Spawning Notes of the Zebra Plecostomus L-46

Hypancistrus zebra

Article & Photos by Eric Bodrock


The following is a collection of notes and observations on eight different spawnings of these great looking catfish. The set-up and conditions of the main spawning tank are as follows. A bare thirty-gallon tank with the underside and back painted black. Several small piles of “Zebra Rock” along with several artificial caves and a small piece of soft driftwood mounted on slate added for comfort and spawning sites. A large Hydro-sponge filter with heavy airflow and a submersible power-head with a foam filter on the intake provided a strong current and good filtering. An additional airstone with heavy airflow placed in the middle back part of the tank for more air and water movement.


After the fifth spawn, all the adults were removed and three pairs were set up in individual fifteen-gallon tanks with pretty much the same conditions as the main tank, accept for a power-head.

Pair “A” – The pair that I think was spawning regularly in the main tank. They were removed as a pair while seen in a cave with a spawn (see spawn #5 below)

Pair “B” - The largest pair of the group, both of these fish from the original group I got from a friend and fellow hobbyist, Gary Balbo. Gary had spawned this group before me.

Pair “C” - I purchased a wild male from Brian Ahmer (of Brian’s Tropicals out of Columbus Ohio) and placed him with the smallest female that I had acquired from fellow hobbyist, Bruce and Megan Fraley of Ohio.

Group “D” - The only other female I had along with the three remaining males were kept in the original breeding set-up.


Water changes of fifty percent, of cooler water, were done between every seven to fourteen days. These water conditions were taken when either eggs or fry were seen:




Temperature Range 86F -88F

pH 6.6 – 6.8

KH less than 1

Ammonia (NH4) – 0 ppm

Nitrite (NO2) 0 ppm

Nitrate (NO3) 10 ppm

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) 228 – 234

No Salt used.


The diet for the Adults consisted of live baby brine, frozen bloodworms, chopped frozen krill, shrimp and scallops. Occasionally pellets or small amounts of flakes were offered. 

Wood was in the tank, but I never saw them on it and there was no evidence that they were eating any of it.


Here are notes and some observations on each spawn:

#1 – Saw fry in main tank, within several days none could be found anywhere.

#2 – Found 6 fry in main tank in early morning. Removed them and placed in fry trap.

#3 – Found 4 fry in main tank, also in the morning & removed them and placed in trap.

#4 – Saw fry in main tank late at night, so I waited to remove them until the morning.

        They were all gone the next day! That is what I get for being lazy!

#5 – Male was guarding eggs along with the female inside a cave! I was able to cover  the opening of the cave and move the pair and young into a ten-gallon tank with some water from adult’s tank. The female left the cave shortly after the move. Several days later, I could see that the fry were moving in the back the cave and they were pretty well developed. I removed the male when I caught him outside of the cave later that day. Four of the eight young died within a week and a half. My first thought was it was a water chemistry problem, because their deaths were all within several days of each other.  At the time they started to die off, I noticed that the tank was starting to dirty up a good bit with debris. A good-sized water change was done and I added a few cherry shrimp (Neocardina denticulate) to help clean up a little. From that point on they did great. It was the fastest rate of growth I had seen in any of the young. The young grew up to an inch and a quarter in a five-month period.

#6 – Pair “A” was guarding a spawn in one of the fifteen-gallon tanks. When I went to remove the cave, I disturbed it and the female quickly exited. The male continued to guard the spawn. Only three fry were recovered after the male exited the cave several days later.

#7 – This spawn was with group “D” and noticed at the same time as spawn #6.  A female was not seen in the cave with the male. The male and cave were removed. I only recovered two fry from this spawn and one of the young died within a couple of days. The remaining youngster was added to the group of fry from spawn #6

#8 – Pair “A” spawned and I was lucky enough to catch them soon after the eggs were deposited. I was able to shake out fifteen eggs from the cave and hatch eleven of them in a hatching container/fry trap. 






Important Notes


Females do not help guard the eggs or young …. They eat them! Remove the females as soon as possible.  Males allow females to enter the spawn site, probably thinking they will spawn again. I believe that is why I only find small numbers of young when they are simply spotted in the tank rather than as eggs in the caves.

Fry do not move much! They hide and rarely ever move from the shadows of the rockwork, you need to get food to them. Offer a heavy diet of live baby brine, live microworms, chopped frozen bloodworms, krill and shrimp. Cherry shrimp are the answer to grow out the young. By adding a bunch of Cherry Shrimp, this allows you to over-feed the tank so that the fry get enough food and the shrimp act as janitors in cleaning up all the extra food. The shrimp themselves will thrive and reproduce quickly under these conditions!

Keep their water clean. I lost pair “B” to neglect and I am still kicking myself for that!


Eric Bodrock, Nov. 2006