The Zebra Pleco Care Guide

The zebra pleco is one of the most sought after plecos in the hobby. The specie belongs to the Hypancistrus genus, whose members share a zebra-like pattern. Oftentimes, the zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) is called the True Zebra pleco, since others species within the genus are oftentimes confused for Zebra pleco.

Xingu River, Brazil, shot by NASA on 12 July 1997.
Xingu river, Brazil, 12 July 1997, NASA.


The zebra pleco is endemic to the Xingu river in Brazil.

Some fishkeepers like to provide aquariums for their fish that mimick the natural environment from which they are from. The Xingu river biotope isn’t difficult to recreate. Generally, the bottom floor of the river is a mixture of sand and smoothened stones. The water chemistry of the Xingu river is slightly acidic, so a pH level ranging between 6 and 7 is adequate. You can reduce the pH level of your aquarium using blackwater botanicals such as Indian almond leaves.

Don’t be afraid to use sand, as plecos will not swallow the sand. Their mouth is able to filter out sand and small pebbles.

Like most plecos, the zebra pleco likes to have hiding spots throughout the aquarium. When creating your aquarium, make sure to crevices for the pleco to go and hide.

If you would like, you can also provide a pleco cave, which can be found in most pet stores and local fish stores. Make sure that the one you buy is big enough for the size of your pleco. In some cases, the pleco will refuse to enter the cave if he or she cannot see what’s inside the cave. U-shaped caves are therefore recommended, as they’ll be able to see light emanating from the other ending of the cave.


The zebra pleco is more carnivorous than other plecos. To keep your zebra healthy, you should feed them a high protein diet, consisting of micro worms, like bloodworms and white worms. You may be able to feed them algae wafers once in a while, but in my experience, protein garners much of their attention.

Endangered species

Currently, the species is considered endangered, due to the construction of the Del Monte dam. The dam is expected to harm hundreds of species who dwell in the Xindu river. The river, who is the third most endemic body of water in the world, counting over 600 endemic species.

Since October 6th, 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the species in Appendix III, which is meant to place barriers for trade. The species is not banned, however, it is only more difficult and expensive to import and export it since documentation is now required.

Finding Zebra Plecos for Sale

The species is one of the most expensive plecos in the hobby. Due to its beautiful appearance, CITES Appendix III listing, and breeder’s difficulty at breeding the species, prices for the Zebra pleco tend to range between $120 to $300, depending on size and age.

Fishkeepers may be able to find the species domestically. Due to the high price tag on the species, many breeders can be found throughout the world.


“Zebra Pleco”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2020, Accessed 13 June 2020.

“File:Rio Xingu.Jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Commons.Wikimedia.Org, 1997, Accessed 14 June 2020.

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