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. 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 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. Their funny antics include playing chase with each other, sleeping on their sides like they’re dead, and cramming themselves into tight corners or tubes.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
This zebra-striped oddball fish isn’t for everyone since they can look like a squiggly mass of worms, but they are quite enjoyable and easy to care for. 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. 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. Our kuhli locach care guide has more information.
3. Reticulated Hillstream Loach – Sewellia Lineolata
Hillstream loaches are another oddball on our list because they look more like baby stingrays 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. 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. They are easy to breed, provided you provide plenty of food and cover in your fish tank. Our hillstream loaches care guide explains 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. They are active at the bottom, chasing each other and looking for food. However, they also “flutter” their fins and swim around the tank. Dwarf chain loaches can be a bit on the pricier side, especially since you need at least 6-10 in a group, but they’re a great alternative for people with smaller planted tanks that need 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”, with the lettering on its side. Some people refer to them as the budget clown loach because they still get fairly large at 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) but only cost $5-8. They have a relatively mild temperament but can get a little ornery with each other, so get a school of at least six to even out any aggression. Yoyo loaches are great for larger tanks with certain African, Central American, or South American cichlids, but keep them away from invertebrates like snails and shrimp.
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. This loach measures in at 4 inches (10 cm), is quite outgoing and has vivid, high contrast colors. They are not easy to find and can cost around $13-20 per piece. A larger number of fish can be ordered by your fish store if possible. Deworm them as soon as you bring them home. They are more likely to have parasites than wild fish and are often caught in the wild.
7. Zebra Loach (Botia striata)
The zebra loach has many thin stripes, unlike the clown and the kuhli loaches which have large, vertical bands. 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. Similar to other loaches, they can handle a wide range of water parameters and would do best in a group of six or more of the same species. 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 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 lovable, fun species looks like a huge hot dog. It can grow to 6-11 inches (15-28cm) in length. They come in several colors, such as 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. Try to keep them below 80degF (27degF) because they can catch bacterial and fungal infections when the water gets too warm.
Loaches come in many different sizes, shapes, and patterns, so there’s bound to be a species that will capture your heart. For a listing our favorite online fish shops, visit our Live Fish Page.