Skip to Content

Zebra Loach Care Guide For Beginners

Zebra Loach Care Guide For Beginners

The Zebra Loaches is a captivating and lively freshwater fish, known for their distinctive stripes and playful nature. They are an excellent choice for beginner hobbyists as they are hardy and easy to care for.

In this guide, we will explore various aspects of their care, covering topics such as suitable tank setups, water conditions, feeding habits, and health considerations. 

By understanding their natural behaviors and requirements, you’ll be better equipped to ensure the well-being and longevity of these captivating bottom-dwelling fish.

Key Takeaways

  • Zebra Loaches come from India and need a tank environment similar to their natural habitat, with a soft substrate, plants for hiding, and stable water conditions.
  • These fish have striking stripes like zebras and are peaceful community members that eat algae, helping to keep the aquarium clean.
  • A 30-gallon tank is the minimum size recommended for Zebra Loaches because they enjoy living in groups of at least five individuals.
  • The ideal water temperature range for Zebra Loach health is 73°F to 79°F with pH levels between 6 and 7.5. Regular monitoring of these parameters is important.
  • Zebra Loaches can live up to 10-15 years with proper care which includes balanced nutrition, maintaining good water quality, and providing suitable tank mates.

Zebra Loach Origin & Natural Habitat

  • Common name: Zebra Loach, Candy Stripe Loach, Crossbanded Loach, Lined Loach, Striped Loach, Tiger Loach, Zebra Botia
  • Scientific name: Botia striata
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Size: Up to 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group size: At least 6
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallons 
  • Tank level: Bottom dweller
  • Water temperature: 73°F and 79°F (23°C and 26°C)
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: 2-10 dKH

Zebra Loaches, scientifically known as Botia striata come from the freshwater streams of Western India. They thrive in clear, slow-moving waters where they can easily search for food. These fish love areas with lots of plants and a soft bottom.

The water is often cool and full of oxygen which helps them stay healthy.

Today, Zebra Loaches face many threats in their natural habitat. Forests are being cut down, and rivers are getting polluted – all hurting the places these loaches call home. This has made them endangered in the wild, so taking good care of them is very important.

Appearance & Size

Zebra Loaches stand out with their striking appearance. They have the typical elongated ‘loach’ body shape, with 3 pairs of barbels around their mouth 

They have dark vertical stripes that run across their bodies, which creates a noticeable contrast with the bright yellow and gray stripes.  The stripes on the head angle down and forward toward the mouth, the stripes in the middle slant backward, and those near the tail are almost straight up and down. 

You’ll notice these stripes come in different widths, giving them a captivating look that resembles the stripes of a zebra or as one of its common names suggests, a candy stripe loach.

Botia loaches have a built-in defense mechanism – a sharp spine located beneath each eye. When stressed or threatened, they pop out this spine

Underneath each eye, they have a spine that they will pop out if they feel stressed or threatened and it’s really sharp. The reason I mention this is when you net these fish you have to be extremely careful to avoid tangling their spines. Using a net that prevents entanglement is crucial to prevent potential harm to your loach.

Fully grown they measure about 3-4 inches long. They may appear small, but they are full of personality. 

Difference Between Males & Females

Males and females look very similar. You can’t tell them apart just by their colors or patterns. They share the same stripes, body shape, and size. This makes it hard to know which is which without a closer look or expert help.

Female Zebra Loaches may become rounder when carrying eggs; however, outside of breeding times, both males and females will act and look almost the same in your tank.

Personality & Behavior

These fish are shoaling fish and thrive in the company of others. Keep them with at least 6 other Zebra Loaches. If you can, I highly recommend having a group of 12 because their playful nature will be next level, showcasing some remarkable behaviors.

You’ll notice these fish often hide during the day and become more active at night. Even then, they’re peaceful bottom feeders who won’t bother their tank mates.

These loaches search for snacks like snails or leftover food morsels on the aquarium floor, working as a cleanup crew for your tank. Because of this behavior, they help maintain a cleaner environment for all their tankmates..


Zebra Loaches can live for a long time, typically ranging from 10 to 15 years when provided with appropriate care.

These little guys are pretty tough against getting sick, which is great news for newbie fish keepers. Just make sure to meet their tank care needs, and they’ll be happy campers.

It’s important to watch water conditions and diet closely to help these striped loaches reach their full lifespan.

Zebra Loach Care & Tank Setup

Creating a suitable habitat for your loaches involves paying attention to details and understanding their natural environment.

Tank Size

Zebra Loaches need room to move and explore, so a small tank won’t suffice. They are happiest in a tank that is at least 30 gallons. This space lets them swim freely and live comfortably with their buddies.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 73°F and 79°F (23°C and 26°C)
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: 2-10 dKH

Ensuring the correct water parameters is crucial for the health and comfort of your loach, as they thrive in an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat. By carefully monitoring and maintaining these levels, you provide a stable ecosystem.

Water Temperature

Zebra Loaches thrive in warm water. Keep the tank water between 73°F to 79°F (23°C and 26°C) for their health and comfort. A stable temperature in this range helps these fish stay active and healthy.

Water pH Levels

Keep water pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5. To help these fish stay healthy, test the water regularly. Use a quality pH testing kit to ensure the levels are where they should be.

If you find the pH level is too high or low, adjust it carefully. You can add products designed to regulate pH but do this slowly over time. Quick changes could stress your loaches and lead to health issues.

Your goal is to create a stable environment where they can flourish without worry.

Water Hardness

Zebra Loaches like their water to be on the softer side. Aim for a hardness level between 2 – 10 dKH. Testing your water regularly helps ensure the right conditions. Hard water can cause stress and health issues for these fish. 

Keep an eye on hardness levels, especially after adding new water, to maintain their ideal environment.

You can use a test kit to check the water in your tank. Adjusting the water hardness with driftwood or peat moss can help soften the water if needed. 

What Zebra Loaches Need In The Tank

Your tank setup needs to be carefully arranged so it mimics their natural habitat, ensuring they remain active and healthy.


Zebra Loaches need soft and smooth surfaces on the bottom of their tanks. 

I would recommend using smooth gravel, sand, or soft aqua soils as it gives a natural feel and helps these fish stay healthy and happy. 

Avoid rough substrates like baked clay, as it can potentially harm the loaches’ sensitive barbels.


Decorations are crucial for these loaches to feel safe in their home. If you don’t give them places to hide, they’ll never settle in and they’ll hide all the time. 

Funny enough, if you give them plenty of places to hide, they feel right at home and won’t be playing hide-and-seek as much. They’ll be out and about all day long.

Use driftwood, rocks, caves, or PVC pipes to create natural shelters where they can retreat. 

Avoid sharp or rough decorations that could hurt your loaches as they zip around the bottom of the tank. They spend lots of time near the substrate, so everything should be smooth.


Live plants offer these little guys shade and spots to hide, which helps them feel safe. 

Be sure to choose soft-leaved species so as not to harm the loach’s delicate skin. Some good options are Java Fern and Anubias. These don’t need a lot of light or care, which makes them great for beginners. 

You could also add floating aquarium plants like  Hornwort, Java Moss, and Anacharis to help dim the lighting if needed.

Tall greenery near the back of the tank gives depth while smaller foreground plants provide cover for bottom-dwelling fish..

Always ensure that there is plenty of open water for swimming too.


Zebra Loaches don’t have strict lighting preferences, but they will appreciate a day/night cycle with subdued lighting. Provide them with approximately 8-10 hours of light daily, and consider using a high-quality LED light like the NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light for optimal conditions.

Timers like the NICREW Single Channel timer can help maintain a day/night schedule.


A strong filter is essential to help mimic their natural streams and keep the water clean. Good filtration systems remove waste, protect fish from harmful chemicals, and provide oxygen through water movement.

Choose a filter that can handle more water than your tank holds. For example, if you have a 30-gallon tank, use a filter rated for at least 45 gallons. You can use a canister filter like the Fluval Canister Filter or a sponge filter like the Hydro-Sponge III Filter

I recommend changing 30% of the water daily to keep the water chemically clean.

Zebra Loach Tank Mates

When considering tank mates, it’s crucial to choose compatible species that thrive in similar water conditions and have a peaceful disposition. Opting for the right companions ensures a harmonious and stress-free environment, allowing these sociable bottom dwellers to exhibit their natural shoaling behavior alongside their tankmates.

Ideal Tankmates

  • Yoyo Loach: These loaches are also calm and will happily live with your Zebras, often playing and searching for food together.
  • Cory Catfish: A great match, as they stay at the bottom of the tank and won’t compete for space.
  • Cherry Barb: Small and peaceful, they add color to your tank without bothering your Zebras.
  • Clown Loach: Larger than Zebras but just as gentle, Clown Loaches can share a home without any trouble.
  • Sparkling Gourami: These tiny fish stay towards the top of the tank, leaving plenty of room for Zebras below.
  • Neon Tetra: Bright and active, they are too quick for Zebra Loaches to hassle, making them good tankmates.
  • Odessa Barb: Known for their calm nature, they can coexist with Zebras without conflicts.
  • Celestial Pearl Danio: Their small size makes them a non-threatening companion.
  • Ember Tetra: These warm-colored fish are not only peaceful but will also avoid getting in the way of your bottom-dwelling loaches.

Tankmates to Avoid

  • Long-finned, slow-moving fish: These types can get nipped by Zebras, hurting them and causing stress.
  • Large, territorial bottom-dwellers: Fish like some cichlids can be aggressive and may harm the loaches.
  • Small snails and crustaceans: Zebras might try to eat these little creatures, so they aren’t good tankmates.
  • Aggressive or territorial fish: Avoid keeping them with fish that could attack or bully Zebra Loaches.
  • Betta fish: Their long fins make them easy targets for fin-nipping by active loaches.
  • Tiger barbs and similar species: They can be fin nippers too, leading to fights with the loaches.

Food & Diet

These fish are omnivores and not picky eaters. However, it’s important to provide them with a nutritious and diverse diet to ensure their overall health.

Feed them small amounts several times a day. Aim for two to three feeding sessions daily. Make sure the food is enough that they can eat it all in a few minutes. This prevents overfeeding and keeps the tank clean.

Use high-quality pellets or flakes, meaty foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, repashy and leafy greens for their meals.

Keep an eye on them during feedings to ensure they find and eat their food. Given their bottom-dwelling nature, they may miss out if faster swimmers snatch the food before it reaches the tank’s bottom.

If necessary, introduce sinking catfish pellets to ensure your loaches can readily access their share at the tank’s bottom, where they primarily search for snacks.

Breeding Zebra Loaches

As far as I know, Zebra Loaches haven’t been successfully bred in captivity. While some farms breed them in captivity using hormones, there hasn’t been significant natural breeding among hobbyists.

Common Health Issues

While Zebra Loaches are hardy fish, they can encounter health issues if their environment isn’t optimal.

  • Ich: This is a parasite that causes white spots all over a fish’s body. To treat ich, raise the tank water temperature slowly and add aquarium salt or use commercial ich medications. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
  • Bloat: This disease makes a fish swell up because of eating too much or not the right foods. Offering nutritious food in small, bite-sized portions can help prevent bloat. If your fish gets bloat, it’s important to stop feeding for a couple of days and consult with an expert for treatment options.
  • Skinny Disease: Fish lose weight and look skinny when they have this illness. It’s usually caused by internal parasites. Treat skinny disease with specially formulated fish medication after consulting with a veterinarian.
  • Fin Rot: Zebra Loaches may also experience fin rot if their water isn’t clean. Their fins and tails will look torn or frayed. Keep the tank clean and do regular water changes to avoid this problem.
  • Fungal Infections: These show up as fuzzy spots on a fish’s skin or fins. Antifungal treatments are available but improving water quality is also key to prevention.

Disease Prevention

  • Do regular water tests and change part of the water often to keep toxins low. This care stops diseases like ich, which cause white spots on fish’s bodies.
  • Feed your loach a balanced diet with vegetables, pellets, and protein foods such as bloodworms. A good diet helps prevent sickness by making the fish strong.
  • To stop infections, don’t overcrowd the tank and give each loach enough space. Check new plants and decorations for germs before putting them in your aquarium. 
  • Make sure all new fish are quarantined and healthy before adding them to your community tank.

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.
  • CClown Loach Care Guide For Beginnerslown Loach: This fish is bright orange with big black bands. It comes from rivers in Indonesia.
  • 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.
  • Yoyo Loach: This loach has a slender silver or golden body with dark bands. It originates from the waters of India and Pakistan.
  • Reticulated Hillstream Loach: This stunning little fish looks like a mini-stingray. It comes from rivers and streams throughout Asia.
  • 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.

Zebra Loach FAQs

What is a Zebra Loach?

A zebra loach, or candy stripe loach, is a small striped fish that likes to group up with others of its kind in freshwater aquariums.

How big should my tank be for zebra loaches?

For Zebra Loaches to live happily, your tank should hold at least 30 gallons of water since they enjoy swimming around and need space to explore.

Can I put other fish with my Zebra Loaches?

Yes! Zebra loaches are peaceful fish and do well with betta fish, small cichlids, guppies, and even some shrimps like cherry shrimp in community tanks.

What do Zebra Loaches like to eat?

Zebra loaches love snacking on live foods such as brine shrimp and daphnia but will also munch on pellet food designed for bottom-feeding fish.

Do I need a special substrate for my Zebra Loach’s tank?

Use smooth aquarium substrate for the comfort of these bottom-dwellers so they can search for food without getting hurt.

How often should I change the water in my Zebra Loach’s aquarium?

To keep these fish healthy in captivity, perform a partial water change daily to maintain clean water conditions as part of proper fishkeeping practices.

Wrapping Up

Zebra Loaches make a great choice for aquarists looking to add some activity and color to their tanks. They’re not just there for show; these fish play an important role in keeping the tank clean by searching for food along the substrate.

With proper care, these striking fish will thrive and bring life to any freshwater aquarium. Caring for your Zebra Loach means providing them with the right conditions and companions. A school of at least 6 helps them feel safe and display natural behavior. Feed them a balanced diet, keep their water clean, and enjoy watching your striped friends zoom around happily in their well-set-up home.

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...