Ten Best Loaches You Must Try
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’s hard to describe this very diverse group of freshwater bottom dwellers, but many of them have a long-bodied shape, scaleless appearance, and whisker-like barbels on their faces. 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. However, most do not get the proper care they need because they get as big as a foot-long sub sandwich (30 cm) and prefer to live in larger schools of six or more buddies. They also do best at warmer temperatures over 80degF (27degC) or else they can be prone to diseases such as 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. Although they can be fed any kind of community omnivore diet (such as frozen blackworms or frozen bloodworms), they are particularly fond of eating worms. You need a school to help you find a peaceful bottom dweller that can reach only 4 inches (10cm) and won’t eat your snails. For more details, read our kuhli loach 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. Plus, they have the added bonus of being excellent algae eaters that will attack hair algae, brown diatoms, and even black beard algae if they’re hungry enough. It is relatively easy to breed them if you have enough cover and good food. Learn more about hillstream loaches in our full care guide.
4. Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki)
If you’re looking for a classic, snail-eating loach that doesn’t get very big, consider the dwarf chain loach. The dwarf chain loach measures in at 22.5 inches (5-6cm) in length, but packs a punch with its personality and striking, black-colored chain pattern. 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. Although dwarf chain loaches are a more expensive option for those with smaller tanks, they can still be an excellent alternative to snail control. For more information, read our full care guide.
5. Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae)
This is a very popular species. Its common name comes from its markings which look like the “YOYO”, with the lettering on its side. 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. They are great for large tanks and can be used with certain African, Central American or South American cichlids. However, keep them away from any invertebrates such as shrimp and snails.
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 4-inch (10 cm) loach doesn’t have a mean bone in its body, is pretty outgoing, and has vibrant, high contrast colors. However, they’re not the easiest to source and may cost you about $13-20 each. 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. At 3.5 inches (9 cm) long, they are slightly shorter than angelicus loaches but have the same sloped nose that is perfect for eating snails, baby shrimp, mollusks, 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)
Many Pangio species are known as “kuhli loaches”, but this one is entirely silver and has 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. Their metallic color makes them very attractive and is why they are always a big hit in 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. 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 fun, lovable species looks like a giant hot dog, ranging from 6-11 inches (15-28 cm) in length. You can find them in a variety of colors including regular brown, golden yellow and albino. Because they get excited when there is a thunderstorm or rain coming, they are known as the “weather loaf”. 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 at 80 degrees F (27 degrees F) as they can get fungal and bacterial infections from too hot water.
There are many varieties of loaches, including different shapes and patterns. Visit our Live Fish page for a list of our top online fish sellers to get your loaches.