Rubber Lip Pleco: The Ultimate Guide

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A lesser-known fish in the aquarium world is the rubber lip pleco. If you search the name online, you’ll see that there aren’t as many resources as other fishes, such as the goldfish or betta.

There is also a lot of confusion among this pleco fish and other species, so it might be confusing putting them in your aquarium, especially if you don’t have all the necessary information.

This also doesn’t help:

It has other names, such as the rubber nose pleco and the rubber lipped pleco.

We have created this resource for this fish containing all the relevant information you need to know about them if you’re thinking of keeping them in your aquarium. This guide has information covering and an FAQ guide for any questions you might have.

Key details About Rubber Lipped Plecos

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Check out some of the most important details about a rubber-lipped pleco.

History and Habitat

Rubber-lip pleco (Chaetostoma miles) is a freshwater fish with its origins tracing back to South America. You will typically find rubber-lipped plecos around the Apure River in Venezuela and the Magdalena River in Columbia.

You can also find a couple of rubber-lipped pleco hanging around the small streams and rivers that link with the bigger rivers.


Like in South America, many of these rivers change during the rainy season, which typically alters the water parameters. Water temperature, levels, and other parameters shift during rainy seasons, which means a rubber-lipped pleco generally is a hardy creature since it can handle all of these changes.

The best part:

They typically have no problems adjusting and can tolerate a considerable change of water conditions.

A rubber-lipped pleco in the wild is an algae eater and spends a lot of its time near the substrate because it is a bottom feeder. Since algae are typically at the bottom around the substrate, this is the food available to a pleco or any other organism living there.

Appearance and Size

A rubber-lipped pleco has the regular “pleco” look just like other species of pleco. Sometimes this similarity has even made some breeders and owners confuse them with other species of pleco.

Here’s the deal:

A rubber lip pleco has a large sucker mouth with a small snout that slopes gently upward to the top of their head. Their bodies also taper gently down to the base of their caudal fin near their eyes.

Rubber lip pleco has its eyes near the top of its head, which is elevated gently. This helps them spot predators quickly while they’re scavenging the bottom of the aquarium.


You will find a rubber-lipped pleco almost always sucking on or munching something, so they only need to stay aware of what is above them. Their colors are usually grey to pale gold spectrum and typically depend on age, gender, and natural genetic factors.

About their fins:

All their fins also look like the other pleco species, just as you would expect it. The dorsal fin starts almost a third of the way behind their body and spreads out like a large sail is pulled backward.

Depending on the water current or the activity the rubber pleco is engaged with, the dorsal fin may lay close to its body or stick up a bit higher. The caudal fin also looks smaller because the rubber pleco does not use for swimming.

Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of a rubber-lipped pleco is around 10-12 years with proper care. As long as you give them an adequate habitat and a good diet for their needs, you shouldn’t encounter any issues.

The tankmates of a rubber lip pleco also affect their lives as wrong tank mates can constantly make them nervous, thereby impacting their lifespan.


Unlike common plecos (Hypostomus Plecostomus), which are generally aggressive and have developed a reputation for that, a rubber-lipped pleco, on the other hand, isn’t aggressive. They are usually friendly creatures that get along with other fishes in the aquarium.

The bottom line:

You will find a rubber-lipped pleco hiding in the aquarium, usually around the plants and décor in the daytime. By nighttime, plecos become more active, and you can find them playing around.

Care Guide for Rubber Lip Pleco

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Caring for rubber-lipped plecos isn’t challenging, and aquarists with little experience can even handle them. Their origin states that they are hardy fishes, so there is a little safety net when setting up a tank for them and taking care of them.


Just because it isn’t difficult to take care of them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to take care of them properly. You need to know the ideal conditions for a rubber-lipped pleco so you can give the best possible care.

Ideal Tank Size for Rubber Lip Pleco

We recommend that you keep your pleco fish in a tank of about 25-30 gallons. We didn’t give an exact number because you will see different conflicting numbers online, so it’s best to use a range.

Bottom line:

It is important to give a pleco fish enough space because cramming them up in a small area will prevent them from reaching their maximum lifespan. If you want to put more than one rubber lip pleco in your tank, you should adjust the tank size accordingly.


A rubber-lipped pleco is a bottom feeder, and they scavenge for food in the substrate, so it is a very important piece when caring for them. Choose a substrate for your tank that won’t injure the abdomen of your pleco fish.


Avoid sharp aquarium gravel at all costs and instead opt for a mixture of round pebbles and soft sand. Even if you want to use gravel in your tank because of your plant growth, use sand for the top layer.

Temperature and Water Parameters

A rubber-lipped pleco is one of the fishes categorized as algae eaters in both freshwater and tropical aquariums. This means the ideal water temperature conditions for a pleco range between 72 and 80oF.

You might be wondering:

It might be necessary to buy a heater for your tank to maintain this range. For the pH range, it’s best to keep the water between 6.5.

A common pleco fish wouldn’t normally be sensitive to the water hardness as long as you keep it stable, so anywhere between 8 and 12 KH is acceptable.

Aeration, Lighting, and Filtration

Just like other fishes, you should also keep the tank clean from ammonia and other toxins that could build up in the tank. Plecos prefer clean water, where they are most free to show their attitudes and live happily.

You need to keep the water clean with a filter or HOB. You don’t need to give them heavy current, but they also love swimming in filter outflows.


Because pleco fish spend most of their time in the tank bottom, they are more sensitive to stagnation and dead zones than other fishes. An air stone or bubbler can keep the oxygen level at optimal water conditions, and plecos will enjoy the bubbles.

Runner lip pleco fishes also dislike bright lights in the tank, so you might want to put floating plants to give them shade.

Decorations and Plants

A rubber lip doesn’t like to be alone in the tank, so putting other things in the aquarium could keep them happy. Minimal setups can get them stressed, and they generally don’t enjoy it.


It is best to make the tank heavily planted with various decorations like smooth and rough rocks or wood products like branches and sticks. They give plecos plenty of space to hide and have fun.


You might already have a regular maintenance schedule for your aquarium and, therefore, might not need to make any major changes to accommodate your pleco fish.

However, you should be aware that since they are bottom-dwellers, they are more sensitive to the conditions in the lower part of your aquarium, so make sure there is no debris or waste.

Feeding Your Rubber Lip Pleco

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A rubber lip fish is omnivorous, meaning they can eat both plant and animal food conveniently. On the other hand, wild plecos survive mostly on algae, and it is important to know that this isn’t enough for a captive pleco fish in your aquarium.

Bottom line:

You should give them a balanced and more robust diet with algae wafers and treats if you want them to thrive.

Rubber-lipped pleco fishes will eat almost anything you put in the aquarium, especially if it sinks to the bottom.

Want to know the best part?

If you have other fishes in the aquarium and you already feed them frozen/live foods like bloodworms, Daphnia eggs, or brine shrimps, then you might not need to add any meaty foods for your fish. You can continue with the vegetarian diet you adopted for the other fishes.

What Should I Feed My Rubber Lip Pleco?

If you have only pleco fish in your aquarium, then you should feed them food that is right for them. The foods of the highest quality for pleco fish are algae wafers or pellets.

During the week, it’s also nice to add in various treat foods to keep them excited. So, apart from feeding them algae wafers, some blanched veggies treat include:

  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans

How Many Times Should You Feed Your Rubber-Lipped Pleco?

We recommend that you feed your rubber plecos 6 out of 7 days of the week and let them fast one day, especially if you have other fish in the aquarium.

Here’s the deal:

You can switch between regular and treats when giving them food, so they get a little bit of everything. A good balance gives them their primary diet for four days and gives them treats for two days.

It is important to consider that your pleco fish will also scavenge food from other tank mates in the aquarium.

Breeding Rubber Lip Plecos

It could be very challenging to breed fishes, especially rubber-lipped plecos in a home aquarium. There is no sufficient current in home aquariums to foster the development of the fishes.

Most of the fishes for sale were caught out as juveniles. We haven’t seen any successful case of breeding rubber-lipped plecos in a home aquarium.

The male typically attaches itself upside down below a flat surface above where the female will lay the eggs in the wild. The male will also protect them from predators and use his fins to keep them safe from the streams.

It gets worse:

To even get a remotely successful chance of spawning success, you’ll need at least a 300-gallon tank.


Do rubber lip Plecos eat algae?

Yes, rubber-lipped are algae eaters in the aquarium and the wild. Since they are generally calm, their appetite also extends to vegetable matter. It is important to note that even though they will eat all the algae in the aquarium, it is not sufficient for their survival, and they will need other types of food.

How do you determine the sex of a rubber-lipped pleco?

Of all the common pleco species, rubber lipped is the most difficult to differentiate based on their sex. The best way is to view both fishes from above and observe the shapes of their body.

Look out for this:

The females typically have a more rounded body, and the males are slender. If you view them from the side of the aquarium, the female’s abdomen looks longer and rounder compared to the rest of their body.

How big do rubber lip plecos grow?

An adult rubber-lipped pleco fish will rarely grow bigger than 7 inches in length. Most of the fishes attain a maximum of 5.5 inches in length when you raise them in an aquarium environment and give them all they need to survive.

Are Rubber Lipped Plecos The Same as Rubber Plecos?

No, they are two different species of fish. Sometimes it could be difficult differentiating the rubber lip plecos from the rubber plecos, also called the chubby pleco (Parancistrus aurantiacus).

You will typically find the differences in them easier and spot the species when they are adults.

Rubber-lipped plecos notably have a more rounded head than the chubby pleco fish, which has heads that look slightly flattened. Chubby plecos also have crosshatched patterns or stripes on their heads compared to the spots on the rubber lip counterparts.

You will find a chubby pleco fish with a unique gold-tone, or some might even change colors which is uncommon in a rubber lip.

Can a rubber lip pleco live in a 20-gallon tank?

As we earlier advised, it is best to keep rubber lip plecos in an aquarium of at least 25 gallons for optimal results. However, some people have reported keeping their fishes in tanks of 20 gallons without any issues.

Do Rubber-Lipped Plecos Have Teeth?

Even though their primary mode of feeding on algae is by sucking, they also have teeth. Common plecos teeth are also particularly strong, and so you cannot keep some species in acrylic tanks because they will use their teeth to scratch the tank surface.


We believe you should know a lot more about rubber-lipped plecos by now, and you should know If it’s the right fit for your aquarium. It is one of our best catfish picks for smaller planted tanks, and they’re also really fun fish.

Beginners and experts in fish keeping shouldn’t have problems keeping these fish, and as a plus, they’re really easy to train. You can teach them when to come out for treats and keep things interesting.

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