Maximum size : 8 cm

Sumo Loach - Schistura balteata : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The Sumo Loach (Schistura balteata) is a captivating species of freshwater fish renowned for its unique appearance and intriguing behaviour. These Loaches have become a sought-after addition to the world of aquarium enthusiasts. Their engaging behaviour and compatibility with a variety of tankmates make them an appealing choice for aquarists seeking an interesting and visually striking species to grace their aquatic setups.

Sumo Loaches are best kept either individually, as a known compatible pair, or in substantial groups of 10 or more. Maintaining a smaller group of 3 or 4 individuals can lead to territorial disputes and potential harm to some specimens. Typically, Sumo Loaches exhibit minimal aggression towards other fish that share their preference for flowing currents, as long as these are not other nemacheilid species.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to avoid introducing small, placid tankmates or those with long fins. Suitable companions may include some of the smaller Barbs, Barilius, temperate Bitterlings, Crossocheilus, Danios, Devarios, or Garras. When kept in shoals, these fish can serve as 'dither fish,' encouraging the Loaches to become more active and venture out into open areas of the aquarium.

To create a comfortable and safe environment for your Sumo Loaches, provide them with a sandy substrate and plenty of hiding places amongst bogwood, plants, rocky caves, and cobbles. Creating visual barriers between hiding places is crucial when keeping multiple individuals to prevent nipping and territorial aggression. These Loaches thrive in well-oxygenated, high-flow aquariums. 

Distinguishing Sumo Loaches from other Schistura species is easy with their unique markings, which consist of two to three thin vertical dark bars below their dorsal fin. Some individuals may lose these vertical bars with age, while others may change colour dramatically depending on their mood or aggression. In addition, the Sumo Loach body can vary in colour from pink to yellow, depending on the individual, and there are even geographical variations in colour, with some individuals displaying red vertical bars.

Sumo Loach Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexing young Sumo Loaches accurately can be a challenging task. However, for fully developed specimens, the males can be identified by their noticeably enlarged cheeks. This distinction is particularly apparent when viewed from above or head-on. On the other hand, females are typically slightly thicker-bodied, particularly when gravid.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameSchistura balteata
Year Described1948
Other NamesTri-Band Sumo Loach
OriginsThailand , Myanmar
Max Size8 cm
Aquarium LevelBottom
Best kept asLoners
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 8 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.0 - 7.5
GH 4 - 12
TDS 36 - 215
Ideal Temperature
72 - 79
22 - 26

Natural Habitat

The Sumo Loach is a captivating fish species that can be found in the hill streams of southern Myanmar, including Kayin and Mon, as well as western Thailand. These fascinating fish thrive in the clear, fast-moving, and highly-oxygenated waters of minor rivers and flowing streams. Often found in shaded areas of forest cover, these loaches prefer substrates of gravel, rocks, and boulders, even in high-gradient streams and cascades with minimal vegetation. Despite their preference for moving waters, the Sumo Loach can also survive in isolated, stagnant pools during dryer months.


According to available reports, successful breeding of the Sumo Loach has been rare, with only one recorded instance to date. However, the breeding pair managed to produce limited numbers of fry in a sizeable 567-litre river aquarium, along with a connected external filter. During the spawning process, the pair created a space underneath a flat rock and sealed themselves inside using bits of the substrate.

Diet & feeding

Sumo Loaches are known to be omnivores, with a diet mainly consisting of worms, crustaceans, small insects, and zooplankton. Although they consume relatively small amounts of organic detritus and plant matter, these loaches can thrive on high-quality dried foods that are appropriate in size for them. However, feeding them solely on dried foods is not advisable. To keep your Sumo Loaches in optimal condition and displaying vibrant colouration, it is best to supplement their diet with small live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, daphnia, and artemia. These loaches quickly snatch up passing morsels in a setup with moving water, making it essential to provide them with daily meals of these small fares.

Other Loaches of interest