The family Botiidae is familiar to most aquarists, as it includes
the clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) from Southeast Asia.
Several closely related fishes are found in South Asia. Endemic to
India, the zebra loach (Botia striata) is one of my personal favorite
loaches. They’ve got a dense pattern of vertical stripes, and are
extremely active. Kept in a good-sized school, they’re constantly in
motion, and their patterns are downright hypnotic.
Reaching a maximum size of about 4 inches ( 10 cm), they’re a
fair-sized loach, but not as unmanageable as other members of the
group. Despite reaching a good size, they’re peaceful, although a
group of them will tend to quarrel nonstop with each other (without
doing any harm). Like other Botia loaches, they’re excellent snail
eaters and will rid a tank of them in a few days. They’ll gladly eat
any meaty food around the bottom of the aquarium.
The hillstream loaches of the family Balitoridae are also
represented in South Asia. The only members of this family often
encountered in the trade are members of the genus Homaloptera.
These fish are superficially quite similar, and their husbandry is
essentially the same.
H. bilineata, the mottled hillstream loach, appears to be the most
commonly imported species from Myanmar, although other species
may make it into the trade as well. These fish are biofilm feeders
and will generally starve to death in any aquarium without a lot
of surfaces to graze. When found in dealers’ tanks, they’re usually
starved. Biofilms may be supplemented with various gel foods,
frozen foods, and live or frozen blackworms, bloodworms, and the
like, which will be eagerly eaten.
Aquariums for these species are fairly specialized. They live in
shallow, fast-flowing streams with high oxygen content. In a typical
aquarium, they’ll simply fail to thrive. Aquarists who are willing to
replicate the specialized habitat of these fish, setting up a dedicated
fast-flowing stream tank, will find them a rewarding challenge, but
the rest of us are best off leaving them alone.
The Indian subcontinent and remaining geographic area known
as South Asia have a huge number of fish species of which we’ve
barely scratched the surface of getting to know. This area has
incredibly rich biodiversity and is a booming area of discovery. We
can expect to see many new and beautiful fishes introduced from
the region to the hobby. If you haven’t kept any of these bottom-dwelling “minnows,” be sure to give them a try! D
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
The zebra loach (Botia striata).