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This yoyo loach has several names, including the Pakistani loach from its place of origin and the reticulated loach from its giraffe-like pattern. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a scaleless fish, it actually has very small scales embedded in its skin. A bottom-dwelling fish, it is an active scavenger. The yoyo is semi-aggressive, although it lives well with its own species.

The name yoyo loach, according to several sources, came from photographer Ken Childs,1 a major player in the aquarium import business for many years. There are two very different versions of why he dubbed this fish the "yo-yo." One version claims that the fish were so active that they were bouncing like yo-yos. The other relates to the fish's color pattern, especially in the juveniles of the species. 

Breed Overview

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Botia lohachata

COMMON NAMES: Yoyo loach, Almorha loach, Pakistani loach, Reticulated Loach, Y–Loach

ADULT SIZE: 3 to 5 inches (7 to 13 cm)

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 5 to 8 years


Family Characidae
Origin North and Northeast India, Bangladesh
Social generally peaceful
Tank Level Bottom dweller
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallon
Diet Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Intermediate
pH 6.5 to 7.5
Hardness to 12 dGH
Temperature 75 to 86 F (24 to 30 C)

Origin and Distribution

The yoyo loach comes from slow-moving and still freshwater rivers in India and Pakistan. It prefers to congregate in still pools with rocky substrates where there is plenty of aquatic vegetation and food. Loaches spawn upstream and then make their way downstream to live most of their lives.

Yoyo loaches from Pakistan are usually darker than those from India; it's not clear whether there is an environmental reason for this, or whether the loaches are actually different species.

Colors and Markings

The yoyo loach is silver with dark markings that look very much like the letters Y and O. The letters are most clear when the loach is young, giving way to a more solidly reticulated pattern as the fish matures. When engaged in mock-fights or hiding, the yoyo loach's markings can dim to gray, but they quickly return to normal. The silver color can also appear bluish in certain light.

The mouth of the yoyo loach points downward, sporting four pairs of barbels. When excited its coloration can fade out, and it is not unusual for this species to play dead, much like its cousin the clown loach. The yoyo has great character and has been known to recognize its owner. The yoyo loach also makes a clicking sound when feeding on the surface. It does so by swallowing air and forcing it through the gills.


If you keep a single yoyo loach, there's a good chance it will team up with other fish in the tank. While this may not be a problem, it's best to keep a shoal of at least three, preferably more. Do not keep them with large or aggressive tankmates. Because loaches can be very active and social, it's also best to avoid tankmates that are shy or slow-moving. Small catfish or other small peaceful fish are suitable companions for yoyos.

Yoyo Loach Habitat and Care

The yoyo loach hails from still waters in India and Pakistan; it prefers warm, soft, acidic water. Perform frequent water changes and keep the lighting subdued. It's very important that the water be very clean and well-oxygenated. Your filtering system should be very efficient, and you should plan to replace tank water on a regular basis (15 percent per week).2

When first introduced to the tank, yoyos are nervous and may hide. Be sure to provide them with ample hiding places, including spots where they can squeeze in and feel safe. Once acclimated, they will spend more time in the open. They are most active at night and enjoy burrowing into the substrate by day. If you think you are missing a loach, don't be surprised if you find it hiding under the gravel. Because yoyo loaches can and do jump when startled, it's a good idea to have a tight-fitting lid on your aquarium.

Yoyo Loach Diet and Feeding

Loaches enjoy eating meaty foods, but are omnivorous; they can eat vegetation foods when insects and other animals are scarce. Because they are versatile, yoyo loaches are easy to feed. They'll eat almost anything they are offered, from flake to frozen to freeze-dried foods. A few sinking pellets fed just before turning the lights out will quickly be devoured.

They are peculiarly fond of live foods and will gorge themselves on bloodworms and brine shrimp. They also will consume any snails they find in the tank, sucking them right out of their shells. To maintain good health, provide a variety of live foods.

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