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  1. #1

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    Default Loaches: A Primer

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    Members of the Cyprinid family of carps and minnows are the Cobitids; the loaches. All are from clear, swift streams in primarily Southeast Asia, with a few species in Europe.

    First, nomenclature. Cobitidae, which is the family loaches belong to, means 'sardine' in Greek, though as purely freshwater fish and looking nothing like the marine species, who knows why the original descriptor dubbed loaches that. Loaches differ from the barbs and Rasboras by having at least three to six pairs of barbels around a downward-facing mouth, catfish-like. There are 18 genera and roughly 110 species of loach, though only a handful are available in the hobby.

    All commonly available loach species have a switchblade-like spine under their eyes. It is used purely for defense; to avoid being eaten. The spines are almost always erected when frightened; for instance by capture at the fish store. Be very careful with netting loaches, as a spine can be caught in the net, and the flesh around it can be easily torn.

    Also, all Botia species click; that is, they make sharp clicking noises when food hits the water, they are playing, finding each other in the dark, or someone is in their favorite spot. So don't be surprised if you hear odd clicking noises in the middle of the night. It's just your loaches being themselves. Only the members of the Botiine group click; to my experience other loach species do or can not.

    Loaches are not scaless fish; their scales are tiny and closely knit, giving the illusion that they are scaless. That being, they are still highly vulnerable to salt and medication, as they can easily burn the loach's body. No salt should ever be used with loaches, as the 'cure' can be fatal.
    Acclimation should be by the drip bucket method, at least two cycles, as shock because of poor or hurried acclimation often brings on disease.

    All loach species in the hobby are benthic fishes, that is, they spend most if not all of the time on the substrate. Some do roam a bit in the bottom third of the tank, most notably the smaller species. However, primarily, as noted by the downward facing bewhiskered mouths, they spend most of the time on the substrate, sifting through it for tidbits.

    Now, some species.

    Ubiquitous when the word loach is mentioned is Chromobotia macracanthus; the Clown Loach of Myanmar, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

    Very common in shops as they are captive bred in Southeast Asia and the Czech Republic via hormone injection, it's their looks that make Clown Loaches popular. A yellow-orange body is bisected by three broad blue-black stripes, the first going through the eyes. In exceptionally well-kept specimens, the pectoral, anal and caudal fins are splashed with blood red.

    Though they are popular, few are aware just how large Clown Loaches get. Given the space, which they very much should be, Clown Loaches grow to 16 inches long, and get considerably more bulky as they grow. A 16-inch Clown Loach is a great big fish, and at that size it's easy to pick out the sexes, as the females are truly huge.

    How fast do they grow? Properly housed and fed, a Clown Loach can grow up to an inch every six weeks when small (say 1.5 inches). They slow down a bit after they hit six inches, but within two and a half to three years, will be pushing a foot long. Within five or six, they can and will be 16-inches long. Clown Loaches can also live at least 20 years to my knowledge. The size is immaterial; Clown Loaches must have spots in their tanks they can jam in all together. Small and large Clown Loaches get along perfectly, and all will rest together in some tight spot.

    Despite the potential for a quite a large size, Clown Loaches don't bother other fishes, unless they are small enough to eat. They are great snail eaters, and a tank with a group of six or more Clown Loaches rarely if ever have snail problems.

    Planted tanks with driftwood are perfect for a group of Clown Loaches. At the very least get six of them, with more being better, as Clown Loaches do best in groups no matter their size. Plants in the tanks with a school of large specimens must be deep rooted as they can accidently dig up them up in their foraging. All Clown Loaches will nibble soft-leaved plants.

    Rather nocturnal in nature, floating plants should be used to dim the light so you'll see your loaches most all day - though they are most active in the mornings and evenings. They do best in the soft and acid tank, say pH 6.8 and gH between 4 and 6. Clown Loaches are adaptable to a point, but going over pH 7.5 and moderate hardness is ill advised, as they are far more vulnerable to disease in such waters. They like their temps to be between 78 and 83 degrees.

    For best results, the water must be very well filtered with the water volume turned over at least six or eight times an hour. They frolic when given a good, Oxygen-rich current in their tank, like that generated by power heads. They often rest at odd positions on leaves or the substrate, rolling over on their sides for a snooze.

    Worms are beloved, with frozen bloodworms a favorite, as are live California Black Worms if you can find a clean source of them. Insect larvae, either live or frozen, are happily eaten. Fresh vegetables like Cucumber and Zucchini, with the latter lightly blanched, will give your Clown Loaches the vegetation they need and keep them away from your Cabomba. etc. Feed vegetables daily, and your Clown Loaches will thank you for it. Two or three types/brands of pelleted foods, including those designed for catfishes, can be given occasionally, but frozen foods and vegetables should be the main menu.

    Scattered accounts of captive breeding Clown Loaches in home tanks surface occasionally, and in every account, the loach group were kept alone in a thickly-planted tank, and the parent fish were at least six inches long. They were fed properly, and basically left alone.

    The following Spring, the loaches were removed, and the plants pulled up. The baby Clown Loaches were found around the roots of the plants.

    Much smaller and thus suited to smaller tanks is perhaps my favorite loach species; Botia striata - the Striped or Zebra Loach of clear water streams in India.

    Topping out at an adult size of four inches, Striped Loaches are smaller-bodied than the former, and even at four inches, are still rather slender fish, though the females are a bit rotund. A creamy-orange body is covered from nose to tail with pairs of close, black stripes, with a silvery-white between them. Stripes are on the otherwise clear dorsal and tail fins as well. The eye, which is bisected by a line, is bright yellow-orange.

    As above, striata are great snail eaters. Also, they MUST be kept in groups of no less than six as otherwise they are nervous, uncomfortable fishes that hide all the time and soon die. You'll see them all day if you keep more than six as you should. They do need several hiding places built in to a layout if one is thinking of adding this species to a future aquarium. The hiding places should be of a size the Striped Loach clan can all jam into it together. Like most Botia, they DEEPLY enjoy the company of their fellows in tight hidey-holes, as it gives them ease and security.

    A planted tank with driftwood is all but essential for a group of Striped Loaches. They won't long tolerate water over pH 7.0; soft and slightly acid is where they do best, as do most of the plants in the hobby. They can be kept between 73 and 80 degrees. Mine are kept at 77 in a tank with pH 6.8, gh 4 water. I've found them to be quite durable, as they are well into their sixth year in my care.

    Their water should be very clean, and highly Oxygenated, with no less than 8 mg/l of O2. As they are from swift waters, a decent linear current would benefit them, and filtration should be able to turn the tank volume over at least six times an hour.

    In feeding they are easily satisfied. Sinking pellets designed for catfishes can be staple, but frozen foods like bloodworms and mosquito larvae should be fed nearly every day. Mine adore live Daphnia and Mysis, though the frozen equivalents may work. Veggies, especially Cucumber, are happily nibbled and quite beneficial to them. Quality pelleted foods, including one consisting of vegetative components, can substitute one meal every day. As above, small meals given often are best, as Striped Loaches are grazers. Three to four small meals a day is recommended; no more than they can eat within 30 seconds per meal. As quick as they eat, they can usually finish within 10. They click, but at their small size, it isn't nearly as loud as say, a group of six-inch Clown Loaches are.

    I'm not aware of any home breeding of this species.

    On to Part 2
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

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  2. #2

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    Default Part 2

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    Part 2

    Perhaps the second-most common loach in shops is Botia almorhae, the Yo Yo or Pakistani loach.

    Haling from the high, warm-water streams of India, Bangladesh and Nepal, B. almorhae, and also called B. lohachata (a junior synonym), is by far the most active feeder of the loach clan. They are always ready to eat, but resist over feeding them. Feed just enough that they can finish in well under 30 seconds three times a day, as Yo-Yo Loaches will gorge themselves to their ruin if you let them.

    Alive or frozen, worms, small crustaceans and insect larvae are their favorite foods, though they will eat what you give them. Make sure the food is of the highest quality. Variety is quite important with these fish, and they will reward you with health and best color. Mine absolutely adored nibbling on Cucumber, so strongly consider adding vegetables to their diet.

    Quite affable and entertaining when kept in groups of six or more, Yo Yo Loaches are the ultimate stream fish. If you think they are active now, add a steady, linear current through the tank via power heads, perhaps with a pair of running air stones, and you'll see just how active they can be. They will comb every inch of your substrate and the leaves of every plant. Every snail's life in the tank will be forfeit.

    Like the vast majority of loaches in the hobby, Yo Yo Loaches really are at their best in planted tanks with driftwood and stones. They also need several hiding places where they can get into all together. They dig more into the substrate looking for tidbits than most loaches, so make sure your plants are well established before adding a group of these fishes. They don't purposely uproot plants, but just by their active foraging they sometimes do, unless the plants are well-rooted. To my experience they don't nibble plants.

    They are adaptable as to water conditions, as long as it's very well filtered and clean. They can go up to pH 7.5 and moderately hard, around gH 12, though they are most colorful and disease resistant in soft and acid conditions, say a pH under 7.0, and hardness under 6. Temperature preference is 76 to 80 degrees.

    In color they are a yellowish-white fish, with repeating bands of dark brown in a 'Y' shape, hence the common name. The dorsal and tail have dark bands, and the rays are rather white on other fins. The eye is a silvery white. Over a dark substrate and background they are more richly colored, and stand out nicely.

    Topping out at a rather modest six inches, females are easy to pick out as they are larger-bodied and often filled with eggs. The latter is the frustrating part of these fishes, as though adult females are often egg-laden, there is no account I'm aware of them breeding in aquariums. Perhaps once the proper trigger is discovered, home breeding of these charming fishes will become a reality.

    Perhaps the only Botia species that can be tagged with an aggressive label is Syncrossus hymenophysa - the Tiger Loach, which is a native of swift-water plant-chocked streams in Indonesia, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

    One of the largest species at 10 inches, Tiger Loaches must be kept with lusty larger barbs, like adult Clown Barbs (Puntius everetti) in a large school and/or Central and South American Cichlids that grow about as large as the loaches, but are mellow enough not to hassle them. like full-grown Oscars, as the loaches can return it in kind with their sub-ocular spines and aggressive attitude. In groups of six or more they are affable enough, but keep them in numbers under five at your peril, as one will kill the others then start on the tankmates.

    Personally, I had no aggression problems in the years I kept eight Tiger Loaches, but everyone I spoke to prior to writing this primer as to their experience with these fish call them the most aggressive loach species they had ever kept, and I was regaled with horror stories about their aggressive behaviors. So purchase your group of Tiger Loaches with a healthy dose of caution as to numbers, tank size and tankmates.

    Far more slender-bodied than their larger cousins, they have a quite attractive greenish body that is accented by a dozen dark green tiger stripes that reach down from the upper third of the fish. Eyes are silver, and two diagonal dark stripes accent the snout. Females are easily identified by their more robust bodies. The dorsal and tail have blotches of dark colors. The green is rather glittery around the head and below the eyes.

    No loach I've ever kept clicks as loudly as a group of Tiger Loaches when food is added. It's very striking when you first hear them. They are very fast eaters, not to mention vocal ones, and by far their favorite foods are frozen Mysis, bloodworms and mosquito larvae. They go absolutely berserk with joy if you add live California Black Worms to the diet, and they are very beneficial to the fish's colors. Sinking prepared foods are good, but the more variety you can add by frozen foods the better your loaches will be. Larger fish can take larger foods, like frozen Krill and live earthworms. Cucumber and blanched Zucchini were eagerly eaten by my fish, and that will keep them from snacking on your plants.

    Any snail is a dead snail when a S. hymenophysa troupe is in the tank. They do enjoy their escargot.

    Small meals often is best, but each should be finished in well under 30 seconds, as they are likely to gorge themselves if you let them, which will really shorten their lives. Tiger Loaches can easily live for 20 years or more properly fed and kept.

    Planted tanks are indeed best, as Tiger Loaches really do need the cover of plants, driftwood and stones. They don't do well at all over pH 7.2, and hardness must be suitably soft. They also like it warmer than most loaches, 77 to 86 degrees.

    To my knowledge they haven't been bred in the home aquarium, but that may be because not many keep them in the environs they prefer in suitable numbers.

    By far the smallest commonly available loach is Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki, the Dwarf Chain Loach of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

    The ultimate schooling loach, Dwarf Loaches top out at a diminutive 2.5 inches. You'd do them a serious disservice and rob yourself of a charming display if you keep less than six of them. In a suitably-sized aquarium, say a 75, a group of two or three dozen is a nice sight.

    Dwarf Loaches are simply a glittery silver-white, with black circlets in a chain pattern above the lateral line. A splash of yellow-orange is above the silver eyes. Being so silvery, different tints of cool, metallic colors flash, mainly greens and blues, as the fish move.

    More adaptable than most loaches, you can keep your group up to pH 7.5 and moderate hardness, though of course they do best in soft and acid waters, even down to pH 6.0. Best temps are 75 to 80 degrees.

    Dwarf Chain Loaches are a great fish for the bottom third of a planted tank, and it's in a well-planted tank with driftwood and stones they live best. Though they spend considerable time on the substrate, they often swim around the lower reaches of the aquarium en masse in a rolling school. More often than not they will alight on a plant leaf, do a bit of cleaning, then promptly take a nap, rolling over in odd positions, as all Botia-type fish do. A very cute species. Oxygen-rich currents are appreciated, and they must have very clean conditions to thrive, so lusty filtration and regular partial water changes are a requirement if you want the best out of your fishes.

    They are good eaters, and will take what you give them, but high quality foods are necessary for best color and vitality. Sinking catfish pellets, cucumber, micro pellets designed for tetras, and frozen and live foods of a suitable size like Daphnia pulex and insect larvae are all eagerly eaten. They get most excited and even click quietly when given live and frozen foods.

    On to Part 3
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  3. #3

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    Default Part 3

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    Thankfully, the vast majority of Dwarf Loaches available are captive bred, though unfortunately by hormone injection. Native populations are under serious pressure from deforestation followed by erosion, and agricultural run-off which poisons the clear-water streams they live in. They are critically endangered in Thailand and are virtually extinct there because of pollution. They are highly protected, but it may be too late to save this species in that country; a true shame.

    Though they are captive bred in huge numbers, Dwarf Loaches are for some reason never cheap. As they MUST be kept in large groups for their security and to thrive, it will be a serious financial outlay for a proper school.

    A charming loach, one of my favorites.

    More eel-like than any of the former, the popular Kuhli Loaches (Pangio kuhlii) are one of the most commonly kept species.

    Native to weed-choked streams of Indonesia, Kuhli Loaches share the sub-ocular spine of other loach species in this list. Reaching about 3.75 inches, a slender elongated body is yellow-orange, with between 15 and 20 dark very blue-black stripes run top to bottom, with the number of bands increasing as the fish grow. The bottom of the fish is silvery. Three pairs of barbels ring the mouth like "an obstinate little mustache'" according to Innes* Two small whiskers are under the mouth like a goatee.

    Kuhli Loaches are the quintessential soft-water fish. The pH MUST be below 7; pH 6.0 to 6.8 is their range. The water should be soft, less than 5 degrees of hardness, though they can adapt up to 10 degrees. They also aren't the fish for the new tank; it must be well established and rock solid stable before trying this species, as they WILL NOT tolerate fluctuations typified in newer tanks.

    Temperatures are 75 to 80, with 77 optimal. No less than six of these fish should be purchased, with more being far better. In groups, they will be in constant view, rolling and tumbling with each other between group foraging trips. Lesser numbers of these fish hide all the time, and soon make their demise.

    Planted aquaria with driftwood are the perfect place for Kuhli Loaches, and it is in those tanks they do best, living for more than 10 years commonly. They are also decent cleaners, as in their foraging they clean around the base of plants and all over driftwood. Lots of tight hiding places are key, as they like to have their worm-like bodies in close contact. They do eat snails, but with no where near the vigor of the Botia group.

    In feeding, high quality food is the rule if you want to keep your fish long term. A group of good pelleted foods, with at least one vegetative based, should be staple. Frozen insect larvae and shrimp should be fed regularly, and live worms of a suitable size are happily eaten. They do enjoy cucumber, indicating a need for plant debris. As above, small meals given often are best.

    Kuhli Loaches are the only loach species I know of that commonly breeds in aquariums, though no one I know of has caught them in the act. In a larger well-established planted tank, say a 75 gallon, it is fairly common to find half-grown juveniles appear in your group when your fish are adults. The sexes are easy to delineate, as females are often filled with eggs.

    Also sold as Kuhli Loaches are Acanthophthalmus myersi, which is larger bodied than the true Kuhli Loach and grows to just over 4 inches, and the much smaller A. robiginosus, which tops out at 2 inches, is slender, and has roughly 20 bars that reach half-way down. They can be kept just the same.

    Larger but gentle giants are Yasuhikotakia modesta, the Red-Finned or Blue Botia of swift streams in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

    Topping out at 10 inches, Red-Finned Loaches have a deep, greenish blue body and in properly kept fishes rich red fins. The eye is silver and blue. Larger, well-kept fishes are very attractive. They are heavily-built, but no where near the bulk of adult Clown Loaches.

    They won't bother fishes too large to eat, but although they are social like other loaches, one will be dominant. Some will gravitate to that Alpha Fish, while others may not, so make sure there are many hiding places built into you layout. They work out politics with much clicking; it's very fascinating. Once things are worked out, they do forage together and are perfectly amiable.

    The tank should be scaled to their maximum size, so over a hundred-gallon tank is necessary.

    Like all loaches, they should be kept in groups of six or more. Also, the substrate should be soft as this species digs a good bit looking for tidbits. They also should be the only Loach species and only bottom dweller in a tank, as they don't like other species in their territory.

    They really do best in the warrens and niches of the large planted tank. Red-Fin Loaches are adaptable; pH 6.5 to 7.5 is their range, and they can handle hardness up to 12 degrees, though they seem to be most colorful in soft water with a neutral to slightly acid pH. Temperatures are 77 to 84.

    As they are stream fishes, the Dissolved Oxygen level shouldn't dip below 8 mg/l, which is easy to maintain in a planted tank that is aerated at night. Filtration should be quite strong, and they do not long tolerate dissolved organics like high Nitrate, so weekly partial water changes are essential. Tank volume should be turned over about 8 times an hour with these fish.

    They will take what you give them, as modesta are quite greedy eaters, so make sure just enough is fed that they can finish in less than 20 seconds. Sinking pelleted foods should be staple. Frozen and live worms and frozen shrimp and insect larvae should be a large part of the diet. Mine really liked munching on cucumber and blanched zucchini, indicating a need for vegetation. Small meals given often are best.

    For reason known only to themselves this species is often dyed, tattooed or force-fed color enhancers in the Asian fish markets. Naturally, they should be a bronzy blue-grey color with yellowish or reddish fins when small. Eschew those available in unnatural colors like pinks and oranges as it is an abomination, as these fish always die early deaths. Modesta loaches commonly live well over 20 years in their natural form.

    To my knowledge Red-Fin Loaches haven't been bred in aquariums.

    On to Part 4
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  4. #4

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    Default Part 4

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    One of my personal favorites is Botia dario, the Queen Botia of small, rocky swift streams in India and Bangladesh.

    They are most common in the fast, rolling waters of Northeast Bangladesh, and a good number of specimens come from that country through India. According to my sources in that country, the government is committed to preservation of natural resources, with daunting penalties toward polluters.

    A rich golden body is crossed by six to eight diagonally sloping dark grey-brown bands. Dark stripes are on the caudal fin, the pectoral fins are yellow, and the eye is silver. Queen Botia are one of the smaller species, topping out at barely six inches. They are long and rather svelte rather than high bodied and bulky. They get more and more deeply colored as they age, and are truly attractive fishes. They top out at six inches.

    This is a very social species, and revel in groups of six or more, with more much more entertaining for the fish keeper and good for the fishes. They absolutely adore each other, and squeeze into tight hiding places all together. The twelve I have never stay out of sight of each other while foraging, which they always do en masse. They are always combing through the gravel for tidbits, so have a soft substrate to protect the barbels. Water MUST be very clean and the tank well-filtered if you want to keep this species. No dissolved organics will be tolerated, and these are not fishes for new tanks or those in flux.

    Planted tanks are best, and they comb driftwood and plant leaves more thoroughly than any loach save for Dwarf Loaches. PH values should be no higher than 7.4, soft and slightly acid results in best health and color. Temps are 75 to 80 degrees. Like most loaches, they are quite long-lived, as thus far they've been with me 8 years and are still just as active as they ever have.

    In feeding, frozen insect larvae, shrimp and worms are their favorite food. Live worms are enjoyed, and no fish I have snarks up live California Black Worms like a dario group does. They will take live Daphnia and Mysis with vigor, and they do like to nibble on the cucumber, apple and blanched zucchini I put in for other fishes. High quality pelleted foods should round out the diet. Snails don't last long with the Queen Botia. They do click quite a bit and squabble somewhat over tasty food, and may do a little shy nipping in those circumstances. The squabbles do no damage. Small meals often are indeed best.

    A thoroughly entertaining, attractive loach. To my knowledge they haven't bred in aquariums, but that's just a matter of time. All available are wild caught and from Bangladesh, which means if you see dario listed as the Bengal Loach, it's literally true.

    Feisty despite their small size are Yasuhikotakia morleti, the Skunk Loach of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

    Topping out at a mere four inches, Skunk Loaches are just as spicy as their larger brethren - Tiger Loaches, though kept in groups of eight or more usually reforms them. Keep them with slow fish with extensive fins at your peril.

    They are a creamy orange fish with a herring bone pattern on the body, and have a black stripe that runs along the top that ends in a crescent near the tail, which is speckled with dark colors. Dorsal is yellowish; paired fins are deep red, and the eye is silvery. They are more full-bodied than other small loaches.

    Tankmates should be quick and robust, like the larger Danio species and larger barbs. Other bottom dwellers are not advised.

    Mine were very deeply colored in a soft-water planted tank I kept with a dark substrate and background. They like worms, insect larvae and crustaceans very much, and devoured cucumber. They are good eaters, and took quality flake and pelleted foods with equal vigor. Sinking foods designed for catfishes is recommended. As they are greedy little fish, make sure they finish in well under 30 seconds. Three or four feedings per day is best. They are very, very good snail eaters.

    Several hiding places are essential in a layout, and morleti, though not as social as above, do like to be in a group of its fellows. They like a pH under 7.0 and soft, though moderately adaptable. Not over 12 degrees of hardness with these fish. Temperatures are 76 to 86.

    A lovely little fish, despite their feisty manner. Usually quite low priced in shops, so buy a bunch and put them in your larger planted tank, say over 55 gallons in size.

    There are many more species of loach out there, with more species appearing on dealers' lists every year. I encourage you to research the needs of your chosen species and see if you can provide them. Those with a taste for the unusual, loaches fit the bill. This list are some of the species I've kept over the years.


    *Exotic Aquarium Fishes, William T. Innes, Innes & Sons Publishing, Philadelphia 1953
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  5. #5

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    0 Not allowed!
    No no no ... Stop it Dave I will not buy another fish you recommend after this.... But those dwarf loaches sound kind of cool........ ;-)
    This posting was approved by:
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    All words in this post are completly fictional, any resemblence to actual words is strictly a cowinky dink. No Animals were harmed in the making of this post. Now as far as Humans go there were probably a few hurt and maybe even killed. Please do not copy and paste this post with out the expressed written consent of the owner. Quoting is allowed but only too boost the owners already over inflated ego.

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    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by Sounguru
    No no no ... Stop it Dave I will not buy another fish you recommend after this.... But those dwarf loaches sound kind of cool........ ;-)
    gotta agree ive enough loaches thanks for the primer dave
    angelcakes (penny)
    "The big fish eats the small one."
    -- Sephardic saying

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