For those aquarists out there who would love to have a Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) but can’t stomach that fishes hefty price tag, a good substitute can be found with another black and white species—the Butterfly Pleco.
Hailing from the the Orinoco and Atabapo Rivers of South America, this apparently undescribed species of Dekeyseria (which aquarists categorize as L052) sports an attractive pattern of dark and light bands in the juvenile. As they mature, this patterning becomes more convoluted, forming complex shapes and broken stripes that no doubt provide excellent camouflage in its natural habitat.
Reaching a maximum size of 5 inches, this is a perfect species for smaller community tanks. Like most other members of the Family Loricariidae, the Butterfly Pleco is a reliable algae eater, though it is recommended that their diet be supplemented with meaty foods like sinking carnivore pellets or frozen bloodworms. Suitable tankmates would include nearly any small fish from South America: tetras, hatchetfishes, pencilfishes, Corydoras catfishes, and any of the more peaceful cichlids found here. Of course, there are many possibilities from outside South America that would work equally well.
While this fish originates acidic blackwater ecosystems, it’s not necessary to reproduce this in captivity as this fish has now been captive bred for many years and has a broad tolerance for water conditions. However, for those wishing to breed their Butterfly Plecos, it is more necessary to provide a low pH. Males can be identified from their more heavily ornamented pectoral fin margins, though the commonly available juveniles are unlikely to show this trait.