10 Best Loaches You Have to 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. Although it’s difficult to describe this diverse group of freshwater bottom dwellers in detail, many have long bodies, scaleless faces and whisker-like barbels. 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. They don’t get the proper care because they grow to be as large as a sub sandwich length (30 cm). They prefer to live with six friends or more and are often neglected. They thrive at temperatures above 80 degrees F (27 degrees C), or they could become susceptible to diseases like 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. You can feed them any kind of community omnivore diet, but they especially love to slurp down worms, such as frozen bloodworms or live blackworms. 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. You can read more about kuhli loaches by visiting our 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. Like most loaches they will eat any food that is sinking, Repashy gel, or frozen bloodworms. You also have the bonus of them being great algae eaters. They will eat hair, brown diatoms, black beard and other 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 locach is a classic, snail-eating, loach that does not grow very large. This tiny loach is only 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6 cm) in length and has a striking black chain pattern running its length. 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. 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. Our full care guide provides more details.
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. 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. Although they have a mild temperament, they can be a bit aggressive with one another. 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 (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. These loaches aren’t easy to source and could cost you around $13-20 each. 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 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. 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. 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)
The smallest loach on our list is the rosy loach because it only reaches 1-1.25 inches (2.5-3 cm) long. 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 adorable and fun-loving species looks like an enormous hot dog. It measures 6-11 inches (15 to 28 cm) in height. You can find them in a variety of colors including regular brown, golden yellow and albino. Because of their excitement when they see a storm approaching or a rainstorm, they are sometimes called “weather loach”. 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. They can contract fungal and bacterial infections if the water temperature rises above 80°F (27°F).
Loaches come as a variety of sizes, shapes, patterns and colors. For a listing our favorite online fish shops, visit our Live Fish Page.