Unarguably the most-sought after Plecostomus fish variety, the Albino Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus) is a peaceful and excellent addition to community tanks.
They are quite small in size, even smaller than the Common Pleco. The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is adored for its ease of care, prolific nature and role as efficient tank cleaners due to their strong cravings for algae.
Keep reading for all there is to know about the Albino Bristlenose Pleco, and how to care for them successfully in the aquarium.
Quick Notes about Albino Bristlenose Plecos
|Name||Albino Bristlenose Pleco|
|Other Names||Albino Bristlenose catfish, Albino Bushynose catfish|
|Scientific Name||Ancistrus cirrhosis var Albino|
|Tank size (minimum)||20 gallons (~80 liters)|
|Keeping||Easy – Medium|
|Size||up to 15 cm (~ 6 inches)|
|Optimal Temperature||22 – 27 °C (72 – 80 °F)|
|Optimal PH||6.5 – 7.5|
|Optimal GH||2 – 12|
|Nitrate||Less than 40|
|Life span||up to 7 years|
The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is a fascinating freshwater fish in the family Loricariidae of the fish order Siluriformes. This fish is an albino variant of the renowned Plecostomus species Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus) which is also known by the nomenclatures Bristlenose catfish, Bushynose catfish.
Prior to what many may think, the albino morph is not caused by exposure to light during development, rather it is controlled by genetics.
Natural Habitat of Albino Bristlenose Plecos
The Albino Bristlenose catfish is native to South America, they can be found in the Amazon River and its tributaries. The natural habitat ranges from fast-flowing waters to turbid still waters.
Description of Albino Bristlenose Plecos
Due to the small structure of the Albino Bristlenose Pleco, it is touted as one of the smallest aquarium catfish, it barely measures up to 5 inches (12 cm) in size, with an average adult size of 3-4 inches (7 – 10 cm).
This variety of Bristlenose Pleco differs from the common Pleco in terms of form, it clearly has a robust body shape and wider head. They possess a flattened body that is covered in armored bony plates, this helps to protect them from predatory attacks of aggressive tankmates.
Another noticeable feature is the presence of tentacle-like appendages or bristles which sprout from their heads as they reach maturity. These bristles are longer and more prominent in the males. The females sprout bristles around the mouth area and they appear subdued unlike that of the males that are visibly pronounced.
Being the most popular variety of the Bristlenose Pleco, the Albino Bristlenose can be easily recognized because of the light yellow or pink-like marbled pattern of its flattened body.
In addition, because of the genetic mutations, their eyes are often reddish color.
They possess a pair of pectoral fins, a pair of abdominal fins, and a dorsal fin on the top of their bodies. Also prominent is a round mouth with elongated lips which is a functional adaptation of suckerfish.
The Albino Bristlenose Pleco typically live 3 to 7 years with appropriate care. They are also considered as relatively easy level care.
Albino Bristlenose Plecos Behavior
This variety of Bristlenose Pleco is generally solitary and peaceful, although older males may show some aggression towards other Plecos, especially during spawning and feeding activities. However, they should coexist peacefully if ample hiding spaces are provided for them.
They are bottom dwellers and will spend much of their time in caves and other hiding spots. Asides that, they will occasionally come outside when the lights go off to roam around the lower regions and equally graze on algae.
The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is a great algae eater, especially when they are young. So you may often see them nibbling on algae attached to the driftwood, substrate, or tank glass. When they get old, their metabolism slows down and they become a little bit lazier.
They may dart up to the water surface to gulp some air, if they do this frequently then you should consider that a sign of poor water quality in the tank.
Overall, Albino Bristlenose Plecos prefer a well-planted aquarium with caves and other ornaments to have enough hiding places. It is pretty common for them to dwell in darker areas for an extended period of time.
- Social: No
- Active: Yes
- Peaceful: Yes
Feeding Albino Bristlenose Plecos
Their primary diet is algae and biofilm growing in the aquarium, asides that they will consume vegetable matter and protein diets in a ratio of 80:20.
Other supplementary diet options are protein foods such as:
- freeze dried tubifex worms,
- brine shrimp,
Protein is an essential part of their dietary requirements, but they need more of vegetable matter because of its rich fiber content. These involve blanched vegetables such as lettuce, zucchini, carrots, beans, and peas.
Important: Make sure to get rid of any leftover meal after 24 hours of serving, this will prevent it from decaying and ruining the water quality.
Another source of fiber content is driftwood, and this can be achieved by placing a piece(s) of driftwood in the tank. That way, the fish are provided with fibrous matter and also a place where algae will grow for their consumption.
Overfeeding is bad for fish and it will lead to bloat and other health complications, they should only be fed once or at most twice daily in small portions.
Also, never allow them to starve, otherwise, they may proceed to bite on the leaves of plants to quench their hunger. Proper feeding will result in an overall healthy appearance and vibrant coloration.
Tip: One thing to keep in mind is that all Bristlenose Plecos are nocturnal, so it will be better to put the food in right before you turn off the tank lights.
- Diet Type: Omnivore
- Food Preference: Algae
- Feeding Frequency: Daily (if you do not have a lot of algae in the tank)
You can read more about it in my articles:
Are Albino Bristlenose Plecos Plant Safe?
If you have heard some reports and stories that some Bristlenose Plecos started nibbling on plants, the answer is hunger. A lot of plecos are very underfed. Like any living organism, they will try to survive by eating whatever they can.
That is why if you do not have enough algae in the tank, they should have access to vegetables frequently.
Keeping and Housing Albino Bristlenose Plecos
The Bristlenose Plecos are one of the best fish species for beginners. They are fairly hardy and stay a smaller size compared to their other cousins, who can grow huge. It makes them a good choice for a tank that doesn’t have the room for a large pleco.
Ideally, you need to have a 25 – 30-gallon (100 – 120 liters) tank to keep Albino Bristlenose Pleco. Despite their relatively small size, they need some space to roam about especially if you plan on keeping them with other fish species.
If you do not plan to keep them with other fish, the absolute minimum tank size for housing Albino Bristlenose Pleco is 20 gallons (~80 L). Tip: In these cases, you can house them with shrimp.
Note: Because the fish prefer to stay at the mid and bottom of the tank, the tank should be long.
Temperature: Albino Bristlenose Pleco will appreciate the optimal water temperature between 22 – 27 °C (72 – 81 °F).
Hardness: The tank itself should preferably have soft to medium water hardness. However, anything in the 2 – 12 dGH range is fine.
pH: The pH of the tank water should be in the range of 6.5 – 7.5, this should be regularly monitored with a testing kit.
Albino Bristlenose Plecos do not have specific preferences regarding the substrate. It will mostly depend on your tank setup.
A clay-based substrate would do just fine, however it should be topped with aquarium gravel to avert cloudiness.
Avoid coarse gravel. Its sharp edges can injure/scratch the body of the fish as they swim in the lower regions of the tank.
The aim of incorporating decors in an aquarium is to replicate its natural habitat and provide the best environment for the fish.
You need to introduce pieces of driftwood, caves, PVC pipes, and other ornaments where Albino Bristlenose Pleco can frequently use as hiding spots. The caves serve as a spawning area during breeding and driftwood helps their digestion.
They are not demanding when it comes to lighting, moderate lighting is considered to be sufficient. Lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants in your tank.
In addition, good lighting would be needed since it will effectively promote the growth of algae on driftwood and other surfaces for consumption by the fish.
Even though high lighting will boost the growth of algae even faster, I would NOT recommend that if you are new to this hobby. It is absolutely crucial to understand the balance in the tank. Otherwise, you will have so many different types of algae that will turn your tank into a disaster.
There are three main types of aquarium filters (Canister filters, hang on the back filters and sponge filters). It is possible to use any filtration in the Albino Bristlenose Pleco tank setup. However, you need to understand some pros and cons of each type.
For example, canister filters will do a great job at removing waste excreted by the Plecos. (They do produce a lot of waste!) But they are expensive and you will have to use extra pre-filter in the form of a sponge to prevent baby plecos from being sucked in.
Hang on the back filters are cheaper but less efficient and also require extra pre-filter, if you decide to breed them.
Sponge filters are the cheapest. In addition, they will provide the most surface area for growing biofilm. The problem though is that these filters may not be good enough for big tanks.
Personally, I would recommend choosing either hang on the back or canister filters for Albino Bristlenose Pleco tank setups.
Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Care and Maintenance
Strict care and maintenance practices should be carried out regularly to ensure that the tank stays always clean. A clean water environment will eliminate undue stress and infections which disrupt the normal health of fish and other tank inhabitants.
Always endeavor to maintain stable water conditions and provide moderate water flow, adult Albino Bristlenose Plecos may tolerate variations in water quality better but the younger ones will definitely have a hard time in such situations especially when there are constant swings in pH and temperature.
They are troubled by high elevations in the ammonia and nitrates level, which makes them move up to the water surface to breathe in oxygen.
Do not forget to check your water parameters, especially if you are going to put them in a 20-gallon tank. Be sure to carry out routine water changes of 25% every other week in order to maintain good water quality considering its bioload.
Be on the lookout for any unusual behaviors, if you notice any sick fish in your tank, move it to a separate tank for treatment immediately.
Sexing Albino Bristlenose Plecos
Telling male and female Albino Bristlenose Plecos apart is quite easy. The males have visibly longer bristles which grow out on the top and towards the center of their heads while the females have smaller bristles which grow more around the snout margins.
The bristles start growing when they become sexually mature.
Breeding Albino Bristlenose Plecos
Bristlenose plecos reach sexual maturity at about one year. Reproduction cannot occur without the presence of both genders, therefore it is essential to have both male and female Plecos in your aquarium.
Also, it may be hard for new eggs to survive in a community tank because of the cannibalistic tendencies of other tankmates, so they are better off in a separate breeding tank.
The tank water needs to be a little bit cooler than usual to trigger their spawning instincts, for example, a 30-50% water change with slightly cool water should suffice.
As a rule of thumb, you should have more female Albino Bristlenose Plecos in the tank than males for higher chances of success.
The breeding process commences with the male searching for a perfect spot for the female to lay her eggs, the caves in the tanks are ideal for this purpose.
When a good spot has been located, the male will clean up the cave in anticipation of the female’s arrival. The female fish will then examine the cave, and if she is pleased, she will usually lay 20 – 50 eggs in the cave. These eggs are adhesive and have a bright orange hue.
Going forward, the male will fertilize the eggs, he will pursue the female out of the cave while he stays put to guard the eggs.
Afterward, the male will make efforts to clean the eggs and aerate them with his fins till they hatch, which often takes between 4 to 8 days depending on the temperature.
During this period of time, males do not eat, therefore, do not worry about them.
The only problem is that if there are too many fish that he has to chase away all the time. Some aquarists reported that under high-stress Albino Bristlenose Plecos males may eat all the eggs themselves.
Hatching and Growing Fry
As they grow into free-swimming juveniles, they will nibble on algae, and you can also feed them blanched vegetables as a supplementary diet. An interesting phenomenon is how fast they grow. It will often take them about 8 – 10 months to attain adult size but they will not be mature yet.
Genetic of Albino Bristlenose Pleco
In Bristlenose Plecos, Albino is a recessive gene. It means that if any or both parents have the dominant, standard gene a common (dark-colored) Bristlenose Plecos is not just possible, it is even more likely!
Note: Generally, being colored is the dominant gene. In the wild Albino fish or animals are often the first ones killed because they do not have any camouflage.
Therefore, if you want to increase the chances of having baby Albino Bristlenose Plecos – do not keep them with other plecos of the same species. The will crossbreed and the color might be …weird.
Albino Bristlenose Plecos and Suitable Tankmates
The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is peaceful and it will co-exist with other peaceful freshwater fish species. They are great additions to community tanks and can be paired with fish species like Guppies, Platys, Corydoras catfish, Cherry barbs, Swordtails, Pygmy Cories, Otocinclus Catfish, Panda Garra, etc.
Keeping two fully-grown Plecos together is not a good idea unless you are certain that one of them is a female. The stocking ratio should be 2:1 (female to male), to avert hostile behaviors between males during breeding.
Albino Bristlenose Pleco should not be paired with fish like African cichlids, Angelfish and Goldfish as they all are known to exhibit some form of aggressive behavior towards the Pleco.
Will Albino Bristlenose Pleco eat dwarf shrimp? Although they are not hunters, they are still omnivores. Therefore, if baby shrimp are tiny and fit in their mouth, there is always a chance that they will try to snack on them.
Does it happen very often? No, it is not. Lots of aquarists keep dwarf shrimp and Albino Bristlenose Pleco in the same tank.
However, if you are serious about breeding shrimp, I would not recommend taking any risk. You simply cannot allow any fish in the shrimp tank!
Albino Bristlenose Plecos are compatible with any freshwater snails. Together they will do a good job in scavenging for food particles, plant matter, and algae along the lower levels of the tank.
Crayfish and Crabs:
Potential Problems associated with Albino Bristlenose Plecos
Overfeeding or inappropriate diet: Sometimes overfeeding or allowing the Albino Bristlenose Pleco to feed off on the remnants of high protein, frozen, or live foods meant for their tankmates often develop blockages on their intestines and may lead to bloat. This condition can become fatal if the fish is not placed back on a proper diet immediately.
Ich: Asides bloat, they are susceptible to common tropical fish diseases like Ich (white spot disease), Fin rot (which may be due to a bacterial or fungal infection), and Dropsy. These problems can be combated by treating with the right antibacterial or antifungal medication.
So, always keep a bottle of Ich-X (link to check the price on Amazon) on hand in case of emergencies
Buying Albino Bristlenose Pleco
Due to its increasing popularity as a great freshwater aquarium fish species, the Albino Bristlenose Pleco is readily available for purchase in local fish stores for a few dollars.
However, if it is possible, it is always better to ask your local fish breeders. That way you can ask them about water parameters they are keeping them in and genetic (who are the parents – what color they are), etc.
I would recommend that you inspect the fish for any possible signs of sickness, and also to obtain healthy adult sizes, preferably two females and a male.
The whole point of going for adult Bristlenose Plecos is due to the fact that they tend to handle variations in water parameters better than the juveniles, however, you need to bear in mind that adults cost more.
Albino Bristlenose Plecos are an easy, affordable, and hardy fish ideal for freshwater planted tanks. This awesome fish variety offers a scintillating contrast and an interesting character to your home aquarium.
They are a delight to watch in planted tanks and what most aquarists love most about them is their role as algae eaters, thus helping to keep the tank clean by actively grazing on algae present in the tank.