The Rubber Lip Pleco, scientifically called Chaetostoma milesi, is a freshwater fish species native to South America.
It is not a particularly well-known species because most people lean toward the relatives of this fish, the Bristlenose pleco. Regardless, it’s an interesting and mysterious little fish.
The Magdalena River of Columbia and the Apure River of Venezuela are the main habitat spots of the rubber lip pleco. They’re found in abundance in these rivers.
However, you may also find them in smaller rivers and streams tied to these larger rivers. These fish are also called rubber-lipped pleco, rubber-nosed pleco, striped bulldog pleco, Chaetostoma sp. L444, and others.
|Scientific name||Chaetostoma milesi|
|pH||6.8 to 8.0|
|Hardness||8 to 12|
|Temperature||72 F to 80 F|
Appearance: Rubber Lip Pleco Coloration and Body
Rubber lip plecos actually look very similar to many other plecos, as they have that classic appearance. This is why they often get confused with other members of the species by both owners and breeders. Dishonest businessmen often use this opportunity to sell the cheaper members of the species in the name of the more expensive ones.
Like other plecos, the body of rubber nose plecos also has mold. With eyes positioned near the top of their head and slightly elevated, they keep a lookout for predators while scavenging the bottom. You will find them more or less always on the bottom, munching on to something, so they need this kind of eye positioning to keep a watch on what’s above.
Near their eyes, the body begins to taper gradually to the base of their caudal fin. Moreover, they have an especially enlarged set of gills. It is speculated that these big gills are to help them serve the purpose of breathing while being attached or feeding.
As for the coloration, a rubber lip pleco’s body color can range from grey to pale gold based on their genetic factors, age, and gender. Some rubber-lipped plecos never turn that gorgeous gold shade in their whole lives. It isn’t really the fish owner’s fault. The pleco itself decides when to turn gold or whether to turn so at all.
They have a dark pattern of lines covering their bodies, usually starting near the frontal part of their pectoral fin, getting straighter and closer together the more they move backward. You will also notice small dark dots covering their face.
The Rubber-Lipped pleco might often be confused with the Rubber pleco or Parancistrus aurantiacus. But you can differentiate them based on their coloration. As mentioned before, the Rubber-lipped pleco will have spots or dots on its head and nose, but the rubber pleco has a crisscrossed pattern or stripes instead. Moreover, rubber plecos usually grow up to 8 inches compared to a Rubber Lip pleco’s max 5 inches growth.
Rubber Lip Pleco Proper Care
All you need to do is put up a safety net when setting up their tank. This is because these fish are all pretty hardy because of the varying conditions they come from.
Remember to perform water tests regularly to check the tank’s parameters and make sure it remains constant. This is because rubber lip plecos are very sensitive to changes in the water parameter, and too much shift in it may affect their mental health. So make sure to get a high-quality testing kit to get the most accurate measurements.
You might find a variety of opinions regarding what you should feed your rubber-nosed pleco. When in the wild, their natural diet is almost nothing but algae. So you might think that feeding them aquarium algae alone would be the best for them. It will make them feel at home while also giving them decent nutrition. However, it’s not that simple.
In tanks, fish stay in captivity. It is more or less impossible to create naturally occurring and recurring algae in a tank for a continuous supply of food for your fish. Sure, it might be possible, but in that case, you will have to compromise the general water quality of the tank.
Some aquarists might be able to pull it off with their years of experience, but for other aquarists, especially beginners, calling it impossible is fitting. Not to mention, it will also be extremely expensive.
So instead of naturally growing algae, you can give your rubber-lipped pleco different kinds of veggies and algae-based foods. These will be more than satisfying for them, and they won’t always have to keep scavenging for something else, something more fulfilling for their appetites. Some examples are algae flakes, leafy greens, wafers, cucumbers, and peas. In other words, a plant-based diet!
Other foods you may try out are our high-quality fish flakes, spirulina, and seaweed algae sheets. Just make sure not to overfeed them, which is something you should be careful of for every fish you raise.
Monitor them carefully during their feeding time, especially if you have just bought them. Giving them food twice a day should be enough, and you should use your common sense to give them the appropriate amount of food based on their size and numbers.
The amount of food you have given should always be finished within a couple of minutes at best, so this is another way you can test if you have overfed or not.
You should also keep an eye out for any uneaten food that may fall to the substrate as well. If they eat these foods later, it might be bad for their health.
After learning that rubber lip plecos love a plant-based diet, you might be worried about the plants you will place in your tank. Don’t worry; plecos won’t eat your plants or damage them in any way. You might find them nibbling on plant leaves occasionally. But that is simply them feeding on the algae growing on the leaves.
If your rubber lip pleco is provided with a healthy and regular diet as well as the perfect habitat in the tank, then you can expect them to live around 10 to 12 years. This average lifespan may be reduced if it suffers from untreated freshwater disease or becomes injured in some other way.
Another reason your rubber lip pleco might live less than 10 years is elevated stress levels which, just like humans, also physically affect fish. Stress can occur if you put them in with the wrong or incompatible tank mates. They will live in a constant state of anxiety and nervousness, which may reduce their lifespan.
– Max Size
Compared to other plecos, the rubber-lipped pleco is on the smaller side even after they have attained their maximum size. Normally, a rubber lip pleco won’t grow any further than around 4 inches, but if you see them grow up to 4.5 to 5 inches, then there is nothing to be shocked about it too.
A full-grown rubber lip pleco can go up to 7 inches too. It is just not that common. But common plecos, also known as H. plecostomus, might grow as much as 20 inches!
That aside, rubber-lipped plecos are naturally slow growers. So it’s important for you not to get impatient if they don’t seem to grow too much within a short time. One fish keeper has said that their rubber-lipped pleco only grew an inch within one and a half years, which is fairly long. So you can get an idea of the speed of their growth from this.
There are some fish keepers who think that giving their fish more food will make them grow faster, but that is completely wrong knowledge, not to mention harmful! Let your fish grow at their own pace and give them just the adequate amount of food they need.
Moreover, just because they don’t grow too big doesn’t mean you can put them in a small tank either. A tank with less than 20 gallons of volume is not safe for a single rubber lip pleco. Though they don’t grow too big and don’t move around much, they require a lot of space for scavenging.
Rubber Lip Pleco Tank
If you are getting a rubber lip pleco of your own, you might hear a lot of people say that a tank of 15 gallons should be more than enough. This may be true if the fish is still a baby, but it can grow pretty big over its lifespan, so after a few years, a 15-gallon tank will no longer be enough for it.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of changing tanks later on, it’s best to stay on the safe side and go for a tank of 25 to 30 gallons. That way, even after the fish is fully grown, it can move around freely inside the tank without feeling suffocated. If you get more than one of these plecos, then the tank might need to be bigger.
Remember, it’s common knowledge that fish that stay in tanks smaller than what they’re comfortable with tend to have a lower than average lifespan. So to ensure a healthy and comfortable life for your fish, make sure to get the appropriate tank size.
As for the water parameters, the ideal water temperature for rubber-lipped plecos is between 72 F to 80 F. Keep the pH level between 6.5 to 8 and the hardness between 8 to 12 kH. These parameters are pretty flexible and owner-friendly, which is another point that makes these fish so easy to care for!
It is highly recommended you decorate your tank for the rubber lip pleco with lots of plants. It can be any kind of plant; feel free to experiment. This is because, in their natural habitat, these fish are used to being surrounded by heavy vegetation. So if you keep plants in the tank, they will feel more at home and thus comfortable as well.
You can also keep driftwood and rocks in the tanks as these fish love to scavenge and investigate various types of surfaces. It’s like their own little game to pass their time. They can also use these to hide when they need some privacy. They actually do not like tanks with anything but water, so it’s important for you not to treat these things like an optional inclusion!
– Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates
Before we get into who would be the ideal tank mates for your rubber-lipped pleco, you should get an idea of how their temperament and behavior is. Well, the good news for you is that they are all extremely peaceful fish and don’t like to cause any trouble. In fact, they are one of the most peaceful freshwater species out there. This is why it’s never an additional bother to care for them.
Because of their calm nature, you will not see them moving around too much. Instead, they will usually remain parked in a certain spot of the tank and slowly work their way around a protected hiding spot. So as you can already guess, they will rarely ever be the one to initiate a fight with another fish in the same tank.
That being said, this should also give you the idea that a rubber lip pleco should never be paired up with an aggressive species of fish because they are so peaceful that they will rarely ever fight back. And if the whole thing is one-sided, it’s obvious who the loser will be. This can cause your pleco to be heavily injured, even dead.
To name a few species, you can try keeping different types of tetras like neon tetras in the same tank as your pleco. You can also keep honey gourami and sparkling gourami. Other fish that share similar temperaments are also worthy candidates in this case. Just make sure the tank is spacious enough for all of them.
There is one other thing you have to keep in mind. Some fishkeepers have claimed that rubber lip plecos often get territorial with fellow plecos on some occasions. So if you are planning to put other plecos in the same tank, say, a Bristlenose pleco or a clown pleco, then you have to make sure the tank is bigger in this case. All of them should have plenty of space to call their own territory!
As of now, there isn’t much information about how to breed rubber lip plecos successfully, and it’s more or less a mystery in the aquarist community. There aren’t many verified reports or case studies by owners available out there, so the area is quite grey. The breeding process might have some level of similarities with Bristlenose plecos.
However, one source has claimed that rubber-lipped plecos prefer cooler waters with a higher oxygenation level during the breeding season. They prefer to breed under flat rocks with more circulation than the tubular kind of caves preferred by most other plecos. If you want to provide them a proper, suitable spawning site, make sure the tank bottom is unheated and bare with a mixture of slate and round pebbles.
And since they like the high current, you can use a circulation pump for blowing water down the length. However, there aren’t many sources confirming this method, so it isn’t recommended you use it until you are 100% sure. The wrong methods can actually be very harmful to your fish. And even if it is the right method, inadequate information may lead to a lack of success with the breeding.
And that was everything you needed to know about a Rubber Lip pleco. To summarize the most important points:
- Rubber Lip pleco is a freshwater species of fish from South America.
- They are often mistaken for or falsely advertised with other plecos like rubber pleco and Bristlenose pleco.
- They are sensitive to changes in the water parameters, so they should be monitored regularly.
- They are generally peaceful but might get a bit territorial with other plecos.
- Their diet is strictly plant-based.
- Their tank should have enough space to let them scavenge around.
- There is still no 100 percent confirmed successful way to breed rubber lip plecos.
Rubber Lip plecos are a peaceful bottom-dwelling species of plecos. They are also very beautiful, and they can keep your tank clean of algae. You can make them the next addition to your community tank!
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