Dojo loach stats infographicDon’t let the simple looks of the Dojo Loach fool you. Have you heard of tales about loaches being found on the floor that sprang back to life once they were returned in the water? Yup! These stories are referring to the Dojo Loach, also known as Misgurnus anguillicaudatus.

So for this guide, we want you to get to know what makes this species so interesting. We will also teach you how to deliver the best Dojo Loach care; from getting the water chemistry just right to setting up their tank and guaranteeing the best diet and water parameters!

Stats

Misgurnus anguillicaudatus
Common Names Pond Loach, Weather Loach
Class Actinopterygii
Family Cobitidae
Genus Misgurnus
Size 8 to 12
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Lifespan 5 to 8 years
Strata Bottom to middle
pH 6.5 to 8
Hardness 5 to 12 dGH
Temperature 50 to 82 F
Care Level Intermediate

Dojo Loach in the Wild

The Dojo Loach is an omnivorous freshwater fish hailing from streams and ponds throughout Asia. Also known as Pond Loach, it is native to Eastern Asian countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

This species has also been introduced to the Philippines, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the United States of America. Such a wide distribution is due to the broad commercialization of the fish, as people use them either for food or as live bait for catching larger fishes.

Dojo loach care tipsMore often you will encounter Dojo Loaches in the shallow waters of streams and rivers. In rivers, these fish prefer to hover near plants with soft sand on the bottom. During the drought season, these benthic creatures have the ability to dig themselves into sand or mud 1 to 2 yards deep, and there, they would hibernate. These resilient survivors will emerge once the water returns.

Pond Loaches, as their name implies, also inhabit lentic systems, such as bogs and ponds. These loaches can breathe not only using their gills but also with their skin, and that is why they can live without water for an extended period. When there is insufficient dissolved oxygen in the water, these benthic fish would likewise swim close to the water surface to exhale and gasp a portion of air.

Physical Characteristics

Although the Dojo Loach might not have killer looks, you will definitely fall for their personality and quirks. When it comes to fishkeeping, it isn’t always about appearances. There are plenty of fish that may look so simple but their personality is what makes them special; the Dojo Loach is no exception! However, it is still worthy to discuss their unusual appearance.

What Does a Dojo Loach Look Like?

The Pond Loach is often mistaken for an eel due to its long, slender body. What’s more, the upper portion of its body is cylindrical just like an eel and it tends to flatten out towards the tail.  Its fins are also tiny, further cementing the eel look.

The dorsal fin of the Dojo Loach is located on the last third of its body, nearing its tail. Meanwhile, its pectoral fins are just behind its gills and the fish uses them for navigation. The Dojo Loach has a pointed head and its mouth is edged with 12 barbels, two of which are located on the lower jaw.

Do Dojo Loaches Come in Different Colors?

There is a lot of variety with Pond Loaches when it comes to coloration. You can find specimens in the aquarium trade that are olive green, light brown, or grey. The color intensity usually depends on their living conditions. Loaches that come in solid colors often feature a pale underside or dark brown spots. Also, there is a color morph called Golden Dojo Loach.

How Long Does it Take a Dojo Loach to Reach Full Size?

A full grown Dojo Loach measures 8 inches in length, but some hobbyists have seen them grow a bit longer when there is sufficient room for growth. Dojo Loaches are fast-growing and they reach their maximum size within three to four years. Wild specimens can grow 12 inches long.

Behavior and Temperament

Dojo Loaches may be hardy but, due to the number of precautionary measures that you need to take, we find the Dojo Loach more suitable for intermediate aquarists than beginners.

Dojo Loaches Squeak

There are a lot of blood vessels in the intestinal walls of the Dojo Loach and these perform a respiratory function in case oxygen is running low. When gasping air, the loach takes it through the intestinal tract and then exhales through the blowhole. This process explains the squeaking and wheezing sound loaches make when you take them out of the water.

Why Is My Dojo Loach Going Crazy?

Dojo Loaches have a notable reputation in the wild. These fish are also referred to as Weather Loach due to their fascinating response to barometric pressure changes. Believe it or not, these fish predict when a storm is brewing. The warning signs are displayed through their body language. Dojo Loaches would swim erratically and even go into a vertical swimming position when there is an approaching typhoon.

Pond Loaches Are Escape Artists

We have already established earlier that this species can take advantage of atmospheric oxygen to survive outside of the water and this is something Pond Loaches do often in the wild.

In case there is a sharp drop in dissolved oxygen in the tank water, you may find these benthic creatures swimming towards the water surface. And when they do, it is highly likely that they will jump and you will find your Pond Loaches lying on the floor. Fortunately, these fish can still live for several hours outside of water.

Do Dojo Loaches Bury Themselves?

Pond loaches love to bury themselves up to their necks, so don’t be surprised to see a group of heads poking out of the substrate. When threatened, these loaches will also disappear into the substrate and this is particularly the case of recently transferred fish. Don’t worry; your bashful pets will reappear draped across decorations when they are ready.

Why Is My Dojo Loach Floating?

“Do loaches play dead?” This question has been raised so many times. Just like its cousins, the Dojo Loach loves to hang out and lay on soft floating plants. It may be that your pets are just relaxing. After all, loaches are inactive during the light of the day but, as the night comes, these fish swim around confidently and show their true personalities.

Are Dojo Loaches Friendly?

The Dojo Loach may look like an intimidating snake, but it is a peace-loving species of fish that is equally social and playful. One amazing thing about these aquatic animals is that they can learn to be friendly towards humans, too.

Dojo Loach Care

If you want your pet to live a long and happy life, there are a few measures that you should stick to at all times. Find out what they are in this section!

Diet

Dojo Loaches have an omnivorous diet. In the wild, these benthic feeders survive on algae and plant material present at the bottom of ponds and shallow streams. These opportunistic feeders also eat insect larvae and snails. In the home aquarium, you can mimic this diet by feeding your loaches with spirulina-based dried foods.

If you are looking for an easy way to meet their dietary needs, opt for sinking pellets. Pond Loaches will not swim towards the surface to join their tankmates for dinner. While these fish tend to eat unwanted food left by their tankmates, you want to make sure they receive their rations.

Moreover, supplement their diet with frozen or live snacks, such as Tubifex and insect larvae. You may also provide your Dojo Loaches with a few thin slices of broccoli or zucchini. These loaches also find freshwater snails and shrimp scrumptious.

Water Parameters

This freshwater fish can live in much colder waters than others. But despite their resilience in tough environments, you should avoid making things difficult for your pets. Stick to these water parameters to ensure optimal health:

  • Temperature: 50 to 82 F
  • pH level: 6.5 to 8
  • Hardness: 5 to 12 dGH

Purchase a good all-around tester kit and take a few minutes once or twice each week to test these levels. Other key things to look out for are ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. It doesn’t matter how much the Weather Loach can tolerate, but you need to keep the water parameter as stable as possible.

What Is Wrong With My Dojo Loach?

Dojo Loaches are more vulnerable to diseases compared to the majority of freshwater species as they have thinner, nearly invisible scales that offer them less protection. As they are nearly scaleless, these fish are often the first in the community aquarium to display the symptoms of a disease.

Ich Is the #1 Problem

All fish species are prone to Ich but scaleless ones such as the Dojo Loach are even more so. Also known as “white spot disease,” it is caused by the protozoan parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which translates to “fish louse with many children” in Latin.

The leading cause of Ich is the failure to quarantine new fishes. Using infected equipment, filter media, or decor between aquariums without proper sanitation is also an additional cause. Stress is likewise a culprit, as it weakens the immune system of the fish.

Ich has a complex life cycle, which makes it a challenge to treat. Encysted Ich is called trophonts and they resemble sprinkled salt on the affected fish. Trophonts feed off fish and once they have grown to maturity, they would detach themselves and divide quickly to form hundreds of new parasites.

Here are the signs that your Dojo Loach might have Ich:

  • White spots on its body that resemble sprinkled salt
  • Fish scratching itself against surfaces
  • Bruising due to flashing to relieve the itch
  • Inactivity and rapid breathing
  • Sudden death of one or multiple fish

How Do You Medicate a Scaleless Fish?

There are several non-serious ailments that are similar to Ich that require different treatments. While there are many over-the-counter medications for white spot disease, most of these products contain chemicals that are not safe for loaches. The risk with treating scaleless fish is they tend to soak up most of the chemicals through their skin, causing an overdose.

Likewise, manipulating the temperature of the tank water will hurt your loaches in addition to stressing them out. Stress makes your loaches more susceptible to death due to secondary causes. Scaleless fish also do not tolerate salt in their tank. So, if you suspect your fish are having Ich, it would be wise to consult an aquatic veterinarian to make an accurate diagnosis. Your vet will prescribe medication suitable for your sensitive fish.

Can Loaches Overeat?

Another problem with the Dojo Loach is bloating, which is often caused by overeating and constipation. When your bloated fish is unable to pass waste, it is good to cleanse its digestive tract by fasting for three to four days. After that, feed your little glutton with pre-boiled peas, baby brine shrimp, and frozen daphnia. While bloating is not life-threatening, it can escalate into something serious if left untreated.

Dropsy vs. Bloating In Loaches

While bloating is not often malignant, you still need to pay close attention to your loach’s condition for several days to a few weeks. The swollen appearance could be dropsy, which is not easily cured. Dropsy is an infection caused by bacteria that is commonly present in aquariums. Any fish can be exposed to dropsy-causing pathogens, but a Loach with compromised immunity is much more vulnerable.

As the infection advances, the following behavioral and physical symptoms will manifest in the ailing loach:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Pale gills
  • Skin lesions
  • Reddish, swollen anus
  • Pale, stringy feces
  • Bent spine
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing

Experts recommend euthanizing the ailing Loach to prevent the spread of the disease. On the bright side, your aquatic vet may help you save your pet if you detect the infection early. The treatment will be geared toward addressing the underlying problem and this usually involves the use of antibiotics.

Lifespan

In the wild, the Dojo Loach lifespan is around 10 years. The life expectancy of captive specimens is a lot shorter. With optimal care, your pets may live up to five years or even eight years max.

Tank Mates

Dojo loach dietThe Dojo Loach can get along well with a number of non-aggressive freshwater fish. If you are considering building a community aquarium, look for species that occupy the middle and top columns of the tank. You don’t want your loaches to compete for space with other bottom-dwellers, especially because a single full grown Dojo Loach can grow up to 8 inches or longer.

Equally important, the fishes should require the same tank water temperature as your Dojo Loach and they should be equally or nearly as large. Recommended tank mates include goldfish and angelfish. Your Dojo Loach can also share the tank with one male betta or several females.

Do Dojo Loaches Need to Be in Groups?

The Pond Loach will do fine alone but your fish will be much happier in a group of three or more. When kept in a group, you would find them racing around or piling up together. As they feel more secure and confident, they will also exhibit more signs of socialization with their tankmates.

Can You Mix Kuhli Loaches?

Unfortunately, no. You cannot keep Dojo Loaches and Kuhli Loaches in the same tank. The latter could not thrive in the recommended Dojo Loach temperature. Pairing the two means shortening the lifespan of the other species.

Tank Setup

This section will explain how to create a cozy and comfortable environment for your aquatic pet. Read on to know more!

Tank Size

When creating your aquatic pets’ forever home, the first thing you will want to consider is their adult size as well as the maximum number of fish you wish to keep. Aim for 40 gallons or more.

Weather Loaches prefer to inhabit the benthic zone and, because they can grow to about a foot, it would be wise to choose a pretty long tank to provide them ample room to zoom back and forth. The height is not as important as the width, unless you need to accommodate upper-level tank mates.

Another benefit to a long, wide tank is that it promotes a substantial amount of oxygen exchange between air and water.

Substrate

These loaches love to slither and burrow themselves underneath sand and mud in their native habitats. That given, the bottom of the tank should be layered with a soft substrate, ideally 1 inch of loose, fine sand. The skin of the Dojo Loach is more fragile than that of fish with scales. Coarse substrates may injure your fish, increasing their risk for secondary infection if they are cut.

Plants and Decorations

The choice of decorations is actually up to your taste. Feel free to choose artificial decorations if you find them easy to maintain. But if you want your aquarium to resemble the Dojo Loach’s natural habitat, scatter smooth water-worn stones on the sides and add a few pieces of driftwood.

Avoid rooted plants; the loaches will dig them up otherwise. If you want, you may put your aquarium plants in pots. Floating aquatic plants are also a good fit as these fish will jump out of the tank if given the chance. But even that won’t necessarily stop your loaches from escaping and therefore, so make sure to install a tight-fitting cover.

Equipment

Filtration and oxygenation are crucial. While a hang-on-back filter provides excellent filtration, loaches are notorious for crawling up into this type of filter to hide and use as an escape route. So if your budget allows it, choose a canister filter, instead. As for tank lighting, it should be moderate.

Breeding

While caring for a Dojo loach is rather easy, breeding is another story. Information regarding captive breeding the Dojo Loach is limited. Many hobbyists attempted to breed this species, but the requirements are impossible to achieve in a home setting. Farm hatcheries have presumably used hormone injections for this purpose.

Conclusion

The Dojo Loach, also known as Weather Loach and Pond Loach, is a fantastic fish to have. These fish may not be among the prettiest ones in the hobby, but their personality is undeniably colorful. Playful and energetic, having them around gives life to any cool freshwater tank. But before you head to your local fish store, be sure you familiarize the following points:

  • Dojo loach behavior and temperamentSinking pellets are the best choice for Pond Loaches as they are bottom dwellers. As omnivores, Weather Loaches are easy to feed but make sure to supplement their diet with high-quality frozen or live options.
  • These loaches can be employed for snail control.
  • It would be a mistake to introduce your Dojo Loaches into a biological immature setup. These fish require soft to medium water with subdued lighting and good flow to promote oxygenation.
  • Long-term exposure to the stress caused by poor water quality, ammonia spikes, and improper nutrition compromises the ability of your Pond Loaches to fight infection. These creatures are more vulnerable to disease because they barely have scales.
  • Dojo Loaches cannot handle salt and a high increase in temperature. Over-the-counter Ich medications that are otherwise effective in scaled fishes are not feasible. The best course of action is to consult your vet the moment you notice physical abnormalities and behavioral changes in your fish.
  • While it is possible to raise a single Dojo Loach, we advise against it. Weather Loaches don’t exhibit a schooling nature, but they are not loners by choice either. This species is best kept in a group of at least three.
  • When choosing tank mates, you will want non-aggressive species that can thrive in cool temperatures, and ideally, they should dwell in the middle and top layers of the tank.
  • As these loaches constantly scavenge for yummy tidbits and bury themselves in the substrate, use fine sand.

The best thing about these fish is that they can get attached to their owner. Once they are comfortable with their environment, they may even let you stroke them or feed them by hand.

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