Sand Loaches

Sand Loaches

This article is about breeding Acanthocobitis urophthalmus, the Banded mountain loach from Sri Lanka. This is a thing, elongated fish that can be found perching itself on the bottom, using its pectoral fins. The body is of a sandy shade with pale vertical striping. Acanthocobitis urophthalmus is native to the south western lowlands of Sri Lanka, from the river Kelani to the river Nilwala. The preferred habitat is shallow, flowing water where the bottom consists of pebbles. The fish feeds on detritus, snails and other invertebrates.

Raising Acanthocobitis urophthalmus in captivity is important, because this fish has been listed as Lower Risk (Conservation Dependent) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 1996. It is a very popular aquarium fish and harvesting declining wild populations to satisfy the aquarium market is naturally not desirable. This is why captive breeding of Acanthocobitis urophthalmus is so important. As late as 1994, Acanthocobitis urophthalmus was listed as Vulnerable by IUCN, which means that even though the species was not considered Critically Endangered or Endangered, it was still facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. Successful conservational efforts have made it possible to move Acanthocobitis urophthalmus to the Lower Risk category in 1996, but it is still considered Conservation Dependent.

Coaxing Acanthocobitis urophthalmus to breed

Little is known about what makes these fishes breed, but a well planted aquarium where they feel safe seem to be a key factor. You can for instance use Java moss, Java fern and Anubias. If you want to give your fish a little extra coaxing, you can provide them with their own breeding aquarium without any other fish present. Feeding your fish a nutritious, varied diet that contains plenty of meaty food is also important. In the wild, Acanthocobitis urophthalmus eat a lot of snails and will therefore appreciate similar foods in the aquarium. 

Spawning behavior in sandloaches

The females normally look plumper than the slender males. During courtship, a couple will rapidly dart around the aquarium together. The male constantly tries to wrap himself around the female, but seldom succeed to begin with. The courting behavior is quite tiring for these fishes and it can actually be a good idea to separate them after spawning to give them some time to relax before they start to spawn again. 

A female Acanthocobitis urophthalmus can produce hundreds of eggs during each spawning. Eggs are released multiple times during the spawning and can end up in many different parts of the aquarium. When the eggs are first released, they are very small and look opaque.

Raising sandloach offspring

Since adult fish can eat the eggs, most breeders siphon out the eggs and raise them in a separate aquarium. The eggs will hatch in about 24 hours (depending on temperature) and the emerging fry is really tiny. They will cling to the aquarium decoration and can be fed liquid fry food. As they grow bigger, you can start giving them micro worms and eventually procee to newly hatched brine shrimp.

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