How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

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How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by Jools »

I was asked to write a little thing recently, putting it down here. However, interesting to note how long, in years, has passed since I first kept this species. That's to say making the transition from pouring over the early photos to seeing it in life. For me, I think it is 1992. From my notes, I first saw this species in my LFS in Edinburgh in 1991. However, and I can't be sure, I really think it was an incorrect ID. I think it was Dekeyseria - it was sold for £200. However, I bought the next one, a year later, at £65, labelled "Emperor Peckoltia", pictured here. I worked in a supermarket at the time, this was nearly two weeks wages.
What, in the 90's, we called an "Emperor Peckoltia"
What, in the 90's, we called an "Emperor Peckoltia"
In 1997 I wrote, "If the Internet has adopted a catfish, then it is Hypancistrus zebra". It's ups and downs have been tracked online now for several decades partially fuelled by my personal fascination with this fish and it's unravelling mysteries. This culminated with the trip to the Rio Xingu in 2015.

In 1998 I translated the text of a lecture given by German aquarist Ingo Seidel (he needs no introduction, but should have one, being the father of much of this) into English and, as internet adoption and connectivity grew exponentially, so did the understanding, certainly in the English speaking world, of how to bred plecos - this led to a new fishkeeping tribe, the l-number keepers and breeders. Key to this were many of the concepts introduced in the lecture married with excellent photography and, at as it's crowning glory, the seminal picture of an adult male Hypancistrus resting next to a single captive-bred offspring. Ingo's message of "just try it" was an inspiration, and species after species or pleco has been bred in captivity with no end in sight.

PlanetCatfish was launched in 1996, with the ability to create an account and interact with others since 2002. As of October 2020, has 18,441 members who have created over 308,000 posts., started in 2004, has 3252 users with 40,566 posts all on the subject of this singular species. The site is less frequently added to, but visitors reading data remains fairly constant. Both share a database recording the number of keepers and breeders of this species. All this data is available from the species hub page at There are 50 breeding reports by members and a couple of feature-length articles on the species. At present there are 542 registered keepers of the species (if they don't check in every year, they are removed) and it is commonly reported for sale (because you can't reliably tell, we don't record W/C versus captive-bred) and added to members "wish lists".

It is the most wished for species and has been consistently in this position since records began (2016). On a side note, all 10 most wishes for species are plecos with one exception, the undescribed Corydoras sp. CW111. After the Common Ancistrus, Corydoras aeneus, C. sterbai, P. compta and C.
paleatus it is the most commonly recorded as kept species in the PlanetCatfish community (alluding more to it's status than it's
availability) but it's the third most documented captive reproduction (after the common Ancistrus and C. aeneus). Rather than being the pinnacle of pleco breeding, it appears to be a gateway to those specialists that go on from this species to the captive breeding and distribution of many more, primarily ancistrini, plecos. This data should be viewed as representing those with an interest in aquarium catfishes, more general aquarists possibly with less experience would not be represented by these numbers - what we are seeing here are the longer-term catfish or pleco enthusiasts.

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Re: How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by Shane »

Great piece Jools! TFH's 1989 Atlas of Freshwater and Marine Catfishes had a great photo of H. zebra. This was the first image of this sp that I remember seeing. The first living zebras I remember seeing were in 1992 or 93 at The Fish Store in Seattle.
Oddly, I have never kept this fish.
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Re: How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by Linus_Cello »

I’ve never kept it either, but I remember seeing snub nose ones being sold at half price at the Catfish Convention 6-8 years ago, and being very tempted. I was hoping to see some more at this year’s Catfish Convention- maybe in 2022...
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Re: How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by Baardman »

up to about a decade ago i never knew about other pleco species accept for the common sailfin pleco, This site has opened my eyes to all sorts of catfishes. I even started a whats app group called Catfish South Africa to start getting a catfish community together. Learning and growing my hobby is what its all about. Hopefully ill be lucky enough to keep and breed Zebras in the future
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Re: How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by CoryWally »

I first saw the species in 1991, when I worked in a fish shop in NW England. We got a single specimen which was quite small as I recall and retailed around £85. I first kept and bred the species in 2007. I still have a group (male sat on fry today), including one specimen acquired from Jools a few years ago.
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Re: How many years have you known the zebra pleco?

Post by TwoTankAmin »

I first saw a zebra in a picture in the Baensch Aquarium Atlas in 2001. I knew I had to have these fish. I failed a few times before I finally acquired my first pair in 2003. I lost them both within about 8 months because I put them in with other larger plecos. I replaced them with 3 I got on Aquabid. Two of them survived and are with me still as far as I know.

However, I did not become a serious keeper until, through the good will and help of Barbie, I purchased a proven breeding group of 13 zebras plus 5 fry. One of these kids turned out to be one of the few snub nosed zebras I have seen. I got very lucky with this group and they began to spawn within about 10 days. I began selling the offspring in early 2007.

These zebras soon paid me back for what they cost, then they paid me back for every cent I had put into the hobby since day one. Next they financed my acquisition (on whole or in part) of L173b, L450, L236 (two groups), L173 (two groups) and the final group I will ever add, super white L236. I will admit that some of these also helped to pay for the next group. My plecos pretty much pay all my hobby costs.

Over the years as I lost a few zebras and I replaced them and then added some. My original group plus the replacements/additions is now 18 fish and still spawns now and then. Last spring I decided, for old time sake, to get a new group. I now have another 25 zebras purchased at 2 inches, growing out to spawn. I had planned to let 10 of them go, but somehow that never happened. :) To this day they are still my second favorite fish. (My clown loaches are still my favorite.)
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