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Family: Cobitidae, Subfamily Botiinae

Common Name: Skunk Loach

Origin and Habitat: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. Inhabits standing and flowing waters in medium and large-sized rivers where it is found in crevices in rocks or in burrows under rocks and sunken logs.

Compatibility/Temperament: A feisty loach that can be kept either singly or in a small group to spread aggression. Not advisable to mix with Botia species loaches, but other semi-aggressive loaches such as Syncrossus species are possible. Upper tankmates must be robust, hardy and active, such as medium barbs, larger rasbora and danios. Sometimes specimens will turn particularly aggressive to other fish.

Skunk Loach Diet

Feeds on mollusks and benthic invertebrates. Accepts most sinking pellets/tablets, but frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia should be given for variety. Readily eats snails. 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.

Attains 4 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches in length.

Water parameters for Skunk Loach

Soft (< 12 dGH), slightly acidic (pH 6 to 7) water, temperature 26-30C/79-86F.


A commonly available loach and relatively inexpensive, which is a shame since this species is really not suitable for the average community aquarium [see comments under Compatibility/Temperament]. Very active and boistrous, to the point of frequently being very aggressive and nasty, it deserves 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. Even so, some fish in this species will decide to pursue other fish in the aquarium to their eventual demise.

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. Rocks must be stable, preferably resting on the tank bottom, since this species is very fond of burrowing under rocks and wood; it likes to wedge itself into tight crevices. The current from the filter need not be excessive. 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 when females will be rounder and thicker. There are so far no reports of successful spawnings in aquaria.

Like other loaches, 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 dissolved organics and poor water quality including high nitrate levels. Regular partial water changes of 50% weekly plus the plants should achieve stable water parameters. Loaches are 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.

This species may be confused with Yasuhikotakia splendida and Y. longidorsalis, both of which lack the "skunk" dorsal stripe; and Y. caudipunctata is more silvery than tan overall. These related species are also aggressive and much like the subject species in behaviours and requirements.

G. Tirant described this species in 1885 and placed it in the Botia genus; "Botia" is an Asian dialect word meaning warrior or soldier. In 1931, H.M. Smith described this fish as Botia horae, thinking it was a new species, and the subject fish normally appeared in the hobby under this name until Maurice Kottelat (1986) determined it was a synonym for B. morleti. In 2004, Kottelat removed this species along with several others from the genus Botia and reassigned it to the new genus Yasuhikotakia erected by Nalbant in 2002. Botia horae and B. morleti are now invalid synonyms.

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 - species in 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.


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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