Rubber Lip Pleco Care Guide: Types, Diet, Tanks, Tank Mates, Breeding

Are you looking for an easy to take care freshwater fish for your home aquarium? Then the Rubber Lipped Pleco is the fish for you!

You don’t need to be an expert to take care of these fish, but you will have to keep a close eye on them to ensure they are healthy and happy in their new home. Being tasked with raising another living thing can be scary, but taking care of a lipped pleco will be fun if you enjoy this hobby. 

Rubber Lip Pleco’s are peaceful, love to eat vegetables and algae, and are entertaining to watch during the day, so they can fit in any community tank or large aquarium. 

If you’re interested in taking care of this freshwater fish, this care guide will give you everything from their diet and tank mates to the water parameters and tank size they need to survive in captivity. 

Species Overview

The rubber lip pleco is a favorite among many aquarists because of its beautiful grey to pale yellow color. With origins from the southern part of Americas, it’s easy to find these fish in places like the Magdalena river in Colombia and the Apure river in Venezuela. 

Areas like this go through drastic changes in temperature and water levels, especially during the monsoon seasons, so there’s no doubt that the rubber lip pleco is hardy and can survive various water conditions.

The average lifespan of a rubber lip pleco is 10 to 12 years. This is pretty long compared to other fish. In captivity, their lifespan will depend on the care you give them, tank conditions, and their diet.

If you want your lip pleco to live longer, you shouldn’t keep them with aggressive tank mates to avoid stressing them out. 

Here are other quick facts about the rubber lip pleco you should know:

  • Scientific name: Chaetostoma Milesi 
  • Origin: South America 
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years 
  • Family: Chaetostoma
  • Size: 5 to 7 inches 
  • Diet: Omnivorous 
  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Minimum tank size: 25-30 gallons 
  • Temperature: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Care level: Easy 

Appearance and Size

As the name suggests, the shape of this fish’s body is very similar to that of a pleco. At the front is their largemouth with a huge sucking hole and eyes at the top of their broad head.

These fish are larger than most freshwater fish and can grow up to 6.5 to 7 inches long. However, their size is affected by their diet and genetics. In some stores, you can find some pleco species that grow bigger than the Rubber lip pleco. 

rubber lip pleco sucking on tank glass

The eyes on their head could look misplaced, but an adaptive feature to help the rubber lipped pleco spot predators while they’re busy looking for food. If you look closer at their mouth, you’ll notice some teeth! Unlike other fish, rubber-lipped plecos have strong teeth to help them eat. They are strong enough to scratch and leave marks on acrylic tanks. 

Rubber lip pleco has their dorsal fins pointing towards the back of their bodies. These fins and their caudal fin mostly stay close to their bodies when they swim in the tank. The fins’ position also depends on the water they’re kept in.

Their color and shape can easily confuse you because it’s very similar to other fish species. The color of their bodies varies slightly but will mostly be on a color spectrum of Gray to brown with dots on their faces.

It’s not easy to identify the sex of a rubber-lipped pleco. But you should know the difference between a male and female rubber lipped pleco. The female rubber lipped pleco is rounder and smaller.

What To Look For When Buying a Rubber Lip Pleco

If you buy a rubber lip pleco from a local pet store, you should carefully monitor their behavior before getting ready to pay. This won’t be possible if you’re buying your rubber lipped pleco online, which many people are doing nowadays. 

To avoid taking sick fish home, here are a couple of signs you should be wary of in a rubber lip pleco before you buy:

  • Erratic swimming patterns
  • Sluggish behavior 
  • Appetite loss
  • Damaged fins
  • Swimming upside down for longer than usual

When buying from online stores like the ones mentioned below, you’ll have to rely on reviews and information to ensure you get healthy fish at your doorstep.

Where To Buy a Rubber Lip Pleco

If you’re interested in these beautiful freshwater fish, you can buy a rubber lip pleco online or at a nearby fish store. These fish mostly go for between $11 to $30, depending on where you purchase from and other additional costs like shipping. 

The availability and price of these fish make them an obvious choice for most beginner aquarists. So you aren’t alone if you’re thinking of buying one. 

Here are some online fish stores where you can get a rubber lip pleco:

Rubber Lip Pleco Care

Taking care of a rubber lip pleco is easy but at the same time, still requires quite a bit of your attention. Being freshwater fish, you must maintain specific water parameters to ensure the water is healthy for these fish.

If you want to know more about caring for a rubber lip pleco and how to give them a healthy habitat, below is what you’ll need to know before you take them home! 

Tank Requirements

Whether you’re getting a freshwater or saltwater fish, the most crucial consideration is the aquarium size. With adult rubber lip plecos growing to 6.5 to 7 inches, any fish tank less than 30 gallons won’t be spacious enough for them.

You’ve likely come across other fishkeepers stating that you can keep a pleco in a tank as small as 15 gallons, but this tank size isnt good for these fish. A rubber lip pleco requires a lot of swimming and hiding space to be happy and healthy.

A wide horizontal tank is excellent for these fish because they like sticking to the bottom of the tank as they look for food in the substrate. 

A rubber lip pleco tank should have a minimum of 30 gallons of water. This gives them enough space without the risk of overcrowding when you add tank decorations and other tank equipment like filters and a heater, plus tank mates.

How Many Rubber Lip Pleco Can You Keep?

The number of rubber plecos you can put in one aquarium depends on factors like tank size and how old your rubber lip pleco is when you get your fish tank. 

You can comfortably put several juvenile rubber lip plecos in one aquarium before they start growing and require more space. Be careful not to go overboard because overcrowding in a rubber lip pleco tank can result in unwanted health conditions and shorten their lifespan.

If you’re wondering how many rubber lip plecos can keep in one fish tank, here is a table to help

Number of Rubber Lip PlecoTank Size
125 to 30 gallons 
2-3+70-120 gallons 

Now that it’s clear what tank size one rubber lip pleco can fit in and how much water you require if you want to add more fish, it’s time to find out what to put in their tank.

Plants and Decorations 

Having many plants and thick vegetation in a rubber lip plecos fish tank will make it easier for them to adapt to their new environment. It reminds them of their home in the wild, where they were most likely taken from before you got them from the fish store. 

There are plenty of live and plastic plants in this fish tank. Here are some readily available plant options for a rubber lip plecos tank: 

  • Java Moss
  • Hornwort
  • Duckweed
  • Cabomba
  • Dwarf Water Lettuce
  • Anacharis
  • Red Root floater
  • Amazon Frogbit

Plants with small leaves are the best for these fish. As much as you want to fill the tank with vegetation, leave your pleco enough space to swim. Floating plants will allow these fish to move around during the day without being too affected by the sunlight. 

Together with the plants, you can add rocks, driftwood, and other décorations because they like to hide in their environment. 

Hiding makes this fish feel much safer, especially if it’s a new tank you’ve placed them in. These Rocks can also act as resting places when they need to relax after a day of swimming.


The Substrate isn’t something you forget when stocking this freshwater fish tank. Lip Plecos are naturally curious in the wild and love digging in the substrate when looking for food. So in captivity, the substrate is necessary to help them stick to their regular routine.

It’s best to get a soft substrate, and mix it up with smooth pebbles because you don’t want your pleco injured while looking for the next meal.

They are bottom feeders, so most of their time is spent digging in the substrate to get leftovers or algae

Tank Equipment

Rubber lip plecos require specific water conditions that can only be maintained with a filter and a heater. Filters will ensure that the water is clean, while a heater will retain the right water temperatures that these fish need.

You should ensure that the filter doesn’t affect the flow rate in the tank. Lip plecos prefer a medium flow rate because too high or too slow can stress these fish. 

When it comes to lighting, these fish don’t need too much of it. Putting enough plants in their tank will help shade them during the day from natural or artificial light. Is your pleco hiding every time you turn the lights on? The lights you’ve put up could be too bright for your fish. 

Water Parameters

A rubber lip pleco needs warm and well-aerated water to be comfortable. The water must also be clean and meet specific parameters to avoid causing your fish any discomfort.

Here are the water parameters to consider when keeping a rubber lip pleco:

  • Water temperature: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 KH
  • Water pH levels: 6.5 to 8 

Making it a routine to constantly test the tank water to ensure it’s within the right parameters will do wonders for your fish’s health. An aquarium test kit will do the job just fine.  

Food & Diet

These are bottom-feeding fish, so you’ll likely find them at the bottom of the tank near the substrate in your aquarium. Being omnivorous, you can feed a rubber lip pleco meaty foods with a mix of vegetables to balance their diet.

Luckily for you, they aren’t fussy eaters and will be satisfied with different foods that sink to the bottom of the tank. But they prefer more plant-based foods.

You only have to feed them twice a day. Ensure it’s an amount they can finish in a few minutes. 

If you’re creating your plecos menu, here are some foods you can include:

  • Zucchini
  • Green peas
  • Spinach
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae wafers
  • Shrimp

Plecos are known to eat algae and leftovers, which can help keep your tank clean, especially if they share the tank with other fish. Rubber lipped plecos almost exclusively eat algae growing on the glass and other tank decorations. 

But because they can’t solely eat the naturally growing algae in the tank, you’ll have to supplement their diet with the above options.

Feeding your pleco six days out of the week is advisable because feeding them every day can lead to overfeeding. You can add meaty treats to spice up their meals every once in a while.

Common Diseases

Rubber lip plecos are hardy and won’t get sick as quickly as other fish species. To prevent any illnesses, however, you need to maintain the right water parameters so they can have a robust immune system. 

There are situations like introducing a new fish to the tank, making water changes, or adding tank decorations like plants and rocks that can tamper with the water parameters affecting your pleco.

If an outbreak occurs, you might have to use medication after consulting a vet to stop the infection from spreading to other tank mates. 

Signs that show your pleco is sick are: 

  • Damaged fins
  • Lack of appetite
  • General lethargy 
  • White spots
  • Swimming upside down

A balanced diet and regular tank maintenance will help your fish stay healthy and prevent illnesses in the future. 


If you’re keeping your rubber lip pleco with other tank mates and a fight breaks out, the last culprit to consider is the rubber lip pleco because of how relaxed and peaceful they are. Some fish keepers can go as far as to call them shy.

As they get older in a comfortable environment, they might tend to be territorial. But can you blame them if that’s the only home they’ve known?

These fish are friendly with humans too, and don’t mind having an audience tapping on their tank. You could even find them sucking on the tank’s wall. These are only a few of the reasons why fish keepers love these fish. 

Suitable Tank Mates

Unlike some freshwater fish, it’s easy to take care of a rubber lip pleco, even when kept with other tankmates. As mentioned above, these fish are peaceful, so you shouldn’t have any problems keeping them with other freshwater fish.

Preferably those that will stay away from the substrate and bottom parts of the community tank. If you don’t want to keep them with another rubber lip pleco, here’s a list of fish species you can keep them with: 

  • Congo tetras
  • Ember Tetra
  • Green Neon Tetra
  • Bolivian Ram
  • Zebra Danio
  • Cory catfish
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Fancy Goldfish
  • Roseline Torpedo Shark
  • Bala shark
  • Gouramis

Avoid keeping them with aggressive fish because it can lead to fights and high-stress levels. Some fish species you should avoid in a tank with rubber lip plecos are: 

  • Cichlids
  • Tiger barbs
  • Other catfish

Rubber lip plecos naturally won’t fight back when another fish attack, so they risk getting life threatening injuries. But don’t worry; they can thrive in community tanks. 


If you were buying these fish to breed, you’d be disappointed because it’s almost impossible to breed a rubber lip pleco. Whether you’re doing it in your home aquarium or a fish store, these fish are very hard to breed.

The plecos you see at stores are likely captured directly from the wild; that’s why you need to make their new tank environment similar to their natural habitat when you take them into your care.

One of the reasons it’s difficult to breed this fish is because they require a lot of space which could mean getting a tank larger than 250 gallons so that they’re comfortable enough to attempt breeding.

If you want fish to breed, check out these 10 best freshwater fish to own.


Can you keep rubber lip plecos together?

Yes, you can keep 2-3 rubber lip plecos together, but only when they’re very young because they’ll require more space when they get older.

Do Rubber plecos need driftwood?

Ideally. Driftwood is a great tank decoration for rubber lip plecos. Aside from relaxing on the driftwood, the naturally growing algae are food for your lip pleco. 

Are Rubber lip plecos algae eaters? 

Yes. These Freshwater fish love to eat algae. 

Should You Get a Rubber Lip Pleco?

Rubber lip Plecos are excellent freshwater fish for beginner and experienced fish keepers because of their peaceful nature and ease of taking care of. So if you’ve been thinking about it, then yes, you should! 

These freshwater fish will enjoy a spacious tank with warm water, plants, and many hiding places to keep them entertained. If you want a fish that will keep you happy, you’ll love watching rubber lip plecos because they are always active as they scavenge for food.

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