Tiger Loach (Syncrossus berdmorei): Ultimate Care Guide


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Native to fast-moving headwaters in Myanmar and Thailand, the Tiger Loach is a rare and eye-catching loach fish in the aquarium hobby. Also known as Redfin Tiger Loach, this species has bright red fins when mature. Somewhat aggressive, this fish is best in groups of six to eight or more, and is often kept in species-specific tanks. Tiger Loaches will eat small shrimp and snails, making this a great species for reducing some aquarium pests. Tank mates, if any are desired, should be chosen carefully as they can easily be a victim of energetic and aggressive Tiger Loaches.

How to Care for Tiger Loach

Tiger Loaches need excellent water quality and a varied diet of meaty foods. When their basic needs are taken care of, this can be a hardy and entertaining aquarium addition.

Are Tiger Loach easy to care for?

Tiger Loaches are a picky fish and are not suitable for beginning aquarium hobbyists. Large tank requirements and high water maintenance can make this a labor intensive fish to provide for. When deciding to take on the care of a group of Tiger Loaches, make sure you know what you’re getting into. To better help you prepare, we’ve compiled the information you’ll likely need when keeping this rare and energetic fish!

Temperature

Tiger Loach prefer water temperatures between 72 – 78 °F.

Water pH

Tiger Loach need water close to neutral, between 6.5 and 7.5 pH. Regular water changes are needed, as this species is sensitive to water quality. Keeping tank water clean will also help to maintain pH within an acceptable range.

Tiger Loach (Syncrossus berdmorei)
Tiger Loach (Syncrossus berdmorei)

Tiger Loach Size

Tiger Loach can reach a length of 10 inches in an aquarium. Keep this large mature size in mind when deciding on the right tank measurements.

Food & Diet

Tiger Loach is an omnivore and needs a varied diet of frozen, live, and vegetable foods. They should be provided a varied diet of live/frozen bloodworms, Artemia and Tubifex worms. Fruit and vegetables should be an occasional treat. Cucumber, blanched spinach and melon will be accepted, and can be an important part of a varied diet. While they are able to feed on sinking catfish pellets, this should not be their only source of nutrition. When giving this species meaty foods, don’t provide more than can be consumed in 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overfeed this species as unconsumed food may sit and spoil tank water. This species is very sensitive to water quality, so it’s important to watch their eating habits to make sure they aren’t leaving extra food sitting in their tank.

Tiger Loach Tank Size

Tiger Loach are larger fish, and do better in groups. You’ll need a least a 125 gallon tank, and possibly larger depending on group size. This species spends most of its time in lower tank levels, so the best aquarium shapes are wide and deep, but not tall. Vertical space in taller tanks will be mostly wasted on this bottom-dwelling fish. If you are planning on keeping a group of Tiger Loaches you will likely need more tank space than you expect: without enough tank space, the dominant Tiger Loach in a group may kill the rest.

Tank Setup

Tiger Loach are native to fast-moving mountain streams and their tank environments should try and duplicate these conditions. Smooth rocks, driftwood, and other hardscape features should be combined with fine sand or other soft substrate choices. This species likes digging in substrate, and wedging itself inside nooks and crannies. Protect your Tiger Loaches from injury by making sure your substrate doesn’t include rough gravel, sharp rocks or other material which may damage this fish’s barbels. Similarly, rocks and hardscape features should be smooth to allow your Tiger Loach to explore without risk of injury. Tank lids should be tight-fitting as this species is a known jumper.

Plants can be important for aesthetics, and can help remove nitrates from tank water. Tiger Loaches are known to nibble plants, so choose hardy plant species which can take a bit of punishment. Anubias and Java Fern can be a couple of good choices for your Tiger Loach aquarium.

High water quality is important to successfully keeping Tiger Loaches. Combined with their large tank size needs, this means adequate filtration will be a top concern. You’ll want a filter system which is capable of turning over, at minimum, 5 times the volume of the tank per hour. For instance, a 125 gallon aquarium will need filters with capacity of at least 600 GPH (gallons per hour). Consider using canister filters which combine high flow capacity with larger space for filter media.

Water filtration is so important for Tiger Loaches that you might want to consider a sump filter. Sump filters are common in marine aquariums, and allow you to include more filter media. When provided with their own lighting, sump filters can serve as extra space to grow plants. Plants can help remove nitrates from your tank’s water, and when combined with the greater filtration capability of a sump, may help to reduce the volume and frequency of water changes.

Lots of filtration can help provide another element that your Tiger Loaches will like: high water currents. The powerheads which drive canister and sump filters will add extra flow inside your tank. This duplicates the natural conditions this fish thrives in. Extra currents can also help keep waste and debris suspended where it can be removed by the filtration system. This fish eats lots of meaty foods and it is important to remove as much uneaten food and waste as possible. While powerheads may be able to provide enough flow to keep this species happy you can also include wavemakers. Wavemakers are essentially small electric fans which can be positioned as desired to add strong water currents to your tank environment.

Tiger Loach Breeding

Tiger Loaches have not been bred in captivity. All specimens available have been caught in the wild. Commercial breeders can sometimes force spawning with hormones but this hasn’t been accomplished yet with Tiger Loach.

How do Tiger Loach breed?

In the wild, Tiger Loach are thought to engage in seasonal, migratory spawning. As this fish has not been bred in captivity there are no reports of observed mating behavior.

Male and Female Tiger Loach

Female Tiger Loaches are stockier than the males, and may be slightly larger as well. Coloration is similar in both sexes.

Tiger Loach Disease

Tiger Loaches, like many Botiids, are susceptible to a wasting condition known as ‘skinny disease.’ This disease is common with newly imported specimens and can be treated with a couple of different medications depending on region. In the US, Fenbendazole is often recommended, while treatment with Levamisole is more common in the UK.

Aside from ‘skinny disease,’ Tiger Loaches are mostly disease resistant when excellent water quality is provided. They can still get diseases and conditions common to freshwater fishes such as Ich and Velvet. It is recommended to have a separate quarantine tank (QT) both for the application of medications and to observe newly received fish before adding to a community tank. Observing quarantine procedures for new and diseased fish is key to maintaining a healthy tank community.

Tiger Loach Tank Mates

Tiger Loach can be aggressive and finding appropriate tank mates can be a challenge. Keeping this fish in groups can also be complicated, as they can be aggressive to members of their own species. Without enough tank space, the dominant member of the group can attack and kill the others. This behavior can be especially apparent with groups that include smaller specimens. For best results, make sure all individuals are roughly the same size. They will also harass and kill smaller tank mates as well as slower fish with long fins.

Are Tiger Loach aggressive?

Tiger Loach is an aggressive species best kept in species-specific tanks. Any tank mates will need to be carefully chosen and separated if you see signs of violence.

Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates

If you want to experiment with tank mates for your Tiger Loach it is best to start with other fast and hardy species. Rasboras and Danios are worth a try as they stay in mid to upper tank regions were they are less likely to catch the attention of Tiger Loaches. If you have a larger aquarium, you can test some other Asian freshwater fishes such as Silver Sharks and Barilius. The aggressive tendencies of Tiger Loaches can make finding appropriate tank mates difficult or impossible. When testing new community tank members, keep the tank under observation and be ready to move any fish that might be the target of violence.

Where can I find Tiger Loach for sale?

Tiger Loach is a somewhat rare fish in the aquarium hobby. Your best bet will be online sources. This species is sometimes seen in local aquarium shops but is uncommon. Due to the rarity of this fish, price can be hard to estimate. Expect to pay around $25 USD per fish.

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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