Chessboard loaches

© Stefan Maurer, Checkboard Loach, CC BY-SA 2.0

This fancy aquarium inhabitant comes from Thailand and China. They live both in the temperate zone and in the tropics and prefer running waters. They are bottom-dwelling fish, but they also like to swim around. They can also be well maintained by beginners. But be careful: the animals have a fold-out thorn under their eyes, which is normally only used in territorial fights. Nevertheless, care should be taken when fishing out the animals.

What are the characteristics of chessboard loaches?

The magnificently drawn fish quickly develop into the centre of any aquarium. They like to swim after other fish and sniff at them. They often go in search of food in twos or threes and are also otherwise very active contemporaries who bring a lot of hectic into the tank when feeding. Among the ornamental fish they belong to the long-time aquarium inhabitants. With good care they can live up to 15 years.

The appearance of checkerboard loaches

In the aquarium, checkerboard loaches reach an average size of up to 8 cm. The basic colour of the fish is pastel. The whole body shows a dark brown, chessboard-like pattern. Tail fin and other fins are transparent. A distinctive dark stripe runs from the head to the caudal fin. This smallest loach species has three pairs of barbels and two pointed eye spines.


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Gender differences

It is almost impossible to differentiate the sexes of checkerboard loaches by external characteristics.

Water values for checkerboard loach

If you want to enjoy these animals for a long time, you should ensure good water values in the aquarium. The following conditions are optimal:

  • pH value from 6.0 to 7.0
  • Total water hardness from 2 to 15 dGH
  • Temperature from 24 to 28° Celsius

Food and nutrition for checkerboard loaches

Chessboard loaches eat fast and a lot. They are actually always hungry. But the diet is problem-free. They can be fed live food as well as dry and frozen food. Live food in the form of small animals should however predominate. In the aquarium they also perform well as algae eaters. However, checkerboard loaches are molluscivorous, which means that they also eat snails and mussels. A socialization with snails, mussels or shrimps is therefore not advisable. The checkerboard loach would only see these fellow inhabitants as tasty live food.

The ideal aquarium for checkerboard loaches

In tanks from 100 litres upwards, this beautifully drawn fish is easy to keep. A light current, luxuriant background and edge planting along with some cave hiding places contribute to its well-being. As the chessboard loach likes to plough through the ground, fine river sand or gravel is most suitable as a substrate. Furthermore, the swimming chessboard loaches need enough free swimming space and as ground dwellers they also need enough floor space.

Housing conditions

The checkerboard loach is a social group fish that requires several specimens of its species in the aquarium. Individual keeping is not advisable. However, it can be kept well in community tanks, as it is peaceful by nature and leaves other fish alone. A particularly important keeping condition and care measure is the regular partial water change.

Ideally 1/3 – 2/3 of the aquarium water should be changed weekly. It is important to ensure that the fresh water has the same composition (see water values) as the aquarium water and that there are no excessive temperature differences (max. 2-3°C) between old and fresh water.

In the following the most important keeping conditions in short form:

  • Community tank
  • large floor area
  • light water current
  • fine substrate
  • Cave hiding places
  • mainly live food

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