Zebra pleco

Aquarium fish: Zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)
Size: 10 – 12 cm
Origin: South America
Water temperature: 26-30 ° C
Aquarium volume: 54 l

Zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra ) – a unique and rare aquarium fish from the Arboridae family, it occurs only in one river on Earth and its export is currently prohibited.


South America. A rare, endemic species, it is found only in the Rio Xingu River in Brazil. The waters in this river are clear and well-oxygenated, with a rapid current, and the overall hardness can vary from 0 to even 20 degrees. These fish are found in deeper (6-7m), sandy places, most often hidden among rock clusters.

They have been under protection since 2004 and therefore very expensive and difficult to access.

Characteristics and disposition

They can grow up to 12 cm in length. In the first stages of life, they grow quite quickly, reaching 6 -7 cm by the age of 2. Thereafter, growth slows down significantly. Under the right conditions, they can live for more than 10 years.

They are characterized by an original and very diverse black and white coloration, hence the name of this species – Zebra. In the case of young fish, the male is more intensely colored – the colors are more expressive. However, this is not a sure-fire method of distinguishing between the sexes. In older individuals , sex is distinguished by the first radius of the pectoral fin , which is thicker in the male and has more strong spines (similar to the gill covers). Adult females are slightly smaller and rounder around the abdomen.

They are territorial to their own and similar species, so they should be the only representative of benthic fish. When kept in groups, they require a large number of hiding places. They are more active after dusk and at feeding times.

Nutrition and feeding

Outside of adolescence, she prefers meat foods. The basis of the diet should be live or frozen foods such as: artemia, cyclops, daphnia, fish and clam meat, red plankton, supplemented with a bit of green foods, e.g.

dry foods with spirulina, spinach, carrots, peas, cucumbers, etc.


It will feel best in an aquarium with dimensions of min. 60x30x30 cm, with a sandy bottom. It is best to use flat, smooth stones and roots of different sizes for decoration. They require good quality, well-oxygenated water with a strong forced current.

Plants are rather not recommended and it will be difficult to maintain them, but you can try with more durable species growing on decorations, for example Anubias. A mild and calm species, however, due to environmental requirements, it is not recommended for a general aquarium. It requires quite specific conditions, and it can easily be dominated by more active fish during feeding. Some zebra breeders keep them with discus or cichlids due to the similar water temperature, but it is best to keep them in a species aquarium. If we have to have other fish in the same tank, the right choice will be species that eat food from the water surface, with similar environmental requirements, e.g.

small tetras (Red-mouth mussel, Black stain), carp (Wedge-shaped razbora), otos and dwarf shrimps.


They willingly reproduce in breeding aquariums, and sometimes, under appropriate conditions, they can breed in a general aquarium. The breeding success will be approx. 54 liter tank, decorated with pots and ceramic or PVC pipes, which will replace the tight rock caves and serve as spawning grounds. It is important that the diameter of the entrance to such a cave is only slightly larger than that of the fish.

The water should be well-oxygenated, with strong circulation, pH 6.5 – 7.5 and temperature approx. 28 – 30 ° C. A substrate is not necessary. It is best to buy about 6 young individuals and raise them until you can distinguish the sex. There should be 2-3 females per one male.

Fish should be fed frequently with live food. As soon as they are in proper condition for spawning, the male chooses a grotto, the entrance of which he protects against rivals and at the same time is recommended to the female. The couple can spend up to several days in the grotto before the eggs are laid and fertilized. After successful spawning, the male chases the females away and takes full responsibility for caring for the offspring. It protects the nest from predators and fan the roe with its fins, thus supplying it with fresh and oxygenated water.

At this point, some breeders transfer the eggs to a suspended plastic incubator suspended from the wall of the aquarium, in which they place an air stone. Zebra plecos usually consist of only a few, usually about 7 to 15 grains of roe. The larvae hatch after one week and for the next 2-3 days the larvae feed from their yolk sacs. After this time, they require abundant feeding with brine shrimp larvae and micro nematodes, they will also be happy to scrape dry spirulina tablets. Fry are quite voracious, so it is important that food is available at all times.

Young fish grow much slower in aquarium conditions than other Hypancistrus species. Frequent removal of uneaten food remains and slight water changes are recommended. Parents can stay with their offspring and do not harm them in any way. In the event of reproductive problems, you can try several (at intervals of 2 – 3 days) larger changes of cooler (50 – 70%) water, thereby simulating the rainy season that encourages fish in the wild.


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