maintenance. 

There are also non-living decorations like rocks, driftwood, and other natural-looking aquarium decor that can help make your tank look beautiful and natural.

Plants Safe for Bristlenose Plecos?


Anubias is a popular aquatic plant among aquarists due to its unique appearance and hardiness. 

It is an excellent choice for tanks with herbivorous fish like plecos as it is known for being tough and can withstand being nibbled on by fish without dying. 

It is a slow-growing plant that is easy to care for and can thrive in a range of environments.

Amazon Sword

The Amazon Sword is a popular freshwater plant that is commonly found in aquariums and tanks. 

It is a hearty plant that can survive in a range of water conditions and can grow up to 20 inches tall. It is another excellent choice for tanks with plecos, as it can withstand being eaten and can help filter the water of the tank.

Java Fern

Java Fern is a slow-growing, low-maintenance plant that is a great choice for beginner aquarists and tanks with herbivorous fish. 

It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and can grow up to 10 inches tall. It is also known for its ability to improve water quality and reduce the presence of algae in tanks.

FAQ: Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat Plants

Q: Do bristlenose plecos eat plants?

A: Yes, but their diet is mostly vegetarian and they prefer driftwood over plants. However, if the tank doesn’t have enough driftwood, they may munch on some live plants as well.

Q: What is a pleco?

A: Pleco is a common name for the catfish species from the family Loricariidae, often kept in aquariums to clean algae.

Q: Should I keep live plants in a pleco tank?

A: It depends on the pleco species and how well fed they are. Bristlenose plecos are known to eat some plants, so it’s best to choose hardy species like java moss, anubias or floating plants. Common plecos are more likely to eat all the plants in the tank.

Q: Can a pleco eat aquarium plants?

A: It’s possible, especially if the pleco is not well-fed or if there are not enough hiding places like driftwood or caves in the tank. Some plecos are known to eat the leaves of plants like amazon swords or stem plants.

Q: What should I put in a pleco tank?

A: Driftwood is a must for plecos as it’s a part of their natural habitat and also helps them digest their food. You can also add rocks, caves, and PVC pipes they can hide in. It’s best to avoid sharp or rough decorations as they can damage the pleco’s delicate skin.

Q: Can I keep plecos and shrimp together?

A: It depends on the pleco species and the size of the shrimp. Bristlenose plecos are generally safe with small shrimp species as they have small mouths and are not aggressive. However, larger pleco species like common plecos may see smaller shrimp as food.

Q: What are some good algae wafers for plecos?

A: You can try algae wafers from Hikari, Tetra or Omega One as they are often recommended by aquarium forums and have good nutrient content. However, remember that wafers should not make up the majority of their diet and should be supplemented with fresh vegetables like cucumber or zucchini.

Q: What is java moss?

A: Java moss is a common aquarium plant that is easy to grow and maintain. It’s a popular choice for pleco tanks as it’s hardy and can provide a lot of hiding places for fry or shrimp.

Q: What is a rhizome in aquarium plants?

A: The rhizome is the thick horizontal stem from which the leaves and roots grow in certain aquarium plants like anubias or java fern. It’s important not to bury the rhizome in the substrate as it can rot and kill the plant.

Q: Can I keep multiple plecos in one tank?

A: It depends on the size of the tank and the pleco species. Bristlenose plecos are generally peaceful and can be kept in a group of 3-4 in a tank of at least 30 gallons. However, common plecos can grow up to 2 feet and require a tank of at least 100 gallons. It’s best to research the specific pleco species you want to keep and make sure they are compatible.


Final Thoughts on Bristlenose Plecos and Eating Plants

Bristlenose plecos are a popular choice among aquarists, and for a good reason. They are hardy and adaptable fish that can help control algae growth in a tank or aquarium. 

While plecos can eat live plants if not given enough food, there are plenty of ways to keep both your plecos and your tank’s vegetation healthy and thriving. 

By providing your plecos with a balanced diet and plenty of hiding spots and driftwood, you can create a beautiful and harmonious tank that will bring enjoyment and relaxation for years to come.

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