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Fish and other water creatures survive in a range of environmental conditions provided they are habitable. Being a hobby aquarist means that the animals you choose for your tank will be easy to keep and will thrive, provided you have the right tank conditions for them.

One of the common options for aquariums nowadays is the hillstream loach.

The hillstream loach is classified under the balitoridae family that is also called the river loach family. The fish in this family have shapes that differ from those of the classic fish species to adapt to the water movement in their natural habitats.

The scientific name of the hillstream loach is sewellia lineolata, and it belongs to the Cypriniformes order.

At first glance, you might confuse the hillstream loach for a catfish. The following are, however, some elements that differentiate the loach from other species that might look like it:

  • 3-6 pairs of barbels around their sucker-type mouth.
  • A torpedo shape.
  • Few to no scales with most having smooth bodies.
  • Minute spines on their lower fin edges for resisting the water drag in their environments.
  • Flattened undersides that leave them looking like snakes.
  • Modified pectoral and pelvic fins making a suction-like cup that allow them to cling on rocks and crawl in fast-moving waters. The fins are also slightly larger than average so that the loach can wing itself onto rock crevices.

The care level of the hillstream loach is moderate, and the fish, therefore, suffices for both experienced and novice aquarists.

The following is a guideline on what to expect from this fish and how to care for it to make your aquarium a success.

Hillstream Loach Natural Habitat

Hillstream loaches inhabit the fast-flowing streams of the tropical forests of Asia. They are also found in China and the Indian subcontinent. Here, they are generally confined to the fast-moving mountain streams that have strong currents.

Their penchant for fast-moving waters is the primary reason for their unique appearance. The fish have minimal hydrodynamic drag meaning that they will survive the strong currents in their natural habitats without getting swept away like other species.

In their natural habitats, most hillstream loaches will spend time under rocks or slowly scavenging the riverbeds for food. They will also climb overhanging and vertical surfaces in the rivers and glide over smooth stones more easily than other fish species.

A good understanding of the constituents of their natural habitats is essential to replicate the same in your aquarium so that the fish is comfortable.

Hillstream Loach Tank Requirements

Hillstream Loach

Hillstream Loach

Hillstream loaches grow to lengths of approximately 2-3 inches. The small size makes it easy for the fish to hide in crevices and rocks. The ideal tank size for your hillstream loach is one that is at least 30 gallons.

This is because the fish are kept in groups of 3-4 for them to thrive. Moreover, their ideal water flow and oxygen needs make it impossible to keep the fish in small aquariums. Here are the other requirements of your fish tank when hosting hillstream loaches:

  • External canisters for filtration.
  • Additional power-heads to ensure adequate water flow and high oxygen supply.
  • Fine gravel and sand for the tank’s substrate. This is because rough sand can harm the smooth bodies of the loaches as most of them swim at the bottom of your tank.
  • Bright lights to support algae growth. For this, you can include at least four bulbs measuring 40 watts.
  • Driftwood and sturdy plants for enough hiding spaces.

Hillstream Loach Water Conditions

It is pretty straightforward to get the ideal base water parameters that will suffice for your hillstream loach. The recommended water parameters for your fish include:

  1. PH: 6.5-7.5
  2. Temperature: 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-26 degrees Celsius
  3. Water hardness: 10-15dKH

It would help if you had regular water tests with the right kits to ensure the above parameters are maintained in your tank. Though hillstream loaches are hardy species, parameters that are too far off the ideal will affect them.

The loaches are used to clean water in their natural habitats. It would be best if you had a water change of at least 30% every week to mirror the water quality in your tank.

Hillstream Loach Diet and Feeding

Like other loaches, the hillstream loach is omnivorous. Its favorite food is nonetheless algae that grow on the rocks in your aquarium. The fish will continually snack on the algae.

It thus should be seen as the cherry on top of your loach’s diet rather than its main feed. While you should have the right environment in your aquarium for supporting algae growth, you should not have too much of the same in your tank.

You can consider having two tanks, so you transfer the loach to one and give the other time to get enough algae before returning them.

For a well-balanced diet, include frozen bloodworms, flakes, pellets, brine shrimp, and algae wafers in your hillstream loach’s menu.

You can also add kitchen vegetables like blanched spinach and kales, courgettes and cucumbers to give them additional nutrients and vitamins. Ensure the pellets and flakes you give your loach are not so big because the fish’s mouth is small.

Hillstream loaches should be fed on limited food quantities since substantial quantities might kill them. This is because they are used to scavenging in the wild and only eat when the food is available.

Feeding the loaches once or twice daily will suffice for them. Some might refuse food for a few days because of the new environment when they are introduced into your aquarium. They will nonetheless live on the algae in your fish tank.

Hillstream Loach Tank Mates

Hillstream loaches are calm and peaceful fish. Even so, you should limit the number of the same fish in your tank to 3-4 since too many of them can lead to issues as they become territorial. When choosing tankmates for the loaches, opt for non-aggressive fish species, shrimps and snails.

Other than the right temperament for your tankmate, consider the ideal water parameters and tank sizes for them. The tankmate you pick for hillstream loaches should thrive in the same water conditions as the latter and fit in the same tank.

Opting for a species that has different needs will make the maintenance of your aquarium a hassle. Tropical fish will, for instance, not work because they prefer warmer water temperatures compared to those needed for the hillstream loach.

Hillstream Loach Breeding

Hillstream loaches live for 8-10 years when properly taken care of in your fish tank. Though quite challenging to breed the loaches in your aquarium, it is possible with the right water conditions.

Your tank should be one hosting loaches exclusively to minimize the risk of other fish species feeding on the eggs and fry of the hillstream loach. As such, it is best to get a different breeding tank.

The males initially attract females using a mating dance. After mating, the male digs a nest in your substrate into which the female lays eggs.

Rounded river gravel is the ideal substrate for breeding tanks because the males can easily find nooks and crannies to make nests in it. Once fertilized, the eggs will take about two weeks to hatch. You need not separate the hatched eggs from the adult hillstream loaches since the adults will not harm their fry.

Use a sponge-type air-powered filter in the breeding tank to avoid having the fry sucked into it. You can trigger the spawning of a hillstream loach by raising the water temperature to 77-78 degrees Fahrenheit for some time before having a cool water change.

Infusoria is an ideal feed for the fry followed by micro worms and artemia nauplii when they are ready to forage in your substrate.

Wrapping Up

Even with the above information in mind, you should also know the signs of trouble when keeping hillstream loaches for you to act appropriately. The following are the common issues you should be on the lookout for:

  • Color patchiness that is often a sign of poor health.
  • Refusal to feed after a few weeks in your aquarium or in previously good feeders.
  • Limpness in the fish as it may indicate a lack of enough oxygenation in your tank.

You should also be keen on the above when buying your hillstream loach to ensure you get healthy fish. When purchasing online, the assessment might not be possible.

As such, your best choice is getting your pet fish from a reputable store instead of the nearest or cheapest one. The fish will be shipped in breather bags that are permeable to allow the flow of gases.

The hillstream loach was introduced into aquariums in the mid-2000s. Since then, the loach’s unique look and outgoing temperament have made it among the most popular choices for aquariums.

You cannot get tired of looking at the fish, and it will introduce a unique look and shape into your tank.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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