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 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. 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 do well at temperatures higher than 80°F (27°C), otherwise they are susceptible 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)
The zebra-striped oddball frog is not for everyone. They can appear like a large, squiggly group of worms. 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. They will eat any type of community omnivore food, but they love to eat worms such as live blackworms and frozen bloodworms. 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. Our kuhli locach care guide has more information.
3. Reticulated Hillstream Loach (Sewellia lineolata)
Hillstream loaches are another strangeball on our list. They look more like baby loaches 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. Like most loaches they will eat any food that is sinking, Repashy gel, or frozen bloodworms. They are also excellent algae eaters and will eat brown diatoms, hair algae, and black beard algae. It is relatively easy to breed them if you have enough cover and good food. You can learn more about hillstream loaches by reading our complete care guide.
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. They are active at the bottom, chasing each other and looking for food. However, they also “flutter” their fins and swim around the tank. While dwarf chain loaches can be quite expensive, as you will need between 6-10 of them in a group for effective snail control, they are an affordable alternative for smaller planted tanks. You can read the full care guide for more information.
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. Because they are still quite large at 5-6 inches (13-15cm), some people call them the budget clown loaf. They only cost $5-8. They are a gentle breed with a calm temperament. However, they can sometimes get very aggressive towards each other. 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 (Botia kubotai), or Polka Dot Loach
You will find a slightly smaller version of this yoyo loach, which is more peaceful and tranquil. This 4-inch (10 cm) loach doesn’t have a mean bone in its body, is pretty outgoing, and has vibrant, high contrast colors. They are not easy to find and can cost around $13-20 per piece. You can order a larger group of 6-10 fish from your local fish shop if they are available. 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, unlike other loaches like the clown or kuhli, has lots of narrow stripes. They measure 3.5 inches (9cm), and are slightly shorter than angelicus loaches. However, their noses are sloped, making them ideal 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 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)
The smallest loach on our list is the rosy loach because it only reaches 1-1.25 inches (2.5-3 cm) long. This nano fish is sexually dimorphic, such that the males have that classic rosy color with a dark horizontal stripe and the females are predominantly brownish-gray and 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 fun, lovable species looks like a giant hot dog, ranging from 6-11 inches (15-28 cm) in length. They are available in three colors: regular brown, yellow gold, 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. Try to keep them below 80degF (27degF) because they can catch bacterial and fungal infections when the water gets too warm.
There are many varieties of loaches, including different shapes and patterns. To get your own loaches, visit our Live Fish page to see a listing of our favorite online fish retailers.