The Zebra Loach is a handsome shoaling fish that makes a lively addition to an aquarium!

The Zebra Loach Botia striata is a lively and attractively patterned fish. At first sight this loach appears to have lots of vertical bands, but basically it has about nine (very broad) dark bluish-green bands set on a yellowish green body. The bands have whitish lines inside that are generally straight, but sometimes can be broken or branched. These white lines lend to the many striped appearance. Due to its distinctive appearance it is also called a Candy-stripe Loach, Striped Loach, Candy Loach, and Thin Line Loach.

These are hardy, smaller sized loaches that can make a great choice for the beginner. They are not overly picky about foods and have no special demands on water conditions. As juveniles they will eat just about anything that is edible, though as adults they can get a bit more finicky. 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 to among rocks or wood.

These are some of the more peaceful Botias. Yet they are active fish that like to frolic with the company of their own kind as well as other non-aggressive loaches. They do best in a school of five or more, and can become withdrawn or more aggressive if kept singly. Keeping them in a pair or a smaller group of three are also not good choices. In groups that are too small, the dominant fish will get very aggressive towards the other, constantly harassing them and keeping them from feeding.

Though generally quite peaceful with their tank mates Zebra Loaches have been known to nip occasionally, usually it is just among themselves. They will also munch on snails and are good for snail control. The Zebra Loach is a very long lived, durable, and undemanding fish.

Scientific Classification


Zebra Loach – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Intermediate
Aquarium Hardiness:Moderately hardy
Minimum Tank Size:30 gal (114 L)
Size of fish – inches3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
Temperature:73.0 to 79.0° F (22.8 to 26.1&deg C)

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Zebra Loach Botia striata was described by Narayan Rao in 1920. They are found from Mysore in southern India which goes through the Western Ghats mountain range. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered (EN) because it has a very limited range and are found in only four fragmented locations within that range. There has been severe habitat destruction from deforestation to recreation that are impacting and polluting its environment. Other common names it is known by are Candy-stripe Loach, Striped Loach, Thinline Loach, Striata Botia Loach, Thinline Loach, and Candystripe Loach.

It is found in northern India in the streams and rivers of Bangladesh. Their normal habitat is slow to moderate flowing waters depending on the season. The substrate is normally made up of bedrock, boulders, gravel, sand and leaf litter and the habitat is usually shaded by the forests canopy. In nature these loaches are mainly carnivorous, but will consume plant matter if available.

  • Scientific Name: Botia striata
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: EN – Endangered


The Zebra Loach is a smaller loach that can reach from 3 – 4 inches (7.8 – 10 cm), though often a bit smaller in the aquarium.. Their life span is generally about 5 – 8 years, though they been reported to live for 15 or more years. This loach has a yellowish green body with about nine (very broad) dark bluish-green bands. These bands have whitish lines inside that are generally straight, but sometimes can be broken or branched. Its fins and tail are translucent with the tail having bands of brown spots. There are four pairs of barbels by the mouth.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm) – These fish can reach from 3 – 4 inches (7.8 – 10 cm), though often a bit smaller in the aquarium.
  • Lifespan: 8 years – This fish generally has a lifespan of about 5 – 8 years, but has also been reported to live up to 15 or more 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 Zebra Loach is not a picky eater and 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. They will also eat snails, so are good for snail control.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • 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 the Bengal Loach. 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 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 Zebra Loach will swim mostly on the bottom of the aquarium, but will also swim in the middle of the aquarium. Never introduce this loach into a biological immature setup as these fish require pristine water. Because these fish do best in groups, a larger tank of at least 30 gallons will work best. 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. The substrate needs to be a fine smooth 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. 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: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Sand
  • Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 79.0° F (22.8 to 26.1&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 5 – 12 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Weak
  • Water Region: Bottom – These fish are mostly bottom dwellers, but will also swim in the middle of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

A good community fish, they get along well with other loaches and tank mates that are non-aggressive. They enjoy the company of their own species and it is recommended that they be kept in small groups of at least 5 of its own kind.

They are quite active and have been reported to occasionally nip the fins of their tank mates, though usually their squabbling is just between themselves. They are naturally nocturnal but will become quite active during the day once they become acclimated. Good for snail control! Lively and fun to watch.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Best kept in groups of 5 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Monitor – Will nip at slow swimming long-finned fish.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Monitor

Sexual differences

Unknown though a gravid female will be rounder.

Breeding / Reproduction

Not much is known about the breeding habits of the Zebra 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 Zebra 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 Zebra Loach is usually readily available at pet stores and online.



 Botia striata (Image Credit: Lerdsuwa, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)