Rubber Lip Pleco: Care, Diet, Lifespan, Tank size and more

Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma milesi): Full Care Guide

Bottom dwellers are also a fantastic additions to aquariums and in terms of them, the Rubber Lip Pleco can not be ignored. 

They are one of the best options if you want a very peaceful freshwater bottom dwellers to start with or add to your existing aquarium. 

Or, your tank is being heavily overrun by algae and you want to take care of it in an efficient way. 

These fish might not be well known to many people unlike its relative the Bristlenose Pleco. The good news is that it has all the desirable features it’s relative has and is also very readily available in pet stores.

What is not so available about the Rubber Lipped Pleco however, is adequate information on how to successfully care for it. 

In this guide, I provide you with everything you need to decide whether to go for it or not. If you already have it, you will have all the information you need to take care of it from water parameters, food and diet, tank size, tank mates and much more.

What I like about the Rubber Lip Pleco

  • Sustainable tank cleaner. 
  • Peacefulness.
  • Great for most community tanks. 
  • Not picky eater
  • Tolerance for wide water parameter changes.

Rubber lip pleco (Chaetostoma milesi) are freshwater bottom-dwelling fish and members of the chaetostoma genus, which is part of the largest catfish family of suckermouth armored catfishes. 


They are also known by other common names such as blonde, bulldog, and Striped Pleco. The Rubber Lipped Pleco have enlarged gills which are thought to have evolved to enable them breathe while living at the bottom of water.


The Rubber Lip Pleco is sometimes confused with the Rubber Pleco (Parancistrus aurantiacus). The keys to differentiating the two are coloration and the maximum size they attain. 


The Rubber Pleco has some sort of crisscrossed pattern of stripes. It changes from grey to a goldish color as it matures and reaches up to a size 7 to 8 inches when fully grown. 


Rubber Lipped Pleco however, has spots on both its head and nose and does not undergo dramatic color shift. Plus, it reaches nor more than 4.5 inches in length when fully grown.


You must know their differences before you buy your Rubber lipped Pleco because they are confused even at some pet stores. Although they are different, luckily they both have similar care requirements except for the tank size.


If you accidentally bought a Rubber Pleco, don’t fret! they also grow slowly, therefore, you will have enough time to prepare for a bigger tank.


Like I keep saying in my fish keeping guides, the key to realising the full potential of any fish species is understanding the features of its habitat and how it lives there. 

As such, let’s discuss their origin. 

The Rubber Lip Pleco is freshwater fish that originated from Apuré River and Magdalena basins in South America. 

They have also been found in smaller streams and rivers that have a connection with the two main rivers. 

Along the river networks, lots of environmental parameter changes take place mostly during the rainy season and this affects the water level, temperature, pH and so on.

This tells us that the Rubber lip Pleco can endure quiet a bit of water parameter changes. 

These fish are also called cold water Pleco. That’s because they are also found in locations with considerably reduced temperature, particularly along the main rivers network.

Generally, Plecos are bottom-dwellers that spend most of their time at the bottom of water, specifically close to the substrate and eat algae as their main source of food.

Rubber Lip Pleco Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 4.2 inches’ long
  • Minimum tank size: 25-30 gallons
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Low to medium
  • Temperament: Very peaceful
  • Temperature: 71 to 78 °F (21.5 to 25.5°C)
  • PH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 KH
  • Food: Algae, Algae wafers, spinach e.t.c
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Common Diseases: Ich
  • Ideal tank mates: Ember TetraNeon Tetra, Honey Gourami, Sparkling Gourami, Cory Catfish, e.t.c

Rubber Lipped Pleco Size

As a general rule; fish can only grow to their maximum size if kept in a spaciously enough tank. On average, the Rubber Lip Pleco will reach a maximum length of around 4.2 inches. 


Despite the fact that they don’t grow as big other Plecos such as the Common Pleco, they are more desirable. That’s because their size make them more fitting for home aquariums.


Other major factors that impact their size include diet, good water chemistry, and quality of care.


The average life span of a Rubber Lipped Pleco is between 10 to 12 years. That’s provided they receive good care and proper tank size. 


Good care for them mostly has to do with providing aquarium with ideal parameters, healthy diet and pairing them only with the recommended tank mates.

Rubber Lip Pleco Care

Like with virtually all aquarium fish, fashioning a high-quality tank that provides ideal elements and conditions is very essential for the Rubber Lip Plecos care. 


I talk about the elements first, as for the condition, which is basically the water parameters, that comes later.    


The elements include plants, pieces of rocks and other hard surfaces such as driftwood. 


In their natural habitat, Plecos are used to high-density vegetation that provide them with spots to hide and explore, and at the same time oxygenate the water more.


For this reason, it’s important you provide some easy care aquarium plants in their tank such as Java Moss, Anacharis and Java Fern. 

Additionally, provide them with smooth rocks and driftwood. This take care of their need to explore and hang out beneath, on and around those kinds of surfaces. 


It’s worth mentioning that heavily planted tanks help increase their lifespan.

Tank size and requirements

Although Rubber lip plecos are slow growers it’s still highly advisable you go for large tanks. 


This is because they can’t do well without exploring caves, rocks, and plants at the bottom of water which leads to their health, happiness and ultimately growth and increased lifespan.


With this, it is recommended you provide your Rubber lipped pleco a minimum of 25-30 gallons capacity tank.


It is also worth noting that it’s more suitable you keep them in a tank that is longer than its height. This give them more surface area at the base to scavenge for food and explore all the nook and crannies of the tank. 


It’s fine if you want to start with a smaller tank if you buy a young Rubber Lipped Pleco. But have a plan to move them to a bigger tank in a very near future. In this case, you can start with a 15 gallons capacity tank.


Lastly, do not forget to factor in the tank size if you are planning on adding another Pleco or one of their ideal mates. 


The last thing you want is for you to feel guilty because even you have admitted that; men! they appear congested in that tank. 


Plus, the tank will require way more micro managing in that scenario.


For that, it’s recommended you go for at least a 55-gallon tank if you plan on adding another fish.

Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma milesi)

Water condition/parameters

I already mentioned earlier that its highly important to mimic their habitats water conditions. We can do by targeting the ideal water parameters which basically are; water temperature, pH and general hardness.


Rubber Lip Pleco prefers water temperature range of 71 to 78 °F (21.5 to 25.5°C), water pH range of 6.5 to 8, the water hardness of 8 to 12KH and general hardness of 10 to 15°.


From above parameters, you can see that achieving and maintaining them won’t be so difficult as you have a decent wiggle room. 


That said, it’s recommended you perform frequent water tests and monitor those parameters using good quality tests kits.

Rubber Lip Pleco Food and diet

In the wild, algae makes most of what the Rubber Lipped Pleco consume.


Unfortunately, as sustainable as that is, its almost impossible to replicate their ideal algae and in enough amount in your home aquarium. Why do think that is?


That’s because attempting to achieve that will certainly mess up the tanks water chemistry, most likely to their disadvantage. 


Even if you manage to induce their ideal algae growth and in the required volume of consumption and, somehow manage the water chemistry, it would take up so much resources that it will no longer be sustainable.


Why I am saying this is because, in some cases people end up buying a Rubber lip pleco that unfortunately does not eat other externally supplied foods such as peas or algae wafers or take long time before it starts consuming those.


My advice is make sure you buy your fish when they are young, specifically when they are under 2 inches in length and even then, do make sure they consume other foods. 


You can ask the person at the store to give them some spirulina for example in your presence.


All I am saying is that, make sure yours take all sorts of foods that a typical Rubber Lipped Pleco consumes especially plants based diet such as;

  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Fresh zucchini
  • Seaweeds algae sheets
  • Algae wafers
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Peas

I’m not saying that you have to see yours consumes all the above foods in your presence before you buy it, that would be weird. If it can take any of those, odds are it will consume any other similar diet.

It has been established that they love consuming the above foods, which means their diet is mostly plant-based. 


In some cases, they are classified under herbivorous but I would say that is incorrect.


I agree that their diet source should mostly come from plants but you should, from time to time, drop them some meaty food. 


They readily eat tubifex worms, brine shrimp and the like. In addition to that, they also consume high-quality flake foods.


So you see, you have a wide range of foods you can feed them. And when it comes to them gobbling up the algae, they won’t need much help on your part. 


It’s only in few cases that these fish refuse to consume algae altogether (by the way, make sure the one you are about to get eats algae too).


The fact that they are keen algae eaters makes lots of aquarium hobbyists keep them in their tanks in the first place. 


They can help take care of a tanks algae problem in a very sustainable way.


It was gathered by experienced aquarists that a single Rubber Lipped Pleco can take care of a heavy algae infested 20-gallon tank in less than 2 weeks.


It’s important to note that they don’t generally consume green, blue, brown and black algae.


Many experienced aquarium hobbyists have discouraged the breeding of Rubber Lipped Pleco. This is mostly due to the lack of adequate knowledge of their breeding habit in home aquariums.


As of writing this post, there is not even a single detailed case study or report from anyone successfully breeding them in their home aquarium.


Another challenges that discourages people from breeding them is, so far, it has not been possible to recreate their exact natural environments conditions in anyone’s aquarium to stimulate the breeding process.

Tank mates

When choosing tank mates for the Rubber Lipped Pleco the most important thing to know is their temperament. 

They are one of the most peaceful freshwater fish out there that does well even in community aquarium provided it’s harmonious.

On account of that, their ideal tank mate has to be a fish or a critter with a cool temperament too.

Something worth pointing out is that the Rubber Lipped Pleco can sometimes be quiet territorial towards their kind.

However, as long as they are kept in tanks with some decent stretching room that won’t be an issue.

Combine these fish with species that are not too big, and at the same not territorial and violent.

It’s also a good idea to combine them with species that occupy a different section of the tank. 

As mentioned before, they are bottom dwellers. In consideration of that, you can combine them with either middle or top dwellers. That way they won’t be crossing in to each other territories.

Here are some of the most recommended tank mates for the Rubber Lipped Pleco:

Common Diseases

Fortunately, Rubber Lipped Plecos are rarely affected by diseases provided they have a well maintained ideal water condition and are correctly fed. 


They don’t have a single disease that attacks them specifically. They are affected by diseases that mostly attack freshwater fish such as ich and other forms of bacterial infections.


Routine monitoring of your fish is a good way for you to make sure they are not taken down by an illness that could have been cured at an early stage.


Try spending few minutes everyday watching their activity in the tank and observe their body as well. 


Ich is easily recognized by presence of white spots  appearing on the fish body. Like most diseases, it’s more easily cured at an early stage.


The problem is, it’s kinda hard to gauge their wellness based on their activity level, after all, they are not know for their activeness. 


But still, you should be familiar with the rhythm of your fish activity after sometime. If you notice a drastic change in that it could be an indicator that something is wrong.


Other diseases indicators include lack of appetite, damaged fins and so on.

Temperament and General Behaviour

The Rubber lipped placo are undoubtedly one of the most peaceful freshwater bottom dwelling fish out there. 

In terms of temperament they are right there with other peaceful bottom dwelling species like Kuhli Loach, Corydoras Catfish and Otocinclus


Plecos are highly gentle and get along great with their ideal mates. 


Also like Kuhli Loach, they are nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active during night time. During day time, they spend their time mainly hiding underneath things like driftwoods, rocks or caves at the bottom of the habitat. 


In the aquarium, their behavior does change sometimes. Once they get familiar with the new environment you can find them being active even during day time. 


They move in a beautiful slow manner, but overall their activity level is quite mild unlike a bottom dwellers like Rainbow Shark.


Therefore, if your desire is to keep a fish that will actively roaming around your tank all day, then Ruber Lip Pleco is not for you.  

A juvenile Rubber lipped Pleco

Raphael Covain CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Commonly asked questions

In this part of the guide, I answer some of the common questions asked by people who are keeping the Rubber Lipped Pleco or considering keeping it.

Q1. Can Rubber Lip Pleco live with betta?

Yes, they absolutely can live because of two major reasons. Firstly, we know that Bettas are quite aggressive and territorial but their aggression is mostly because other fish are in their space. 


The good thing is that they spend most of their time swimming at the top section of the tank or midway while Plecos are bottom dwellers. That means, they won’t be crossing into each other’s territories.

Secondly, rubber Lip Plecos temperature and PH ranges are a bit wide and those ranges fall within those required by the betta. Betta fish will thrive in water with a pH of 7.0 and a temperature of around 78°F.

The most important thing to do if you want to combine these two is make sure you use an adequately sized tank. A minimum of 55 gallons is recommended.

Q2. Can Rubber Lip Pleco live with Goldfish?

Yes, Rubber Lipped Pleco can live with goldfish just fine for two major reasons.


Firstly, Plecos are bottom dwellers while goldfish don’t stick to one level, they explore all level of the tank. For this reason they will not bother your Pleco dwelling all day at the bottom of the tank. Plus, they both have peaceful temperament.


Secondly, the water temperature ranges for Plecos fall within what is ideal for goldfish.

Q3. Do Rubber Lipped Plecos need driftwood?

Yes, they do! It’s highly recommended that you add driftwood in their tank as its found in plecos natural environment. This will help them feel more at home. They naturally like sticking to that surface and suck off any algae they can find on it.

Q4. Does a Rubber Lip pleco have teeth?

Yes, they do have teeth and powerful ones I might add. They sometimes use those to scratch tank surfaces. That’s why it’s not advisable to keep them in acrylic made tanks.

Q5. How can you tell the sex of a Rubber Lip pleco?

Rubber lipped Pleco’s sex is quite difficult to identify. But in general, the females have more rounded body while the males body are slender. 

When you view them from the top you will see that the female abdomen is more rounded and longer in relation to the rest of the body

Q6. Are Rubber Lip Plecos good algae eaters?

Yes, all species of plecos are known for their algae-eating habit and they are sometimes bought specifically to take care of algae problems in tanks.


That said, this fact should not discourage you or prevent you from feeding them other foods. They consume lots of plant-based foods as I mentioned before.


I hope this made aware of the desirable features of the Rubber lipped Pleco and how it could be a great addition to your tank if you are looking for; 

  • A highly peaceful freshwater fish that is relatively easy to care for. 
  • A moderately active fish.
  • A fish that will go great with timid fish species, 
  • Or a sustainable way to take care of an algae infested aquarium.

I also hope this guide has provided you with all the information you needed regarding keeping this particular fish.

Please feel free to rich out if you have any question we haven’t covered or if you have any info you think will help improve this guide. We’ll be more than happy if you do.

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