Sumo Loach (Schistura balteata): Care, Size & Tank Mates

Common Name(s)Sumo Loach, Tri Band Sumo Loach
Scientific NameSchistura Baltea
Temperature72-79°F (22-26°C)
Size3.5-4 inches
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
FoodOmnivorous diet
Lifespan3-5 years
Water pH6.5-7.5
Tank MatesPotential tank mates include tetras, barbs, danios, and rasboras.
BreedingEgg-laying communal breeder
DiseaseIt may be susceptible to ich.
Sumo Loach
Sumo Loach (Schistura balteata)

Sumo Loach Facts

  • They are extremely difficult to breed in captivity, and most Sumo Loaches are taken from the wild.
  • Their fry becomes free swimming after just 24 hours.
  • They are extremely territorial and difficult to keep for this reason.
  • They inhabit the bottom of the stream, and therefore, they can be housed with other fish that inhabit a different level, as long as the fish does not have long fins or is significantly smaller than the Sumo Loach. Short-finned Betta Fish is a good example of this.

Sumo Loach Care

Sumo Loach is a type of loach that can be identified by its long thin body and its interesting markings. Sumo Loaches come from fast-moving, low streams, and their coloration will vary depending on the location they are caught, but most Sumo Loaches display a tan to yellowish-green body color with orange to black colored vertical stripes on the middle of their bodies. Their fins are transparent, except for their dorsal fin. The Sumo Loach’s dorsal fin has black spots. They also have barbels under their mouths. These barbels help the Sumo Loach detect food.

It can be rather difficult to distinguish the males from the females. However, it does get a little easier to tell the difference once they have reached maturity. The males’ heads will appear larger and puffier. The females’ bodies will be more rounded due to carrying eggs.

Tank Setup

Sumo Loaches require a minimum of a 20-gallon tank. In the wild, Sumo Loaches inhabit fast-moving, shallow streams. Like other fish that inhabit fast-moving streams, they are accustomed to clean water. In an aquarium, they will require good water quality as well. For most aquarium setups, this will equate to weekly water changes of 30 to 50 percent in order to keep the water as pollutant free as possible.

Sumo loaches remain in the bottom of the tank most of the time. This is due to its feeding preferences. Sumo Loaches are opportunistic feeders that will eat everything from insects to algae. Since they stay on the bottom of the tank, they would do best in a wider and more shallow tank than a tall tank.

Sumo Loaches require a powerful aquarium filter with a water flow of 4 to 5 times the tank’s volume. This will mimic the fast-moving streams they are used to in the wild. A tank designed to resemble a fast-moving stream is ideal.

When choosing a substrate, coarse sand, rough gravel, and larger rocks can hide behind. The Sumo Loach’s natural environment is sparsely planted, and they do not require a tank with many plants. They should be kept at a temperature of 72F to 79F and a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. They do not require an aquarium heater unless they are kept in a room less than 75F. You will want to monitor the temperature of their aquarium, as they can be sensitive to even slight water changes.

Food & Diet

Sumo Loaches are omnivorous. This means that they will readily eat proteins and plant matter. In the wild, they are opportunistic feeders and spend their time foraging for food among the rocks and substrate. They will eat aquatic insects, spiders, crustaceans, and zooplankton.

In captivity, they will accept a variety of dried and flake foods, but they should not be fed these foods exclusively. It is important to also feed them a daily meal of either live or frozen foods such as Daphnia or Bloodworms. Giving them the best diet will result in happier, healthier fish with more vibrant coloration. If their food is dropped into their flowing water setup, you will see them jump up from the bottom and quickly catch the food as it streams past.

Sumo Loach Size & Lifespan

Sumo Loaches can grow up to 4 inches at full maturity and have an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years when cared for properly.

Tri-banded Sumo Loach, Schistura cf balteata -Species Spotlight

Sumo Loach Tank Mates

When choosing tankmates for your Sumo Loach, it is a good idea to start by choosing other fish with the same water parameter needs. Sumo Loaches will not do well with fish with long fins that are not very active or smaller than the Sumo Loach. Good tank mates would be some Danios, smaller Barbs, and Garras. These fish will help to keep the peace and act as dither fish. Dither fish are a group of fish that shoal together and help reduce the timidity and aggression of the other fish in the aquarium. They help bring out the natural behaviors of the other fish in the tank. This can be important for the comfort of your Sumo Loaches just as much as setting up the proper habitat. It is best to avoid larger, more aggressive species or other types of loaches.

Sumo Loach and Betta

Sumo Loaches should not be housed with Betta Fish with long flowy fins, as they will nip at and be aggressive toward them. Otherwise, keeping a Betta with your Sumo Loaches may not be an issue as they inhabit a different part of the aquarium. In a properly set up, the Betta may not even notice that Sumo Loach is there at all.

Sumo Loach and Shrimp

Due to the Sumo Loaches’ aggression, placing shrimp in the same aquarium is not ideal. Sumo Loaches most likely won’t eat the shrimp but would more likely harass them until they die from stress.

Do Sumo Loaches Need to Be in Groups?

Sumo Loaches do best when kept as the only Sumo Loach in the aquarium. More Sumo Loaches could be kept together, but their tank would need to be divided up by their rocky decorations enough that they could not visually see the other ones in the tank. They will become aggressive in their territory, and it could become deadly for the Sumo Loaches if they are not kept in the appropriate setup. A known breeding pair could be kept together, or they could be kept in a more dense grouping of more than 10.

How Many Sumo Loaches Should I Get?

Sumo Loaches are a good fish to keep alone. If you are planning on placing them in a community tank, there are other species of fish that would be a better choice than putting in an additional Sumo Loach. If you have a known breeding pair, it is more likely that the 2 will tolerate each other.

Are Sumo Loaches Aggressive?

Sumo Loaches are highly territorial fish. They must be kept in an aquarium that is set up specifically with its rocky decor to block their view from other parts of the tank. If Sumo Loaches are kept with fish that have long fins or are slow-moving, your Sumo Loaches will nip fins and be aggressive to the other fish.

 It is important to monitor your fish when introducing species together. The main idea for keeping Sumo Loaches with other fish in an aquarium is to ensure that the tank is set up properly and that there are many rocks and caves made for them that block off their view to other parts of the tank. This cuts down on the Sumo Loaches’ visible territory and decreases the likelihood that they will go after other fish in the tank.

Do Sumo Loaches Eat Snails?

Sumo Loaches have not been known to go after snails specifically, but given their aggressive and territorial nature, it is a possibility that they will bother the snails until they die from stress. Snails don’t spend all their time at the bottom of the aquarium, so they would be able to occupy a space that the Sumo Loaches couldn’t see. This is where a properly set up aquarium will be helpful.

Sumo Loach Breeding

As with most Loaches, Sumo Loaches are extremely difficult to try to breed in captivity, and most Sumo Loaches are taken from the wild. Keeping more Sumo Loaches together will encourage them to spawn, as they are communal breeders. This means that several breeding pairs will spawn at once, and a pair ready to spawn may trigger others to spawn too.

Female Sumo Loaches will lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. After roughly 24 hours, the fry will become free swimming, and they will be able to swim away to search for their own food. Usually, the fry will eat soft plants or small invertebrates for their first meal.

If you want to breed Sumo Loaches, you will want to set up a dedicated breeding tank. Sumo Loaches are opportunistic feeders, and even though they won’t actively hunt other fish, they will eat smaller fish if they are given an opportunity. This means that they may go after and eat their own fry.

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