Bristlenose Catfish certainly have become very popular aquarium fish over the years. They’ll only grow to about 12 to 15 cm which means they can easily be housed with most other fish and can serve an important role in your fish tank as an algae eater.Originating from the waters of the Amazon in South America they basically consist of the Ancistrus Genus which are from the Loricariidae family of fish. Ancistrus cirrhosus is the most common species and when reference is made to the “common bristlenose” it is Ancistrus cirrhosus that is usually being referred to.
Therefore you will find that Bristlenose Catfish (aka Bristlenose Plecos) can be very easy to care for and breed, just as long as you take care of their basic needs.
So firstly, water conditions just as with any aquarium fish, are important. The Bristlenose will keep your aquarium free from algae but it will also produce waste so filtration is vitally important not only to maintain water quality but to aerate the water as well. Coming from flowing, oxygenated rivers in a tropical climate Bristlenose Catfish prefer a water temperature between 20 to 27 C so if you live in a cold climate you will have to add an aquarium heater.
Bristlenose are also fairly adaptable as far as tank decorations go and as such will adapt to most community tanks. Having somewhere to hide though is important and some driftwood to chew on is also beneficial (and recommended) for their health. If you are starting a tank from scratch though, just for your Bristlenoses, how far you go though is up to you.
You can fit out your Bristlenose Catfish tank with either live or imitation plants, gravel, rocks or stones and other tank decorations or if you like you can just add the basics. Remember though, everything you add to your tank will add to the amount of work you have to do to maintain it. Therefore if you like you can just add some driftwood, a low maintenance plant such as Java Moss and if you like, don’t worry about the gravel.
My philosophy is to first ensure your fish have everything they need to be happy and healthy but if your fish tank gets to the stage where it requires too much of your time and resources then human nature usually dictates that your tank and fish will be neglected. After all the biggest threat to the welfare of your Bristlenoses will be you and your ability to look after them. Therefore never bite off more than you can chew.
Bristlenose Catfish are also herbivores and as stated earlier, will keep your tank free of algae. They will also need other food as well to supplement their diet and can be fed specialized Catfish food from your fish store, blanched vegetables such as zucchini and small amounts of protein such bloodworm as well.
There are also several variations of the common Bristlenose. The longfin is one variation as well as the albino. It is also possible to get longfin albinos as well. There are other similar species also with varying colour and spot variations. Some species are named, such as Ancistrus temminckii, while others are just allocated an “L” number for identification.
Therefore once you do get hooked on the hobby of keeping and breeding the common Bristlenose Catfish, you can then move onto the more exotic and rarer species which do require a little more expertise and of course initial outlay. On the flip side though if you do become adept at breeding these rarer species you can make a little extra from the the sale of their offspring.
So whether you’re just after an algae eater or two for your community tank or a new addiction for you already flourishing fish keeping hobby I’m sure you’ll find the Bristlenose Catfish a very worthy and interesting candidate.