Aquarium Maintenance

The Ultimate Care Guide to Loaches Fish: Habitat, Diet and More

Loaches fish are a great addition to any tropical freshwater aquarium as they make the lower levels of your tank fun. In general, they are fun fish and good scavengers who spend their time trying to find leftovers at the bottom of the tank.

Although more commonly known as Loach or True Loach, these fish are also often referred to as “Thorn Eyes”. This is because they have one or two thorny spines directly between the eyes or just under the eyes. These spines are usually erect and can act as a protection, be careful when catching these fish. These spines are usually caught in the net


True Loaches belong to the family Cobitidae. There are a few species available to aquarists, it contains about a hundred species and it contains some of the most attractive freshwater fish. They are found on rivers throughout Asia, Europe, and parts of Africa. They occur throughout the ancient world, mainly in the southeast of Asia. Only three are native to Germany and only a few species are found in northern Africa, mainly in Morocco and Ethiopia.


Physical forms of loaches fish are usually elongated and rounded not very large in size, only to a exception of few which are the botia reaching a size of 30 cm and the clown loach up to 50 cm. They can be heavy and chunky, look like worms, or an eel.

For the most part these fish are bottom dwellers, but many species have intestines that can act as respiratory organs like those of Corydoras. This allows them to absorb oxygen directly from the surface, a factor that helps to ensure survival even if water conditions are polluted or oxygen is depleted.

Some species of Cobitidae were believed to be more sensitive to atmospheric pressure that when the climate changed, they would get active, and they would be swimming up and down in the water. These fish have been used as living barometers and are called ‘weather fish’. A well-known example is the Dojo Loach, the Japanese Weather Fish, or the Weather Loach. It is uncertain, however, that these displays come from barometric changes, other changes in circumstances, or simply their different behaviors.

Care and maintenance

These fish are very active in the evening or at night. Although in their natural habitat many eat insect larvae, live worms, and crustaceans, they also eat algae and other plants. They can be fed dry flake food, supplemented with dried and frozen proteins such as tubifex and bloodworms, as well as vegetable crops such as soft algae or algae wafers. Some of the largest Botia species love the Red Ramshorn snails and sometimes the Mystery snail.

They all like hiding places where they can go back as they please. Species that looks like worms like to hide under plant or wood roots while free-swimming species prefer to hide in caves.

Types of loaches

The list of Loach species below includes popular species and lesser-known loaches. Each fish guide has in-depth knowledge of the loach including the origin, habitat and behavior and care of the fish needed to successfully store them in the aquarium. Pictures of these loaches fish are also provided within each fish guide to assist in identification, and also in selecting Loach fish as pets.

  • Clown Loach

loaches fish

“Clown Loach” by rachelandrew is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name: Chromobotia macracanthus

Also known as: Tiger Loach

Adult size: 12 cm (30 cm)

Life expectancy: 15+ years

Tank size: 20 liters

PH: 6.5-7.0

Hardness: 5-12 dGH

Temperature: 75-86 Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius)

Tankmates: Stay with some of its kind.

Commonly the most recognizable in the Loach family, Clown Loaches are active and colorful fish, but can grow larger over time. Large tanks of 55 liters or more are ideal for thriving schools.

  • Kuhli Loach

“Kuhli loach” by AJC1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Pangio kuhli

Adult Size: 4 inches (12 cm)

Life span: 10 years

Minimum Tank Size: 15 liters

pH: 6.0-6.5

Hardness: 1-10 dGH

Temperature: 75-86 Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius)

Tankmates: Keep them in schools with other peaceful fish.

The Kuhlis are very active at night. During the day it is common for them to find a comfortable place and to stay hidden until dark. Like all other loaches, they are thrilled to have a school of their own. Cover the entire filter entry well, as this type is known to fit into the impellers.

  • Horsehead Loach

Scientific Name: Acantopsis dialuzona

Also known as: Banana Fish, Horsehead Loach, Horse Face Loach, Long-Loved Loach, Long-Loaded Loach

Adult size: 12 inches (30 cm)

Life span: 10 years

Minimum Tank Size: 15 liters

PH: 6.0-6.5

Hardness: 1-10 dGH

Temperature: 40-77 Fahrenheit (4-25 Celsius)

Tankmates: Peaceful with any fish

This Loach has a head that is literally shaped like a horse. Aquarists often do not see them for days at a time. They like to dive under the substrate with their eyes out to look for predators or food. One way to make sure you see them is to turn off the lights in the evening and throw the sinking food pills into the tank. Installing a tank with moonlight will make the Horsehead Loach more easily visible.

  • Dojo loach

loaches fish

“Golden Dojo Loach” by Rhizae is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Misgurnus angullicaudatus

Adult size: 12 inches (30 cm)

Life span: 10 years

Small Tank Size: 30 liters

PH: 6.0-8.0

Hardness: 1-12 dGH

Temperature: 64-75 Fahrenheit (18-24 Celcius)

Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish

Weather loaches is known for its sensitivity to changing barometric pressure. They are active fish, but when the weather changes, they become very active. These species are one of the few Loaches who do not need to be kept in school. They go well with all other fish and offer a lot of tank action.

  • YoYo Loach

loaches fish

“Yoyo Loach” by Ken_Lord is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Botia lohachata

Adult Size: 3-5 inches (7-13 cm)

Life span: 10 years

Tank size: 20 gallon

PH: 6.5-7.5

Hardness: 1-12 dGH (5 dGH preffered)

Temperature: 75-86 Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius)

Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish

Like other loaches, they prefer to be kept in schools and may be uncomfortable or shy until they are comfortable with their place of environment.

  • Zebra Loach

“Zebra loach (Botia striata)” by m.agullo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Botia striata

Adult Size: 4 inches (10 cm)

Life expectancy: 10+ years

Tank size: 20 gallons

PH: 6.0-6.5

Hardness: 1-10 dGH

Temperature: 73-79 Fahrenheit (23-26 Celsius)

Tankmates: comfortable with all species

Zebra Loaches are easily identified by their many vertical bands that cross over unto their fins. They are the smallest members of the loach family, and their small size and peaceful nature make them ideal for many community aquariums.

Dwarf chain loach (Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki)

At 6cm / 2.4 ”full, this is the smallest botid loach and suitable for community tanks. Water should be pH 6.5-7.5, temperature 24-28 ° C / 75-82 ° F.

Loaches Fish Diseases

Loaches are more vulnerable to disease than other aquarium fish. This may be accompanied by faint body scales and no head scales. So be careful when putting these fish in an existing tank. They are also very sensitive to the various medications used to treat many diseases; a separate isolated tank is required. Cold water changes and conditions can also put pressure on the fish, making them more susceptible to disease.

The most common disease affecting loaches fish is Ich which is also known as whit spot disease. It can attack almost all aquarium fish, but you will find that loaches fish are among the first to be attacked. Be very careful to treat ich as loaches are very sensitive to the drugs used to treat it. Often the dose is half of what is commonly used.

The second most common cause of loaches is skinny disease. This can be easily found. If your loaches are eating a high nitrous and healthy amount and still seem to be losing weight, it is a good chance they have the disease.

Outbreaks appear to be limited to just one or two. When keeping these types of fishes, it is common to catch deteriorating water conditions and diseases before other fish are affected. The best way to prevent disease is to give your Polka Dot Loach a healthy environment and provide them with nutritious food. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will experience, making them healthier and happier.

Anything you add to your tank can cause infections in your tank. Not only some fish but plants, substrate, and ornaments can catch bacteria. Be very careful and make sure you thoroughly clean or separate anything you add to the already established tank so as not to disturb the balance. It is recommended that you learn about common tank infections. Early symptoms and treatment can make a big difference.

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