The Dojo Loach (aka Weather Loach or Pond Loach) is one of our all-time favorite freshwater species.
These fish are easy to care for and a joy to watch. They’re friendly, active, and look very unique!
But even though these are a fish that anyone can manage, it’s important to have a good understanding of their ideal conditions if you want them to truly thrive. That’s why we put this guide together.
In it, you’ll learn everything there is to know about Dojo Loach care. We cover things like size, diet, water conditions, tank mates, and more!
Table of Contents
Hailing from streams and ponds throughout Asia, the Dojo Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) is a fascinating fish with a very unique personality. Don’t let their simple looks fool you. This species is known for being quite social with humans.
Dojo Loaches have a distinct reputation in the wild. They’re often referred to as a Pond Loach or Weather Loach as well. The latter name comes from their response to barometric pressure changes. They will often swim erratically and even go into a vertical swimming position whenever a storm approaches!
This behavior can be observed in captivity, too. As such, these fish have become incredibly popular among the aquarium community.
They’re considered to be one of the best fish for beginners. Thanks to their hardy nature, they’re quite easy to keep healthy even if you don’t have a ton of fish-keeping experience.
The normal lifespan of a Dojo Loach is between 7 and 10 years. As always, life expectancy is impacted by several factors.
While they are generally tolerant of a wide range of living conditions, keeping things just right will help these fish live long and healthy lives.
Author Note: The owners we know who’ve had their Dojo Loaches exceed the typical lifespan all keep them in very large tanks with perfect water quality. Food for thought!
Dojo Loaches are often mistaken for eels. They have long and slender bodies with very small fins. Not only that, but the upper portion of their body is rounded like an eel. It tends to flatten out towards the tail.
The fins are relatively small, further cementing that eel-like look. The dorsal fin is located on the last third of the body close to the tail. Meanwhile, their pectoral fins are just behind the gills. They’re often used for navigating the bottom of their environment.
The head is somewhat pointed, which is pretty common for fish in the Loach family. That’s because they have downturned mouths surrounded by barbels.
Dojo Loaches have several barbels. They’re primarily used to feel for food. They’re also used to dig through the substrate so that they can bury themselves. Several smaller barbels are located just below the eyes as well.
When it comes to color, there’s a lot of variety with Pond Loaches. You can find solid specimens that are olive green, light brown, or grey. In most cases, the fish will have lighter bellies. Some specimens feature dark brown spots as well, which help with camouflage.
There is a distinct color variation available. Fish that take on a goldish yellow hue are typically referred to as Gold Dojo Loaches.
Dojo Loaches are sexually dimorphic. However, those differences between males and females are very subtle. You’ll have to pay attention to the pectoral ray. The second pectoral ray on the males is a bit longer and takes on a more triangular shape than the ray you will see on females.
Dojo Loach Size
In captivity, the average Dojo Loach size is usually no larger than 6 inches in length when fully grown. However, some aquarists have seen them get significantly longer when there’s ample room to grow.
In the wild, these fish are capable of growing to be almost 12 inches long. This can occur in aquariums, but they’ll need spacious environments and well-maintained conditions to get there.
As we mentioned earlier, Dojo Loach care is very easy. They can live in water temperatures that most fish will find uncomfortable which gives you a solid margin for error.
In fact, these fish are considered to be pretty fool-proof because it takes extreme changes to their water conditions to have an impact on their health.
But we have a different school of thought.
While they may be hardy, we don’t think that means you can skimp on care! Your goal as an owner should be to provide your fish with the best life possible.
Since this species will thrive in prime living conditions, it’s important to be vigilant about water conditions, tank decor, and diet.
Dojo Loaches need a sizable tank to stay healthy. They love to swim and explore the bottom of the tank. Because they can get quite long, smaller tanks will feel cramped and uncomfortable for these critters.
The minimum tank size you should use for a Dojo Loach is 55 gallons. Pay close attention to the dimensions of the tank. Aquariums that are at least 4 feet long are recommended so that there’s plenty of swimming room.
Larger tanks are always preferred. This is especially true if you plan on getting more than one Dojo Loach or creating a larger community tank.
This fish species can be found all across Asia and actually serve as a food source for areas throughout China, Japan, Korea, and even Russia. You can find them living in streams, rice ponds, small lakes, and other shallow bodies of water.
Because they are found in so many locations throughout the world, these fish are very tolerant when it comes to water conditions. They can live in much colder waters than other freshwater species.
Even with their resilience in tough environments, you should make things easier for your fish in captivity. Stick to these water parameters to keep your Dojo Loach healthy.
- Water temperature: 50°F to 82°F (aim for 65°F to 75°F)
- pH levels: 6.5 to 8.0
- Water hardness: 5 to 12 dKH
Author Note: Take a few minutes once or twice a week to test these levels. While you have some wiggle room in terms of what the Weather Loach can tolerate, you still want to keep everything as stable as possible.
Setting Up The Inside Of Their Tank
Starting with the substrate, we recommend choosing fine sand. The fish are bottom-feeders and love to dig. Coarse or sharp material like gravel can easily cut them, so stick to something soft.
When it comes to decorations, there aren’t a ton of requirements to concern yourself with. Feel free to choose natural or artificial decorations based on personal preference.
The only thing to prioritize is giving the fish plenty of hiding spaces.
Dojo Loaches will hide whenever they feel threatened or scared. Ideally, they’ll have things life driftwood or plants to hide in. Plastic decorations work fine as long as they’re big enough for the fish to fit in. If the fish doesn’t have any hiding places to rest in, they will often bury themselves.
Large pieces of driftwood are commonly used by aquarists, as are tall plants (such as hornwort). Make sure the plants are properly anchored to prevent them from being uprooted when they dig.
Filtration and oxygenation are important as well. Weather Loaches prefer a moderate flow. You can achieve this by using a filtration system underneath the substrate. Alternatively, air stones work great, too.
One of the most important things to think about when planning your tank is security.
Dojo Loaches are cunning escape artists. They will often swim up filter tubes or leap out of unsecured tank lids! Take a look at your tank and plan for all possible escape routes.
Secure the tank lid with a clip or tape. Then, fill larger filtration tubes with sponge or filter media to stop them from traveling down that opening.
Common Possible Diseases
Unfortunately, Dojo Loaches are a bit more susceptible to diseases than most freshwater species.
They also have smaller and thinner scales, which offers less protection. These fish will often be the first in a community tank to exhibit bacterial or fungal infections.
The most common problem you’ll have to deal with is Ich. The disease causes visible white spots all over the body. It’s a highly contagious disease. If your Pond Loach has it, you must quarantine them immediately and provide treatment in a separate tank.
Another common issue is called Skinny Disease. Basically, it’s a parasitic infection. Similar to issues like tapeworm infestations in mammals, Skinny Disease causes the fish to lose weight despite having a healthy diet.
The key to keeping diseases at bay is to continually monitor and maintain water conditions. Inferior water quality can cause stress and disease among the fish inside. We recommend regular testing and 30 percent water changes every week.
Food & Diet
In the wild Dojo Loaches primarily feed off organic matter like algae. They will still sift for small algae snacks in your tank as well. However, they are omnivores and will eat anything you provide.
Dried pellets are a great option if you’re looking for an easy way to meet their dietary needs. Sinking pellets are a must-have, as most Dojo Loaches will not swim up to the surface if there is a lot of other fish around.
You can supplement the dry food with live or frozen snacks as well. They love to eat tubifex worms and insect larvae.
Author Note: Dojo Loaches are also known to snack on freshwater aquarium snails and small invertebrates as well. That said, they tend to eat slowly. So, don’t rely on them to keep snail populations low!
Behavior & Temperament
Dojo Loaches are quite peaceful. They will hide when they feel threatened, and stay out in the open if they’re comfortable. These fish are actually very social and playful when in the presence of a larger group!
One cool thing about this species is that they’re friendly with humans. If you provide the fish with good care and get them used to you, they’ll probably let you touch and feed them by hand.
Like we stated earlier, these critters are notorious escape artists. They often spend their time exploring the tank. As a result, they will find escape routes and take advantage of them!
Due to their activity level and need to move, it’s not uncommon for them to try and jump out of the aquarium.
If you find your Pond Loach on the floor one day, try to introduce them back to the tank. The unique thing about this species is that they’re able to take advantage of atmospheric oxygen to stay alive outside of the water. This is something they do quite regularly in the wild!
Of course, you should do your best to avoid this and secure your tank.
Dojo Loach Tank Mates
It is possible to keep a single Dojo Loach in your tank, but we don’t recommend it. These fish do best when they are in a group of 3 or more.
Thanks to their peaceful nature, Dojo Loaches do just fine in community tanks too.
They will actually exhibit signs of socialization with other non-aggressive fish. You’ll often see them laying out with other species or playfully chasing them around the tank.
If you’re looking to build a community tank, consider fish that occupy other parts of the aquarium. Weather Loaches stay towards the bottom, so upper and middle-column dwellers are best.
For the most part, finding Dojo Loach tank mates is all about finding fish that won’t cause trouble. It’s also important to look for fish who like things a little bit on the cooler side since that will make their required parameters match a bit better.
Here are some good tank mates to consider:
- Different Types Of Goldfish
- White Cloud Mountain Minnows
- Rosy Barbs
- Leopard Danios
- Harlequin Rasbora
- Kuhli Loach
Author Note: Always monitor your fish early on to look for signs of trouble. No matter if a species is recommended or not, sometimes two fish just don’t get along!
While they might be easy to care for, these fish are not the easiest to breed. In fact, many home aquarists don’t even attempt it because the requirements make it difficult to achieve.
Dojo Loaches require several months of cold temperatures to breed. This simulates seasonal changes in the wild. Oftentimes, breeding occurs by accident in home aquariums.
Typically, the female will lay up to 50 eggs at a time. Whether you planned the spawning or not, it’s important to separate the adults from the eggs. They do not exhibit any parental behavior at all and may eat the eggs.
It only takes about 2 to 3 days for the eggs to hatch. At that point, you can feed them infusoria for several weeks until they are large enough to consume baby brine shrimp.
As you can see, Dojo Loach care is extremely approachable. You can handle this species no matter how experienced you are.
But unlike some other fish that are easy to care for, these are still incredibly rewarding to keep. The bond they form with their owners is something that you don’t find very often!
If you own a Weather Loach we’d love to hear some stories from you. We’ve heard so many great stories about these fish over the years, and we think it would be fun to start including some in our guide.