Hillstream Loach: Complete Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size and Disease

Fish and a variety of other sea animals have the capability of surviving many environmental conditions so long as these are habitable. An aquarist with a desire to keep the hillstream loach fish should not have doubts about keeping this fish in a home tank. After reading the hillstream loach care guide, those dilemmas at the back of the mind ought to be relieved.

Hillstream Loach: A Quick Overview

Hillstream loaches are small, freshwater fish. They are known for their unique, flattened bodies and ability to cling to rocks and other surfaces using suction cups on their underside.

Hillstream Loach History

A native of fast moving rivers and streams of Asia, this fish with a streamlined body is able to withstand strong currents. The aquarist can replicate these conditions by installing powerheads.

The hillstream loach fishes are referred to as Cypriniformes and Cobitoidea, with the superfamily further split into eight subgroups.

Hillstream Loaches

Appearance of Hillstream Loach

At first glance, one might confuse the loach with the cat fish. However, they are totally different even though they share a few similarities. Some features of the hillstream loach fish are:

  • Presence of barbels around the mouth, 3-6 pairs
  • Having very few to no scales. Most of them have smooth bodies
  • They are torpedo-shaped
  • On the lower edges of their fins are minute spines that aid them with resisting the drag of fast flowing water
  • Flattened undersides that almost make them resemble snakes. Those with highly flattened undersides are believed to have previously inhabited streams with faster running water as opposed to those with less flattened undersides
  • Have slightly large fins used to wing themselves into rock crevices
  • Have sucker type kind of mouth
  • The length is about 2 to 3 inches
  • Have low-affinity haemoglobin
  • Have got modified pelvic and pectoral fins leading to a powerful suction-like cup which allows them to cling onto rocks, crawl and even eat on surfaces that are prone to high speed waters

Tank Requirements for Hillstream Loach

Remember the hillstream loach fish was specifically used to very fast-moving water and the body is adjusted to it. Tank conditions should at least meet certain percentage of its original home to make its life comfortable or at least bearable.

It should not be lost on an aquarist that the hillstream loach fish cannot survive in an ordinary standard tank. Sharing its home with other fishes which need relatively calm tank conditions may not therefore work. Some of the adjustments for their tank should include:

  • External canisters to provide powerful filtration
  • Additional power-heads for adequate flow of water. This also ensures there is a high supply of oxygen to help the fish thrive
  • Power filters are another necessity as they impart the needed tumbling action that acts like fast speed water
  • A river-tank manifold can be adopted for an effective water flow. The tubes should be non-perforated
  • The tank has to be high and long. As a matter of fact, fast flowing water will easily push the fish at high speeds and a small tank will inconvenience its movement. The tank should not be smaller than 3 feet
  • pH level range is supposed to be 6.5-7.5
  • The best temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The best water type is kH 10-15
  • Sand and fine gravel are the best options as the smooth body can be harmed by rough sand. Do not forget that they often swim at the bottom of the tank. Since they use high-speed waters, rough sand may be abrasive to them
  • Some smooth rocks can be added too
  • Bright light is necessary to offer the best environment for the growth of algae. The 40 watt tubes are a good option. If they are at least 4, the better
  • Hillstream loaches are best in school of three or four. Placing them in the tank singly may not auger well with them as they are a territorial lot
  • Provide them with sturdy plants and driftwood to give them sufficient hiding places
  • Changing water weekly is ideal as they love swimming in clean water

Hillstream Loach Tank Mates

It is crucial that you provide your hillstream loaches with sufficient space while keeping them in a tank as they can harass each other for food and space. This can lead to stress. According to experts, most of the bottom-dwelling fish that live with these fishes should have sufficient surface area, hiding spots, and food. 

Loaches may eat other fish species, so a breeding box for safe spawning is advisable. However, some fish keepers have informed that they won’t bother any fish even though they differ from each other in terms of their physical appearance. 

Ideal Tank Mates

If you want to add some other fishes into the tank of hillstream loaches, then you can choose bottom-dwelling, peaceful and small freshwater fish. For instance, tetras, snails, rasbora, akysis, danio, Stiphodon, hara, rhinogobjus, Dwarf Shrimp, and more. Besides, they can live well with other loaches from Megachilidae, balitoridae, and gastromyzontidae families. 

Bad Tank Mates For Hillstream Loaches

You should choose any territory-hungry, aggressive and big species that can see them as prey. For example, Oscars, African cichlids, barbs, and more. Furthermore, you should also avoid fewer dominant loaches, such as vanmanenia, Formosania, gastromyzon, anemia, and more.


Like most fish, the hilstream loaches are omnivorous, meaning they eat plants and flesh. Their favorites are algae that grow on the rock. Reading more on their diet from the hillstream loach care guide should be a plus. Here are some tips when feeding your hilstream loaches:

  • Create a condition in the tank that will allow for massive algae growth
  • The loach fish is known to scavenge for smaller animals hiding under rocks and the water foliage. Their favorite is aufwuch
  • Pellet food, shrimp pellets, algae wafers, flake, frozen food including brine shrimp and bloodworms are favorites too
  • Vegetables like kales leaves, cucumber, blanched spinach and courgette are another specialty that have been tried and were successful
  • To be extremely successful with feeding the loaches, having two or more tanks could be a good idea. Set one tank with conditions necessary for algae growth. As soon as it is ready, transfer the fish to this while preparing the other the same way

Hillstream Loach

Behavior & Temperament

The experts say hillstream loaches a calm as well as quite peaceful freshwater fish. While living together, they don’t prefer to begin any trouble with other fishes. 

In fact, you will find these fishes spending most of their time scavenging for food, or they can be found latched on the glass of the aquarium or on a rock. Well, it would be kind of very funny to observe these fishes. 

It is very common to watch all hillstream loaches latched to the tank glass, and they don’t even care about their surrounding environment. They remain busy doing their own things. However, there is one thing that you should keep in mind. 

In some situations, your hillstream loach can demonstrate territorial behavior. That’s why it is advisable to keep around three to four hillstream loaches in a 40 to 50-gallon capacity aquarium. However, keeping more than that can create scuffles between them over their territory.

Breeding Hillstream Loach

Hillstream loaches can be bred under tank conditions. Of course, it takes plenty of patience to do this. For proper breeding, the tank should be a loach-only aquarium. This way, chances of predators finding a delicacy on the eggs or fry of this fish are limited. Among the loach species, the easiest to breed is Pseudogastromyzon Cheni. With small broods of fry, as soon as they begin to breed, they spawn after every few weeks.

The male begins the process of digging a spawning pit by rapidly flicking its tail. The female comes to lay eggs in this pit. After around two weeks, the eggs hatch.

As opposed to other types of fish, the loaches are not known to harm their fry. It is, therefore, safe to leave them in the same aquarium with the adults.

Hosting other fish

The hillstream loch fish has no problem being in the same aquarium with other fish species. They only get particularly aggressive during feeding.

Signs of trouble

  • Patchiness in their color is a sign that they are unhealthy and need swift attention
  • When they refuse to feed, this too could be a sign of brewing trouble
  • When they become limp, check on the oxygen in the tank. If it goes seriously down the fish may die

These kinds of fish are a delight in the home tank. After carefully acquainting ones’ self with the hillstream loach care guide, taking care of this fish in the home tank will not present a challenge.

Facts About Hillstream Loaches

  • While in captivity, these loaches live well in a freshwater aquarium and the wild; they prefer to live in shallow streams. They were discovered in Guizhou province, and then they expanded through Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. If you want to keep it, you should remember that they love to live in shallow waterways and oxygen-rich upstream areas.
  • Females and males for tank fish have a very minimal appearance. However, if you compare, you will find that the male has a vibrant coloring. Even though they don’t generally breed in captivity environments, but they would reproduce in trenches under the rocks, replicating riverine environments. 
  • Among all types of hillstream loaches, butterfly hillstream loaches look beautiful with stunning patterns. They have a flat stomach and come with brown and yellow-colored lines along with black spots. It may be noted that their body color can vary, and they can change their body color based on the stress and surrounding environment. 

Are Hillstream Loaches Right For You?

Hillstream loaches are the perfect contender for the subtropical aquarium as they are algae and biofilm grazers. Besides, they need a big aquarium with sufficient oxygen levels, better water flow, and more. Your tank water needs to be filled with the things generated from water changes. 

As the loaches are indigenous to shallow and fast-moving waterways, any small change in water quality can affect their health. Besides, you also need to consider regular aquarium maintenance, water quality degradation, and oxygens saturation level of the water. However, if you can maintain your tank’s water parameters, you can easily take good care of your sensitive hillstream loaches. 

One hillstream loach needs a minimum aquarium size of around 10 gallons. And the recommended water temperature of the tank is around 65 to 75-degree F.  If the tank water has a sufficient amount of oxygen, it can easily withstand warmer temperatures for a few hours. On the other hand, the pH level of water should be between 6 to 8. If you can maintain all these things, then this can be good fish for you. 


Do Hillstream Loaches Eat Shrimp?

Professional fish keepers say hillstream loaches are grazers as well as omnivores. That’s why they like to feed on biofilm and algae that your fish tank has. What’s more? They also love to eat different live foods. For example, tubifex, live or frozen brine shrimp, insect larvae, daphnia, and more. Besides, they can also eat pellets, fish flakes, algae wafers, and more in some cases. 

How Many Hillstream Loaches Should Be Kept Together?

As discussed above, hillstream loaches are freshwater fish, and as they have peaceful nature, they prefer to live in a community. You can also keep them with shrimps, live plans, snails, and non-aggressive fish. If you want to keep your hillstream loaches together, make sure that you keep three loaches in a school.  

What Size Tank Do Hillstream Loaches Need?

Different studies say hillstream loaches love to live in cooler water, around 60 to 75-degree F. You should not keep them in temperature more than 75-degree F. Besides, such fishes need a tank with a water capacity of more than 10 gallons. And they like water with a sufficient level of oxygen and current. Besides, offer them a natural-like setup. To avoid any stress and to offer them enough space, you should choose a 50-gallon aquarium. 

What Does A Hillstream Loach Eat?

In the wild environment, they eat very small aquatic crustaceans found at the bottom of the river, a tiny organism living underwater, and algae. And when you keep them in an aquarium, they will love to eat anything that will grow on the plant leaves, rocks, driftwood, and walls of your fish tank. This can include beard algae, hair algae, diatom algae. Well, that doesn’t mean that they can survive on algae only. 

So, while keeping in your aquarium, you need to ensure that you are providing your hillstream loaches with different types of nutrition-rich foods. For example, you can go for blanched vegetables, frozen brine shrimp, and more. If you take good care of them and offer them healthy fish food, the adult hillstream loaches may start breeding. 

Can You Have Just One Hillstream Loach?

These fishes prefer to live in a community setup. But sometimes, the male hillstream loaches part with others if they don’t get enough coverage in the tank. So, instead of keeping them alone, you should keep them in a group in a big aquarium. 


In general, hillstream loaches care a stress-free and simple process. They don’t require a lot of maintenance as well as attention as long as you have the right tank. Besides, the water condition and flow of water are good. You can use some power-heads to maintain a good water flow in your aquarium. 

Most people prefer to choose this fish for their unique appearance as well as easygoing temperament. And watching them roaming around the aquarium is very addictive. Do you want to know more about hillstream loaches? You can ask your question in the comment section. And always keep the information mentioned here for caring for your hillstream loaches.

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