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Zebra pleco

This week’s fish of the week is probably one of the most striking fish you are ever likely to come across in our hobby: the stunning Zebra Pleco Hypancistrus zebra, also known as L046 in terms of the L-numbering convention.

The zebra pleco was only identified in 1991 and is naturally found in just one small area of the Rio Xingu River, one of the tributaries of the Amazon River in northern Brazil.  These fish thrive in the deep-water channels of this fast-flowing tributary, where they hide in the crevices between the rounded pebbles, waiting for their preferred food to come past.

When first discovered, there was a mania surrounding these fish and wild populations were heavily harvested.  As a direct result of this, L046 was added to the CITES list of endangered species to rightly protect this species from over-exploitation. Thankfully these beautiful fish are now being bred in captivity and it is these fish that you will find for sale in good shops, usually ones that specialise in more unusual tropical fish.

Reaching just 8 cm when fully grown, if you have the budget to put a group together, you don’t need a particularly large aquarium to establish a breeding group of L046s.  Males grow slightly larger than females, have a thicker first pectoral fin ray and wider heads making them relatively easy to sex compared to other plecos.

L046s are not overly fussy when it comes to water conditions in terms of temperature, pH and KH.  Provided their aquarium is clean (zero ammonia and nitrite) and well oxygenated, they tend to thrive, making them an excellent addition to an established community aquarium although be advised that you should expect to pay in excess of £100 for a juvenile of around 4-5cm.

Unlike many plecos, L046s are in fact carnivorous feeding on insect larvae and crustaceans that are swept past them in the fast flow of the river. In the aquarium, they will readily feed on a wide range of foods including frozen bloodworm, brineshrimp and sinking meat-based pellets.

All in all, these stunning little fish are a real head-turner and draw admiring looks whenever they are seen, surely enough to earn them the title of ‘Fish of the Week’.

Tagged in: Fish of the Week Archive