The Chinese hillstream loach (Beaufortia kweichowensis) is appreciated for its beautiful markings and unique body shape. These fish originate in China's native rivers, and are also commonly referred to as the butterfly hillstream loach, Chinese sucker, or Hong Kong pleco. The Beaufortia kweichowensis is the type of hillstram loach most often found available, though there are other related species.
In their natural range, the Chinese Hillstream loach inhabits fast-flowing highland streams over boulders. For this reason, they thrive in highly oxygenated habitats.
A tank of at least 20 gallons is ideal. The hillstream loach typically will grow to about 2.5” in length, sometimes a little longer. Stable water parameters and clean water are necessary in their enclosure. A larger water volume is easier to maintain consistent and clean parameters, so the larger, the better. Rocky hiding places should be provided to reduce stress and provide grazing surfaces. They typically stay on the aquarium walls and decorations.
They won't bother plants in the aquarium. Anubias species are very hardy plants that will aid in the accumulation of biofilm on which the hillstream loach will be able to feed. (To read more about anubias, read our 10 easy aquarium plants blog here). Plants are not necessary, but can help maintain good water quality. Anubias and Java fern can be tied to driftwood or rocks for easy placement.
Temp: As this is a subtropical species, they feel most comfortable in the 68-75F temperature range.
KH 2-15 dKH
Hillstream loaches are communal and should be kept with other hillstream loaches, especially as adults. Three or more are recommended. Because of their peaceful disposition, they will do well with other docile fish that have similar water requirements.
Possible tankmates include white cloud mountain minnows, small freshwater gobies, shrimp, snails, fancy goldfish, and weather loaches. Small shiners, tetras, danios, and rasboras can also generally be housed with these loaches.
The hillstream loach eats by scavenging and grazing, consuming plenty of algae and biofilm in their natural environment. A higher intensity light will help promote algae growth if there isn't enough in the tank. Although algae and biofilm are essential to their diet, they aren't able to survive on algae solely.
Other foods can be offered to your hillstream loaches, such as sinking pellets, algae wafers, blanched spinach or kale, gel foods such as Repahsy, and thawed frozen mysis shrimp or bloodworms. Be careful not to overfeed meaty foods, as too much protein can cause internal health problems and even be lethal to some species.
You'll want to be sure the loach isn't outcompeted for food if the tankmates are feisty eaters.
Females typically have a wider head and more plump body than males. While the hillstream loach isn't commercially bred on a wide scale, some aquarists have had success breeding the hillstream loach in the home aquarium. If you wish to attempt breeding this species, it is recommended to start with at least a few of them in a well-established aquarium. The aquarium should contain plenty of infusoria, algae, and places to hide. Piles of rocks or similar decorations can be helpful for fry to have a quick place where they can retreat. If you cover your filter intake with a prefilter sponge, it will prevent the fry from being sucked up in the filter.
Hillstream loach fry can be fed infusoria, baby brine shrimp, microworms, vinegar eels, and crushed finely powdered fry food, such as First Bites.
Because the hillstream loach can climb and scale up aquarium walls, it is advised to keep a secure lid on your tank. Sometimes, they will also cimb into a filter, so that is a good place to check if one goes missing.
The Hillstream loach has an appearance unlike other fish. When kept properly, they can be fascinating to observe, as well as aid in removing algae. This is a great fish for many aquarium setups.