Why Zebra Pleco are expensive - Fishly
For many, the L046 Zebra Pleco is a fish fantasy. But what makes this catfish so expensive?

In this article, we are going to discuss the L046 Zebra Pleco.

The Zebra Pleco

The Zebra Pleco is one of the most stunning, sought-after and expensive catfish in the aquarium hobby today.

Discovered sometime between 1970 & 1980, the Zebra Pleco was not scientifically described until 1991.

These small Plecostomus are native to a small piece of water in the Xingu River, near the Altamira region in Brazil. Reaching 7.5cm/3inches, they are on the smaller side of the Plecostomus we commonly see available in aquarium store.

Having distinctive parallel white and black stripes down the length of their body, its easy to see why they are named the Zebra Pleco.


How much does the Zebra Pleco cost:
Often in New Zealand, retailers will sell this fish from $380-$550 ($260-$380 USD). The fish can be found cheaper through private breeders who have invested a great amount of time raising and breeding the pleco.

Why is the Zebra Pleco so expensive?
The Zebra Pleco is classified as critically endangered. Due to construction of a power plant destroying this fishes natural habitat, the future of this fishes ecosystem is looking dull.
Construction has caused slow river flow rate and lower oxygen saturation levels. Both of which are opposite to what this fish is used to.

In 2004, Brazil banned the export of Zebra Pleco. Meaning all the Zebra Pleco we see for sale today are tank raised.

Supply is low and demand is high, due to the lengthy time it takes to raise a group to breeding size. Breeding does not usually occur until 3-4 years of age.


The Zebra Pleco can be demanding in terms of tank conditions and water parameters. This is why the Zebra Pleco is not recommended for beginner aquarists to keep.

Natural Habitat
The collection location of wild specimens in the river Xingu is wide and deep. With an average temperature of 32c, these fish like warmer water.

The river bed is made up of lots of stones, pebbles, rocks and sand. Providing the fish with lots of cracks, caves and burrows for the fish to hide it. This is why these Pleco are shy and require good shelter within an aquarium.

The water is very fast flowing. This creates a very oxygen-rich environment for these fish.

Care in the Aquarium
This fish should be kept in an aquarium of 180L or more. At a temperature of 30-32c with a high level of flow, water movement and aeration. 
Providing plenty of shelter, rocks, caves and hiding spots for the Pleco is a must to ensure the fish feels secure in its environment.


Scientific Name

Hypancistrus Zebra



Common Names

Zebra Pleco, L046 Pleco




10 years

Tank Size

180 Litres (50 Gallons) or more


Diet Omnivorous


30-32c (86-88f)



Water Hardness

9-20 dGH


7cm (3inches)


Zebra pleco isn’t demanding in terms of food. Unlike most common catfishes, the Zebra Pleco prefers protein food. Though you can offer it both vegetable and protein food.

Gender Differences
Males have larger and wider head, than that of the females. Their odontodes (interopercular spines) on the first rays of pectoral fins and behind their gill covers are more pronounced.

The female is smaller in size, but it has more rounded body (especially those, that have eggs inside). However, it is difficult to see between juveniles males and females.

Breeding L046 Zebra Pleco
Zebra Pleco become reproductive at the age of 3-4 years old. Tank water, temperature, flow and shelter are crucial factors that influence the breeding process.

Tank water temperature can’t be lower than 26°C. Aeration should be increased. As for the breeders, they should be kept in a small group of 5-6 fish.

Several zebra pleco females may spawn simultaneously with the same male – this depends on how experienced and mature the male is. Number of eggs is directly proportional to the age and size of the female fish. Young female fish as a rule lays about 5-6 eggs, but the adult one can lay up to 25 eggs.

Time interval between the spawning varies and it depends on the diet and tank water parameters. Some couples breed once or twice a year with large pauses between the spawning, others are capable of breeding more often.

The eggs are quite large. How the eggs develop depends on the water temperature – the higher it is, the faster the embryon grows. The temperature also influences the further rate of the juveniles growth.

In about two weeks the juveniles grow to be 1.5 mm long and they can feed themselves. At this moment you can offer them live brine shrimp or milled dry food as a diet to start with.

Juveniles grow very slow and usually they are about 5 cm long at the age of 12 months.

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