Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus Zebra) The beautiful fish pictured here was formerly known as L046. The fish formerly known as L098, which tends to be more white than pink and has fewer black stripes, has been determined genetically to also be H. zebra. Zebra plecos are among the most sought after of the ‘suckermouth catfish.’ When I was young, I remember seeing these in a fish store with a price tag of $40 USD. At the time, I thought it was too expensive. I thought that like most new fish, given time, the price would come down. However, the fish in the picture is being sold for the equivalent of $290 USD and a quick searc through Google showes me the going price ranges between 200 and 500 USD. Two things are happening that explain the high price of this not-rare fish. The first was the the Brazilian government made it illegal to capture and export them. They placed them on their domestic protected species list despite the fact no survey has indicated that the fish is uncommon. Frankly, I don’t fault the Brazilian government in this regard. This lityle gem could very easily become the victim of over collection. In addition, Brazil’s environment damaging dam projects could very well place this fish on the endangered species list in the near future. The ban on imports caused the initial jump in price, but greed has since caused the price to remain high. The zebra pleco is quite easy to breed, even spawning in community tanks. However, fish farms and private breeders quickly realized that people are willing to pay large sums of money for this striking fish. I had read an article a few years back confirming that breeders of these fish release them onto the market very slowly and in limited numbers, keeping the price and demand high. Some breeders are even developing their own lines of these fish. One German breeder is growing a strain where the pink or white is replaces by yellow. Frankly though, I think it is hard to beat the original black and white pattern nature gave these fish. Looking at this fish in the shop, I asked myself if I was willing to spend close to 300 dolllars on a fish. I finally answered myself.. I would spend that much on a pair (which I would put in a species tank) but not on just one fish.
Size: 8cm/ 3 inches
Temperature: 26-32° C/ 79-86° F
Feeding: To maintain their health, feed them primatily live or frozen bloodworms, chopped shrimp and chopped clams. You can try feeding blanched vegetables once a month but as a rule, only young specimens eat vegetables. Sinking prepared foods are also eaten, but they should not make up the bulk of the Zebra Plecos diet.
Habitat: A pair can be maintIned in a 20 gallon/ 50 liter tank. If you want to keep more, be sure to have lots of places to hide. They are from deeper water, so plants are not necessary. Dim lighting is best. The substrate should be sand and there should be large rocks scattered arond with the pleco caves tucked in among them. They require a high degree of oxygen in the water as well and a strong water flow. A powerhead can be employed to achieve the desired results. Do not keep with any other bottom-dwelling fish. Tankmates in general are difficult to find for zebras because of the high temperatures they live at. Some of the shy, South American dwarf cichlids may be possible, but it is rely best to keep these fish in a species tank. That will also increase their chances of spawning.
Breeding: They spawn like bristlenose plecos using caves. However the size of the cave opening is important. It should only be slightly larger than the fish itself. The opening should also be oriented so the water current flows into it. The male and female may spend more than two days in the cave while the eggs are laid. Afterwards, she is drven from the nest and the male takes care of the 7-20 eggs until they are free swimming. Other zebra plecos are no threat to the fry.