Care Guide for Rubber Lip Pleco

As a beginner aquarist, you need a hardy fish that is easy to care for. It is an excellent starting point for learning how to take care of aquatic pets. You can opt for various hardy species to be your housemates, including the rubber lip pleco.

Rubber lip plecos are less popular than other plecos but are perfect pets to keep. Besides their hardiness, this fish looks unique—a great conversation starter for your visitors.

There is plenty to know about the rubber lip pleco if you want to keep it. Read on to learn more about this species.

Scientific Classification

Scientific name: Chaetostoma milesi
Common names: rubber lip pleco, rubber-lipped pleco, rubber nose pleco, rubber lip catfish
Genus: Chaetostoma
Family: loricariidae

History and First Sighting

Achille Valenciennes, a French zoologist, described the rubber-lip pleco for the first time in 1847. This species is native to South America, primarily in the Magdalena River in Colombia. It also resides in Venezuela’s Apure River.

The water conditions of the rivers vary vastly during the seasons. The rubber-lipped pleco can withstand the changes due to its resiliency.

Species Overview

This South American native is a bottom feeder and belongs to the armored catfish family. It has armor-like projections on its upper body and head and a similar feature on its lips that aids its attachments to rocks and other materials.

It is omnivorous and a calm freshwater fish, but it can get territorial, especially when mature. Like other plecos, the rubber nose is nocturnal.

Rubber Lip Pleco Lifespan

The rubber lip pleco’s average lifespan is between 10 and 12 years, though it can live for up to 15 years if well taken care of. By care, we mean that we look at the diet and the tank setup. Additionally, you must get it the right tank partners. A wrong tankmate can affect its life quality.

The Appearance of the Rubber Lip Pleco


The rubber-lipped pleco has the typical pleco appearance, characterized by a large sucker mouth and eyes near the top of the head. Moreover, this species has a row of projections on the sides of its body. The armor-like projections give the mouth a squared shape, hence the rubber lip name.

Mistaken Identity

This pleco resembles other plecos, mostly the rubber pleco. Many people and pet stores confuse the two species and may use their names interchangeably. The difference between the rubber and rubber lip pleco is that the former has a striped pattern on its head, while the other has spots. Also, the rubber pleco is larger, at 7-8 inches long.

It may be hard to differentiate juvenile rubber plecos from rubber-lipped ones, as most features are not fully developed. You can avoid confusion by getting the fish from reputable pet stores.

Distinct Features

For a novice aquarist, it may be hard to distinguish the rubber lip pleco from other plecos. However, a keen eye will notice its distinct features, like the eye position. Unlike other plecos, the eyes of the rubber lip don’t bulge outward; rather, they move backward. This feature helps them keep an eye on enemies while foraging for food.

Moreover, they have spotted heads and faces, with stripes covering the rest of their bodies, starting from the pectoral fin. The base color of this bottom feeder varies from grey to tan. The color spectrum is due to age, genetics, and gender.

The lips give the rubber lip pleco a distinct appearance. They are large and appear like a section of its snout. The lips are handy for attaching to several surfaces, like rocks and substrates.


The rubber lip pleco is relatively small for a pleco, with maximum lengths of between 5 to 7 inches. Other members of its family, like the common pleco, have an average length of 15 inches. The rubber lip will reach its maximum potential size if it has the best living conditions.

The small size of this aquarium pet makes it ideal for novice aquarium hobbyists. It does not require a large fish tank to be kept, making it suitable for beginners.

How to Take Care of Rubber Lip Pleco

You are responsible for ensuring that your pet fish has the best quality of life. The good news is that the rubber nose pleco is easy to care for due to its hardiness. Let us guide you in caring for this freshwater bottom feeder.

Food and Diet

The rubber lip is an omnivore, though it leans more towards an herbivore, with algae being its primary source of nutrition in its natural habitat. The pleco’s love for algae makes them the go-to solution for tanks infested with the plants.

While rubber noses fancy algae, the one growing in fish tanks has a lower nutritional value than the one in the wild. It is hard to grow highly nutritious algae in the aquarium without compromising water quality. So, you should also feed them veggies like spinach, zucchini, peas, and lettuce.

Meat options for your pet pleco include freeze-dried brine shrimp and bloodworms. Live foods like mosquito larvae are an excellent addition to your rubber lip catfish’s diet.

You should feed your fish twice a day and avoid overfeeding them. You must monitor the fish during feeding, especially in the first days, to check for signs of stress or other health issues.

The Right Tank Size

This pleco species is tiny, and a 30-gallon aquarium is perfect for a single mature individual. Some aquarists use a 15-gallon tank for this fish, and it thrives. Nonetheless, getting a large tank for the pleco to move effortlessly and having ample space for add-ons like plants and rocks is advisable.

Furthermore, you need a larger aquarium if you plan on housing more than one rubber-lipped pleco. A 70-gallon tank is the lowest to go if you have two plecos. Never overcrowd the tank, as it may stress the aquarium pets.


Plecos are not fond of light, so you should keep them mild. Moonlight LEDs are ideal, especially if the fish are far from a natural light source. Turn the lights on in the morning and switch them off when the sun sets to mimic sunlight. The lights also improve the aquarium’s aesthetic value.

Recommended Water Parameters

The water parameters of a pleco’s tank should be similar to those of its natural habitat. Despite the rubber-lipped catfish being hardy and versatile, it may suffer due to a wide fluctuation in the water conditions.

It thrives in warm waters from 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also survive in slightly cooler waters. Below is a summary of the rubber lip pleco’s ideal water state.

  • Temperature: 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5 (slightly acidic)
  • Hardness: 8-12 KH

You should regularly check the water parameters for fast action in case of a fluctuation. Get an aquarium testing kit to help you detect any changes in the water.

What Do Rubber Lip Plecos Need in Their Tank?

A fish tank needs several accessories to make the occupants comfortable. A rubber lip pleco tank requires plenty of plants to mimic their native environment. Suitable plants include Anubis, jungle Vallisneria, Java fern, Amazon swords, and Java moss.

The plants are hiding places for the fish and help with water purification and oxygenation. The rubber lip pleco may chew on the plants occasionally to calm a craving. Driftwood, rocks, and caves are other excellent add-ons for your pleco’s aquarium.

The tank should never be bare, as the fish may feel uncomfortable.

Filter System

Fish tank filtration is essential to improve water quality. You need a powerful filter for your aquarium, especially if it is less than 70 gallons. Rubbernose plecos produce a lot of waste, which degrades water quality, subsequently affecting their health.

A filter unit will save you from regularly changing the water, which can be quite demanding. Additionally, the filter encourages oxygenation by moving the water.

Common Potential Diseases

The following are the conditions that the rubber lip can contract:


It is the most common disease that affects most plecos and freshwater fish. Also known as “white spot,” it is a parasitic illness whose main symptom is the presence of small white spots on the fins and the body. Dirty water or out-of-balance tank parameters are the prime causes of this disease.

Ich is a deadly condition that requires prompt treatment before it results in fatalities. The good news is that the treatment is readily available in most pet stores. You should quarantine affected fish to prevent ich from spreading. Treatment requires you to pour the medication into the water and increase the temperature to hasten the parasite’s life cycle.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is another disease that may affect your aquarium pet. It is a bacterial infection noticeable from discolorations, and the fin appears to be decaying or melting. The pleco will also lose appetite, resulting in weakness and inactivity.

This condition may also be fungal, with the rot having an even border, which may be white. Fin rot is caused by poor water conditions, stress, diet, and injury. You may manage the condition by changing the water and ensuring the parameters are okay.

A rough, rotting pattern indicates a bacterial infection, calling for treatment using an antibacterial such as tetracycline. Use an antifungal if the pleco has an even rotting pattern.

Cloudy eye, pop eye, and hole in the head are other diseases that the rubber-lipped pleco can contract. Prevent these conditions by ensuring the tank is clean, the water parameters are okay, and the fish are feeding well.

Look for signs of stress, such as color change, excess slime production, hiding or clustering, and gasping for air. Get to the root of the problem quickly before things get out of control.

Behavior and Temperament


Rubber lip plecos are gentle and calm. They are nocturnal and spend most of the day hiding under rocks, in caves, or within plants. Most of the time, this shy fish will be chilled in one place. It may stay motionless for some time and only move to get a better chill spot or look for food.

Rarely will the rubber lip pleco get into fights with other fish, making it an ideal tankmate for various species with a similar demeanor. Nevertheless, it may be territorial to fellow rubber lip plecos, especially if the tank is small.

Best Tankmates

The best tankmate for the rubber-lipped catfish is a member of its species. Having no more than three individuals in an aquarium is advisable to prevent territorial conflicts. However, you can house several of them in a large tank. This pleco may also get territorial against other plecos outside its species.

The Bristlenose pleco is an excellent aquarium mate, as it is also calm, though you will need a bigger tank. The following are other suitable tankmates for the rubber nose pleco:

  • Cory catfish
  • Goldfish
  • Sparkling and Honey gourami
  • Tetras
  • Zebra danio

This freshwater bottom feeder can coexist with freshwater shrimp. Be careful when grouping the pleco with small shrimp, as it may prey on them.

Incompatible Species

Never pair the rubber nose with aggressive species, like cichlids or tiger barbs. The aggressive species are always spoiling for a fight, and the pleco will hardly fight back. The outcome is injuries or high-stress levels, adversely affecting the rubber-lipped catfish.

Rubber Lip Pleco Breeding

Rubber lip plecos are hard to breed, and there are no reports of successful breeding in a standard home aquarium. They must be very comfortable to breed, requiring huge tanks and conditions similar to their native habitat.

Gender Differences of Rubber Lip Pleco

How can you tell if a rubber lip pleco is male or female? This species shows sexual dimorphism, where males are larger, with massive heads and pectoral fins. Females are smaller but have thicker abdomens than males.

Final Thoughts

The rubber lip pleco is an excellent starting point for a budding aquarist. It is a stunner, easy to care for, and has a tiny frame, meaning you need a small fish tank. It is not as popular as other plecos, explaining the scarce information about it.

This piece presents everything you need to know about the rubber nose pleco. This hardy bottom dweller is peaceful and will accommodate other calm tank mates.

Always ensure that the tank is clean and the water parameters are ideal to avert stress and diseases. Moreover, diversify its diet and include algae, which is its favorite food.


Do Rubber Lip Plecos Need Driftwood?

Driftwood is a must-have accessory for your rubber-lipped pleco’s tank. Driftwoods are common in their natural habitat, and having them in the tank makes the fish feel at ease. Additionally, they use the wood as a resting or hiding spot.

Are Rubber Lip Plecos Good Algae Eaters?

Rubber-lipped plecos are omnivores, but they mostly eat plant matter. They enjoy eating algae and are natural remedies for a tank with an algae overgrowth.

Can Rubber Lip Plecos Live with Goldfish?

Rubber lip plecos are gentle fish that coexist with several peaceful species. Goldfish are excellent tankmates for the plecos, as they are gentle and are mostly foraging in the upper layers of the water. The two species will hardly cross paths.

Does A Rubber Lip Pleco Have Teeth?

While rubber lip plecos typically feed by sucking, they have strong teeth. Professional aquarists advise against housing plecos in acrylic aquariums, as they can damage them with their teeth.

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