Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
The bristlenose are quite plant safe, and as babies can perch on the plants to eat the algae.
Those are some really NICE fish, wkndracer, I really like the 2nd picture! Head first into the zucchini!
Pleco is a common name that refers to many related fish.
They are Catfish in the family Loricariidae
Plecostomus is the Latin name that the word Pleco comes from. Hypostomus plecostomus is one of the common Plecos found in stores. This species gets a foot long.
Many do eat algae, but many prefer wood, and some like higher protein foods.
If you are looking for a fish that eats algae there are several that are good choices depending on your tank size.
The smallest, good in 10 gallon tanks (or even a 5 gallon, if you feed them) are Otocinclus. In larger tanks about 1 Oto per 10 gallons is a rough guide.
Pitbull Plecos are also quite small, and are good for algae. I do not often see them in stores, though.
Rubber lip Plecos are a bit larger, but OK for tanks of about 20-30 gallons.
There are several related fish sold as Bristlenose Plecos. They are in the species Ancistrus. The more common ones, and the fancy long finned or albino types pictured by wkndracer are good in tanks from about 45 gallons on up. Most are shy fish, good at hiding from boisterous tank mates. Superb algae eaters.
The Peckoltias are another group with several small species, but many prefer higher protein foods, so are not the best for algae clean up. Many are quite nice looking, often with colorful stripes.
The Panaques are mostly wood eating, not great for algae, unless it is growing on the wood. There are several sized fish in this group, some are quite showy.
The Common Pleco most often sold might be any of several species. They may grow to a foot to 2' long, and they grow fast. When they are young they are indeed algae eating machines. They quickly outgrow their usefulness, however. What goes in must come out, and when these fish grow, so does the waste load. It is sort of like getting a cow to eat the weeds in a typical garden. Sure the weeds disappear, but the mess!
Also, these fish have been caught in the act of sucking the slime coat off slow moving tank mates like Goldfish, Angelfish, Discus and Gouramis. I agree with wkndracer: With proper labeling the stores probably would not sell so many, and they really should not sell them at all. Very few people can properly house them, so they are turned loose in warm waters, and can be found in the wild in Florida, and probably many other places.