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Dwarf Chain Loach Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

Do you like scaleless fish much? Well, then, loaches can be an excellent choice for your tank. Just like other fascinating loaches, dwarf chain loach is shorter in size but funnier with their attributes, which makes them great to have in your fish tank.

Dwarf chain loaches come with chained stripes on their body. These types live well in a group of 6 in a 20-gallon tank with slightly acidic and soft water. They have a calm temperament and live easily with other peaceful fish. However, they are too rare to find.

Species Overview

Level of CareA bit hard
AppearanceThey come with chained stripes that run laterally along the side of their nose to the tail.
Life Expectancy15 years
Tank Size20-gallons
Tank EnvironmentSoft acidic water with smooth sand substrate and strong plants and rocks
Tank MatesVery peaceful

Dwarf chain loaches are quite famous for their pretty and unique look. They are among the first choices for those aquarists who like to add quirky-looking fish to their tank. These originate in the Ataran drainage, located on the border between Myanmar and Thailand and the Klong river basin of Western Thailand.

Unlike horseface loaches, dwarf chain loaches are quite small in size, which makes them great for a small community tank.

These are pretty easy to identify with their chained stripes running laterally along the side of their nose to the tail. Their body is slightly whitish below the middle stripe area.

On the other hand, the above stripe is golden in color and comes with blotches, which get separated by black-colored markings. Thus, their body’s striped pattern renders a chained appearance, which looks very classy and unique.

These chain markings start appearing on the fish body when they reach 1¼-inches in size. When they are juveniles, the stripes appear to be more intense. Then, as soon as these grow and become adults, these stripes tend to fade.

Do you know another interesting fact about these species? Their intensity of mood has to do with the intensity of their body stripes. Isn’t that cute? Well, in addition to it, these fish also have a very cute and tiny yellow tail.


As evident from the name, dwarf chain loaches are very small in size. They usually reach up to a length of 2.4-inches or 5.99 cm.


Unlike their small structure, dwarf chain loaches are not at all short-lived.

Many aquarists prefer buying these fish as they live for many years in the tank with proper care and diet.

These live for about 8-12 years. But if they receive adequate care and food, they may even live up to 15 long years. Hence, buying them can be a very cost-effective purchase for you.

Behavior & Temperament

Now, when it comes to temperament, dwarf chain loaches are quite suitable as community tank fish.

This fish species do not have a nipping behavior, unlike their cousins. They are relatively peaceful by nature but can get a bit aggressive towards the slow swimming fish.

These are best kept in their own group. They have a slight schooling behavior, which makes them great for keeping in a group and encourages them to grow properly.

Tank Requirements

Do you know what’s more interesting about dwarf chain loaches? They are not at all bottom dwellers, unlike their cousins. These love to swim in the middle area of the aquarium.

As they are small in size, you can house them in a small tank, but make sure to give them enough space to swim around.

They live happily in soft and slightly acidic water with a low to moderate level of lighting. However, make sure you are not introducing these fish to any biologically poor tank water setup. These fish prefer dwelling in pristine water more.

Besides, the tank water needs to have proper movement. Also, ensure that you are offering these fish enough oxygen in the water. An under-gravel filter will be an appropriate choice of accessory for petting dwarf chain loaches in your tank as it produces a high level of oxygen. Also, it will help in reducing waste, and keeping the water clean and fresh.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding decorating the tank of these fish. You can add your personal preference. However, to let the tank resemble the natural habitat, you can add sturdy plants and rocks to your tank.

Tank Setup

The tank setup for this species needs to have all the necessary assortments to keep them healthy and happy.

So, here is what you require to create a proper tank setup for your dwarf chain loaches.

  • The minimum tank capacity needs to be 20-gallon.
  • These fish are suitable for nano tanks; hence you can consider a nano tank to keep only 3 of them together.
  • In the case of the substrate, you can add sand or gravel mix to the tank.
  • For the lighting requirement, you can add low to subdued light intensities in the aquarium.
  • The hardness range in the tank needs to lie between 1-15 dGH.
  • Make sure to maintain the water pH level around 6.5-6.9.
  • You can consider keeping the tank water temperature between 76-82 ℉.
  • A moderate level of water movement is necessary for keeping them happy in the tank.
  • You can even consider equipping powerheads and airstones to your tank to deliver oxygen in the water adequately. The tank needs to have a turnover of at least 10-15 times in one hour.

Tank Mates

Dwarf chain loaches are great community tank fish. They are not at all aggressive. Instead, they are very peaceful. Also, these fish are not at all prominent fin nippers like other species of loaches.

These will survive well with other peaceful fish in a tank. They are not at all venomous, hence won’t cause harm to other fish. However, it is better not to house them with long-finned slow swimming fish or slow bottom dwellers.

As these fish are con-specific, they are compatible with the same species. Hence, these live happily when they are kept in their own group. So, you can keep 6 specimens of their type. Also, you can add up to 8 of these in one tank.

But if you are thinking of keeping them with semi-aggressive fish, you have to monitor their behaviors continuously.

Aggressive, large semi-aggressive, or predatory fish can be a real threat to them. Hence, it is better to keep them away from such tank mates. Also, do not keep these tiny fish with snails or shrimps, as this species can easily eat them.

Here are a few suitable tank mates that you can add to your tank, along with your dwarf loaches.

Food & Diet

So, have you decided to keep dwarf chain loaches in your home aquarium? Well, then you must be thinking, what do these eat?

It is almost effortless to feed these tiny fish, as they are not at all a picky eater. This species is popularly known to be omnivores.

In the wild, they are usually fed on foods like aquatic invertebrates. However, in the aquarium, you can offer them any live or frozen food.

Besides, if you are thinking of what do they eat for a variety in their diet? Then you can simply offer them pelleted or tablet foods. Also, they will readily eat flakes or algae.

These like to have a good balance in their food. Hence, while giving them high-quality flake or tablet food daily, you also need to offer them some meaty treats.

Dwarf chain loaches will easily accept mosquito larvae, brine shrimps, daphnia, tubifex, etc., in their diet. Also, occasionally you can offer them veggies like algae wafers.

Dwarf chain loach in aquarium

Dwarf Chain Loach Care

For facilitating better growth and a healthy lifestyle for your dwarf chain loaches, they need to be cared for regularly.

The most crucial part about caring for these is that they constantly prefer clean and well-oxygenated water. Hence, frequent changing of 30% tank water per week is necessary for them.

While doing the weekly water change for them, make sure you are vacuuming the gravel substrate to remove any leftover food or waste. But ensure that you are not eliminating the biofilms present on the rocks.

You can also opt for a magnet algae cleaner, which will do a great job in keeping the viewing pane of the aquarium properly clear.

Like their cousins, they are also quite susceptible to diseases. As they come with very minimal body scales and no scales on the head, you need to take proper measures while caring for these in your tank.

They are even much more sensitive to different types of medications. Hence, it is better to opt for a separate hospital tank to treat them properly.

Besides, frequent changing of tank parameters and cold water can cause stress to these fish, making them have more diseases.

These usually get affected by ICH. Also, they are much prone to skin disease. In case if they consume a lot of nitrous and eat healthily but still lose weight, then there are chances that they have some skin disease. You need to treat them carefully with proper medication.

Breeding Guidelines

Now, if you are thinking of breeding dwarf chain loaches in your tank, then let us tell you that accomplishing this task is not at all easy. Most of these fish that you get in the market are produced using hormone injection spawning in Thailand.

Since these fish are too rare to discover, the breeder specimens used in the first attempts were sold from the private collections.

Interesting Facts

Just like the interesting look of dwarf chain loaches, there are some fascinating facts about them that you should know if you are thinking of petting them at home.

So, here are a few fun facts about these tiny chain loaches.

  • The sexually mature females usually come with a fuller body. On the contrary, the male counterparts are skinnier.
  • The adult females grow larger than the males.
  • Adult males usually develop slightly elongated snouts with noticeably fleshy and thicker lips.
  • Unlike their other cousins, they mostly prefer to swim in the tank’s middle area. However, these love to explore much. Hence, they swim all over the tank.
  • The fish are good jumpers. Hence, it is recommended to keep the tank tightly covered.

Where to Buy?

Dwarf chain loaches are much popular in the hobbyist market and had been available in large numbers earlier. But in recent years, they are quite rare to find. But why is it so?

Well, it is due to the rapid construction of hydroelectric dams, as their habitat is getting covered by more reservoirs. However, some of the wild populations are still easy to find to make them undergo captive breeding. Still then, you may not easily find them at any random aquarist shop.

So, you can consider collecting them from any online shop at a better price.

Wrapping Up

Dwarf chain loaches are undoubtedly very suitable for your home fish tank. They are not very aggressive or demanding; instead, they will live for long, happy years in your aquarium.

These are quite hardy under proper conditions. However, if you are a beginner, then it is better not to buy them.

These fish require pristine water as they have minimal scales on their body. Also, they are much prone to diseases and very sensitive to the usage of medicines. Thus, if you do not have adequate experience in petting scaleless fish in your tank, it is better not to opt for one.