This loach isn't Sleepy! This loach isn't Sneezy! And this loach sure isn't Dopey! However, this loach can be just as entertaining and comical as Snow White's little friends! This loach is one energetic and active aquatic critter! It's also the smallest loach of them all! It's the tiny, energetic, playful dwarf that doesn't belong in a cartoon! It's the Dwarf Loach!
I'm a big fan of loaches! And I make it a point to acquire every species of loach that I find! My interest in loaches began with the popular dojo loach. From there I branched out into orange finned loaches, horseface loaches, hillstream loaches, kuhli loaches, yoyo loaches, skunk loaches and clown loaches. However, the latest addition to my loach collection just happens to be one of the newest and smallest loaches of them all: the dwarf loach.
This native of northern India and northern Thailand more closely resembles a small fish than it does a loach. However, after a close look at the dwarf loach's mouth, there is no mistake that this is indeed a loach. The dwarf loach's mouth has three pairs of tiny barbels. The dwarf loach also has tiny spines behind its eyes, like all other loaches. These spines can be noticed when the dwarf loach becomes excited or threatened. At those times, the dwarf loach's spines will be raised. That's why, on some occasions, the dwarf loach may become entangled in a net when it is being added or moved to a tank. Perhaps the quickest way to notice these spines is to handle the dwarf loach, which is never recommended! The dwarf loach's spines can cause very painful wounds to a hobbyist's hands! Aside from the spines and the barbels, the dwarf loach may be unlike any other loach that you have ever seen!
In the wild, the dwarf loach lives in shoals. However, unlike many other loaches, the dwarf loach will swim above the bottom. The dwarf loach actually spends a lot of its time swimming in the middle water layers. And, unlike many other loaches, the dwarf loach doesn't wait until dark to make its rounds! The dwarf loach is actually active during the day and night. Still, the biggest difference between other loaches and the dwarf loach is its size.
The dwarf loach earns its name due to its tiny size. Most dwarf loaches that are found in pet stores range in size from 1 to 1 ½ inches in length. Most adult dwarf loaches rarely reach a length over 2 ½ inches. However, there are some unsubstantiated reports of this tiny loach reaching an adult length of 5 to 6 inches. If those reports are true, then this loach shouldn't be called a "dwarf" at all. In my personal experience, I have never seen a dwarf loach longer than 2 ½ inches.
Since the dwarf loach is such a small loach, it doesn't require a lot of aquarium space. Dwarf loaches can actually be kept in aquariums as small as 10 gallons. However, you should keep in mind that the dwarf loach is a shoaling fish. The dwarf loach is actually happiest when it is with 5 or 6 other dwarf loaches. Even with a school of 5 or 6 dwarf loaches, these loaches can still be kept in a 20 or 30 gallon aquarium.
If you are one of those hobbyists who like to pair up sexes of your fish, you may find that hard to do in a school of dwarf loaches. Usually the only way to distinguish between the sexes of the dwarf loach is to notice when the female is preparing to spawn. At that time, the female will become rounder than the male and often change colors or become paler. The only problem with this method of determining the dwarf loach's sex is that breeding in captivity is almost unheard of. The dwarf loach has rarely if ever bred in the home aquarium. If dwarf loaches have bred in the home aquarium, it has only been by sheer luck and accident!
To keep a school of dwarf loaches happy and healthy, their aquarium will need to be set up to reflect their natural habitat. The dwarf loach will need plenty of open space for schooling. The dwarf loach doesn't necessarily need any hiding places, since it is active and visible most of the time. However, the dwarf loach will still prefer some places in which to rest when it's not swimming. Rocks, roots, driftwood, plants and pipes make ideal places for the dwarf loach to rest. When the dwarf loach has plenty of broad leaved plants, the loach will often rest on one of the leaves instead of going into hiding. In fact, the dwarf loach prefers to rest on plant leaves instead of the tank's substrate.
The water in the dwarf loach's aquarium will need to have a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. The water temperature will need to range from 75 to 82 degrees. Good filtration and regular water changes are also necessities to keep the dwarf loach healthy.
The dwarf loach is a peaceful loach that should only be kept with other peaceful fish. Ideal tank mates for the dwarf loach can include dojo loaches, clown loaches, yoyo loaches, kuhli loaches, hillstream loaches, horseface loaches, certain eels, barbs, danios, rasboras, tetras, gouramis, hatchetfish, blind cavefish, corys, plecos, iridescent sharks, red finned cigar sharks, red tail sharks, rainbowfish and kribs. Dwarf loaches should never be kept with larger, aggressive fish, or fish that are likely to make a meal out of the tiny loach.
The dwarf loach is an easily fed loach. The omnivorous dwarf loach will readily accept flake foods, bloodworms, earthworms, sinking pellets, shrimp pellets, aquatic insects, plant matter and crustaceans. The dwarf loach rarely will come to the water's surface to feed, so it will need food that can sink to the bottom of the tank. Many times after a feeding, you will notice the dwarf loach acting like a scavenger, cleaning up all of the uneaten food that it can find among the tank's substrate.
Hobbyists may discover that the dwarf loach isn't as easily found in pet stores as many other loaches. In fact, at one time, it was impossible to find the dwarf loach for sale because it was almost completely extinct! The dwarf loach is even listed on the World Conservation Monitoring Centre Red List as "Critically Endangered."
The dwarf loach is one of the most recently discovered loaches. The dwarf loach was actually introduced into the aquarium trade in 1959. At that time, the collection sites for the dwarf loaches were turbid, clayey small bodies of water. These bodies of water occasionally dried out to trickling creeks. These bodies of water began to disappear in the 1980s with the construction of dams and the establishment of rice paddies. At that time, the dwarf loach was considered to be extinct in the wild. However, they would make a big comeback, but just barely!
After the dwarf loaches were considered to be extinct, the London Zoo had a sale because of a threatened closing. Breeders from Thailand acquired the London Zoo's entire stock of dwarf loaches. These dwarf loaches became the start-up brood stock for pond culture in Malaysia and Thailand. This led to the dwarf loach becoming available to hobbyists again, but at much greater prices! These days, the price of dwarf loaches has gone down somewhat. Most pet stores sell their dwarf loaches anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 apiece.
If you are fortunate enough to find a dwarf loach for sale, you may find this loach available under a number of different names. Perhaps the most popular alias for the dwarf loach is the Chain Loach, or the Chained Loach. The chain patterns of the juvenile dwarf loaches gives this loach the name "chain loach." However, once these loaches reach adulthood, the dwarf loach won't carry the chain pattern anymore. Even the dwarf loach's scientific name is derived from the juveniles' chain patterns. In the name Botia Sidthimunki, the Latin word "Sid" means "with many chains."
Another name that the dwarf loach may be found under is the comical Monkey Loach, or Monkey Botia. This strange name for the dwarf loach is directly derived from this loach's scientific name, Botia Sidthimunki. If you correctly pronounce "Sidthimunki", it sounds like "Sid the monkey!" Hence the name Monkey Loach!
There are even a couple of other names that the dwarf loach is sometimes found under. The Circle Loach is a name that is obviously derived from the loach's chainlike patterns. And in Europe, the dwarf loach's pattern earns this loach the name Checkerboard Loach. However, this dwarf won't ever be found under names like Sleepy, Sneezy or Dopey! If this loach must have a dwarf name, make it Peppy, Playful or the most obvious, Tiny!