Care Guide for Dwarf Chain Loaches – Snail-Eating Nano Fish
Many loaches have the reputation for being fun-loving but boisterous schooling fish that may stress out their shyer tank mates. Dwarf-chain loaches are calmer and come in a small package. This makes them ideal for peaceful community tanks. If you have a smaller planted aquarium with a pest snail problem, you have to try out the loveable pygmy loach.
What are Dwarf Chain Loaches and How Do They Work?
Ambastaia sidthimunki come from rivers and floodplain forests in Thailand, and because they are endangered in the wild, the fish you buy from stores are all commercially bred. As one of the smaller loaches, their narrow bodies range from 2-2.5 inches (6 cm) long, and they have little barbels on their snouts. Their common name is derived from the black, chain-like pattern they have running down their sides. These fish are not bottom dwellers like most loaches, but they can swim at the bottom or in the middle of the tank. Their fins flutter like hummingbirds and they will do so by flapping their fins. While many loaches are night-active, dwarf chain loaches, on the other hand, are awake and active during daylight hours.
Are dwarf-chain loaches aggressive? Although they are active and move around a lot, we have never witnessed them harass other fish. They are quite curious though, so they will investigate and “sniff” new fish that are added to the aquarium.
Ambastaia Sidthimunki is well-known for its high-contrast, chains-like pattern on the top of its body.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Dwarf Chain Loaches
Ambastaia sidthimunki, while small, can thrive in 20-gallon tanks. Although this species is quite costly at $7-15 per individual fish, they will feel less stressed and have a better social hierarchy.
Dwarf chain loaches have adapted to living in many temperature and pH levels due to their habitat’s annual rainy season. They are usually kept between 75-82degF (24 to 28degC), but some have reported that they can live up to 105 degrees. Provide lots of aquarium plants, little caves, and other hiding spots for them to dart into when startled. They also have tiny spines under their eyes so be careful when handling them or netting.
Do dwarf chain loaches jump? Despite being primarily bottom dwellers, they love exploring their surroundings, including outside of your aquarium, so we recommend getting a tight-fitting lid just in case.
What fish can live with dwarf chain loaches? They interact well with all sorts of similar-sized community fish. We have kept them with angelfish, corydoras catfish, platies, tetras, rasboras, plecos, and more. Some dwarf chain loaches are shy and can become timid. Dither fish will help make them more comfortable and open to being exposed. Be aware that they feed on small bugs and crustaceans in the wild, so they will happily snack on cherry shrimp babies and any other tiny animals they find.
A dwarf loach’s pointed nose is ideal for small shrimp, snails and worms.
What are Dwarf Chain Loaches Eating?
Loaches love meaty foods so give them small, soft foods they can eat. We like to give them a good variety of community fish foods – such as nano pellets, Bug Bites, Repashy gel food, frozen bloodworms, and daphnia. If you have speed eaters in the aquarium, make sure the loaches are getting enough food so that they have nice, rounded bellies.
Do dwarf chain loaches eat snails? In general, loaches with pointy faces enjoy eating aquatic gastropods because their snouts are well-suited for digging into the openings of snail shells. Dwarf chain loaches will eat small snails. They can also pester larger snails so don’t put them together.
How to Breed Dwarf Chain Loaches
There are very few accounts of home hobbyists breeding Ambastaia sidthimunki because wild chain loaches normally migrate upstream to lay eggs and fish farms must use hormone treatments to artificially induce spawning. However, Mark Duffill, president of the International Loach Association, has written online articles about his breeding method, which entails feeding many different kinds of fish foods, lowering the pH from 7.6 to 6.8 using catappa leaves, and adding rock piles to save the eggs and provide shelter for the fry.
Ambastaia Nigrileata, or the black-lined loach, sometimes gets confused with Ambastaia sidthimunki.
If you have never kept dwarf chain loaches, they are a must-have for every freshwater hobbyist’s bucket list. Just remember to save up to get the biggest group possible so that you and your family can fully enjoy their adorable antics. You can view our list of recommended online vendors to order dwarf chain loaches. We don’t ship live fish. Also, check out this article about our top 10 favorite loaches of all time.