Zebra Loach [Care Guide] – Size, Tank Mates, Diet & More

The Zebra Loach is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that makes an excellent addition to any aquarium. Our care guide will have you up to speed on how to care for these wonderful fish in no time.

Zebra Loach – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Zebra Loach below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameBotia striata
Common NamesZebra loach, yin yang loach, loach, black and white loach, clown loach
AppearanceThe Zebra loach has a yellow/green colored body with many thick vertical stripes. These white stripes make this variety of loach look like a zebra!
DifficultyThe Zebra Loach is an easy fish to care for, making it a great choice for aquarists of all skill and experience levels.
DistributionZebra loaches are found in southern India and in several areas within the Krishna drainage.
LifespanThe zebra loach has a lifespan of up to 10 years.
TemperamentZebra loaches are peaceful and prefer to live in small shoals that typically cruise the tank together.
Keep in Groups of5
Tank MatesTinfoil barbs, yoyo loach, cherry barb, neon tetras, sparkling gourami, celestial pearl danio, ember tetra, cory catfish
DietThe diet of a zebra loach should include regular offerings of live/frozen meaty foods of invertebrate origin, as well as high-quality dry foods.
LengthAround 9cm 
Sexual DimorphismMales have more prominent nasal tubercules and a more slender build
Breeding DifficultyBreeding zebra loach is difficult.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water Temperature72° – 82.4° F (22° – 28° C)
Water pHThe ideal water pH for zebra loach is 6.5-7.5.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for zebra loach is 5 to 12 dGH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for zebra loach is 30 gallons.


The Zebra Loach is a beautiful freshwater fish that has been extremely popular in the aquarium community for quite some time. With their stunning looks and ease of care, it’s no wonder so many aquarists have them in their tanks!

This tutorial will reveal all the details there is to know about this species. By the time you finish reading it, you’ll be ready to get some for yourself!

About Zebra Loach

The Zebra Loach is a beautiful freshwater fish known for its distinctive markings and patterns. While they are popular all over the world, this species gets special attention in areas where their beauty can truly shine!

The name “Loach” actually refers to a large group of similar-looking freshwater fish that come from all over the globe. The Zebra Loach is just one member of this family, with another notable example being the Kuhli loach.

These fish have been around since at least 1920 when they were first classified by Narayan Rao. They are native to southern India and belong to the Krishna drainage area.

They prefer slow-moving rivers and streams but will also live in shallow lakes or ponds.


The Zebra Loach has a yellow-green body with nine vertical, thick bands. These are striped with white lines, which makes them look like zebra! The stripes angle slightly forward in front of the eyes and then switch to a backward angle on the rest of its body.

Their Length

The length of a Zebra Loach is around 9 cm. Due to the requirement of keeping then in groups, we recommend keeping them in a relatively large tank.

This means you’ll need a fairly sizable tank to keep them if you want them to stay small.

This is why we recommend them to aquarists who have room for a 30-gallon tank.


The average zebra loach lifespan is between 5 and 10 years. However, the life expectancy of this fish species can exceed the upper end of that range if they are well-cared for.

There’s no guarantee with any freshwater fish, but there are ways you can maximize your zebra loach’s chance at a long life. A large aspect of that is to provide them proper care in terms of water parameters and tank setup.

NOTE: Providing them with the proper diet and keeping them in compatible tank conditions are just as important.

Sexual Dimorphism

Telling the two sexes apart is a breeze. Males have more prominent nasal tubercules and a more slender build


Zebra loaches do best in environments similar to their natural habitats. They are found throughout the upper and lower Krishna River drainage, as well as the Godavari River basin.

These rivers have soft bottoms that consist of fine sand, silt, and pebbles. There’s also a significant amount of driftwood and rocks present to help these fish get used to hiding places if they feel threatened or scared.

The water is warm with a neutral pH balance.

Caring for Zebra Loach

The best way to care for Zebra Loaches is to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible. These fish thrive in warm waters with a neutral pH.

In order to keep these loaches healthy, you’ll need to perform frequent tank maintenance. A weekly debris clean-out will help prevent ammonia levels from increasing, which can cause stress and illness within the fish’s system.


Zebra loaches are omnivores that will eat pretty much anything they can get their mouths on. In the wild, they feed on plant detritus in addition to protein-rich insect larvae and fish eggs.

In your aquarium, you should provide a balanced diet of dried and live foods when possible. Zebra loaches enjoy microscope plankton, brine shrimp, bloodworms, Daphnia water fleas, tubifex worms, and more.

Since these are bottom-feeders, you’ll see them eating off the bottom of the tank!

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

It’s recommended to feed the Zebra Loach several small meals per day.

Ensure your fish, finish their food within a few minutes, otherwise you might be feeding them too much!

Possible Diseases

Zebra loaches are not immune to common freshwater diseases. They have been known to suffer from ich and parasitic infections more often than other species.

Ich is a contagious disease that affects fish of all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, there are plenty of products available now that effectively treat this problem without harming your other aquarium inhabitants.

Tank Setup

The best way to ensure that your zebra loach is happy and healthy is to mimic its natural habitat. You should create an environment that closely resembles lowland rivers in Southern India! The bottom substrate should be soft sand or fine gravel so the fish can easily bury themselves when they feel threatened by predators above them.

A few pieces of driftwood are good for breaking up the monotony of the pebble bottom as well as providing shelter from above.

Aquarium Size

The minimum tank size for zebra loaches is 30 gallons. These fish are small but active and will not do well in a cramped environment.

A significantly bigger tank is best to keep these colorful freshwater fish happy, healthy, and stress-free.

NOTE: If you want to keep a large group of these fish together, then it’s recommended that you increase the tank size by at least 10 gallons for each additional Zebra Loach.

Water Conditions

The Zebra loach is a hardy fish that can adapt well to the usual water parameters of tropical tanks.

Keep the levels as consistent as possible to ensure your new pet has everything they need to thrive.


The ideal water pH for zebra loach is 6.5-7.5.

The key element to remember when it comes to maintaining the correct water parameters and conditions is consistency! To maintain your fish’s health, you will need to monitor these levels consistently as well (every few days).

However, if you maintain the water quality and conditions, these fish are hardy enough to survive.


The ideal water temperature for zebra loaches is 72° – 82.4° F (22° – 28° C).

NOTE: The of the interesting things about zebra loaches is their ability to tolerate temperature shifts. This means you can shift your tank a few degrees in either direction without causing any issues.


The ideal water hardness for zebra loach is 5 to 12 dGH. You need to be wary of high levels of dissolved minerals in the water, as this can cause health complications and stress on your fish.

You should also perform regular water tests with a test kit to know about any fluctuations or changes in parameters that could harm your fish.


You’ll need to make sure the filtration system you choose is able to keep nitrate and ammonia levels low. Zebra loaches do best in well-maintained water.

A hang-on-back filter or internal box filter will usually suffice for smaller tanks (up to 30 gallons). However, if you want your zebra loach to live comfortably with other fish species, we recommend choosing something bigger.

Aquarium Plants

Zebra loaches do not like to eat live plants, so you can pretty much stick with any species of plant or vegetation that grows well in freshwater.

Plants help the overall health of your fish and improve water quality.

Behavior and Compatibility

Zebra loaches are bottom-dwellers by nature and prefer to live in the lower half of your tank.

However, don’t be surprised if you see them swimming in the middle or upper level as well (not uncommon for this species). These fish have an affinity for hiding out among driftwood and plants. Driftwood is especially important because zebra loaches love to hide under it when they feel threatened. Hiding spots like these also help keep these fish safe from larger community fish that may try to bother them!

These are schooling fish which means they prefer to stay with other Zebra Loach so that they can swim around together and explore everything there is in your tank together.

How Many to Keep Together

The minimum number of zebra loaches you should keep together is five. However, you can have more in a group if you like.

Too few fish in a tank make them feel nervous and stressed out. Keeping this species with too many other fish will cause overcrowding, which makes it difficult for your Zebra Loach to find space.


Zebra loaches are peaceful and, like most other species in the Cobitidae family, tend to stay towards the bottom of their habitat. They have no problem coexisting with others as long as they’re not competing for food.

This means you can pair them up with a wide variety of fish species. If there is sufficient room inside your tank so everyone has their own territory and quiet time, there won’t be any problems with behavior.

As a rule, zebra loaches are nocturnal and will spend the day resting. Once the sun goes down, though, they become very active! These fish enjoy spending their time swimming together in shoals for exercise and playtime before settling down to sleep.

Tank Mates

When looking for tank mates, consider any other nonaggressive fish that are the same size. Zebra loaches can be kept with many of the common species in freshwater aquariums.

Some good tank mates include:

  • Cherry barb
  • Celestial pearl danio (or regular danios)
  • Ember tetra
  • Tinfoil barbs
  • yoyo loach
  • neon tetras
  • sparkling gourami
  • cory catfish

Larger cichlids or aggressive breeds should be avoided if you want to keep your zebra loach happy.


Breeding zebra loaches in captivity is very difficult and it’s unlikely to happen naturally.

The Zebra Loach fish you buy in aquariums have been bred at specialist breeding farms with access to equipment that is needed to breed this fish, which is not available to your home fish breeder.

For this reason, we recommend not attempting to breed this fish at home.

Are Zebra Loach Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

Zebra loaches are a great choice if you’re looking for a striking, eye-catching species that isn’t as high-maintenance as others on the market. These freshwater fish have beautiful colors and unique stripes that make them stand out in any aquarium setup!

Zebra loach care is pretty straightforward if you stick to recommended water parameters and tank conditions. This makes them easy to manage without having an extensive background in aquariums. Plus, their peaceful nature means they won’t disrupt other creatures sharing their habitat with them.

We’ve been huge fans of these fish for a long time, and we highly recommend giving them a shot. We think you’ll be quite impressed!


  • The Zebra Loach is a great fish for beginner aquarists. They are easy to care for and do well in community tanks.
  • Despite being bottom dwellers, they don’t spend all their time hiding in the substrate. This makes them a highly visible part of your underwater ecosystem that you can enjoy watching!
  • Zebra loaches are also hardy enough for many conditions (within reason). Thanks to this adaptability, these freshwater fish are a great choice for many tank owners.


The main issue with Zebra Loach is that they’re almost impossible to breed at home.


Zebra loaches are a great freshwater fish choice for just about anyone. With their hardy nature, ease of care requirements, and beautiful appearance, it’s no wonder why these fish are so popular!

As long as you maintain the recommended water parameters and keep them in a large enough tank where they have room to swim around with other compatible species, your Zebra Loach should live a long, happy life.

If you know of any good hints or ideas for this fish, we would love to hear from you. We want to ensure our care guides are as helpful and accurate as possible!

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