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Loach Care Sheet

Loach Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Loaches are a freshwater fish found primarily in rivers and streams throughout Asia. Loaches are part of an extremely diverse group of fish species and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Most loach species have whisker-like sensory organs near the mouth called barbels. These barbels contain taste buds which assist with finding food in dark, murky waters. Loaches are a bottom-dwelling species and spend their day rooting through the substrate foraging for food. Most loaches are highly social and prefer to be kept in schools. 


Loach care sheet

This care sheet covers a variety of loach species, including:  

  • Clown loach
  • Skunk loach 
  • Yo-yo loach 
  • Dojo loach
  • Kuhli loach
  • Zebra loach 
  • Horseface loach
  • Tiger loach
  • Hillstream loach
  • Peppered loach 
  • Redtail loach 

Scientific names: Chromobotia macracanthus, Yasuhikotakia morleti, Botia lohachata, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, Pangio kuhlii, Botia striata, Acantopsis choirorhynchos, Syncrossus hymenophysa, Sewellia lineolata, Lepidocephalichthys guntea, Botia modesta 

Table of contents

Typical appearance and behavior 

  • Many species like to bury themselves in the substrate
  • Most prefer to be kept in schools of 5 or more 
  • Loaches scavenge for food and will eat almost anything
  •  Many loach species, over time, are known to recognize their pet parent 
  • Most loaches are hardy, making them a good species for beginning aquarists 
  • Most true loaches are scaleless or have very small scales embedded in their skin 


Care Difficulty Ranges from beginner to intermediate, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 15 years when properly cared for, depending on species
Average Adult Size 1–20 inches long, depending on species
Diet Omnivore and carnivore, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 72–82°F

Loach supplies


Habitat size

Keep in an appropriate size aquarium based on the adult size of the species selected, which can range from 10 gallons for smaller species to 100+ gallons for large species, such as an adult clown loach, or for schools of larger species.

Building your habitat

  • Water health -
    • Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Moderate to strong water circulation should be provided to mimic the water currents and high oxygen levels found in the loach’s natural habitat 
    • Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. 
    • An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature and ensure it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period 
    • Many loaches will benefit from the addition of freshwater salt to the aquarium; the specific gravity should be kept at 1.004. Always research your species-specific needs before adding freshwater aquarium salt. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period. Scaleless species of loaches can be sensitive to freshwater salt levels
  • Décor - Many loach species are nocturnal and should be provided rock caves, hollow logs or other safe hiding spaces
  • Substrate - Loaches have barbels (or whiskers) and many like to burrow; a less abrasive substrate is recommended to help prevent damage to their sensitive skin or appendages


A well-balanced loach diet consists of:

  • Sinking pellets or flake foods; freeze-dried tubifex worms
  • Brine shrimp, mysis shrimp and bloodworms (live, freeze-dried or frozen)
  • Algae sheets or wafers
  • Preferences vary by species

Things to remember when feeding your loach:

  • Feed small amounts two to three times daily, no more than your fish will eat in 1–2 minutes
  • Your fish will scavenge food but also need to be specifically fed; be sure food reaches bottom level of the aquarium
  • Feed prepared foods according to the directions on the packaging
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

Loach care

  • Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your loach healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

Where to buy a loach

Various loaches are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local Petco Pet Care Center location, please call ahead to check availability. 

Tank mates 

Most loaches are peaceful and can be kept with community fish of similar size and temperament, including other loaches; however, larger loaches may eat smaller fish that they are able to fit into their mouths.


Signs of a healthy loach

  • Clear eyes
  • Eats vigorously
  • Active swimming at the bottom or sides of the aquarium
  • Good coloration
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye
  • Listlessness
  • Labored breathing
  • Erratic swimming
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Frayed or discolored fins

Common loach health issues

Health issue Symptoms or causes Suggested action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or CausesFrayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add or slightly increase freshwater aquarium salt level; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueIch Symptoms or CausesWhite spots appear on fins and body; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically, rapid respirations Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately; add or slightly increase freshwater aquarium salt level and use a commercial ich remedy as directed; donsult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueCottonmouth or columnaris Symptoms or CausesCottony white growths along the body and/or gills, frayed fins and gills turn brown and necrotic in late stages; caused by bacterial infection Suggested ActionQuarantine fish; improve water quality; lower aquarium temperature to 72°F to deter bacteria from growing; medicate as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment



Some species of loach can live up to 15 years when properly cared for. 

Loaches are opportunistic feeders and should be provided with a variety of flakes, sinking pellets, freeze-dried, frozen or live foods.

Most loaches are peaceful and can live with other appropriately sized fish and other loaches. Larger loaches may eat smaller fish that they can fit into their mouths.

There are roughly 1,250+ known species of loaches. Some of the most popular species for home aquariums are clown, dojo and kuhli loaches.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacteria and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.