Care Guide for Hillstream Loaches – The Oddball Algae 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 is a compilation of our personal experiences with this remarkable species, which we have collected over ten years of selling and buying them.
What are Reticulated Loaches in Hillstream Loaches, and how do they work?
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 striping patterns. You can find them on the glass doing side-to-side crawls or flapping their fins while looking for food.
The hillstream loach’s body is highly patterned and streamlined. It is designed to hold onto rocks and withstand rapids.
Originally found in tropical regions of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, hillstream loaches live in shallow riffles, river rapids, and slower-moving stream pools in between. Their native habitat tends to have lots of rocks and is sparser in vegetation. Heavy rainfall can create sediment that can fluctuate water parameters and stir them up. They are extremely resilient and can adapt to a variety environmental conditions.
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.
They appreciate a stable pH, preferably between 7.0-7.8, and good 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. They can be kept at temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees F (20 to 27 degrees C), but they will be more vulnerable to illness and stress at higher temperatures. Also, keep a tight lid on the aquarium since they have the ability to climb up glass walls and escape. Check your filter if your hillstream loach is not there. They sometimes like to climb inside.
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 generally do well in community setups, but the males sometimes spar with each other if the tank doesn’t have enough cover.
How many hillstream loaches can be kept together? Most people only get one because they’re more expensive and can cost around $15 each. You can get just one, three, or more. If you get two, the stronger one may bully the weaker one over food or territory. 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 are Hillstream Loaches Eating?
They eat small aquatic crustaceans, algae, and other small organisms that live on the river bottom. 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. You can increase the chances of them reproducing if you give them good food.
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. To prevent fry from being sucked up, make sure that the adults are fed plenty. The tiny babies like to eat infusoria, vinegar eels, microworms, live baby brine shrimp, and 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.