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 come in smaller packages, which makes them more 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 are native to rivers and floodplain forests of Thailand. Because they are threatened in the wild, all fish sold in stores are commercially bred. Their narrow bodies measure in at just 2 to 3 inches (6 cm) and their noses have very few barbels. Their common name comes from the black, chain-like pattern running down the sides of their bodies. 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. Also, many loaches are nocturnal, but dwarf chain loaches are awake and active during the daytime.
Are dwarf chain loaches aggressive? They are pretty energetic and constantly moving, but in our experience, we’ve never seen them bully other fish, even during mealtimes. They are quite curious though, so they will investigate and “sniff” new fish that are added to the aquarium.
Ambastaia sidthimunki is known for the high-contrast, chain-like pattern on the top half of its body.
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. This species is fairly pricey at $7-15 per fish, but a big group will help them feel less stressed, establish a social hierarchy, and display unique behaviors like playing “follow the leader” all over the tank.
Because of the annual rainy season in their native habitat, dwarf chain loaches are used to living in wide ranges of temperature, pH, and GH. 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. 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. You should be aware that they eat tiny crustaceans and insects in the wild. They will happily eat cherry shrimp babies, and any other small animals they find.
A dwarf loach’s pointed nose is ideal for 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 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 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. Mark Duffill, the president of the International Loach Association has written articles online about his breeding methods. He feeds many kinds of fish, lowers the pH to 6.8 with catappa leaves and adds rock piles to protect the eggs and shelter the fry.
Ambastaia Nigerianigrolineata (bottom) can sometimes be confused with Ambastaia Sidthimunki, top)
They are a must-have addition to every freshwater hobbyist’s list. Just remember to save up to get the biggest group possible so that you and your family can fully enjoy their adorable antics. Although we do not ship live fish, you may see our preferred online vendors list to purchase dwarf chain loaches. This article also features our top 10 most loved loaches.