Skunk Loach

Hora's Loach, Skunk Botia Loach, Cream Loach

Family: Cobitidae Skunk Loach, Yasuhikotakia morleti, Hora's Loach, Skunk Botia Loach, Cream LoachYasuhikotakia morletiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtsey Ken Childs
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I have one of these fish, and they are more semi-aggressive than peaceful. Mine gets along fine with my kribensis, with some chasing or nipping when they get too... (more)  troy

The Skunk Loach is a handsome little loach, often not reaching more than a couple of inches, but it can be feisty!

The Skunk Loach Yasuhikotakia morleti is one of the smaller of the Botias. It is quite pretty and easily distinguished from all others. It is also known as Hora's Loach, Skunk Botia Loach, Mouse Loach, and Cream Loach,. But this fish it is most aptly called Skunk Loach because it is easily recognized by its adult coloration and pattern.

As an adult this loach is a uniformly creamy tan to light brown color. Its distinctive feature is the dark stripe running across its back from the tip of its nose to its tail fin. There is also a dark broad band encircling the base of the tail. The tail fin is forked and yellowish in color and can have some pretty rows of brown dots. Juveniles typically have dark vertical striping on the sides, but this fades as they mature.

The Skunk Botia Loach is a long lived and durable fish. These are hardy, yet smaller sized loaches. They are naturally nocturnal, but once they've become acclimated they will spend a good deal of time out and about during the day. They enjoy a planted tank with open areas to swim and places to hide or retreat among rocks or wood. They will also munch on snails so are good for snail control.

The Skunk Loach spends the day hiding but it will get quite active at dusk. It is a lively fish, and though generally quite peaceful it can get aggressive towards members of its own species, especially if there are not enough hiding places. They can be kept well with other tank mates but it is best to have just one of this species, especially in a smaller aquarium. In a tank with lots of space and decor that offers each fish its own retreat, they can be kept in large groups. But there will need to be at least 6 or more to keep aggression down. Especially suitable are barbs and armored catfish. The Skunk Loach is a very long lived, durable, and undemanding little fish.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

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Geographic Distribution
Yasuhikotakia morleti
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cobitidae
  • Genus: Yasuhikotakia
  • Species: morleti
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Skunk Loach - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Skunk Loach Yasuhikotakia morleti, (previously Botia morleti and Botia horae) was described by Tirant in 1885. They are found in northern India; Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as least concern (LC) because although it is found in the aquarium trade, impact from harvesting or other threats are not identified at present. Other common names it is know by are Hora's Loach, Skunk Botia Loach, Mouse Loach, and Cream Loach.

These loaches are found in fast moving waters of medium to large rivers and will possibly move into flooded plains during the monsoon season. They can be found in both standing and flowing waters. It usually spends much of its time in crevices or digs itself into burrows under rocks or other submerged objects.

It is a seasonal migrater with spawning beginning at the beginning of the wet season. The adult loaches migrate into tributary drainages where they breed and the fry stay for the early stages of their life, later migrating into the rivers when the tributaries recede. In nature this loach is primarily carnivorous eating mollusks and other live crustaceans, insects, snails and other benthic invertebrates, but will feed on soft-leaved aquatic plants if available.

  • Scientific Name: Yasuhikotakia morleti
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Skunk Loach is one of the smaller Botias. They get up to almost 4 inches (10 cm) in length, but generally only reach a couple of inches in the aquarium. They generally have a life span of about 10 - 12 years. This loach has a sharp, motile sub-ocular spine that is usually concealed within a pouch of skin. This spine will protrude when stressed.

This light brown to tan little fish has a distinctive 'skunk-like' stripe running down the length of its back, starting at the tip of its mouth and ending at a broad black band encircling the base of its tail. The yellowish tail is forked with rows of brown dots. Juveniles have four vertical stripes, sometimes more, spaced evenly along the sides of the body that fade as it reaches adulthood. Unlike other Botia species, their color remains constant throughout their life.

  • Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm) - These fish are can reach almost 4 inches (10 cm) in the wild, but are usually smaller in home aquariums.
  • Lifespan: 8 years - This fish can have a lifespan of about 5 - 8 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This loach can be hardy under the right conditions. They are not recommended for beginners because of their need for pristine water and having small body scales and no scales on the head. Reduced scales makes them more prone to disease and very sensitive to medications used to treat disease. Experience in treating scaleless fish is very important to be able to give your loach a healthy and long life. Do not try to introduce these fish into biologically immature tanks.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

In nature they are primarily carnivorous eating mollusks and other live crustaceans, insects, snails and other benthic invertebrates, but will occasionally feed on soft aquatic vegetation. Since they are omnivorous, the Skunk Loach or Hora's Loach will generally eat all kinds of live foods. They like tablets and frozen foods as well, but flake foods are not suggested. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen), mosquito larvae, tubifex, daphnia, and some vegetable foods such as algae wafers.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: No - Flake food is not suggested as a regular food for this loach.
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

The most important thing for these loaches is that they always have clean and well-oxygenated water. Frequent water changes of about 30% a week are needed for this loach. With your weekly water change make sure to vacuum the gravel to remove all excess food and waste, but It's best not to remove any bio film on rocks and decor. A magnet algae cleaner normally does a great job in keeping the viewing pane clear.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of about 30% weekly.

Aquarium Setup

The Skunk Loach will swim mostly on the bottom of the aquarium, yet this fish prefers a fairly large aquarium (30 gallons or so). Never introduce this loach into a biological immature setup as these fish require pristine water. They do best in soft, slightly acidic water with subdued lighting. They also need good water movement that provides plenty of oxygenation. The tank water should turnover at least 10-15 times per hour. An undergravel filter is a great choice for these fish as it creates high oxygen through out the tank as well as reducing the waste. Adding a canister filter or power head to the setup will make the proper current for this loach.

It is recommended to have a tank set-up that resembles its natural habitat with plants, open areas to swim, and places for retreat. Because they are burrowers, the substrate needs to be a fine gravel or sand that does not have sharp edges. The tank needs to have ample hiding places for this shy fish such as rocks, caves, and roots to give it some dark areas to retreat. Be sure to provide hardy plants with the roots protected and have decorations firmly placed on the glass bottom so they don't fall over. Plastic tubes also make safe and excellent hiding places. These fish can and will jump out of the tank if given the chance so make sure to have a tight fitting cover.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-6.5
  • Hardness Range: 2 - 12 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom - These fish are mostly bottom dwellers, but will also swim in the middle of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Though they hide during the day, these loaches are lively and active in the evening. They are a good community fish, but they can get aggressive to members of their own species if there are not enough hiding places. It is best to have just one of this species in a small community aquarium, however this loach will be much more shy if kept singly. In a larger tank groups of at least 6 or more will be needed to keep aggression down. Be sure that the decor offers a retreat for each fish. Especially suitable tank mates are barbs and armored catfish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - Best kept singly in a small tank, and in groups of 6 or more in larger aquariums.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive - They will eat snails, so are good for snail control.
    • Plants: Monitor - They may feed on soft leaf aquatic plants.

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexually mature females are normally fuller-bodied and grow a little larger than males.

Breeding / Reproduction

Not much is known about the breeding habits of the Skunk Loach or Hora's Loach and they are not yet bred commercially.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

Loaches are more susceptible to disease than other aquarium fishes. This may have to do with the faint body scales and no head scales. So take caution when introducing these fish to an established tank. They are also very sensitive to different medications used to treat many diseases; a separate hospital tank is needed. Cold water and condition changes can also cause stress to this fish which makes them even more prone to disease.

Most common disease that affects this loach is Ich. Ich is short for Ichthyophthirius, also known as "white spot disease". It is a parasite that can attack nearly all aquarium fishes, but you'll find that loaches are often the first to be attacked. Take great care in treating ick as loaches are very sensitive to the medications used to treat it. Often the dose is half of what is normally used.

The second most common thing that affects loaches is a thing called skinny disease. This can be diagnosed fairly easily. If your loaches are eating a nitrous and healthy amounts and still seems to loose weight it is a good chance it has skinny disease. This is caused by internal parasites and can be treated with medication if used carefully.

An outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping these sensitive types of fish, it is common to catch deteriorating water conditions and disease before other fish are affected. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Skunk Loach the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.

Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Skunk Loach or Hora's Loach is readily available at pet stores and online.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Jeremy Roche
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Lastest Animal Stories on Skunk Loach


troy - 2013-08-02
I have one of these fish, and they are more semi-aggressive than peaceful. Mine gets along fine with my kribensis, with some chasing or nipping when they get too close. These will attack other loaches, including pangio species, but in a large enough tank they will get along with their own kind. The reason I specifically said pangio species is because a breeding pair of kribensis I had attacked everything but my kulhi loaches. They are fine with anything that stays away from their territory on the bottom, but will harass other bottom dwellers.

  • Si - 2014-02-25
    Does anybody know if it's good to put kuhli loach's in with just one skunk loach?
Reply
Eugene - 2007-10-24
I love these little 'guys' They dart all over the place (when they are not hidden somewhere.) They do pick on the other species a little bit, but not so much that it is a problem at all. MOST important thing I LOVE about these guys is that they eat snails! I have two aquariums with a snail infestation. The one with the skunk fish is keeping the problem at a managable state. They 'suck' out the snail meat and leave just the shell. When I vacuum up the waste I always find a bunch of empty shells in the waste water. I am planning to add 3 or 4 of these guys to my other tank with the snail problem!

  • Dan - 2013-07-01
    Only get one due to the fact that they will be aggressive to each other!
Reply
michael - 2007-01-01
Hearty, amazing little loaches. Mine have been very active, actually to the brink of honest curiosity. I have to admit, they are aggressive fish. I've had trouble keeping Dojo Loaches with them, as well as any other lazy, dopey fish of that nature. It's quite amazing to see HOW voracious they can be, almost like chihuahuas chasing rottwielers. I've seen mine (at only 1 inch!!) chase and beat a cichlid for fifteen straight minutes, until the cichlid was removed from the tank. I've also seen mine tirelessly attempt to devour a crayfish easily THREE times its size, gracefully dodging the claws, and going for the belly.

You'll hear plenty of clicks, and have plenty of fun watching these little titans hulk around your tank. As said, avoid Dojos and other lazily curious fish, as they will doubtlessly be picked on. I've seen, in my own experience, that these fish are LESS aggressive when kept solitary (that is, only ONE Skunk). My trio was split up VERY quickly, as they all waged war with my tank. When kept alone, they tend to be very curious, very entertaining fish.

Reply
Corrie - 2012-05-21
We have had our single skunk loach (2 inches long) in a 10 gallon tank for over a year. We have a planted aquarium with many logs and it hides most of the day under the logs, but comes out at night for feeding. It is amazing to watch feed, it darts around so fast! And it is very durable and long-lived, we had algae take over our tank and Pepe survived despite the poor filtration that ensued. HOWEVER, it has been aggressive towards other bottom-dwelling fish in the tank, especially the sedentary corydoras. Needs fast swimming tank mates.

  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-05-22
    They can be a bit territorial. If you add a lot of caves to a larger tank they are normally fine.
Reply