Several species of the genus Schistura have appeared in the trade,
including numerous undescribed species. As with the loricariids, a
numbering system has evolved to keep track of them. The most well-known member of the genus is the sumo loach, from Myanmar. This fish
is often traded as S. balteata, but we now believe it be a species yet to be
described, so it’s best referred to as S. cf. balteata.
Hailing from India, the half-banded loach (S. savona) is sometimes
found in the trade. Surprisingly, this fish is found in portions of
Bangladesh that experience fairly cold temperatures, down to about
50°F ( 10°C). It would make an interesting addition to an outdoor pond
throughout the nonfreezing months, or year-round in warmer areas. As
the common name implies, S. savona is banded, though the bands do
not extend to the bottom; i.e., they are half-banded. The overall form is
similar to that of the sumo loach, roughly torpedo-shaped. These fish
are generally hardy and mix well with anything that won’t bother them.
The true loaches of the family Cobitidae include about 250 species,
many of which are found in South Asia. This group contains the
familiar loaches of the genus Botia and their close relatives, as well as
several related species. Among the more intriguing of these fishes is
the horseface loach, Acantopsis choirorhynchos. Several closely related
species are also classified under the genus, and depending on the region
under discussion, different Acantopsis species may also be found under
that common name.
Found throughout both South and Southeast Asia, the horseface
loach is one of those fish that is so ugly it’s actually cute. They’re kind
of mottled and gray, with a long, narrow face reminiscent of their
equine namesakes. In the average aquarium store, they look somewhat
disappointing, but take these fish home and put them in a proper setup
and you’ll find that they quickly gain body weight, become a little more
colorful, and definitely develop a personality.
Horseface loaches must have a soft sand substrate to bury themselves
in with only their eyes or long snout protruding. They’ll stay there until
feeding time, at which point they’ll spring from the sand and devour
food. While they’ll eat flakes and pellets, they’ll truly benefit from live
blackworms and similar foods.
An interesting member of the Cobitidae is the moose-faced loach
(Canthophrys gongota). Found throughout northern India and
Nepal, these fish are only occasionally available in the aquarium
trade. They’re quite a bit stockier than the horseface loach and have
a mottled pattern on the body.
They’re also found over soft substrates, and they do burrow
much like the horseface loach, although they’re also found in areas
of submerged vegetation. They spend a lot of time sifting through
the sand, hunting for small insect larvae. Target-feeding them
blackworms or fine pellets with a turkey baster seems to be one
of the few ways to keep C. gongota happy and healthy. When kept
in small groups, they tend to form congregations and spend a fair
amount of time displaying to one another.
The family Cobitidae also includes another familiar loach, the
weather loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus). This widespread loach’s
natural range includes much of Asia, and it has now been introduced
globally. As the first part of the specific name anguillicaudatus implies,
these fish look like eels (a reference to the eel genus Anguilla), and
aquarists should be aware that they’ll quickly reach 12 inches ( 30 cm)
or more. They can, and do, slip from aquariums and should never be
maintained in an outdoor setting or anywhere else where they may
escape. They’ve been widely introduced and have become a pest in
numerous regions. As such, their sale, trade, and even possession
may be regulated in various municipalities, so buyer beware.
While the weather loach is a pretty little fish in its wild form,
xanthic (yellow to pink) individuals are often traded as well.
They’re fairly indestructible, tolerating just about any reasonable
aquarium water parameters they’re put in with no complaint.
Ideally, though, they should be maintained at a roughly neutral
to slightly acidic pH, and in clean water. They do best in small
groups and will interact with each other. Weather loaches seldom
do well, however, at tropical temperatures. They’ll do best at about
68° to 72°F ( 20° to 22°C), and they require a period in the low
50s F ( 10° to 12°C) to breed.
Sumo loach (Schistura cf. balteata).
India’s half-banded loach (S. savona) has been known to tolerate
cooler temperatures in its native habitat.
Moose-faced loach (Canthophrys gongota).
The xanthic form of the weather loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus).