Jari Zebra Pleco L316

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Julian Dignall of Planet Catfish looks at the beautiful Jari Zebra pleco, L316, which is believed to be a new species of Hypancistrus.

Common name: Jari Zebra Pleco L316

Scientific name: Hypancistrus sp.

Origin: This plec comes from the Rio Jari in North Eastern Brazil. This river flows almost north to south from its headwaters in the Serra Tumucum range on the border with Surinam down to its mouth on the Amazon main channel; about 50 miles opposite the mouth of the more famous Rio Xingu as it flows in from the south.

Size: 8cm/3.5" maximum (10.5cm/4.15" including the tail).

Water: Once acclimatised this is a hardy fish. Optimum conditions (for breeding tanks) are pH 6.8-7.2, conductivity 280-300 uS, temperature 27-29C/81-84F but the fish can be kept cooler and at a lower pH (to around 6.2) without fuss.

Diet: An omnivore; feed sinking tablets and pellets, frozen insect larvae or shrimp based foods. Chopped mussels are a favourite and useful in acclimatising weak fish. Offer algae wafers or cucumber slices from time to time. Young fish should have a more vegetarian food than the more carnivorous adults.

Aquarium: A good community plec, once settled (3-4 weeks) it will be seen during the day a bit more than many exotic plecs. Certainly not a territorial hell raiser, a pair or trio should be kept as reproduction isn't beyond the realms of possibility in a community tank. Rock caves or pipes should be provided one per male at least and driftwood is also appreciated but not mandatory.

Plants are not molested but don't expect this guy to fix your algae problem. Like many exotic plecs, will not suffer poor aquarium maintenance regimes, lacklustre filtration or aimless feeding.

Sexing: Sexually mature at around 6cm/2.3", so you should be able to select pairs or a breeding group when purchasing. As males mature they become darker, less contrastingly patterned and grow odontodes (small hard spines) all over the body that never entirely go away but are much more prominent in breeding males.

Breeding: Reasonably easy to breed applying the usual small plec cave spawning method, produces clutches of 10-25 eggs, the young require around 7-9 months to reach a saleable size.

Identification:Distinguishable from other similarly sized and coloured L-numbers by the smaller than normal eye and reduced set of teeth. Patterning on this fish is a poor identification characteristic as these fish are among the most variably patterned of all L-numbers. Young fish are very attractive rivalling the zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) for looks.

Similar species: If you're new to L-numbers then it can look quite similar to a lot of them, but to the hard-core plec watcher only really confused with L129 (Colombia) and L199 (Venezuela) the size of eye quickly distinguishes L316. L318 is also from the Rio Jari (the two have been jokingly titled "BMW plecos") may prove to be the same species as the only discernible difference is its lighter grey base colour. Oddly, it shares the exact same body sizes (including eyes) as L174, but is only similar visually at a young (less than 4cm) age.

Price: Expect to pay around 15-25 depending on size and availability - haggle for the price of a trio!