Malcolm Gladwell asserts in his book “Outliers” that the key to expertise in any given field is gained in 10,000 hours of practice. That equals out to about 20 hours a week for a matter of 10 years. Well, we’ve been in the tropical fish business for well over that amount of time, and while we definitely fancy ourselves experts in most fish-related fancies, we still appreciate and rely on the prowess of others to get a full complement of offerings for our clientele. Of these, our local Pleco breeders are king. Skilled in the rearing of full broods of “designer” Plecos, they supply us with the most beautiful, fat, and happy little “suckers” that we are proud to pass along to the greater community. A few of our favorites include Hypancistrus sp. “L262”, Hypancistrus zebra “L046”, and Hypancistrus sp. “L174”.
Originally hailing from the Rio Tapajos of the lower Amazon, our “L262” Plecos come from Oregonian captive breeding tanks. Known more commonly as “Small Spot Plecos”, these little beauties reach 3.5 inches and have dark brown bodies completely covered in small white spots as if dusted by The Milky Way. These little bottom feeders are great ornamental additions to community aquaria, and are compatible with tank mates that are not overly aggressive or territorial over the bottom strata of the tank. Generally, they do well alongside South American Characins, Dwarf Cichlids, and even Corydoras if tanks are furnished with defined territories. Tanks are best equipped with sandy substrate, rock piles, driftwood, and hardy short plants. Decked out with a shiny set of teeth, these Loricariids are poor algae scrapers, but rather prefer to scavenge for meaty bits and small invertebrates in the sand. Quality diets would consist of sinking pellets and regular feedings of live and frozen invertebrates at night. If housed with more boisterous eaters, extra care is required to make sure this shy pleco eats hardily enough. Tanks are best kept with temperatures between 74 and 80°F, a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, and a hardness under 267 ppm.
Endemic to the Rio Xingu basin of Brazil, “L046” Plecos look rather like they belong in an African safari. One of the most popular captive-bred plecos in our ranks, “Zebra Plecos” maintain a small size of about 3 inches and exhibit bright white bodies decked in gray-black zebra stripes. In the wild, these Hypancistrus prefer well-oxygenated flowing streams with sandy substrate and scattered rocks. For best results, they should be kept in biotope tank setups with powerheads, filters, and airstones to keep oxygenation levels high. Plants may also be used for these purposes, though they will need to be of hardy variety like Anubias, Java Fern, or Bolbitis. While this species may be kept in community aquaria, it can be difficult to find a suitable cohort since they require quite warm waters with pristine conditions, and is often too shy to compete for food properly. They seem to do best in species-only tanks, although they sometimes do well alongside Dwarf Cichlids or small Characins or Cyprinids. Another meat eater, they should be fed regular small, meaty invertebrates, chopped muscles or prawns, and high-quality sinking pellets. Tank waters should be maintained with temperatures between 79 to 86°F, a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and a hardness under 267 ppm.