Hillstream Loach Stats InfographicThe Hillstream Loach is a peaceful freshwater fish that loves to swim in the rapid currents of Asia’s streams and water bodies.

Their unique body shape and markings make them really stand out from the crowd, so if you are looking for an amazing fish to add to your tank, the Hillstream loach is a solid choice.

For most aquarists, the attraction goes beyond their beauty to their ease of care. We will outline everything that you should know about the Hillstream Loach. Simplified care instructions, suitable tank mates, best tank size, diet, you name it; you’ll learn all that from this article.


Other Names Stripped Hillstream loach
Lifespan 8-10 years
Size 2.5 – 3 Inches
Minimum Tank Size 50 gallons
Temperature 68 – 75 F
Hardness Moderate
pH 6.5 – 7.5


The Hillstream loach is scientifically known as the Sewellia lineolate and hails from the Cobitoidea superfamily and belongs to the Cypriniformes order. They are found in rivers throughout India and Asia, where there is fast-moving water. If you are in Southeast Asia, India, or China and you see some water with a swift current, the chances are that you will find the Hillstream loach in there.

Their preference for fast-moving water is the primary reason why they have such a streamlined, unique look. They have little or no hydrodynamic drag, meaning that it is easy for this fish to navigate the strong water currents, unlike other fish that struggle.

In the wild, the Hillstream loach spends most of its time camped out on a rock or slowly working its way across the bottom of the tank in a quest to find food. Oh, you should know that they are among the most fabulous-looking algae eaters out there on the block.

– Appearance

Hillstream loach fishHow do we begin to describe the Hillstream loach’s appearance? Let’s start by stating that this fish has a unique appearance that makes it an absolute delight to watch.

Their unique appearance sometimes creates confusion about what they are; some refer to them as catfish, others mini stingrays. But trust us, they are neither.

Hillstream loaches have a streamlined tapered shape like a torpedo that allows them to move quickly in fast-moving currents. They have a base coloration of light yellow or grey, with black stripes pointing to their bodies randomly. These stripes are, however, more linear as you approach their caudal and dorsal fins.

Their pectoral and pelvic fins are shaped like a wing, a design that allows them to latch to rocks and the surface of your tank quickly. This design can easily resist the water currents, unlike other fish that expend a lot of energy to stay in the same place.

The Hillstream loaches barbels are part of the reason why this fish is often mistaken for a funky-looking catfish species. They are really short, tiny, and almost impossible to see from certain angles. One final thing about this fish is that their underside has a sucker mouth and a flattened abdomen.

– Sexual Dimorphism in Hillstream Loaches

Female Hillstream loaches generally have broader heads and rounder bodies than their male counterparts. In males, you will notice a slightly jagged silhouette where their pectoral fins join their shoulders.

– Size

Hillstream loach size for adult fish averages two to three inches. Yes, they are very tiny, but their small size puts them at an advantage. They can quickly get into tiny crevices and hide in them; they can also get food in the gaps, which is a plus for their size.

Before you get worried that you may not see the fish in your tank because of their size, it’s not an issue. This fish is easy to see, considering that they are usually at the front and center of your aquarium; it is also not uncommon to find them clinging to the sides of your fish tank or on a rock.

– Lifespan

The Hillstream loach has an average lifespan of 8-10 years with proper care. Like all fish, the quality of care you give impacts their actual lifespan.

– Reticulated Hillstream Loaches

There are many variants of the Hillstream loach that live in the same fast-moving water environment; the Reticulated Hillstream loach is one of them. It is also known as the Gold ring butterfly sucker or Tiger hillstream loach. The reticulated hillstream loach is one of the most popular varieties available in most pet stores.

Reticulated Hillstream loaches are endemic to the tropical regions of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. They can survive in shallow riffles, fast-moving waters, and slow-moving pools. Their habitat in the wild is filled with rocks and very little vegetation. Their body build helps them cope with the heavy rainfalls that stir up sediments and lead to fluctuating water parameters.

Hillstream loaches measure only 2.5 inches and look like miniature stingrays. They boast of a streamlined shape, flat abdomen, and horizontal fins capable of gripping surfaces. The reticulated hillstream loaches unusual body is also covered with light-colored spots and dark stripes that run down its entire length.


There have been a lot of articles promising to show how best to care for Hillstream loaches. Sadly, all they have done is create confusion in the minds of aquarists and make it hard for them to choose this fish.

However, we have clarified the confusion in this article; our care guide is drawn from decades of research about this fish and personally owning, caring, and breeding them. Let’s get started, shall we?

– Diet

With the proper diet, your loach will live a long and healthy life. Hillstream loaches in the wild are omnivores, scouting for food and nibbling on whatever they can find. In captivity, they need a diet high in proteins; they can get it from the algae that grow on the rocks on your tank.

Irrespective of them snacking on the algae growing in their tank, you will still need other things to sustain them.

Feed them a well-balanced diet of algae wafers, flakes, pellets, frozen bloodworms, daphnia, microworms, and brine shrimps. You also need to add veggies like spinach and kale that provide them with a solid mix of nutrients and vitamins.

Feed your stripped Hillstream loaches small portions of high-quality food. That way, you can ensure that they are adequately fed but not overfed. Trust us. There is a thin line between well-fed fish and overfed fish.

– Disease Prevention

We have prevented diseases in our Hillstream loach’s tank by adhering to the recommended water conditions. Keep the Hillstream Loach temperature low: high water temperatures favor a faster spread of disease in your fish tank.

Another tip is to quarantine new fish before adding them to your established fish tank. That way, you can catch any disease strain before you add the affected fish to your tank. The same also goes for equipment; sterilize your equipment thoroughly before dipping them in your fish tank.

Avoid things that induce stress in your fish. That includes poor choice of tank mates and nutrition. Underfeeding or overfeeding your loach can stress it, so take note. Feed them small bits of high-quality food. Ensure that the portions are small enough that they can finish in three to four minutes.

Once you notice the telltale signs of fish diseases, isolate the infected fish immediately to prevent the spread. Treat the infected fish with the appropriate OTC medication and ensure they get the necessary nutrients. Initiate a 50 percent water change for your established tank and ensure top-notch water quality.

How To Set up a Hillstream Loach Fish Tank

Setting up a tank for this fish is the first and most crucial step in caring for this fish. For starters, you need a tank that mirrors the conditions this fish enjoys in the wild; fast currents, pristine water, not so much plantations, etc.

– Tank Size

We recommend a 50-gallon tank and if you think that is too large considering their diminutive size, here are such reasons to reconsider:

  • They love being kept in small groups of threes and fours
  • They require high oxygen and water currents.

Their water requirement makes it impossible to use a small tank. Hillstream loaches love to climb the walls of their tank, so it is in your best interest to get a tank with a tight-fitting lid to prevent them from crawling out and winding up dead on the floor of your home.

– Water Conditions

Although this fish is not finicky in water parameters and is low maintenance, they do require you to meet their basic needs. Parameters like pH, hardness, temperature, and water current are essential for their survival.

The base water conditions for Hillstream loach are straightforward to follow. They do better in waters with cooler temperatures and give you some wriggle room, especially if you want to house them with other fish species. We recommend the following parameters:

  • pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Temperature: 68 F and 75 F
  • Water hardness: Medium hardness

One way to ensure that the water parameters in your tank are within the acceptable range is to use a water test kit regularly. This is a habit most successful aquarists have because they know that it is far easier to catch the shift early and deal with it. You can get an excellent water test kit from any local pet store around you.

Another way of keeping the water parameters within range is to carry out regular water changes once a week. This way, you can avoid them coming down with diseases resulting from less than pristine water conditions.

– Current/Water Requirements

We cannot overemphasize the importance of having the proper water flow in your tank. There are many ways to achieve this. Our favorite way is to use a powerhead; that way, you have a constant and adjustable water current.

Now you understand why you need a much bigger tank for your Hillstream; it is impossible to generate a consistent and non-disruptive water flow in a tiny tank.

A powerhead not just helps with the water current; it also helps improve the oxygen concentration of your tank water. Due to the Hillstream loaches love for oxygen-rich waters, a powerhead is simply a must; the alternative will be a lot of dead oxygen-deprived Hillstream in your tank.

– What To Put in a Hillstream Loach’s Tank

Here’s an idea of what to put in your Hillstream loaches’ fish tank, starting with the substrate. The preferred substrate for this fish is soft and sandy, considering that they spend a lot of time scouring the substrate for food.

Since this fish has a very smooth body, the smooth, soft substrate will ensure that they do not get scratches or cuts while navigating your tank.

Another thing you should consider adding to their tank is rocks with smooth surfaces. These rocks serve as a great place for your loaches to rest and accumulate yummy algae over time that your Hillstream loach can snack on.

Hillstream loaches will also appreciate a tank with great hiding spaces; it helps them mind their business and gives them more sense of security.

You can create some with plants like the Hornwort or experiment with other plant varieties; either way, your fish gets premium hiding spots and improved water quality. Driftwood also makes a great decoration piece for your tank; we prefer the combination of plants and rocks.

– Tank Mates

Thanks to the Spotted Hillstream loach peaceful disposition, there are many tankmates you can select from. However, the rule of thumb is to ensure these possible tank mates are not bigger than your diminutive loach by far or overly aggressive; you don’t want them stressing your Hillstream loach.

We also advise that your chosen tank mates share similar water and dietary preference as your Hillstream so that they too can thrive in the tank.

An example of excellent tank mate options for your loach is Rasbora and Danios because they get along well with Hillstream loaches. Livebearers, snails, shrimps, tetras, and goldfish are also not bad choices for Hillstream loach tank mates.

However, due to the Hillstream loach’s preference for colder waters, tropical fish are not recommended. Avoid known fin nippers; they bother your loach and stress it out.

Behavior and Temperament

Hillstream loach tank cleanerStripped Hillstream loaches are peaceful and calm freshwater fishes that mind their business and stay out of trouble. They prefer to spend their time scouting for food and latching unto a rock or your glass with no care in the world. These loaches want to be allowed to do their own thing.

Though generally peaceful, these loaches have been known to display territorial behavior in certain situations, especially in the breeding season. That is why it is always best to keep them in small groups of less than six in a big 50-gallon tank. That way, they do not get into scuffles over territory.

– How Many Hillstream Loaches Can I Keep Together?

We recommend that you house three or four Hillstream Loaches in your tank. If you get only two, the dominant one will bully the weaker one for territory and food because the males love to wrestle with each other in a bid to establish their dominance. You can reduce the territorial behavior by providing them with lots of hiding space and plants to block their line of sight.


Sexing Hillstream loaches can be pretty challenging, so we advise that you buy a small group and allow them to pair off on their own. The actual breeding process depends mainly on their water conditions and diet; thus, we advise you to pay attention to the pH, temperature, water hardness, and quality.

In the weeks leading to the breeding season, we recommend that you feed them with high-quality meals. Ensure that your tank has an efficient filtration system, preferably one with a prefilter sponge that prevents these tiny fish from getting sucked up.

Your breeding tank should have enough hiding spots for the parent loaches and future fry to hide under.

The male attempts to get the female Hillstream’s attention with a bit of mating dance; if she is interested, she goes to stay close to him. The male then makes a nest in the substrate for the female to lay her eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized, they take a couple of weeks to hatch and become free-swimming.

Since the parent Hillstream loaches do not harm their young, there is no reason for you to separate them after the eggs have hatched. This makes breeding Hillstream loaches reasonably convenient.


  • Hillstream loach dietThe Hillstream loach is a delightful fish that helps keep your tank clean by eating algae
  • At maturity, it measures about two to three inches
  • With the proper care, this fish can live for 10 years

Hillstream loaches are easy to love and care for. They love having space to do their own thing, and there is something about watching them that is addictive. If you have any additional questions about this fish, we will be delighted to hear from you.

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