Striped Hillstream Loach (Gastromyzon zebrinus)

Gastromyzon zebrinus is a freshwater ray-finned fish belonging to the Balitoridae family. It is native to Upper Sambas River Basin in Indonesian Borneo, where it lives in fast-flowing shallow streams. It is part of the Gastromyzon ridens group, which consists of G. ridens, G. stellatus, G. crenastus, and G. zebrinus.



Gastromyzon zebrinus features 11-13 cream-colored stripes on a black body. The head also has several cream-colored spots. It grows up to 6 cm and has no scales protecting the abdomen or head. It is very similar in appearance to Gastromyzon stellatus. G. stellatus has spots on its body while G. Zebrinus has horizontal stripes.

The pectoral and pelvic fins of G. zebrinus create a vacuum by releasing water, which gives it the ability to stick to smooth flat surfaces. When the fish is under stress, the color of its body can become very light, and the spots would be barely visible. On the contrary, when the fish expresses dominance towards other members of its kind to settle territorial differences, its body can assume a darker shade.

Behavior and Compatibility:


Gastromyzon zebrinus is exceptionally peaceful towards other species. Hence, it can do well in community fish tanks. There are no natural predators in its habitat or other competing fish for food. Due to that, it can become easy prey for larger or more boisterous fish in the aquarium. It is compatible with many fish. Including the species Danio, Rasbora, Rhinogobius, Sicyopterus, Stiphodon, Tanichthys, Glyptothorax, Akysis, and Hara genera are proper tank mates.

It is best to have a group of a minimum of 4-6 Gastromyzon zebrinus as they are fairly gregarious. They are territorial and have minor conflicts occasionally. However, the conflicts never result in any injuries.

Having too many G. zebrinus in a small aquarium can be detrimental to weaker specimen since they would live in constant stress. Also, if the aquarium has too many fish that eat vegetation and algae, there could be a shortage of food.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: 20-24°C
pH: 7,0 – 8,5
Hardness: 6 – 10 dGH

In the aquarium trade, G. zebrinus comes mostly from the wild. It is easy to maintain once it acclimatizes to the new environment. The proper aquarium for the fish needs high aeration and a good water flow. Filtering power of 10 to 15 times the water volume per hour and also a high biological filtration capacity will be proper. Additional circulation devices like powerheads or air stones also do great. Maintaining high flow is optional once the acclimatization phase is over, but the water must have high oxygen content.

The aquarium substrate must be a mixture of gravel or sand with plenty of pebbles and rocks. G. zebrinus has delicate skin and sticks to flat surfaces. So, the pebbles and rocks should have broad, smooth surfaces. Adding driftwood or bogwood is also optional.

The aquarium must have good lighting to promote algal growth as a food source. Plants of Anubias and Microsorum genera are good for high water flow environments which are proper for this fish. They are optional since this fish rarely encounters any plants in its natural habitat. G. Zebrinus doesn’t do well in a newly setup aquarium without mature biological activity. It relies on algae as the primary source of food, so an established aquarium with plenty of existing algae growth would be the ideal setup for this fish.


Gastromyzon Zebrinus mainly eats single-celled algae and associated microorganisms. It is an omnivore with heavy reliance on a plant-based diet. The aquarium must have plenty of naturally growing algae on the glass, stones, or leaf surfaces. Adding algae-grown rocks, pebbles, or driftwood cultured in a separate container can also boost the food supply.

This fish also accepts commercial foods (sinking pellets, flakes, and algae wafers), live or frozen foods (bloodworm, brine shrimp, etc.), and boiled vegetables (blanched spinach, cucumber, zucchini, etc.). Excess proteins in the diet (meat-based foods) can harm the health of this fish, so the diet must be in heavy vegetation.


The female Gastromyzon Zebrinus are larger and plumper than the males. They need to eat plenty of live or frozen mosquito larvae with a vegetation balanced diet to get into breeding conditions. To initiate breeding, you need to increase the water temperature gradually (by 2-3°C above usual). After 2-3 weeks, make a large water replacement (up to 80%) and restore the water to the original temperature.

The females lay up to 100 eggs during spawning. The eggs hatch after 3-4 days. The fry is extremely sensitive to bright light and organic decay. They need infusoria as a first food to survive.

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