Fish Profile: Zebra Pleco

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Zebra Pleco

The zebra pleco is a very popular aquarium fish which is also known as the Imperial pleco. It belongs to the Family Loricarridae under Order Siluriformes of Class Actinopterygii.

The Zebra pleco lives in Rio Xingú river, a tributary of the Rio Amazon located in north-eastern Brazil. It inhabits flowing, highly oxygenated waters running over sandy substrates that are scattered with rocks and stones. It is found in deep water, in crevices among the rubble.

The body is elongated with a comparatively long snout and a flattened belly. The zebra pleco has bold black lateral stripes which run across a white body with a black stripe that runs over the body from one pectoral fin to the other. The dorsal fin has a high expansion and it has a sucker mouth with 4 whiskers.

The eyes are set relatively high on the head and the tail or caudal fin of the Zebra pleco is V-shaped. The mature male has a larger head and longer inter-opercular spines than female.

It is omnivorous fish and in wild condition, it chiefly feeds on small invertebrates such as chironomid-larvae, blood worms, brine shrimp and occasionally some vegetables. It grows between 7.5 and 10 cm in length and it can live up to for about 15 years.

Fact Sheet- Zebra Pleco

  1. Scientific Name: Hypancistrus zebra

  2. Family: Loricariidae

  3. Size Range: 7.5 – 10 cm in length

  4. Diet: Omnivore

  5. Tank Size: 20+ gallons

  6. Tank Set-up: It should be set up with lots of hiding places.

  7. Possible Tank Mates: Any community fish.

  8. Tank region: Bottom

  9. Temperature: 78 – 86 °F

  10. Carbonate Alkalinity: 2-15 KH

  11. Hardness: 2-15°H

  12. Water pH: 6.5 – 7.0

  13. Origin: South America: Xingu River basin

  14. Temperament: Peaceful

  15. Care Level: Easy to medium

  16. Habitat: South American Rivers

  17. Lifespan: 10 – 15 years or longer

  18. Reproduction: Egg layers

Zebra Pleco General Care

The zebra pleco is a hardy fish which needs clear water and a fast moving current. A powerful filter is needed to create strong current in aquarium. It is unable to survive in still water or dirty quarters.

It is nocturnal, moderately territorial and prefers plenty of hiding places. The zebra pleco likes to hide inside caves and crevices and should be provided with such hiding spots in the aquarium. Fine sand or river gravel should be used for substrate. It also loves flowerpots and PVC-pipes to hide.

It requires a pH of 6-7.5 but a water pH of 6.5 or just fewer than 7.0 would be ideal. It is always important to keep the water warm and well oxygenated. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is required and a temperature should be ranged from 78 – 86 °F.


It is omnivorous fish. In captive condition it accepts a wide range of foods which consists of frozen or live foods such as blood worms, lobster eggs, mussel, prawn, sinking pellets and brine shrimp but live foods are more appreciated.

Feed should be placed in quiet spots where they do not feel threatened. Crushed peas, Tetra prima and algae wafers are also be supplied. Diet should be supplied couple of times a day.

Read: Why You Need A Fish Feeding Schedule


The zebra pleco can become territorial and aggressive with its own species but it is usually peaceful with most other tank mates. The Zebra pleco should ideally be kept in groups consisting of one male and a few females. The Zebra pleco is not aggressive and can be kept in community aquariums with other peaceful species such as Characins.


The Zebra pleco is susceptible to various health problems like parasites, bacterial infections, wounds, metabolism problems and various deformities. Frequent water changes should be done in order to prevent infections. In some situations, antibacterial or anti-fungal treatment should be administered.

It also suffers from infectious warts. One common form of treatment is to remove the warts surgically and treat the wound with iodine solution.

Picture Gallery


Do you like audio-visual content. Here is a video from one very enthusiastic aquarist.

Reference Links

  1. Aqua Fish- Zebra Pleco Care and Profile
  2. Aquarium Life- Zebra Pleco Profile
  3. Tropical Fish and Aquariums- Zebra Pleco: Aquarium Tropical Fish
  4. Fish Keeping- Zebra Pleco Caresheet
  5. Seriously Fish- Hypancistrus Zebra
  6. Aquarium Domain- Zebra Pleco
  7. Fish Lore- Zebra Pleco Profile
  8. Aquatic Community- Zebra Pleco Information
  9. Wikipedia- Zebra Pleco

Share Your Thoughts

As always, we would like to know what you think about the Zebra Pleco. Is it a fish that you would like to keep in your home aquarium?

Are you already keeping the fish and would like to share with other readers? Please leave your comments below to let us know what you think.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

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