10 Must-Try Loaches
If you’re looking to add a lot of fun and excitement to the bottom third of your fish tank, loaches might be the perfect fit for you. Although it’s difficult to describe this diverse group of freshwater bottom dwellers in detail, many have long bodies, scaleless faces and whisker-like barbels. Learn which ones we cherish the most and how you can best care for them.
1. Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus)
These gorgeous loaches are popular in the aquarium hobby because of their puppy-like behavior, beautiful black and yellow bands, and red-orange fins. Most loaches don’t receive the proper care as they can grow up to 30 cm long and become as large as a sub sandwich. They also prefer larger schools with six or more friends. They thrive at temperatures above 80 degrees F (27 degrees C), or they could become susceptible to diseases like ich. If you’re prepared to keep a monster-sized aquarium for 10-20 years, clown loaches are well worth the investment. Clown loaches are entertaining because they play chase with each other and sleep on their sides as if they were dead. They also love to squeeze into corners and tubes.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
Although the zebra-striped oddball fish may not be for everyone as they look like a mass of worms, they are very easy to care for and enjoy. These nocturnal fishes love to hide in aquarium decorations or live plants. They then go out looking for food after the lights go out. They will eat any type of community omnivore food, but they love to eat worms such as live blackworms and frozen bloodworms. If you’re looking for a peaceful bottom dweller that only gets up to 4 inches (10 cm) and won’t eat your snails, you have to get a school of kuhli loaches. You can read more about kuhli loaches by visiting our care guide.
3. Reticulated Hillstream Loach (Sewellia lineolata)
Hillstream loaches, which look more like baby Stingrays than loaches, are another bizarre addition to our list. Their streamlined bodies and powerful fins are capable of clinging onto surfaces in the midst of rushing rapids, but they also do well in regular community aquariums with slower flow. As with most loaches, they are not picky with their diet and will eat sinking wafers, Repashy gel food, and frozen bloodworms. You also have the bonus of them being great algae eaters. They will eat hair, brown diatoms, black beard and other algae. It is relatively easy to breed them if you have enough cover and good food. Our hillstream loaches care guide explains more.
4. Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki)
The dwarf chain locach is a classic, snail-eating, loach that does not grow very large. This tiny loach is only 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6 cm) in length and has a striking black chain pattern running its length. They not only provide lots of activity at the bottom, hunting each other for food and chasing them around, but they also “flutter” and swim in the middle. Dwarf chain loaches can be a bit on the pricier side, especially since you need at least 6-10 in a group, but they’re a great alternative for people with smaller planted tanks that need snail control. Our full care guide provides more details.
5. Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae)
This popular species gets its common name from the markings that looks like the word “YOYO” spelled out on the side of its body. Some people refer to them as the budget clown loach because they still get fairly large at 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) but only cost $5-8. They have a relatively mild temperament but can get a little ornery with each other, so get a school of at least six to even out any aggression. For larger tanks, Yoyo loaches can be great with certain African, Central American and South American cichlids. But keep them away form invertebrates, such as snails or shrimp.
6. Angelicus or Polka Dot Loach (Botia kubotai)
Look no further if you are looking for a smaller, more peaceful version of the yoyo-loach. This loach measures in at 4 inches (10 cm), is quite outgoing and has vivid, high contrast colors. However, they’re not the easiest to source and may cost you about $13-20 each. You can order a larger group of 6-10 fish from your local fish shop if they are available. Deworm them as soon as you bring them home. They are more likely to have parasites than wild fish and are often caught in the wild.
7. Zebra Loach (Botia striata)
Unlike the clown and kuhli loaches that have wide, vertical bands, the zebra loach is covered with lots of skinny stripes. They are 3.5 inches (9cm) longer than angelicus loaches, but they have the same sloped nose, which is ideal for eating snails, baby shrimps, and other invertebrates. Like other loaches they can tolerate a variety water parameters. They are best kept in groups of six to more species. Zebra loaches are one of our favorites because they tend to be more outgoing and laid back in personality, so if you have a 30-gallon aquarium or larger, give them a shot.
8. Silver Kuhli Loach (Pangio anguillaris)
There are many Pangio species known as “kuhli oaches”, however this is a pure silver type with no patterning. They have very similar requirements as the Pangio kuhlii mentioned above, where they like to be kept in big groups and eat at night when the aquarium lights are off. They are very eye-catching due to their metallic colors. We have been able to bring them in to our retail store. You can keep them with normal kuhli loaches so that you have multiple varieties of “miniature eels” crawling around your aquarium substrate.
9. Rosy Loach (Petruichthys sp. ‘rosy’)
Male rosy loach (left) and female rosy loach (right)
Because it is only 1-1.25 inches long (2.5-3 cm), the rosy loach is our smallest loach. This nano fish is sexually dimorphic. The males are a classic rosy colour with a dark horizontal line and the females are brownish-gray covered in spots. You can keep a group of them in a 5-gallon or larger aquarium, where they can be found actively swimming in the middle to bottom layers of the tank. Hobbyists have successfully bred rosy loaches in heavily planted, well-established aquariums by feeding plenty of tiny foods (like frozen cyclops and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food) and then removing the adults after spawning behavior is spotted.
10. Dojo Loach (Misgurnus Anguillicaudatus).
This lovable, fun species looks like a huge hot dog. It can grow to 6-11 inches (15-28cm) in length. They come in several colors, such as regular brown, golden yellow, and albino. Because of their excitement when they see a storm approaching or a rainstorm, they are sometimes called “weather loach”. Their other common name is “pond loach” because they are a cold water species and can live in unheated aquariums with larger species like goldfish. They can contract fungal and bacterial infections if the water temperature rises above 80°F (27°F).
Loaches come as a variety of sizes, shapes, patterns and colors. To get your own loaches, visit our Live Fish page to see a listing of our favorite online fish retailers.