Care Guide for Hillstream Loaches-The Oddball Eater
Reticulated hillstream loaches (Sewellia lineolata) are one of the coolest-looking algae eaters, but there’s a lot of conflicting information about their care requirements that makes people hesitant to try them. This article shares our personal experience with how to keep this incredible species.
What are Reticulated Hillsstream Loaches?
There are many types of hillstream loaches that live in similar environments, but let’s specifically discuss the reticulated hillstream loach (also known as the tiger hillstream loach or gold ring butterfly sucker) because it is one of the most common varieties available in the aquarium hobby. This 2.5-inch (6.4 cm) oddball fish looks like a miniature stingray because of its streamlined shape, flat underside, and horizontal fins that can tightly grip onto any smooth surface. The fish’s unique body has light-colored spots as well as dark brown stripes. You can find them on the glass doing side-to-side crawls or flapping their fins while looking for food.
The hillstream loach is characterized by a highly-patterned, streamlined body. It can grip securely onto rocks and resist rapids.
Originarily found in tropical regions of Vietnam and Laos (Cambodia), hillstream loaches are found in rivers rapids, shallow riffles and stream pools that move slower. Their natural habitat has a lot of rocks, and is less populated with vegetation. They can withstand heavy rainfall, which can lead to sediment buildup and altering water parameters.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Hillstream Loaches
Most of the initial research into this species says that they are a cool water fish that must be kept in a river manifold tank with fast current and high oxygenation. We have personally kept them in hot water tanks with clown loaches, unheated setups with goldfish, and even heavily planted 20-gallon tanks with gentle sponge filters – and the hillstream loaches happily thrived and bred in each of those different settings.
Make sure to use a tight-fitting aquarium hood or top because hillstream loaches can easily climb out of your aquarium.
Our opinion is that fish appreciate a stable pH (preferably between 7.7-7.8) and high water quality. Any kind of fish tank filter will work, as long as it’s appropriately sized for your aquarium and the other inhabitants can handle the flow. While a temperature range between 65-80degF (20-25 degC) is acceptable for fish tank filters, higher temperatures can make them more susceptible to illness and stress. Also, keep a tight lid on the aquarium since they have the ability to climb up glass walls and escape. Your filter might have a hillstream loach in it. They can sometimes crawl inside the filter, so if this happens, you should check it.
What fish can live with hillstream loaches? They get along with most peaceful community fish that are similarly sized and won’t fin nip them. We’ve kept them with goldfish, livebearers, shrimp, snails, tetras, danios, and other schooling fish with no problems.
Hillstream loaches tend to do well in community settings, but males may sometimes fight over the tank’s cover.
How many hillstream loaches are possible to keep together? Most people only purchase one, as they can be more expensive at around $15 per piece. We recommend only getting one of these loaches, but you can also get a group of three. If you have two of them, the stronger one might bully and take over the other one over territory or food. Males enjoy squabbling with their partners, going round and round trying get on top of each other. But, there is no bodily harm. To reduce aggression levels, make sure to provide more decorations or aquarium plants to block line of sight.
What do Hillstream Loaches eat?
In nature, they eat small aquatic crustaceans found at the river bottom and algae. They also eat small organisms living under water surfaces. In your aquarium, they will happily scrape off anything that grows on your fish tank walls, rocks, driftwood, and plant leaves. These include soft diatom and hair algae as well as black beard algae. You can’t feed them algae, but they won’t survive on it alone. So make sure you give them high-quality foods like Repashy gel food or sinking wafers. If you feed them well, there is a higher likelihood the adults may start breeding.
Hillstream loaches not only clean algae off flat surfaces like tank walls but also lacy leaves and uneven rocks.
How can you breed hillstream loaches?
When it comes to sexing hillstream loaches, the females usually have a wider head and plumper body, whereas the males have a slightly jagged silhouette at the beginning of their pectoral fins near their “shoulders.” Most of the time, juveniles are sold in the fish stores and it can be hard to sex them, so buy a group of six or more if you want to breed them.
Many people have success breeding them in an established aquarium that has lots of mulm, infusoria, algae, hiding spots, and perhaps a rock pile for the fry to dart underneath. You should ensure that both the adults and the fry have enough food. To keep the fry from becoming sucked up, cover the filter intake with a sponge. The little ones love to eat live baby brine shrimps, infusoria, vinegar and microworms as well as powdered fry food. To increase their survival rate, you can also put them in a breeder box to keep them safe from predators.
For more information on other fantastic algae eaters, read about our top 10 favorites that can help keep your fish tank nice and clean.