Yoyo Loach Species Information: Size, Tank Mates & More

The Yoyo Loach is an energetic little fish that just loves to put on a show. They are known for their very unique scale pattern which makes them look like the word Yoyo is written all over them.

Since these fish come out during the day and are always in motion, you will be able to see them very often. When placed in a community of freshwater fish they will attract all of the attention! There will never be a dull moment in your underwater world with one of these little guys around.

Keep reading to learn how to care for, feed, and keep your own Yoyo Loach…


The Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae) is a freshwater loach from the Ganges River. You may have heard people calling them the Almora Loach, Tiger Loach or even the Pakistani Loach.

These fish are best know for their curiosity and energy. They will spend most of their time darting around the tank in a playful up and down motion (just like a toy Yoyo).

Their common name was given once the species reached the pet trade and refers to their banded pattern that looks like the word Yoyo.

Yoyo Loaches are not particularly difficult to care for, but their thin scales make them more susceptible to illness and injury. For this reason it is better that this loach is only kept by experienced keepers. They can live for 5-8 years and will reach 2-3 inches in size. In the wild however these fish can live for up to a decade and grow up to 6 inches long. Yoyo Loaches available wherever freshwater fish are sold and usually costs about $5-$8 apiece.

  • Nicknames: Tiger Loach, Pakistani Loach and Almora Loach.
  • Color Forms: Silver, grey, brown, or yellow with black bands.
  • Size: 2-3 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 40+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 74°F to 85°F.

Yoyo Loach

Appearance And Size

This particular loach has a very specific pattern that distinguishes it from other similar loaches. They have black bands on their body which form the shape of a Y and an O, spelling out Yoyo. The bands may be close together or far apart and tend to change shape or thickness as the fish grows older. You can get an idea of a Yoyo Loach’s age by looking at the thickness of the bands.

In the wild these patterns help them to blend in with the substrate as well as to confuse potential predators while swimming.

Silver is the most common and desirable base color but others include stone grey, brown, tan or golden yellow. The bands may be black or very dark brown.

In an aquarium they can grow up to 3 inches long. Their body is cylindrical and they have a sloping forehead and a slightly pointed snout. On their snout these fish will have bristly barbels which are used to navigate in a dark and murky environment.

In total they have 6 short fins. These include a small dorsal fin, a V shaped caudal fin, paired pectoral fins, a pelvic fin and anal fin.

Telling the difference between the genders can be quite difficult, but there are a few subtle tells if you look very closely. Males have darker colors around their snouts and barbels, while females are usually one solid color. Females also have a longer snout and rounder body.

Yoyo Loach Tank Mates

Unlike other bottom dwellers your Yoyo Loaches will socialize and interact with the other fish in your tank.

The best tank mates are those that live at the middle levels of the tank. Congo and Flame Tetras make great friends for these fish. Glass Catfish, Mollies and Clown Loach will get along as well.

You can include other bottom dwellers in your tank so long as they are not competitive. The Kuhli Loach is one of the friendliest bottom dwellers around. Bristlenose and Clown Plecos are safe to place with your Yoyos, as are Panda Corys and other non venomous Cory Catfish.

The only Cichlid species that are safe to place in this setup are Freshwater Angelfish and African Kribensis. All other Cichlids should be kept away. With the exception of the Clown Loach, anything large and rambunctious should be kept away. Even boisterous small fish like the Tiger Barb can be a bit too much to handle.

Large Plecos and other large Catfish should also be avoided, as should Red Tail Sharks and other more aggressive bottom dwellers. Keep away any Cichlids beyond the two approved species above.

Keeping Yoyo Loaches Together
Yoyo Loaches are shoaling fish that should be kept in groups of around 6. Try to keep an even number if you can. There should be more females than males in your group in order to decrease competition. Make sure there is enough space in the tank for everyone to hide out when the need arises.

Will My Yoyo Loaches Eat Snails?
Snails are one of their favorite foods. If your tank has a problem with nuisance snails then a Yoyo Loach can be a big help. However this fish does not discriminate between wanted and unwanted aquarium snails. Under no circumstances should you place a pet snail in a tank with these or any loaches. Shrimp and other small invertebrates should be kept away as well. If you do have an algae problem then consider using a Bristlenose Pleco or another small Catfish.

Care Guide

Yoyo Loach Close Up

While these Yoyos are not true scaleless fish they are just as sensitive as scaleless fish. Unfortunately your Yoyo Loaches will be the first fish to be infected by a bacterial, fungal, or parasitic illness that enters the tank. When this happens you must immediately isolate them from the other fish. Also it is worth pointing out that when they do get sick you will not be able to give them the same medications or dosages that you give to a scaled fish for the same illness.

This species is particularly susceptible to ich, but Chronic Wasting Syndrome is another thing to keep an eye out for. Chronic Wasting Syndrome (or Skinny Disease) is a wasting disease that causes sudden weight loss, lethargy and a low appetite. It is caused by a dinoflagellate infection. You can treat this condition with antibiotics but you will usually have to use half of the normal medication dosage.

Diet and Feeding

These fish are known for their big appetites and high metabolism. Because of this they are always on the hunt for food at the bottom of the tank.

In the wild these fish scavenge the substrate for worms, snails, bugs and other small prey. Every so often they will also eat plants and algae. They are not picky eaters but they also do not know when to stop eating. If food is available they will eat it until they make themselves sick.

If any small critters show up in your aquarium uninvited then your loaches will eat them. Fish flakes and pellets are useful (especially those that are designed for bottom feeders). Flakes should have a high veggie content and can be supplemented with algae wafers.

You can also feed them live prey to encourage their hunting instinct. Snails are a favorite, but they will also eat insect larvae, water fleas, brine shrimp and worms. When you trim your plants you can leave the clippings for your Yoyo Loaches to snack on too – just make sure to remove them before they start to rot.

Instead of giving them two large meals every day, you can give them three or four small meals throughout the day. An automatic fish feeder can help with keeping a feeding schedule. Yoyo Loaches will eat pretty much, some of the best things to feed them are:

  • Bloodworms
  • Bristle worms
  • Earthworms
  • Daphnia
  • Moina
  • Brine shrimp
  • Snails
  • Insect larvae
  • Feeder shrimp
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae wafers
  • Bottom feeder pellets
  • Algae
  • Plant material

Do Yoyo Loaches Eat Plants?
Yoyo Loaches do occasionally nibble on plants and you will sometimes find bite marks and holes in their leaves.

However, their love for digging is more of a threat to your plants than their appetites. These fish have been known to uproot plants as they burrow in the substrate. You can keep plants with your Yoyo Loaches you just need to make sure they are the right type.

Pick hardy species that are able to handle a bit of roughhousing. Plants with very thick or wide leaves (such as Anubias) can be nibbled on without causing too much harm. Java Ferns and other plants with strong roots can hold their own against digging and burrowing. If you are having too much trouble with rooted plants then you can use floating plants like Anacharis.


This fish is very energetic and loves to explore their surroundings. You will often find them at the bottom and the middle levels of the tank. Most small fish are nocturnal but this one is active during the daytime so you will have plenty of time to watch them in action each day.

They will socialize with their own kind and other species of fish too. These loaches are always zipping in and out of plants and decorations, swimming in a playful up and down motion that resembles a Yoyo. Sometimes a group of loaches may dance along the sides of the tank when they detect a change in water parameters.

While you will see them travel in shoals and battles for dominance are not uncommon (especially if there is a lot of males in your group). Younger fish will follow and shadow the older fish in the shoal.

Habitat and Aquarium Set Up

Yoyo Loach Habitat
Yoyo Loach come from the Ganges River (pictured)

This is one of the many fish that comes from the Ganges River. These fish are primarily found near the Almora district in India but they can also be found in Nepal. Yoyo Loaches tend to live in calm stagnant pools and drainage basins. Here there is little to no water flow and also very little light penetration.

They prefer areas with rocky and gravelly substrate where they can camouflage themself. The water may be murky and mildly acidic with plenty of plants and overturned logs for shelter.

Aquarium Conditions

Let’s first consider the water conditions. The temperature should be 74-85°F with the pH ranging from 6.0-7.5. Water hardness should be between 3-10 dGH.

As for equipment you will need a tropical aquarium heater. Use a hang on back or under gravel filter to generate as little flow as possible. Also use either a low light intensity or keep the bottom heavily shaded. Either way do not use bright or flashy lights.

These fish rarely make it to the surface, but when they do they have been known to jump out of the tank. Make sure your tank is secured with a tight lid or hood. For the substrate you can layer smooth gravel or pebbles over soft sand. Do not use rough or jagged rocks which may cut the fish or injure their barbels.

Though they do appreciate all of the swimming space they can possibly get, they also prefer narrow spaces to wide open areas. Keep this in mind when you are arranging your tank design.

Decorations should be natural with a focus on objects that the fish would find in their native environment. You can form small caves or crevices with rocks or logs to create shelters and hiding places. Smooth rocks, pebbles, driftwood, logs and bogwood are all suitable furniture that you can place in your loach’s home.

Plants are the most important decoration and this tank setup makes a wonderful opportunity to test your aquascaping skills. All aquarium plants should be placed along the sides or in the background to allow space for your Yoyo Loaches to swim in the foreground areas. Use thick leafy plants with strong roots that can handle a bit of nibbling or digging. Try Anubias, Java Ferns and floating Anacharis or Hornwort.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 40 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater planted
Temperature 74-85°F
pH 6.0-7.5
Hardness 3-10 dGH
Flow Low
Substrate Smooth rocks and gravel

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

You will need at least a 40 gallon aquarium to keep a school of Yoyo Loach. This size tank will be suitable for a group of 5 or 6. For each addition loach you keep, add another 10 gallons.

History and First Sighting

The Yoyo Loach was discovered by John Edward Grey in 1831. Originally these fish were classified under the Cobitidae family however they have long since moved to Botiidae.

Although they are known as the Pakistani Loach this is a mistake as they are native only to India and Nepal. It is thought that this fish was confused with Botia birdi – hence the name. Misidentification with similar species is very common but B. almorhae is the only one with the distinctive Yoyo pattern. The species was recognized by the Indian Museum in 1912 and subsequently published in their record of native freshwater fish.

However it was not until the 1970s when this fish entered the aquarium hobby in Southeast Asia. Their popularity caught on and they spread to the rest of the world. Aquarium specimens must be wild caught as they cannot be bred in captivity. However their populations are still thriving in the wild. As of 2010, they are still classified as least concern.

Breeding Yoyo Loaches

The Yoyo Loach is one of the few freshwater fish that cannot breed in an aquarium. In the wild they must migrate upstream in order to spawn and these conditions are nearly impossible to replicate.

Professional breeders have been successful in using hormone injections to get them to spawn but most Yoyo Loaches in aquariums are caught in the wild. In these professional breeding tanks the water temperature must be raised above 77°F and both parents must be given hormone injections. Their diet is then restricted to limit the amount of live prey they eat and increase the amount of veggies in their diet.

These tanks are lined with a net to catch the tiny eggs. The eggs are then fertilized and they will turn from clear to grey in color. The female can lay up to 5000 eggs per spawning but not all of these will survive or even be fertilized.

The eggs will hatch in about a day and the larvae will live off of their yolk sacs for the next 2 days. Fry are given larval brine shrimp and insect larvae to eat, alongside powdered fry food. They will reach their juvenile stage in about a month and can be introduced to the main tank.

Final Thoughts

The Yoyo Loach has the biggest personality of any bottom dwelling fish. This colorful little fish will brighten up your bottom levels and provide a fantastic accent to your aquascape. Also when unwanted pests make their way into your tank, this voracious little scavenger is on the case. They will eat up worms, snails, bugs, and other nuisances that might otherwise make a mess of your aquarium.

They are not very difficult to keep but they do have some sensitivities that other fish do not have. When everything is in tip top shape though they are peaceful and pleasant to care for. With so many wonderful qualities it is easy to see why the Yoyo Loach is so popular.

Do you enjoy watching your Yoyo Loaches swim? Let us know in the comments section below…