If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission but at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Rubber Lipped Pleco: Everything You Need To Know

Congratulations! You are now in possession of one of the rarest fish known to aquarists. The Rubber lip pleco! When cared for properly, these plecos make for awesome pets and are fun to observe. Rubber lip plecos are fairly low-maintenance creatures, so there’s no need to exhaust yourself or your budget in providing for your newfound freshwater friends.

Just sit back, relax and take in all you need to know to make the most out of this exciting new experience!

Rubber-lipped plecos are a species of bottom feeders whose habits and behaviors remain mostly elusive to researchers. The word “Pleco’ is short for Plecostomus, a collective group (genus) of catfish. There are over 1,000 species of suckermouth armored catfishes, with new species still being discovered and reclassified month by month.

All Plecos fall under the family name of Loricariidae (Lori-Kari-day) meaning Armoured catfish, and the majority are found in South America. These fish are noted for the bony plates covering their bodies and their suckermouths. Species occur in swift-flowing streams from the lowlands up to 3.000 m (9.800 ft) in elevation.

They can also be found in a variety of other freshwater environments. They can be found in torrential mountain rivers, quiet brackish estuaries, black acidic waters, and even in subterranean habitats.

When it comes to Rubber-lipped plecos specifically, what scant information we do possess on these fish, is enough to put together a comprehensive list of the ins and outs of nurturing your pleco. With proper cultivation from a compassionate, responsible, level­headed owner, your fish will thrive in their new habitats.

Species Summary

Also known by the name Chaetostoma miles, Rubber lip plecos tend to thrive in the shallow, non-saline waters of South America- specifically in the Magdalena River of Columbia and the Apure River in Venezuela. These rivers are cold ones, and the temperature of the water drops consecutively, this is why the fish is also known as cold water pleco.

You can also find a couple of Rubber-lipped pleco hanging around the small streams and rivers that link with the bigger rivers. In Captivity, these plecos can live up to over a decade if they’re well taken care of. Rubber Lipped Plecos are said to be an easygoing, adaptable, and peaceful species who are capable of being amicable with their tankmates.

Rubber lip plecos are typically brownish grey in color with a spotted pattern and are fairly small, they also prefer to munch on algae as a food source. Rubber lip plecos are also known by other common names, including Striped, Blonde, or Bulldog pleco.

They have developed enlarged gills that are thought to have evolved to enable the fish to breathe while they are feeding or attached to rocks and driftwood in their habitat. Rubber lip plecos are popular additions to many home aquariums because they are algae eaters, helping to keep the tank surfaces clean.

Like other species of fish, they are prone to stress in environments that do not properly meet their dietary, habitat, or social needs and will experience a drop in their quality of life if left unchecked.


On average, these fish can live up to 10-12 years. Too much stress in their environment can shorten their lifespan, so providing Rubber-lipped plecos with a comfortable habitat feeding regime, and maintenance routines are all crucial for longevity.

Rubber Lip Pleco Appearance


A Rubber-lipped pleco has the regular “pleco” look just like other species of pleco. Sometimes this similarity has even made some breeders and owners confuse them with other species of pleco.

Pale gold, grey, and brownish scales are common for Rubber lip plecos. Less common variations of the pleco have been known to include deep olive green and pale dusky yellow. They will usually be adorned with black spots, but have also been seen with patterns of dark brown and even golden yellow spots covering their body. A fish’s sex and age can influence its coloring.

The dots have a tendency to turn into and mesh with a striped pattern that can also be found running lengthwise along the fish’s back. Their mouths protrude downward slightly in a puckered fashion, while the pleco’s beady, black eyes are situated closer near the top of its wide set head.

As they spend much of their time near or at the bottom of the seafloor, their eyes being so close to the tops of their heads is actually an adaptation that allows rubber plecos to be on the lookout for any potential predators that might come their way.

Their dorsal fins fan out near the upper portion of their backsides, much like a sail would on a boat. When not in motion, the dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins tend to be slicked down- giving the appearance of being smaller or useless.

Rubber Lipped plecos have a prominent dorsal fin with 8 dorsal rays (spines) that lie flat against their back when they are still but stand up like a sail when they are swimming. Their pectoral fins are short and held close to their bodies when swimming, and they use them to navigate along river bottoms and even prop themselves up on their pectoral fins while resting.

The Rubber Lipped pleco is often confused with the Rubber pleco, Parancistrus aurantiacus, and it’s not uncommon for the two species to be advertised incorrectly by fish stores. Some of the most prominent differences between the two similar species are their maximum growth potential and coloration.

Rubber plecos possess criss-cross patterns of stripes over their bodies and are usually bigger than Rubber-lipped plecos. Rubber plecos also usually change color from gray to a goldish color when growing while Rubber lipped plecos do not experience a change in coloration upon reaching full maturity.

Rubber Lip Pleco Size
Rubber Lip Pleco Size


Varying somewhat in size. Rubber-lipped plecos are usually between 5- 7 inches in length. Juvenile fish usually only measure between 3-4 inches in length.

Rubber Lip Pleco Care

Rubber lip plecos do best in highly oxygenated waters (fine sand substrate with smooth, large pebbles is ideal) that are spacious and slightly warm (kept between 70-80 ). Since plecos are bottom-feeding scavengers, they do best with a substrate that won’t cause injury to their abdomens, medium to high water flow is also ideal as it mimics the conditions in their natural habitats.

Plants, pieces of rocks, and other hard surfaces such as driftwood can all be added to your tank to make your fish feel more at home. In their natural habitat, Plecos are used to high-density vegetation that provides them with spots to hide and explore, and at the same time oxygenate the water more.

Weekly water changes for your tank are recommended to keep your critters in a healthy condition. Keeping their water filtered is also crucial for the cleanliness, so using a canister filter can get the job done. Since plecos spend most of their time at the bottom of your tank, they are sensitive to Dead Zones and areas of stagnation.

Using a bubbler or air stone can also help keep the water’s oxygen levels high, and your RL will likely enjoy playing in the bubbles too. Rubber-lipped plecos have a tendency to avoid bright glaring lights, so keeping your aquarium dimmed can help coax them out of their hiding spots.

The rocks, driftwood, and caves you provide in your aquarium will most likely be utilized as hiding spots for your fish, as they are drawn to these crevices in nature as well. These plecos are considered to be omnivorous but lean more heavily towards a herbivore-based consumption pattern.

Although algae are one of their more preferred foods, it is very important that you give your Rubber­lipped pleco a varied diet.

Rubber Lip Pleco Tank
Rubber Lip Pleco Tank

Tank Size

Despite their small size and stature, it is imperative to make sure your Rubber lip plecos have ample space to move around in their aquariums. The recommended tank size for one Rubber lip pleco is going to be 25-30 gallons of water in an aquarium. For juvenile plecos, a 15-gallon tank is a minimum required for their comfort.

If you are planning on keeping two Rubber lip plecos in your aquarium, make sure you place them in a tank with no less than 55 gallons of water, ideally as much as 70 gallons would suffice for two plecos. It is also worth noting that it’s more suitable if you keep them in a tank that is longer than its height.

This gives them more surface area at the base to scavenge for food and explore all the nooks and crannies of the tank. Fish that are crammed into small aquariums rarely reach their maximum lifespan.

Water Parameters

Rubber Lip Plecos are partial towards water temperatures that range from 71 to 78 F (21.5 to 25.5 C), a water pH range of 6.5 to 8 a water hardness of 8 to 12 KH, and a general hardness of 10 to 15. Perform frequent water tests and monitor those parameters using good quality test kits to ensure the best care for your fishy friends.

Rubber Lip Possible Disease
Rubber Lip Pleco Possible Disease

Potential Diseases

The Rubber lip pleco doesn’t have a disease that attacks the species specifically, however, it is still advisable to look out for issues like bacterial infections. They can also be afflicted with a condition known as Ich, which is easily recognized by the presence of white spots appearing on the fish’s body. Like most diseases, it’s more easily cured at an early stage.

All scaleless fish are sensitive to the salinity levels in their water, so you should be very cautious in using aquarium salt to treat diseases in a tank with a pleco. Medications that contain copper can be lethal to Rubber lip plecos as well, so avoid using them or remove your pleco to a safe tank while treating your other fish.

Observe your fish for a little bit of time each day and look for anything out of the ordinary on their body or in their behavior. You should be familiar with the rhythm of your fish activity after some time. If you notice a drastic change in that it could be an indicator that something is wrong.

Other disease indicators include lack of appetite, damaged fins, erratic swimming, and unsettled behaviors, swimming upside down for extended periods of time, and so on.

Rubber Lip Pleco Diet & Food

Algae is a favorite food source for these fish. In the wild, Rubber lip pleco diets consist almost entirely of algae although it is highly recommended you feed them a plethora of other safe foods that will keep them healthy and satisfied. It’s almost impossible to replicate their ideal algae food source in large amounts in your home aquarium.

This is primarily due to the high likelihood of their water’s chemistry being damaged significantly in the process of cultivation. Other plant-based nutrients such as fresh zucchini, spinach, romaine lettuce, spirulina, peas, cucumber, seaweed, algae sheets, and algae wafers are all excellent additions to your pleco’s diet

These fish have relatively long intestines due to their usually herbivorous or detritivorous diets. Although they are primarily herbivorous fish, they have been known to be partial to certain non-plant-based foods like freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex worm, or brine shrimp. High-quality flake food can also be an option at times.

It’s important to note that they don’t generally consume green, blue, brown, and black algae. Feed your rubber plecos 6 out of 7 days of the week and let them fast one day, especially if you have other fish in the aquarium.

Behavior & Temperament

Rubber lips tend to be shy and enjoy hiding as they feed amid your plants and decor during the day. but may become more active at later times. When they’re out in the open they’ll usually be using their sucker mouth to latch onto a surface they’re interested in.

Mellow by nature, rubber lip plecos are generally considered to be one of the most peaceful freshwater bottom-dwelling fish out there. They are nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the nighttime and idle during the daytime.

Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates
Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates


Rubber lip plecos are typically peaceful with other species they encounter, but can sometimes be territorial towards their fellow plecos. Small fish and fry can be viewed as dinner, and so keeping these Rubber lip plecos with mid-swimming fast fish such as larger Tetras (Neon, Green Neon, and Ember tetras specifically) are usually better, safer choices.

When picking a tank mate, it’s important to keep in mind factors such as temperament and activity level. Never pair these fish with an aggressive species, as they’re so mellowed out they will be a lot less likely to defend themselves against any potential attackers.

Minimizing the chance for territorial conflict on either end is yet another reason why it is critical in providing more than enough room for your rubber lip pleco and its tank mates in your aquarium environment. It’s also a good idea to combine them with species that occupy a different section of the tank.

As mentioned before, they are bottom dwellers and so combining them with either middle or top dwellers is an effective way to ensure each fish won’t be crossing into the other’s territory. Some examples of compatible tank mates would include other kinds of catfish like the Cory catfish, or Gourami fish.


To date, no instances of Chaetostoma milesi mating successfully in captivity have been observed, therefore no reliable information is currently available. It’s of interest to note however, those wild Rubber-lipped plecos will usually lay their eggs in shallow, fast-flowing water underneath a flat object.

The male will guard the eggs by shielding them with his body. As far as sexual dimorphism is concerned, the males have however a larger and broader head, slimmer ventral sides, and disproportionately large pelvic fins in comparison to the females of the species. Some research suggests that the oversized pelvic fins of the male play a large role in the fertilization of the eggs.

The females typically have a more rounded body and her abdomen looks longer and rounder compared to the rest of her. The best way is to view both fishes from above and observe the shapes of their body.

The rubber lip pleco is a mellow, hardy, and easy to care
The rubber lip pleco is a mellow, hardy, and easy to care

To recap, the rubber lip pleco is a mellow, hardy, and easy to care for fish that will make the best of pets if they receive a high standard of care. They require ample space and get along best with fish who share their relaxed temperament and disposition. To stay healthy, they must consume a varied, mixed diet of greens beyond their algae.

A constant stream of warm, clean water with a good, fast flow and sparse lighting is ideal for these bottom feeders. If you’ve got one of each sex, don’t expect any breeding to occur as it is an incredibly difficult phenomenon to induce in captivity.

Make sure you research thoroughly all the information you must know before purchasing a pleco. And if you have any lingering questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Now get out there and be the best pet owner you can be!

About Rencel Leyran