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Zebra Pleco (L-46)

(Hypancistrus zebra)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 4"
• Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons   • Water Conditions: 76-86° F, KH 2-15, pH 6.0-7.5
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Brazil, Rio Xingu   • Family: Loricariidae
• Species: Plecos   • Aquarium Type: Community

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Species Information

Zebra Pleco (L-46) native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Zebra Pleco L-46 (Hypancistrus zebra) is a wonderfully patterned species of dwarf Pleco found in the Rio Xingu area of Brazil. The sharp contrasting lines of black and white both give this species their common name and make them stand out in the typical freshwater aquarium. Zebra Pleco are very popular not only for their attractive coloration, but also for their ease of care, peaceful temperament and acceptance of a wide variety of commercial fish foods.

In fact unlike most Pleco species, the Zebra Pleco is a carnivore who prefers to feed on sinking pellets, flake foods and small worms. This makes them easy to care for as they consume the same foods as most other commonly kept tropical freshwater species. Hobbyists need not provide fresh vegetables, algae wafers or other similar foods.

Currently the Zebra Pleco commands a high price tag, but their popularity ensures that they will continue to be imported in ever growing numbers and breeding programs will be attempted in order to supply the demand within the hobby and ultimately lower their cost.


Due to the importation of large numbers of catfish from the Loricariidae family who are either taxonomically undescribed or partially described, a number system has been employed in order to identify the various species. Currently, L-numbers are used not only by fishkeeping hobbyists, but also by biologists, who have found them to be a useful temporary system until a new species of fish is given a full taxonomic name.

This can often take some time as in some cases, two different L-numbered catfish have turned out to be different populations of the same species, while in other cases, multiple (but superficially similar) species have all been traded under a single L-number. As a result of this situation, hobbyists will often see catfish from the Loricariidae family referenced by their L-number only or in addition to a common name.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Zebra Pleco (L-46) in the home aquarium.

The ideal aquarium environment for keeping Zebra Pleco will have plenty of areas within the aquarium that have diffused or lower lighting and peaceful tank mates. Zebra Pleco are nocturnal in nature, thus they move about and feed at night. They will adjust to aquarium life and feed during the daytime, but need to have plenty of low light or areas with diffused lighting in order to feel comfortable swimming and feeding during daytime hours.

Hobbyists should provide plenty of areas within the aquarium where the decor limits or blocks the bright aquarium lights like rocky caves, large pieces of driftwood or tree root, tall plants with large leafs, floating plants or plants that grow over the surface and reduce the amount of light making to the bottom of the aquarium.

Zebra Pleco are somewhat shy and will do best with tank mates that have a peaceful demeanor and moderate overall size. This is especially important with other substrate feeders, who will be in competition with the Zebra Pleco during feedings. Quality filtration via a canister, wet/dry or similar filtration setup is also important in order to maintain quality water conditions in the aquarium.

As with most all species of fish that originate from river environments where the volume of water passing through keeps water quality conditions high, the Zebra Pleco is used to good water quality and low levels of dissolved nutrients.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Zebra Pleco (L-46) and provide a healthy diet.

In contrast to most Pleco species the Zebra Pleco is primarily a carnivore, whose diet consists almost entirely of meaty foods that it scavenges from the river bed. While most Plecos will consume large amounts of plant matter and decaying wood material, the Zebra Pleco consumes meaty foods with a very small portion of their diet consisting of decaying plant matter.

Hobbyists will need to provide the Zebra Pleco with foods like sinking carnivore pellets, bloodworms, chopped prawns or cockels and other similar meaty items. They will also scavenge for leftover foods that are fed to other fish, but make their way to the aquarium substrate.

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