Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)
Zebra Plecos are rarely available, so they carry a high price tag. However, their stunning colours and patterning make these fish worth it. Zebra Plecos are peaceful, shy, and nocturnal fish that require high oxygen levels, warm temperatures, pristine water and a fast-flowing current, so they are not ideal for the beginner aquarist and are not recommended for the general community aquarium. It would be better to keep these Plecos either on their own or in pairs; however, some people have managed to keep these fish in an aquarium with other temperate species.
If you decide to keep these Plecos with tankmates, you must make sure there are plenty of hiding places and visual barriers, and it would be best to choose species that appreciate similar conditions and don’t feed on the bottom. Possible tankmates could include Tetras, Micro Rasboras, and some Dwarf Barbs. You could also consider smaller Catfish such as Otocinclus and Neocaridina Shrimp. However, it would help to avoid similar-looking species as they can become territorial as well as more boisterous species as they will outcompete them for food.
Zebra Plecos will flourish in a biotope setup mimicking their natural environment. Sandy substrate scattered with smooth pebbles and differently sized rocks would be ideal. You can also add a few driftwood branches as these fish enjoy places to shelter. It would be best to add a powerhead or two at one end of the aquarium to provide oxygenation and water movement. You can have plants in the aquarium; however, they will need to be hardy plants such as Anubias or Java Fern, as other plants will not do well in these water conditions.
Zebra Plecos have a black and white lateral striped pattern which is how they got their name. Their stripes really pop and shine with ideal lighting, bringing vibrance to your community aquarium. In addition to their stunning patterning, the Zebra Pleco has a small sucker mouth and big, bulging eyes; their dorsal fin is triangular and stands up tall, but they can also lay it down when required. On the side of their body, they also have two sets of pectoral fins and a set of rayed fins, which are pretty significant.
|Scientific Name||Hypancistrus zebra|
|Other Names||L046 Pleco, L098 Pleco, L173 Pleco|
|Difficulty||Intermediate - Advanced|
|Best kept as||Groups 5+|
|Lifespan||up to 15 years|
|PH||6.5 - 7.5|
|GH||6 - 12|
|TDS||100 - 300|
|78 - 86℉|
25.6 - 30℃
Photos of the Zebra Pleco
Zebra Plecos are endemic to the middle Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil in South America. These fish inhabit dimly lit, deep, fast-flowing waters that run over sand which is usually covered in rocks and stones. There is very little submerged wood in their habitats and practically no plants.
Due to the Belo Monte Dam construction, these Plecos have been classified as endangered in the wild and may soon become extinct.
What to feed the Zebra Pleco
Zebra Plecos are not fussy and will accept a wide range of foods from frozen and live foods like bloodworm and brine shrimp to good quality dried food like pellets, flakes and algae wafers. In addition, these Plecos will enjoy the occasional vegetable treat. However, remember that this species is nocturnal, so it is best to feed them when the aquarium light is turned off.
How to breed the Zebra Pleco
The Zebra plecos become sexually mature from 18 months to 2 years old, and proper caves are a crucial part of the breeding process.
Zebra Plecos have been bred in the hobby and will often spawn in a community aquarium if they are happy with the conditions. However, if you would like to increase the fry yield, a more controlled approach will be required.
It would be best to set up a separate breeding tank and add 2 or 3 females for every male. You should add plenty of caves and shelters for spawning sites created from piles of rocks, flowerpots, or PVC piping, remembering the entrance should only be slightly larger than the Plecos. You should then condition the Plecos with lots of live and frozen food and make sure they have some water flow passing them.
When the Plecos are ready to spawn, the male will choose a cave and defend it against other males, attempting to lure a female inside. A successful male may spend several days inside the cave with a female before the eggs are laid and fertilised; they usually lay between 7 and 15 eggs. After this, the female will not do anything else and will be forced out of the cave by the male. The male will then take full responsibility for protecting the cave against intruders and will tend to the eggs by fanning them vigorously with his caudal fin.
The eggs will usually hatch around a week later, and the babies will feed on their huge yolk sacs for an additional 2 or 3 days. After this, you will need to feed them heavily with baby brine shrimp or microworms. The fry will also graze on sinking dried food such as algae wafers or pellets. Food must be available at all times, as the fry are voracious feeders and may quickly starve if not provided with a continuous food supply.
If you’re having trouble spawning your Plecos, try performing a significant water change with cooler water, then repeat this every 2 or 3 days.
You can leave the fry in the breeding tank if you like, as the adults will not harm them, or you can move them into a separate raising tank, providing it has the same water parameters as the breeding tank.