The Horseface Loach, also known as Acantopsis choirorhynchos, is a freshwater fish from Southeast Asia. Its scientific name, however, was later changed to Acantopsis dialuzona.

To care for this species, you’ll want to learn more about their physical makeup, behavior, and idiosyncrasies! The good news is that these guys are less demanding compared to others, thus making them a fantastic choice for beginners.

Horseface Loach Stats

Species A. dialuzona
Synonyms
  • Acantopsis choirorhynchos (Bleeker, 1854)
  • Cobitis choirorhynchos (Bleeker, 1854)
Family Cobitidae
Genus Acantopsis
Care Level Beginner
Temperament Peaceful
Compatibility Non-aggressive, subtropical middle and upper dwellers
Average Size 8 – 12 inches (22 cm – 30 cm)
Color & Patterns Gold/tan/silver with irregular dark spots
Diet Omnivore
Tank Size 15 gallons
Tank Setup
  • Soft substrate
  • Potted plants
  • Dimmed lighting
pH 6.0 to 6.5
Hardness Up to 10 dGH
Temperature 75 to 82 F (25 – 28 C)

Horsehead Loach Habitat and Distribution

The Acantopsis dialuzona is indigenous to Borneo, Java, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Sumatra, Thailand, and Vietnam.

This bizarre-looking fish inhabits fast-flowing streams with substrates of sand, fine gravel, or a mix of both. The Horseface Loach loves to burrow into soft substrates and relish benthic organisms, such as small, live crustaceans and insect larvae.

A significant percentage of this species also dwell in rapid rivers that lead to the Chao Phraya River and Mekong River. When the monsoon blows and brings heavy rains, they would seek temporary refuge in flooded fields.

Due to its wide distribution, which extends across the majority of Indochina and beyond, some assume that the species might represent a group of similar fish that have not yet been differentiated.

Horsehead Physical Characteristics

Right off the bat, you can tell how this species got its name. If it isn’t obvious enough, the Horse faced loach has a head and nose resembling a horse.

– How Big Do Horseface Loaches Get?

In the wild, this species can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. On the other hand, Captive species max out at 8 inches (22 cm) and are considered mature from 2.4 inches (6 cm).

– Distinctive Appearance

The elongated snout of the Horseface Loach bends down to a small degree and ends with six barbels. As with other loach species, it has a slim body that is ideally suited for burrowing into soft substrates. It also has a slightly forked caudal fin.

This species is likewise equipped with a pair of razor-sharp spines underneath the eye orbits. To avoid predation, the fish will extend its spines whenever it feels threatened.

– Colors and Markings

Colors among captive species are light gold, tan, or silver with many uneven dark spots. Their bellies are flatter and lighter in color compared to the rest of their bodies.

– Gender Differences

Males are smaller than females. The first few branched rays of a male’s pectoral fins are also prolonged. However, this subtle difference is almost indiscernible since the fish spend most of their time buried in the substrate.

Horsehead Loach Behavior and Temperament

The Horseface Loach is a master of camouflage! This interesting species can leave you wondering where they have gone. Funnily enough, you will notice eyes gazing back at you if you watch closely in the sand. Horseface Loaches have a habit of burying themselves below the substrate.

As expected of a nocturnal creature, the fish is inert during the day and goes into hiding. However, it keeps its eyes poked out of the sand and keeps tabs on the nearby activities. At the same time, the loach takes mouthfuls of sand and filters it through its gills in hopes of getting a snack.

As darkness falls, the fish begin to get more active. They come out to eat and swim together. This species is a slow swimmer. But when startled, their slim, elongated bodies allow them to dart in all directions with speed.

The Horseface Loach Had a Name Change

As mentioned earlier, this species was known by its previous scientific name, Acantopsis choirorhynchos. The name change took place during a revision of loaches by the scientific community in 2012.

Regardless, you may still find aquarists referring to the species as A. choirorhynchos, as well as by older synonyms.

– Mistaken Identity: Horseface Loach vs. Longnose Loach

Many people are confused between the Horseface Loach and the Longnose loach. I am not surprised because I may sometimes find it difficult to distinguish them from each other.

Both species have a long, slender body and an elongated snout. But as you look closer, you’ll realize that the Longnose’s snout does not slope downward as it does in the Horseface Loach. Also, a matured Longnose loach is only half the size of the other.

Scientifically known as Acantopsis octoactinotos, it is likewise aggressive. This species will kill small fish when hungry, such as Zebra, Danios, Neon Tetras, and guppies. As such, they should be kept with larger species that can better manage their behavior.

Lastly, the Longnose loach does not bury itself in the substrate as frequently as the Horseface Loach. The A. octoactinotos prefers to hide under rock formations or sit on top of a large boulder.

Horseface Loach Breeding

To this day, there are no documented instances of the Horseface Loach having spawned in captivity, including commercial breeding. All specimens sold in the aquarium trade are wild-caught juveniles.

Horseface Loaches, moreover, were first imported for the aquarium industry trade in 1929. From Southeast Asia, they were brought into Europe by Edmund Riechers of Hamburg, Germany.

Although exports have bumped up in recent years, the Acantopsis dialuzona remains listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Horseface Loach Tank Mates

The Horseface Loach is a peaceful species. Instead of pursuing other fish, these bottom dwellers would rather nestle themselves underneath the sand and cast trepid glances at their tank mates.

The key to a successful community aquarium is to stock other peaceful species, preferably those that occupy the middle and top strata.

These include:

If you want a species-exclusive tank, start with a group of six or eight. By doing so, the loaches would establish a pecking order and claim territories to which they will defend. While this behavior may seem hostile, it does not involve fighting. Aggression within the school is minimal or nonexistent.

Horseface Loach Care

The Horseface Loach is not challenging to keep, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind to avoid problems in the future.

– Horseface Loach Diet

The Horseface Loach thrives on small crustaceans and insect larvae in its natural habitat, but what do horseface loaches eat in a captive setting? One might think that these fish are difficult to feed. But as luck would have it, feeding them is easy-peasy as they will accept most commercial food.

Sinking pellets should be their staple food since they feed on the bottom. Otherwise, tankmates that occupy the middle and top levels may get the lion’s share. Therefore, you want to make sure your loaches will obtain their share as well.

To promote optimal health, offer them live or frozen foods, such as:

  • Artemia
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworm
  • Daphnia
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Tubifex, etc.

Lodge the food items near the bottom using tongs. Supplemental algae wafers are welcome additions as well.

– Water Parameters and Equipment

The Horseface Loach is a subtropical aquarium fish. This species is content in an unheated aquarium, provided the water is neither too cool nor too warm.

The recommended water parameters are as follows:

  • pH 6.0 to 6.5
  • Hardness Up to 10 dGH
  • Temperature 75 to 82 F (25-28 C)

Tank note; the tank should be mature before you transfer your fish. These loaches do not cope well with the chemistry changes of a newly established aquarium. Consider using a heater if the room temperature always falls outside the suggested temperature range.

As with most aquarium fish, the Horseface Loach is intolerant of heavy metals and organic pollutants. So, you’ll need to install a powerful filter that will turn over your aquarium volume four to five times per hour.

For example, a 15-gallon tank will require a pump and filter with flow rates of around 60 gallons per hour. Equally important, you’ll need to replace 20 to 50 percent of the tank water to cut down ammonia and nitrate levels.

A powerhead or airstone is also helpful, as it provides torrent-like conditions that help increase oxygen levels. Know that this species thrives in oxygen-rich aquariums with excellent water flow as they would in streams and rivers.

– Stress

The Horseface Loach is a hardy species, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook their health.

Aside from deadly ammonia spikes, one thing to look out for is stress. Being stressed, after all, can lead to disease and put your fish in death’s door.

The idea is to have your loaches live as comfortably as possible. You can start by adding the right tankmates and replicate their natural environment.

– Lifespan

The Horseface Loach can live up to 12 years in its natural habitat. With proper care, your pet may also live over a decade.

Horsehead Loach Tank Setup

I know you are itching to get your loaches. But first, you’ll need to set up a tank that will make them feel at home.

– Tank Size

A group of six will be happy in a 15-gallon tank. Unless you want to stock your aquarium with compatible species, opt for a tank with more lengthwise space for these bottom dwellers.

– Substrate

The substrate is one of the most important considerations when building a habitat for this species.

As discussed earlier, these loaches love to hang out buried in the substrate, leaving only their eyes exposed. Due to their incessant burrowing, it is wise to use sand or fine gravel.
Coarse materials will only cause them stress and irritation. Larger substrates also inhibit their feeding behavior.

– Plants

Sturdy plants like Anubias are ideal for these diggers. You may use other plants as well, but make sure to put them in tiny pots to keep them in place. Floating plants are a fantastic option to boot as these loaches prefer subdued lighting.

– Decorations

Use driftwood and smooth, water-worn rocks to replicate their natural habitat. Add these ornaments before the substrate to prevent them from collapsing. Likewise, arrange them in the corners, never in the middle.

The decorations will provide other fish hiding spots without causing your loaches disturbance as they lie beneath the sand.

– Lighting

Since the Horseface Loach is a nocturnal species, consider adding LED moonlights to your aquarium. LED lunar lighting simulates natural moonlight, thus encouraging the loaches to exhibit their normal nighttime behaviors

What’s more, it is an excellent way to get an eyeful of your fish at night without disturbing them.

Conclusion

The Horseface Loach may lack vivid color patterns or striking pearlescent hues, but its interesting appearance can leave many people in a trance!

Before you go, here’s a wrap-up to make sure you haven’t missed out on anything:

  • Scientifically known as A. dialuzona, it is a hardy subtropical aquarium fish that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions. However, it prefers soft water with a temperature not exceeding 82 F (28 C). Consider using a heater if the room temperature is below 75.
  • The Horseface Loach and the Longnose loach are two different species. The latter is aggressive and doesn’t bury itself in the substrate as often as the other.
  • You’ll need a 15-gallon tank for a group of six. If possible, opt for a bigger tank with more lengthwise space.
  • These bottom-dwellers can reach lengths of eight inches when fed well.
  • Horseface Loaches are omnivorous. Stimulate their appetite by feeding them live foods every now and then.
  • Avoid stress by stocking your aquarium with middle and top dwelling species coming from similar environments that have complimentary aggression levels.
  • Use sand or fine gravel as the substrate to cater to their needs.

If you are new to the hobby, I suggest having a Horseface Loach in your tank as they are easy to care for.

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