Zebra Pleco - Hypancistrus Zebra

The Zebra Plecostomus is a spectacular catfish that is wanted by nearly every fish keeper but unfortunately purchasing it is not always that easy as they demand a high price, much more than the normal rate. This fish is also commonly known as the Imperial pleco or by the L numbers; L46 or L98.

Hypancistrus Zebra Hypancistrus Zebra

The zebra pleco has bold black lateral stripes running across a white body with a black stripe running over the body from one pectoral fin to the other. The dorsal fin has a high expansion and it is possible to develop a blue twinge when in prime condition. It has a sucker mouth with 4 whiskers. Like other pleco's it has a flat-ish stomach.

These pleco's come from the rivers of Rio Xingu, Para and Brazil. They require a pH of 6-7.5 but seem to be doing best in a water pH of 6.5 or just under 7.0. A minimum tank size of 30 U.S gallons (113 litres) is required and a temperature of 78 - 86 °F (26 - 30 °C).

Rocks and decorations should be placed in the aquarium in a way that caves and hiding places are created for them, so that they can take refuge when necessary. It is believed the more hiding places there are the more they will come out into the open, knowing they will be able to hide whenever they want. Fine sand or river gravel should be used for substrate. Rocks should be placed in the aquarium to imitate its natural environment as well as driftwood. A powerful filter is needed as they require a strong current.

Hypancistrus Zebra Hypancistrus Zebra

They are shy, nocturnal fish, generally coming out at night. Competing for food is not something this fish is good at. If other bottom dwellers are kept along with them, be sure that they aren't of the aggressive nature, gobbling the food without the zebra pleco getting any of it. It is known for them to be territorial towards their own species as well as a small retreat they may take as their territory, hence the reason caves are needed, especially if more than one zebra pleco is kept in a single aquarium.

They grow between 3 - 4 inches (7.5 - 10 cm) and their lifespan is known to be about 10 - 15 years.

When first introduced to the aquarium it is essential to make sure that the zebra pleco is getting food. Due to their shy nature they may be too shy to come out into the open to eat. Feeding them in quiet spots where they don't feel threatened is advised. As this is an expensive fish, going one step further in its care taking is not a bad idea. Theys are omnivores. Live and frozen foods, such as blood worms and brine shrimp can be fed, however live foods are more appreciated. Crushed peas with the skin removed, corgette, also known as zucchini or baby marrow are good for the veggies part of the diet. Tetra prima and algae wafers too, can be fed.

To be able to tell their genders, the male has a broader head and the first pectoral fin ray is thicker for the male then the female. Also he has thicker hairs on the pectoral fins, while the female's is visibly thinner. The females head is also decidedly rounder than the males.

hypancistrus zebra Zebra Pleco

With the temp at 82 °F, the aquarium well aerated and caves or driftwood that resembles a cave, spawning can take place. Spawning takes place in several batches within the cave. The male will at first block the cave entrance with his head. Eventually the female then persuades him away from the entrance of the cave to fertilizes the eggs. The male may even push her out of the cave. 99 % of the time, the first spawning will be a false test with none of the eggs hatching. The male will guard the fertilized eggs and the female won't even be allowed into the cave. There are usually 7 - 15 eggs laid in each spawning. The eggs take 7 days to hatch and by day 10 of the fry's life, the yolk sac will be gone. They will take most fry food as soon as the yolk sac is gone. It takes 2.5 months for them to reach 1" (2.5 cm).

Zebra Pleco Care

Scientific Name: Hypancistrus Zebra

Common Name(s): Imperial Pleco, L46, L48

Care Level: easy to medium

Size: 3 - 4 inches (7.5 - 10 cm)

pH: 6.5 - 7.0

Temperature: 78 - 86 °F (26 - 30 °C)

Origin / Habitat: South America: Xingu River basin (fishbase).

Lifespan: 10 - 15 years or longer

Temperament / Behavior: Can become territorial with their own species, but are usually peaceful with most other tank mates.

Tank Mates: Needs to be with peaceful tank mates.

Breeding / Mating / Reproduction: See breeding section in the article above.

Diet: Omnivorous, will accept a wide range of foods, but frozen/live foods preferred. Supplement their diet with zucchini slices and similar veggies.

Tank Size: A minimum of 30 gallons

Gender: See article above.

Forum Photos : Pleco Photos

Fish Lore Forum : Pleco Forum

Photo Credit : Photos copyright JJPhoto.dk

- Catfish, A complete Pet Owner's Manual by Gary Elson and Oliver Lucanus

Sabi and Tom

Still have questions?
Jump on the forum and ask your question!
Go here: Plecostomus Forum

Related Catfish Profiles
Corydoras metae
Corydoras metae
Bandit Cory
Comes from the rivers of Colombia, South America and has similar care requirements as other corydoras species.
Bristlenose Pleco
Ancistrus spp.
Bristlenose Pleco
Also known as the bushy nose pleco, the bristlenose pleco is a much better option for most hobbyists instead of the common pleco (below).
Bronze Corydoras
Corydoras aeneus
Bronze Corydoras
A popular cory cat, does well when kept in groups of 6 or more.