Profile of the Horseface Loach (Horsehead Loach)

Horseface Loach

The horseface or horsehead is a cautious bottom-dweller that loves to burrow into the substrate and sift through the sand for microorganisms or other sustenance. It gets its name from its large snout, which looks like a horse's muzzle. This unusual looking fish, which is peaceful and tolerant of tank life, is entertaining to watch as it effectively conceals from other fish close by.

Species Overview

Common Names: Banana fish, horseface loach, horsehead loach, longfaced loach, long-nosed loach

Scientific Name: Acantopsis dialuzona

Adult Size: 8 inches (22 cm)

Life Expectancy: 10 years


Family Cobitidae
Origin Southeast Asia
Social Peaceful
15 gallon
Diet Omnivore, enjoys live foods
Breeding Unknown, not successfully bred
Care Intermediate
pH 6.0 to 6.5
Hardness Up to 10 dGH
75 to 82 F (25 to 28 C)

Origin and Distribution

In Southeast Asia, the horsehead loach may be found in Borneo, Java, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sumatra, Thailand, and Vietnam. Some have questioned whether this is a single species or a collection of closely related species that have not yet been distinguished because of its extensive range. Acantopsis species can be found in the wild in fast-flowing rivers and streams with a mud, sand, or fine gravel substrate.

This species was first brought to Europe in 1929 and is now widely exported. Because these fish have yet to be successfully reproduced in captivity, all specimens marketed in the aquarium trade come from the wild.

The official name for the horsehead loach was changed from Acantopsis choirorhynchos to Acantopsis dialuzona during a revision of loaches by the scientific community in 2012. It is, nevertheless, commonly referred to by any name, as well as a number of previous synonyms.

Colors and Markings

This loach is elongated and has black markings all over its yellowish-brown body. The color patterns differ slightly depending on the native habitat from where the fish came. Three pairs of tiny barbells are attached to the horse-like nose.

The horseface loach's caudal fin is slightly forked, and its belly is flat and lighter-colored than the rest of its body. This species, like other members of the family, has a pair of very sharp spines under the eye orbits. When the fish is threatened or assaulted, these spines can be expanded as a protection mechanism. When fishing this species, be careful since the spines can quickly become caught in the net.


This fish is frequently seen tucked beneath the substrate. They'll stay barely beneath the sand's surface, with only their eyeballs peeping out to keep a check on what's going on around them. They will sift the fine substrate for minute food particles while below the surface. This species is a sluggish swimmer in general, but when scared, it can make remarkably fast dashes around the tank. This species is mostly active during night.

The horseface loach is a generally calm species that may be mixed with other peaceful loaches as well as other peaceful species in the tank's middle and upper layers. Barbs, danios, rasboras, and tetras are among them. This species, on the other hand, thrives when maintained among other members of its kind. If space allows, keep at least a half-dozen of them together. They will frequently develop their own hierarchy within their own species group, and may even construct areas that they will defend. Always consider a bigger tank when housing a school of loaches.

Horsehead Loach Habitat and Care

The substrate is especially crucial for creating a habitat for this species. They require a fine substrate of either sand or fine gravel because they spend so much of their time underground. If you're going to utilize live plants in the tank, don't use bare roots because they'll be uprooted rapidly. Plant them in pots instead to keep them in place. Anubias and other hardy plants are perfect. Floating plants are another alternative for living plants, as they reduce the amount of light, which this species enjoys.

Driftwood and smooth rocks, put in such a way as to give hiding locations, can also be employed in the décor. This species demands an oxygen-rich habitat, thus good water flow is essential. Due to the horseface loach's sensitivity to organic waste, frequent are also required. Because this fish cannot survive with the quickly changing chemistry of a freshly formed aquarium, the tank should be mature.

Horsehead Loach Diet and Feeding

This species is quite easy to satisfy and will consume almost any food that is supplied. This fish prefers live meals and is used to feeding tiny crustaceans and insect larvae in its natural environment. Providing a diverse diet will keep them healthy.

Make sure food reaches the bottom because they are bottom feeders. This may need the provision of sinking foods in addition to other meals. This loach will eat live or frozen brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, daphnia, tubifex, and bloodworms. Tongs should be used to place live food at the bottom. Algae wafers or pills as a supplement are also appreciated.

Because they are more active at night, shining a on them is an excellent approach to study them. They will occasionally emerge in the low light after the primary lights has been turned off to aggressively seek for food. After the main lights have been turned out, drop some sinking food in the tank to encourage them to come out of their hiding places.

Gender Differences

Other than size, there are little evident sexual distinctions between men and females. Adults can grow to be eight inches long, although captive individuals are usually smaller. Females are often bigger and rounder than males in adulthood.

The pectoral fins' initial few branching rays are expanded in males. However, since the fish spends most of its time submerged in the substrate, that slight variation might be difficult to see.

Breeding the Horsehead Loach 

There have been no confirmed cases of this species reproducing in captivity, including commercial breeding. Although all specimens sold in aquariums are wild-caught, their natural populations are thriving.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If Horsehead loaches appeal to you, and you are interested in some compatible fish for your aquarium, read up on:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other  fish.