Every community fish tank can use a pair or more of loaches. These oblong, rounded back fish with flattened bellies will quickly become the tank characters, lying on the bottom snuffling into the gravel for bits of food, taking up hiding posts behind rocks or in improvised caves, or in the case of the clown loach, taking a break by lying on its side. These fish are easy to keep – if the water is kept clean and fresh – and fun to watch.
All but a few of the more than 200 species of loach come from central and southern Asia. Relatives of the catfish, they have oval, sucker-like mouths with whisker-like barbels on either side. Being mainly nocturnal, they use these whiskers to search for food. Native to swift flowing waters, some of these fish grow to three feet long in the wild. In the aquarium they remain small, usually no more than a six inches.
Several species are available for aquariums and all of them have similar requirements: medium pH and a temperature of about 76 degrees. They will feed, like catfish, off the flakes of food that float to the bottom of the tank. They are also ardent worm eaters. Whatever you feed them, consider using a gravel of a fine consistency rather than hard-edged pebbles since the fish can injure themselves digging into the gravel for food. Being scavengers they will help clean up food that other fish may miss.
Types of Loaches
Not Easy to Breed in Aquariums
Loaches are rarely successfully bred in aquariums since older, larger fish are best for breeding. This size difference, however, has helped keep the wild populations stable despite intensive harvesting. Aquarium keepers only want the small fish for their tanks so harvesters leave the larger breeding fish alone.