How to Set up the Perfect Aquarium for The Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco Keeping

Species Snapshot

  • Species Name: Ancistrus sp. 
  • Common Names: Blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco, blue eye lemon bushy nose pleco
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 5 to 12 years
  • Native Distribution: South America


With its bright yellow coloration and startling blue eyes, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco isn’t what you might expect from a pleco. Though its appearance is a stark departure from that of the common pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus), these suckermouth catfish perform a similar role in the home aquarium. As scavengers and algae-eaters, they make excellent additions to any freshwater cleanup crew.

In this guide, we’ll explore the background of the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco and discuss how to care for it properly in the home aquarium. 

Background, Anatomy, and Appearance 

A member of the Loricariidae family of nocturnal suckermouth catfishes, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco is classified as the species Ancistrus sp. As is true for many catfish in the Loricariidae family, however, it has not been officially described. Species like this are given an L-number as a placeholder until the species receives its official scientific name. Identified as L144, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco has a bright yellow body with blue eyes. 

The L144 pleco is the subject of some debate in the aquarium hobby. Some say the true L144 is only seen in the wild and, while it may have initially been involved in developing the color of captive-bred blue eye lemon bristlenose specimens, the fish common sold as L144 may actually a leucistic form of the common bristlenose pleco (Ancistrus cf. cirrhosus.). The term leucistic refers to a partial loss of pigmentation while albinism is a complete loss of pigmentation.

Regardless of its proper classification, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco is a stunning fish. This species grows up to 5 inches in length and develops bristle-like appendages on the facial region. Both males and females develop these appendages in sub-adulthood, though they tend to be longer and more pronounced in males. 

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Ideal Aquarium Setup

Like other plecos, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco will be most at-home in an established planted aquarium. Though generally peaceful and hardy by nature, these plecos are nocturnal, so they’ll need plenty of places to hide during the day. They don’t grow anywhere near as large as common plecos, but they can become territorial in adulthood, so it’s best to err on the side of a larger tank.

Tank Size 

Because they only grow up to 5 inches in length, blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos can be kept in tanks as small as 30 to 40 gallons. To avoid issues with territorial behavior, they’re best kept as the only pleco in the tank. If you do keep more than one together, a larger tank will be necessary to provide ample space for each to claim their own territory.

Something to be mindful of with juveniles of this species is that, while their size makes them compatible with smaller tanks, they tend to feed more heavily on algae early in life. A larger tank provides more surface area on which algae can grow. Rather than upgrading to a larger tank as your pleco grows, it may be best to start with a larger tank so your pleco has plenty of algae to feed on.

Water Parameters

As a South American loricariid, the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco prefers warm, soft, and slightly acidic water. The ideal temperature range for this species is 72°F to 86°F. Though adaptable to different pH values, the ideal range is 6.5 to 7.5 and the water should be kept fairly soft, between 6 and 10 dKH. 

Tank Décor

The most important thing to remember when setting up a tank for blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos is that they are nocturnal. These fish do best in heavily planted aquariums with plenty of rockwork and driftwood to provide daytime hiding places. They may eat algae off the leaves of hardier plants but generally don’t consume live plants or driftwood. 

Diet and Feeding

Like other Loricariidae catfish, the blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos is a scavenger. These fish will eat just about anything they can find in the tank. The ideal diet for this species is heavy on vegetable matter, consisting of vegetable flakes and pellets, sinking algae wafers, and blanched vegetables. Meaty foods can be offered sparingly. 

Though blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos may eagerly consume protein-heavy foods like bloodworms, too much protein in their diet can be unhealthy. A high-protein diet may also cause the fish to produce more waste which can negatively affect your tank parameters. 

Temperament and Tank Mates

The blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco is a peaceful species that generally gets along well with other fish. Adult males may become territorial with other males in the tank, but they generally don’t bother other fish. Most small to medium-sized community fish make good tank mates for these plecos. 

It may be best to avoid housing your blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco with very large, aggressive species. Though some plecos are appropriate for tanks housing large cichlids like Oscars, the blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos remains small enough that it may become prey.

Breeding Blue Eye Lemon Bristlenose Pleco

The species commonly sold as the blue eye lemon bristlenose pleco is generally easy to breed. It’s very difficult to differentiate between the sexes of juvenile specimens, but distinct characteristics appear in adulthood. Males have longer, more pronounced whisker-like appendages as well as prominent odontodes on the head and pectoral fins. Females are generally rounder in body shape. 

If you plan to breed your blue eye lemon bristlenose plecos, know that it may take up to 2 years for them to reach full maturity. You’ll need to condition the adults with a nutritious diet of live and frozen foods then isolate a pair in a breeding tank. Provide plenty of cave-like decorations for the female to lay her eggs in and for the male to defend. 

Ideal breeding conditions include well-oxygenated water and a pH under 6.5. Performing a large water change may help induce spawning behavior. Once the eggs are deposited, the male will chase the female away and defend the eggs, fanning them with his fins. The fry will subsist on their yolk sacs for a short period after hatching but can then be fed baby brine shrimp, microworms, crushed flakes, or algae pellets. 

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