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FAQs About Loach Systems

Related Articles: Loaches, Dojos/WeatherfishA New Look At Loaches By Neale Monks,

Related FAQs:  Loaches 1, Loaches 2, Clownloaches, Kuhli Loaches, Loach Identification, Loach Behavior, Loach Compatibility, Loach Selection, Loach Feeding, Loach Disease, Loach Reproduction,

Chain loach and Cherry Barb? (salt tolerance question)    11/14/12
Hi Neale,
I'm wanting to start up chain loaches and cherry barbs.
<Two very nice and versatile species.>
I read your article on loaches,
I read other articles too at various sites and I asked this question at several fish stores.  There was a difference in opinions.
I heard the loaches (chain loach) don't tolerate salt, though one article and one fish store said theirs tolerated minimal salt.  But since they are saying something different from everyone else, I figure I should get your opinion and trust that first. 
<Depends what sort of salinity you're talking about. Like all freshwater fish, they will tolerate very low salinities, around 2 gram/litre, across short terms, e.g., a week or two, for the purposes of treating Whitespot.
Using salinity in this way is much safer than using copper- or formalin-based medications. On the other hand, routine addition of salt isn't necessary when keeping these or any freshwater fish, and elevated salinity levels as you'd need for brackish water fish will stress most loaches. One or two species naturally inhabit brackish water habitats, for example the Horseface Loach, and can do well around the 3-4 g/l salinity level, but I'm not aware of any loach that prefers brackish water or does well in even middling-salinity brackish water. Oh, and the idea that loaches are "scaleless fishes" and therefore more sensitive to salt is a myth perpetrated by folks without biology degrees! Moray eels are fish without scales but live in the sea, as are of course sharks. On the other than, there are plenty of fish with scales (such as Rift Valley cichlids) that come to obvious harm when salt is routinely added to their tanks (Malawi Bloat being the commonest problem). Salinity tolerance is all to do with the osmoregulation, in particular organs that conserve or remove salt and water. For sure some groups of fish are less tolerant of salt than others, but it's not as easy as simply saying that if the fish has scales, it's more tolerant of salt.>
I have a 29 gallon....I'm switching the fish that are there to another one as they neither eat snails nor share water type with those that do!  
Currently the 29 tank has 1 tbsp aquarium salt per 5 gallons.  
<An unnecessary addition.>
Could the Cherry barbs tolerate that amount initially?  I suspect they will but I just want to be sure.
<As with the loaches, so too with the cyprinids. A handful of barbs tolerate low-end brackish conditions indefinitely, such as the Ticto Barb and Olive Barb, but most are strictly freshwater fish and shouldn't be exposed to salt across the long term. Again, short term usage of 2 g/l salinity levels are fine.>
I will change a third of the water, adding more water with no salt before I add them.
<Very wise.>
How many water changes should I do before the water will be fresh enough to add chain loaches? 
<One tablespoon is 3 teaspoons, or about 3 x 6 = 18 gram salt (but check with your own kitchen scales). 5 US gallons is about 19 litres, so you're adding 18 grams of salt to about 19 litres of water, so barely 1 gram per litre. That's a trivial salinity level, and won't do even these fish any harm across the short term. On the other hand, it won't be doing much good either; it's too little to treat Whitespot, and there's always the risk that across months, years such usage of salt can interfere with the osmoregulation of freshwater fish. I'm not a big fan of routine use of salt in freshwater tanks.>
Do Cherry Barbs cycle ok, as I don't have very many fish in there now, plus they're tiny?  (I'll be adding 6 so it will probably cycle.)  I'm hoping to find small ones.
<Cherry Barbs are quite hardy, so all else being equal, they can get through the cycling process, though I'd strongly recommend maturing the tank beforehand, or at least adding some live biological media from another tank.>
I plan to add driftwood too, and more plants once I add the chain loaches. 
The reason for the switch is I learned the hard way about snails. So future plants in other tanks that I wish to keep clean will either be certified snail free (yeah, PetSmart sells those!) or rinsed in a solution.
<Do the latter; dip the plants, then put in the tank. Be careful with the dips though: used at high concentration as a dip, potassium permanganate at least can kill plants if used for too long.>
Also, is it really necessary to change water weekly for chain loaches?!??
<Depends entirely on stocking density and how often the fish are fed. If the tank is understocked and you feed sparingly, then you can probably go 2-3 weeks between 20% water changes. But most community tanks are fully stocked, if not overstocked, so water changes are crucial to keeping the fish healthy.>
I'll be adding more plants, a longer strip of a bubbler, and there will be 6 each cherry barb and 6 chain loaches in 29 gallons.
<That's an understocked tank.>
I usually change water every 3 weeks.  Should I change to weekly or every 2 weeks?
<If you want. Keep an eye on the fish, and do pH and nitrate tests every couple weeks just to be sure, at least for the first 2-3 months. If pH drops a lot, or nitrate is way above the ambient level in your tap water, then you may be doing too few water changes.>
One more thing... Sometimes the house temp gets to 79 or 80, is that going to make the water too hot?
<Unlikely. Evaporation tends to keep fish tanks a bit cooler than the room.
In any event, providing the tank only gets warm in the day, but cools down at night, then these are tropical fish after all and will adapt to such things.>
I probably need to lower the heater for the loaches.  I can barely read the thermometer but it's in the green safe zone for tropical fish.
<Set the heater around the 24 C/75 F mark, and see what happens. If the fish are heat-stressed, the loaches will gulp air and the barbs will be close to the surface all the time.>
Thanks Neale!  I'm very new to this hobby, and your articles are always helpful.
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Chain loach and Cherry Barb? (salt tolerance question)
Thank you.  Great info!
I look forward to getting these fish.  The male barbs have a nice colour
<As ever though, be sure to get as many females as males, if not more -- with more females to display to, the males develop better colours without fighting all the time. Unlike plain vanilla barbs, Cherry Barbs are somewhat territorial.>
and I've always liked the little chain loaches.  They're active and interesting.  I hope they all get along without bullying.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Chain loach and Cherry Barb? (salt tolerance question)    11/17/12

Just curious, Neale, About Mollies I'd heard this answer is "no," and that they're NOT a sociable fish, that they merely "tolerate" other fish due to not being true schoolers.....(I've misplaced that article). But then I saw an article today that you'd written on them that begs to differ on their sociability: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/mollies.htm
The pet store clerks also speak highly of molly sociability. And their tanks are heavily stocked.  But here I'm thinking of going to loach and barb due to that my mollies were so unfriendly. Would increasing the number of mollies make them less inclined to bully?!??!!
<Yes indeed. Like cichlids, if the Molly males are numerous, none can become overly dominant, and none will be bullied too much. That's the theory anyway, and on the whole, it works, as you've likely seen in your retailer's tank. It's when you have one male Molly and he chases all the other livebearers around that people realise how aggressive male Mollies can be. Furthermore, if you keep just a pair, then unless the tank is large and well-planted, chances are the male will harass the female endlessly.>
1st I understocked them.  I had 5 females and 1 male in a 29 gallon, then I added a female, then I added a male.
<Two males will create a dominance structure, with the strongest male likely chasing the other all the time. But if you had, say, 5 males, then this isn't likely to happen. On the other hand, if you wanted females as well, then you'd have to have 10 females to those 5 males, and that's a lot of fish for the average community tank (though as the heart of a Molly aquarium around the 55 gallon mark, they'd be lovely).>
I had thought I was doing good to have a low stock. The bullying was primarily done by females, and it would leave the weaker ones cowering in a cave or behind the many plants looking ill.
<It's unusual for females to be aggressive, but I guess it does happen.>
I became known as the lady who'd bring mollies back in a day or so and I'd trade them. Once I even tried having 3 males to 3 females as an experiment....and it was no better.  (A pet store clerk suggested that!)
((( Off topic-  Also, if one's water is quite hard like an 8, it's still advisable to do low end brackish, correct?)))
<Hmm… "8" what? 8 degrees dH is not especially hard. What's the carbonate hardness? If that's high as well, say, 5-8 degrees KH, and the pH stays around the 7.5 to 8 mark, then you might be fine without salt. Nonetheless, I'd always choose Molly companions that I knew could tolerate salt, just in case you needed to use it because the Mollies were always getting sick. Horseface Loaches, Brown Hoplo Catfish, Ticto Barbs, Blue Acara and most Rainbowfish are examples of fish that don't need salt but will tolerate 2-3 grammes per litre without complaint, and this can be just enough to keep Mollies hearty and healthy.>
I was going to switch species and see if using driftwood and heavily planting would bring it to steady 7.5 for changing over to the loaches and rosy barbs...and if that didn't work then I was thinking to try peat filtration and have diamond tetras and rummy nose if that worked, what the heck anyway if it's that much trouble--have the sparkly beauties!!!
<Both Diamonds and Rummynose Tetras are lovely fish, but as you realise, not good companions for Mollies. While you don't need to go out of your way to create very soft water for them, you certainly do want to be aiming for between 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7.5 for them.>
But I love the mollies, and the only reason I'm switching from them was I didn't enjoy the evil junior high schoolyard scenes they put on daily!  (Which altered their health).  (True, my water had been salted according to popular Mollie lore, and I understand now I must use marine salt if I do them again.)
<Hmm… do also research Liberty Mollies (Poecilia salvatoris). They are extremely pretty fish, silvery with red, white and blue markings, but a mean disposition, so not good community fish. But in large groups they work well together, and if you feel like trying something special with Mollies, they're great fish. Oh, and do also look at Ameca splendens, a Goodeid with lovely colours and a very feisty personality, but in a group of 3 males and 5-6 females, I had not the least trouble in a 180-litre aquarium. My point is, livebearers are more aggressive than people realise, so big groups help.>
Thanks again...   if you tell me a stock number will probably erase my ills I'll even do water changes bi-weekly for them and low level brackish.  If they're just plain ornery, I need to let Go!!!!!    But I sort of feel like giving them one more try if I can find some advise.
<Mollies are definitely worth keeping, but as you realise, the bigger the group, the easier.>
P.S. This guy suggests isolations, which I was doing (using a 10 gallon) and it helped.  But it was a pain in the blank to have to constantly be switching out bratty females.  (I wonder if a 2.5 gallon like he used would be more effective in that it's really no fun!)  http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/livebearers/help-aggressive-female-molly-61201/
I'm mainly just wondering if the aggression was a stock issue, or maybe I needed to move the current ones out into the 10 gallon and rearrange things before adding new and put everyone in at once?
<Isolation works as a one-off, but it's hardly practical in the long term.>
or do I just need to switch to a more amiable species of fish?!  I'm sad as I love Dalmatian and black mollies.  It's popularly reported that black ones are the most frequently aggressive.
<I've not really noticed this to be honest. Big male Sailfins seem far more boisterous and aggressive. I guess "popularly reported" may mean than more people keep Black Mollies, and many of those people keep them in communities with smaller fish like Guppies and Platies, and I'm quite sure Black Mollies can, do bully them. On the other hand, keep Black Mollies in a brackish water community with Scats and Monos and they're right at the bottom of the pecking order.>
I just don't like fish dying from bullying.
<Indeed not.>
A little harmless posturing wouldn't bother me.
<Which in a sense is what the fish want to do -- it's normal social interaction of the kind we tend to prevent with most other pets. So long as the fish can avoid being bullied and hurt, then threats and displays are all part of their normal lives.>
And I don't recall if I fed them once or twice a day, I wonder if that was an issue.....if they needed more food and were grouchy.
<With Mollies, 12-hour a day algal grazing is the ideal. Failing that, a little but often. Oh, and one tidbit of relevance here: male livebearers in the wild are often far less aggressive because they don't have the time, they need to spend much more time feeding on algae. Why? Because algae provides little energy, so without feeding for many hours a day, they would starve. In captivity we give them all the energy they need in 30 seconds' worth of flake -- so they have all the rest of the day to fight. Maybe create a tank with strong lighting and lots of flat rocks, so algae grows rapidly and profusely. Minimise your feeding, let the Mollies feed themselves on the algae (which is what they evolved to do, and why they have very distinctive mouths). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Chain loach and Cherry Barb? (salt tolerance question)    11/17/12
Thanks Neil.
My tank is fine for algae!  That's why the mollies are fun to watch....They're picking around on the bottom or among the plants and even the walls of the tank.  They seem to have more personality than some of the other types of fish. I'm thinking my 29 gallon is too small....  unless it's ok to stock only females?
Or does that cause fights?
If I need both sexes than definitely having 10 female and 5 male fish x 3"  (sorry, Americans and their inches!) is overstock. If it's alright to do only females, I could increase the number of mollies without going over....I could do 10 females. I'd only house mollies with other brackish....   I'd go to low brackish. The stuff about driftwood and peat is only if I give up on keeping mollies and switch to loaches! It seems though, that it would be easier to work with what I have which is hard water!
<Likely so.>
Regarding snails again:
I read this blog this morning and it sounds like if I have too many snails it's possible the tank isn't biologically balanced and possible I need to feed the plants too.  The person said snails are no big deal at all in his/her planted tank!!!
<Snails aren't a problem in my planted tank. I'm sure there's 100s of them, but I hardly see them, and they don't the plants any harm. In any event, healthy plants generally aren't damaged my Physa and Melanoides-type snails, though Apple Snails and their relatives may eat them.>
I didn't feed my plants or use special substrate because I read so many things suggesting 1) you don't need to feed low light plants in a low light tank,
<Hmm… not sure this is necessarily true, though I hardly ever fertilise my planted tanks, and they are stocked with mostly undemanding plants (Anubias, Crypts, floating Indian Fern, Aponogeton hybrids, etc.).>
and 2) fertilizer is Harmful to many fish and assassin snails too
<Used as directed, fertilisers shouldn't cause any harm.>
and 3) fertilizer increases algae increases snails.
<Possibly, but snails are just as likely to eat fish food and fish waste as they are algae, so there's probably not much in this either way.>
Do you agree with this, or should I use better substrate and or feed the plants?
<I do like to use rich substrates, but again, lots of people don't, and have first-rate results. A lot depends on the plants you're growing. For the slow-growing epiphytes like Anubias and Java fern, these ignore the substrate any way, so a little fertiliser added to the water will help them. On the other hand, Amazon Swords and Crypts do seem to enjoy a good substrate, or at least a suitable alternative, like fertiliser pellets pushed into the gravel around them every once a month or so. I'm a big advocate for choosing plants that suit your style of fishkeeping rather than trying to change the way you keep fish so your plants are happy, but each to their own.>
I have fine natural gravel and it seems to have materials in it and the fish stores all said it was good enough.
<Plain vanilla gravel is inert, and contains virtually no nutrients of any kind. Over time bacteria cause some degree of fertilisation inside deep gravel beds (a couple inches or more) so that certain nutrients, including nitrate and phosphate, are produced from the fish wastes and other sources of decay. No real surprise there. But iron and magnesium are two nutrients that are often lacking, and if your plants have yellow patches on otherwise normal leaves, it's a clue that these sorts of minerals are missing. On the other hand, if your plants look okay but grow slowly or outright fail to thrive, limited nutrients aren't nearly as likely a cause as the wrong environment (typically not enough light).>
Plants with roots are all potted in the gravel, and the other types are attached to rocks.  But the plants have been nibbled down by snail babies and look very scrawny now.   :-(
Plants: java ferns, Anubias, Crypts, and sparce hornwort...it mostly died out or perhaps was eaten as the others.  I've seen snails on it.
<If snails are damaging plants, it's almost always the case the plant was failing anyway. As noted above, the small pest snails don't normally harm healthy plants.>
I attached a picture so you can see the plant scrawniness.  They were much larger at purchase.
<My guess is that the problems here are mostly to do with lighting. How many strip lights do you have across the top of the tank? One? Two? If only one or two, forget about anything light green and fast growing, such as Hygrophila or Rotala or even Amazon Swords. Instead, focus on Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, and potted hardy Cryptocoryne species, especially Cryptocoryne wendtii. These plants are undemanding. Don't ram Anubias or Java fern into shells or anywhere like that; instead, simply use black cotton to gentle tie them onto (ideally) bogwood or chemically inert stones (like slate or lava rock). Buy some floating Indian Fern for the top of the tank and leave it there. Hornwort might work if this tank were coldwater, but this coldwater plant "speeds up" in tropical tanks, and needs very strong lighting if its food production (photosynthesis) is to keep up with its metabolism (growth). Do also try and buy reflectors for the tubes, so all the light goes towards the plants; if that isn't an option, then aluminium foil stuck to the inside of the hood works okay. Indian Fern provides not just shade but also helps suppress algae. Oh, and all the plants I've mentioned as suitable are salt-tolerant, so they're good choices for Mollies.>
((WOW, I just cleaned the tank last week and I scraped partially the other night, and yet the picture is showing algae again on the glass.  It isn't visible in low lighting but it's obvious in my photo!))
Thanks Again.
I really hope to come up with a final decision this weekend of which direction to go now with this tank.  I super appreciate your input.  I know you know what you're talking about and helps me sort through the often conflicting opinions in some of the other forums and sources.
<Glad to help. There are some great planted aquarium forums out there, so do peruse and solicit second opinions from those who know more about plants than me! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Chain loach and Cherry Barb? (salt tolerance question) - 11/17/12
Thanks Neil,
I'll try feeding the plants and use better substrate in the pots.  I bought rough/porous pots to discourage snails.   I'll buy a rougher stone like lava to attach the javas to. I have all the low light plants... Maybe the store will have Indian fern.
<Do be sure to buy the real thing, Ceratopteris thalictroides. Numerous other ferns are pushed onto casual aquarists by unscrupulous retailers.>
I'm going to see if the fish store can help with reflectors too or do a makeshift one like you suggested. The pet store lady suggested little black Kuhlis that get to 4 inches, they are super cute too, however....my water is 300 hardness, alk 180, ph 8.4!!!  The scary thing is they're keeping theirs in the same water.
<Can do okay in hard water… but not recommended, no.>
Another guy at the pet store said skunk loaches are amazing for snails, and tolerate hard water, but I just read they're awfully aggressive.
<Skunk Loaches, yes, semi-aggressive. Okay with barbs of similar size, but not with smaller fish.>
 I hope I can get the plants happier before the snails win!!  It sounds lime that's the solution. by, have a nice weekend.
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>

Betta and Loach in 1 gallon? Too small...   10/27/06 Hi guys!  Thank you for such a great website! <Hello there - on behalf of the crew, and most significantly Bob, you're welcome!> About 3 months ago, I bought my first Betta fish and have enjoyed him so much! <They are wonderful fish, aren't they? I currently have 2 males and 1 female (each housed separately)> He's doing great but I wanted to add a bottom feeder to clean up the leftover food on the bottom of the tank. <If you are feeding the proper amount, there should not be any excess food on the bottom.  Bettas have stomachs the size of their eye; I feed mine no more than 4 pellets a day, occasionally 1-2 Mysis shrimp, or 8-10 small bloodworms (not all at the same time)> The only place that sells fish, etc in my town is a "big box store" unfortunately. <Not familiar with this store - sounds like a big chain, though, and not a specialty fish store?> The gentleman there recommended a Loach. On the tank it was labeled, Angencus Boua Loach. I've currently got him quarantined and thought I better check with you first before adding him to my Betta tank. <Best to ask first...> The tank is only one gallon. <This is a fine size for the Betta, but not sufficient for any other livestock, IMO.  Depending on the temperament of the Betta, you *might* be able to add one or two ghost shrimp, but that's it!> Thanks to your webpage, I quickly moved up from the tiny bowl I originally purchased! <Excellent.  Bowls are not very good for Bettas (or any other fish); did you see where Rome outlawed the fishbowl?!> Will the loach harm my Betta? <I don't think so, but there isn't room for both...> Should I have bought a Corydoras instead? <No - no space> Or should I leave well enough alone and not add a bottom feeder? <That's my suggestion.  Feed less if an abundance of food on the bottom is an issue...> Second quick question: Do they make an aquarium heater for one gallon tanks? <I believe you can put a 25watt heater in there...just monitor the temperature closely with a thermometer.> I have only found heaters for 2 gallons or more and they emphasize not to use with a one gallon tank. <I think you should be OK w/ a 25w...> In the winter in South Carolina, my house will be about 68 degrees F. <Bettas need stable temperature between 80-82 degrees F, ideally.  A large temperature swing will harm his immune system, making him more susceptible to disease...not to mention, he'll be just plain cold!> Thank you so much! Michele <You're welcome. Jorie>

Re: clown loach, sys., beh.  8/25/06 Hi again,              This loach had a partner clown loach when he was bought a couple years ago but they fought a lot and the other didn't make it. I don't believe it was due to the fighting. His other tank mate died so there is only a little 2 inch Pleco of some sort in with him. It is a 20 gal tank. Is this unhealthy for him( stunt his growth or pine in loneliness) He seems aggressive but not a killer. He is 5 inches now. <Not enough room for other Botia here... but are social animals, best kept in small odd numbers where the environment allows. BobF>                                                                                                                    Sherri

Clown Loach sys. - 5/7/2006 Hello everyone, <<Hi Lisa, this is Lisa!>> I recently just cycled a new 55-gallon tank (fishless cycling).  It has been running two weeks since the cycle completed (Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrate almost negligible (5-10 PPM), real and artificial plants. <<It is not still cycled unless you are still adding ammonia to feed the bacteria.>> I'd like to have some clown loaches in this tank eventually but am concerned due to their susceptibility to ick. <<They also reach a foot in length and live for more than 2 decades!>> My plan is to introduce them (I'm thinking of three 3" loaches) into a quarantine tank (10-gallon) for the first few weeks. <<They won't stay 3' for long.  I would double that tank size, at least, to house 3 Botia macracanthus for life.>> Even if they get ick there, hopefully, with a raised temperature and if necessary, medication, I can treat it while they're in the quarantine tank. <<Heat alone won't really do it.>> My problem is what happens if they get ick when I move them to the larger 55 gallon community tank which would most likely have a slightly lower temperature (even a couple of degrees) than the quarantine tank?  Wouldn't the move, coupled with the lower temperature change bring about the ick again? <<If you QT properly, and rule out the introduction of the parasite to your water, so shouldn't worry about it being 'brought out'.  QT first, and if the temperature is higher in the QT tank, don't just plop them into colder water (not due to ick, but stress in general).>> Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions you may have.  Lisa <<A much larger tank is in order! Good luck. Lisa :)>>

Re: Lonely Goldfish?    4/14/06 Hello again! I hope you don't mind me begging your indulgence once again. My 'lonely' goldfish is now in quarantine (I believe the stress of lively new companions didn't sit well with her - especially as they viewed her veil-tail as a challenging snack!) <Happens> with fin-rot. Fortunately, she's doing very well on her own and appears to be much happier. (I've treated her with salt baths every few days, after starting her out on anti-fin rot medication -- I now leave her in her tank without any 'add-ins', doing a ¾ water change every other day. It's working wonders.) <Ah, good> The new companions are now in a new aquarium themselves, I'm not sure how many gallons - but it's massive! -- It could easily accommodate more fish, but I prefer to let the ones in it already have plenty of space to grow. <Good> There's just one problem, and that's the baby loach I bought, on a whim. It was only after I bought the little fellow (with the pet stores' non-existent advice on the matter) and did some background research, that I realized he'd grow up to be a bit of a bully; and a territorial bully at that! And, surprisingly enough, he has. <What species?> I don't want this guy in with my goldies, he's grown since I bought him (several months ago) and has gotten to be a good few inches long; and his manner has changed dramatically! <... grown this much... a loach? More likely a CAE... Gyrinocheilus> My folks have a pond in their back garden -- it's pretty cold, a bit murky (as outside ponds tend to be), but it does contain several large coy, frogs, and lots of plant life. Would the little guy be alright in there? <... what is this species?> It's a good sized pond, around 4 foot deep -- 8 x 8 feet, and if he could survive quite happily in there I'd put him in, rather than taking him back to the store. <I'd return this fish... too much chance of trouble placing it in your parents pond> A few words of advice would be greatly appreciated. <Okay... the government and banks are not your friends> Thank you -  once again, Sarah x <Bob Fenner> Another Clown Loach for a 10Gal?  12/16/05 Hi Crew, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> First off I would like to thank you for your time.  I currently have a ten  gallon tank that has been set up for six months now.  The ammonia level is 0,  nitrites are at 0 and nitrates are <20.  I have a five inch tire track eel, a  two inch silver angel, and two one inch clown loaches.  Yes I do know that  all of these fish get rather large and I will be buying a fifty gallon tank in about six months.  The two clown loaches were purchased about a week ago and are doing great.  I read on your site that you should have at least three clown loaches in a tank because they are very social schooling fish.  I was wondering if it would be a good idea for me to purchase one more small clown loach for my tank to have a total of three or if it would be too crowded in my ten gallon.  Any advise would help. <I would definately not buy any more fish for that tank.  Even in a 50g tank, the fish you have now will get quite large.  Clown loaches can reach a size of close to 12".  I have had 2 together for a long time & they seem happy (they are living in my 125g).  It would be nice to have a school of them but even in my tank, that wouldn't be feasible.  Be sure to research the adult sizes of all your fish before you purchase them.  Also, be sure to do lots of water changes, especially while in that small tank.  I do 50% weekly, on all my tanks.  ~PP> Thank you very much, Stuart

Re: Hypancistrus zebra, to Kissing Gourami, to Clown Loaches Ah, thanks. Maybe I'll ask Santa for one... <Only if you and the biz have been good> By the way a couple of fish questions: First, my kissing Gourami gets very excited at feeding time. He chases the other fish around, "kissing" them to move them away from the food as it settles to the bottom. Then, after eating, he seems to kiss or gulp air (can't tell which) at the surface for 10-20 minutes. Is this normal? <Yes... these are "outgoing" fish...> Would clown loaches survive outside in pots in the summertime in San Diego/Encinitas? Mine are getting pretty big for my 30 gal. <Mmm, likely yes... but would keep inside... have seen quite large, very old (decades) clown loaches kept in modest size systems. They don't seem to suffer for being kept in such systems. Bob Fenner> Thanks.

Re: ... Clown Loaches OK, Thanks. I'll keep them in. I'm thinking of constructing some PVC "caves" for the loaches. What do you think? <A very nice idea> Sort of a loach habit-trail or a loach motel. I move the rocks around occasionally as they seem to like change. <Yes, life is. Bob F>

Skunk loaches (10/10/03) <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I have a 10 gallon freshwater tank, established.  I have to dwarf gouramis, two zebra Danios, one common Plec, one red tail black shark (just added) and (now) one 1" skunk loach.   <The skunk loach, Botia morleti, gets to be 4" long; the shark, Epalzeorhynchos bicolor, gets to almost 5". Hopefully you will have larger quarters for them in the future.> I had two skunk loaches (same size), however, the shark had an ick spot. I treated the tank with 1/2 strength Quik Cure. About 12 hours after the initial treatment, one of my skunk loaches was hanging on top of my heater (I have a submersible). He looked injured on one side right in the gill area, from about his eye back across the gill. I want to know if this is a result of the treatment or did the shark injure him. <My bets are on the shark -- or perhaps the other skunk loach! This is one of the more aggressive loaches, and with only 10 gallons, that's not a lot of room for them to stake out their territories. Half-strength Quick Cure *should* be okay for loaches, and would not have caused a visible exterior injury.> The other loach is fine. I put him in a brood net in the tank as I don't have a hospital tank. But, he died within 12 hours. <Presumably, you mean the injured loach was in the brood net...without a photo of the injury, it's difficult for me to say what caused it.> I will be upgrading to a bigger tank, 30 gal, in about a week.  I also have a 30 gal already established and fully stocked.  I would appreciate any advice for these loaches.   Thanks, Donna <Well, they definitely need the space of the 30g tank. Depending on what fish you have in the other 30g, you might consider moving the loach or the shark. Unlike many loaches, which prefer to be in groups, as an adult this loach prefers to be by itself. More on these guys here: http://loaches.com/species_pages/botia_morleti.html ... By the way...you do plan on keeping the 10 gallon for a hospital tank, right? :-)  --Ananda>  

Brackish loaches? (1/6/04)  Hello Bob. I enjoy your site immensely.  <Me, too. Ananda here tonight...>  I currently have a system set up for Archerfish, and as it establishes, I've been researching potential tankmates. As a beginner to brackish water fishkeeping, I've found it to be the most informative single resource on the net.  <So did I. Thanks!>  I do however have a few questions that aren't covered on the site:  (My substrate is an even mix of sand and crushed coral, with a small amount of smooth pebble-sized gravel. The specific gravity is about 1.005, and the temp is 80F)  Your section on brackish fishes mentions that loaches, and in particular the Clown Loach are happy in a brackish environment. However, I've found other resources that say loaches are extremely salt-intolerant. Do you know what the real story is?  <I believe that clown loaches may venture into brackish water, but do not stay there long-term.... Most other sources say *all* loaches are salt-intolerant, and I know that's not the case (more on that in a bit). I have clown loaches, but haven't had the guts to try turning their tank into a brackish system.>  I've always liked loaches in my freshwater community tanks, so I'd like to add a few. If they do tolerate salt, can you tell me what their upper limit of salinity is?  <I know they will tolerate 1.003 for at least a few weeks -- a friend treated her loaches for Ich by adding freshwater salt, adding it slowly (over a couple of days) until she got to 1.003, and increasing their tank temp to about 86. I have heard of people who've had success keeping yo-yo loaches, Botia almorhae (formerly B. lohachata) in systems up to 1.006.>  I'm also a big fan of mollusks, and apparently "freshwater" clams such as Corbicula fluminea can adapt to fairly high levels of salinity. Do you have any experience or comments on keeping these clams (or similar species) in an aquarium setting?  <I haven't tried it. However, I've heard that freshwater mollusks can be disease carriers.>  Also, I've been searching for a type of snail that would be suitable for such an environment. Everything I can find on the net seems to be purely freshwater or marine. Any suggestions?  <Malaysian trumpet snails, also called cone snails, do just fine in brackish systems. They will reproduce to near-plague proportions if you give them a chance. Going from the other end of the spectrum, I've heard that some turbo snails can be adapted to brackish systems. Doing so, however, is a matter of weeks, if not months. And Pufferpunk recently got some freshwater Nassarius snails, so they, too could be adapted. Again, however, the process would be slow.>  Thanks in advance,  -Brian  <You're quite welcome. Do check out the WWM brackish forum at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk --Ananda>  Chuck Clowns Around with the loaches I have a 90 gallon show tank with discus, clown loaches and Bushynosed Plecos. It is decorated with wood and single piece of holey stone which gives the loaches many hiding places. The substrate is typical natural colored aquarium gravel. I was considering removing the gravel and leaving the tank bare bottomed so I could keep it very clean. Is that going to be a problem for the clown loaches?  < I would not remove all the gravel. I would leave about 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch of gravel or fine sand. There are bacteria living on the gravel that help break down the fishes waste. If you removed all the gravel you would probably encounter big ammonia spikes every time you changed your filter and that would affect the entire tank. I would service the filter once every two weeks and then gravel vac the substrate on alternate weeks.-Chuck>  James Nyman

Looking for a Dojo Loach

I was considering a Dojo Loach (possibly gold) for a 29g and have seen some widely ranging information on these in regards to their size.  I have seen postings stating their max aquarium size anywhere from 15cm upwards of 20inches.  In a "typical" aquarium what size should I expect one of these to grow, and would it outgrow a 29g and if so in how long? < Generally Dojo's are bottom loving catfish that spend all their time sifting through fine sand for something to eat. Fine well rounded sand is best because coarse materials will be abrasive to the mouth and eyes. Go to planetcatfish.com and see all the Dojo's that are out there. Many species are referred to as Dojo's. Most in the hobby only get around 8 inches while the gold variety is smaller around 4 inches.> Also I have read that they like to burrow and bury themselves.  I am concerned about this as I have a crushed coral substrate which would not be good.  I read they like sandy bottoms which would go with the burrowing.  I do have lots of cover and live plants so at least the layout should be acceptable. < Fine sand is the only way to go or else you will become an expert in wound control.-Chuck> Patrick

Golden Dojos/Weatherfish Thank you so much for your advice. <Welcome> I will not get any more Dojos! <I see> The tank was given to me by a friend who moved and could no longer keep it. He gave me no instruction on caring for it other than to feed the fish, as he figured he would come by to do the maintenance (which didn't happen) and when I went away on a 1 month trip, everyone died (the tank was beyond disgustingly filthy when I returned), so, I started over and researched how to maintain a tank on the net.  However, at the local fish store, I was never informed as to the size the knifes would get, but since I like them so much, I will move them to their own tank when they get bigger. <...> The cichlids I have are 2 electric blue cichlids, 2 Neolamprologus sexfasciatus gold, 2 tiger Oscars.  Since the Knifes will need their own tank eventually and the Oscars will too, would they work in their own tank together? <For a short while perhaps (months)> Both the Oscars and the Knifes are my favorites. <These two could live together... but the Africans, no> Since the Dojos are fine and everyone else is happy and healthy, I guess my main question is now, how do I lower my nitrates if the water changes aren't doing the trick? <A few ways... the simplest is by regular good-sized water changes... like 20% a week... but using live plants, deep, large gravel, chemical filtrants... and careful feeding should help> You have a great site, and are very generous with your time in answering everyone's questions.  Thank you again! Tara <Again, you're very welcome. Excelsior! Bob Fenner>

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