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feeding Zebra plecos

All posts regarding the care and breeding of these catfishes from South America.
dkimtonf
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feeding Zebra plecos

Postby dkimtonf » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Will be getting a group of four. Was wondering if there are any good frozen or dry foods that I can feed them that aren't bloodworms? I have a severe bloodworm allergy, and was searching the site for alternatives. All I can find are bloodworms and live foods. Can I go with frozen mysis shrimp or frozen brine shrimp? How about tubifex worm cubes or large carnivore pellet food? Thanks!

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby Richard B » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:00 pm

Hypancistrus prefer a "meaty" diet

You can try earthworm sticks, carnivore pellets, any frozen live food, shredded earthworm, shredded prawn, cockle, mussel, etc - just remove any uneaten food after a reasonable time as some of these can quickly pollute the tank if not consumed quick enough.

FD tubifex cubes IME aren't that good for a few plecos as they are too bouyant (on their own). Added to a home made shrimp mix etc and they are fine
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dkimtonf
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby dkimtonf » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:18 pm

Thanks for the reply Richard! So can I cut a small slab of fish off my dinner portion before cooking and give it to them? If I did this, would it matter the source of the fish? (ie freshwater vs. marine). Would they be able to handle tilapia but not saltwater species?

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby MatsP » Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:00 pm

If it's raw fish, there is a small chance of transferring parasites from freshwater fish to other freshwater fish. So for feeding freshwater fish, it's best to use marine fish, and vice versa.

For other food ideas, have a look at my article on "Feeding plecos", it lists quite a few "meaty" foods.

Of course, various sinking tablet/granule foods, such as Tetra Prima, JBL Novo Tabls - and Algae wafers are fine too, as they contain quite a good bit of protein.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:34 pm

Be careful about feeding raw fish to your other fish.
Tilapia are probably the safest since they are aquacultured but raw Pangasisus meat has been implicated in the introduction of tapeworms by some of my fellow Discus breeder friends in Holland.
I have had good success feeding H. zebra earth worm sticks, frozen blood worms and live California black worms.
Black worms are easy to get in the USA but for UK and European Zebra keepers I would recommend culturing white and/or Grindal worms. These foods will not carry any risks of introducing any unwanted parasites.
A diet this simple has worked well for my L260's which are very similar to H. zebra and worked well on a group of 10 wild H. zebra until I placed a wild pair of S. haraldi Discus and began feeding beef heart blend daily.
I have accumulated enough experiences of my own and that of friends who have kept my F1 L134 with their Discus and we have all experienced sudden onset of bloating followed by mass die offs among plecos which eat too much beef heart regularly. This has led me to believe these plecos cannot digest beef heart very well if it is used more than twice a week. The occasional feeding of beef heart blend seems safe. The avid manner in which these plecos feed on beef heart doesn't show any problems very soon but over a period of months, the plecos died as described above. I use very few foods but a diet based on mainly earth worm sticks, frozen blood worms and live black worms have helped keep my breeders spawning and the youngest fry can easily eat earth worm sticks. They can begin taking frozen blood worms as soon as they are 2 cm in total length. Cultured white worms and Grindal worms can be just as helpful but for very small fry Grindal worms are easily eaten but the larger worms work better for fry when they are chopped first

After my catastrophe with the 10 wild H. zebra I lost so much money it led to me pulling back on my desire to include H. zebra as a fish I want to be breeding. I have arranged a trade for 6 more and with that many I am again willing to invest some $1500 in 10 more wild H. zebra. That deal will be a trade but to get 10 wild h. zebra I have to pony up some serious money. Two years of thinking about what went wrong has softened the sting of losing so many. They had thrived for 9 months until I began feeding beef heart blend daily. I use L260 as my practice species since I have at least 30 and they are so similar to H. zebra I feel like I have enough experience to avoid another fiasco.
I want to acquire at least 8 wild med large Tefe Green Discus providing before I buy them, I get a new RO unit which produces 150 gpd vs my current unit which has a maximum 60 gpd yield of RO water. I won't acquire wild Tefe Greens until I can refill my RO reservoir of 110 gal much faster. I try to change 75% of the water about every 4 days. For a 125 gal tank it takes a lot of RO water to keep up with the required water changes. The chances of breeding wild Green Discus successfully are poor unless they are kept in soft, acid water with plenty of water changes. It is much easier to breed wild S. haraldi in many locale's tap water but Green Discus are more specialized and require soft acid water for breeding purposes. I have stopped using frozen beef heart on my Discus although when I have Discus fry, no other food can grow them to a salable size as fast a beef heart blend.
I now feed my wild type Discus the same foods as I use for all my plecos with carnivorous tendencies so their diets are simpler than what I once used for Discus but now I feed my discus the same diet as my plecos it makes things easier. It is difficult to raise enough cultured worms for Discus so live black worms are cheaper in the US and easier to supply in adequate quantities. Your Zebra plecos will avidly eat cultured white and Grindal worms and it isn't very difficult to grow enough worms for your small pleco species. When I feed plecos worms I place the worms in a ceramic cereal bowel. This keeps them easily available to the plecos which tend to eat worms when the lights are out. It also reduces the numbers of escaped worms which is mainly an issue when your tanks have a thin layer of substrate. I have a couple bare bottom breeding set ups for plecos but most have a little substrate. Unlike Corydoras, Plecos can not easily feed on worms which become established in even a very thin layer of substrate.
It is my common practice to keep Peckoltia and Hypancistrus in my Discus display tanks and growing them out to their breeding size. I mostly use L134 or Hypancistrus contradens and Hypancistrus sp L333 as my bottom fish. The H. zebra and L260 are too shy and tend to become starved when kept in community settings. I will not keep L260 and H. zebra in any community settings because every attempt to do so has cost me plecos.
I feel it is best to keep these in species tanks. Sometimes I keep some cherry shrimp with them or a few Rummy Nose Tetras as both make good water quality indicators, especially the Rummy Nose Tetras.
I did not mean to divert attentions away from feeding H. zebra but my experience with plecos is quite intertwined with my Discus breeding projects.
Last edited by apistomaster on Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby MatsP » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:53 pm

apistomaster wrote:Be careful about feeding raw fish to your other fish.
Tilapia are probably the safest since they are aquacultured but raw Pangasisus meat has been implicated in the introduction of tapeworms by some of my fellow Discus breeder friends in Holland.


This is why I said "It's better to feed marine fish to freshwater fish". There are extremely few parasites that live in marine water that survive in freshwater.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:37 pm

Hi Mats,
I saw that but I thought it wouldn't hurt to mention the kind of problems I am aware of when Pangasuius meat is used. I know it is commonly imported from Vietnam and widely sold at European grocery stores. Sharing one known problem was to emphasize the use of caution when choosing which fish is used raw in your expensive fishes' diets.
I prefer to use fresh water fish meat but I won't use it raw.
Actually, the only fish protein my fish get is the fish meal most all commercial prepared foods contain as one of their primary ingredients so I don't actually use any fresh fish meat but many who do make their own frozen foods often choose a cheap, white meat fish. It wasn't until friends told me they used Pangasius filets because it was among the cheapest white fish sold in the Eurozone that I became aware of the tapeworm problem showing up among domestic Discus which should be free of almost all fish parasites. I just wanted readers to be aware of the risks associated with pond raised Pangasius meat.
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby dkimtonf » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:27 pm

Thanks Mats!! ^:)^ Just read your articles, and have a clearer direction which way I need to go. Can anyone make a recommendation of what would be a good staple food for them? Apistomaster mentioned earthworm sticks. Will this make a good everday diet, as long as I supplement with other saltwater pieces of fish? I wish I could do frozen bloodworms, but my allergy would kick in. Also if I cook all my fish before feeding will this kill all potential parasites? Will the plecos find the cooked fish palatable? Apistomaster, thanks for the advice. Nothing sucks more than to lose expensive fish, even after you have studied their husbandry requirements.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby MatsP » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:05 pm

I haven't used earthworm sticks, but yes, they are supposedly very good food.

Cooked fish should be fine. I use cooked mussles and prawns, both of which will be excellent food for Hypancistrus.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby Myric » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:10 pm

Or fish that has been frozen. From what I understand, very few if any parasite found in flesh survive being frozen.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:17 am

Myric wrote:Or fish that has been frozen. From what I understand, very few if any parasite found in flesh survive being frozen.

You are probably correct but when it comes to the pond raised fish which may be infected with tapeworms, I would trust cooking more than freezing.
Since I am not raising any fish which don't already have a good diet of commercial frozen fish food and prepared foods I do not have any concerns. I do not feel that healthy, cleaned live black worms are a credible source of disease problems, it is largely academic to me. But I would cook fresh water fish flesh if I planned to feed it to my fish.

As a fisherman, I have encountered quite a few different parasitic worms while cleaning fresh fish and I am sure that has influenced my feelings about raw fresh water fish flesh.
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:12 am

For those in North America, the best prices on earthworm sticks are from
http://www.kensfish.com
I use them as the staple diet of all my plecos and Discus. Other foods I use are frozen blood worms, Tetra Color Granules and live black worms,
Discus sometimes take a little while to get used to new foods but I have found that both wild and Domestic Discus eat it very well once they become used to it. The plecos I keep in with my Discus get right out there and grab their fair share.
Earthworm sticks are the primary food for all my pleco fry.
I received 10 pounds of earth worm sticks last week.

Have you considered wearing latex surgical gloves and placing frozen blood worms in a container of water from which you can suck up however much a tank needs using a baster dedicated to fish use?
I have heard of others becoming sensitive to blood worms.
How strong an allergic reaction can be can range from merely annoying to life threatening
I used to harvest real Tubifex worms and sold 10's of pounds every week at wholesale to shops throughout the PNW USA back when I owned a fish shop.
I became allergic to any dying or broken worms and the water they were in. It was so bad that once I dropped a container and the contents splashed back on my arms and face. I developed a strong Hives reaction wherever that material touched my bare skin. Not long after, due to the Clean Water Act, the cattle feed lot up stream closed down and the stream was channelized which put an end to my free Tubifex farm. Interesting to me is that I haven't developed cross allergic reaction to California Black Worms. CBW belong to a different genus and require cleaner water to thrive than real Tubifex. They are quite different from Tubifex. When I did have an unlimited supply of Tubifex I had some rare breeding experiences. Once, a tank set up with Kulii Loaches in peat moss produced a bunch of little Kuhlii Loaches.

Anyway, I would find an allergy to frozen blood worms a big problem since next to the 20 pounds of earth worm sticks I use annually, frozen blood worms are the next in volume of the foods I use. I use 10 oz.s of frozen blood worms every day. I buy about 100 pounds a year split between two orders of 50 pounds a year which I partially share with a fish friend. We try to use all frozen foods within 6 months.
For some reason, my fish do not seem to care for frozen brine Shrimp or Mysis.
Which is fine with me because I don't think frozen brine Shrimp are all that great of a food.
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby Amy » Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:56 am

I too have an allergy to bloodworms but my discus just loves them as do the plecos. I always buy the ones in the cube so I do not have to handle it. I just push it out right into the tank and never have an issue with them. Something you might want to try.

If you are like me make sure you not get any bloodworms at all on your hands or cut. If that happens to me with a cut my hands swell so bad and if I get them to close to my nose or eyes my eyes swell really bad to the point I need an antihistamine. But I do feed them and cubes are the way to go. I even use a spoon if I have to use the slab kind. I put it into a ziplock bag, break off what I need inside the bag and use a spoon to get them out and right into the tank.

Good luck to you
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby racoll » Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:04 am

A decent LFS should stock a variety of alternative frozen foods including glass worms (white mosquito larvae), black mosquito larvae, tubifex, mysis shrimp, krill, cockle, mussel etc. These will all be eaten by the Hypancistrus. Prawn and cockle meat can also be bought cheaper in bulk at the supermarket.

I fed my Hypancistrus a staple of Tetra Prima (ColorBits), flake, and Hikari algae wafers. They were also fed any of the above frozen foods daily, plus a chunk of blanched sweet potato or some tinned broad (fava) beans. I even fed them pumpkin seeds which apparently also have an anti-parasitic effect too (see here).

Although they are "carnivorous", I think the extra vegetable matter is a good thing for them.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby Matt30 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:00 pm

Hi mate Tetra do brine shrimp but it comes in little packets and it comes out as a paste
you just keep it at room temp so no need to buy frozzen my Zebs love it
also I use Tetra Prima complete food/ Sera Vipachips/Hikari sinking Carnivore
pellets/Hikari Algae Wafers and potao and Cucumber.
I have never used frozzen foods all my Zebras are healthy and growing well.I think as long as you give them a varied diet you should be ok
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:39 pm

I haven't ever seen frozen black mosquito larvae available from LFS in the PNW USA. I grow my own during the warm months and often expose a net full of them to hot water just long enough to kill them. Then they sink to pleco level but I rarely have so many that I can freeze them. My fish eat them live almost as fast as my pools produce them. My Discus and other non-catfish species are the primary beneficiaries of my seasonal supply of live mosquito larvae. I don't know of any commercial source of live blood worms in the USA but my European Discus breeding friends say they are stocked by most large fish shops. I manage to grow enough blood worms in my mosquito larvae pools to allow me to use a little. One nice thing about culturing blood worms is that they remain available from my pools long after the mosquito season is over. I have even been able to collect them from the bottom litter of the pools after chopping through a layer of solid ice. These few live blood worms are mainly reserved for my Apistogramma, wild Betta spp and Black Darter Tetras.

I have reduced the number of staple foods I use to the minimum required to produce the fish I breed and keep. I use enough quantities I can buy them in volume which greatly reduces the unit costs. This reflects a breeder's practical needs more than it does fish keeping as a hobbyist.
Many good foods are available for H. zebra thrive on but I have reduced how many different foods I rely on to about the bare minimum.
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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby dkimtonf » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:18 pm

thanks for the reply folks!! I think I'm gonna go with Hikari Massivore Delite as my staple. And homemade frozen pre-cooked prawns/mussels/marine fish ice cubes. Couple of questions for yall:

1)how should I cook the food? Should I place it in boiling water for a minute until it changes color? Will the plecos still find this palatable and attack it? Is it possible to overcook the food?

2)Anyone with opinions on Hikari Massivore Delite vs. Hikari Sinking Carnivore Pellets? At some point I'm gonna look into the eartworm sticks apistomaster, but gotta place an order with petmountain.com to get a replacement for a filter.

Heads up to anyone with allergies to the various worms we use to feed our fish. I'm pretty close to a physician, and from what I know, allergies can worsen with time. So you can feel like your symptoms are tolerable with only a little runny nose and watery eyes, but they can progress to throat swelling and anaphlactic shock!! I had the unfortunate side effect of getting alot of cross reaction symptoms after the blood worms triggered an allergic reaction. My previous seasonal allergies became alot more severe because the blood worms triggered a cross reaction. Since I've thrown out all food with blood worms my allergies are in check. at one point I felt like I had asthma with sob and chest tightness. So be careful everyone. I would throw out any food that cause even the tiniest allergic reaction. It's not worth it to your health.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby MatsP » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:30 pm

"Massivore" is for big fish with big diets, so unless your Zebras are a lot bigger than usual ones, I would have thought the regular Carnivore pellets are the right product.

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby andywoolloo » Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:14 am

my hypans love the hikari canivore pellets, good size. they also eat kens earthworm sticks, kens 5 stick blend, sinking omega one shrimp pellets, defrosted Hikari bloodworms,spirulina shrimp, krill, tubifex. Tetra colour granules, NLS sinking cichlid or community granules. and more probably. Let's see Hikari Discuss granules they like. I 'll look for the rest when I get home. :))

course they arent zebras,

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Re: feeding Zebra plecos

Postby apistomaster » Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:09 pm

Hypancistrus zebra are pretty much like all the others in the genus once you get past their striking color pattern and greater sensitivity to less than perfect water quality.
Feeding them is not much of a problem although due to their shyness and great expense, we tend to be more concerned when we don't actually see them eating but except for those which become conditioned to eat during the day they prefer to be nocturnal feeders.
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