The Yoyo loach makes a great addition to a community tank, being playful, beautiful, and helpful to the aquarist thanks to its scavenging habit.
Although these loaches are pretty hardy, we don’t recommend them for complete beginners, as they need pristine water conditions. Also, the fishes’ small scales tend to make them prone to some diseases, and they are extremely sensitive to the effects of some medications that are used to treat common fish diseases. For that reason, you will need to have experience in looking after scaleless fish. Also, you can’t put Pakistani loaches into tanks where the biological filtration system has not had time to mature.
In this comprehensive guide, we show you how to care for the Yoyo loach. But first, let’s find out some more about the origins and natural habitat of these delightful creatures.
The Yoyo loach is also known by a few other common names, including:
- Pakistani loach
- Botia loach
- Almora loach
- Reticulated loach
The fish also has the scientific name, Botia almorhae. These pretty loaches belong to the wider Cobitidae family of fishes, and the species was first described in 1920 by Narayan Rao.
What’s in a name?
These beautiful little fish are named Pakistani loach because of their place of origin. The name Almora loach is derived from the fish’s scientific name.
However, the name “Yoyo loach” was coined by the ornamental fish importer, Ken Childs. A shipment of Almora loaches arrived in Childs’ store, and he noted that the fish were jumping around like yoyos. Also, Childs noticed that the fish had a recognizable pattern that closely resembles the letters, Y-O-Y-O too. The fish quickly acquired the nickname, Yoyo loach, which has been widely adopted throughout the industry.
The Botia loach is found extensively in Pakistan and India. The species does not currently feature on the IUCN Red List as being of concern thanks to its wide range and hardy nature. That said, there are a few potential environmental threats to the fish’s habitat from deforestation and overfishing for the pet trade. However, at the time of writing, there are no imminent threats to the general wild population.
The fish that are sourced fro Pakistan are generally darker in color than those found in India. Consequently, there are some scientists who consider the Indian Yoyo loaches are, in fact, a subspecies or an entirely different species altogether. There are also localized variations of the species within small populations.
In nature, the Yoyo loach inhabits slow-running or still waters, congregating in still areas or pools with rocky substrates. During the breeding season, these fish swim upstream to spawn before returning to their home range once breeding is complete.
An omnivorous species, the Yoyo loach feeds primarily on meaty foods but will also take aquatic vegetation, depending on what’s available.
Y-loaches can grow to reach six inches in size, and they generally live for between five and eight years.
These are extremely pretty little fishes, being silver with dark vertical banding. The dark bands fade gradually to a shimmering pale blue that blends into the silver body coloration. The body pattern appears to spell the word “Yoyo,” hence the fishes’ common name, Yoyo loach. Note that full-grown females are generally rounder-bodied than males.
Care of the Yoyo loach
As long as you provide the Yoyo loach with the tank conditions that they prefer, these are hardy and healthy fish. Note that you should not attempt to introduce this species to an immature tank setup.
Yoyo loaches are primarily bottom-dwellers, spending much of their time scavenging on the substrate. That said, these charming little characters also swim in the middle of the water column. These are active little fish, needing a tank size of at least 20 gallons in which to thrive. Remember that Pakistani loaches can grow to measure six inches in length, so you will need to allow plenty of space for your growing fish.
Since these fish live mostly on the tank bottom and mid-water areas, a long tank is a better choice than a tall one. Also, these fish do like to feed at the water surface, so a shallower tank is best.
You should also know that these fish are habitual jumpers, so your tank must have a tightly-fitting lid or at least a cover slide.
One of the things that make caring for Yoyo loaches so tricky is that they must have pristine water conditions. The water needs to be clean and very well-oxygenated, as it is in the fishes’ natural habitat. In addition to a very efficient filtration system that generates good water movement, you’ll need to carry out 30% water changes every week. Ideally, the tank water turnover rate should be at least 10 to 15 times per hour.
The fishes’ preferred water conditions are slightly acidic. An undergravel filtration system works best for Yoyo loaches, as that creates high oxygen throughout the aquarium, as well as minimizing waste. You can enhance the setup and water flow by adding a powerhead or canister filter.
The water temperature should be between 75° and 86° Fahrenheit with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, and a water hardness of 3 to 10 dGH. Note that Yoyo loaches cannot tolerate brackish water conditions.
Even if the fish in question are captive-bred, their inherent characteristics will appreciate and dictate the habitat they do best in, so it’s a good idea to have a tank setup that replicates the fish’s wild environment.
In the case of Yoyo loaches, you’ll need a tank that has plenty of plants, open swimming areas, and places where the fish can hide away when they want to. Loaches are borrowers, so you’ll need to provide sand or a fine, smooth gravel substrate.
You also need to include rocks, driftwood, twisted roots, and resin cave ornaments in your tank decoration scheme. These fish are curious little creatures that love to explore, so you must ensure that you include lots of hiding places.
The Yoyo loach prefers subdued lighting, which is something to bear in mind when you’re choosing plants for your aquarium.
Diet and nutrition
Yoyo loaches are omnivorous and will happily eat many kinds of live foods. They will also take frozen and freeze-dried foods and algae wafers. Live or frozen brine shrimp, tubifex, bloodworms, daphnia, and mosquito larvae are all popular foods for these loaches.
If you have wild-caught specimens, you may find them to be picky eaters. If your Pakistani loach refuses food at first, try offering live tubifex or bloodworms.
Although these fish are primarily bottom-dwellers, they will come to the surface at feeding time. Offer your fish several small feeds each day, only giving them enough food to last for a few minutes so that you don’t overfeed them.
Tankmates and behavior
Yoyo loaches are a generally peaceful community fish. That said, they can hold their own when mixed with mildly aggressive tankmates. Take care when adding long-finned, slow-swimming species such as a betta to your community, as the loach Botia Almorhae can be a little nippy.
The Yoyo loach is happiest when kept in groups of six or more, and the school will be peaceful once the hierarchy has been established. Note that during these minor conflicts, the fishes’ colors may appear faded, but that will resolve once the pecking order is established and is not a cause for concern.
Unfortunately, Pakistani loaches can be aggressive toward shrimp, snails, and crabs, so it’s not advisable to keep these creatures as tankmates.
The Yoyo loach is a confirmed digger, so you must make sure that any live or silk plants that you have in your aquarium are securely rooted in situ or anchored with rocks.
Like most loaches, the Pakistani loach is nocturnal. However, once your new pets become settled in the tank, they will venture out during the daytime to forage for scraps of food and graze on algae.
Breeding and reproduction
At the time of writing, very little is known about the breeding habits of the Yoyo loach, except that the fish tend to migrate upriver to breed, returning to their home range after spawning.
The Pakistani loach is not yet bred commercially, so all the specimens that you find in fish stores and for sale online are captive-caught.
The Yoyo loach Botia Almorhae is fairly widely available at good fish stores, and you can find them online through dealers too. The price of an individual specimen varies from a few dollars upward, depending on the size and quality of the fish.
Some online dealers will offer you a discount if you buy a group of fishes, although you will have to factor in shipping costs too, which will push up the price. Also, you won’t be able to view the fish until they arrive, so always choose a reputable dealer if you have to buy online.
Health and diseases
Yoyo loaches can be more susceptible to common fish diseases than other species of tropical aquarium fishes. That may be to do with their small body scales and the fact that their heads are scaleless. For that reason, you should always take great care when introducing the Yoyo loach to an already established aquarium setup.
The fishes’ physiology also leaves them very sensitive to medications that are commonly used to treat fish diseases, so you must use a separate hospital tank rather than adding the treatment to your main display tank. You must also take great care to keep the water conditions stable and constant, as rapid changes to the water temperature and pH can stress the fish, leaving them vulnerable to contracting diseases.
The most common fish disease that may affect this species is Ich or White Spot Disease.
Ich is short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a parasite that lives in aquarium water, attacking fish that are already weakened by disease. Ich affects all species of fish, but loaches are generally hit hardest. Fish with Ich usually develop a rash of telltale white spots across their bodies, and they may also flick and rub against the substrate and other items in the tank as they attempt to rid themselves of the irritating parasites.
Take care when using over-the-counter medication to treat an Ich infestation, as these loaches are especially susceptible to the ingredients these treatments contain. Use half the recommended dose, and increase the water temperature to around 82o Fahrenheit to successfully disrupt the parasites’ lifecycle and kill them.
Skinny disease is another common problem that affects loaches. The condition is easy to diagnose. If the fishes are eating a good, nutritious diet in healthy amounts but are losing weight, it’s highly likely that skinny disease is to blame.
Skinny disease is caused by internal parasites and is often restricted to one or two fishes, provided that you catch it early. Ask in your local fish store for a suitable treatment that is suitable for use with loaches.
When you have sensitive fish in your collection, the most common cause of disease outbreaks and general sickness is poor water quality or a diet that is lacking in the proper nutritional content. So, by keeping your Yoyo loaches in a well-maintained tank with the correct water parameters and feeding them a balanced, meaty diet, you can help to keep health conditions at bay.
Also, whenever you add anything to your tank, you must quarantine it or clean it thoroughly first. So, all new fish must be placed in a quarantine tank for at least 14 days before you introduce them to your main display tank. Plants, decorations, and any new substrate should all be washed off in a 1:1 ratio solution of white vinegar and water, and then rinsed thoroughly with clean tap water before you add them to the tank. That should kill off any bacteria or parasites that might be present.
The Yoyo loach is a characterful, pretty little fish that can make a nice addition to any peaceful community tank setup. As these fishes are sensitive to water parameters, we don’t recommend them as a pet for inexperienced fishkeepers, and the Pakistani loach should never be added to a brand new aquarium that has only been newly cycled.
These are not particularly robust fish, and they can be vulnerable to attack by parasites and bacterial infections. However, when kept in ideal conditions and fed a correct, nutritionally balanced diet, the Yoyo loach can give you many years of pleasure.