Yo-Yo Loaches – Botia almorhae Gray

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Yo-Yo Loaches have a silver to pale gold background color with a network of black bands on the body. While it is difficult to determine the gender in most loaches by external characteristics, there are some reports that Botia almorhae does exhibit some sexual dimorphism

Scientific Name: Botia almorhae
Synonyms: Botia lohachata
Common Name(s): Yo-Yo Loach, Pakistani Loach, Reticulated Loach
Region: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal
Maximum Size: about 10 cm (4 inches)
pH Range and Hardness: Tolerates varied conditions. In the wild, pH ranges from 6 – 8 are accomodated. Water hardness (GH) between 5 – 12 dH.
Temperature Range: 75 – 82 degrees F.

First scientifically described by John Edward Gray in 1831, Botia almorhae has remained relatively stable as a taxon. Botia lohachata (Chaudhuri) was synonomized with B. almorhae as was Botia dayi (Hora).

For quite some time, Botia almorhae was a rarely imported loach but in the last few years they have been more commonly available in the pet trade. Prices, once quite high, have dropped dramatically with increased availability.

Habitat and Niche

Throughout its range, the Yo-Yo Loach is found primarily in slowly-flowing bodies of water although it is also found in ponds and lakes. It is primarily a bottom-dwelling fish (like most of its relatives) and prefers a substrate composed of smooth rock, silt and gravel. Hiding places in the form of caves or plant cover are much appreciated by these fish.

Research shows that Botia almorhae is an omnivorous species that feeds primarily on small, bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as worms, insect larvae and snails. Plant material and algae are also consumed.

Appearance

Yo-Yo Loaches have a silver to pale gold background color with a network of black bands on the body. While it is difficult to determine the gender in most loaches by external characteristics, there are some reports that Botia almorhae does exhibit some sexual dimorphism. It is said that females exhibit three irregular Y-shaped bands on their body while the head of the males are reticulated gray. The snout of the female is generally longer than males.

Breeding Yo-Yo Loaches

There have been sporadic but unconfirmed reports of Botia almorhae breeding in aquaria. From studies of fish in the wild it is known that eggs are laid on the substrate and receive no parental care. Some work is being done in Asia using hormones to stimulate breeding but no specific reports for Yo-Yo loaches are available to me.

Personal Experiences With Yo-Yo Loaches

I picked up my first Yo-Yo loaches a few months ago when I spotted them in a tank full of Clown loaches (Botia macracantha) at a local fish store. I was intruigued by the unique pattern and active behavior of these fish so I bought a trio of them at US$3.99 each. I learned very quickly that Yo-Yo loaches are highly susceptible to ‘Ich’ (Ichthyophthirius multifilis). I lost two of my original three fish to this parasite. Be aware when treating these fish that they are sensitive to many medications. Select medications that are safe for scale-less fish if at all possible.

Yo-Yo loaches, like many other Botia species, seem to do best when they are kept in small groups. When I had my three original fish they would stay in fairly close proximity to each other. After I lost two of them, the remaining Yo-Yo loach would try to school with my Tiger Barbs (Capoeta tetrazona) which seemed to irritate the barbs until they learned to tolerate the loach. As soon as I put another Yo-Yo loach in the tank the two of them went through a few squabbles over dominance before settling down to a long-term friendship. Most of the time these two don’t stay together but they do sleep together in a small cave in the aquarium.

Most Botia species tend to be nocturnal but I haven’t found this to be particularly true of Yo-Yo loaches. Mine are very active during the day, constantly prowling the bottom of the aquarium in search of a tasty morsel of food. Like Clown loaches they have the disturbing tendency to sleep on their sides, looking for all the world like a dead fish. The first few times I witnessed this behavior I had to look very closely to see if there was still gill movement.

My Yo-Yo loaches don’t exhibit any aggression toward any of the other fish in my aquarium. None of the other fish in the aquarium bother the loaches, although my dominant Burmese Border Loach (Schistura mahnerti) will chase them away when they encroach on his territory. The Yo-Yo loaches, like most loaches, are armed with two ferociously sharp moveable spines beneath their eyes that tend to discourage other fish from bullying them.

I was startled once by some interesting interaction between the two Yo-Yo loaches. Both of them had become very pale, the black markings almost disappeared completely, and the larger of the two was chasing the smaller all over the tank. Every so often they would swirl around each other, the larger one bumping the smaller with its nose. This went on for about 15 minutes and then stopped as abruptly as it started. I don’t know if this was breeding behavior or if the two were simply having a little spat.

My Yo-Yo loaches will eat practically anything. Though primarily bottom feeders, my fish have learned to come to the surface at feeding time and have recently started taking frozen bloodworms from my fingers, making loud slurping noises. They feed actively on flake food, frozen brine shrimp, frozen tubifex worms, frozen Daphnia and frozen bloodworms. They ravenously attack Hikari Algae Wafers and will go through all sorts of contortions trying to get at them before the Tiger Barbs and Blue Gouramis find them.

It was while I was watching the Yo-Yo loaches feeding on algae wafers that I noticed another interesting behavior. My Botia almorhae will often make a fairly loud clicking noise when feeding on the algae wafers. What the purpose of this is I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem to discourage any of the other fish from trying to steal the wafers from them and the loaches don’t make this noise when feeding on any other kind of food.

I have never seen my Yo-Yo loaches make any attempt to burrow into the substrate like some other loaches will nor have they ever uprooted any plants, though they do spend a lot of time sitting on the broad leaves of various Cryptocoryne species in my aquarium. They do actively browse through the gravel looking for any tidbits that might have been missed by the other fish and occasionally I’ve watched them pushing a particular piece of gravel around the tank bottom with their snouts. I don’t know if they’re playing with it or if there might be something clinging to the little rock that they’re interested in.

For the loach enthusiast or for somebody who simply wants a beautifully marked, personable bottom-dwelling fish, Botia almorhae is an outstanding choice. They don’t reach the size of the Clown loach so they can be kept in smaller aquariums (I’d recommend a 20 gallon or larger tank). They get along with every other fish in my tank and exhibit some very interesting behaviors.

References

Axelrod, Vorderwinkler, Emmens, Schulthorpe and Pronek, 1972. Exotic Tropical Fishes – Looseleaf Edition. Page F-127.00

Axelrod, Burgess, Pronek and Walls, 1985. Dr. Axelrod’s Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey. Page 558.

FRC Environmental, 2002. Live Fish Import Risk Assessment – Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Act 2001. FRC Ref: 00.09.03. Section of report on Botia almorhae

J. Shrestha. Taxonomic revision of cold water fishes of Nepal. Central Department of Zoology Tribhuwan University, Kirtipur, Katmandu, Nepal. Available on-line at http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y3994e/y3994e0u.htm

Loaches Online : YoYo Loach – Botia almorhae. http://www.loaches.com/species_pages/botia_almorhae.html

Loaches Online : Sexual Dimorphism in B. almorhae. http://www.loaches.com/species_pages/botia_almorhae_dim.html

Last update: 2006-02-06 09:27
Author: Fruitbat

Filed under Fish Profiles, Freshwater.