Skunk Loach (Yasuhikotakia morleti): Ultimate Care Guide


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Skunk Loach is a type of loach fish that are native to both still and fast-moving waters in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and northern parts of India. They have pinkish body coloration with a black stripe that starts at their head and runs along the back to the tail. A shoaling fish, Skunk Loaches like the company of other members of their own species. They are happiest in groups of 6, but ideally 10 or more. Smaller groups or individuals can become stressed and display aggression against tank mates. In fact, this fish can be aggressive at times and some hobbyists keep them in species specific tanks for this reason.

While not nocturnal, they are more active at night than during the day. Once they get used to a new aquarium they can become somewhat active during the day. Many hobbyists like this species because of its interesting shoaling behaviors, and constant exploration. Skunk Loaches will dart around their tanks, wedging their bodies in cracks, crevasses and under cover. They may decide to rest in some of these places during the day, even if it places them at odd angles. When sleeping, this fish can adopt unusual positions: it isn’t unheard of for a Skunk Loach to rest by lying sideways on the substrate!

Skunk Loach Care

Skunk Loach are hardy fish but have unique nutritional and environmental needs. Smooth rocks and hiding spaces are critical and live food is recommended. This fish needs more care than some other common aquarium species. It is robust enough to tolerate average care but needs a more experienced hobbyist to thrive. If you are planning on adding this species to your tank there are some facts you’ll need to know first. Let’s see what’s involved in taking care of the feisty fish!

Temperature

Skunk Loach like warmer water temperatures than many tropical fish. Ideal temperatures are between 79° – 86° F.

Water pH

Skunk Loach prefer mostly neutral water within the range of 6.0 and 8.0 pH.

Skunk Loach (Yasuhikotakia morleti)
Skunk Loach (Yasuhikotakia morleti). Edited. I, Lerdsuwa, CC BY-SA 3.0

Skunk Loach Size

Skunk Loach can reach a maximum size of 4 inches. In an aquarium, expect mature sizes of around 3 inches.

Food & Diet

Skunk Loach are mainly carnivorous and like a range of live and prepared meaty foods. They will eat snails but these should not be their only source of nutrition. It is best to feed this species a varied diet of mainly live foods if possible. Live bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia are the best choices. Frozen meaty foods are also accepted. While not nocturnal, Skunk Loaches are most active at night. Food should be provided in the evening before the lights go out to ensure these fish get a chance to eat.

Skunk Loach Lifespan

Skunk Loaches can live 5 to 8 years with excellent care.

Skunk Loach Tank Size

Skunk Loach should have a tank size of at least 30 gallons. While this is a smaller fish, they do best when kept in groups of 6 or more. Skunk Loaches spend much of their time in the lower sections of their tanks. This means tank shape selection should maximize width and depth but not height. A tall, narrow aquarium will go mostly unused by this species.

Tank Setup

In the wild, Skunk Loach spend most of their time wedged between rocks, in cracks and under sunken objects. The best tank setup will incorporate many types of hiding spaces, and areas to explore and may include plants. Substrate choice should be sand or small, smooth pebbles. Because this species tends to wedge themselves into cracks and other small openings, care need to be taken to avoid including anything with sharp edges. All rocks and caves should be smooth to prevent injury. Skunk Loaches are also known to burrow under rocks and other hardscape features. Make sure rocks and heavy hardscape elements are placed in the tank before the addition of substrate. Doing otherwise can result in unstable hardscape which can dislodge and crush burrowing Skunk Loaches. Any small or sharp edges in tank décor or hardscape should be filled with aquarium silicone sealant. Additionally, you should seal any holes or cavities that might trap this fish. Tank covers should be present and tight-fitting as this species is known to jump.

Skunk Loaches are safe for planted tanks as they won’t harm most plant species. A well planted tank can give this fish lots of areas to hide and explore. Another benefit to adding plants is they can lower nitrate concentrations, and may help to decrease the frequency and volume of water changes.

When choosing filtration, select a system that can turn over 4 to 5 times the volume of your tank per hour. So, a 30 gallon tank should have a filter than runs at 120 to 150 GPH (gallons per hour). Even the best filtration isn’t a substitute for regular water changes. Because this species is mostly active at night, it can be hard to decide on the correct amount to feed. Food may sit for longer periods and may partially spoil and pollute tank water. This is mainly an issue with prepared, frozen foods. What this means is tank water will need more attention to keep quality high, and this will include large and frequent water changes. Plan on performing 30% to 50% water changes weekly. Feeding live food can reduce some of these problems and your Skunk Loaches will have better nutrition.

Skunk Loach Breeding

Skunk Loaches are not commonly bred by hobbyists. Commercial producers use hormones to induce breeding. In the wild, this species probably spawns seasonally during migration. Because of this, information is lacking about how Skunk Loaches reproduce in nature. Commercial fish breeders likely use a mix of hormones such as hCG and Ovaprim™ to artificially induce this fish to spawn.

Male and Female Skunk Loach

Skunk Loaches are difficult to sex correctly. Mature females will often be wider, and slightly larger than the males.

Skunk Loach Disease

Skunk Loaches, like many other Botiids, are susceptible to what is called ‘skinny disease.’ This is a serious but treatable disease. It mainly afflicts wild caught Botiids and may be caused by multiple factors. If your fish are eating normally, then stop, and begin loosing weight this disease may be the culprit. The best treatments are Levamisole or Fenbendazole, followed up by a broad spectrum antibiotic if necessary.

Skunk Loaches can also contract common freshwater fish diseases such as Ich. Ich is an infection that appears as white dots along body, gills, fins and tail. Like ‘skinny disease’ this is a serious but treatable condition. As Skunk Loaches can tolerate higher heat you may be able to treat Ich using only heat. This can be done by raising water temperature to 86° F for at least 2 weeks.

Medicines and heat should only be applied to infected fish and not the entire aquarium. It is best to maintain a quarantine tank (QT) to isolate fish from a community tank during these treatments. A QT can also be used to watch newly acquired fish for 6 to 8 weeks to look for signs of disease before adding to a community tank.

Skunk Loach Tank Mates

Skunk Loach can be aggressive fish when they don’t have enough company. The best tank mates for this species are members of the same species; at least 6, but ideally 10 or more. They can get along with tank mates that stay in other regions of the water column such as Rasbora, Danio and Tetras. Peaceful, bottom-dwellers like Corydoras are bad choices and will likely be harassed by Skunk Loaches.

Skunk Loach and Betta

Skunk Loach and Betta might be good tank mates as long as the Loaches are in a group of at least 6. Skunk Loaches are known fin nippers, but keep to the lower portions of their tanks. This combination should be watched for possible problems.

Skunk Loach and Shrimp

Skunk Loach and Shrimp are a bad combination. Shrimp will be eaten by most Loaches including Skunk Loaches.

Skunk Loach and Goldfish

Skunk Loach and Goldfish are bad tank mates due to needing different water temperatures. Goldfish are considered cold water fish and Skunk Loaches want warmer water than many other tropical fish. There is no single water temperature that will keep both of these species happy.

Skunk Loach and Red Tail Shark

Skunk Loach and Red Tail Shark can be good tank mates as long as there are plenty of hiding spaces and cover. This combination needs to be watched for signs of aggression and should be attempted with caution.

Where can I find Skunk Loach for sale?

Skunk Loaches are common aquarium fish and should be easily available in fish stores or online. Expect to pay $5 USD or less for each fish. Remember this species wants company, so plan to buy at least 6.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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