name = "Ancistrus"

image_width = 250px
image_caption = A young male "Ancistrus", without fully-grown bristles.
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Siluriformes
familia = Loricariidae
subfamilia = Hypostominae
tribus = Ancistrini
genus = Ancistrus
genus_authority= Kner ,1854
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = See text.
synonyms =
* "Pristiancistrus" Fowler, 1945
* "Thysanocara" Regan, 1906
* "Xenocara" Regan, 1904

"Ancistrus" is a genus of freshwater fish in the family Loricariidae of order Siluriformes. Fishes of this genus are commonly known as the bushynose or bristlenose plecs.


The type species is "Ancistrus cirrhosus".FishBase genus|genus=Ancistrus|year=2007|month=May] This genus is the largest genus within the tribe Ancistrini.

The name ancistrus derives from the Greek 'agkistron' meaning hook - a reference to the form of the cheek odontodes. The genera "Pristiancistrus", "Thysanocara" and "Xenocara" are now synonyms of "Ancistrus".

Appearance and anatomy

"Ancistrus" species show all the typical features of the Loricariidae. This includes a body covered in bony plates and a ventral suckermouth. The feature most commonly associated with the genus are the fleshy tentacles found on the head in adult males; females may possess tentacles along the snout margin but they are smaller and they lack tentacles on the head.cite journal|url=|title=Spawning in "Ancistrus" (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) with comments on the evolution of snout tentacles as a novel reproductive strategy: larval mimicry|first=Mark H.|last=Sabaj|coauthors=Armbruster, Jonathan W.; Page, Lawrence M.|journal=Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwaters|volume=10|issue=3|pages=217–229|year=1999|format=PDF] "Tentacules", tentacles directly associated with odontodes, develop on the pectoral fin spine of the males of some species. Males also have evertable cheek odontodes which are less developed or absent in females. They also lack odontodes along the snout.cite web|url=|title=Ancistrus (Kner, 1854)|last=Armbruster|first=Jonathan W.] In comparison with a typical plec, a bristlenose is typically shorter (15 cm or less), more flattened and fatter with a comparatively wider head. Colouration is typically mottled brown, grey or black. Small white or yellow spots are common.

Distribution and habitat

The "Ancistrus" is one of the widest ranging genera of the family, and representatives are found throughout the range of Loricariidae. They are found throughout rivers and floodplain areas of the Amazon River in South America. There are also some species, "A. cryptophthalmus" and "A. formoso", that live in caves.cite journal|url=|journal=Environmental Biology of Fishes|volume=62|pages=195–200|year=2001|title=Habitat and population data of troglobitic armored cave catfish, "Ancistrus cryptophthalmus" Reis, 1987, from central Brazil (Siluriformes: Loricariidae)|first=Eleonora|last=Trajano|format=PDF|doi=10.1023/A:1011884829498]


The diet of this genus is typical for a Loricariid - algae and aufwuchs. Bristlenoses do not school but hide when not feeding, juveniles however are typically found in brightly lit shallows at the water margin making them susceptible to predation by birds.

"Ancistrus" species have the capability of obtaining oxygen through their modified stomach.cite journal|url=|title=Histological and ultrastructural study of the stomach of the air-breathing "Ancistrus multispinnis" (Siluriformes, Teleostei)|last=Satora|first=L.|pages=83–86|journal=Can. J. Zool.|volume=76|year=1998|format=PDF|doi=10.1139/cjz-76-1-83] This allows them to survive in conditions with low oxygen levels.

Breeding takes place in hollows, caves and mud holes in banks. Males may clean the inside of the cavity with their suckermouth before allowing the female to approach and inspect the nest. Courtship includes expanding the dorsal and caudal fins and attempts by the male to escort the female to the nest. While the female inspects the nest, the male keeps close contact. The female may lay 20-200 adhesive eggs, usually to the ceiling of the cavity.

The female plays no role in parental care; the male takes care of its young. Males will clean the eggs and the cavity with its fins and mouth. Males inspect eggs to remove diseased or infertile eggs, and aerates the clutch by fanning them with its pectoral and pelvic fins. During this time, a male usually will not leave the cavity to feed, or will leave only occasionally and quickly return. The eggs hatch in 4–10 days over a period of 2–6 hours; the male guards the eggs for 7–10 days after hatching. The fry remain in the cave, attaching to the walls and ceiling with their mouths, absorbing their yolk sac in 2–4 days and becoming free swimming.

Males of these species are competitive and territorial. Males display to each other by positioning themselves parallel to each other, head to tail, with dorsal and caudal fins erect and cheek odontode spines everted. If this escalates to combat, the males will circle each other and direct attacks at the head. If an intruding male manages to evict another male from the nest, it may cannibalize the other male's young.

A male bristlenose may guard several clutches of eggs simultaneously. Females prefer males that are already protecting eggs and may prefer males that are protecting larvae; it has been suggested that the tentacles may act as a fry mimic to attract females, which would allow males without eggs in their nest to compete with males guarding eggs. Several clutches in various states of development from eggs to free-swimming larvae can be found in one nest.

In the aquarium

These fish are often kept by aquarists as they are dutiful algae-eaters and smaller in adult size than the common plecos usually seen in petshops. They are hardy animals, tolerant to a wide range of water conditions, breeding easily in captivity, compatible with most other freshwater fish, and come in many beautiful colors and patterns.

Historically commonly available species of Ancistrus were "Ancistrus dolichopterus" and "Ancistrus temminckii", other species are now available though exact identification is difficult.

Size is up to 15 cm (male), 12 cm (female), recommended temperature 23-27 degrees Celsius, lifespan up to 12 years. Feeding is easy, bristlenoses will graze on algae and other surface growing organisms as well as eating algae wafers or tablets, flake food, squash, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, green beans and peas.

Sexing is very easy as the female will occasionally have bristles around the edge of the chin and the male will have them up the center of the head Breeding is also possible: Males attract female to small cave or hollow, then guard eggs after fertilization through hatching (4-8 days) until fry are free swimming (4-6 days after hatching), the aquarist need only supply a suitable cave, food, and one of each sex.Like other plecs benefit from the addition of bogwood, which they will rasp at and use as a hiding place - in the absence of other plant matter (sources of fibre) wood may be essential to the survival of these fish in the aquarium when fed on typical high protein fish food.cite web| title=An introduction to the bushy nose plecos of the genus Ancistrus| author= Shane Linder|| url=]

Caution should be taken with the spines (odontodes) - although the risk of personal injury is small with this genus the hooked nature of the odontodes means that a bristlenose may become trapped in non-natural material such as sponge filters and netting.


The genus "Ancistrus" includes at least 59 named species. Unnamed Loricarrids are typically identified by an L-number and may continue to be so identified (especially outside academic circles).

External links

* [] - Thumbnails of Ancistrus species
* [ ITIS Listing for Ancistrus]
* [,%20Plecoctomus,%20Bristlenose.htm How to Keep Bristlenose Plecostomids]
* [ Ancistrinae Internet Lecture by Ingo Seidel (translated from the German)] Detailed article on the tribe Ancistrini containing this genus with relevance to fishkeeping and breeding.

ee also

*List of freshwater aquarium fish species


See also

*List of freshwater aquarium fish species

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