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Ivanacara adoketa

Zebra Acara




Described from Igarapé do Cumaru, an affluent of the rio Paraná Atauí, itself a tributary of the middle rio Negro basin in Amazonas state, northwestern Brazil, and appears to be endemic to middle and upper parts of the Negro system.


Inhabits rainforest streams and minor tributaries during the dry season, the dense canopy of branches above meaning very little light penetrates the water surface with marginal vegetation also tending to grow thickly. The water itself is typically stained dark brown with humic acids and other chemicals released by decaying organic material. The dissolved mineral content is generally negligible, and the pH can be as low as 3.0 or 4.0. The substrate is usually littered with fallen leaves, branches and submerged tree roots.

Such habitats undergo dramatic shifts in structure and availabiity during the wet season when water levels rise, often by several metres, allowing resident fishes to move into the flooded forest to feed and spawn.

Maximum Standard Length

100 mm – 130 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

A tank with base measurements around 90 cm x 40 cm or more is recommended for a pair with larger quarters required for a group.


Provided adequate cover and structure is available this species is unfussy with regards to décor with ceramic flowerpots, lengths of plastic piping and other artificial materials all useful additions. A more natural-looking arrangement might consist of a soft, sandy substrate with wood roots and branches placed such a way that plenty of shady spots and caves are formed.

The addition of dried leaf litter (beech, oak or Ketapang almond leaves are all suitable) would further emphasise the natural feel and with it the growth of beneficial microbe colonies as decomposition occurs. These can provide a valuable secondary food source for fry, whilst the tannins and other chemicals released by the decaying leaves will aid in the simulation of a blackwater environment. Leaves can be left in the tank to break down fully or removed and replaced every few weeks. A net bag filled with aquarium-safe peat can also be added to the filter or suspended over the edge of the tank with the same purpose in mind.

This species seems to do best under fairly dim lighting. Although few plant species in the trade are native to Brazil, species from genera such as Microsorum, Taxiphyllum, Cryptocoryne and Anubias are suitable. A few patches of floating vegetation to diffuse the light even further may also prove effective. Filtration need not be excessive with an air-powered sponge or internal power filter set to a low flow setting sufficient.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 72 – 84°F/22.2 – 28.9°C

pH: Wild specimens will require a value within the range 4.0 – 5.5 in order to thrive, but tank-raised individuals are normally more adaptable.

Hardness: 0 – 1° for wild fish, up to 10° if captive-bred.


Chiefly a predator feeding on small aquatic crustaceans, worms, insect larvae and other zooplankton. It can be a little picky in the aquarium and initially may not accept dried or otherwise prepared foods, though in many cases will learn to take them over time. At any rate it should be offered daily meals of small live or frozen fare such as Artemia nauplii, Daphnia, grindal worm, micro worm, etc. in order to develop ideal colour and conditioning.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Given its rarity in the hobby, the emphasis should ideally be on captive reproduction and we strongly recommend maintaining it alone. However if you do intend to house it in a community tankmates must be chosen with care. It’s slow-moving with a retiring nature and will easily be intimidated or outcompeted for food by larger/more boisterous tankmates. Peaceful, pelagic characins from genera such as Hyphessobrycon, Copella or Nannostomus species make good choices as do diminutive catfishes such as .

Unless a relatively large tank is available I. adoketa is best maintained as a single pair since males can be aggressive and territorial towards one another, though you may need to purchase a small group and allow this process to occur naturally if only juveniles are available.

Sexual Dimorphism

When inbreeding condition, male has the more distinctive black and white striped markings that give this species its common name. Females are a more uniform pink colouration but also adopt a darkened stripe pattern when breeding or stressed. Males may also have elongated dorsal and anal fins.


Ivanacara spp. are bi-parental substrate spawners which prefer to utilise a cave if available, and breed readily in aquaria provided their basic requirements are met. Although adults and tank-raised fish can survive in slightly hard water successful egg/embryo development only occurs under conditions of little-to-no detectable hardness so this should be the primary concern, with use of a reverse osmosis unit necessary in many cases. Otherwise the tank can be set up as described above with filtration best provided by an air-powered sponge unit set to turn over gently.

Pairing is relatively easy and if adult specimens are available simply placing a male and female together in the spawning tank is often sufficient. The former may chase the latter in the initial stages but physical damage is unreported as far as we know. If starting with a group of juveniles or subadults be prepared to split them once a pair forms.

NotesTop ↑

This species was previously included in the genus Nannacara before being moved to the newly-erected taxon Ivanacara by Römer and Hahn (2006).

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