Bristle Nose Pleco

A couple February Auctions ago, I won bids on a bag of 3 small Marble Bristlenose Pleco’s, also a bag of 3 small Albino’s. As time passed those 6 dwindled down to 2 adults, a male Marble, and a female Albino. Both have been in my 44 gallon Community tank located in my living room which has plenty of family and pet disturbances. I mention this as this is where these two have been spawning on some what of a regular basis of approximately one or two months between. Genetically speaking I wouldn’t recommend crossing different types but adding the recessive Albino gene into Marble might even be a plus to a breeder for more sales. After this Marble Albino cross was done and the fry grown, I chose the best pair from this first generation or F-1 and I’m using them for Breeders. Breeding this brother sister pair should give 75% Marble and 25% Albino in their offspring which is where the extra sales having two types comes in, Nice genetic experiment too if you want to dabble bit deeper than just a single B.A.P. spawning. Recently, this brother sister spawn took place and the results were about as expected and a bit of excitement too. There are 20 fry in this batch 11 are Marble, 6 are Albino and the excitement is there are 3 which appear to be Red Marble. Percentage results in this batch being 70% Marble, 30% Albino, which is within reason when it’s a roll of the genetic dice, and for so few in the batch. For me, I’m going to keep the 3 Red Marble fry and with a little luck I’ll get a pair. Speaking of rolling dice, if you have an even amount of males and females in a batch and you net out a random 3, the odds of getting a pair works out to be 75%, those aren’t bad odds for my three red marbles, I figure, and I’m keeping a few others just in case. Random percentages are good to know if your interested in getting a pair whether your buying at auction or other fish place. Here are a few others. If there are 4 random, 87.5%, 5 random 93.8%, 6 random 96.9%, 7 random 98.4%, 8 random 99.2%. If you selected fish based on color intensity for example, the percentage could change significantly. For the most part I stand by the odds. I usually try to get at least 3 or 4 and I have a pretty good chance of getting a pair.

Mannerisms of the Bristlenose are quite intense although they are usually just sucking to some hiding spot most of the day. I once saw two males sparring and it consisted of them arched as far as they could and balanced on the front of their lip and the tip of their caudal fin doing a barely noticeable quiver next to each other. This is probably to make themselves look bigger to the other. They also like to go side by side tail slapping. This isn’t to harm the other, just another display of dominance, Bristlenose style. I think most of the time they don’t even touch the other with the tail slapping, it just produces a gush of water that pushes the other. Small fry even do this naturally for a way of establishing a pecking order especially at feeding time. Rarely do they do any damage to the other sometimes it happens with more then just two, sometimes 3 or more . Have you ever tried to catch one, they are strong and very fast swimmers when they want to. When you finally get a net over one and it is stuck to the front glass of the tank, then what? Tapping on the glass doesn’t work. What I do is move the net up and down with the net pressed against the glass, pleco inside, eventually it will let go of the suction, turn and swim into the net. You don’t have to be aggressive moving the net up and down moving the Pleco up and down the glass. Just move the pleco slowly and it will release and dart into the net. Just be sure your net has a seal all the way around the pleco or it will find the hole and dash.

I have city water and that seems to suit them just fine. It should be dechlorinated by aging at least 24 hours or by using chemical drops. Chloramines are very toxic to adults and are Deadly to Bristlenose fry. I usually keep my tank temperatures at the high end of tropical, 78-80 degrees. Upper tanks in my fish room are slightly warmer so I keep the room at upper tank 80 degrees, lower tanks are at high 70 degrees. My pleco’s like having driftwood in their tank to chew on and for hiding. That tends to keep the tank slightly softer and a little more acidic. I like using young fry as well as adults for cleaning algae off the glass and plants, of most of my grow out tanks with other growing fry, even the algae on the silicone gets a good going over. Older algae is passed over so they aren’t miracle workers. They also don’t like those dark green hair clumps of algae, those need to be scrubbed and scraped by hand. Besides water clorine being basically a poisin, they have another invisible deadly problem which I can only guess at what the culprit is. I’m pretty sure it is some sort of bacterial infection or maybe a nematode take over, could be an ammonia or nitrite explosion? Not quite sure exactly what (it) is but Pleco’s seem to be more suseptable to (it). When it hits and the fry start dying, net the others out and put them into a different clean tank usually saves the rest, otherwise they could all die within a few days. Then again, (it) usually doesn’t show up if you keep your tanks reasonably clean. Over feeding and under cleaning the fry tanks is when (it) shows up especially over feeding hatched baby brine or dry foods. Adults can get infected too but are a bit more immune to (it)! Feeding is actually easy, they will eat most any type of frozen, freeze dried, pelleted, flaked etc. They are scavengers but they eat edible food not poop. Algae infused food is appreciated and it is usually made to sink to the bottom. They love baby brine shrimp frozen or freshly dead, they can’t really catch hatched brine shrimp on the move, they can feed on it if it dies or is weakened in the fresh water and falls to the bottom. They also appreciate drift wood to chew on for some reason, I also heard they like boiled veggies although I haven’t tried. I grind my own food mostly for Bettas using pelleted food the size of pepper corns and a Pepper Grinder. Then I sift out a certain size and the smaller particles I feed to my other tropicals. I also mix in gold fish pellets sinking bottom feeder pellets with algae in the mix. I just make sure I feed enough so the plecos get some but not too much as to cloud the water. My siphon takes care of the left over food, I clean it about an hour after feeding.

Spawning is done in some sort of cave and this seems to be the hurtle to get them to breed. Both males and females are a bit pickey when it comes to a spawning site. I have made some concaves out of 1 1/2 inch PVC, 6 inches long with an end cap. They didn’t really like it although I have had them spawn in one, one time. I searched around the house for something I could use that was similar but there aren’t many things I could find other than a few antique glass insulators used on railroads. Some I have are clear, they didn’t care for that one and I also have green glass which is opaque and it seems to be the ticket for them. I also have one that is brown glazed porcelain which is liked just as well. Both of these insulators the males prefer to the PVC ones that made.

I was initially skeptical about the insulators because there is only room for one pleco at a time and the PVC there is room for the pair. It took a while to see why they might prefer the opaque green glass insulator. I think the reason is that the male can completely plug the inside with the fry in the very end using their body armor for protection. I have had many spawns and still never witnessed the process until just recently. First I want to describe the eggs, they are all stuck together into an orangeish yellow rubber ball which is not sticky, it is semi-buoyant however. I know this, due to an accident during a tank cleaning. I carefully picked up the insulator with the male inside and was about to move it over to gravel siphon under where the insulator was. Oops, the green glass insulator slipped out of my fingers and the male came out along with the ball of eggs. This rubber ball of eggs, like in slow motion, bounced off the gravel then bounced again. Frantically I scooped and caught the ball in the insulator, then I placed the insulator back in the gravel where it was originally the male returned as if nothing happened. The rubber ball of eggs bouncing in slow motion reminded me of Neal Armstrong walking on the moon. Back to spawning. The male lets the female, practically any female that is willing go into the concave of the insulator so she can check it out. She also does some cleaning. When that is done she backs up into the concave while the male guards her at the opening, but he is outside. All that can be seen is the female’s head moving around the whole inside 360 degrees and keeps slowly working her way around the circumference. I can only assume that she is laying the eggs and that is how she is rolling the eggs into a ball. At no time does the male join her, he stays outside. The strange thing is every once in a while he goes perpendicular to the concave, still outside and aims his vent into the cave and does a barely noticeable quiver. I believe this is how he fertilizes the eggs. He fills the concave with sperm as the female is laying and rolling her egg ball. I am pretty sure this is the breeding process between the male and female Bristlenose. Otherwise how would the eggs in the center of the ball get fertilized? When she is done she leaves and the male takes over by going head first with the eggs at the back of the concave of the insulator. At any sign of danger he plugs the hole with his head and body, the eggs or fry sealed off from danger. This seal could not be done in the 1 1/2 inch PVC tube with end cap. Also the spawning would be a bit different too which is probably why the males seem to prefer the smaller diameter of the concave of the insulator. I can conclude that a 1 inch hole is probably what they desire as well as being opaque and a little bit longer than a female bristlenose with an end cap. Anything around your house that approximates these parameters? If not, just about any antique dealer should have a few opaque insulators laying around for just a few bucks each, cheaper if they are chipped. The insulators also have threads inside and help keep the egg ball and fry in place in the back of the concave, which the PVC does not have either.

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