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Freshwater   Fishes

Zebra pleco
(Hypancistrus zebra)

Zebra pleco

Alternative species (click on the thumbnail to see the card)

  • None (for the moment!)


Scientific name
Hypancistrus zebra

Common name
Zebra pleco


what are its countries of origin?

Origin: Brazil (Rio Xingu)
Biotope: Amazonian


what are the physical differences between males and females?

From 7 cm (2.8"), males are generally taller. They have excrescences in the form of spines or odontodes, which are absent (or only slightly marked) in females.





what is the minimum volume for this species?

200 L / 44 imp gal / 53 US gal


what are the water parameters for the maintenance of this fish?

T°: 26 to 30°C or 79 to 86°F
pH: 6 to 7
Hardness: 3 to 10°dGH





what is the maximum size of this fish?

Female: 8cm (3.2")- Male: 10cm (4")


what is the average Longevity of this fish?

15 years

Living zone

in which area of the aquarium does this fish live?



sociability of the species



How to feed the Zebra pleco?


How to feed the Zebra pleco?

Surprisingly, Hypancistrus zebra are omnivorous but with a preference for meat food (unlike their many cousins in the Loricariidae family who prefer algae and plants). Thus, its diet will consist of daphnia, artemia and mud worms. You can also offer freeze-dried groundfish food in pellet form, which you will rehydrate beforehand.

As this fish is rather nocturnal, distribute the meal just before the lights go out.


What kind of behavior does the Zebra pleco have?


What kind of behavior does the Zebra pleco have?

Overall, interspecific relationships are good. Adult males are, however, quite territorial with respect to their congeners, whether male or female (females are only accepted during the breeding season). Note that this behaviour is equally valid for all Hypancistrus males, whatever their species. The females remain perfectly peaceful.

Even if they are territorial, they need the presence of their congeners. You will therefore need to leave on a minimum of 4 individuals per aquarium, or even more if your tank allows it. The group will establish a hierarchy, in which only the dominant male will have the privilege to reproduce. Because of this specificity, you will have to limit the number of females in your group so as not to exhaust your male (he keeps the eggs alone).

They are twilight and nocturnal. During the day, they spend a lot of time hiding in the crevices of the scenery.


Who can live with the Zebra pleco?


Who can live with the Zebra pleco?

In a 200 litre / 44 Imp Gal / 53 US Gal aquarium, you can keep the Zebrafish in pairs. In larger aquariums, they can live in larger groups. In this case, you will ensure that each male can take over a visually separate territory from his rivals.

As for the other species, zebrafish simply ignore the other inhabitants of the aquarium. The main difficulty in associating roommates will be environmental: this species likes strong currents and fairly warm waters. Few fish can live long term in these conditions! We therefore recommend that you keep them in a specific aquarium, specially adapted to their needs.

Also note that you should not subject your fish to food competition with more lively fish, as this will be to the detriment of your plecos. It will therefore be the only bottom species in its tank.


How to breed the Zebra pleco?


How to breed the Zebra pleco?

Even if it is still rare, its reproduction is rather easy with a little experience and equipment (a 30 and a 100-litre aquarium / a 6 and a 22 Imp Gal aquarium / a 8 and a 26 US Gal aquarium). In a hierarchical group, only the dominant male is allowed to breed. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 3 years. It seems that breeding attempts give better results in the spring.

Provide hiding places for laying eggs. For example, use earthenware or PVC pots or tubes. These should be fairly long and narrow, and plugged at one end. This type of hiding place will allow the male to guard the brood at the only possible exit.

To simulate the change of season that triggers spawning, proceed as follows:
- Turn off the immersion heater and let the temperature drop to 22°C/72°F (room temperature).
- from then on, reduce the amount of food for 5 days.
- From the 6th day onwards, gradually increase the temperature to 29/30°C (84/86°F) and feed more and more live prey.

Oviposition takes place in the tube. The female leaves the site as soon as the finished eggs are expelled. The male will now take care of keeping and caring for the brood (between 10 and 15 eggs). He watches over them, ventilates them, turns them over and covers them with his body. Normally, he will not leave his eggs during the whole incubation period and even after hatching (a few exceptions have been observed). Watch out for the presence of snails that may attack the eggs.

The fry feed on their yolk sac during the first 14 to 16 days of their life.

6 days after hatching, you can retrieve the fry and put them in a small "nursery" type tank in the water of the main aquarium (make sure that the water circulates well). To retrieve the fry, gently lift the tube without disturbing the entire decor.

Then, you will need to provide different bins with increasing volumes to ensure good growth of the small ones. After nesting, on the 16th day after birth, transfer your fry to an aquarium of about 30 litres just equipped with a filter, an immersion heater and a few hiding places (no floor to make cleaning easier). Maintain this tank daily and siphon the waste and make small changes of water with the water in the main aquarium. Distribute food in the evening on the floor (artemia nauplias or groundfish pellets ground to powder and bathed in mud worm juice).

Hypancistrus zebra juvenile

After a month, the critical period has passed. Congratulations! Transfer your fry to a second 100 litre / 22 Imp Gal / 26 US Gal tank (with the same water characteristics as the previous tank). This one will have sand and shale patches forming hiding places. A filter and an immersion heater are, of course, essential equipment. Distribute the food in the evening at the entrance to the hiding places (cyclopses, artemia nauplias, groundfish pellets, etc.).

According to the article of A46 on 09 August 2008, modified on 11 May 2018. To see the article (french), click here

Its aquarium

Which aquarium for the Zebra pleco?

Its aquarium

Which aquarium for the Zebra pleco?

In terms of the volume of the aquarium, it is mainly the floor space that is important. An aquarium with at least 80 cm of frontage is required for proper maintenance.

It lives naturally in clear, fast-flowing streams. In an aquarium, this fish will therefore appreciate good mixing, with plenty of current and clean, well-oxygenated water. Powerful filtration will ensure this part of the optimal maintenance of the plécos. The ideal parameters are a hardness between 5 and 8°dGH, a pH of 6.5 and a fairly warm water.

Hypancistrus zebra aquarium

For an ideal aquarium, many roots and rocks forming tangles and many hiding places will be necessary. He hates too much light and this criterion can even prevent him from being himself. Be sure to turn down the lighting or dim it down a lot.

On the planting side, choose large background plants such as Vallisneria. You can also attach Microsorum plants to your decor for a more natural look.

For the soil, choose Loire sand or any other non-cutting substrate. A tangle of shale slabs is also welcome.

Good To know

Find all additional information!

Good To know

Find all additional information!

For Hypancistrus enthusiasts, L066 and L333 are 2 distinct species. Indeed, although very similar visually, there seems to be a difference in the thickness of the black stripes and patterns. Scientists have therefore undertaken research to clarify the matter. The study clearly shows that Hypancistrus L066 and L333 are the same species. Therefore, even though they have different patterns, they are different phenotypes, not different species because DNA analysis shows that they are identical. L333 therefore no longer exists, as the naming convention always reverts to the oldest name. Only A066 therefore remains valid. Source scientific article here (English).

The zebrafish is very rare in its natural environment, and it is now on the list of endangered species. It has been banned for export since 2009. To get some, you will have to turn to amateur breeders. However, be aware that it is quite rare and that its price can be quite high.

As these maintenance conditions can be difficult to set up, this species is reserved for experienced aquarists.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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