Rubber Lip Pleco (L146): Care, Size, Temperature & Food

Common Name(s)Rubber Lip pleco, Rubber Lipped pleco, Rubbernose Pleco
Scientific NameChaetostoma milesi (L146)
OriginSouth America
Temperature72-78°F (22-26°C)
Size5-7 inches (13-18 cm)
Minimum Tank Size25 gallons (95 liters)
Food & DietOmnivore with a heavily herbivorous diet.
Lifespan10-12 years
Water pH6.5-8
Tank MatesNeon tetras, Honey gourami, Sparkling gourami, and Ember tetra
BreedingCave spawner
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.
rubber lip pleco
Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma milesi). Frank Alvarez, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rubber Lip Pleco Care

Searching for a fish that will be great tank mates with your existing aquarium fish, easy to care for, and will help keep your tank looking clean? Look no further than the Rubber Lip pleco.  

What is a Rubber Lip Pleco?

The Rubber Lip pleco, or the Chaetostoma milesi, is a freshwater fish native to South America. It is part of the largest family of armored suckermouth catfish, the chaetostoma genus. Often confused for the Rubber pleco, this easy to care for fish is a great option for beginners.

Rubber Lip Pleco Size & Appearance

The Rubber Lip pleco looks quite like the common pleco, with a large sucker mouth and snout, eyes near the top of their head, and a tapering body. They are typically grey with spots on their face and stripes on the lower half of their body. This Rubber Lip pleco is smaller than most other pleco species. While other species of pleco can reach 2 feet in length, Rubber Lip pleco only reaches a maximum size of approximately 5-7 inches (13-18 cm).

Rubber Lip Plecos


A hardy, peaceful fish, the Rubber Lip pleco is known to keep to itself near the substrate. You’ll often catch your new catfish friend hiding in a cave or beneath driftwood- or even suckered to a surface in your tank. Like other plecos, the Rubber Lip pleco is a nocturnal bottom-dweller, so don’t be concerned if they seem inactive and are often hiding. They are quite curious scavengers and enjoy checking out various surfaces- or they’re just waiting for lights out!

Food & Diet

While the Rubber Lip pleco is an omnivore, they favour a more herbivorous diet; in the wild, they eat almost exclusively algae. However, the algae in your tank does not have the same nutritional profile as that in their natural habitat, and therefore, the Rubber Lip pleco cannot survive on that alone. In some cases, aquarists have tried to foster an environment in which more sustaining algae can grow. Unfortunately, this is very challenging and even if successful, may not be in quantities high enough to feed your new pleco. Luckily these guys are more than happy to munch on veggies and other greens.

Here are some food that you can feed Rubber Lip plecos:

  • Fresh zucchini
  • Spirulina
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Algae wafers/sheets

You can offer your Rubber Lip pleco some meat options like freeze-dried bloodworms or brine shrimp but sticking to plants may be your best bet. One important thing to note is that these guys can develop a rather refined taste. Think of a child that only eats caviar- McDonald’s fries don’t exactly measure up afterwards. If you introduce a varied veggie diet to your new pleco early on, they may lose their taste for algae and not perform as the tank maid. These fish can be fed twice a day; be sure to only provide them with food that can be eaten within a couple of minutes.

Rubber Lip Pleco (L146). Ictiologia Universidad Católica de Oriente, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rubber Lip Pleco Lifespan & Disease

With proper care, the Rubber Lip pleco can live to be between 10-12 years in captivity. They are hardy fish, affected only by common fish diseases such as Ich. Ich is a parasitic infection that is highly transmittable but easily treated. It manifests itself as white spots on the fishes’ body; if you notice your fish suffering be sure to quarantine it in a separate tank and medicate with an over-the-counter prescription.

The best way to ensure that your Rubber Lip pleco lives a happy, healthy life is to consistently check the water and be attentive to your their needs- a happy fish will make your fish keeping experience the best it can be.


There have been virtually no reports of successful Rubber Lip pleco breeding in home aquariums; it has proven to be very difficult. This is often a result of a lack of space for them to breed and can be a fruitless effort. As such, we recommend not to purchase these guys for the purpose of breeding- it could be a waste of time and money. 

From the Wild to the Aquarium

The Rubber Lip pleco originates from the Magdalena basins in Columbia and the Apure River in Venezuela. They can also be found in the rivers and tributaries that flow into these water bodies. These areas often experience a very intense rainy season in which water levels and temperatures rise profoundly. As such, the Rubber Lip pleco is a hardy fish that can withstand some variation in its water conditions. They are also quite used to large amounts of vegetation and algae (their favourite snack!).

Rubber Lip Pleco Water Parameters

The Rubber Lip pleco favours freshwater that matches the parameters they are used to in their home in South America. While they are hardy fish, be sure to perform regular water checks so that the water is closest to these needs.

Temperature: The Rubber Lip pleco prefers warm water between 72-78°F (22-26°C), but can tolerate cooler water due to the high seasons they are used to in the wild.

Water pH

Water with a pH between 6.5-8 is best suited to your Rubber Lip pleco.

Hardness: Water with a hardness of 8-12kDH is favoured by the Rubber Lip pleco.

Tank Size

While the Rubber Lip pleco is a small fish, a tank that is at least 25 gallons (95 liters) is necessary. Some may claim that the fish can survive in smaller tanks, but we recommend that the tank is large enough for them to be comfortable and thrive. If you are considering keeping them with other fish, particularly other plecos, a tank of at least 55 gallons (208 liters) is needed. If you have the space and the means, always try and provide your pleco with the largest tank possible.

Tank Setup

A tank with many plants, driftwood and other hiding places is best suited to the Rubber Lip pleco. Any freshwater plants are suitable for these fish, with floating plants as great options. Don’t be alarmed if you see your pleco suckered onto your plant’s leaves; they’re likely just snacking on any algae on the vegetation. Furthermore, soft substrate that mimics the riverbed (i.e. smooth rocks) is necessary, as the Rubber Lip pleco will spend most of its time at the bottom of your tank.

One very important element of a Rubber Lip pleco tank is driftwood. It offers your new fish friend a good place to hide and explore and is often found in their native habitat. Definitely consider adding driftwood to your tank if you plan on keeping these little guys- they’ll thank you for it!

Tank Mates

The Rubber Lip pleco is super easy going, and therefore is a good match for a variety of different tank mates. In most cases, they will be happiest with fish that share their peaceful temperament.

Here are some potential tank mates for Rubber Lip plecos:

  • Neon tetras
  • Honey gourami
  • Sparkling gourami
  • Cory catfish
  • Ember tetra
  • Goldfish
  • Shrimp (Do note that there is the potential for some juvenile fish to be mistaken for food)

While pleasant fish, the Rubber Lip pleco does have the potential to become territorial with other plecos. If you are considering adding fish like the Bristlenose pleco, be sure that the tank is large enough to allow the Rubber Lip pleco enough room to call their own. Otherwise, the Bristlenose, who also has an armoured body, will likely not bother with the Rubber Lip pleco, making them okay tank mates should there be space. More aggressive varieties of fish are not great matches for the Rubber Lip plecos: cichlids and betta fish can pose threats to your new catfish. It is important to know the temperament of your specific fish and assess whether they could be good neighbours.

Rubber Lip Pleco Price

Found in most pet stores or fish suppliers, the Rubber Lip pleco is a relatively cheap addition to your tank. They can start at around $12 USD. Be sure to do your research into where you purchase your pleco and what to expect in terms of financial commitment.

Overall, the Rubber Lip pleco is an excellent choice for the beginner hobbyist who is looking for a cute, peaceful, and clean machine of a fish. Enjoy your new fish friend (and cleaning expert).

Rubber Lip Pleco, Bristlenose Pleco, and Common Pleco

The Rubber Lip pleco is quite similar to both the Bristlenose and common pleco in both appearance and behaviour. The Bristlenose pleco is a close relative of the Rubber Lip pleco, sharing care needs and features. Both are quite peaceful, and rather little- the Bristlenose, however, is usually a bit smaller, ranging between 3-5 inches. They’re also both avid algae eaters, are suitable for similar tank mates and are relatively low maintenance fish for the beginner hobbyist. The Bristlenose, however, is usually more colourful, and is hardier to varying water conditions and potential threats, making them better suited to being paired with some more feisty characters.

On the other hand, the common pleco looks quite similar to the Rubber Lip pleco with many of the same “catfish” characteristics: bottom dwellers, originating from South America, with a knack for adapting to different niches. However, the common pleco is much larger than the Rubber Lip pleco, reaching sizes of 15 inches; in some cases they can grow even bigger! These guys are also much more omnivorous than their smaller counterparts, so their diet will need to be more diverse. What’s most important when choosing what pleco is right for you is to do your research. Make sure you have investigated what each species needs and that you can adequately provide that for them.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the knowledge that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory Aquatics is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish healthy.

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