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Vicious Botia Modesta

Posted By: Nolan Tianco <ntianco@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 12 November 2003, at 7:41 p.m.

Hi, this is my first post and unfortunately it is more problematic in nature than in praise of the loach species.

I live in Manila, Philippines where there are not that many varieties of tropical fish nowadays compared to about 20 years ago. So far, the only loach species I have encountered are Botia macracanthus, modesta, beauforti and the weather loach (plus the chinese algae eater if you consider that the sucking loach). Since loaches are fish with a "personality", I like observing them in a community tank setup.

My first experience with loaches were weather loaches way back in the 80s which I found a most amusing fish, especially when they burrow in the substrate and then later on go searching for food. Lately I have not seen any weather loaches in most of the major LFS so I have not had any since I "resurrected" my aquarium hobby a year ago.

I recently purchased a pair of Botia Beauforti but one jumped out through a small gap between the aquarium frame and the glass cover. The last one eventually disappeared in the substrate and did not come out at all (it's been more than a couple of weeks now). I assumed he burrowed himself into his grave since I never found him on the floor on in any other nook or cranny imaginable within the tank.

Last weekend I got 4 Botia Modesta ranging from 2 to 2 1/2 inches long and placed them in a 35 gallon with goldfish (we only have 2 seasons here so goldfish manage quite well with tropical fish). The seller told me that the temparament of the Botia modesta would be similar to the clown loach although so they could be placed with my 3 inch fancy goldfish. I also read relatively similar comparisons about B. modesta and B. macracanthus except for one post in www.loaches.com which said that B. modesta would eat smaller fish (but not bigger fish).

Within a couple of hours of introduction to the tank, the loaches "acclimatized" and were already chasing each other. However, in their excitement of chasing each other, one or two of them would pick on the goldfish playfully by chasing it or nipping on its tail. Although loaches don't have teeth, the picking on the goldfish must have stressed them out that the fins were shredded as a result of escaping the loaches. What made it worse was that I noticed that the bulging eyes of my black moor had lost some of the skin over, exposing a white spot on very dark colored fish. I immediately caught 3 of the B. Modesta and transferred them to a pail overnight and bought a 15 gallon to isolate them. The 15 gallon would cost much less than to replace all remaining goldfish had the loaches harrassed them to death.

Anyway, the last loach I couldn't catch since it usually hides behind the powerhead of the 35 gallon and we (with my neighbor who is also into fishkeeping) assumed that if loaches were not kept in schools, they would be more timid. All went well for the first night so it seemed the problem had been solved.

Or so I thought. Last night I was shocked to see the right eye of one black moor literally popped out and hanging by the optic nerves while the other black more had the signs of skin damage in the left eye. I immediately took out the accessories and plants and made sure I caught the remaining B. Modesta and transferred it to the 15 gallon with the rest who had been "exiled" a couple of days earlier.

Have any of you experienced sneaky and aggressive behavior of other loach species like this? I presume all the chasing and fin and eye pecking happened when there were no humans watching (since loaches are shy but sly fish). Or it is because the black moor may have bumped itself on some ornaments (usually plastic plants) because it could not see in one eye? I don't want to suspect the other fishes in the tank (all goldfish except for a small 2 inch albino pleco who's managed to live peacefully with the goldfish for over a year now).

I am interested about knowing if clown loaches are also fin peckers (so far all I've read about them are praises and no negatives) since I'm eyeing a few 1 1/2 inch clown loaches to add to the 35 gallon or another 20 gallon community aquarium I have. Any advice?

Thanks and apologies for the extra long post.


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