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Family: Balitoridae, Subfamily Balitorinae

Common Names: Hillstream Loach, Butterfly Pleco

Origin and Habitat: Xi Jiang river system in China. Inhabits shallow but fast-flowing streams that have substrates of rock, gravel, sand and boulders.

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful. In its habitat it lives in large groups; males will "defend" their territory (selected on the basis of available food) by "topping" [see further under Description].

Hillstream Loach Diet

A natural algae and aufwuchs feeder, it will accept algae-type sinking foods, artemia (brine shrimp), frozen bloodworms, and natural algae should be encouraged to grow on rocks and pebbles. Blanched spinach and similar greens may be offered. For long-term health, algae must be allowed to grow in the aquarium.


Attains around 3 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length for a group, larger if other fish are to be included.

Water parameters for Hillstream Loach

Soft to medium hard (< 12 dGH), slightly acidic to basic (pH 6.5 to 8) water, temperature 20-24C/68-75F. Water circulation must be high to provide the oxygen saturation this species requires.


There are several species of hillstream loaches in Asia but this is the most commonly available species in the hobby.

This fish has several common names including Borneo Sucker, Stingray Pleco, Butterfly Pleco and China Sucker. While they may resemble the plecostomus they are not related.

Their unique flattened body with horizontal fins allowing them to hold on to rocks in a strong current is indicative of the proper environment in the aquarium. A tank with sand or gravel as substrate and smooth rocks coated with algae make a suitable environment for them. Plants are recommended to ensure excellent water quality as this fish actually prefers very clean water as evident in their habitat. Provide powerful currents and surface movements to ensure very high oxygen supply and continuing comfort in their home. They will not last long if the oxygen is depleted or if any of their requirements are not met.

Tankmates are difficult to select due to the requirements this species demands with respect to bright lighting (to encourage algae), cooler water and a stronger flow from the filter. This fish is not a good companion for goldfish.

When a second male invades another's territory, one fish tries to cover the other in a test of strength, termed "topping." There is rarely any damage inflicted, and one fish eventually retreats. The dominant males claim the best algae areas as their territory, while females tend to congregate in other areas. This fish must be in groups of at least six, or it can be very withdrawn and inactive.

This species was described in 1931 by P.W. Fang and originally named Gastromyzon leveretti kweichowensis.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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