Which Loach Species Is Best for Your Aquarium?

GIF of loach species

Illustration: The Spruce / Colleen Tighe

Loaches are a fun addition to any tropical freshwater aquarium. Generally, they are peaceful scavengers that spend their time rooting about for tidbits of food on the bottom. Many Loach species actually prefer to be kept in schools, and some species will literally pine away with loneliness if kept alone.

  • 01 of 06

    Clown Loach

    Clown Loach
    Timothy Paine

    Scientific Name: Chromobotia macracanthus

    Also Known As: Tiger Loach

    Adult Size: 12 inches (30 cm)

    Lifespan: 15+ years

    Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon

    pH: 6.5–7.0

    Hardness: 5–12 dGH

    Temperature: 75–86 Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius)

    Tankmates: Keep with others of its own kind.

    Easily the most recognizable of the Loach family, Clown Loaches are active and colorful fish, but they can grow to be quite large over time. They are best suited for larger tanks of 55 gallons or more because they thrive in schools. (A single specimen can be kept in a smaller tank, but for the health of the fish, this is not recommended.)

  • 02 of 06

    Kuhli Loach

    Kuhli Loach
    Robert Mollik

    Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii

    Also Known As: Kuhli Loach, Khuli Loach, Prickly Eye

    Adult Size: 4 inches (12 cm)

    Lifespan: 10 years

    Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallon

    pH: 6.0–6.5

    Hardness: 1–10 dGH (5 dGH is preferred)

    Temperature: 75–86 Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius)

    Tankmates: Keep in schools with small peaceful fish.

    Kuhlis are more active at night. During the day it's quite common for them to find a cozy spot and remain hidden until dark. Like all other loaches, they are happiest when in the company of a school of their own kind. Cover all filter intakes well, as this species has been known to find its way into impellers. 

  • 03 of 06

    Horsehead Loach

    Horsefaced Loach
    Alter welt

    Scientific Name: Acantopsis dialuzona

    Also Known As: Banana Fish, Horsehead Loach, Horse Face Loach, Long-faced Loach, Long-nosed Loach

    Adult Size: 12 inches (30 cm)

    Lifespan: 10 years

    Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallon

    pH: 6.0–6.5

    Hardness: 1–10 dGH (5 dGH is preferred)

    Temperature: 40–77 Fahrenheit (4–25 Celsius)

    Tankmates: Peaceful with any fish

    This Loach truly does have a head that is distinctly horse shaped. It is also a shy Loache; aquarists often don't see them for days at a time. They love to burrow below the substrate with just their eyes protruding to keep an eye out for food or predators. One way to be sure to see them is to turn off the lights in the evening and drop a few sinking food tablets in the tank. Fitting the tank with a moonlight will also make the Horsehead Loach easier to see.

  • 04 of 06

    Weather Loach

    Weather Loach
    Bernt Rene Voss Grimm

    Scientific Name: Misgurnus angullicaudatus

    Also Known As: Amur Mud Loach, Dojo Loach, Japanese Loach, Japanese Weatherfish, Oriental Weatherfish, Pond Loach

    Adult Size: 12 inches (30 cm)

    Lifespan: 10 years

    Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallon

    pH: 6.0–8.0

    Hardness: 1–12 dGH (5 dGH is preferred)

    Temperature: 64–75 Fahrenheit (18–24 Celcius)

    Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish

    Weather Loaches are known for their sensitivity to changes in barometric pressure. They are an active fish, but when weather changes take place, they become even more active. This species is one of the few Loaches that does not need to be kept in a school. They get along well with virtually all other fish and provide plenty of action for the tank.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Yo Yo Loach

    Botia lohachata
    Fanche

    Scientific Name: Botia lohachata

    Also Known As: Almorha Loach, Pakistani Loach, Reticulated Loach, Y-Loach

    Adult Size: 3–5 inches (7–13 cm)

    Lifespan: 10 years

    Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon

    pH: 6.5–7.5

    Hardness: 1–12 dGH (5 dGH is preferred)

    Temperature: 75–86 Fahrenheit (24–30 Celsius)

    Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish

    Yo Yo Loaches proudly sport their name on their sides. They are an active, personable fish that often learns to recognize their owner. Like other loaches, they prefer to be kept in schools and can be shy until they become comfortable with their habitat.

  • 06 of 06

    Zebra Loach

    Botia striata - Zebra Loach
    M. Agullo

    Scientific Name: Botia striata

    Also Known As: Candystripe Loach, Crossbanded Loach, Lined Loach, Striped Loach, Tiger Loach, Zebra Botia

    Adult Size: 4 inches (10 cm)

    Lifespan: 10+ years

    Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon

    pH: 6.0–6.5

    Hardness: 1–10 dGH (5 dGH is preferred)

    Temperature: 73–79 Fahrenheit (23–26 Celsius)

    Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish, comfortable with all species

    Zebra Loaches are easily recognized by their many vertical bands that even cross over onto their fins. They are one of the smallest members of the loach family, and their smaller size and peaceful nature make them a good candidate for many community aquariums.