Bristlenose Catfish – Ancistrus sp.

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Looking for a bottom dweller that will work hard and not bust the sides of your tank? The BN or ABN is just the right fish for you.

Very often, an aquarist will eventually decide that they would like to have a fairly decent sized Pleco for their tank(s). They may not have the tank space to accommodate some of the larger pleco’s and most often the advice they receive is to fetch themselves a “dwarf” Pleco. Often, the Bristlenose (or “bushynose”) catfish is recommended. These fish are known to be quite small and we often hear “will not get any larger than about 4 inches”. However, which one does the aquarist want? There happens to be over 40 identified species of these Pleco’s. Since they are the same genus, their needs are exactly the same. More than likely, the average aquarist will obtain either the common “brown” bristlenose (ancistrus sp 3) or the albino bristlenose (ancistrus sp 4). In aquaria, abbreviations have been established to identify them. The brown bristlenose is BN and the Albino is ABN. The abino is a mystery as to which of the BN’s are it’s forebearer, it is thought the ancistrus sp 3 is responsible. As a result of the above, the following profile is for both.

Common Name: Bristlenose Catfish, Bushynose Catfish, Albino Bristlenose, ancistrus (sp 1 – ?)

Category: Siluriformes

Family: Loricariidae

Origin: South America

Main Ecosystem: Muddy banks of river system

Salinity: Freshwater

Temperment: Peaceful and can be kept in a community tank with a variety of tank mates.

Diet: Omnivore

Care: Will consume any food they find during scavenging however, supplementing vegetables that contain roughage is recommended (broccoli stems, zucchini and cucumbers). Provide sufficient hiding places, especially driftwood. The driftwood will serve two purposes. It can be used for hiding and rasping. Caves are especially appreciated.

ph: 6.5 – 7.5

Temperature: 76F – 81F

Potential size: 4.4 inches

Water Region: Bottom Dweller

Color: The Brown Bristlenose is brown with white spots. Tail may include white tips. The albino is light gold to almost orange.

Mouth: Downturned

Sexing: Males will have bristles while females will not.

Acclimation: Float bag in tank water to adjust the temperature. Add small amounts of your tank water to the bag for at least 45 minutes to an hour until you exceed the original amount of water that was in the bag. Unlike most fish that can be netted out of the aquarium bag, pleco’s will clamp its mouth onto the bag. The fish will not cooperate with your use of the net and can cause damage to the fish. You can use two methods to remove fish from bag:

• By hand, being careful not to use excess pressure
• Remove some of the bag’s contents and roll bag down to the new water level. You can then carefully pour the remaining contents of the bag into your tank with the fish.

Breeding: Given the right conditions the dwarf ancistrus are prolific spawners. Driftwood with plenty of nooks and crannies serves as the spawning site. A temp of between 77 and 80F is ideal. Pairs may not spawn if the pH falls below 7, you can use cc to keep the pH up.

The pairs can be induced into breeding condition by feeding a diet primarily Hikari Veggie Wafers, spirulina flakes, staple flakes, and fresh broccoli stems. Pretty soon the female will plump up with eggs and the male (in the albino variety), will become almost a deep orange color. This is a sign that spawning will begin soon.

The male will coax the female to a crevice in the driftwood that he has carefully prepared. Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized hatching takes place in approximately 48 hours. The male will diligently guard the eggs and fry until they are free swimming and leave the nest. Brood size is about 30 fry and the parents never eat them. A good pair will spawn monthly and are a joy to watch.

Comments: I was introduced to these fish by fellow AA member BrianNY, who provided me with two juveniles. Unfortunately, a ph crash caused their premature demise but BrianNY was adamant on replacing them, not with another set of juveniles, but a mated pair. I also found myself in possession of nine fry of both species at a local aquarium club auction. I currently have the mated pair in my 30 gal and split the other 9 between the 30 gal and the 75 gal. I have yet to attempt to spawn the mated pair. As far as the fry, they are constantly on the move and at times and I have not seen all nine but once since they entered the tanks. They are very active and will eventually visit every inch of your tank. I have found them to be very docile and forgiving of their tank mates. And yes, they are tiny, so tiny that they can hide just about anywhere. One of my BN’s loves to hide under the leaves of a java fern. I didn’t know he was there until I was doing some pruning and almost pulled him out of the tank.



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