Although the species don’t have eye-catching appearances, Loaches impress the fishkeeping community with their distinctive characteristics. The picture of these bottom-dwellers, with the slender and elongated body scooting back and forth on the rocks, definitely holds your steps for a few more minutes to enjoy the scene.
Loaches are the fish of the superfamily Cobitoidea. Native to various habitats throughout Europe, northern Africa, and Southeast Asia, the freshwater bottom-dweller comprises numerous known species divided into around nine families. Of all and most popular to the aquarists are the familiar names Gastromyzontidae (hillstream loach), Botiidae (clown loach, zebra loach, yoyo loach), Cobitidae (kuhli loach).
Hillstream loach: Hillstream loach (scientific name: Sewellia lineolata) attracts your attention by the peculiar appearance, a torpedo-shaped body with wing-like pectoral and pelvic fins. The loaches are the favorite freshwater species of many aquarists by not only the cool-looking they are but also fascinating behaviors they show.
Clown loach (also known as Tiger Loach): Clown loach is easily recognizable by the colorful stripes arranged similar to that of tiger. More interestingly, clown loach is known for the clicking sound produced by the grinding of their teeth on certain occasions (mostly when they are happy or being territorial, or mating).
Zebra loach: (scientific name: Botia striata) Zebra loach features itself with many vertical bands appearing in different colors subject to the variants. They are also known as the smallest member of the loach family with the average size of not exceeding 4 inches. Given that, Zebra loach is more peaceful (than other Botiidae species) and often a good choice for many community tanks.
Yoyo loach: (scientific name: Botia lohachata) The fun Yoyo loach is an active and personable fish that is well-known for the ability of recognizing its owner. The color contrast displayed on the body makes Yoyo loach outstanding in the surroundings.
Kuhli loach: Kuhli loach (scientific name: Pangio kuhlii/semicincta) resembles the eel shape with the body covered with brown to burgundy color and bright orange stripes in-between. The unique appearance is not the only reason why Kuhli Loach is so popular in the fishkeeping community. Interesting personalities and interaction displayed in the aquarium environment are the key decisive factors that make many aquarists strongly go for them.
(Picture of a Kuhil Loach)
Varying in the origin and classification makes the Loach species tolerate quite different ranges in terms of living conditions. Despite the fact, they do share certain values in common, which once you’ve known, setting up and maintaining the tank appropriate for the Loaches is just a piece of cake.
Characteristics and Behaviors
Bottom-dwellers: Aquarists automatically regard the Loaches as the bottom-dwellers because these fish often spend most of their time sifting and discovering the bottom surroundings. The behaviors are also found in wild specimens, which live mainly in slow and swift moving rivers and streams where the beds are covered with gravel, sand, or pebbles.
Schooling fish: Generally, most Loaches are shy and tend to hide themselves in caves or rocks. They are sometimes active and outgoing but only when there are the presence of other same-species. Therefore, when kept in captivity, Loaches should be housed in groups (with the number slightly different subject to the specific loach species).
Nocturnal species: Not all the Loaches are nocturnal fish but some are, for example, Kuhli loaches. As such, if you don’t see your beloved Loaches during daytime, it is highly likely they will appear when night falls.
Peaceful temperament: It is true for most Loaches. However, in fact, some do show territorial behaviors toward other fish, such as hillstream loach or the Botiidae species. Hence, as a rule of thumb, always research (or ask the staff of fish stores) the specific requirements of the fish before you purchase.
Recognizable thanks to distinctive appearance: Loaches do appear differently but are largely categorized by their slender and elongated bodies, pairs of barbels near the mouth with large pectoral and ventral fins. Their sizes vary from under 2 inches to nearly 12 inches. Many Loaches don’t have scales which make them move easily between the water and the internal environment yet prone to diseases.
‘Scalelessness’ issue: Kuhli loach is the fish easily prone to this problem. Kuhli loach is not completely scaleless; however, their scales are really small and very far apart, leaving their skin exposed. This leads them susceptible to skin problems as their protection layer – scales cannot cover much of their skin. If it happens to your Kuhli loach, in addition to treating them with proper medication, you should check their diet and water conditions.
Tank setups and Maintenance
With the characteristics described above, Loaches are able to survive in the wild habitat of clean well-oxygenated water with moderate to strong flows. They are often found burrowing in the sand and inhabiting riverbeds in broad, flat terrain. Slow and swift moving streams where gravel, pebbles and sandy areas exist are the favorite shelters of these Loaches. Many Loaches are able to tolerate a wide range of water parameters as they come from a variety of water conditions. Yet, it is reported that slightly acidic levels with alkalinity between 3-10 dKH is most acceptable to the species. Hence, if you set up a tank having more than one loach species, the following information may be what you are looking for.
Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: less than 20 ppm
KH: 3 – 10 dKH
pH: 6 – 8
Water change: 10% weekly (and varies depending on species)
When it comes to temperature, it varies depending on species. Nevertheless, the range of 80oF – 84oF (26o – 28oC) seems to suit the fish most. Certain loaches strictly need oxygen-rich water to thrive (like hillstream loach). As such, if you happen to keep them, a powerhead device cannot be ignored. Along with that and to ensure the device can work well in the captivated environment, your tank size should be large enough. Ideally, 30 gallons will do. However, a bigger tank should be considered subject to the number and size of loaches you’re going to keep.
Loaches do not have specific requirements of decoration. Their natural habitats don’t have many live aquatic plants, hence you could not ignore the factor. However, rock or cave designs which provide them hiding places are a must. Loaches are shy by nature. Even though they are active sometimes, they need a refuge to conceal when they feel insecure. It is worth noting that most loaches are scaleless. Therefore, be careful of not choosing those sharp-edged hardscapes which may cause injuries to the loaches. The same is applied to substrates. As with the sifting tendency, it is usual to spot the wounds on their body if you use sharp-edged gravels or pebbles.
Important note: The exact care requirements for your freshwater aquarium loach will depend on the specific loach species. Some may be easy-going while the others are quite strict. Hence, and for the optimal growth of your fish, always research the specific requirements for the species you’re going to keep in advance and try to mimic exactly.
Many Loaches are omnivores. They could accept a wide variety of food sources, from larvae, worms, snails, and other squirmy animals to commercial fish food such as sinking wafers, dry fish flakes, pellets, brine shrimp, clams, daphnia, and bloodworms.
Nevertheless, each loach species has its own appetite. Some will prefer a specific food type to others. For instance, Kuhli loach fish’s favorite meals are sinking foods like wafers or pellets, while Clown loaches prefer a mix of live food with dry food like pellets or flakes and live worms. Hence and again, advanced research of the appetite of your loach is necessary, so as to allow them to enjoy the food they like and thrive to the utmost.
Loaches are bottom-dwellers and likely bottom-dwelling feeders also. Thanks to the multiple sets of barbel, Loaches often suck on whatever edible foods left on the water’s floor. Although they can manage to have their meals, you need to actively feed them to ensure your lovely loaches consume sufficient nutrients. For best results, rotate their diet daily and feed them once or twice a day with the amount enough for total consumption within 2 minutes or less.
The feeding behaviors of loaches deem to exclude certain invertebrates from their co-living areas, particularly snail pets. Both are bottom-dwellers and more importantly, loaches often regard snails as their delicious meals. Therefore, if you want to diversify your tank community by adding other fish, you should consider those that are top or midwater dwellers. They do not share the same living level thus, won’t threaten each other. Also, mind that Botiidae species can become boisterous and may go after smaller or slower moving fish. This means if you keep these Loaches, select larger, more active fish as their tank mates.
With these in mind, barbs, danios, corydoras catfish, gourami, and tetra will be the appropriate options for your loach tank.
If you are persuaded and decide to have loach fish in your tank, visit our store now to find what surprise is waiting for you.
At Splashy Fish Store, we supply a wide range of Loach species which come from reliable sources. We further guarantee that all of our loaches will go through the quarantine process for a period of 14-day before sale. We care about the quality and strive to provide you the best we can.