Borneo Loach Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Looking for keeping Borneo Loach in your fish tank? In this guide, you’ll uncover everything required to successfully keep these fascinating freshwater fish. Discover their unique characteristics, ideal tank setup, feeding habits, potential health issues, and more.

borneo loach

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Borneo Loach Species Profile and Identification

The Borneo Loach (Pangio shelfordii), also known as the Borneo Sucker (Gastromyzon punctulatus) or Hong Kong Pleco, is a fascinating freshwater fish. They are usually observed to have small curved bodies that range from 1.5 to 2.5 inches (around 4-6 centimeters) in length, perfect for cutting through water currents.


These fish originated from the rapid-moving streams of Asian regions, specifically from the Island of Borneo in Malaysia. Due to their hydrodynamic shape and natural habitat, it’s clear they prefer fast-moving, oxygen-rich environments.


With a streamlined body and distinctive patterning, Borneo Loaches are a sight to behold. Their varying shades of brown, grey and olive-green blend well with a natural, rock-based tank setup. An interesting fact to note is that their bellies bear a unique pattern, often cream or silver-toned.

Social Behavior

Borneo Loaches are sociable freshwater fish. They prefer to live in groups and are known to do best in schools of three or more. Firm believers in pacifism, these loaches depict a peaceful nature. Borneo Loaches are safe to keep with other non-aggressive fish, snails, shrimp, and live aquatic plants.

Borneo Loach Supplies

Getting the right supplies is the first step in creating a conducive environment for your Borneo Loach. The key to having healthy loaches rests in setting up their habitat correctly. Here’s a rundown of the main supplies you’ll need.

Aquarium: A minimum of 20 gallons (75 liters) is ideal for a school of Borneo Loaches. This provides ample space for movement and ensures the fish won’t be cramped.

Substrate: Loaches are bottom dwellers, hence prefer sand or fine gravel. These substrates mimic their natural habitats, avoiding sharp edges that can harm them.

Plants and Décor: Aquatic plants such as java moss, anubias barteri, and green cabomba provide the necessary cover. Also, get driftwood and rocks for additional hiding spots.

Filtration System: A powerful filter mimics the fast-flowing streams they inhabit. It also helps in maintaining clean water, which is a requirement for this species.

Heating and Cooling: A water heater and cooler help maintain a temperature between 68° and 75°F (20°-24°C). Warmer water holds less oxygen, which could affect their survival.

Powerheads: These are used to create water currents, satisfying the loaches’ preference for rapid-moving waters.

Aquarium Lights: A moderate light will suffice as they are not dependent on it. However, it helps illuminate their colors and activity.

Food: They are omnivores, hence a mixture of algae, biofilm, vegetables, fish flakes, and live foods like brine shrimp and daphnia will suffice.

Remember, each of these supplies plays a vital role in maintaining the health and happiness of your Borneo Loach. Stick to the guidelines and make informed choices while purchasing your supplies. It will ensure a comfortable and natural-like habitat for your fish.

Borneo Loach Tank Setup

Setting up your tank for Borneo Loaches hinges on replicating their natural habitat. They thrive in a fast-moving, oxygen-rich environment just like the streams they originate from in Asia.

  • Install Powerheads: Powerheads create strong currents. These are perfect for your loaches as they’re built to withstand such conditions.
  • Use Live Plants: Borneo Loaches prefer tanks with live aquatic plants. Good options include java moss, anubias barteri, green cabomba, among others. These provide excellent cover.

Understanding the substrate choice is critical in a Borneo Loach setup. Sand or fine gravel is recommended. Avoid substrates with sharp edges, they can scrape your fish as they swim.

To offer plenty of hiding and resting places, add driftwood and sturdy plants to the tank. Your loaches will appreciate the hideouts, mirroring their wild habitats.

Borneo Loaches typically live in schools of three or more. So, consider a medium-to-large sized tank to accommodate this schooling behavior. Remember, each loach can grow up to 2.5 inches (6.35 cm).

Maintaining excellent water hygiene is non-negotiable with this fish species. Weekly water changes of about 30% are advisable.

By paying attention to these details, your Borneo Loach tank setup will not only meet their survival needs, but also allow them to thrive.

Borneo Loach Water Requirements

Specific water requirements are essential to the survival of Borneo Loach. These freshwater creatures thrive in fast-moving, oxygen-rich environments. Thus, replicating these conditions in your home aquarium is important.

  • Water Temperature: Keep the range between 68-75°F (20-24°C). This is because higher temperatures can decrease the amount of oxygen in the water, making survival tough for these fish. Remember to never allow the water temperature to exceed 75°F (24°C).
  • pH Level: Borneo loaches fare well in water with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH level. Ideally, maintain a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0 in the tank.
  • Water Hardness: When it comes to water hardness, they can tolerate a range of 4-12 dKH (degree of hardness).

Regularly monitor these parameters. A sudden shift in any of these could cause significant stress to the loaches leading to deteriorated health or even death.

Moreover, these fish demand extremely clean water. A way to manage this is by committing to weekly water changes removing about 30% of the old water and replacing it with de-chlorinated water at the correct temperature and pH.

Finally, replicating their natural fast-flowing habitat can be accomplished by using powerheads in your Borneo loach tank. This will also ensure a consistent supply of oxygen, vital for their survival.

Borneo Loach Diet and Feeding

Understanding the dietary needs of the Borneo Loach is crucial. Thankfully, these loaches are quite accommodating.

Borneo Loaches are omnivores and grazers, happy to feed on the algae and biofilm in your tank. This collective diet works in your favor, reducing the need for constant algae control. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship with their environment. As part of their grazing habit, they appreciate:

  • Insect larvae
  • Tubifex
  • Daphnia
  • Frozen or live brine shrimp.

These live foods are a vibrant source of nutrition and will keep your Borneo Loach healthy and active. On occasion, you may supplement their diet with flakes or pellets. Algae wafers are also a fantastic addition.

Remember, these fish are originally from fast-moving stream environments. Their diet should reflect the diverse aquatic life found there. Therefore, the variety in their food intake is key in their diet. They need a balanced diet to ensure their health and longevity in their new home aquarium.

Finally, it’s crucial to observe your fish during feeding times. This helps ensure they’re eating well and gives you an opportunity to remove any residual food to maintain a clean environment. Remember, cleanliness is paramount for these sensitive loaches. Also, note that overfeeding can be equally harmful as underfeeding. Therefore, watch the amount of food you provide.

Feeding Borneo Loaches doesn’t have to be a complex task. With the right knowledge and diligence, you’ll successfully meet the dietary needs of your Borneo Loach, promoting a healthy and vibrant aquatic life.

Borneo Loach Care Schedule

For a thriving Borneo Loach, regular care is vital. The care routine comprises feeding, tank maintenance, and water testing. Here are some valuable tips to follow:

  • Daily Care: Melanotaenia praecox should be fed small amounts of food twice a day. Ensure they get a variety of food sources, like flakes, pellets, and occasional offerings of live or frozen food.
  • Weekly Care: Perform weekly water tests to verify the quality and condition of water in the aquarium. Key parameters to check include the temperature, pH, and hardness levels.
  • Monthly Care: Execute a 30% water change every month. This practice helps remove waste buildup and regulates water parameters. Also, clean the tank and substrate to control algae growth and maintain overall cleanliness.

Sticking to this schedule goes a long way in ensuring a healthy and happy loach environment. Observing the loach daily for any behavioral changes is also crucial, as it can be an early indicator of health issues.

Borneo Loach Health Problems

Maintaining the health of your Borneo Loach starts with providing optimal water conditions. However, these fish can sometimes encounter specific health issues.

Ich: This is a common freshwater fish ailment caused by a parasite. Symptoms include white spots on the fish’s body. To treat Ich, raise the tank’s temperature slightly (up to 86°F or 30°C) and medicate the tank as directed by the treatment.

Fin Rot and Fungal Infections: As with many fish, Borneo Loaches can suffer from these issues. Indicators may range from ragged fins to patches of white or gray on their bodies. Commercially available treatments work well, but prevention through good water quality is best.

Skin Flukes and Gill Mites: These are parasitic infestations seen in fish. They might cause your loach to scrape against surfaces or display rapid gill movement. There are specific treatments that are effective against these parasites.

Remember, the key to healthy Borneo Loaches is preventative care. Regular water changes, appropriate feeding, and a well-maintained tank can preempt many common fish diseases. However, if your loach appears in distress, respond promptly to prevent further health risks.

Your local aquarium shop or a vet can guide you through the selection and application of suitable treatments.

Borneo Loach Tank Mates

Making an informed choice is crucial when considering tank mates for your Borneo Loach. Remember, these fish are peace-loving creatures and require friendly tank mates. They won’t thrive in a hostile environment.

borneo loach and rabbit snail

Ideal Tank Mates

  • Other types of hillstream loaches: These fish share similar habitat and temperature requirements, making them a perfect match.
  • Goldfish: A surprising choice, but these cold-water companions co-exist peacefully with Borneo Loaches.
  • Non-aggressive fish species: Choose species known for their tranquil nature.
  • Live plants: These provide essential cover, creating a stress-free environment for your Loach.
  • Snails: Rabbit snails, ramshorn snails, apple snails, and other aquatic snails make good tank mates for Borneo Loaches.

Opt for organisms that prefer the same colder, fast-moving, oxygen-rich waters, such as snails and shrimp. These can add diversity without any threat.

Avoid aggressive fish species or those that could view the Borneo Loach as prey due to size difference. Ensuring safety alongside compatibility supports a harmonious aquatic environment. Tensions or fights can stress your Loach, impacting its health.

Tank Mate Summary

Recommended Tank Mates Avoid
Hillstream loaches Aggressive species
Goldfish Large predatory fish
Non-aggressive fish  
Snails & Shrimp  
Live Plants

Choosing the right tank mates is absolutely essential for the wellbeing of your Borneo Loach. Create a serene, safe environment to see your aquatic friend thrive.

Borneo Loach Breeding

Breeding Borneo Loaches, also known as Borneo Suckers or Hong Kong plecos, can be an intriguing yet challenging prospect. This undertaking demands consistent and precise parameter maintenance in the aquarium.

A critical note: Breeding Borneo Loaches successfully is typically considered an achievement by enthusiasts due to its complexity. This process is deemed challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible to accomplish in a home aquarium.

The male hillstream loach is known to perform an appealing “dance” to attract the female. This captivating behavioral maneuver signifies the start of the breeding process. If the female approves, she follows the male. He then endeavors to create a small dwelling in the substrate deemed suitable for egg dropping.

The eggs of these loaches undergo an incubation period of approximately two weeks before hatching. The hatched fry cohabitate peacefully with their adult counterparts, as Borneo Loaches show no harmful tendencies towards their juveniles.

In the quest for successful breeding, maintaining the tank within these recommended parameters plays a crucial role:

  • pH level: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Temperature: between 68° and 75° F (or 20° to 23° Celsius)
  • Water hardness: kH 4-12

Achieving successful breeding may be a daunting task, but the subsequent reward of observing the fruit of your effort makes all the painstaking preparation worthwhile.


Caring for Borneo Loaches can be a rewarding and enriching experience for any beginner aquarist, given their peaceful nature and attractive appearance. With consistent attention to their unique needs, these exotic creatures will indeed thrive in your aquarium setup. Feel free to share your Borneo Loach care experience in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you!

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