About the Ladder Loach
Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.
Origin: India and Bangladesh; different geographic populations may be distinct species [see under Discussion]. Populations allegedly in China may be B. histrionica mis-identified. Inhabits quieter pools of highland rivers and streams with a rocky substrate.
Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful, inquisitive and playful. Like all botine loaches they establish a social structure within the group and at least 5-6 is acceptable. Hiding places formed by bogwood or rock/stone are required. They can be combined with other peaceful loach species. Long-finned upper fish should be probably be avoided to prevent fin nipping; suitable upper fish are barbs, larger rasbora, danios, characins.
This attractive loach bears a striking resemblance to Botia kubotai and B. histrionica in patterning. While the pattern can vary from fish to fish [more on this below], in this species is is generally more of a twin-bar in appearance, which gave rise to two of the common names, Ladder Loach and Twin-banded Loach. It is also seen under names like Sergeant Major Loach, Gangetic Loach [a reference to the Ganges River], and Dohser Loach.
Females are rounder than males, and some sources mention a rounder snout compared to the longer of the male. No reports of aquarium breeding to date, but commercially-raised fish through the use of hormones are being seen.
This species is very active, and as noted under Compatibility/Temperament needs a spacious aquarium with plenty of hiding spots so it can be kept in a group of at least 5 or 6, otherwise some members may be relentlessly picked on and succumb to stress and injury. A riverine aquascape would be ideal; a substrate of fine smooth gravel with smooth rocks representing boulders, caves made from bogwood or rock, and subdued lighting partially achieved with floating plants. Plants such as crypts, Anubias and java fern for the lower areas. The current from the filter need not be excessive; this fish prefers quiet pools in its habitat.
Water must be stable; like all loaches, this species is intolerant of dissolved organics and nitrates should be kept below 10ppm, which can be achieved with live plants and regular weekly partial water changes. Loaches are somewhat prone to parasitic (such as ich) and protozoan infestations and poor water conditions are a major factor. Treatment must be carefully monitored, as loaches are scaleless and thus highly sensitive to any medications or chemicals. Never use salt; and other treatments when necessary should usually be half-strength. Prevention is by far the better.
Like all Botia species, this one possesses a pair of very sharp spines under the eye sockets; these spines can be extended when the loach feels threatened, and care must be taken not to entangle the spines in nets as it can damage the fish. From time to time a fish may "gray out" as it is commonly called, usually during "fights" or when feeding. The base colour darkens considerably.
When buying loaches, please be very observant with their behavior and body structure. You are advised to avoid at all costs loaches that appear to have chronic skinny disease. Symptoms will include their obvious skinny appearance where the skull and spinal column are almost visible and concaved stomach. Recommended treatment for this is Levamisole hydrochloride. Ask your local fish store for their sources. Here again, avoidance/prevention is better.
As noted above, there is some variation in the patterning from fish to fish, and this may be geographical; Grant (2007) suggests that the populations with slightly different patterning may be distinct species. He recognizes B. rostrata, B. sp. "upper Brahmaputra" and B. sp. "ladder," each having slight differences in pattern and occurring in distinct geographical areas. Most fish in the hobby under the name B. rostrata appear to be patterned after the second of these three possible species, although sometimes they are (incorrectly) labeled B. geto which is a synonym for another distinct species, B. dario [SeriouslyFish database].
There are populations of this loach recorded from the Salween and Irrawaddy basins in China, adjacent to the Burmese border [Kottelat 1989]; comparison with Indian topotypical specimens is needed, as it is suggested that these may actually be B. histrionica [Fishbase].
This species was described in 1868 by A. Gunther. The subfamily Botiinae within the family Cobitidae is uncertain; Nalbant (2002, 2004) and Kottelat (2004) raised the subfamily to family status as Botiidae and divided it into two tribes:
Tribe Leptobotiini - Leptobotia, Parabotia, Sinibotia.
Tribe Botiini - Botia, Chromobotia, Syncrossus, Yasuhikotakia.
Tang et.al. (2005) agreed. Slechtova et. al. (2006) basically agreed but proposed two Subfamilies rather than tribes, and moved one genus:
Subfamily Leptobotiinae - Leptobotia, Parabotia.
Subfamily Botiinae - Botia, Chromobotia, Sinibotia, Syncrossus, Yasuhikotakia.
Grant, S. (2007), "Fishes of the genus Botia Gray, 1831, in the Indian region (Teleostei: Botiidae)," Ichthyofile, No. 2, pp. 1-106.
Kottelat, Maurice (1989), "Zoogeography of the fishes from Indochinese inland waters with an annotated check-list," Bull. Zool. Mus. Univ. Amsterdam 12(1), pp. 1-55.
Kottelat, M. (2004), "Botia kubotai, a new species of loach (Teleostei: Cobitidae) from the ataran River basin (Myanmar), with comments on botiinae nomenclature and diagnosis of a new genus," Zootaxa 401, pp. 1-18.
Nalbant, T. T. (2002), "Sixty million years of evolution. Part one: family Botiidae (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Cobitoidea)," Travaux du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle "Grigore Antipa" 44, pp. 309-333.
Nalbant, T. T. (2004), "Hymenphysa, Hymenophysa, Syncrossus, Chromobotia and other problems in the systematics of Botiidae. A reply to Maurice Kottelat," Travaux du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle "Grigore Antipa" 47, pp. 269-277.
Slechtova, V., J. Bohlen, J. Freyhof and P. Rab (2006), "Molecular phylogeny of the Southeast Asian freshwater fish family Botiidae (Teleostei: Cobitoidea) and the origin of polyploidy in their evolution," Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 39, pp. 529-541.
Tang, Q., B. Xiong, X. Yang and H. Liu (2005), "Phylogeny of the East Asian botiine loaches (Cypriniformes, Botiidae) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences," Hydrobiologia 544(1), pp. 249-258.
Ladder Loach Diet
Carnivorous, feeding on insect larvae and benthic organisms. Requires sinking foods (tablets, pellets) supplemented with frozen bloodworms, artemia (brine shrimp), live worms including small earthworms for larger specimens. Vegetable matter such as blanched spinach, shelled peas, chopped fruit may be offered. Several aquarists have mentioned that loaches will sometimes eat live plants, with swords (Echinodorus sp) being particular favourites; signs of this will be several small holes eaten in the leaves. Other plant species (crypts, Aponogeton, Anubias, Java Fern) are left alone. Will eat snails but not voraciously when other foods are present.
Attains 8 inches.
Minimum Tank Suggestion
48 inches in length.
Ideal water parameters for Ladder Loach
Soft to moderate (< 12 dGH), slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water, temperature 22-28C/76-82F.