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Reticulated Hillstream Loach Care Guide

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Care Guide

Hillstream Loaches, scientifically known as Sewellia lineolata, stand out as captivating and distinct freshwater fish. Cherished for their captivating appearance, these unique fish bring added character and a touch of elegance to aquariums.

One of the remarkable features of these loaches is their ability to thrive in fast-flowing streams and rivers. This trait, combined with their captivating appearance, adds to their allure.

In this article, we will delve into various aspects, ranging from their preferred tank setup and water conditions to their feeding habits and breeding. There are several Hillstream Loach varieties but this article will focus exclusively on the Reticulated Hillstream Loach, also known as Tiger Hillstream Loach or Gold Ring Butterfly Sucker.

Key Takeaways

  • Hillstream Loaches need a tank of at least 40 gallons with fast water flow and high oxygen levels, similar to their natural stream habitats.
  • These fish are small, peaceful, and do well in groups; they like cooler water between  65°F and 80°F (20°C and 24°C) and require a diet that includes algae wafers, sinking pellets, live foods, frozen brine shrimp, and occasional vegetables.
  • To keep Hillstream Loaches healthy, avoid sharp decorations in the tank. Use fine sand substrate along with smooth rocks and caves. They also enjoy tanks planted with sturdy plants that can handle strong currents.
  • Hillstream Loach tank mates should be non-aggressive. Stay away from large predatory or fin-nipping fish that may stress or harm them.

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Natural Habitat

  • Common name: Reticulated Hillstream Loach
  • Scientific name: Sewellia lineolata
  • Care level: Medium
  • Size: Up to 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group size: 3 or more
  • Minimum tank size: 40 gallons (151 liters)
  • Tank level: Bottom dweller
  • Water temperature: 68°F-75°F (20°C-24°C)
  • Water pH: 7.0-7.8
  • Water hardness: 10-20 dGH

Hillstream Loaches come from cool, oxygen-rich waters throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Their homes are usually in fast-moving rivers and streams that bring them plenty of oxygen and food to eat.

In the wild, you can find Hillstream loaches using their unique fins to stick onto smooth rocks and pebbles where the current is strong. This lets them stay put while they look for small bits of food passing by.

They live in places that have lots of smooth rocks and pebbles and with many plants and hiding spots which help protect them from bigger animals that might want to eat them. 

Appearance & Size

These stunning fish have a streamlined shape that resembles a miniature stingray. They have a flat underside, wing-like rounded pectoral fins, and smaller wing-like anal fins that fan out from their bodies which helps them stick to rocks and smooth surfaces in fast water. They have short barbells that help them find snacks as they move.

Their distinctive bodies are beautifully patterned with speckles, spots, and stripes. Their coloring is a yellow/amber against dark brown background that helps them blend in well among the rocks and river bottoms where they live. They truly are stunning fish.

Distinguishing between males and females, especially among juveniles, can be quite challenging. Adult Hillstream Loaches can be differentiated by the broadness of their heads. Females have broad heads, almost as wide as their pectoral fins, whereas males have square heads that protrude from their bodies. Male Hillstream Loaches also develop small raised bumps ‘fences’, along their pectoral fin and head region.

These beautiful Loaches are small, at maturity, they typically reach a size of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm).

Personality & Behavior

Hillstream Loaches are peaceful fish that love to be around their kind. They enjoy living in groups and get along well with many other types of friendly aquarium fish.

They’re not just good at clinging; these loaches are also hard workers who clean algae from tank surfaces. They’ll spend a lot of time scraping off the growths with their sucker-like mouths, which keeps your tank tidy while they munch on their favorite snack.

During the day you’ll often find them climbing the glass, showing off their little bellies or you’ll have the joy of watching them flutter their fins while searching for food on the ground.

Life Span

Hillstreams enjoy a good, long life if you take care of them well. They can live for 8 to 10 years in the right tank conditions with clean water and proper food. Keep their home cool and well-oxygenated to help them stay healthy and avoid sickness.

These fish do better at lower temperatures, as warm water might make them sick more often. So, it’s important to keep an eye on your aquarium’s temperature and make sure it stays within a safe range for these neat little loaches.

Hillstream Loach Care & Tank Setup

Creating the perfect environment for these Loaches requires attention to detail and an understanding of their specific needs. Proper care begins with setting up a tank that closely mimics their natural habitat, ensuring these unique creatures can thrive in your aquarium.

Tank Size

Hillstream Loaches love space to roam and strong currents to swim in. They need a tank that holds at least 40 gallons of water. This gives them enough room to move and be happy.

A big tank helps copy their natural homes in rivers. With more space, the water stays cleaner and has more oxygen. Make sure your fish have plenty of room to explore and enjoy life in your aquarium.

Make sure you have a tight-fitting aquarium top because these loaches can be little Houdinis and easily climb out of your aquarium.

How Many Can Be Kept Together?

You can keep either a single fish or three or more. Don’t keep two as this may lead to the stronger one bullying the weaker over food or space.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 68°F-75°F (20°C-24°C)
  • Water pH: 7.0-7.8
  • Water hardness: 10-20 dGH

Maintaining the proper water parameters is crucial for the well-being of Hillstream Loaches, as these conditions closely imitate their natural riverine habitats.

Water Temperature

These beautiful loaches like their water on the cool side. They feel happy and healthy in temperatures between 68°F and 75°F (20°C to 24°C). If the water gets too warm, they may get sick more easily.

It’s best to keep an eye on your tank’s temperature so it stays just right for these critters.

Water pH Levels

Water pH levels are like a tightrope for Hillstream Loaches. They thrive when the water has a pH between 7.0 and 7.8. Keeping this balance is key to making sure they stay healthy.

If the pH slips out of that sweet spot, these fish can get sick easily. It’s important to check the water often with a pH test kit and keep things steady for them to be at their best.

Water Hardness

Hillstream Loaches like their water not too soft. Think of it as needing a bit more oomph, which is what you get from moderate to high levels of hardness in the water. This keeps them healthy and happy.

Hardness matters a lot for these fish because it affects their well-being.

Check the hardness often with a water test kit to make sure the water has just the right amount of hardness. Doing this helps stop stress and health problems in your fish and tankmates.

What Hillstream Loaches Need In The Tank

Creating a hospitable environment also means replicating their natural habitat within your aquarium, focusing on elements that support their unique lifestyle and health requirements.

It’s essential to understand and implement the specific tank features that will enable these fascinating fish to thrive in your care.


Fine sand works best for a Hillstream Loach’s home. It keeps their belly safe from scratches as they play and search for food on the bottom.


Hillstream Loaches love to have places where they can rest and play. Add rocks, driftwood, and caves to your tank to make them happy. These decorations should be smooth so the fish don’t hurt themselves.

Make sure your tank has a lot of things for them to explore. They like tanks that look like their natural home with a fast current. Spaces between the decorations give them more fun spots to swim around and hide.

This makes them feel safe and keeps them active in your freshwater aquarium.


Live plants give them places to hide and rest just like they would find in a stream.

Choose tough freshwater plants that can handle strong water flow, as Hillstream Loaches need well-oxygenated water. Some good options are Java Moss, Anubias Barteri, Java Fern, and Amazon Sword.


These loaches don’t have specific needs when it comes to lighting. You can use whatever works best for your plants and watching your fish. If you have lots of live plants, go for stronger lights that help with growth. But if you just have a few or none, softer lighting works well too.

It’s all about balancing plant needs with making sure your loaches are comfortable.


Hillstream Loaches love clean water. Your tank needs a good filter to keep the water just right for them. A sponge filter and powerhead can help make the stream-like flow they enjoy from their natural home in fast-moving streams.

Make sure your filter is strong but not too rough. Hillstream Loaches like water that moves well without being pushed around too much. The extra filters will also grab tiny food bits and give these cool fish places to explore and play.

Hillstream Loach Tank Mates

Discovering suitable companions is essential to creating a harmonious aquatic environment.

Ideal Tankmates

Hillstream Loaches like calm friends in their tank. Keep them with other peaceful and small fish to make sure they are happy.

  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows: These tiny fish are gentle and won’t bother your loaches.
  • Guppies: Colorful and peaceful, guppies make great companions for Hillstream Loaches.
  • Corydoras: These bottom dwellers are friendly and will not fight with Hillstream Loaches.
  • Neon Tetras: These tetras are easy to care for, have simple dietary needs, and don’t nip fins; they can live well with loaches.
  • Rasboras: These fish are easy to care for and swim higher up in the tank, leaving the bottom for your loaches. Harlequin Rasboras are a good option. 
  • Dwarf Shrimp: Shrimp are tank mates because they also enjoy a clean tank like the Hillstream Loach does. Amano Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp, or Blue Dream Shrimp would all work well.
  • Platies: They are peaceful and easy to care for and will add a pop of color to your tank.
  • Snails: These slow movers won’t compete with your loaches and help keep the tank clean. Choose snails with thick shells to reduce the risk of being eaten by your loaches. Some good options are the Malaysian Trumpet Snail and the Nerite Snail.

Tankmates to Avoid

Hillstream Loaches love peace and quiet. They do best with fish that don’t bother them too much. Here is a list of tankmates to stay away from:

  • Aggressive fish: These include cichlids, betta fish, and other large aggressive species. They can stress out Hillstream Loaches or even hurt them.
  • Semi-aggressive fish: Some semi-aggressive species also don’t mix well with Hillstream Loaches because they may compete for food or space.
  • Bottom dwellers that are pushy: Loaches like their own space on the bottom of the tank. Avoid other bottom feeders that might crowd them.
  • Larger predatory fish: Big fish that see smaller ones as food are a no-go. They could try to eat your peaceful Hillstream Loach.
  • Nippy fish: Some types like barbs can nip at the fins of Hillstream Loaches, making life hard for these gentle creatures.
  • Very active swimmers: Fish that zip around a lot can make the tank feel too busy and scare your loach.

Food & Diet

Hillstream Loaches are omnivores and love a variety of food. They need meals that sink to the bottom of the tank where they like to hang out.

Create a well-rounded diet by offering a mix of algae wafers, sinking pellets, and live foods like bloodworms. Introduce variety with frozen foods such as brine shrimp. Occasionally, include blanched vegetables to ensure balanced nutrition.

Keeping their diet close to what they would find in nature contributes to their overall health and happiness. Be vigilant about cleaning up leftovers, as lingering food can compromise water quality.

To manage feeding, use a feeding ring or designate a specific spot in the tank. This helps control where the food goes and ensures that each fish, especially in the case of multiple Hillstream Loaches, gets its fair share.

How Much and How Often to Feed Them

Provide your Hillstream Loaches with small amounts of food twice a day

Ensure you offer only what they can consume in approximately 2 minutes, promoting a healthy eating routine. This approach helps prevent overfeeding and maintains optimal water quality in the tank.

Breeding Hillstream Loaches

Breeding Hillstream Loaches in a home aquarium is considered challenging but not impossible. For successful breeding, you must maintain the recommended water parameters for this species.

Prepare a dedicated 10-gallon tank equipped with a pre-filter sponge, such as the Fluval Edge prefilter sponge, to prevent fry from being trapped in the filter. Ensure that the water flow is gentle enough to accommodate the delicate fry. Include fine sand and smooth river stones to facilitate efficient egg scattering.

Add a pair of female and male Hillstream Loaches into the tank. For helpful visuals on distinguishing between males and females based on their undersides against the tank glass, check out this interesting YouTube video

To condition the adults for spawning, provide ample food, including Repashy Soilent Green, frozen bloodworms, and live baby brine. The male and female will ascend the water column together. The female will then release eggs, and as they descend, the male sprays milt onto them.

The eggs will settle in the crevices between the rocks and the sides of the tank, creating safe places for incubation until hatching, usually occurring around two weeks later. Once hatched, the fry enjoys a diet of infusoria, live baby brine shrimp, vinegar eels, microworms, and powdered fry food.

Notably, adult Hillstream Loaches pose no threat to their offspring, allowing for safe cohabitation of different age groups in the same tank.

Common Health Issues

While Hillstream Loaches are generally hardy, they can be prone to certain health issues such as fungal infections and white spot disease (Ich); understanding their symptoms and treatments is crucial for maintaining a healthy aquarium environment.

Signs of illness include reduced appetite, decreased activity, isolation from the group, frequent rubbing against rocks or gravel (“flashing”), presence of white spots, sores or ulcers, flushed skin, and bloody fins.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Always quarantine new fish before adding them to their new home
  • Keep the tank water clean. Do weekly water changes to stop dirt from building up.
  • Use a strong filter in the tank. This keeps the water moving and clean, just like their home in nature.
  • Watch out for high heat. Hillstream Loaches do better in cool water.
  • Feed them healthy food. Give them veggies, small worms, and special fish food to keep them strong.
  • Look at your fish often. If they act weird or look different, they might be sick.
  • Separate sick fish. Put them in a different tank so they don’t make others sick.

I recommend consulting with a professional if you suspect your fish is sick to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Are Hillstream Loaches Right For Your Tank?

You might want to think about getting Hillstream Loaches if you like fish that are calm and do well with others. These little guys love being in a group, so it’s best to have at least three of them together.

Make sure your tank is big enough – 40 gallons or more is good for them. They need clean water and lots of flow, just like where they come from in the wild.

If you’re okay with setting up a strong filter and can keep the water moving fast, these fish could be happy in your tank. Also, if you enjoy watching fish that are busy fluttering around cleaning algae off rocks all day long, Hillstream Loaches fit the bill! Just remember they don’t like bullies; only put them with other peaceful tankmates who won’t pick fights or eat their food before they can get to it.

Other Loaches You May Be Interested In

  • Kuhli Loach: This loach is thin and has stripes too. But it is good at hiding because it looks like the ground under the water.
  • Dwarf Chain Loach: It’s tiny and has pretty chain-like lines all over. They come from rivers near Thailand.
  • Clown Loach: This fish is bright orange with big black bands. It comes from rivers in Indonesia.
  • Yoyo Loach: This loach has a slender silver or golden body with dark bands. It originates from the waters of India and Pakistan.
  • Dojo Loach: This loach displays a range of colors, from olive green, light brown, or grey, and often has a lighter belly. It originates from streams and ponds in eastern Asia.
  • Zebra Loach: It’s small with stripes just like a zebra. The zebra loach lives in fast streams in India.
  • Panda Loach: Visually striking with its distinctive black and white coloration, it boasts a sleek body built for the fast-flowing waters of China’s Guangxi province.

Hillstream Loach FAQs

What Do I Need To Know About Hillstream Loach Care?

Hillstream Loach care means creating a tank that feels like their native habitat, with clean water, good oxygenation, and plenty of algae for them to eat.

How Big Should My Fish Tank Be For Hillstream Loaches?

The minimum tank size for these fish is 40 gallons so they have enough room to swim and grip onto rocks just like in the wild.

What Kind Of Water Conditions Do Hillstream Loaches Need?

These fish thrive in cool water with high oxygen levels and a recommended temperature range that matches their home in rivers like Xi Jiang River system in southern China.

Can I Keep Different Types Of Hillstream Loaches Together?

Yes! Many different types can live together but make sure your tank has hiding places since some may show territorial behavior toward each other.

What Should I Feed My Hillstream Loach?

Feed them foods such as algae flakes or pellets designed for bottom feeders, and include treats like daphnia or microworms now and then.

Wrapping Up

Taking care of Hillstream Loaches means creating a home that fits their needs. These fish love clean water with lots of movement, just like the streams they come from. They enjoy having friends and do best in groups where they can zoom around together.

Add some tasty greens and algae to their diet to keep them happy and healthy.

Your tank will shine with these unique loaches fluttering over rocks and plants. They are peaceful creatures that will add life and beauty to your aquarium setup.

If you choose to include these unique fish in your aquarium, you’ll undoubtedly become the envy of others!

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...