Aquarium Fish Info and Care: Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)

The zebra pleco is a very attractive and well known aquarium fish among the pet fish enthusiasts due to its brilliant body decoration and hardiness.  It is a Actinopterygian scaleless ray-finned fish under Loricarridae family of order Siluriformes. It was first discovered by Dutch Ichthyologist Isaäc J. H. Isbrücker and Han Nijssen in 1991.

Systematic Position

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Sub-phylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Siluriformes
  • Family: Loricarridae
  • Genus: Hypancistrus  
  • Species: Hypancistrus zebra

Distribution and Habitat

It is endemic to Brazil where it occurs in Rio Xingú River of North-Eastern Brazil. It prefers to live in deep running water among rubble where high oxygen level waters and sandy bottom are available.

Common Names

It has several common names such as Imperial Pleco, Zebra Plecostomus, L046, L48, L98, L173 etc.

Body Shape

It has an elongated body with large erected dorsal fin. It has sucker type mouth which is surrounded by 4 whiskers. The belly is flattened with relatively large eyes while the caudal fin is large and V-shaped. Dorsal fin bears 1 spine with 7 soft rays while the anal fin contains I spine and 4 soft rays.

Body Colors and Decoration

Body is white with strong black lateral stripes. These stripes run over the body. Stripes also run from one pectoral fin to the other pectoral fin.

Body Size and Lifespan

It is small sized fish which grows up to 10 cm in length with 3.99 gm in weight and can live up to 15 years or more if proper care is taken.

Quick Zebra Pleco Facts

  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus zebra

    Scientific Name: Hypancistrus zebra

  • Common Name: Imperial Pleco, Zebra Plecostomus, L046, L48, L98, L173 etc.
  • Family: Loricariidae
    Family: Loricariidae
  • Origin: South America
    Origin: South America
  • Grown up size:   10 cm
    Grown up size:   10 cm
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
    Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Tank region:  Bottom
    Tank region:  Bottom
  • Diet: Omnivore
    Diet: Omnivore
  • Breeding: Egg layers
    Breeding: Egg layers
  • Temperature: 78 - 86 °F
    Temperature: 78 - 86 °F
  • Hardness: 8-12°dGH

    Hardness: 8-12°dGH

  • Water pH: 6.5 - 7.5
    Water pH: 6.5 - 7.5
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Habitat: South American Rivers
    Habitat: South American Rivers
  • Care Level: Easy
    Care Level: Easy
  • Lifespan: 15 years or more
    Lifespan: 15 years or more

Food and Feeding Behavior

In nature, its food consists of invertebrates like chironomus larvae, Tubifex, Artemia (brine shrimp) and vegetables. In aquarium condition, it takes frozen or live foods such as lobster eggs, blood worms, prawn, Tetra prima, mussel, and Crushed peas, sinking pellets and algae wafers. To make your fish happy, feed should be given 2-3 times daily. 

Housing and Care Facts

It requires at least 20 gallon tank but larger tank is prescribed. The tank should have fine sand or gravel as substrate with lots of hiding spot. It prefers to hide in caves, crevices, PVC-pipe or flower pots. It does not live in stagnant water and the tank water should be fresh and well oxygenated. In this case, you should use powerful filter to make strong current in aquarium. This fish prefers to live in good water chemistry with a pH of 6.5-7.5, hardness of 8-12 dGH and temperature of 78 - 86 °F.

Tank-mates

The zebra pleco is a peaceful fish but it becomes aggressive and territorial with its same species. It is a community fish and it should be kept in groups with 4-6 individuals. In this case, tank-mates should be one male, a few females and other peaceful like fish species such as characins.

Male and Female Sex differences

It is hard to make differences between the male and female during the juvenile stage. Generally, the male has long inter-opercular spines and large head than the female.  Beside these, the first ray of pectoral fin is thicker than the female. During the breeding season, spine-like odontodes are seen on the pectoral fin. The mature female bears fuller belly when she bears egg on her belly during the breeding season.

Breeding Behavior

The Zebra Pleco is an egg layer and it can breed in captive condition if appropriate care is taken. In nature, it breeds during the rainy season which ranges from July to September but in captivity, they can spawn at any time.

The breeding tank should have lots of cave for the fish to hide.  In this case, the caves should be made from crevices in rocks, bits of PVC pipe or flower pots. To make your tank environment healthy, frequent partial water changes should be done.

To stimulate the spawning, water temperature should be between 82 and 86°F (28-30°C) with well oxygenated water and a moderate to strong water current. To increase oxygen level in your aquarium, you should use best air pumps which are available in the pet fish market.

The mature female lays up to 15 gloomy -white eggs within a cave. The male watch the eggs and fry. The eggs should be transferred in a well oxygenated rearing tank. The eggs hatch within 3 - 7 days. Within 3 - 4 days after hatching, the fry become start to develop.

The fry should be fed with newly hatched baby brine shrimp or finely crushed dried food. The growth rate of the young is very slow. They can reach 2.5 cm in length within 3 months.

Disease and Preventive Measures

The Zebra pleco is very hardy fish but sometimes susceptible to various health problems due to parasitic, bacterial or fungal infections. To prevent infectious disease, antibacterial or anti-fungal treatment should be done. To make your tank environment healthy, 20-25% water changes should be done every other week. Sometimes it also affects from infectious warts. In this case, warts should be removed surgically and treatment should be done with iodine solution.

Concluding Remarks

Overall, the Zebra Pleco is a very attractive and popular aquarium fish due to its zebra like body decoration and hardiness. At present, it is available in local pet fish market and online shops with sensible cost. To make your tank more attractive, we recommend you to keep this gorgeous fish in your tank.

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The zebra pleco is a peaceful fish but it becomes aggressive and territorial with its same species. It is a community fish and it should be kept in groups with 4-6 individuals. In this case, tank mates should be one male, a few females and other peaceful like fish species such as characins.
In nature, its food consists of invertebrates like chironomus larvae, Tubifex, Artemia (brine shrimp) and vegetables. In aquarium condition, it takes frozen or live foods such as lobster eggs, blood worms, prawn, Tetra prima, mussel, and Crushed peas, sinking pellets and algae wafers. To make your fish happy, feed should be given 2-3 times daily. 
It is small sized fish which grows up to 10 cm in length with 3.99 gm in weight and can live up to 15 years or more if proper care is taken.

Body is white with strong black lateral stripes. These stripes run over the body. Stripes also run from one pectoral fin to the other pectoral fin.

It has an elongated body with large erected dorsal fin. It has sucker type mouth which is surrounded by 4 whiskers. The belly is flattened with relatively large eyes while the caudal fin is large and V-shaped. Dorsal fin bears 1 spine with 7 soft rays while the anal fin contains I spine and 4 soft rays.
It has several common names such as Imperial Pleco, Zebra Plecostomus, L046, L48, L98, L173 etc.
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