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. This diverse group is hard to describe, but they have many characteristics that make them stand out. They are long-bodied, slim, and have whisker-like barbels. Find out which ones are our favorites and how to care for them.
1. Clown Loach – Chromobotia maracanthus
These gorgeous loaches are popular in the aquarium hobby because of their puppy-like behavior, beautiful black and yellow bands, and red-orange fins. However, most do not get the proper care they need because they get as big as a foot-long sub sandwich (30 cm) and prefer to live in larger schools of six or more buddies. They do well at temperatures higher than 80°F (27°C), otherwise they are susceptible 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. 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)
The zebra-striped oddball frog is not for everyone. They can appear like a large, squiggly group of worms. However, they are fun to keep and easy to take care of. These nocturnal fishes love to hide in aquarium decorations or live plants. They then go out looking for food after the lights go out. Although they can be fed any kind of community omnivore diet (such as frozen blackworms or frozen bloodworms), they are particularly fond of eating worms. 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. As with most loaches, they are not picky with their diet and will eat sinking wafers, Repashy gel food, and frozen bloodworms. 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. It is relatively easy to breed them if you have enough cover and good food. Learn more about hillstream loaches in our full 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 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 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. 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. For larger tanks, Yoyo loaches can be great with certain African, Central American and South American cichlids. But keep them away form invertebrates, such as snails or shrimp.
6. Angelicus or Polka Dot Loach from Botia kubotai
You will find a slightly smaller version of this yoyo loach, which is more peaceful and tranquil. This loach measures in at 4 inches (10 cm), is quite outgoing and has vivid, 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. 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. 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. Like other loaches they can tolerate a variety water parameters. They are best kept in groups of six to more 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. They are very eye-catching due to their metallic colors. We have been able to bring them in to 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)
Because it is only 1-1.25 inches long (2.5-3 cm), the rosy loach is our smallest loach. 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 adorable and fun-loving species looks like an enormous hot dog. It measures 6-11 inches (15 to 28 cm) in height. They are available in three colors: regular brown, yellow gold, 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. 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.