Skip to Content

Rubber Lip Pleco Care: Everything You Need To Know

Rubber Lip Pleco Care: Everything You Need To Know

The rubber lip pleco is a member of the plecostomus species, a part of the larger family of armored suckermouth catfish. It is an algae-eating fish that many people may enjoy adding to their tanks because it can help keep things clean. They are also quite peaceful and get along well with other fish. 

Though their coloring may not be as bright as other members of the plecostomus species, the rubber lip pleco (also known as the Chaetostoma milesi or L146) can be a great addition to your tank as they are relatively cheap and simple to take care of. 

Before getting a rubber lip pleco, it’s important to set up an environment where they can thrive. Even though they make great beginner fish, they require proper attention and maintenance to ensure they are safe and healthy. In this article, we’ll discuss how to care for a rubber lip pleco and some important health tips. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Overview & Natural Habitat

  • Common name: Rubber Lip Pleco
  • Scientific name: Chaetostoma milesi
  • Care level: Easy
  • Size: 5 – 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group size: Solitary fish
  • Minimum tank size: 25 gallons
  • Tank level: Bottom dweller
  • Water temperature: 72 – 80 °F (22.22 – 26.67 °C)
  • Water pH levels: 6.5 – 8
  • Water hardness: 10 to 15 dGH

Originating from the Magdelena and Apuré River Basins in Columbia and Venezuela, the rubber lip pleco comes from a freshwater environment where they look for food at the bottom of the rivers. Their primary food source is algae, making them a great addition to any tank that needs little algae maintenance. 

The Plecostomus Species

Pleco is short for plecostomus, which is a type of freshwater catfish. There are a few different types, but the rubber lip pleco is known as L146, as it is the 146th classified variation in the Chaetostoma family. Rubber lip plecos are also one of the smaller species of plecos and are very adaptable. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Appearance & Size

The rubber lip pleco has a greyish-brown coloration with dark spots on their heads. Some individuals may also have subtle stripes along the lower part of their bodies. Unlike other plecos that undergo color changes as they mature, the rubber lip pleco retains the same color throughout its entire lifespan.

They have the typical pleco-shaped body that gradually tapers toward the base of the caudal fin. Their slightly elevated eyes are positioned near the top of their head, allowing them to keep a lookout for predators while they fossick around at the bottom of the tank, usually munching on something.

These fish grow to be about 5 – 7 inches (12.7-17.78 cm) at maturity. Most rubber lip plecos stop at about 5.5 inches (13.97 cm) in a tank. Growth can depend on many factors, but a proper diet and a larger tank can give them more energy and space to grow..

Rubber Lip Pleco Personality & Behavior

The rubber lip pleco has a very peaceful demeanor and gets along well with many types of fish. It is a bottom-dwelling fish, but just be sure they have enough space to themselves, or they can become territorial. It’s generally good to avoid other bottom feeders in your tank to keep the peace. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Expected Lifespan

Although small, this fish can live up to 10-12 years in a well-maintained tank. The better care this fish receives, the longer it will live. This is why following the proper care steps is important, as a hardy fish like the rubber lip pleco is adaptable and does even better with thoughtful care. 

Rubber Lip Pleco Care & Tank Setup

Though the rubber lip pleco is known to be easy to care for, there is a lot of importance in ensuring the tank conditions are appropriate for the species. If a tank is not the right fit, your rubber lip pleco could get seriously ill or even die. By learning what they need for care, you can expect to have a healthy rubber lip pleco for many years. 

Tank Maintenance

Although the rubber lip pleco is an algae-eating fish, proper tank maintenance is needed to help keep things clean. You must do partial water changes weekly and invest in a nice filter. Since rubber lip plecos are used to slow-moving streams, a filter that makes some movement in the water will help them feel at home. 

Tank Size

Tank size is very important when caring for a rubber lip pleco if you want them to grow properly and live long. Since they are territorial, they need to have space of their own, as well. If you’re keeping them on their own, you’ll need a tank with a capacity of at least 30 gallons (113.56 liters), but 55 gal (208.2 liters) is the recommended minimum tank size for being housed with other fish. 

Water Parameters

Rubber lip plecos can tolerate a range of water conditions, allowing some flexibility but you’ll want to closely mimic the parameters found in its natural habitat in South America. 

  • Water temperature: 72 – 80 °F (22.22 – 26.67 °C)
  • Water pH levels: 6.5 – 8
  • Water hardness: 10 to 15 dGH

Although these fish are resilient, it is important to complete regular water checks to monitor these levels. I recommend getting a high-quality testing kit to ensure the readings are accurate.

Water Temperature

The rubber lip pleco is used to much warmer water temperatures similar to the rivers in South America they originate from. Though they can tolerate cooler waters, this is not ideal for them in the long run, as they can eventually get sick. You’ll want to keep your tank between 72 – 80 °F (22.22 – 26.67 °C). 

Water pH levels

You’ll also want to maintain a pH between 6.5 and 8 for your rubber lip pleco. Before and after getting this fish, you should monitor the pH in your tank often to make sure it stays within this range. A high or too-low number could be fatal for this fish. 

Water Hardness

You’ll want to maintain a water hardness level of 10 to 15 dGH. This particular species is sensitive to high levels of chlorine, so if tap water is being used, it is essential to use a de-chlorinating device to maintain ideal water conditions.

What To Put In The Tank

As a bottom-dweller, the rubber lip pleco will mostly be found on the floor of the tank. This is also where the most vital pieces of an aquarium habitat are to ensure comfort in the fish’s daily lives. This is why you will need to mimic what they are used to in their natural environment so they can live stress-free. 


The best substrate for a rubber lip pleco is a soft, sandy substrate. Mixing in some softly rounded pebbles is okay, too, as long as there are no sharp edges. The rubber lip pleco will spend much of its time scavenging on the floor, so it can easily get injured if the substrate is too rough or jagged.


When considering decorations for your tank, remember that the rubber lip pleco likes a mix of items that will allow them shade and a place to hide. If you’re adding castles or caves, be sure the entrance is large enough for the rubber lip pleco to enter and exit. 

Driftwood is also a great addition to a tank with a rubber lip pleco. This is common in their natural habitat and also allows for a place to hide, as well as a place to feed on algae. 

Ideal Plants

Rubber lip plecos are nocturnal, so having plants in your aquarium will help block some light, so the bottom of the tank doesn’t get too bright. Since this fish is an algae eater, you can have real plants in the tank as long as they are tough enough to withstand a little munching. Some other benefits of plants for the rubber lip pleco include: 

  • Boosting nutrition: Live plants will release good minerals into the tank water, which is beneficial for your rubber lip pleco.
  • Giving a good hiding spot: Since the rubber lip pleco is nocturnal and territorial, plants give them a nice place to retreat and be on their own.
  • Mimicking their natural environment: Since these fish are used to having plants in their natural habitat, a tank with plants will keep them at ease. 

Some good plant considerations include eelgrass and Java ferns since they can withstand wear and tear from your rubber lip pleco.


Rubber Lip Plecos require minimal lighting. Given its nocturnal nature, I recommend providing ample shaded areas within your aquarium where your pleco can comfortably rest during daylight hours.

Rubber Lip Pleco Tank Mates

Rubber lip plecos are very peaceful but can become aggressive or territorial if their personal space is not respected. It’s wise to place this fish in a tank that does not have other bottom-dwelling fish. Instead, stick to other fish that occupy the middle and top of the tank, such as: 

Even though rubber lip plecos are peaceful fish, they have been known to become territorial with other pleco fish. If you are considering placing them in a tank with other plecos like the clown pleco or bristlenose pleco, make sure they have plenty of space and an area they can call their own   

Rubber Lip Pleco Food & Diet

Rubber lip plecos don’t only eat algae. They will need a varied diet to sustain them and keep them healthy, as the algae in tanks are not as nutritious as the ones in the wild. Foods that are recommended for a rubber lip pleco include:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Spirulina
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers

Though many of these options are vegetarian, it’s important to note that your rubber lip pleco will also search the substrate for leftovers from other fish. They will also eat dead fish, so be mindful of that! 

Breeding Rubber Lip Plecos

Like other plecos, the rubber lip pleco is a species of fish that can not be successfully bred in a home tank. There is not enough space in home aquariums to replicate breeding in the wild, and rubber lip plecos are typically not bred in captivity, to begin with. If you want a juvenile rubber lip pleco, purchase them from a reputable seller.

Rubber Lip Pleco Health 

Even though a rubber lip pleco can be set up for success by a well-prepared tank, this does not mean they will never fall ill. Introducing your pleco to your tank takes time and is one of the most important steps for success. After they are introduced, you’ll need to take notice of their behavior, so you can identify when they might be feeling unwell. 

Acclimating Rubber Lip Pleco to a Tank

When you introduce your rubber lip pleco to their new tank, they can easily get sick from shock if this is done improperly. All fish need to be introduced to the tank in a gradual process to ensure they are comfortable and safely transferred. Several steps can be time-consuming, so be sure to plan a day with enough time to acclimate the rubber lip pleco to the tank safely. 

The steps include:

  1. Turn the lights down low. This includes the tank and the room the tank is housed in. Since the rubber lip pleco is nocturnal and prefers a darker environment, this is very important. 
  2. Clean off the plastic bag holding your rubber lip pleco. This will help avoid contaminating the tank during the next few steps. 
  3. Remove excess water from the bag holding your rubber lip pleco. Leave just enough so that the dorsal fins are covered. You will add more water later, but they still need enough to breathe. 
  4. Float the plastic bag on top of the aquarium surface. This will take at least 15 minutes, and the purpose is to gradually bring the water in the bag to the same temperature in the tank. If you find this difficult, fold the bag edges down a bit. 
  5. Add tank water to the bag every 5-10 minutes. You’ll want to do this until the bag is full. It’s crucial to do this step until the temperature in the bag matches the aquarium.
  6. Place your rubber lip pleco into the tank with a net. You’ll want to release the pleco as close to the bottom of the tank as possible since this is their natural resting place. 

Though lengthy, these steps provide a safe introduction for your rubber lip pleco into the tank. Moving too quickly can cause shock and, in extreme cases, death. Keep a close eye on the pleco after releasing them to identify odd behaviors. 

Signs of Illness or Stress in Rubber Lip Pleco

As a freshwater fish, the rubber lip pleco is susceptible to many freshwater fish diseases. Though disease is most commonly found in overcrowded tanks or poor water conditions, it is important to be aware of the signs. Some common signs of illness in rubber lip plecos include: 

  • Lethargy
  • Fin erosion
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swimming erratically 
  • Brushing
  • White spots (commonly seen with Ich disease) 

The top three diseases that can cause these symptoms are parasites, bacterial infections, or ingestion of toxins. Most of these can be fixed if caught early on, so seek care immediately. It’s good to look up the symptoms online to rule things out and consult veterinarians who specialize in fish care for that extra help. 

A poor diet can also contribute to the above symptoms, so ensure you are feeding your rubber lip pleco enough food, as the algae in the tank are not enough to sustain them. Overfeeding can cause similar issues as well. 

Rubber Lip Pleco FAQs

How big do Rubber Lip Plecos get?

At maturity, Rubber lip plecos grow to be about 5-7 inches (12.7-17.78 cm). Most will stop growing at about 5.5 inches (13.97 cm) in a tank. A proper diet and a larger tank can give them more energy and space to grow. 

Can Rubber Lip Plecos live in cold water?

Rubber Lip Plecos can tolerate cooler waters but it’s not ideal for them in the long run, as they can eventually get sick. You’ll want to keep your tank between 72-80 °F (22.22-26.67 °C), to prevent your Rubber Lip Pleco from getting stressed and keep them healthy.

What color is a Rubber Lip Pleco?

Rubber Lip Plecos are greyish-brown, with dark spots on their heads. Some may have stripes lower down on their bodies. They remain the same color all their life, unlike other plecos who change color as they mature. 

Do Rubber Lip Plecos hide a lot?

Due to their tranquil nature, they tend to be relatively stationary, occupying a particular location within the tank and leisurely exploring the safety of their sheltered hideout.

Wrapping Up

The rubber lip pleco makes a great addition to an aquarium that needs a bottom-dweller to liven up the community. While also keeping the tank clean, their peaceful personality and adaptability make them great candidates for a beginner tank. 

Though they are easier to care for than more advanced fish, you must still provide proper living conditions for the rubber lip pleco to thrive and live a long life. Be sure to give them enough space to feel secure, and consistently check the water to ensure it is up to par with the standards of the rubber lip pleco.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...