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The Underneath--Or How I Learned to Love the Sewer

Posted By: Al <aru@inetworld.net>
Date: Tuesday, 27 April 1999, at 5:08 a.m.

[I'm sorry for the length of this message. I'm trying to explain a couple of concerns/behaviors as clearly as possible--and get some suggestions. I'm new at both, posting and keeping loaches, so please bear with me--and don't spam me if I broke any rule or posting ettiquete.:-) I would really appreciate your comments.

I have a tank with only (semi-agressive) loaches in it: a few Red-tail Botias (Botia Modesta), a couple of Yellow-tail Botias (Botia Lecontei) and about six botias of what I assume are different 'strains' of Skunk Loaches (Botia Morleti). The tank is set up without plants. Just driftwood and rocks providing plenty of hiding spaces for all the residents. I have both, an undergravel filter and an external mechanical filter--running together. There are occasional territorial squabbles: 'clicking', a short chase around the tank, and a rare stand-off; but for the most part, the loaches are all healthy and thriving: They've grown tremendously and the colors--especially on the Modestas--are deep and beautiful. That is, of course, when they are visible, since all these fish spend most of the day hidden. [Some people have asked me why I keep an 'empty' tank ... but that's another story. :-)]

Enough background. The reason I post this message is because I've observed two behaviors; one that intrigues me, and another one that 'blows me away'. [I am relatively new at keeping loaches, and, aside from killifishes, not too knowledgeable about fish behavior in general, so excuse me if either one (or both) of this behaviors are common knowledge or easily explained.]

The first one concerns two Red-Tail Botias: On a couple of occasions I've seen two of these loaches engage in an amazingly graceful dance/twirl. They chase each other in an incredibly tight circle, so that the mouth of each one of them is within a fraction of an inch of the other's tail. They spin incredibly fast for a few seconds (probably about 5-10 seconds or enough to go around 15 to 20 times), then they chase each other around the tank, and finally they swim side by side in close contact (maybe even pushing against each other). Then, the whole thing starts all over again. On one instance, I watched them do this over and over again for at least five minutes--and probably longer. My question is: Is this behavior a ritualized--and beautiful--form of agression to establish dominance? Is it some form of courtship? Or is it just play?

The second--and strangest--behavior has to do with one of the 'Skunks'. It is a fairly large (5 inches) loach which I am uncertain if it truly is a Botia Morleti since it doesn't have the dark stripe running down its back, and seems more elongated--and larger--than the 'conventional-looking' Skunk Loaches. It looks more like a large Botia Lecontei but without the yellowish tail and with a deeper black vertical marking before the caudal fin. Be that as it may, they sold it to me as a Skunk Loach and since I don't know better, I'll go with that. One morning, my eye caught what looked like one of the loaches, with its head pointed down, inside one of the airlift tubes of the undergravel filter! On closer inspection, sure enough: There it was, amidst all the bubbles one of my loaches 'trapped' inside this plastic tube. I couldn't understand how it got there since the tube's 'head' (with its plastic grill) was in place; but I panicked and rushed to 'rescue' the fish. Needless to say, it dissappeared down the tube and into the world beneath the filter plates. I took the two 'heads' off of the airlift tubes--in case the loach tried again to get out. I found that the grill that prevents fish from getting into the tube had a couple of small holes. I know how loaches can squeeze through really tight spots. This, however, were not only very small holes, but due to the angle required a strange contortion to get in--let alone to get out. Fast-forward to two days later. I was once again sitting by the tank when I noticed it again: the loach (the same one, I presume) in the airlift tube. This time, however, it drifted all the way up and out of the tube. It swam around the aquarium for a while, scavenged for some food, and then hid behind a piece of slate. I looked at it and it seemed amazingly healthy--in fact, it looked pretty 'fat' and the 'skin' looked great. As I was ready to breathe an air of relief, and much to my amazement, I saw it calmly head for the airlift tube, swim into it, and dissappear back into the underworld. S/he now comes out to the "aquascaped world" periodically but seems to have set permanent residence down there. My questions to anyone who has gotten this far are these: Have you ever seen this behavior? Should I try to do something about it? Can you forsee any potential problems? Is there anything that is causing it to prefer living in the sewers?

Thanks so much for reading this. Although loaches are a relatively new thing for me, I have come to enjoy them so much (especially the Botias) that I now also keep Hymenophysas, Lohachatas, Striatas, Beaufortis, and, of course, Macracanthas in a variety of tanks. They have captured my interest--and have began to fascinate me--as much as my killis. Finally, thanks to Loaches OnLine. It's been greatly useful--and enjoyable--to me.


San Diego

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