Bringing the bottom of your community tank to life is challenging, considering most bottom-level fishes are shy.

Yoyo loaches are different!

These freshwater fish can set the tank bottom abuzz with their presence. They swim from bottom to middle-level tank water.

Their bright silver bodies have dark horizontal stripes resembling the English alphabets Y-O-Y-O, explaining their name.

This pattern is visible in younger years. As they mature, the stripes multiply and spread across their fully grown bodies.

They recognize their owners. It’s a joy to see them respond whenever you go closer to the tank.

They are peaceful, not difficult to care for, and fun to own, making them an apt choice for all pet fish owners.

Generic Facts

Table 1 – Generic facts
Scientific Name Botia Almorhae, Botia Lohachata
Other popular names Yoyo Loach, Y-Loach, Almora/Almorha/Almorah Loach, Reticulated Loach, Pakistani Loach
Family Botiidae
Origin Ganges Basin of Northern India and probably Nepal
Life Span 5-8 years
Adult Size 3 to 6 inches
Type Freshwater

Types

The species found in the Indian region are slightly lighter in color than the species found in Pakistan.

The reasons for this color difference are unknown.

Further research is needed to understand if they are two different species.

Currently, both fall under the category of the same species.

Many similar loaches get traded as Yoyo loaches in the fish trade.

Habitat and Origin

They thrive in rivers in India.

These freshwater loaches live in slow-moving to still river waters with rocky bottoms.

The adult loaches migrate to middle or upper streams for spawning. After spawning, they return to the lower streams.

Their popular names indicate their geographical locations:

  • Almora (Almorha, or Amlorah) Loach – represents Almora, a district in Uttarakhand, India.
  • Pakistani Loach – represents Pakistan, a country in South Asia.

According to some sources, Ken Childs (a photographer and a leading name in the aquarium import trade) named them yoyo as their stripes resembled alphabets Y-O-Y-O in English.

Others suggest that they are named yoyo, as they swim vertically up and down sometimes, like a yoyo toy.

Yo! both (stripe pattern and swimming style) are correct observations.

Physical Attributes and Size

Its shiny silver skin and dark yoyo stripes are vibrant.

Some may have a slightly yellow, blue, or golden tinge on their bodies.

While it looks scaleless, it has tiny scales on its body, but none on its head.

It has a long, pointed nose that droops a little with four whiskers at the end.

These whiskers (also called barbels) have taste and smell buds. They help to navigate to food in the dark.

Its tail fin is forked. All fins are colorless with horizontal silver lines and may have random black spots/stripes crossing them.

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It has teeth inside the throat to bite hard food.

Some hobbyists have noticed Yoyo Loaches change/ lose their color.

Their stripes may fade with age, in the dark (to avoid a flashy look), while eating, breeding, or when it is under stress.

However, there is nothing to substantiate these observations.

Natural Defense

The Pakistani loaches have a spine (small sharp swordlike) underneath each of their eyes.

These are not visible, as a thin membrane covers them.

The spines are sharp and can cause serious injuries.

When the loaches are under stress or attacked, they come out (to defend or attack) and retract into the membrane afterward.

Hence, never handle it with bare hands. It might hurt you.

Male v/s Female

A male and female Yoyo Loach cannot be differentiated until they breed.

A fully grown male loch looks slimmer, whereas his female counterpart is comparatively big and has a rounded belly when spawning.

Some believe that male loaches have a tinge of red around their whiskers. But that might be elusive. It is better to wait till they breed.

Typical Behavior Patterns

Did you know? Yoyo Loaches avidly eat snails/snail eggs, promoting snail control in fish tanks.

Some of their typical behavior patterns are listed below:

  • They are nocturnal.
  • Although non-schooling, they move in groups.
  • They are peaceful with other fishes but tend to get semi-aggressive amongst themselves while choosing a leader.
  • Their leader leads the group while swimming.
  • When new, they prefer to hide in the bottom decor until they feel safe in the tank environment.
  • Once they feel safe, they swim freely during the day too.
  • They swim from the bottom to the middle-level tank-water.
  • Their play includes hiding and swimming through caves and rocks.
  • They can jump out of the tank anytime. Hence, keep the tank lid closed.
  • At times, they swim in vertical upwards and downwards movements randomly.
  • They scout the bottom of fish tanks to scavenge for leftovers, algae, etc.

1.7 Price 

A Y-Loach costs between $5 to $20 each, depending on size, availability, and offers.

We recommend you buy from a reliable source (online/offline).

Care Guide

Table 2 – Care Overview
Care Level Medium
Diet Omnivorous, Scavengers
Temperament Peaceful
Breeding Difficult in captivity / Egg laying
Social Gels with most other fishes, but eats snails/snail eggs

Food

Yoyo Loaches are bottom feeders. Hence, use sinking foods to feed them.

They are non-fussy and eat almost anything.

Keep variety in diet to maintain nutritional value. Feed only high-quality food (parasite and bacteria-free).

When feeding dried or powdered food, make it a little wet and defrost the frozen food before feeding.

Feed in small portions thrice a day. Avoid over-feeding. You may hear clicking sounds when they eat.

They enjoy eating:

  • Live/frozen foods – brine shrimps, black worms, Daphnia, mosquito larvae, etc.
  • Dried foods – flakes, pellets, etc., as long as it sinks and reaches them
  • Snails, plants, algae, leftovers, etc. from the tank

Breeding

Yoyo Loaches are migrating fishes. They migrate to middle and upper streams during the breeding season. After laying eggs, they return to the lower streams.

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It is challenging to breed them in captivity, as they do not find the natural conditions needed to lay eggs in the home aquariums.

In captivity, female loaches may bear eggs but do not breed.

Few experts have succeeded in breeding them in aquariums, using injections as follows.

Conditions for captive breeding

  • Tank capacity – More than 140 liters.
  • Other water parameters: temperature – 22 to 25 degrees C, hardness – 3 to 9. PH – 6.5 to 7.5.
  • Tank water must be clean.
  • Place a net on all the tank sides from inside.
  • Feed them well (refer to section 2.1 above). So they are happy, healthy, and feel safe.
  • They have to be stress-free to breed.
  • Inject the female loach with reliable hormones prompting her to breed.

Mating Indicators

  • When she bears eggs, her belly will look swollen.
  • She constantly chases and interacts with the male counterpart, so he is prepared to fertilize her eggs.

Caring for a Pregnant Yoyo Loach

  • The swollen belly skin seems transparent due to stretching.
  • You will be able to see the eggs through it.
  • Her appetite increases as she nourishes the eggs inside her.
  • Feed her properly with a nutritional diet.
  • Maintain water parameters.
  • Change 5-10 percent of the tank water every day.
  • Ensure she is safe and has enough hiding places to rest.
  • She will deliver the eggs after one to two weeks of pregnancy.
  • A few days or hours before egg-laying, she will have a lower appetite.

Yoyo Loach Eggs

A pregnant Loach releases 500 eggs per spawning. The fertilization rate in captivity is poor.

All eggs are white. Fertilized eggs will look greyish.

Use the net-coating along the tank sides to remove all unfertilized eggs at the earliest, as they can contaminate the tank environment, causing further complications.

Keep the fertilized eggs in a separate tank. Other fishes or their own parents might feast on them.

Slowly the eggs will grow into frys. Start feeding them by leaving little food in the caves.

Once they are sufficiently large to defend themselves, add them to the main tank.

Diseases

The Yoyo Loaches are strong, but their anatomy (tiny scales on bodies and no scales on the head) makes them prone to diseases and sensitive to water changes.

Considering they are sensitive, give them half the dose of prescribed medication administered to other fishes.

The table below lists their common diseases, symptoms, and treatments.

It is advisable to always consult a vet for complete treatment and diagnosis.

Table 3 – Common Diseases
Name Causes/Type Symptoms Basic Treatment
Ich/Ick Parasites in the tank due to: Poor tank water quality High stress Highly Contagious White Spots on the skin Breathing difficulty Tendency to scratch against hard surfaces in the tank Isolate in a quarantine tank Use only half the recommended dose of over-the-counter medicine Increase the water temperature Consult a vet if need be Do this in main and hospital tanks: Clean the tank thoroughly Identify and fix stress factors Maintain tank environment Observe other tank mates for infection
Skinny/Wasting Internal Parasites Possible high stress Maybe contagious if unchecked Unexplained weight loss despite proper eating Isolate in a quarantine tank Consult a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment
Cotton Ball Bacterial Infection High stress Poor tank water quality Maybe contagious if unchecked Difficulty in breathing   White mucus in the gill area Weird/unusual swimming Isolate in a quarantine tank Use half the recommended dose of over-the-counter medicine Consult a vet if needed Fix and maintain the tank parameters
Hole-In-The -Head (HITH) Or Hexamitiasis Fungi Possible high stress Overcrowded tank Poor tank water quality Contagious Noticeable dent in the head Scratches on body Isolate in a quarantine tank Consult a vet Fix and maintain the tank parameters

Simple steps to keep your fishes and loaches healthy are:

  • Maintain the required tank water environment consistently.
  • Avoid overcrowding the tank.
  • Feed a healthy diet. Avoid overfeeding.
  • Observe them for any physical or behavioral changes.
  • Stress indicators – breathing issues, laziness, loss of appetite, hiding, unusual swimming patterns, etc.
  • Ensure everything entering the tank (water, food, decor, substrate, etc.) is high quality and parasite/bacteria-free.
  • Physical indicators – unexplained weight gain or loss. Scratches, wounds, spots, dents, color changes, etc.
  • Choose tank mates wisely.
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Acclimating a Yoyo Loach

Y-Loaches can adjust to both soft and hard tank water.

Like any new addition to your community tank, acclimate them to ensure their bodies get used to the tank water.

Click here for details on the methods to acclimate.

Tank Recommendations

Table 4 – Tank Requirements Overview
Minimum Tank Size 20 to 40 Gallons
Water Temperature 75 to 86 degrees F (23.9 to 30 degrees C)
PH Level 6.5 to 7.5
Water Hardness 3 to 12 dGH

Tank Size

The tank should be long with a smaller height since the Y-Loaches grow longer with age.

As indicated earlier, they enjoy moving in groups. Hence it is advisable to add 2 to 6 of them, depending on your tank size.

Considering they can grow up to 6 inches long and live 5-8 years, we can use the following approximation method. 

A ratio of 6 gallons of water per inch provides a good approximation.

  • Reduce 10% of the tank size for substrate.
  • Divide the balance capacity by 6.
  • The resulting number represents the total inches that you can add to the tank.
  • Divide it by the average size of the fish.
  • Consider the adult loach size to keep the same tank as it matures.
  • Thus, you can add a 3 inch loach to a 20 gallon tank and so on.
  • Also, consider the space requirements of other tank mates.

Tank Setup

The tank setup should replicate their natural habitat to make them feel safe, happy, and healthy in captivity.

Substrate

The Almorah Loaches dig into the bottom while scavenging, using their whiskers. 

Choose a substrate that does not hurt their delicate barbels and also makes it easier for them to search for food.

Hence, soft sand and fine-rounded gravel are best.

Lighting

Choose subtle lighting to resemble their natural environment.

Plants

Live plants add oxygen to the tank, and the loaches can nibble on them. They also serve as hiding places.

Java fern, Java Moss, Anubias, Vallisneria, Crypts, Wisteria, DidiplisDiandra, Blyxa japonica, etc., are apt for the tank.

Decor

Use driftwood, rocks, colorful clay pots, ceramic caves, etc.

Ensure everything is:

  • Smooth and rounded, so it doesn’t hurt them
  • Well-spaced, and
  • Large enough for them to swim through/hide

Oxygen and Filtration

Use biological and mechanical filters to keep the tank oxygenated and clean the tank water.

Use chemical filtration only when needed.

The water current must be slow-moving.

Read here for more about types of filtration.

Tank Mates

Consider non-aggressive, middle and top-level dwellers to avoid overcrowding at the bottom.

Tetras, Mollys, Guppies, Plecos, Clown Loach, Gold Fish, Angelfish, Cory Catfish, Glass Catfish, etc., make good tank mates for Yoyo Loaches.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Everything you need to know about Yoyo Loaches is covered so far except the below queries.

1. Can Yoyo Loach and Bettas be tank mates?

There is no evidence of Y-Loaches eating bettas, but they might bite the fins of slow-moving bettas. Hence keep them separate.

Some hobbyists have kept them together successfully, which could be due to many unidentified factors (such as the number of loaches being more, keeping them busy in their own groups, tank environment, feeding patterns, etc.).

2. Does Yoyo Loach eat shrimps?

Yes, it does.

3. How to differentiate Gold Zebra Loach and Yoyo-Loach?

The two are different species, though many stores sell the Gold Zebra Loach as Yoyo Loach.

Yoyo Loach Gold Zebra Loach
The black marks form a unique Y-O-Y-O pattern in young ones They have dark horizontal stripes on their bodies (no YOYO pattern)
Grows relatively faster Comparatively slower growth
Eats snails in the tank Eats snails in the Tank
Silver bodies with black YOYO stripes Light Golden bodies with black stripes
Pointed and droopier nose Nose is neither droopy nor as pointed
Scientific name – Botia Almorhae, BotiaLohachata Scientific name – Botia Histrionica

Conclusion

The Almorha loaches will bring life to your community tank with their flashy appearance, active lifestyle, and interactive skills.

A happy yoyo-ing time to you!

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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