At first glance, this loach may look like a lot of other loaches. You may think this loach is one of those energetic, peaceful clowns of the aquarium. However, don't let this little loach fool you! While this loach may be energetic and somewhat of a clown, it can also be a fin nipping terror in the tank! It's the loach that's a little stinker: the Skunk Loach!
I love loaches! And I can't turn down an opportunity to get a new species of loach. My interest in loaches began with the dojo loach. From there I went loach crazy! I quickly acquired yoyo loaches, kuhli loaches, horseface loaches, hillstream loaches, clown loaches, dwarf loaches and orange finned loaches. I thought that I had bought out the pet store's supply of loach species. Then a new species arrived. You guessed it! I had to have it. Little did I know that this loach would be different from the loaches I have had before.
When I first noticed this new species of loach at my pet store, I asked what kind of loach it was. The guy at the pet store wasn't sure what kind of loach it was, but I knew without a doubt just by looking at this tiny specimen that it was indeed a loach. It was just a loach that I hadn't seen before.
This loach was one of the smaller loaches that I had seen for sale in a pet store. These loaches were barely an inch long. Other than that, this loach looked like many other loaches. These loaches were energetic, constantly swimming around and searching for food. It was this loach's coloration that should have tipped me off to its name, the skunk loach. This loach was a light brownish, cream color with a black stripe from its snout to its tail along its back, hence the name "skunk loach." In fact, as the skunk loach grows older, it may even develop faint perpendicular stripes on its flanks. However, once I got a pair of these loaches home, I realized that these loaches might have earned this name another way.
Almost immediately, I discovered that the skunk loach wasn't one of those peaceful clowns of the aquarium. Despite their tiny size, the two skunk loaches quickly took over their own territories and proceeded to run any intruding fish away from that territory, despite the intruding fish's size. Still, I didn't think it was much of a big deal. There was plenty of room in the 30 gallon tank for all of the other fish and the skunk loaches to get along. Then I discovered that the skunk loaches were chasing much larger fish, nipping at their fins! Maybe these loaches were called skunk loaches because they were just little stinkers!
A lot of so called experts classify the skunk loach as a peaceful fish. That's simply not true. At best, these loaches should be classified as semi-aggressive. While the skunk loach won't aggressively attack and kill other fish, it will harass and in many cases nip the fins of other slower moving fish, regardless of their size. However, there are a few things you can do to alleviate some of this aggression.
One way to somewhat curb the skunk loach's aggression is to keep a minimum of three of these loaches in one tank. If you can keep more than three, it's even better. Regardless of how many you decide to keep, just make sure that each skunk loach will have a place to call its own territory. If not, their aggression will turn toward each other!
Another way to cut down on the skunk loach's aggression is to make sure this loach is placed into a tank with much quicker fish. Since the skunk loach will always have the tendency to nip other fish's fins regardless of what action you take, quicker fish that can easily get away from the skunk loach stand a better chance of keeping their fins intact. Just keep in mind that even the quick fish may occasionally get a nip since the skunk loach is quick in its own right. I have kept a pair of skunk loaches with red finned cigar sharks, giant danios, iridescent sharks, corys and an arowana. The skunk loaches pestered the larger arowana and the much larger red finned cigar sharks. The skunk loaches nipped the fins of the iridescent sharks so bad, I had to move the sharks to another tank to recover! The only fish the skunk loaches ignored were the corys and the much quicker giant danios.
Not all loaches will be compatible with the skunk loach. Naturally, I assumed that my pair of skunk loaches would do just fine with my varied collection of loaches. The skunk loaches did get along fine with my yoyo loaches and even better with my orange finned loaches. Since the kuhli loach and the horseface loach that I had in the tank rarely came out until after dark, the skunk loaches more or less ignored them. However, when it came to my dojo loaches, the skunk loaches apparently thought they were an ideal target for some fin nipping! The much quicker skunk loaches would catch the dojo loaches at rest on the tank's substrate, swim over and nip at their tails!
Ideal tank mates for the skunk loach can include a variety of quick fish and similar loaches. Skunk loaches tend to do well with such fish as rasboras, tiger barbs, danios, plecos, corys, gouramis, tetras and even some cichlids. Most cichlids will ignore the skunk loach, but if they do try to attack the loach, like many other loaches, the skunk loach has protective spines located behind their eyes which will act as a deterrent to any future attacks. As for similar loaches, the skunk loaches tend to enjoy the company of clown loaches, yoyo loaches and orange finned loaches.
If you are planning on setting up an aquarium suitable for the skunk loach, its tank environment must closer resemble its natural habitat. The skunk loach is a native of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Northern India and other areas of Southeast Asia. The skunk loach's water will need to have a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, with a water temperature between 76 and 86 degrees. This loach is probably more sensitive to water conditions than other loaches, so the skunk loach will need frequent partial water changes to remain healthy. For this reason, the skunk loach will need an aquarium with a good filter that can provide a moderately strong current.
The skunk loach is not a big loach. Most skunk loaches found in pet stores will range in size from 1 to 2 inches. As an adult, the skunk loach will rarely exceed a length of 4 ½ inches. Because of their small size, the skunk loaches won't need a lot of space. An ideal aquarium for a trio of skunk loaches would be a 30 gallon tank.
The skunk loach will appreciate either a sandy or finely graveled substrate in its tank, since, like many loaches, the skunk loach likes to dig. If you add a flat rock to the skunk loach's tank, you will often see the loach at rest on the rock during the day. As mentioned earlier, this loach will need a hiding place for each individual skunk loach in the tank. These hiding places can be anything such as cave-like tank decorations, plants, driftwood or simple pieces of PVC pipe. To make the skunk loaches even more comfortable, you can add a few floating plants to diffuse the tank's lighting.
Feeding the skunk loach is just as easy as feeding any other loach. Like many other loaches, the skunk loach is omnivorous, and it will eat nearly anything. It's obvious from the skunk loach's down turned, barbel surrounded mouth that this creature is a bottom feeder. However, like many other loaches, it is not unheard of to find the skunk loach at the top of the aquarium feeding with other fish. The skunk loach will readily accept flake foods, sinking wafers, shrimp pellets and bloodworms. And despite the fact that many so called experts claim that the skunk loach is a nocturnal creature that can only be fed after the lights go out, that's not exactly true. After the skunk loach becomes accustomed to its new environment, this loach will be seen at all hours of the day!
Despite its aggressive temperament, the skunk loach can actually be beneficial to a home aquarium. After feeding time, the skunk loach will often be seen patrolling the tank's substrate looking for any uneaten food that has settled on the bottom. And if the tank has any snails in it, there's nothing better to use to get rid of them than a loach, especially the smaller skunk loach. In fact, there are many hobbyists who buy skunk loaches for the simple reason of getting rid of unwanted snails!
Like many other loaches, breeding the skunk loach in the home aquarium is nearly impossible. In fact, skunk loach breeders in Indonesia have to use artificial injections of hormones to get the skunk loaches to spawn. In fact, it's often impossible just to distinguish between the two sexes of the skunk loach, although there are some reports that indicate that the male of the species will be the larger of the two sexes.
The skunk loach is not found in pet stores as much as other loaches. This could be because the skunk loach is not really a popular loach due to its temperament. If you do find the skunk loach in a pet store, it may be available under two different names: the Cream Loach or Hora's Loach. As far as loaches go, the skunk loach is not an expensive buy. I purchased a pair of skunk loaches for $6.00 apiece.
If you are like me and you love loaches, I recommend that you give this little loach a try. However, make sure you've got plenty of room, not only for the skunk loaches to hide, but also for the other fish to swim away from this little stinker!