hillstream loach care guide

Hillstream loach (lat. Beaufortia kweichowensis) is a small and very unusual freshwater fish. If you want to keep it in a tank you’ll have to recreate the conditions like the ones the fish used to have in the wild.

Habitat in the wild

Hillstream loach inhabits in Jiangxi river system (West river), in the South of China, main tributary of Zhu Jiang river (Pearl River). This species was described in the upper part of Guizhou province and it’s widely spread in independent region Guangxi and in Guangdong province.

The hillstream loach inhabits mainly in depthless rivers with fast flow and upstreams highly saturated with oxygen, small tributaries of rivers and streams; zones restricted with crests and sometimes with waterfalls. Bottom substrate is mainly composed of small rocks, sand, gravel and roundstones. In such places there no even streamside vegetation. The water is crystal clear there with small amount of dissolved oxygen.

Such water and sunlight are good for biofilm development which consists of different types of microorganisms and algae. The biofilm covers all stones and rocks surface like a blanket.

Scientific NameBeaufortia kweichowensis
Common NamesHillstream loach, butterfly loach, chinese butterfly loach, chinese butterfly pleco
Ease of keepingDifficult
Lifespan8 years
Tank size50 liters (11 gallons)
Tank typeCommunity of fishes
DietAlgae eater
Temperature68 to 75 °F (20 to 23.8 °C)
Size3 inches (7.5 centimeters)


Hillstream loach full size may be up to 8 cm, although in tanks the fish is usually smaller. Lifespan is about 8 years. Many aquarists think that trey are from catfish family, however this species is from loach family. Body is light brown with dark spots on it.

Difficulties in keeping

This butterfly loach can be rather enduring provided with an appropriate care. However, it’s not recommended for beginners to keep this fish in a tank, since it’s rather demanding to water purity and temperature due to the absence of scales.

It is the absence of scales that makes hillstream loach very sensitive to different illnesses and drugs.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

To keep 4-5 hillstream loaches the tank starting from 50 liters capacity will do, however due to the territory-dependent temper of the fish it’s not recommended to keep more than 4 species is such tanks not to make the fish stressed. More fishes can be kept in more spacious tanks, but still not too many – to avoid fights between them.

Water parameters

Temperature: the hillstream loach inhabits in humid, subtropical area where the air temperature is seldom lower than 15,5 °C and it can be significantly higher in summer.

The tank water temperature range 17-24 °C is considered preferable for hillstream loach care. However, the experience shows that the fish is rather good with higher temperature 68°F to 75°F (20 to 23.8 °C) (including 30 °C but not for a long term) at the condition of high water aeration.


All Beaufortia fishes are inhabitants of fast running rivers with rocky bottom. A tank should reproduce these conditions as fas as possible, since the hillstream loach is very demanding to water purity and high oxygen content in it. The fish rather badly stands organic impurity of the tank water and the presence of coarse dispersion (bottom substrate particles, for example).

In such case it’s also good to raise the intensity of water circulation. Hillstream loaches group are mountain river loaches united by common conditions of inhabitance in the wild, therefore they require strong water filtration in a tank.

Such a filtration and powerful flow imitating violent natural stream can be created by installing a filter or a pump that ideally should be able to pump more than 10 water volumes per hour. Of course, high aeration and flow are desirable in the tank, however some aquarists consider that high flow is necessary only during the adjustment cycle.

Later the fishes can do with common water flow created by the filter or they can even do without the filter provided with sufficient amount of oxygen in the water.

Tank decor

Bottom substrate can be made of gravel, sand or their mixture. Hillstream loaches needs numerous rocky covers therefore it’s obligatory to add flat rocks, pebbles and roundstones, where the fish eagerly feeds by browsing soft algae from them.

The fish isn’t a timid one but it’s better not to keep it in tanks without any decorations or covers – the hillstream loach will still look for some covers, for example, behind the internal filter or heat controller.

Plants aren’t very necessary in a tank, since the fish doesn’t have them in the wild, but couple of fast growing plants will help you to deal with nitrates and keep water high quality. The most appropriate plants for tanks are different types of Anubias. These plants don’t create any additional covers but necessary for feeding biofilm develops on their leaves.

Hillstream loach shouldn’t be kept in brand new tanks, the owner has to see if the lid is tightly closed – the fishes can climb the glass wall higher than the water level is and escape from the tank.

Though regular water renew is necessary, however it’s doesn’t have to be very often and algae should grow on all surfaces except the tank front wall.


It’s algae eater. All Beaufortia spp. in the wild feed on biofilm covering stones and rocks surface. The film consists of cyanobacterium – blue-green algae, diatomic algae and different microorganisms. When keeping the fish in a tank one has to pay attention that black beard algae won’t be eaten by the fish since they are too rubbery.

Different dry feed can be given to hillstream loach – tablets, flakes with plant additives. As for me, I use several different types of food, and change them from time to time.

Also it’s possible to feed with flakes with high concentration of plant additives (at the condition that they drown), but it’s less comfortable for the fish to eat them – due to the fish mouth pattern doesn’t allow to bolt the feed pieces or to catch it when falling on a tank bottom.

To keep butterfly loach in a good shape it’s necessary to feed it with live or frozen feed – daphnia, cyclops, brine shrimp, small blood worm etc. In a tank it’s also rather desirable to provide fish with right amount of necessary algae and microorganisms that have to grow on stones and other solid surfaces.

Tank mates

Are butterfly loaches aggressive? Definitely, no.

Butterfly loach shows rather peaceful attitude to its tank mates – it can be kept together with any kind of peaceful fishes (like betta, dwarf gourami or platy fish) of any size including small ones and even juveniles shrimps (cherry shrimp) .

Don’t keep the fish with large raptorial feeders (Jack Dempsey fish, flowerhorn, oscar fish) and goldfish (pearlscale, shubunkin, oranda, veiltail they are more coldwater).

Although hillstream loach is a fast swimmer and it almost can’t be caught by the other fish, but it can become an easy prey since in the wild fish doesn’t develop a habit of running away or hiding in the wild and in the tank it won’t tend to do so.

When being very scared the hillstream loach changes its coloring into very light one with barely seen spots and the angry fish during the fight also becomes lighter in color, but also a very dark line appears along its back and the fins edges become darker.

Raised dorsal and “divaricate” tail mean warning or trowing a scare – when the fish is calm both a fin and a tail are furled. From several fishes kept in a tank, as a rule, there will be a dominating one – the fish larger and stronger than others, capable to find the feed faster and to scare the others off the feed.

Alpha hillstream loach will own the larger territory and will chaise all other trespassing fishes, which will have to divide the space that is left in a tank between them.

Hillstream loach aggression shows only in chasing each other around the tank, but not for a long time. They can’t physically harm each other, but take into account that when there are a lot of fishes, the weaker ones will be always stressed and possibly hungry which can influence their health negatively.

Gender differences: male vs female

Hillstream loach males have so called “shoulders” – since its pectoral fins are almost normal to the body. The female’s head edges smoothly turn into pectoral fins edge. From top view it can be seen that the female has more bulky body the the male.


Although there is some data about hillstream loach breeding in a tank still there’s not enough of information yet. Even the species on sale were caught in the wild.