Rubber Lip Pleco: Species Profile, Care Guide & Facts

Rubber Lip Pleco on pebbles
Image credit: kaliedromero / Instagram

The Rubber Lip Pleco is a freshwater fish originating from South America. Its unique appearance, peaceful nature, and algae-eating habits make it popular among aquarists. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Rubber Lip Pleco. We’ll take a look at where they came from, what they look like, and the care requirements they have.

This guide also explores the setup, breeding, and feeding of Rubber Lip Plecos. If you’re looking at adding this fish species to your aquarium, this guide will help you get started. Let’s dive in!

Rubber Lip Pleco Quick Facts 

Scientific Name:Chaetostoma milesi
Common Names:Rubbernose Pleco, Bulldog Pleco, Miles’ Rubbernose Pleco
Unique Traits:Rubber-like lips, suction cup mouth, armor-like scale
Distribution:South America (Magdalena River in Colombia and the Apure River in Venezuela)
Lifespan:10–12 years (with proper care)
Adult Size:4–7 in (10–18 cm)
Temperament:Peaceful, bottom-dweller
Diet:Omnivore (algae, biofilm, vegetables, sinking pellets)
Tank Size:Minimum 25 gallons
Water Type:Freshwater
Temperature:72–78°F (22–26°C)
pH Level:6.5–8
Hardness:2–15 dGH
Care Level:Easy to moderate
BreedingModerately challenging
Price Range:$15–$35
Recommended Tankmates:Peaceful tetras, rasboras, corydoras, and other small plecos

What Is a Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber Lip Pleco suctioned to aquarium glass
Image credit: clairesmsteffen / Instagram

Rubber Lip Plecos are small, peaceful catfish native to South America. They are known for their unique fleshy lips specialized for scraping algae off surfaces. Rubber Lip Plecos are often likened to the Common Pleco but stay smaller in size.

Scientifically, the Rubber Lip Pleco is known as e milesi. “Chaetostoma” means hairy mouth, which is credited to the unique bristles it uses when eating. 

The “milesi” part is usually a way to credit someone who helped discover or study the fish, although the exact individual “milesi” refers to is not specified in general references. 

According to one source, a person named Cecil Miles discovered the species, but no other documents support this claim.

Other names for Rubber Lip Pleco are Miles’ Rubbernose Pleco and Bulldog Pleco.

Fun Fact: Despite their recent buzz in the aquarium hobbyist world, Rubber Lip Plecos aren’t a new trend! They’ve been a part of the trade since at least the mid-20th century, gaining popularity due to their hardiness and peaceful nature.

Rubber Lip Pleco Origin and Natural Habitat

Rubber Lip Pleco clinging to algae covered rock
Image credit: 3i_solutions / Instagram

Rubber Lip Plecos belong to the Loricariidae family, the largest family of catfish. They are native to South America, specifically the rivers of Colombia and Venezuela.

Historically, these fish have thrived in the fast-flowing waters of the Magdalena and Apure Rivers, where they have developed their distinct feeding habits and physical characteristics over time.

Compared to other members of the Loricariidae family, Rubber Lip Plecos tend to have a more flattened, streamlined body. This helps them navigate strong currents more efficiently. 

They also have notably larger and fleshier lips than many other plecos, specifically suited for scraping algae.

In terms of natural habitat, these fish thrive in areas with rocks and bits of wood. Moreover, they prefer riverbeds that are covered in rocks or sand, as this is usually where they hide and find food.

When it comes to water parameters, Rubber Lip Plecos thrive best in habitats with a temperature of around 72 to 78°F and a pH level of 6.5 to 8.

Rubber Lip Pleco Physical Characteristics

Rubber Lip Pleco on a brown rock
Image credit: bratbhave / Instagram

The Rubber Lip Pleco is a unique little fish that stands out in the Pleco family. They grow up to 7 inches long and have a sturdy, compact body. 

Unlike their bigger relatives, these fish stay on the small to medium side, perfect for fitting into most home aquariums. While they are not the smallest plecos around, they only need a tank of at least 25 gallons to thrive.

What really makes them special is their mouth — they have thick, fleshy lips that are perfect for scraping algae off rocks and glass. This not only makes them excellent tank cleaners but also gives them a look that’s unique to them.

When it comes to color, they can range from a soft grey to tan color. Some may even look greenish or bluish, depending on your tank’s lighting condition.

On top of their grey to tan base color, Rubbernose Plecos have spots or freckles dotting their face and body. You might even see some with stripes or a spotted pattern on their lower half. 

In the wild, these patterns and color combinations help them hide among the rocks and sand. Aside from their stealthy color, they have a kind of armor on their scales that keeps them safe from predators. 

They are shaped such that the bottoms of their bodies are flat, and the tops are more streamlined and slightly arched. This design helps them navigate swiftly through the strong currents of their natural river habitats. 

It not only helps in their movement but also allows them to graze on algae-covered surfaces easily by staying close to the surface.

To see how a Rubbernose Pleco cleans an aquarium glass and get a better sense of what it looks like in action, watch this video:

Rubber Lip Pleco Scraping The Glass

Rubber Lip Pleco Temperament and Behavior

Rubber Lip Plecos are known for their peaceful and easygoing temperament, making them excellent tank mates in community aquariums.

They spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, quietly going about their business of eating and ‘cleaning’ algae from surfaces.

These fish are not aggressive and typically keep to themselves, avoiding conflicts with other species. Because they are primarily nocturnal, they move around and eat at night.

Despite their calm nature, they need to have their own space, especially when feeding. It’s also important to ensure they’re not outcompeted for food by more aggressive fish. 

Overall, Rubber Lip Plecos are calm fish, preferring serene environments. As long as they stay well fed and kept with suitable tankmates, fishkeepers won’t have any problems with them.

Note: While plecos are famous for munching on algae in aquariums, they’re not the spotless cleaners they’re made out to be! They eat algae but also produce a lot of waste, making their cleaning efforts a bit of a wash.

Tankmates for Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber Lip Pleco attached to aquarium glass beside tank mate
Image credit: neat_neat_neat / Instagram

Rubber Lip Plecos get along well with many tank mates, especially peaceful ones that grow to about the same size. They do best with fish that also enjoy a quiet and friendly tank environment.

Here are some tankmates that can coexist quite well with Rubber Lip Plecos:

  • Neon Tetras: These small fish are known for their bright colors. They swim in groups and add a lively splash of color to any tank.
  • Cardinal Tetras: They’re a lot like Neon Tetras but stand out with their vivid red and blue stripes.
  • Ember Tetras: These fish sport a fiery orange color and stay small in size. They are perfect for adding a pop of color to smaller tanks.
  • Harlequin Rasboras: These fish have a gentle orange-pink color and are easy to take care of. They’re great for adding a bit of subtlety to your tank.
  • Chili Rasboras: Chili Rasboras have a deep red color that can really brighten up an aquarium.
  • Cory Catfish: Cory catfish are peaceful fish that stay at the bottom of the tank. They have a different diet from Rubber Lip Plecos, so they won’t compete for food.
  • Bristlenose Pleco: Other kinds of plecos, like the Bristlenose Pleco, can safely share a tank with Rubber Lip Plecos if there’s enough space and hiding spots. 

In general, when choosing tank mates for your Rubber Lip Pleco, consider the overall harmony of your aquarium. Look for fish with similar water parameters, such as temperature and pH levels, to ensure they can all thrive together. 

It’s also important to consider the size of the aquarium, as overcrowding can lead to stress and aggression among fish. Additionally, think about the feeding habits of potential tank mates to avoid competition for food. 

Pro Tip: Avoid species known for being fin nippers or overly territorial in choosing tankmates, as they can stress or harm your Rubber Lip Pleco.

Rubber Lip Pleco Care Guide

When caring for Rubber Lip Plecos, some things to consider are their tank setup, diet, and general health management. Getting these things right will ensure your pleco will live a happy and healthy life.

Tank Requirements

Rubber Lip Plecos thrive in tanks that mimic their natural river habitats. A minimum tank size of 25 gallons is recommended to provide ample space for them to explore and feed. 

The water temperature should be kept at roughly 72 to 78°F (22 to 26°C), with a pH level of 6.5 to 8 and hardness between 2 and 15 dGH. These parameters are usually measured using aquarium test kits.

For my own tank, I also ensured that I had a strong filter to mimic the flow of a river and keep the water clean.

Aside from getting the water right, I also put in some hiding spots, rocks, driftwood, live plants, and surfaces for algae to create the right environment. 

Watch this video to see the process of setting up a pleco tank:

Setting Up the PLECO FISH TANK!!

Diet and Feeding

As omnivores, Rubber Lip Plecos have a varied diet but primarily feed on algae and biofilm in captivity. 

To supplement their diet and ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients, consider offering the following food options:

  • Algae Wafers: Algae wafers are a staple for most plecos. They’re formulated to provide the necessary nutrients and mimic the plecos’ natural food.
  • Sinking Pellets: Sinking pellets offer a convenient way to provide a balanced diet to your pleco. These pellets usually include a balance of plant and animal proteins.
  • Fresh Vegetables: Fresh vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, and peas can be offered as part of their daily diet. These should be cut into small pieces or slices and blanched to make them easier for the fish to eat.

Here’s an informative guide on how to feed fresh vegetables to plecos:

Feeding Veggies to Plecos, Cheap and Easy

When it comes to frequency, Rubbernose Plecos do best with once or twice a day feeding. Make sure not to overfeed them, as they will also graze on natural algae.

Pro Tip: A well-fed Rubber Lip Pleco will have a rounded belly but not bloated. If you notice your pleco’s sides appear sunken or its body seems overly slim, this could be a sign of underfeeding.

Lifespan and Health

With proper care, Rubber Lip Plecos can live for 10 to 12 years. They are generally hardy but can be susceptible to common fish ailments if water quality and parameters are not maintained. 

Regular water changes and monitoring for signs of stress are a must. Providing a varied diet and maintaining the ideal tank conditions will help keep your pleco healthy throughout its life.

Breeding Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber Lip Pleco resting on black aquarium gravel
Image credit: beckysue35 / Instagram

Breeding Rubber Lip Plecos can be a bit tricky, but if you’re up for a challenge, here’s how to go about it in simple steps:

  • Make sure your pleco is grown up. Make sure you have both male and female plecos and that they’re old enough, usually one year old or older.
  • Set the right tank conditions. Adjust the temperature, pH, and water hardness of your breeding tank to the optimal range. Sometimes, changing the temperature a bit, like making it cooler then slowly warmer, can put them into the breeding mood.
  • Feed them well: Before you try to get them to breed, make sure to give them good food. This means quality pellets, veggies, and sometimes treats bloodworms to get them in the mood for breeding.
  • Give them some privacy. Rubber Lip Plecos like their privacy when laying eggs. Add caves, tubes, or plants where they can hide and feel safe.
  • Look out for eggs. If they lay eggs, you’ll find them hidden away. Usually, the male will stay close and guard them until they hatch, which can take about 3 to 10 days.
  • Care for the baby plecos. Once the eggs hatch, the fry will need special food that’s small enough for them to eat, like infusoria or special fry food you can buy. Keep the tank clean and watch the water conditions to help the babies grow strong.

Based on my experience with breeding plecos, I strongly recommend pairing plecos that come from different sources. This strategy helps prevent inbreeding. 

If you’ve sourced your plecos from the same place, it’s recommended to introduce a new, mature pleco from another retailer to avoid having inbred baby fish.

Keep in mind that breeding these fish needs patience and a bit of trial and error. Don’t get down if it doesn’t work out the first few times. 

How Much Does a Rubber Lip Pleco Cost?

Rubber Lip Plecos are generally considered affordable aquarium fish. Their price typically ranges from $15 to $35, depending on factors like size, color, availability, and where you purchase them.

Here are some common online sources where you might find Rubber Lip Plecos for sale:

  • LiveAquaria – Founded in 2000, this Wisconsin-based online retailer is one of the largest in the industry, offering a vast selection of fish and a focus on captive-bred specimens.
  • Dan’s Fish – Dan’s Fish is a popular online fish store based in Indiana known for its quality selection and guaranteed healthy fish policy.
  • The Wet Spot Tropical Fish – Established in 1998, this Oregon-based store has a long history in the aquarium trade and specializes in freshwater fish, including a wide variety of plecos. 

In addition to these reputable sources, exploring your local fish stores is a smart option to support community businesses and potentially find better deals.

No matter where you purchase your pleco, it’s crucial to select retailers known for their commitment to providing responsibly sourced and healthy fish.

Other Types of Plecos

Zebra Pleco side view

Other than Rubber Lip Plecos, there are other interesting types of plecos that aquarium enthusiasts might consider adding to their collection. 

Here are some of the most popular pleco species in the aquarium trade:

  • Bristlenose Pleco: These plecos are known for the “bristles” around their nose, which give them an eye-catching appearance. They’re also known for being relatively easy to breed.
  • Clown Pleco: They boast bright yellow spots on a dark body. They are known for munching on driftwood aside from just algae.
  • Zebra Pleco: Zebra Plecos have stunning black and white stripes, which gives them their name. These plecos are highly sought-after but also quite expensive.
  • Gold Nugget Pleco: They feature bright yellow spots scattered over a dark base, making them look like little nuggets of gold. These are a bit larger than some other pet plecos.
  • Sailfin Pleco: They have a huge dorsal fin that resembles a sail when raised. These are impressive-looking fish that can grow quite large.

Any of these plecos will do well in home aquariums, given that they are provided with the appropriate care.

When choosing a pleco for your aquarium, it’s important to consider not just the appeal but also the specific care requirements and compatibility with other fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Rubber Lip Pleco against glass
Image credit: vulgarism / Instagram

How Can You Tell If a Rubber Lip Pleco Is Male or Female?

Mature male Rubber Lip Plecos tend to be slightly larger with broader heads and more prominent bristles on their pectoral fins. Females usually have a rounder, wider body shape.

Can Rubber Lip Plecos Live With Goldfish?

No, Rubber Lip Plecos and goldfish don’t make good tankmates. Goldfish need colder water temperatures and produce a lot of waste, which Rubber Lip Plecos are sensitive to.

Can Two Rubber Lip Plecos Live Together?

Yes, but you’ll need a larger tank with plenty of hiding spots to reduce territorial behavior. It’s best to monitor them carefully, especially when first introducing them.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two about these fascinating “tank cleaners.” Are you ready to add one to your aquarium setup? Comment below with your thoughts about the Rubber Lip Pleco!

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