Ten Best Loaches You Must 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 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. Their funny antics include playing chase with each other, sleeping on their sides like they’re dead, and cramming themselves into tight corners or 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. If you’re looking for a peaceful bottom dweller that only gets up to 4 inches (10 cm) and won’t eat your snails, you have to get a school of kuhli loaches. 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. Learn more about hillstream loaches in our full care guide.
4. Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki)
If you’re looking for a classic, snail-eating loach that doesn’t get very big, consider the dwarf chain loach. 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. Although dwarf chain loaches are a more expensive option for those with smaller tanks, they can still be an excellent alternative to snail control. You can read the full care guide for more information.
5. Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae)
This species is very popular because of the distinctive markings on its body that look like the word “YOYO”. Because they are still quite large at 5-6 inches (13-15cm), some people call them the budget clown loaf. They 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. They are great for large tanks and can be used with certain African, Central American or South American cichlids. However, keep them away from any invertebrates such as shrimp and snails.
6. Angelicus or Polka Dot Loach (Botia kubotai)
If you want an upgraded version of the yoyo loach that is slightly smaller and more peaceful, look no further. 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. 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)
Unlike the clown and kuhli loaches that have wide, vertical bands, the zebra loach is covered with lots of skinny stripes. They measure 3.5 inches (9cm), and are slightly shorter than angelicus loaches. However, their noses are sloped, making them ideal for eating snails, baby Shrimps, and other Invertebrates. They can be adapted to a variety of water conditions and will thrive in groups of six or more loaches. 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. However, their metallic color is quite eye-catching, so they’re always a huge hit when we are able to find and bring them into 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 fun, lovable species looks like a giant hot dog, ranging from 6-11 inches (15-28 cm) in length. They are available in three colors: regular brown, yellow gold, 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. They can contract fungal and bacterial infections if the water temperature rises above 80°F (27°F).
There are many varieties of loaches, including different shapes and patterns. To get your own loaches, visit our Live Fish page to see a listing of our favorite online fish retailers.