To many aquarists, the Zebra Pleco is a must-have due to its eye-catching and beautiful colors. Their bright, bold white and black stripes are a beauty to behold, and this makes them one of the most spectacular fishes wanted by nearly every fish keeper.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to fully care for zebra pleco if you already have one or plan to get one for yourself.
Zebra Pleco Guide
- Species Summary
- Average size
- Zebra Pleco Care
- Tank Size
- Water Parameters
- What To Put In Their Tanks
- Common Possible Diseases
- Food & Diet
- Behavior & Temperament
- Zebra Pleco Tank Mates
The L46 Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra ) is a member of the Loricariidae family and made its first appearance in the early 1990s. As its name implies, it has the color of a zebra with black and white stripes. They are also commonly known as the Imperial pleco or L numbers, L46 or L98.
These fish are native to the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River. However, they are found only in the Big Bend region of that river, which is currently under threat due to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam.
They are currently classified as endangered species and can be hard to come by. However, if you are lucky to get your hands on them, you will be able to behold their beautiful coloration and their bulbous, high-set black eyes that give them a watchful puppy aspect. Although pricey, the Zebra Plecos are rare and stunning fishes and are a must-have!
Although smaller in size than other pleco species, the Zebra Pleco has a color pattern that’s bright and uniform, which makes them unique and noticeable among other freshwater aquarium fishes.
They have an elongated body with a flat belly, and their eyes are bluish, big, and bulgy. They have a suckermouth flanked by a pair of barbels on each side, and their mouth is smaller than other Catfish species.
Like other species of their type, they have four noticeable whiskers, which they use to explore their environment.
They are about 7.6-10.2 cm when mature and have a dorsal fin shaped like a triangle. They also have two pectoral fins located close to their head and one set of large striped rayed fins.
The Lifespan of Zebra Pleco
Zebra Plecos are known to have a long life span of about 10-15 years, depending on how well they are taken care of.
Taking care of them requires long commitment and effort to provide a better environment where they can thrive.
A good diet coupled with optimal water conditions will reduce common diseases and help them live their best life.
Providing a stress-free environment will also help them stay healthy and add to their lifespan.
Average Size of Zebra Pleco
The Zebra Pleco are small fish species with an average size of about 3-4 inches. Their growth rate is dependent on how well the water condition in their environment is maintained. Warm water and the quality of food they are given will contribute to their growth.
Zebra Pleco Care
Zebra Pleco is one of the fascinating fish species you can have in your aquarium. Although it is a shy fish, caring for it is just as easy as caring for other freshwater catfish species in your aquarium. It is very adaptable and can thrive well on its own, provided its water environment is stress-free.
Zebra Pleco Tank Size
For Zebra Plecos, the first thing about taking care of them is the tank size.
Since Zebra Pleco is a relatively small fish, you will need at least 20 gallons to keep the fish happy. If you plan to keep more than one Zebra Pleco, then the ideal tank size will be 30 gallons. Although 20 gallons is enough for one Zebra Pleco, you can choose to keep the fish in 30 gallons. This will provide enough space for the fish to swim, hide, and explore.
Mimicking the natural habitat of Zebra Pleco is one the best ways to keep the fish happy, and this includes the water conditions and not only the environment in terms of looks.
Highly oxygenated water with a strong current is ideal for them. The fish thrive better in warm water that is not too acidic nor alkaline. Anything too acidic or alkaline can stress them and lead to disease.
The following parameters will help to keep your Zebra Pleco in a pretty good condition if you stick to it:
- pH level: 6.5 to 7.0
- Water hardness: 2 to 6 KH
- Temperature: 26.1°C to 31.1°C (79°F to 88°F)
It is crucial to monitor the water closely and test it regularly to ensure it is managed adequately according to the parameters given. Zebra Pleco is very sensitive to change. Hence, a slight change in the environment can stress it.
Another essential thing to monitor is the cleanliness of their environment. Zebra Pleco cannot tolerate dirty water conditions as it makes them susceptible to diseases.
What To Put In Their Tanks
As stated earlier, mimicking their natural habitat helps to keep the Zebra Pleco stable and healthy. In addition, Zebra Pleco is nocturnal and hence is more active at night. Therefore, they require low light in their tanks.
Another thing to keep in mind is to provide enough hiding places for them. They are hardly seen during the daytime. In their natural environment, there are many rocks and caves that they use as hiding places. So you must incorporate these things in their tanks to provide them with places they can hide when they are not active.
Zebra Plecos are bottom feeders; hence the bottom of their tanks must use a smooth sand or gravel substrate and pebbles as anything rough could injure the fish.
You can also plant aquatic plants of various types and sizes into their tanks to beautify them. Just make sure the plants and any other thing you introduce are healthy.
Another thing to note is, Zebra Plecos hate stagnant water and can die if the water in their tanks is not free-flowing. So, ensure there is a strong water flow in their tanks.
Common Possible Diseases
Like other freshwater aquarium fish, the Zebra Pleco can still be affected by bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Although the fish is a hardy species of the Loricariidae family, diseases are still common with the species.
Most of these diseases are caused mainly due to factors relating to their environment and feeding. Therefore, treating the fish with antibacterial treatments routinely can significantly help with alleviating diseases in this fish.
Ensure you maintain its water condition, feed it regularly, and try to reduce anything that can stress the fish in its tank. Stress acts as an agent for most of these infections, so making sure your Zebra Pleco is not stressed most of the time is one of the ways to prevent diseases.
Additionally, when dealing with Zebra Plecos, ensure you are very careful with copper-like products. Like every other pleco species, Zebra Plecos are sensitive to copper products, unlike other catfish species.
If you notice any slight changes in the fish that can result from infections or wounds, it is advised that you quarantine the fish and start treatment immediately. If you cannot provide adequate treatment, seek help from a licensed veterinarian.
Zebra Plecos can also suffer from several deformities such as Snubnose, underdeveloped body, and fins, which can be caused either by genetics or poor living conditions.
Food and Diet
As stated earlier, Zebra Plecos are bottom feeders, so whatever food you decide to give them should be sinking feeds. Although sinking feeds/pellets can lead to food wastage and also litter the bottom of the tanks, it is advised that you monitor your fish while you feed it.
Zebra Pleco is an aggressive fish species and needs a high level of protein in its diet. If they are mixed with other fish species in the tank, you must ensure minimal food competition. Make sure you feed them in a quiet spot in the tank where they’ll feel safe and less stressed.
Zebra Plecos are omnivorous fish species and are more meat-eaters, unlike some other aquarium fish, so Tubifex worms, blood worms, brine shrimp, and other live and frozen invertebrates will make an excellent base food for them.
Some other suitable foods to include in their diets are Algae wafers, Crushed Peas, Cucumbers, Pellets, and Zucchini.
Behavior and Temperament
By nature, the Zebra Pleco is a peaceful fish to keep. However, due to their shy nature, they tend to be territorial, especially when it comes to protecting their space. During the day, you’ll hardly see them because they’re busy shying away and hiding in caves or rocks. This does not mean they don’t come out during the day at all. They do once in a while, depending on their mood or spirit.
They are nocturnal and very active at night. If you are a nightcrawler yourself, you will enjoy the sight of them during that period.
If you are keeping them with other bottom-dwelling fish species, be rest assured they won’t have a problem staying peacefully with them, so long they have their space, can eat quietly, and without disturbance.
Zebra Pleco Tank Mates
If you intend on keeping the Zebra Pleco with other fish species in the same tank, ensure to keep them with species that are not aggressive. As earlier stated, Zebra Plecos tend to be very aggressive when they are made to compete for food. Therefore, you must ensure that they can feed quietly even when mixed in the same tank with other fish species.
If you are keeping them with other bottom-dwellers, ensure you keep them with those not bigger or as active as they are. If you keep them with very active bottom-dwelling species, their territorialism will shoot out.
Keep them with one male and many female species. This will reduce competition and aggression in the tank. Male fish species are known to be more aggressive than their female counterparts.
Some suitable tankmates for Zebra Plecos are:
- Zebra Otocinclus
- Cory Catfish
- Ember Tetra
- Celestial Pearl Danio
- Discus Fish
- Bumblebee Goby
- Harlequin Rasbora
- Cherry Shrimp
- Cherry Barb
- Kuhli Loach
- Phantom Tetra
- Freshwater Snail
- Denison Barb
Do not keep Zebra Plecos with Threadfins, Rainbowfish, Endlers, or Hatcherfish. They do not tend to coexist well.
Zebra Pleco Breeding
Breeding Zebra Pleco is straightforward and relatively easy. They will be ready for reproduction after 2-4 years.
Firstly, you will need to raise the water temperature to about 82°F (27.8°C) and increase the breeding tank’s oxygen level. You can use an air stone or pump to increase the oxygen level.
The female species will have about 15 eggs which the male species have to fertilize. So when you see the male fish chasing the female fish with spikes protruding from the first ray of the pectoral fin, it is ready to spawn.
Once the female lays the eggs, it will leave the cave while the male fertilizes the eggs and watch over the cave until the eggs hatch.
Hatching usually takes between 3-7 days after fertilization. The fry will have a yolk sac to feed on for a few days after being hatched. As soon as the yolk sac disappears, you can start feeding them with powdered fry food. When they become juvenile fish, you can start feeding them with baby brine shrimp.
To Wrap It All
Zebra Plecos are very peaceful pets to keep so long you provide them with good protein diets and a stress-free environment with lots of hiding places. Even though they are somewhat expensive, they are a beauty to behold; hence they are worth the money.
To keep one, you now know what you need to do to properly take care of it so that it can live up to its life span. You need to be ready to commit to taking care of the fish if you want to keep seeing this amazing fish light up your aquarium.
Do not forget they love strong water flows in their tanks, so ensure you provide them with clean, strong water current at all times.
Alexis O. Walker is a freelance writer and editor who is experienced in aquarium management and fish species. Her passion for aquariums arose after spending a whole day looking at beautiful and fascinating aquarium fish, sparking her interest to study about them and learn about proper management and care. She also writes about travel, entrepreneurship, parenting, and self-help.