and 24 inches wide. These streams ran
through incredibly lush primary forests
where sun bears, boars, and pods of
Asian elephants roam. Cohabitating
with the zipper loaches were other
stream-dwelling fish such as Pristolepis
grootii, Labiobarbus lineatus, Cirrhinus
caudimaculatus, Cyclocheilichthys apogon,
and Osteochilus hasseltii.
Zipper loaches make hardy, active fish
for the home aquarium. They can be
scrappy, and nipped fins are quite common,
although damage that is more serious is
rare if enough specimens are present in
the aquarium. Recently I procured a red-finned Acanthocobitis cf. botia through rare
fish extraordinaire Frank Greco. These
creatures show their beautiful colors
as they become more adjusted to their
The horseface loach Acantopsis choirorhynchos.
Common Name: Horseface loach
Aggression Level: 1 or 2
Maximum Size: 8 inches
I have collected A. choirorhynchos in
Myanmar. These horseface loaches are gentle
giants, rarely showing any hostility toward
conspecifics or other tank inhabitants.
These shy loaches will appreciate fine-sand substrate, as they frequently bury
themselves with only their elongated faces
showing. In nature, I found them in very
large, turbid rivers with a mud substrate.
In the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, I
helped native fishermen retrieve a 300-foot
seine that yielded many fully grown 8-inch
In the Ayeyarwady River the horseface
loach can be found alongside Tenualosa
thibaudeaui, Mystacoleucus argenteus,
Chagunius baileyi, pufferfish Tetraodon
cutcutia, and catfish Gagata sp. Dredging
a seine net through the thick river
mud would yield the loaches, as well
as eels Mastacembelus alboguttatus and
Common Name: Banded scooter loach
Aggression Level: 1
Maximum Size: 2 inches
Here is a colorful rarity that is a joy to
observe in captivity. This is a very active
species that is not prone to shyness.
They will search out food particles by
scooting along any submersed object
without ever becoming detached from
The banded scooter loach Barbucca diabolica.
it. They will follow a rock from top
to bottom, even swimming sideways or
upside down without their bellies ever
leaving its surface. This is an extremely
peaceful species that should be kept with
other gentle tankmates.
Common Name: Yoyo loach, Pakistan loach
Aggression Level: 2; some large individuals, 3
Maximum Size: 6 inches
This is currently one of the most common
members of the assemblage found in retail
tropical fish shops. Typical of the members
of the genus Botia, this loach changes its
color pattern dramatically as it matures.
When the fish are young they have a
black pattern resembling the letters “Y”
and “O” running down their flanks. As
the fish grows larger, this simple pattern
bends and blends until finally, a dark
and reticulated fish appears at adulthood.
Specimens vary greatly, with some taking
on a distinct greenish cast while others
develop wonderful markings reminiscent
of the rosettes found on a clouded leopard.
Common Name: Queen loach, Bengal loach
Aggression Level: 3
Maximum Size: 8 inches
The stockiest of the botias, B. dario is a
common food fish in its native India. Aside
from being heavyset, the queen loach is also
unusual for the fact that its color pattern
does not change drastically as it grows.
Juvenile queens look like bumblebees
with a clean pattern of dark brown bars
over a yellowish body. Adults have less
distinct bars, and some individuals develop
a beautiful golden yellow coloration.
Common Name: Burmese loach, gold
Aggression Level: 2 or 3
Maximum Size: 5 inches
These are sporadic imports usually found
as contaminants in shipments of another
Burmese botia, B. kubotai. I have collected
startlingly patterned gold and jet-black
juveniles of this species in feeder streams
that run into the Ayeyarwady River in