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 we love the most and how to best 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. 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 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. 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. For more details, read our kuhli loach care guide.
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. They are also excellent algae eaters and will eat brown diatoms, hair algae, and black beard algae. It is relatively easy to breed them if you have enough cover and good food. Our hillstream loaches care guide explains more.
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. 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 species is very popular because of the distinctive markings on its body that look like the word “YOYO”. They are sometimes called the budget clown loach, as they grow to be 5-6 inches (11-35 cm) and cost only $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)
Look no further if you are looking for a smaller, more peaceful version of the yoyo-loach. The loach is a mere 4 inches (10 cm) in length, has no mean bones, is very outgoing, and comes in vibrant, high-contrast colors. These loaches aren’t easy to source and could cost you around $13-20 each. A larger number of fish can be ordered by your fish store if possible. Also, deworm them when you bring them home because they are usually caught from the wild and have a higher likelihood of carrying parasites.
7. Zebra Loach (Botia striata)
Unlike the clown and kuhli loaches that have wide, vertical bands, the zebra loach is covered with lots of skinny stripes. They are 3.5 inches (9cm) longer than angelicus loaches, but they have the same sloped nose, which is ideal for eating snails, baby shrimps, 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)
Many Pangio species are known as “kuhli loaches”, but this one is entirely silver and has 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)
Our smallest loach is the rosy, which can only reach 1-1.25inches (2.5-3cm) in length. This nano fish is sexually dimorphic. The males are a classic rosy colour with a dark horizontal line and the females are brownish-gray 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 fun, lovable species looks like a giant hot dog, ranging from 6-11 inches (15-28 cm) in length. You can find them in a variety of colors including regular brown, golden yellow and albino. They are often called the “weather loach” because of their excited behavior when they sense an approaching storm or rainfall. 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. Keep them at 80 degrees F (27 degrees F) as they can get fungal and bacterial infections from too hot water.
There are many varieties of loaches, including different shapes and patterns. Visit our Live Fish page for a list of our top online fish sellers to get your loaches.