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Family: Cobitidae, Subfamily Botiinae

Common Name: Burmese Loach, Burmese Zebra Loach

Origin and Habitat: India and Myanmar; possibly western Thailand. Occurs in clear slow flowing mountain streams shaded by the forest. In the Ataran Riover (Myanmar) it occurs in company with Botia kubotai.

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful, inquisitive and playful. Like all botine loaches they establish a social structure within the group and in-fighting is less with this species; a group of at least 3 to 5 is acceptable provided there are numerous hiding places in the aquarium. They can be combined with other peaceful loach species. Long-finned upper fish should be avoided to prevent fin nipping; suitable upper fish are barbs, larger rasbora, danios, characins.

Burmese 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. Vegetable matter such as blanched spinach, shelled peas, chopped fruit can also be fed for variety. 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. They will prey on snails but not voraciously if other food is available.


Attains five inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches in length

Water parameters for Burmese Loach

Soft (< 10 dGH) slightly acidic to very slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.2) water, temperature 24-28C/75-82F.


Closely resembling Botia kubotai in patterning, this is a similar quite peaceful but playful loach well suited to a community aquarium provided its needs are satisfied. It may appear in they hobby under common names such as Burmese Loach, Burmese Zebra Loach, and Golden Zebra Loach. Young (juvenile) fish are remarkably similar in patterning to young B. kubotai.

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 seems to prefer 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. Females will be rounder. There are so far no reports of successful spawnings in aquaria.

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. 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.

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.

Loaches may be 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.

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.

This species was described by E. Blyth in 1860 as Botia histrionica.

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 - containing the genera Leptobotia, Parabotia, Sinibotia.
Tribe Botiini - Botia, Chromobotia, Syncrossus, Yasuhikotakia.

Tang (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.

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," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 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.

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