Minimum Tank Size: 45 Gallons (205 litres)
Care Level: Moderate
Water Conditions: pH 6.0-7.5 Soft to Medium
Temperature: 76-82ºF (22-27.7°C)
Maximum Size: 6 inches (15 cm)
The yoyo loach (Botia almorhae), also known as the Pakistani loach, is a small fresh water fish native to India and Pakistan. The name yoyo loach originates from the fact that the marking on the fishes side resemble the word “yoyo”, although this becomes more difficult to see as the fish ages.
In the wild, they inhabit slow flowing streams or still waters, and this environment should be replicated as closely as possibly in the home aquarium. Yoyo loaches are highly adaptable to water types and can be kept in both soft water and hard water tanks, though they should be given more time to acclimate to hard water.
They will generally grow to about 5 inches (13 cm) in captivity and can live for over 20 years if they are well cared. Anyone purchasing yoyo loaches should understand that they are a long-term commitment, and most people will keep them for at least 10 years.
Yoyo loaches grow relatively large for an aquarium fish, and at the bare minimum should be kept in a 29 gallon (131 litres) tank while they are young. A larger tank is almost always a better choice, and they will only really thrive if provided with a 45 gallon (205 litres) or larger. They tend to be a very active and aggressive fish (to each other), so they will quickly outgrow a smaller tank.
Another reason for keeping them in a larger tank, is that they are a social fish, and need to be kept in groups of at least five. If they are kept in groups any smaller than this, they will usually experience some level of stress and may begin to spend much of their time in hiding. Needless to say, a stressed out fishing in hiding is not very exciting to watch.
Any tank with yoyo loaches should also contain numerous caves to give the fish a sense of security. They prefer deep caves, with small openings that allow them to squeeze their entire body into it. In fact, it’s not unusual for yoyo loaches to regularly get stuck in caves, and you should always check during a water change to make sure that none of them require rescuing. They will generally ignore any large caves or open rock enclosures that their cousins clown loaches are notorious for piling into, but there’s no reason to ignore these rock formations in a tank containing yoyo loaches.
Instead of buying expensive ornamental caves, you can actually quite easily make caves at home for one tenth the price. All that is required is PVC pipe, aquarium sealant, and some rocks or sand. Using the aquarium sealant, simply glue the sand or rocks on top of the PVC pipe, and once it dries, you have a ready-made cave for your yoyo loaches.
As a rule, yoyo loaches tend to be docile towards other species of fish, and aggressive fish should be avoided. That’s not to say that there won’t be some disagreements between the loaches, and often an alpha fish will become established within a complex pecking order. But they will rarely ever show any aggression to other species of fish that they share a tank with. If they are kept with an overly aggressive species fish, they quickly begin to spend much of their time in hiding. Some have been known to even go into permanent hiding and ignore food – which generally does not bode well for the health of the yoyo loach.
After the aquarium has been set up and a suitable number of caves have been provided, it’s time to choose a filter. The most economical choice is usually an HOB (hang on back) filter. While a canister filter is often more effective at keeping a tank sparkling clean, it is also far more expensive and is really only required for larger, messier fish. If you need extra filtration, then a sponge filter can be used in conjunction with a HOB filter, which will help to filter the water.
I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for a yoyo loach tank. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
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Yoyo loaches are omnivores in the wild, and should be fed a similar diet in the home aquarium. Their main diet should consist of a high quality flake or pellet food, and should be supplemented regularly with live or frozen foods. I have used New Life Spectrum Small Fish Sinking Formula with great success in the past, but any sinking food will work for them.
One of their favorite live foods is snails, and they will completely wipe out a tank’s snail population in a matter of days. Some other live foods they enjoy include mosquito larvae, blackworms, daphnia and brine shrimp. If you are culturing mosquito larvae for your yoyo loaches, always be sure to check local regulations, since this is illegal in many states and provinces.
If live food is unavailable, then they will also relish any frozen foods that can be provided. Their favorite frozen foods are bloodworms, daphnia or brine shrimp. These should always be defrosted first, and they can easily be defrosted in a small plastic container with some warm tank water. After about 5-10 minutes in the warm tank water, they should be ready to feed to the loaches.
It’s surprising that for a fish that adapts so well to life in an aquarium, that there are no confirmed reports of it breeding in captivity. There has always been the occasional claim that someone has successfully bred yoyo loaches, but at this point no accounts of breeding have been confirmed.
In fact, even fish farms have had difficulty breeding yoyo loaches, and some have been experimenting with hormones to trigger breeding. At the time of the writing of this article, there were no farms that mentioned reliably breeding yoyo loaches.