Breeding Bristlenose catfish - Ancistrus species
Breeding Bristlenose catfish - Ancistrus species

Breeding Bristlenose catfish - Ancistrus species

This is one way of spawning Bristlenose catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus). Different breeders have their own favorite tips and tricks, and this method is only one of several successful ways of spawning Bristlenose catfish.


One of the easiest ways of getting a breeding pair is to purchase a group of small Bristlenose catfish and let them form their own pairs. You can for instance get 4-6, roughly 1 inch long, young ones and raise them in the same aquarium. It is virtually impossible to sex young Bristlenose catfish, but if you purchase at least four specimens you have a decent chance of getting at least one of each sex. As the Bristlenose catfishes grow older, it will be possible to distinguish their sex. The males will develop bristles around and on the snout. Bristlenose catfish is not an aggressive species and you can let them grow up with a wide range of other peaceful fish species.


Before spawning Bristlenose catfish, you may want to move them to a breeding aquarium to avoid eggs and fry from being eaten by adult fish. The breeding aquarium can be quite small; many breeders use 10-15 gallon aquariums. You should however keep in mind that it is harder to keep the water quality up in small aquariums. A sponge filter will be of great aid, ideally one with netting or marbles that will prevent fry from getting trapped. The breeding aquariums should be well decorated and included sheltered spots. You can for instance use driftwood. The Bristlenose catfish is known to appreciate short PVC tubes as spawning sites, and including such items is therefore a really good idea. An airstone is necessary to keep the oxygen levels high enough.

Bistelnose catfish ancistrus dolichopterus picture
Bistelnose catfish. Copyright

Water conditions

Keep the water temperature around 23-27 degrees Celsius when spawning Bristlenose catfish. The pH-value should be neutral or slightly acidic, from pH 6.5 to 7.0. The ideal water hardiness is 4-10 dGH. Regular water changes are important, especially after spawning.

Raring of young

When spawning has taken place, you will be able to see big clusters of yellow or orange eggs at the spawning site. The female can now be removed. The male will stay around the spawning site to fend of attackers and fan fresh water over the eggs. You can see him use his ventral and pectoral fins to constantly provide the offspring with fresh and well oxygenated water. The eggs hatch after roughly five days. You now that hatching is imminent when you see the eggs darken somewhat.

Bristlenose catfish fry
Bristlenose fry - Picture by mitcore

When the eggs have hatched, the larvae will stay near the breeding site and the male will continue to watch over them. The male will even push them back to the breeding site if they try to escape. As you can see, the male should not be removed from the aquarium when spawning Bristlenose catfish; he is really important. Wait until the fry is free swimming before you remove him and place him with the females in the large aquarium.

Frequent water changes are really important when rearing fry, because they are sensitive to organic waste. If you use a siphon, at least a few fry will normally get sucked up even if you are careful. It is therefore a good idea to drain the water through a net that will catch the fry. Bristlenose fry normally survive getting sucked into a siphon as long as you do not injure them when you try to put them back in the aquarium.


During the first few days after hatching, the fry will live off their yolk sac and there is no need to feed them until the yolk sacs have been fully consumed. When the yolk sacs have been consumed, a blanched lettuce leaf is a suitable first food. As the fry grows larger, you can start giving them newly hatched brine shrimp and then gradually increase the size of the brine shrimp. They will also eat algae wafers.

Fry development

The fry is pale to begin with, but will gradually darken in color. When they are around two weeks old, they will be completely brown. By this time, they will be around ½ inch long and look like miniature copies of their parents.

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