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. It is difficult to describe this group of freshwater bottom dwellers. However, they all have long, slender bodies and can be described by their whisker-like barbels. Find out which ones you love most and how best to care for them.
1. Clown Loach – Chromobotia maracanthus
These gorgeous loaches are popular in the aquarium hobby because of their puppy-like behavior, beautiful black and yellow bands, and red-orange fins. They don’t get the proper care because they grow to be as large as a sub sandwich length (30 cm). They prefer to live with six friends or more and are often neglected. They are also more comfortable at temperatures above 80°F (27°C), as they can become sick easily. If you’re prepared to keep a monster-sized aquarium for 10-20 years, clown loaches are well worth the investment. Clown loaches are known for playing chase, sleeping on their backs like they’re dead, as well as cramming themselves into tubes and corners.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
The zebra-striped oddball zebra fish is not for everyone. They can appear like a large, squiggly mass worm. However, they are fun to keep and easy to take care of. These nocturnal fishes love to hide in aquarium decorations or live plants. They then go out looking for food after the lights go out. You can feed them any kind of community omnivore diet, but they especially love to slurp down worms, such as frozen bloodworms or live blackworms. A school of Kuhli Loaches is the best option if you are looking for a calm bottom dweller who can only reach 4 inches (10 cm) in height and doesn’t eat snails. You can read more about kuhli loaches by visiting our care guide.
3. Reticulated Hillstream Loach – Sewellia Lineolata
Hillstream loaches are an oddball because they look more like baby stacherays than loaches. 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. They will eat sinking wafers and Repashy gel food. Aside from being excellent algae eaters, they can also eat brown diatoms and even black beard alga if they are hungry. You can easily breed them if they are fed lots of quality food and have plenty cover in their fish tank. Check out our Hillstream Loach Care Guide to learn more.
4. Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki)
The dwarf chain loach is a classic snail-eating loach. At only 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) long, this little loach packs a lot of punch when it comes to their personality and the striking, black chain pattern along its body. Not only do they provide a lot of activity around the bottom chasing each other and searching for food, but they also “flutter” their fins and swim in the middle of the tank. Although dwarf chain loaches are a more expensive option for those with smaller tanks, they can still be an excellent alternative to snail control. You can read the full care guide for more information.
5. Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae)
This is a very popular species. Its common name comes from its markings which look like the “YOYO”, which is spelled out on the body. They are sometimes called the budget clown loach, as they grow to be 5-6 inches (11-35 cm) and cost only $5-8. Although they have a mild temperament, they can be a bit aggressive with one another. Yoyo loaches work well in larger tanks with certain African or Central American cichlids. They should be kept away from other invertebrates like shrimp and snails.
6. Angelicus or Polka Dot Loach (Botia kubotai)
If you want an upgraded version of the yoyo loach that is slightly smaller and more peaceful, look no further. The loach is a mere 4 inches (10 cm) in length, has no mean bones, is very outgoing, and comes in vibrant, high-contrast colors. They are not easy to find and can cost around $13-20 per piece. If your fish store is able to order some for you, get a bigger group of at least 6-10. You should also deworm them after you bring them home as they are likely to be wild caught and carry parasites.
7. Zebra Loach (Botia striata)
The zebra loach has many thin stripes, unlike the clown and the kuhli loaches which have large, vertical bands. The zebra loaches are approximately 3.5 inches (9cm long) shorter than angelicus but still have the same sloped nose which makes them great for eating snails, baby Shrimps, and other Invertebrates. They can be adapted to a variety of water conditions and will thrive in groups of six or more loaches. 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 several Pangio species that are referred to as “kuhli loaches,” but this type is all silver 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. However, their metallic color is quite eye-catching, so they’re always a huge hit when we are able to find and bring them into 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)
The rosy loach, at 1-1.25 in (2.5-3cm), is the smallest of our loaches. The males of this nano fish are asexually dimorphic. They have a classic rosy color and a dark horizontal stripe. Females are brownish-gray with 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 cute and lovable animal looks like a giant hotdog. Its length ranges from 6-11 inches (15 to 28 cm). You can find them in a variety of colors including 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. Keep them below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 27 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid fungal and bacterial infections.
Loaches come in many different sizes, shapes, and patterns, so there’s bound to be a species that will capture your heart. You can purchase loaches online from our Live Fish page.