Get the rubber-lipped pleco if you need a small-sized scavenger to clean up your fish tank.

The rubber lip pleco is among the 150-family species of catfish that come from the fresh waters of South America, and like other plecos, they do not have to display scales over the body surface.

Also known as rubber nose plecos, they are a bit unpopular due to the similar members of the group (Bristlenose pleco, clown pleco, and common pleco), which are simultaneously confused with each other.

This rubber lip fish presents a unique skill: clearing the tank by removing the algae formation, as it is the leading food choice of this fish. And what’s more interesting is that it is a low-cost maintenance fish.

Let us find some unique features of this pleco in the article below.

Species Synopsis

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Term Chaetostoma Milesi
Alternative Names Rubber Lip Pleco, Rubbernose Pleco, Bulldog Pleco
Family Suckermouth Armoured Catfishes
Origin South America
Lifespan 10-12 years
Size 5-7 inches
Category Freshwater Fish

Origin & Habitat

The Rubber Lipped Plecos are typically found in the Northern region of South America. They mainly dwell in the Magdalena and Cauca River basin flowing through Venezuela and Columbia.

These freshwater fishes prefer to dwell in slow-moving fresh waters of the rivers mentioned earlier and even at times in their tributaries.

Rubber lip plecos are usually found in the shallow areas of the water, staying on the river bed to eat and survive from the predators while hiding in the rocks and plants.

They have a high survival rate as these plecos can live calmly in low rainfalls or bit high temperatures in the river.

Rubber lip plecos fish origin & habitat
Image Credit: Map data ©2022 Google.INGI

How Big do They Get?

Plecos, in general, obtain an average length of 12 to 15 inches; however, the rubber lip is not even close to the size of other family catfishes.

The rubber lip fish is a medium-sized pleco and can grow up to a maximum size of 7 inches, although the average length is 5 inches.

This being an ideal size for aquarium fish, the experts advise rubber lip for petting in fish tanks kept at home or office.

Author Note: The rubber lipped is recommended over the other similar species primarily because it is comparatively easy to care for, making it a great fit for home fish tanks.

Shades & Appearances

The rubber-lipped pleco is usually greyish with small dark brown dots over the face and sometimes towards the body. And unlike other fishes, they have rigid bony plates over the skin.

The fish looks relatively small in size as it has a sleek wedged head with a body narrowing towards the caudal fins.

The dorsal fins are connected with eight spines erected in a slanting position while the fish is swimming. They are observed resting on their pectoral fins at the bottom of the river.

Its large suckermouth trunks out towards the top like an upward slant, while eyes tilting over the head helps guard themselves against enemies.

Rubber Lipped Pleco Care and Breeding Guide
Image Credit : Sean W.

The Lifespan of a Rubber Lip Fish

The Rubber Lip has an average life expectancy of 10 -12 years life cycle.

But even though the fish does not require much care, it is seen that in some cases reported by first- & second-hand breeders, the fish, dies earlier than expected.

This happens in extreme situations due to the negligence of hygiene, foods, water parameters, regular health check, and other maintenance of the rubber lip pleco fish. It gets anxious in unfavorable conditions, resulting in illness followed by death.

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Gender Identification

Petting a rubber lip pleco for purposes such as cleaning up is easy, but if you are a breeder and need to identify the gender of two fishes in your tank, you need a lot of patience with experience.

This fish rarely shows signs of gender difference over the body on regular days. But the pleco experts have researched and analyzed a lot of data to develop this gendering formula.

The only way to differentiate the fish based on gender is to look up the fish tank vertically and analyze the body.

If the abdomen has a slight bulge with a round body, your rubber lip is a female, while male fishes are comparatively thinner.

Availability with Price

These fishes are readily available in most places, and people buy them because they look dynamic and, at the same time, clean up the aquarium.

It is not very expensive, and depending upon where it is purchased; the rubber lipped are small cute fishes with lesser care and maintenance required. Therefore, they are transportable without any hustle in multiple regions worldwide for sale.

The average cost may range between $10 to $15, with a bit of variation.

Rubber Lipped Pleco Care Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Easy
Socializing Prefers to stay alone
Temperament Calm
Food Habit Mostly Herbivore (but at times eats meat)
Breeding Process Spawns beneath the rocks

Suitable Food for Them

The rubber nose pleco is an herbivore in nature and eats almost any vegetation provided.

They prefer seaweed, which magnificently grows in the substrates of water bodies, while it can be produced artificially over aquarium surface grass, walls, and other items.

The fish works perfectly in cleaning unwanted growth in the tanks while habitually scavenging. But growing a lot of these is challenging as well as it also contaminates the water. And either way, you cannot always keep the fish dependent on natural food.

Pro tip: Do not feed too much with foods other than algae; they start avoiding their naturally preferred diet or cleaning skills.

So along with naturally grown food for rubber lip pleco, you can also feed them with nutritious green vegetables. And although being herbivores, the rubber-lipped pleco can also consume meat food.

Here is a list of some preferred foods to feed rubber lip, suggested by pleco experts.

  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Spirulina
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Green Leaf Vegetables
  • Cucumbers
  • Seaweed
  • Algae Wafers
  • Fish Flakes

Adaptability Behavior

Rubber lipped pleco is one of the fishes that readily accept the aquarium boundaries after the open waters.

There are rare situations when it reacts aggressively, but otherwise, this is a peace-loving creature. It never seems to have grudges with other fishes and moves around only to prey on the seaweed.

It mostly prefers to stay beneath a stone or covering, which makes it pretend to be hiding in a cave.

Pro Tip: Being territorial, if rubber lip are to stay with similar species in a tank, they all may start showing aggression for food or behaving like the place leader.

Breeding Them

It is yet to research how these rubber lip fishes reproduce because most of their activities are hidden.

Before beginning the spawning process, you need to figure out the male and female from the group and separate them in a different tank.

There are negligible chances of these plecos to breed in artificial water bodies. If they are not willing to mate at any moment, then you can not force them in any way except creating favorable conditions.

The rubber lip spawns in cold oxygenated water, with flat rocks on the surface and a circular cave-like structure to move around. So you can arrange it too. A water blowing system may also help as they like a high current.

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With all the arrangements in the tank, you can leave the fish undisturbed for 2 to 3 hours.

Once the spawning finishes, you will see eggs floating in the water separated from the tank before the parent fishes eat them.

Common Diseases Found

The rubbernose plecos are robust as they do not easily get affected by common diseases seen in most tank fishes.

They usually catch the ich, a parasitic disease that spreads contagiously. Hence there are also chances of getting ill through other transmissible bacterial infections.

To protect them from catching an infection, you can primarily maintain the water parameters with proper filtration required.

Reasons for Getting Sick

Another aspect that affects the good health of the fish is the foods that it intakes. Make sure to provide nutritious and hygienically prepared items.

Keep examining the movements and skin coloration of the fish, which gives good signs of health conditions. If you find any issues, do not ignore them as the diseases are easily curable, provided it receives proper care.

Tank Recommendations

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 25+ Gallons per fish
Water Temperature 22 to 26 degrees Celsius
Water Hardness 9 to 12 dKH
Water Ph Level 6.5 to 8

Minimum Tank Size Required

Although small in size, these rubber lip plecos need a minimum of 25 Gallons water tank to live a comfortable life alone. But if you are planning more than one of these species in a single tank, then the tank size should increase above 50 Gallons.

A smaller tank is not recommended since it increases the stress level of the fish, which affects the routine activities along with timely growth.

The rubber lipped pleco usually likes to graze at the bottom or hide under the rocks, so make sure to provide enough space in the tank where it gets these multiple choices.

Tank Setup

It is easier to install a fish tank explicitly focusing on the rubbernose pleco. These are shy, low demanding, and quickly confirm the space provided; of course, it should fulfill the basic needs.

Since these sucker mouths naturally dwell in freshwater, relying on natural algae, you can introduce objects where it can grow in large amounts, and the fish can graze.

Some specific objects that you can install in the tank are discussed here.


Natural living plants are useful in setting up space for rubberlip fish tanks. But it is always beneficial to apply greens that can oxygenate tank water.

The floating plants look beautiful decoration of the aquarium and are also food to the rubber lip pleco while also filtering the water.

Expert Tip: With low carbon dioxide in the tank, the algae cell walls fortify to become rigid, which becomes difficult for rubber pleco to eat, and hence it avoids.


The rubbernose plecos are usually seen wandering on the floor area of the tank, probably in search of algae. So it is advised to use a lot of sand along with round pebbles as a substrate.

You can use rocks of different shapes and create cave-like structures where the fish can comfortably hide itself. Avoid using materials that can potentially harm the fish.


Soft lighting in the fish tank helps the fishes receive thermal heat, which helps maintain health as well as metabolism. Small aquarium lights are sufficient for these fishes as they do not require massive light and are observed mostly hiding away in the shades.

Filtration & Oxygenation

The rubber lipped pleco is particularly a freshwater dweller and likes to stay in areas where the water is cleaned up regularly.

While staying at the bottom, they are prone to harmful gasses such as ammonia, and thus, to keep the fish active, it is necessary to have a filtering system such as a canister.

Oxygenation is equally vital in the aquariums, especially since the plecos usually stay at the bottom. Putting a water bubbler may resolve the issue by enhancing the oxygen levels while keeping the fish playful.

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Water Parameters

The body structure is accustomed to accepting an atmosphere similar to the South American region possessing the survival tendency in both cold and tropical glasses of water.

Being a natural habitat of freshwaters, it is necessary to maintain specific parameters in order to keep the fish healthy.

The fish tank’s best suitable temperatures for rubberlip plecos are between 22 to 26 degrees Celsius. These fishes even do well in a bit of cold water but avoid temperature rise above this level.

The water hardness sustained by these plecos is 8 to 12kDH, which is optimum, while the alkalinity should be maintained between 6.5 to 8.

Comfort with Tank Mates

The rubber lip is a kind of fish that believes in minding its own business. They are pretty friendly in nature but are mostly reserved, scavenging, or staying away in their stealth location.

These fishes live comfortably with other water creatures, provided they do not have similar food interests. So, there is nothing to worry about if you keep the rubber lip in the typical fish tank with other fishes, but make sure that the other fishes are harmonious.

Some of the agreeable tank mates that you can allow for co-existence are listed below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long does rubberlip take to grow its full size?

A.The average size that a full-length rubberlip pleco attains is 5 to 7 inches. But this fish grows relatively slowly and depends upon the environment and diet; it may take a few years to develop a full-size variant.

Q. Is it necessary to have driftwood in a rubber lip fish tank?

A. Driftwood is commonly found in regions of South America, and rubbernose pleco is habitual of resting over it. The fish sticks to the wood to eat off the algae formations.

So, it is not compulsory to have driftwood in the rubber pleco’s fish tank, but at the same time, you can place them in the aquarium to give the fish a homely feeling, which helps in adjustments to the new place.

Q. Can you put more than one rubber-lipped pleco fish in the same aquarium?

A. These are pleasant fishes that behave humbly with the co-mates of the tank. But it is observed that they have a territorial tendency which makes them aggressive towards their species.

This means placing the same species of pleco fishes in the tank may create an envious environment which is unhealthy for fish growth. So always avoid keeping more than one pleco in the same tank, at least not for a very long time.

Q Do the rubber lip plecos use teeth to eat their food?

A.These fishes are from the suckermouth family, and they do not have a single tooth in their mouth. Instead of using their teeth, these fishes suck their food and swallow it.

Q. Will rubbernose pleco consume floating food particles in the water?

A. These fishes are naturally trained to keep grazing over the substrate in search of food. Hence the food item that you pour into the tank should reach the bottom at the right place.

Low-density food such as leafy vegetables should be poured with a weight attached, or else it will float on the surface and be left uneaten.

Q. How is rubber lipped different from bristlenose and common pleco?

A. The rubber pleco has a slight color difference, and the bristlenose pleco is smaller in size with adaptability issues in different environments. While on the other hand, the common pleco is omnivorous and has difficulty eating habits.

Final Thoughts: Should You Bring Themto Your Home Aquarium?

Whether as a newbie aquarist or someone experienced in fish keeping, the rubber lipped pleco is a dynamic choice to have in fish tanks.

One of the commendable features along with tank clean-up (algae eaters) is that they do not require special attention or care, such as specific food or routine water change.

Thus, if you keep this fish in your tank, you do not have to invest enough time in maintenance, while at the same time, it resolves secondary purposes such as algae removal.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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