What Do Bristlenose Plecos Eat? 4 Healthy Food for the Fish

If you’re a new owner of a Bristlenose Pleco, it’s common to find yourself asking questions like, “What do Bristlenose Plecos eat?” If your aquatic companion seems finicky or you’re worried about providing them with the best nutrition, you’re not alone. Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure the fish gets healthy and safe food.

Bristlenose Plecos eat vegetables, worms, shrimp, and driftwood. While Bristlenose Plecos are fond of eating algae and spirulina wafers, it’s advisable to add some live food, like worms, in the tank to ensure the fish gets vital nutrients for its survival.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the main foods Bristlenose Plecos needs to stay healthy and cheerful. I’ll also cover the nutrients in these foods and why they are essential for your fish’s survival. Keep reading to learn more about pleco care.

1. Vegetables

Bristlenose Plecos are herbivores species that feed mainly on vegetables.

Vegetables make excellent fish food because they are packed with high fibre and vitamins the fish need for healthy living.

Any fish species needs a sufficient fibre supply for the swim bladder to work correctly. Fibre prevents constipation in fish, a condition that can lead to:

  • Bloating
  • Swim bladder issues that may make your pleco to swim upside down
  • Dysfunctional fins

Having known that your Bristlenose Pleco can eat vegetables, you should not just wake up one day and start feeding it any vegetable in the house. Not all human-edible vegetables are suitable for plecos. You may notice signs of a dying pleco if you feed them unsuitable vegetables.

The following are the healthy and safe vegetables to feed your Bristlenose Pleco:


Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre, essential nutrients for the healthy living of every fish species. The green part of the cucumber is the most nutritious as it contains more vitamins than the white interior part.

As with humans, it’s easy to eat cucumbers since we have strong teeth to break them into smaller pieces. However, this is not the case with your Bristlenose Pleco. You should slice the cucumber into smaller pieces and soften them by blanching to make it easier for the fish to eat.

Here is a guide on how to blanch cucumbers before giving your fish:

  1. Put water into a pot and bring it to boil.
  2. Cut the cucumbers into smaller pieces and put them into the boiling water.
  3. Wait for about five minutes.
  4. Remove the cucumber pieces from the boiling water and put them into a bowl of cold water with some ice cubes. Let the cucumbers stay in the cold water for about five minutes to cool.
  5. You can freeze the cucumbers before putting them into the fish tank.

Here is a video that demonstrates the above process:

How to feed cucumber to fish


Zucchini is another vegetable that’s highly recommended for Bristlenose Pleco. It contains vitamins and minerals that support healthy living in fish.

There is a specific way to follow when it comes to feeding your Bristlenose pleco zucchini. It’s recommended that you wash the zucchini thoroughly before cutting it into small pieces. This prevents your Bristlenose Pleco from getting food poisoning or suffering indigestion.

You can blanch the zucchini and cool it down in ice water before feeding it to your fish. Alternatively, you can freeze the zucchini before putting it into the fish tank.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower are rich in antioxidants that help prevent cancer-related diseases in humans but are also crucial for your Bristlenose Pleco’s health.

Both broccoli and cauliflower have soft stems that are easy for your Bristlenose Pleco to eat. However, you should cut them into smaller bits before feeding them to the fish as they can choke on larger pieces.

It’s also advisable to blanch these vegetables before feeding them to the fish. This is crucial to reduce bitterness and make it easy for the fish to chew and swallow.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are a great source of vitamins and fibre for your Bristlenose Pleco. Fibre adds to the bulk of the fish’s diet and helps regulate digestion.

When feeding your Bristlenose Pleco leafy greens, you should minimise spinach. This vegetable is high in oxalic acid, a component that interferes with vitamin E absorption if consumed in large amounts. Poor vitamin E absorption can lead to poor health and development in fish.

Some examples of leafy greens that can be included in your pleco’s diet include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Collards

2. Worms

What do bristlenose plecos eat?
A worm

Worms are the best sources of protein for fish.

Although Bristlenose plecos are categorized as herbivores, feeding them worms is an excellent way to ensure they get sufficient functional amino acids. These amino acids are crucial for protein synthesis, energy production, and growth.

Apart from their nutritional value, live worms are a great source of entertainment for your fish. This makes them ideal for plecos that display signs of stress. You can buy them from pet stores or catch them by digging in wet garden soil.

To feed your pleco worms, you simply have to put about five worms into the tank and wait for the fish to eat them up. Alternatively, you can mix some dry worm food with your fish food and feed it to your pleco.

When feeding worms to your fish, you should also ensure that the water quality is maintained at all times. This will keep them healthy and prevent disease. You can do this by performing regular water changes and using a good filtration system in your tank.

The following are the healthy worm species for Bristlenose plecos:

  • Earthworms: Earthworms are juicy with an attractive earth scent that makes them suitable for catfish species like plecos. They also contain essential nutrients like vitamins, fibre, and protein.
  • Maggots: Maggots are a great source of high-quality protein that your fish can easily digest. They are also rich in calcium and phosphorous, which helps improve bone health in your Bristlenose Pleco.
  • Bloodworms: Bloodworms are high in fat content, making them an excellent energy source for your fish. They are also rich in essential fatty acids, which help improve immunity and prevent disease.

3. Shrimp

Most fish species kept in aquariums are not predatory. This means they need a protein source in their diet to stay healthy and grow well.

Feeding your Bristlenose Pleco shrimp is an excellent way to ensure it gets all the essential amino acids and proteins needed for development.

Shrimp are also rich in vitamins and minerals, making them an all-around good choice for your fish. In addition, shrimp have sweet and delicate flavours plecos find quite palatable.

When feeding your Bristlenose Pleco shrimp, you should be careful not to overfeed the fish. Since plecos love shrimp, they can eat it continuously without worrying about overfeeding. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to ensure the fish is not overfed.

Overfeeding your Bristlenose pleco can lead to conditions such as:

  • Bloating
  • Improper digestion
  • Fin rot due to poor tank conditions that result from improper digestion
  • Fatty liver

To prevent overfeeding, you should only feed your fish 2 to 3 shrimp per week.

Apart from feeding, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the water quality is maintained at all times to encourage healthy eating. This will keep your Bristlenose Pleco healthy and ensure that it grows properly.

In addition to shrimp and worms, there are other protein sources you can include in your Bristlenose Pleco’s diet, such as:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Tubifex worms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Prawns and krill

When feeding your pleco, it’s important to remember that the nutritional needs of fish vary depending on their age and size. For instance, younger fish require more protein for growth than their adult counterparts. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor your feeding schedule based on the specific needs of your Bristlenose Pleco.

4. Driftwood

Driftwood is a common addition in aquariums. Aquarists add driftwood to their tanks for the following purposes:

  • Water conditioning
  • Biofilm substrate
  • Decoration

Most people don’t know that driftwood is a food source, especially for catfish species like plecos. Driftwood contains natural tannins that leach into the water to help the fish adapt to their new environment. This component mimics the natural habitat of catfish species, which is vital for them to feel comfortable and secure in their tank.

If you want to feed your pleco driftwood, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to use only non-toxic driftwood: Driftwood for aquariums is available at most pet stores, but you should always check the label before purchasing it to ensure it’s safe for your fish.
  • Do not overfeed the driftwood since plecos are prone to gulping up large pieces of wood: If the fish fails to digest large pieces of wood, it can lead to constipation or blockages in your aquarium.
  • Always monitor the driftwood in your tank to ensure that it doesn’t begin to decay over time: This could release harmful bacteria into the water and compromise the health of your fish.

Regardless of what food you choose to feed your pleco, ensure its diet is well-rounded and contains all the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

How to Know When Your Bristlenose Pleco Needs Food

If you are a parent with children, you know that when they need food, some will start crying or simply ask for it. Even when young children are sometimes not too good at articulating their needs, there’s usually no mistaking that they are hungry.

But what about your Bristlenose pleco? How can you tell when it’s hungry and ready to eat? Here are some tell-tale signs that your pleco is hungry:

  • Inactivity: Plecos are a fun fish species that are active most of the time. When they don’t move as much or stay still for a long time, it may signify that they’re hungry and ready to eat.
  • Skimming the surface: Some Bristlenose plecos tend to hang around the water’s surface when they’re hungry. This is because most of their food items tend to float there so they can easily grab them.
  • Licking or biting at the glass: It’s natural for fish to get excited when they see food coming their way, and your pleco may even try to feed on the glass surrounding its tank. If you notice this behaviour, it could indicate the fish is hungry.

Other Fish to Keep With Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose plecos are peaceful fish that do well in community aquariums. They can even be kept with other catfish species due to their non-aggressive nature.

However, it’s essential to carefully select the other fish that will live alongside your pleco. Some fish may nip at your pleco’s fins and cause them damage, while others may simply not get along with it.

Some good fish to keep with a Bristlenose pleco include:

  • Corydoras catfish: These small and peaceful catfish are a great addition to any community tank. They get along well with most other types of fish, including the Bristlenose, and can be fed the same foods as your pleco.
  • Panda cories: Also known as Panda dwarf corys, these small cories are a perfect addition to any catfish-only community aquarium. They get along well with most other fish species and will happily swim alongside your pleco without harassing it or its tank mates.
  • Guppies: These are among the peaceful and social fish species that make good additions to any community aquarium. They are also relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for novice fish keepers.
  • Mollies: These freshwater fish are highly adaptable and thrive in almost any aquarium setup. They won’t harm your pleco and will help keep the tank clean by eating up excess food that would otherwise pollute the water.

When deciding which fish to add to your Bristlenose community tank, it’s crucial to consider compatibility. Doing so ensures that your pleco and its tank mates will be happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Do Bristlenose Pleco Eat?

Plecos should eat twice or at least once daily. However, remember to only give the fish pleco-specified food to sustain its health. You can supplement the food with the recommended vegetables for plecos once or twice a week.

Do I Need to Feed My Bristlenose Pleco?

You should feed your pleco with specified foods at night because this is a nocturnal fish. Prioritize feeding your pleco a balanced diet, including a small amount of protein and vegetables like zucchini and lettuce. As a rule of thumb, you should drop the food into your pleco’s tank after turning off the lights.

How Do You Know If a Pleco Is Hungry?

You can know if your pleco is hungry by looking at the shape of its stomach through the tank’s glass. If your pleco is hungry, you will realize its belly is caved in a lot. Therefore, consider feeding the fish immediately to alleviate the hunger.

Final Thoughts

As an aquarist, you want to ensure your Bristlenosed pleco has a well-balanced diet and receives all the nutrients it needs for optimal health. This often leads to the question, “What do Bristlenose plecos eat?”

Now that you know what to feed your Bristelnose pleco, you must ensure the fish is not overfed. Moreover, you should adhere to the pleco fish preparation tips shared in this article to keep the fish healthy.

Leave a Comment