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Yoyo Loach

Scientific Name: Botia almorhae
Family: Cobitidae, Subfamily Botiinae

About the Yoyo Loach

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cyprinids

Care Level: Easy. Does well in a slightly more narrow range of water parameters and shouldn't be used to cycle an aquarium. Will eat most prepared foods. May have some specific care requirements in terms of particular water parameters, social behaviors, food items etc.

Origin: India, Nepal and Bangladesh, possibly Pakistan [see comments under Discussion]. Although a riverine fish, it inhabits calm water pools of highland streams, while the juveniles are usually found in lowland waters.

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful, but like all loaches (to some degree) they establish a social structure within the group and there will be some in-fighting though not damaging if the fish are maintained in a group of a t least six and there are numerous hiding places in the aquarium. They can be combined with other loach species. Long-finned upper fish should be avoided to prevent fin nipping; suitable upper fish are barbs, rasbora, danios, characins.

Description

This commonly-available loach may be seen under several common names including Reticulated loach, Lohachata Botia, Pakistani Loach, Almorha Loach and Yo Yo Loach probably being the most common. The latter, coined by Ken Childs of Dolphin International fish importers in Los Angeles, comes from the pattern on the fish's side resembling a series of brown "Y" and white "O" markings which is more discernible in young fish. The name "Pakistani" loach may be the most inaccurate, since this species is not known to occur in Pakistan [see additional comments below].

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.

Sexual dimorphism is not obvious until they reach maturity. Males may have a more reticulated body pattern though with the variability within the species this is unreliable. Females will be rounder. Males have reddish coloration around the barbels and mouth--provided this is not a sign of problems with pH and water quality. There are so far no reports of successful spawnings in aquaria.

The body markings of the yo yo loaches can vary quite considerably from fish to fish, and as the fish matures the pattern fills in to be more reticulated; the photos above illustrate this variance. From time to time a fish may "gray out" as it is commonly called, usually two together and often during "fights" or when feeding. The base colour darkens considerably; the fourth photo above illustrates this phase.

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.

The fish is intolerant of poor water quality, including high nitrate levels. Regular partial water changes of 50% weekly plus the plants should achieve stable water parameters. This species is highly prone to parasitic (such as ich) and protozoan infestations and poor water conditions are a major factor. Treatment must be carefully monitored, as the fish, like all loaches, is 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.

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.

The exact species name of this fish is still uncertain. Originally it was deemed to be Botia lohachata, the name assigned by B.L. Chaudhuri in 1912, and it is still widely seen under this name. "Botia" is derived from an Asian word for soldier or warrior. In the early 1990's it was suggested that this species epithet was a synonym for Botia almorhae, the true species, which had been described in 1831 by J.E. Gray. Dr. Maurice Kottelat (2004), an acknowledged authority on this family, assigned the name B. lohachata as a synonym of B. almorhae and not a distinct species in his major revision of the genus which he separated into seven genera.

Steven Grant (2007) has proposed that B. almorhae may in fact consist of five distinct but closely-related species:
Botia almorhae Gray, 1831
Botia birdi Chaudhuri, 1909
Botia lohachata Chaudhuri 1912
Botia sp. "Kosi", possibly a variant of B. almorhae
Botia sp. "Teesta", possibly a variant of B. almorhae

The striking similarity in pattern among these fish certainly makes this feasible; the California Academy of Sciences--Ichthyology has accepted the validity of the first three distinct species. The authors of Loaches Online accept B. almorhae as the species of the subject fish. The occurrence in Pakistan is restricted to the species B. birdi described by Chaudhuri in 1909.

The subfamily Botiinae within the family Cobitidae is also 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.

References:

Grant, S. (2007), "Fishes of the genus Botia Gray, 1831, in the Indian region (Teleostei: Botiidae)," Ichthyofile, No. 2, pp. 1-106.

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.

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.

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.

Yoyo Loach Diet

Mainly carnivorous by nature, in the aquarium this fish is omnivorous therefore will accept most prepared foods. Sinking pellet and tablet foods are important as these are bottom feeders though they do take food mid-water. Frozen bloodworms and shrimp will be relished, and for larger fish small earthworms. An avid snail eater. 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. Avoid overfeeding as this fish can be greedy.

Size

Attains 6 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches in length.

Ideal water parameters for Yoyo Loach

Soft to moderately hard (< 12 dGH) slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water, temperature 22-28C/76-82F. Preferably in the lower range of temperature.

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Yoyo Loach 1
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Yoyo Loach 2
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Yoyo Loach 3
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Yoyo Loach 4


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