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
DiseaseMay be susceptible to ich.
Sumo Loach
Sumo Loach (Schistura balteata)

Sumo Loach Facts:

  • Sumo Loaches are extremely difficult to breed in captivity, and most Sumo Loaches are taken from the wild.
  • Sumo Loach fry become free swimming after just 24 hours.
  • Sumo Loaches are extremely territorial, and they are difficult to keep for this reason.
  • Sumo Loaches 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 is. Short finned Betta Fish are a good example of this.

Sumo Loach Care

Sumo Loach is a type of loach that can be identified by their long thin body, and their 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 tanish 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’ head will appear larger and more puffy. The females’ body 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 tank that is wider and more shallow opposed to a tank that is tall.

Sumo Loaches require a powerful aquarium filter that has a water flow of 4 to 5 times the volume of the tank. 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 substrate, coarse sand, rough gravel, and larger rocks that they can hide behind. The natural environment of the Sumo Loach is very sparsely planted, and they do not require a tank that has a lot of 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 being kept in a room that is 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 will 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 set up, 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 they 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 that share the same water parameter needs. Sumo Loaches will not do well with fish that have long fins, fish that are not very active, or fish that are 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 that have long flowy fins, as they will nip at and be aggressive towards 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 proper 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, it is not ideal to place shrimp in the same aquarium. 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 Sumo Loaches in the tank. They will become aggressive of 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 make sure that the tank is set up properly and 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

Sumo Loaches as with most 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 are wanting 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.