I make my living as a freelance writer and though a lot of my work is in the health and fitness niche, I also get the opportunity to write content for aquarium websites, newsletters and even e-books on a fairly regular basis. This past week I spent several days writing an extensive e-book on loaches and found myself fascinated by these creatures. Despite having owned a freshwater aquarium myself for more than 10 years, I have never owned a loach—I dare say I have never even considered it. Why? For some reason, I was under the assumption that they were difficult to care for.
Time to Rethink
If you find yourself in the same boat as me, thinking that loaches might not be the best fit for your tank, you may be just as wrong as I was. Though it is true that loaches require extremely high water quality, they are actually very hardy in the home aquarium and make great additions to the community tank. If you are looking for some new fish to enhance your community tank, or if you are looking for fish to construct a species-tank or biotope-tank around, you may want to consider loaches as an option.
Before I get into the details about keeping loaches in your tank at home, let me take a step back and talk about some of the basics. What are loaches and what makes them such great community fish? Loaches belong to the taxonomical order Cypriniformes which also contains carps and minnows and the majority of loach species can be found in two families: Botiidae and Cobitidae. Cobitidae loaches are referred to as “true loaches” because they come from the Old World—that is, the only part of the world known to Europeans before they had any contact with the Americas. Botiidae loaches can be found in New World areas including North America, South America and Oceania (which includes Australia).
What makes loaches so interesting, at least to me, is their appearance. There are hundreds of species of loaches and no two look exactly alike. The Clown Loach (also known as the Tiger Loach) sports bold black and orange stripes while the Dojo Loach has an elongated body that is gold or pink in color. My personal favorite, the Reticulated Hillstream Loach, has a flattened body with large, wing-like fins and a mottled black-and-brown pattern. One thing is for certain about loaches—they will definitely make an attractive addition to your community tank no matter which species you choose.
Aside from their unique colors and patterns, loaches tend to exhibit some interesting behaviors that make them entertaining additions to the home aquarium. Most loach species are schooling species which means that they are best kept in groups with others of their kind, usually a minimum of 6. Owners of Clown Loaches report sightings of their fish zipping around the tank in groups, travelling at high speeds for hours on end. Other loaches are nocturnal, prone to hiding during the day and coming out of the substrate when the rest of the tank is at rest. Some loaches have even been known to flop over onto their sides and “play dead” for extended periods of time.
What it Takes to Keep Them
If I’ve piqued your interest in these lovely creatures, you may be wondering what it takes to keep them in your tank at home. You do not necessarily need any special equipment or even a dedicated tank to keep loaches—the most important thing is that you maintain high water quality and strong water flow. Though some species like the Clown Loach can grow up to 12 inches long, most loaches top out under 4 inches. This being the case, you may be able to get away with adding a few loaches to your 30- to 50-gallon community tank. In regard to water parameters, most loaches will do well in slightly acidic water (a pH around 6.5 is good) that is warm and slightly soft—most species prefer a water hardness under 10 dGH and a temperature range between 75° to 85°F. Aside from that, all you need is plenty of swimming space and places to hide such as large rocks, rock caves and plenty of live plants.
A Loach Might be the Right Choice
I have by no means told you everything there is to know about loaches, but hopefully I have opened your eyes to an option you may have never before considered. If you have been thinking that your community tank could use a little extra color or energy, try adding a few black-and-gold striped Dario Botia Loaches or maybe a few Kuhli Loaches. Before you add any new fish, make sure to do your research to be sure that they will get along with the fish you already have in your tank and that they do not require drastically different water parameters. The bottom line is that loaches are no more difficult to care for than other aquarium fish so think about adding some to your community tank and let me know how you like them!
Feature Photo Copyright leonidp / 123RF Stock Photo