Hillstream loach: Complete care and guide- [2020]

The Hillstream loach is a freshwater fish that looks gorgeous and doesn’t get too much attention. Fishes and many other marine animals have the capacity to survive so long as they can live in so many environmental conditions.

If you want to keep the hillstream loach fish, you can keep in your home tank. Their particular body shape and pattern really makes them stand out from the crowd. This is a good choice if you are looking for a unique criterion to add to your tank! 

But not only do they look really neat, they are easy to keep too. There are no big challenges you have to deal with when it comes to hillstream loach care, just keep the appropriate levels of water and they’re going to be good to go!

Here is an info-graphic. Have a look!


hillstream loach complete care infographics

We’ll go through everything you need to know about the reticulated Hillstream loach in this guide. Care instructions, mates at the tank, information about the size, you name it. 

Lets Dive right Inn!


The hillstream loach (scientific name: Sewellia lineolata) comes from the Cobitoidea superfamily and the Cypriniformes order. As a loach, they spend most of their time working around the bottoms of rivers and creeks in their natural habitat. 

It is a huge fan of fast-moving water and is normally found in rivers and streams across Asia that have strong currents. If you’re in China, Southeast Asia, or India, and you see some speedy water, there’s a good chance that there’s a hillside loach in there!

In their natural habitat, a hillside loach spends its time either camping on a rock or slowly working its way across the bottom looking for food.

Lifespan of Hillstream loach

The average lifespan of the Hillstream loach is between 8-10 years, With proper care. Like every fish, this range of lifespan can be affected quite a bit depending on the level of care they receive. 

Particularly with Hillstream loach, if you want them to live long and happy lives, your biggest focus should be on their water parameters.

We ‘re going to get a little further into the details in the guide, but that’s going to have the greatest impact on their lifetime.


Hillstream loach appearance
Image by Spiketooth from commons wikimedia

The hillstream loach look is amazingly unique and fun to look at. You ‘re probably going to spend quite a lot of time just looking at them! 

Sometimes their unique look can cause confusion about what exactly they are. These fish are sometimes referred to as catfish or even mini-stingray (we can assure you neither).

One could confuse the loach with cat fish at first glance. Though they share a few similarities, they are completely different. 

We think the hillstream loach is a very pretty fish. They have a very busy pattern, covering all of their bodies (including their fins). 

The tiger hillstream loach has base coloring is a light grayish / yellow and thick black stripes go all over their bodies in random directions. These stripes on the caudal and dorsal fins are generally more linear. 

The base coloring is a light grayish/yellow, and thick black stripes go throughout their body in random directions. These stripes on caudal and dorsal fins are generally more linear.

Their bodies are perfectly constructed to deal with the rapid currents. They have a nice tapered shape (such as a torpedo) which allows them to cut through and to withstand fast moving water. 

Reticulated loaches on the hillstream also have wing-like pectoral and pelvic fins, which they use to move but also to secure themselves on rocks and different surfaces.

This build makes it easy for them to resist currents while other fish are forced to use substantial amounts of energy to stay at the same place. 

Looking at this fish’s underside you will notice they have a sucker mouth and a flattened belly.

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Size of Hillstream loach

The average hillstream loach size is between 2-3 inches in length. This tiny size makes it easy for them to find little crevices to hide in and access food that other fish can’t.

This doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble seeing this fish in your tank though. They will usually be front and center attaching themselves to the side of your aquarium, or on a rock surface.


Hillstream loach care is about ensuring that the water parameters and tank conditions are correct. These fish are not fine, and they will be about the same low maintenance if you meet your basic requirements! 

When planning their tank setup, you will want to keep their natural habitat in mind. While factors such as water temperature and pH levels are comfortable for the majority of aquariums, the existing needs can depart from many of the standard freshwater fish.

Tank size

The recommended tank size is approximately 50 gallons for a Hillstream loach. 

Tank requirements

Remember that the hillstream loach fish was specifically used to move water very quickly and the body is adapted to it. Tank conditions should at least meet a certain percentage of its original home in order to make life comfortable, or at least bearable. 

The aquarists should take inconsideration that the hillstream loach fish can not survive in a normal standard tank. Therefore, the sharing of its home with other fish that need relatively calm tank conditions may not work.

External canisters designed to provide powerful filtration. Additional power-heads for the proper flow of water. This also ensures that there is a high supply of oxygen to help fish thrive 

Power filters are another necessity as they deliver the necessary tumbling action that acts like fast-speed water. For an efficient flow of water, a river-tank manifold can be adopted. The tubes must be non-perforated 

The tank must be high and long. As a matter of fact, fast-flowing water will easily push the fish at high speeds, and a small tank will disturb its movement. The tank should not be less than 3 feet.

You can add some smooth rocks too. It takes bright light to offer the best environment for algae growth. A good option are the 40 Watt tubes. If they are at least four, then the better 

Hillstream loaches are in three or four of the best in school. Placing them individually in the tank may not bode well with them, because they are a territorial lot 

Provide them with sturdy plants and driftwood to provide them with enough hiding space. Changing water per week is ideal because they love to swim in clean water.

Fun Fact

“The hungrier the fish the easier is to catch.”

Water parameters

The baseline water parameters are fairly straightforward for a reticulated hillstream loach. These fish are doing better in cooler water which is useful if you are planning to keep them with other species. 

They are reasonably hardy, which means that you have some wiggle-room, but with the following levels, it is best to keep them in water.

  • Water temperature: Between 68°F and 75°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: Medium hardness

Make sure that you conduct regular water tests with a test kit to ensure that those levels are true. The best aquarists make this a habit, because they know that catching a level shift early is far easier / safer than dealing with it later. 

You will also want to aim once a week for a water change in order to keep the quality high. Hillstream loaches are used for the clean water found in their natural habitats and may suffer in subpar water quality tanks.

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Current and water flow requirements

For those fish, adequate water flow is incredibly important if you’ve been skimming. There are a number of ways you can easily achieve this, but the best is to create an adjustable current flow using a powerhead. 

That’s also why the minimum size of a hillstream loach tank is bigger than you would expect. You can’t generate a consistent yet non-disruptive water flow in a tank which is small!

It’s not just for their preference to use a powerhead to create a current in your freshwater aquarium either. We haven’t actually mentioned the most important reason why water flow is significant. 

To thrive, Hillstream loaches require very oxygen-rich water. In some situations the complete lack of water flow may even kill them Hence, It’s necessary to provide adequate oxygen flow. 

In other words, it is simply not the right choice to keep these fish in a tank without a current.

Tank setup 

Aquarium tank

Since these fish spend so much time scouring the surfaces or objects, consider going with soft, sandy type of things. This will help to prevent them from being cut or scratched by your tank when moving around the fish tank.

Since, Hillstream loaches have very smooth bodies you should make every effort to protect them! 

We would like to add another point while setting up the tank. If possible consider adding a series of smooth rocks to their tank. These make great surfaces for them to rest on and they also tend to accumulate certain algae over time that they can snack on.

Hit up to the nearest shop! These fish will enjoy some good hiding places too. Plants such as hornwort are a great option but you can also experiment with a variety of other plants. They will not only serve as a good place to get some privacy, they will also improve the quality of the water! 

Other objects such as driftwood and various decorations can also offer the tank nice compliments. We prefer to stick with a mixture of plants and smooth rocks but do not hesitate to decorate a little! 

Hillstream loaches are very quiet fish that want to keep their own business in mind. Giving them a place to hide will help them feel comfortable and decrease their stress levels considerably.

Diet and Feeding

Maintaining a healthy Diet for your hillstream loach is very much necessary. Being an aquarist you always wish your aquatic pets live a long life Isn’t that right? If you want your hillstream loach to live as long as you can, then you need to make sure they’ve got the right diet. 

These fish are omnivores, and they spend most of their time in the wild scavenging and searching for anything suitable for nibbling.

They have a very heavy amount of algae in their natural diet, which is partly why they enjoy hanging on rock surfaces so much (they are great places to grow algae). 

A High nutritious and well-balanced diet for Hillstream Loaches should consists of 

  • Flakes
  • Pellets
  • Algae wafers
  • Frozen Blood-worms
  • Brine shrimp

As per the vegetarian Kind of food

  • Kale
  • Spinach 

There’s no guarantee that they’re going to like it, but if they do, they’ll get a solid mix of additional vitamins and nutrients which helps it to grow fast and healthy. 

Hillstream loaches will also snack on algae naturally occurring in your aquarium. You need to see this as more of a cherry on top than something reliable. You don’t want to have a lot of algae in your tank, and it’s rarely enough to keep these fish.


Hillstream loaches are a very calm, calm freshwater fish. They don’t want to start trouble with any other critters, and they prefer to spend their time scavenging for something to eat or licking on a rock surface.

However, they spend most of their time sticking to your aquarium glass. 

It might be a little funny to observe at times. It’s quite common to see all of your hillside loaches attached to the glass of your tank without any care in the world. They ‘re just trying to do their own thing! 

It is worth a note, however, that these fish may exhibit territorial behavior in certain situations. That’s why it’s usually best to keep their numbers 3-4 in a 50-gallon tank.

Try not to exceed the number of fishes. Exceeding this could lead to possible scuffles across the territory and you surely don’t want that.

Tank mates

Question mark symbol
Image from Pexels

There are a number of potential tank mates on hillstream  loach from which you can choose. The gentle nature of this fish means that they really don’t want to get in the way of others.

They ‘re too small to be a lot of nuisance, too. They are very aware of their diminutive figure, and they’re not going to push their luck with larger fish. 

They ‘re going to get along very well with reticulated hillside loaches. 

The Compatible tank mates for hillstream loach we recommend are:

In addition to aggression, the main thing you’ll want to look for in a tank mate is preference for temperature.

Hillstream loaches like water to be a little bit on the colder side so a lot of tropical freshwater fish is ruled out. In order to be safe, always compare the recommended temperature ranges first!


Breeding loaches on the hillstream is certainly possible but it is known to be quite challenging. You need to agonize over water parameters to pull it off and provide the perfect conditions for that. And it may not even happen then. 

The males will attempt to attract the females by doing some mating dancing. If he proves himself, she’ll indicate she’s interested in staying close to him, rather than going on about her business. 

The male hillstream loach will then put a nest together by digging through the substratum and sorting it. This is where she puts her eggs on the female. It takes a few weeks after fertilization for hatching to begin.

After they have hatched you won’t have to separate the parents and the newborn fish. This is the one thing that is actually fairly convenient about breeding hillstream loaches. All the rest can be a trial and error game though!



Hillstream loach care is a relatively simple process which is stress-free. These fish do not need much attention as long as you have the right conditions for their tank and their water. 

Because of its unique appearance and easy temperament we are huge fans of this fish. There is something about watching them do their addictive thing. You will find yourself watching them far more than you would have expected! 

If you have any further questions concerning Hillstream loaches we would be very interested to hear from you. 

Which is your favorite fish? Do let us know in the comment section below 🙂



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