Rubber Lip Pleco: Care Guide, Breeding, Tank Mates, Disease

Rubber Lip Pleco is a species of freshwater fish that are the most peaceful, bottom-dwelling algae-eaters. They may look fierce, with their raspy mouths, pointy fins, and armor-like plates, but in fact, they are the opposite of that! They make for the best addition to a planted freshwater tank. They will thrive among other communities, minding their own business.

Rubber Lip Pleco is also known by other common names such as ‘Rubber Lipped Plecostomus,’ ‘Striped Pleco’, ‘Spotted Rubbernose Pleco’, or ‘Blonde Bulldog Pleco’. The fish belongs to the Chaetostoma genus, which is a part of the most prominent catfish family of suckermouth armored catfishes.

There can often be confusion between Rubber Lip Pleco and its relative, the ‘Rubber Pleco’ (Parancistrus aurantiacus). Even though aey may look alike at first glance, they have many differences in size and coloration, amongst others.

There are not enough resources available about the Rubber Lip Pleco, and so aquarists often prefer its other relative, the ‘Bristlenose Pleco.’ This guide will give you all the information you could want or need for our much ignored, well-deserving Rubber Lip Pleco fish.

Information ChartRubber Lip Pleco
Scientific Name:Chaetostoma milesi 
Care Level:Easy
Color:varies from grey to pale yellow
Lifespan:10 to 12 years
Size:5 to 7 inches
Minimum Tank Size:25 gallons
Temperature:72 to 78 degrees F
WaterConditions:pH 6.5 to 8
Tank Mate CompatibilityPeaceful Coexistence 

Rubber Lip Pleco: A Quick Overview

Rubber lip plecos, also known as rubber nose plecos, are a type of fish native to South America. They are named for their distinctive, fleshy lips and are popular in the aquarium trade for their algae-eating abilities and relatively peaceful nature. They are a hardy species and can be a good choice for beginner aquarists.

Rubber Lip Pleco Appearance

Rubber Lip Pleco Appearance
Source: Wikimedia

As the name suggests, there is a reason they are called ‘pleco.’ They have what is ‘a classic pleco’ look. This look is also part of the reason why they are often confused with other species. 

The shape of their body is pretty much the exact shape of Pleco. Their mouth is a large sucking hole, with a little snout that bends upwards to the top of their head. 

Near their eyes, their body begins to taper to the base of their fin. Their eyes are at the top of their head and above the rest of their body. This helps them to spot predators while they scavenge at the bottom. 

They are always eating something. For them, keeping an eye on what is happening above them is pretty important!

The dorsal fins of the Rubber Pleco begin a third of the way on the back of their body and fan out. Depending on the water or their movement, the fin might stick out or stay very close to their body. The same goes for the caudal fin as well. Their pectoral fins are not very useful unless they are swimming about. At other times, their pectoral fins stay by their side.

As far as their colors go, they fall under the spectrum of grey to yellowish-brown. They vary depending on several things, such as their age, sex, and tank conditions.

They have a pattern of markings that cover their bodies. The marks start near the pectoral fin and bunch together towards the back. They also have small dots on their bodies, especially faces. 

Unlike some other fish, the Rubber Lip Pleco does not change its colors as they grow up.

The Lifespan of Rubber Lip Pleco

The typical lifespan of a Rubber Lip Pleco is 10 to 12 years. A Rubber Lip Pleco can live for a very long time. This changes according to the tank conditions and if they have a healthy diet. If they experience stress, or if they live with a wrong tank mate, have inadequate space, etc., they tend to live for a lesser time.

Rubber Lip Pleco Size

The typical Rubber Lip Pleco grows up to 6.5 to 7 inches long. Unlike some other plecos, they are not very big, and their size may depend on the diet, genetics, etc.  

Natural Habitat and Origin

The Rubber Lip Pleco, scientifically named Chaetostoma Milesi, is a freshwater fish native to the southern part of America. You can find them in the wild in the Magdalena River in Columbia and the Apure River in Venezuela, along with some streams and tributaries that lead to these rivers.

During the monsoon, these rivers undergo a complete change in factors like temperature, water levels, etc. 

So you can prove that Rubber Lip Plecos are pretty hardy as they can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. 

They are bottom-dweller fish, and in the wild, they eat mostly algae from rocks, wood, and plants. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Care and Tank Set-up

Tank Size and Specifications

Rubber Lip Pleco: Complete Guide
Source: Ictiologia

Optimum Tank Size for Rubber Lip Pleco

The recommended tank size for Rubber Lip Pleco is 25 to 30 gallons with dimensions of 48.25 x 12.75 inches. Rubber Lip Pleco is quite a durable and hardy species, but they need enough space as they do not enjoy living in cramped places. They easily live and thrive in a tank that is about 30 gallons. If the tank is smaller than the recommended size, it can lead to the fish be prettying stressed due to the lack of room. In a 30 gallon tank, only one Rubber Lip Pleco can be housed. With every extra Rubber Lip Pleco fish that is added to the tank, the tank size should increase by an extra 30 gallons. However, if your Rubber Lip Pleco is a fully grown 7-inch specimen, then consider relocating to a 75 to 100-gallon tank!

Tank Shape for Rubber Lip Pleco

Bigger tanks are suitable for Rubber Lip Pleco, but any tank that is the size of 30 or more gallons should be fine. The Long tank version would be the most suitable.

Filter Type

Rubber Lip Pleco is a freshwater fish species, and so they are very particular about living in clean water conditions. Their tank water should be filtered by a good Hang on Back (HOB) or a canister filter. There also needs to be an air pump and a bubbling device to make the tank more comfortable.


Since the Rubber Lip Pleco is a bottom-dwelling fish, an aquarist might need to replicate the environment of the tributaries that it is native to, to make the Rubber Lip Pleco feel at home by using a soft sand substrate mixed with small, smooth pebbles. This is because the Rubber Lip Pleco is bottom-dwelling fish, a rough or graveling substrate can scrape their bellies or fins.

How Many Rubber Lip Pleco can fit in a 30 Gallon Tank?

Only one Rubber Lip Pleco can live comfortably in a 30-gallon tank. However, the Rubber Lip Pleco is a moderately large fish as well, so a larger tank size is always preferred. Overcrowding will lead to stress among the school, which is something that must be considered when increasing the school size.

Water Parameters

Rubber Lip Plecos need well-aerated water and perfect pH conditions to thrive. Additionally, keeping the water clean is a big responsibility when caring for the pleco, and it should not be missed.

Water Temperatures

The ideal temperature for Rubber Lip Pleco is between 70 to 79 degrees F. As the Rubber Lip Pleco is a freshwater fish, the temperature should not go below the above-mentioned degree as it will cause discomfort to the fish. If the tank is in a cold room, a heater should be used to warm the water sufficiently. 

Water Flow Rate

Even though the Rubber Lip Pleco are easy to care for, they will fall sick if the water quality is poor, or if the water movement is too slow or too fast. They prefer a medium to high water movement, which is best for them to thrive.

pH Level

The perfect pH level for Rubber Lip Pleco should be between 6.5 to 8.0. Since the natural environment of Rubber Lip Pleco is warm, the pH level mustn’t fluctuate, as they are quite sensitive to these fluctuations.

Water Hardness

The appropriate water hardness for Rubber Lip Pleco is 10 to 15 dGH. The Rubber Lip Pleco is a species that cannot tolerate a lot of chlorine. If you are using tap water, then a de-chlorinating device is required to keep the water conditions ideal.

Tank Landscape

To create the safety net for any creature to feel at home, the best that an aquarist can hope for is to recreate the natural environment of the species. For Rubber Lip Pleco, that environment is river water with dense vegetation at the bottom and plenty of places to hide.

Best Plants for Rubber Lip Pleco Tanks

Plants are of vital importance to Rubber Lip Pleco to provide hiding spots and to recreate the dense vegetation of the rivers. Rubber Lip Plecos will not harm plants as they are majorly algae-eaters, so if there is algae growth on your plants or decorations, plecos will make sure they’re gone! They will also need vast, open stretches of water to swim and move around in, so the placement of the plants is also crucial. All floating aquarium plants such as Hornwort, Java Moss, Red Root Floater, Duckweed, Amazon Frogbit, Cabomba, Dwarf Water Lettuce, Water Wisteria, Anacharis would do well in the tank!

Worst Plants for Rubber Lip Pleco Tanks

Any plants that do not have small leaves, or spawning, or spindly mops should not be considered for a Rubber Lip Pleco tank, as they leave no space for the movement of the fish.

Decorations for Rubber Lip Pleco Tanks

Mixing these plants with other items for decor such as driftwood, leaf litter or pieces of rock is a great addition to any tank. Adding items like a small plant or a colorful rock keep the fish engaged, as they love playing hide and seek around these massive structures.

Lighting for Rubber Lip Pleco Tanks

Rubber Lip Pleco needs very little lighting to thrive. As Rubber Lip Pleco is a nocturnal fish, an aquarist can try, if possible, to plant many shaded areas where the pleco can rest during the daylight hours. 

Feeding Rubber Lip Pleco

Best Diet for Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber Lip Plecos almost exclusively eat algae grown on the grass, glass, tank decorations, etc. There are no exceptions or varieties of algae that these fish would not eat, except hard algae that adhere to the aquarium glass. However, sometimes the fish may lose interest in the naturally grown algae and may prefer to eat other food items. In this case, to offer a nutritious and healthy diet to the Rubber Lip Pleco, you may offer things like fresh zucchini, spinach, algae wafers, peas, high-quality fish flakes, spirulina, cucumber, and many other varieties of nutrients too! 

Another reason for not solely relying on naturally grown algae is that in an aquarium, it becomes almost impossible to allow the growth of the algae without disturbing the quality of the water that these fish are surrounded by. 

Adding to that, feeding on naturally growing algae affects their behavior as in captivity, the Rubber Lip Pleco gorges on algae and will be totally fine with the food that you give however this pushes down their need to scavenge as aggressively as they would and should!

How Often Should You Feed Rubber Lip Pleco?

The best rule to follow is to feed the Rubber Lip Pleco for six days and keep them on a fast on the seventh day. An important point to note while feeding the Rubber Lip Pleco is to make sure not to overfeed them especially when you’re a new owner of this fish. Feeding them twice a day and not feeding them excessively, or more than they can eat in a couple of minutes is the way to go. At the same time be meticulous about any uneaten food particles that might fall to the substrate as well!

Rubber Lip Pleco Behaviour and Temperament

Is Rubber Lip Pleco societal or lone?

Rubber Lip Pleco is usually a peaceful fish. They are quite sociable and will thrive in a larger fish community tank. However, they will do exceptionally well if they are placed with other small, speedy fish who stay away from the substrate! They are not aggressive, but if they encounter overly aggressive tank mates that will not be appreciated and will lead to fights. For a peaceful tank environment, it is advised to not place other plecos with them. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates

Ideal Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates

A Rubber Lip Pleco is very peaceful in general and should be kept with a large community tank. They will prefer living with other community fish the best! They will get along with other tank mates such as:

Bad Tank Mates for Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber Lip Pleco might clash with the other pleco tank mates, as well as some aggressive fish. These should be avoided:

  • Other plecos
  • Other catfish

Breeding Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber Lip Plecos are extremely hard to breed. So far, there haven’t been many instances where they have been able to breed in captivity. All Rubber Lip Plecos that are available in the market are caught in the wild. 

Home aquariums are not suitable for the fish to breed in, as they will only be able to breed in an aquarium more significant than 300 gallons, making it impossible to breed in home settings. Even then, the ideal conditions to breed them at home are never usually met, making this a failed endeavor.

Rubber Lip Pleco Breeding Level – Very Difficult. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Sexual Dimorphism?

To distinguish between male and female Rubber Lip Pleco, we must notice the difference in their size. Male plecos are larger than females. Male Rubber Lip Plecos have a giant head, pectoral fins, and a slimmer abdomen than their female counterparts.

Rubber Lip Pleco Common Diseases and their Treatment

Plecos, in general, do not suffer from any particular kind of sickness, and the Rubber Lip Pleco is usually a very healthy and jovial species. If you keep up on your water changes and tank maintenance, you will cut down the chances of any issues popping up. In case you have an eruption of ich, a bacterial or viral infection in your tank, your pleco could catch it.

  • Water salinity

All scaleless fish are highly sensitive to the salinity levels in their water, so an aquarist must be careful in using aquarium salt.

  • Copper medication

Medications containing copper can prove fatal to the Rubber Lip Pleco, so avoid using them or remove your pleco to a different tank while treating other fish with any medication.

Some signs that your Rubber Lip Pleco is ill can be the appearance of white spots, damaged fins, a lack of appetite, or even slow, tired movements.

One can avoid most diseases through care and hygiene, but it is essential to remember that adding any alien object, new fish species, or anything added to the tank will bring illness. Items like decor, plants, etc., can also harbor bacteria. Since Rubber Lip Pleco are pretty resilient, any outbreak can be limited to a couple of fish if treated in time. The best way to proactively avoid diseases is to give the fish a well-balanced diet and keep up the tank upkeep.

Facts About Rubber Lip Pleco

  • Rubber Lip Pleco populations are found mainly in the wild in the Magdalena River in Columbia and the Apure River in Venezuela.
  • They have many other common names such as ‘Rubber Lipped Plecostomus’, ‘Striped Pleco’, ‘Spotted Rubbernose Pleco’, or ‘Blonde Bulldog Pleco’.
  • Rubber Lip Pleco usually is falsely marketed as Rubber Plecos and other Pleco species.
  • These colors naturally vary according to different factors, such as the health of the fish.
  • Rubber Lip Pleco is a species that is almost impossible to breed in home aquariums and is widely caught.

Is Rubber Lip Pleco Right for You?

Author’s note: A Rubber Lip Pleco is suitable for everyone as they are mainly peaceful and make for a friendly community fish. If you are looking for a unique and easy to care for fish that isn’t very known or popular yet, this could be a suitable species for you. Besides, Rubber Nose Plecos are pretty enjoyable to watch, no matter what they are doing.


Do Rubber Lip Plecos need driftwood?

Driftwood can be called Rubber Lip Pleco’s best friends as they really enjoy relaxing and clinging themselves to the driftwood to feed on its algae.

Are Rubber Lip Pleco good Algae Eaters?

Rubber Lip Pleco are excellent algae eaters. In fact, all the species of Pleco are good algae eaters.

Can Rubber Lip Pleco live with goldfish?

Rubber Lip Pleco usually stays at the bottom of the tank; however, a goldfish can freely move in all parts of the tank. This avoids conflict between the two and allows them to live together without any hassles.

How can you tell the sex of a Rubber Lip Pleco?

The female Rubber Lip Plecos have a more rounded body, and males are typically more slender.

Does a Rubber Lip Pleco have teeth?

Despite being algae suckers, these Plecos do not have teeth.


Due to their amazingly long life expectancy of up to a whopping 15 years, the most important thing that an aquarist needs to think about before getting a Rubber Lip Pleco is how serious one is about their fishkeeping hobby. Rubber Lip Plecos are great for those people who have kept aquariums for many years or are somewhat experienced with the activity. Rubber Lip Pleco are hardy, very peaceful, and have fun personalities making them the perfect choice for aquarists looking for a unique specimen. If you are an experienced aquarist, you can also train your Pleco to come out of its hiding spot to accept treats! They are highly underrated and quite rare – which is precisely why you should give them a try!

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