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Zebra Pleco

By | Last Updated: 18th May 2020

Zebra Pleco, a catfish species indigenous to Brazil, was primarily described by Nijssen and Isbrucker in 1991. The black and white striped pattern on its body similar to that of the zebra earns the fish its name. Because of its high demand as an aquarium fish, it was exported in large numbers from its country of origin. However, at present, the Brazilian government has placed a ban on its exportation as it is on the verge of extinction in the wild.

Zebra Pleco

  Quick Information

Scientific NameHypancistrus zebra
Other NamesImperial pleco; L046, and L098 (as per the L numbering classification pattern of catfish)
OriginBrazil, in the Xingu River’s Big Bend region
TypeFreshwater fish
Conservation StatusNot recorded (by the IUCN), but the IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) put it in their endangered species list in 2004
Behavioral CharacteristicsPeaceful and cooperative, but can show aggression towards same-sex zebra plecos
School Size4 – 5
Physical TraitsSmall, elongated body; flat stomach; uniquely striped pattern; long snout; high-set, big eyes; long and slightly bent upper teeth; deeply forked lower teeth; V-shaped tail; seven soft rays and a single coarse on the dorsal fin; four soft rays and a single coarse on the anal fin
ColorsBlack and white stripes running throughout its body
Size (How big do they get)Small; 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) long
Weight0.008 pound (4 grams)
LifespanApproximately 10 years
Sexual DimorphismPresent: Males have longer interopercular spines and a bigger head than the females   
Probable Diseases Bacterial and fungal infections
Approximate Price (How much is it for)$150 – 300 (quite expensive due to its rare availability)
Zebra Pleco Size
Zebra Pleco Picture

Tank Setup & Care Sheet Details

Care LevelExpert
Tank Size30 gallons (113.5 liters) for a single fish; 50 – 60 gallons (189.2 – 227.1 liters) for pairs

Water Parameters

pH Level6 – 7.5
Temperature75 – 86°F (24 – 30°C)
Hardness5 – 15 dGH
Aquarium  Water FlowHigh

Tank Ambience

Substrate TypeSmall, smooth pebbles and gravels, cobbles, as well as boulders for forming crevices and caves
Tank MatesCompatible with: Characins, guppies, red cherry shrimp, betta, and other zebra plecos (of the opposite sex)
Incompatible with: Discus, corydoras, and same-sex zebra plecos
Suitable Position in the TankBottom


DietHigh protein diet comprising invertebrates like chironomid-larva, bloodworm (fresh, live, and frozen), lobster eggs, prawn, brine shrimp, tetra prima, algae wafers (though not algae eaters), and sinking pellets  
Frequency 2 – 3 times a day
Zebra Pleco Fish
Full Grown Zebra Pleco

Important Things to Know For Fish Keepers

  • Novice owners could find the zebra pleco a little hard to keep since it always needs clean water and a fast-moving current to survive.  Checking the water movement on a regular basis, performing anti-bacterial treatments, and changing 20% of the water after every few weeks are the essential to-dos for fish keepers.


Q. Is the false zebra pleco a zebra pleco?

The false zebra pleco, also known as the Colombian Zebra Pleco with the L-numbering, L129, is a different species, having a black or dark brown striped pattern on their body.

Q. Why is the zebra pleco so expensive?

The zebra pleco is expensive since it is rare to find, particularly due to the ban placed on its export, as mentioned above.

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