Seeking hillstream loach requirements, tankmates, and river tank setup advice

Seisage

Fishaholic
Tank of the Month 🏆
Pet of the Month 🎖️
Joined
Dec 10, 2023
Messages
419
Reaction score
710
Location
Pacific Northwest, USA
So, I think a lot of us are enamored by hillstream loaches. When I first learned about them, my immediate instinctual thought was "I must have these creatures in my home". I initially looked through the care guide by Aquarium Co-op and was thrilled to see they could do well in a typical tropical community tank!

Well... after doing even an iota more research, I quickly learned that no, they can't really. This is actually fine by me. I've always wanted a river biotope tank anyway! It definitely won't be my first tank (working on a 20gal tropical south american tank right now), so I have plenty of time to learn and plan, and I'm very curious about how to go about it. Internet research has returned very conflicting information on minimum tank size and group size for these loaches. Some websites give a 20gal minimum, others give 40-55gal minimums. Some websites say 1-3 are fine together, others say they should be in groups of 6 or more. Is there any evidence towards either direction?

Regarding their flow requirements, I couldn't find any website that gave an actual GPH value, just that the current should be "decent" (or similar vague descriptors). Is there any particular style or strength of powerhead that would be best for them? Unfortunately, I don't think I could swing anything much larger than a 29gal at this point in my life (early career, moving around). The primary reason cited for a larger minimum tank size was the need for consistent flow. Is it possible to create that in a 20 long or a 29?

Ok, and last thing. Tankmates. I know there aren't a ton of compatible species in the hobby, given their temp and current requirements, but what are some other peaceful cool water current-tolerant fish out there? Maybe some zebra danios and/or denison barbs (edit: never mind on the barbs. Min tank size is too big... rasboras then, maybe)? Are there any rainbowfish that like cooler water? Looking forward to the day I can (hopefully) set up my dream river tank!
 
Last edited:
I cant help you with much, I posted very similar question not too long ago here - https://www.fishforums.net/threads/how-to-make-a-tank-better-for-a-hillstream-loach.490235/ and it sums up my nearly year long experience with them
My latest ( and last) attempt was adding the airstone that works during the day, feeding more algae wafers/repashy occasionally and it has been two months now and the sewellia are holding.
They are very aggressive towards each other and chasing away the panda garra from what they consider to be "their" rocks, but otherwise they just hang around, each in a different part of the tank, stuck on a glass or on a stone. They do not hide.
However I would say their agression is related to the chasing, there are no attacks, no rips, no missing fins, no injuries from the garras or to them. They like to chase and scare away but I doubt they would hurt each other. Many websites show them as ideal tankmates, I have even more than recommended (7 garras in a 150 liters) because I find them fascinating and fun and they work and are adorable and I even have them at lower temps than recommended ( most of the year 21 degrees). And given all seven of my garras are very nicely colored up, growing and only occasionally have hierarchy battles which last like 5 minutes with no injuries, I think they are doing ok. Ofcourse it has only been a year, will see in next few.

My problem with sewellia was either related to the temp/oxygen or the fertilization tablets ( proven death with other keepers when messing with fert). But the true test will come next summer I guess.

I have quite moderate flow, not a wavemaker, but a constant swirling.
 
I would love to see mine eat an added food… but mine ( I have 6 total, 3 striped, and 3 spotted, in a 55 gallon tank, with 2 tidal 75 filters, and 2 - 10” air bars for flow ) mine are not intimidated by any of the other tank residents, mostly barbs, but seem content to eat bio film, and you may need a tank big enough to provide enough bio film to sustain them???
 
Last edited:
--> meaty foods...high temps...26-29C
bug bites..worms..they'll clean up algae when there's no food around and bottom dweller fish that are smaller than them like cories don't get along
you can either get freeze dried worms and put them in a glass tube with an air pump dropping water into the tube making the worms eventually sink
or just the frozen ones...
 
Mine seem to be thriving as listed above… they like the bubble waterfalls, drift wood, and the lucky bamboo
IMG_4616.jpeg
IMG_4614.jpeg
IMG_4617.jpeg
IMG_4619.jpeg
 
Last edited:
I was most worried that the Flying Foxes would hassle them, or they would be intimidated by the much much larger Tin Foil Barbs even as tiny as the spotted ones were when they came in, but no one bothers them...
IMG_4622.jpeg
 
Last edited:
Spotted and lined on the same piece of driftwood
IMG_4623.jpeg
 
Mine seem to be thriving as listed above… they like the bubble waterfalls, drift wood, and the lucky bambooView attachment 332490View attachment 332491View attachment 332492View attachment 332496
This is all great! I appreciate all your notes and photos. Looks like maybe I'll just have to wait until I'm able to have a larger tank setup for these guys. Oh well... Someday! In the meantime, I'll continue to research high-flow river setups in the background while I work on other tank logistics :)
 
@Seisage …. I have a bit of a river set up on a 36” wide 45 gallon… I hang a Tidal 75, on a narrow side, so the water flows across the tank… I don’t have any Hillstream loaches in that tank… but think you could do the same, on a smaller scale
 
Last edited:
@Seisage …. I have a bit of a river set up on a 36” wide 45 gallon… I hang a Tidal 75, on a narrow side, so the water flows across the tank… I don’t have any Hillstream loaches in that tank… but think you could do the same, on a smaller scale
Good to know. I'll definitely have to keep this in mind. Thanks for the filter info. I definitely figured it'd have to go on the narrow side of the tank, but I couldn't find much information on how much actual power in GPH was ideal for a river setup.
Do you happen to have any experience with powerheads?
 
My South American tank has 2 Aquaclear 70’s and 2 power heads on an under gravel filter, & 2 - 10 inch air bars along the back, in the center … most of my tanks have a lot of flow... to tame the flow on that tank, everything flows from the back to the front, causing a good circulation on the ends, but allowing the center to remain calm enough for some Red Root Floaters

Edit... I took the "aluminum" off this post above, that for some reason my phone stuck in there... the under gravel is a traditional under gravel... no aluminum

Edit #2... @Seisage... the link from Seriously Fish below, lists the filter "turn over" rates suggested... so knowing the tank size you are wanting to use, you can use that, to know how much water movement your filter should be capable of...

I've really gotten to like the Seriously Fish site for educated recommendations on specific fish
 
Last edited:
BTW... @Beastije I use a balanced mix of Seachem fertilizers in most of my tanks... for both aquatic plants, & house plants growing out of my tanks... no issues with the Hillstreams... I would suspect if aquarium safe fertilizers were used, & fish died, either something was way out of balance, or it was added at too strong of concentration???
 
Last edited:
My South American tank has 2 Aquaclear 70’s and 2 power heads on an under gravel filter, & 2 - 10 inch air bars along the back, in the center … most of my tanks have a lot of flow... to tame the flow on that tank, everything flows from the back to the front, causing a good circulation on the ends, but allowing the center to remain calm enough for some Red Root Floaters

Edit... I took the "aluminum" off this post above, that for some reason my phone stuck in there... the under gravel is a traditional under gravel... no aluminum

Edit #2... @Seisage... the link from Seriously Fish below, lists the filter "turn over" rates suggested... so knowing the tank size you are wanting to use, you can use that, to know how much water movement your filter should be capable of...

I've really gotten to like the Seriously Fish site for educated recommendations on specific fish
This is all really helpful, thank you. I've dipped my toes into the SF site a bit, and they seem like a really good resource. Glad to get an endorsement of it! Not sure how I didn't find their page on hillstream loaches in my initial searching haha
 
@kiko ... not trying to be critical, but I think those temps are too high... they seem to be able to handle those temps, but I think prefer lower temps... mine are thriving at 22-23 degrees C.

I've had them for years now...never under 26c
I know some websites list them as a cold water only fish. But as mine bred in my tank I'm staying with what works, and that's what I suggest as I never had an adult die.
 

Most reactions

Back
Top