Please welcome Craig Beauchamp to That Fish Blog. Craig’s another of our fish room experts. He’s been involved with the retail fish trade since 1996, and served as Director of Freshwater Fish at top stores in Atlanta and San Diego. His interests and expertise lie in both Old World and New World Cichlids, tropical planted tanks, and marine reef aquaria. He’s been an aquatics supervisor at TFP since 2007.
With the rise in popularity of tropical planted aquariums, people are also beginning to look for new solutions to aid in snail prevention and eradication. Since many of the snail killing products on the market today contain copper, they are not a wise choice to use in planted aquariums because of the sensitivity of those plants to copper. That leaves aquarists with two choices : mechanical or biological snail control. Mechanical control consists of trapping the snails with a jar that contains a leaf of lettuce. The jar is placed in the tank at night and removed in the morning. Another mechanical solution is physically removing the individual snails by hand. One can see that neither of these methods offer complete control. Biological control involves using snail eating fish to remove the snails from your tank. This is often the best and most efficient way to remove snails in any tank.
While many people look to the clown loach ( Chromobotia macracanthus) to help rid their tanks of pesky snail populations, there are several small species of Botia that are perhaps a better, smarter solution for tanks under 150 gallons. Botia striata is one of these species. While the clown loach reaches a size of nearly 40 cm (16 in.) the modest zebra loach only attains a size of around 10cm (4in.) A curious and attractive addition to your tank, the zebra loach has the typical torpedo – shaped body of most botia. They are yellow in color with diagonal black striations. The zebra loach hails from clear mountain streams in India, where it lives in shoals of several individuals and feeds on crustaceans, insect larvae, worms, and soft plant material. Botia striata are relatively undemanding fish to keep in a home aquarium. Although they prefer softer water, they tolerate a wide range of pH vaues (6.5 to 8.0) and can also tolerate temperatures from 75 F to 82 F, so long as the temperature is stable. Like most botia, the zebra loach does benefit from higher oxygen levels in the water. Performing small weekly water changes of 10% to 20% and placing an airstone in the aquarium will provide plenty of oxygen. Weekly water changes will also keep your dissolved organic levels down to a minimum. This will be appreciated greatly by all residents of the aquarium, especially any botia or loach.
Zebra loaches, since they live in shoals in their natural habitats, love the company of their own kind. A small group of 3 or more is recommended, although a male and a female will live together in relative bliss. Females tend to be more robust and heavier of body than their slimmer, more streamlined male counterparts. A pair or small group of these fish will work diligently to remove any unwanted snail from your aquarium. Supplemental feedings with algae wafers, sinking pelleted foods, and frozen shrimp will round out their diet nicely.
The size and peaceful nature of Botia striata make them an ideal choice for any community aquarium. It is their small size, combined with the gregarious and calm nature of the fish, that makes it an obvious choice for anyone wanting to rid their tank of snails. With proper care and feeding, Botia striata will live for up to 15 years and provide you with a wonderful and hardy addition to your community aquarium.
Thanks for the article Craig,
Until Next Time,