Care Guide for Dwarf Chain Loaches – Snail-Eating Nano Fish
Many loaches have the reputation of being playful, boisterous schooling fish and can stress their shyer tank mates. Dwarf chain loaches are more chill and come in a nano-sized package, making them suitable 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?
Ambastaia sidthimunki is a species that comes from the rivers and floodplain forests of Thailand. They are also endangered in the wild so the fish you purchase in shops are all commercially raised. 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 comes from the black, chain-like pattern running down the sides of their bodies. Although most loaches live at the bottom, these fish can swim in the middle and bottom of the tank. They flutter their fins like hummingbirds to make it seem like they are fluttering. Many loaches are active at night, while dwarf chain loaches can be awake during the day.
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’s high-contrast chain-like pattern at the top of its upper body is well-known.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Dwarf Chain Loaches
While Ambastaia sidthimunki are fairly small, we recommend getting a 20-gallon tank or bigger because of their activity level and need to be in a larger school of at least 7-10 dwarf chain loaches. The species can be quite expensive at $7-15 per fish. However, a large group of them will make them feel less stressed and establish a social hierarchy. They’ll also display unique behaviors such as “follow the leader” throughout the tank.
Dwarf chain loaches have adapted to living in many temperature and pH levels due to their habitat’s annual rainy season. We keep them at 75-82degF (24-28%C), although they are capable of living up to 10 degrees higher. Provide lots of aquarium plants, little caves, and other hiding spots for them to dart into when startled. You should be aware that they have small spines beneath their eyes.
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.
How can dwarf chain loaches live with fish? They are good with all kinds of small-sized community fish. They have been kept with platies, angelfish, corydoras catsfish, platies and tetras. We also keep them with rasboras and plecos. Sometimes dwarf chain loaches can be shy so adding dither fish to the tank will make them more comfortable and more willing to go out in the open. 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.
The pointy snout of a dwarf loach is perfect for eating small shrimp, snails, and worms.
What do Dwarf Chain Loaches eat?
Loaches love meaty foods so give them small, soft foods they can eat. We give them a variety of community fish food options, including Repashy gel foods, Bug Bites and frozen bloodworms. 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 or are they just curious? Loaches with pointed faces love eating aquatic gastropods. Their snouts can be used to dig into snail shells. Dwarf-chain loaches will eat smaller snails. However, they can be annoying to larger snails.
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 Nigerianigrolineata (bottom) can sometimes be confused with Ambastaia Sidthimunki, top)
Dwarf chain loaches are an essential addition to any freshwater enthusiast’s collection. Make sure you save enough money to buy the largest group possible to ensure your family gets to enjoy their hilarious antics. While we don’t ship live fish, you can see our list of preferred online vendors to get your own dwarf chain loaches. You can also read this article about our 10 top-rated loaches.