The Lepto Loach is not only a very pretty loach, but it is one that is a very rare find!

The Lepto Loach Leptobotia Guilinensis is a rather small, but very attractive loach species. It has an elongated golden brown body with a very attractive design. Horizontal stripes run across the head to just behind the eyes. Along the rest of the body are dark vertical bands. The fins and tail also have dark banding. It is also known as the Royal Gold Banded Loach.

Keeping an L. Guilinensis loach can be an enriching experience. They can be kept in a community aquarium, but with more robust tank mates as they can get territorial and have been known to nip fins. Unlike many loaches these loaches are not shy. They are active and will not spend as much time hiding as other loach species. Still they will appreciate lots of hiding and resting places in caves, rocks, and roots. A substrate of sand or fine gravel along with some larger gravel or pebbles in can simulate a natural type environment.

The Lepto Loach is from cooler, temperate waters. They are not often seen for sale here. Being rare they are an exciting find for an aquarist who wants something unique and distinctive. Fish labeled as L. Guilinensis often turn out to be the Golden Zebra Loach Sinibotia pulchra or other Sinibotia species.

This loach is a rather small member of its genus, reaching only about 3 to 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) in length. In the Leptobotia genus there are 13 species. They all originate from China except one, the rare and endangered Leptobotia curta which is from Japan. Other members can get quite large, such as the massive Royal Clown LoachLeptobotia elongata which can reach about 20 inches (50 cm) in the wild.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cobitidae
  • Genus: Leptobotia
  • Species: guilinensis
Lepto Loach – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Lepto Loach Leptobotia Guilinensis was described by Chen in 1980. They are found in Asia, in China from the Lijiang River (a tributary of the Yangtze River) of Guangxi Province and the Yuanjiang River of Hunan Province. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as it has a wide distribution and no known threats. Other common names it is known by are Royal Gold Banded Loach.

Not a lot is known about the habitat of this species. It is assumed these loaches inhabit clear, well oxygenated, moderate flowing rivers and streams. Substrate in these areas normally consists of rocks and gravel. They are presumably a benthic predator and hunt insects, crustaceans and smaller fish.

  • Scientific Name: Leptobotia guilinensis
  • Social Grouping: Groups – Normally loose groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern


The Lepto Loach or Royal Gold Banded Loach is a fairly small fish only reaching about 3 – 4″ ( 8 – 10 cm ). Their lifespan is currently unknown, but as with other Leptobotia species, if properly cared they should live at least 5 – 8 years. This loach has an elongated golden brown body with a very attractive design. Horizontal stripes run across the head to just behind the eyes. Along the rest of the body are dark vertical bands. The fins and tail also have dark banding. These loaches get to be around 4 inches.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
  • Lifespan: – Their lifespan is currently unknown, but with proper should live at least 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. 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

Since they are omnivorous, the Lepto Loach is not a picky eater. In nature this loach presumably feeds primarily on benthic organisms, insects, crustaceans and smaller fish.. But in the aquarium it will generally eat all kinds of live foods, sinking pelleted and tablet foods, flakes, and algae. They like frozen foods as well. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake or tablet food everyday. Feed mosquito larvae and brine shrimp (either live or frozen), tubifex, daphnia, and some vegetable foods such as algae wafers.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally
  • 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. With your weekly water change make sure to vacuum the gravel to remove all excess food and waste. Make sure not to remove the bio film on rocks, decor or no viewing panes of the tank. A magnet algae cleaner normally does a great job in keeping the viewing pane clear.

  • Water Changes: Weekly – Water changes of 30% or more

Aquarium Setup

The Lepto Loach is mostly a bottom dweller. This fish needs at least a medium sized aquarium of 20 gallons or more. Never introduce this loach into a biological immature setup as these fish require pristine water. They do best in cooler, well-oxygenated soft water with subdued lighting. They need good water movement that provides plenty of oxygenation. 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.

The decor with this fish is really up to personal taste as the fish doesn’t really pay much attention to it. If the tank is to resemble its natural habitat, sand and gravel mix would be best for the substrate. A lot of smooth water-worn large rocks and stones should be scattered throughout. Provide subdued lighting along with a couple pieces of driftwood and some twisted roots to make places for retreat. These loaches are very inquisitive and like to explore so make sure to have a lot of caves and crevices. 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: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 5 – 20 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom – These fish are mostly bottom dwellers.

Social Behaviors

Unlike many loaches they are not shy. Though they are generally a peaceful community fish, they are quite active and can get aggressive. They can get territorial and may nip the fins of their tank mates. Take great caution when adding slow swimming long finned fish to the tank. Also should not be kept with smaller fish as they may intimidate them.

These loach form a very structured hierarchy and should be purchased in at least groups of 4 or more. A singly kept Lepto Loach can end up being overly withdrawn or sometime aggressive. If kept in pairs or even trios, the dominant one will usually harass the others and prevent them from eating.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful – Can intimidate smaller tank mates.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Best kept in groups of 4 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe – As long as they are large enough to not be bothered by the Lepto’s behavior.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Normally females will be heavier-bodied once sexually mature.

Breeding / Reproduction

Not much is known about the breeding habits of the Lepto Loach. It has not been bred in the aquarium and they are not yet bred commercially.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

Loaches are more susceptible to disease than other aquarium fishes. This may have to do with the faint body scales. Take caution when introducing these fish to an established tank. This loach is 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 Lepto 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.


The Lepto Loach or Royal Gold Banded Loach Leptobotia Guilinensis is very rarely available, but quite a find if you come across one.