Yoyo loach and Zebra loach are a popular addition to aquariums due to their ornamental qualities. These two species share many characteristics, but you can easily differentiate them through their body markings.

A yoyo loach is larger and has stripes that run randomly, forming the word ‘yoyo,’ from which it derives its name. On the other hand, an adult zebra loach is more slender and has black and white stripes running straight from the top of its body to its underbelly.

In summary, the following are the main differences between yoyo loach and zebra loach:

Yoyo LoachZebra Loach
The fish has random stripes that run randomly and appear like forming the word yoyo.The fish has stripes running straight from its body top to its underbelly.
The fish is more active in open waters, especially during the day or in bright light.The fish prefers to move around obstacles in the water and are more active at night than during the day.
Male yoyo loaches are generally more slender than females, who become noticeably fat and rounder when full of eggs.Female Zebra Loach is slightly smaller and fuller in the abdomen, while males are generally leaner but larger.
Yoyo loach vs zebra loach pictures

Yoyo Loach vs. Zebra Loach – Key Differences

Both loaches have almost the same lifespan of about five to eight years. They are known for their lively and playful personalities. Here are their main differences:

Body appearance

The Yoyo loach are yellowish-brown in color and have a distinctive yoyo-shaped marking on their bodies that appear to form the word “yoyo.”On the other hand, Zebra loaches have black and white stripes, which gives them their name.

Yoyo loaches and zebra loaches attain almost the same size when fully grown. They also grow at almost the same rate. The growth rate is more easily visible if they are bred together in similar conditions.

However, female zebra loaches become fuller on their bellies when they grow than male ones. The characteristic is not attributable to egg carrying only. Loach’s fat belly may also signify overfeeding or a health condition.

Generally, the Yoyo Loach is larger than the Zebra Loach and can grow up to 6 inches. Zebra loaches have a more slender body and can grow to about 4 inches.

Tank Conditions

Yoyo loaches prefer lit tanks and are more active during the day or in bright light. Zebra loaches act the opposite as they are more active in relatively dark rooms. They are also more active in situations with sufficient obstacles than yoyo loaches, who like to play in open waters.

The zebra loach is predominantly a bottom feeder, while the yoyo loach can also feed on the surface. The two fish species are known to feed on any tiny snails in the tank. This includes ornamental pet snails and pest snails.

The zebra loach can easily be kept in an open tank as it prefers staying at or near the bottom. Unfortunately for the yoyo loach, it tends to hop out of the water. Keeping yoyo loaches in uncovered tanks may not be advisable as they will likely jump out of the water.


Both fishes can coexist peacefully with other fish species in one tank. However, they are likely to feed on the small invertebrates inhabiting their territories. As omnivorous zebra and yoyo loaches eating snails may help them obtain fats, proteins, and other nutrients they won’t get from plant diets.

These two fish species are rarely aggressive towards other vertebrates. It is not immediately clear why they possess that behavior, but they can both be aggressive towards most invertebrates that may share a pond or tank with them. Snails and shrimps may not favor sharing a tank with ornamental snails.

Care requirements

Zebra and yoyo loaches rarely grow bigger than five inches, making them easy to keep in relatively small tanks. Both species love adventure, and zebra loaches prefer obstacles. It is fun watching both fish species in the aquarium.

What is most amazing about the yoyo loach is how it loves to dash upwards in the water and then swim back to the bottom. This behavior makes it tricky to keep a yoyo loach in an uncovered tank, as it may pop out of the pond while jumping in the water.

This behavior makes it necessary to be more vigilant if you have a yoyo loach in your tank. Zebra loaches prefer staying submerged and do not stand the dangers of popping out of the tank.


Both yoyo and zebra loach females are likely to fill with eggs in captivity. However, there is no evidence that they spawn and fertilize those eggs while living in controlled environments. Fortunately, research on the two fish species generated greater insight into how they breed.

Notably, both loach families are known to lay their eggs in designated areas where they feel safe. The females lay the eggs in large quantities that may reach around 5,000 eggs. The males will come and fertilize the eggs externally. The males may fertilize as many eggs as possible but rarely fertilize them all.

The primary purpose of laying such a large number of eggs is to increase the chances of survival for the young. The fries are prone to predation from other fish species. They are also likely to die due to other factors like diseases and poor water conditions. Thus, it is considered an adaptive behavior.

When pregnant, both females develop fatter bellies and become less active than they were without the eggs in them. They will also tend to hide often in places where they are likely to lay their eggs. They mostly come out when courting the males to encourage them to fertilize the eggs.

Male loaches often guard the nests upon fertilizing the eggs, which usually hatch within two days. The fry will then come out to swim, and the mother usually does their transportation from one point to another. She will carry her babies in her mouth and spit them out at the new destination.

When pregnant, female zebra and yoyo loaches will spend most of their time near the bottom. You may sometimes find them lying on their sides. It is normal for them to lie on their side as it is one of their most known resting positions.

As an aquarium keeper, it is highly unlikely for your zebra or yoyo loaches to reproduce. However, should that happen, it is critical to be more vigilant to ensure the young do not experience environmental stressors.

Can Yoyo and Zebra loaches be kept together?

Yoyo loaches and zebra loaches can coexist peacefully in the same tank. Both of them have the same characteristics of not breeding in captivity. The habit is yet to be understood, but it is not disputed that they are likely to lay eggs that they may not fertilize while in captivity.

Zebra loaches and yoyo loaches rarely see each other as enemies. They may compete for food but not based on their species. Their young ones are identical, implying they can coexist peacefully as they grow without seeing each other as enemies.

Therefore, keeping both species in the same tank may be an excellent idea. One may easily explore their habits and develop a better understanding of the two and whatever makes them stand out. Ultimately, your choice between Yoyo Loach and Zebra Loach will depend on your preferences.


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