The Zebra Pleco is a fish in transition in the pet trade. Recently, its home country of Brazil added it to the CITES list of Appendix III endangered species.
While this does not restrict your right to purchase or own a Zebra Pleco, this does mean exporters and importers of this vulnerable species must have permits to do so.
In this article, learn more about why the current Zebra Pleco price is often so high and other expenses required to keep this small Brazilian catfish species.
Zebra Pleco Purchase Price
If you are researching for it for the first time, prepare for a jaw-dropping price tag! Arizona Aquatic Gardens lists a tank-raised Pleco for $259, with slight discounts for purchases in quantity.
Discus Madness offers Zebra Pleco fish for $169 (size small) to $189 (size medium), while Imperial Tropicals posts a price of $199 for 1.5” Zebra Pleco fish.
Factors Affecting Zebra Pleco Purchase Price
The Zebra Pleco is one of many small catfish species. Some of these species can look very similar to the beginning keeper. Also, the Zebra Pleco has other names, including Imperial Pleco or simply L-46.
This is important to know and look for so you can avoid purchasing the wrong species!
Luckily, you can typically tell by the price tag whether you are purchasing a true Zebra Pleco (one similar species is actually called the False Zebra Pleco and its price per fish is typically quite a bit lower – around $65 per fish).
These are the other major factors affecting Zebra Pleco purchase price.
Size – The Zebra Pleco is a dwarf catfish species with a maximum adult size of 3.5 inches and a lifespan of 15+ years in captivity.
Purchasing younger fish (1 to 2 inches) can often help ease the sticker shock a bit. It takes about three years for Zebra Plecos to grow to their full adult size and become ready to spawn (breed).
Gender – Adult male Zebra Plecos are bigger and bulkier than females with more pronounced facial and fin spine characteristics. Females are slimmer and lighter with more curve in their lower back region.
But it can be quite hard to tell the two genders apart until the fish are fully grown (about 3 years). Buying adult fish is the best (and most expensive) way to be sure you are getting a pair for breeding purposes.
Demand – As restrictions on importing and exporting wild-caught Zebra Plecos continue to tighten and wild populations are steadily reduced, prices for these colorful fish are continually rising.
At certain times of year, it is not uncommon to experience a waiting list to get one of these fish.
Quantity – Zebra Plecos are nocturnal fish that are notoriously shy. They prefer to stay partially hidden and do not fare well when housed with more aggressive species (free-swimmers or bottom-dwellers).
Some keepers prefer to keep Zebra Plecos apart from other fish in a dedicated tank. Keeping 4 to 6 fish in a 30 to 40-gallon tank with optimal husbandry conditions is acceptable.
One-Time Zebra Pleco Costs
These are the most common one-time Zebra Pleco costs associated with setting up your aquarium.
Arizona Aquatic Gardens offers free shipping for orders of $199+. Shipping for orders of lesser amounts is calculated based on your ship-to location.
Discus Madness ships fish by zone. Costs range from $48 to $125 per order.
An adequately-sized aquarium is important for health since these fish require a well-oxygenated environment. Aim for 30 gallons minimum for two pairs of fish – more space is always appreciated.
The SeaClear 30 Gallon Show Aquarium & Hood costs $199.99. This includes a hood with fluorescent light fixture (but not bulbs).
Zebra Plecos are nocturnal bottom-dwellers and prefer low light. Some aquarists recommend T5 bulbs, which are economically priced at around $7 per bulb.
Zebra Plecos need excellent filtration along with aeration. A freshwater filtration system suitable for up to 30-gallon tanks starts at $32. A tank-bottom aerator will help keep oxygen and airflow lively along the tank bottom like the Tetra Whisper Non-UL Air Pump for Aquariums (10 gallon) costs less than $7.
Zebra Plecos are Brazilian fish and accustomed to living in warm water habitats. A 50-watt submersible tank heater starts at $13.
- Testing and monitoring
These freshwater fish require slightly acidic water, so testing and monitoring for pH and other elements are important. Testing kits for multiple parameters with multiple uses start at $22.
Zebra Plecos like to hide in driftwood along the tank bottom. They will also nibble on algae or live plants but prefer to hide in them.
Larger driftwood tank ornaments such as Top Fin® Mossy Driftwood Aquarium Ornament costs $22.99 while Freshwater plant variety packs start at $30. You can use planted aquarium substrate – prices start at $20 for a 20-pound bag.
Ongoing Zebra Pleco Costs
These are the most common ongoing Zebra Pleco costs associated with keeping and/or breeding these in-demand dwarf catfish:
Food – Zebra Plecos are primarily carnivorous fish. They need plenty of easy-to-eat meat foods.
Tetra PlecoWafers Complete Diet for Algae Eaters Fish Food, 3.03-oz bag costs $4.22. Brine shrimp costs just $1.74 for a 0.35 oz jar while Bloodworms start around $3.18 for a 0.28-oz jar.
Veterinary – Even once established in the proper tank environment, experienced aquarists say the Zebra Pleco fish can sometimes contract bacterial or fungal infections. Parasites can also attack fish.
Expect to pay between $20 and $80 per exam for aquatic veterinary care.