Dojo Loach

Weather Loach, Oriental weatherfish, Chinese Weatherfish

Family: Cobitidae Dojo Loach, Weather Loach, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, Oriental weatherfish, Chinese WeatherfishMisgurnus anguillicaudatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
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Hi all, we have two dojos, both which are usually very active. But our bigger one has become sick over the last week. He's very lethargic and his fins dont seem to... (more)  chenise johnson

The Dojo Loach is a true curiosity with their habit of becoming very active when there is a weather change!

The Dojo Loach Misgurnus anguillicaudatus is a remarkable fish. It is quite hardy and adaptable. It is commonly referred to as a Weather Loach or Weatherfish, derived from their habit of becoming very active when there is a change in the weather change, possible related to barometric pressure.

This loach is available in both its wild form and in a gold variety, called the Golden Dojo Loach. It is called by a number of common names including Oriental Weatherfish, Chinese Weatherfish, Japanese Weatherfish, Oriental Weather Loach, and Pond loach. In its wild form this loach has dark greenish gray to dark brown spots over a yellowish brown body (often mottled) with a paler belly. The Golden Dojo Loach variety can range from a yellow to an orange color and they are usually thin bodied.

Dojo Loaches have some very unique qualities and are very 'pet-like'. They can be trained to take food from your hand and even enjoy being touched. They are also jumpers. Should they happen to leap out of their home they can survive for a time even out of the water. A couple of ways the Weather Loach does this is by producing a thick mucus coating that keeps them moist; and by being able to swallow air, absorbing atmospheric oxygen through their hind gut.

This loach is very easy to care for. They wiggle about in an eel like fashion scavenging the bottom for leftover bits of food, even munching on snails. They also like to dig and burrow into the substrate often burying themselves. Provide an aquarium that is large enough for its playful antics, have a soft substrate of sand or fine gravel, and have a good filter for the detritus they stir up. They are most active in the evening, so during the day they like hiding and resting places created with rocks and wood. Plants are nice but they should be potted.

They make an excellent community fish with other non-aggressive tank mates. This fish loves to socialize with other fish and loaches. They sometimes rest with them or sometimes chase them about, but they don't hurt them.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care


Geographic Distribution
Misgurnus anguillicaudatus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cobitidae
  • Genus: Misgurnus
  • Species: anguillicaudatus
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Dojo Loach - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 11.3 inches (28.58 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 50.0 to 77.0° F (10.0 to 25.0° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Dojo Loach or Weather Loach Misgurnus anguillicaudatus was described by Cantor in 1842. It is found across a wide range of eastern Asia from eastern Russia in Siberia and Sakhalin, in Myanmar and Northeastern Asia then southward to Central China, Japan Siberia, Korea, and Hainan. It is known by a number of other common names including Oriental Weatherfish, Chinese Weatherfish, Japanese Weatherfish, Oriental Weather Loach, and Pond loach. A gold variety is called the Golden Dojo Loach.

This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as least concern (LC) because it has a wide distribution. It is suggested, due to morphological variability, this fish may actually constitute several species. There is some decline in parts of its natural range associated with increased agriculture and ecosystem degradation. On the other hand, its global populations are increasing due to introductions. Introduction may be because they are used by anglers as live bait and so some possibly escape. They have also been introduced into the wilds of Australia and Hawaii. They are a food fish in many Asian countries, especially Japan.

The Weather Loach we are describing here, Misgurnus anquillicaudatusis, is one of three species commonly referred to as a weather loach. The other two are Misgurnus fossilis and Cobitis taenia. They all come from similar environments and have similar behaviors. The two Misgurnus species are identified by their color patterns with the M. anguillicaudatus being spotted and the M fossilis having horizontal stripes along the body. It is still being discussed whether the spotted one is simply a subspecies of the striped one, though they come from different geographical areas.

They inhabit rivers as well as still or slowly moving waters including lakes, ponds, swamps, and rice fields. They prefer muddy bottoms. During the dry season these loaches can tolerate oxygen depleted waters by using the posterior portion of the intestine and skin as supplementary breathing organs and will swim to the surface and gulp air while simultaneously expelling intestinal gases from the vent. It has also been recorded that these loaches can live for extended periods out of the water it they are in moist sand or mud. Feed on worms, small crustaceans, insects, insect larvae, and other small aquatic organisms.

  • Scientific Name: Misgurnus anguillicaudatus
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Dojo Loach will reach about 6" (15 cm) in the aquarium, though in nature it can get much bigger. In the wild these fish are reported to reach up to about 11 1/4 inches" (28 cm). The Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Volume 2 reports them reaching up to 20" (50 cm). They generally have a life span of between 7 - 10 years.

The body of this loach is long and cylindrical and almost eel-like. It is circular towards the front but flattens towards the rear, and it can be thin or heavy. They have are five pairs of barbels around the mouth, with two of them located on the lower jaw. They can be brown to yellow with a dark greenish gray to dark brown spots, usually creating a marbling pattern, and are paler on the underside.

A common color morph is the Golden Dojo Loach. It can range from a yellow to an orange color and they are usually thin bodied. They do have spots but they are usually extremely faint.

Golden Dojo Loach, Golden Weather Loach
Golden Dojo Loach Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
  • Size of fish - inches: 11.3 inches (28.58 cm) - These fish will reach about 6" (15 cm) in the aquarium, though are much larger in the wild.
  • Lifespan: 10 years - They have a lifespan of about 7 - 10 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Dojo Loach is said to be bulletproof in terms of loaches. Even with this reputation they still need good water condition. They are not recommended for beginners because of their need for pristine water and having small body scales. Reduced scales makes them more prone to disease and very sensitive to medications used to treat disease. Experience in treating scaleless fish is very important to be able to give your loach a healthy and long life. Do not try to introduce these fish into biologically immature tanks.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate - Loaches generally require pristine water conditions.

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous, the Dojo Loach or Weather Loach is not a picky eater and will generally eat all kinds of live foods, sinking pelleted and tablet foods, flakes, and algae. They like frozen foods as well. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake or tablet food everyday. Feed mosquito larvae and brine shrimp (either live or frozen), tubifex, daphnia, and some vegetable foods such as algae wafers. They will also eat snails, so are good for snail control.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes - Sinking pellets.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Enjoys live snails and earthworms.
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

The most important thing for these loaches is that they always have clean and well-oxygenated water. Frequent water changes of about 30% a week are needed. With your weekly water change make sure to vacuum the gravel to remove all excess food and waste. Make sure not to remove the bio film on rocks, decor or no viewing panes of the tank. A magnet algae cleaner normally does a great job in keeping the viewing pane clear.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of about 30% weekly.

Aquarium Setup

The Dojo Loach is mostly a bottom dweller, but will spend some time in the middle and top of the aquarium. This is a good sized fish that likes to be kept with 3 or more companions of its own kind. It needs at good sized aquarium of 55 gallons or more and the longer the better, 4 feet being minimum. Never introduce this loach into a biological immature setup as these fish require pristine water. They do best in a soft to medium water with subdued lighting. They need good water movement that provides plenty of oxygenation. An undergravel filter is a great choice for these fish as it creates high oxygen through out the tank as well as reducing the waste. Adding a canister filter or powerheads to the setup will make the proper current for this loach.

The decor with this fish is really up to personal taste. Because they are constantly scavenging for tidbits and burying themselves in the substrate, use a sand or fine gravel that does not have sharp edges. If the tank is to resemble its natural habitat, a lot of smooth water-worn large rocks and stones can be scattered throughout. A couple pieces of driftwood and some twisted roots can make places for retreat. Be sure to provide hardy plants with the roots protected. These loaches are very inquisitive and like to explore so make sure to have a lot of caves and crevices. These fish can and will jump out of the tank if given the chance so make sure to have a tight fitting cover.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) - The longer the tank the better, with 4 feet being minimum.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Sand - Should be a soft substrate as this loach likes to burrow.
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 50.0 to 77.0° F (10.0 to 25.0° C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 5 - 12 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom - These fish are mostly bottom dwellers, but will spend some time in the middle and top of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

A very good community fish, they get along well with other loaches and tank mates that are non-aggressive. Make sure other tank mates are not to small and mistaken food. Fish that prefer to habitat the middle to upper portions of the tank are best. These loaches should not be kept singly and should be kept in groups of 3 or more. They are quite lively and active, especially in the evening. They will scavenge about the substrate for tidbits of food and love to dig and burrow. Good for snail control.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - Should be kept in groups of 3 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - Safe as long as the fish are large enough not to be looked at as food.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - As long as the fish is large enough it will be safe.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive - Will feed on snails and shrimp.
    • Plants: Monitor - Plants need to be secured down, the Dojo will un root most plants.

Sex: Sexual differences

Mature males can be identified by the second pectoral ray being long and thick, and it appears more triangular than rounded.

Breeding / Reproduction

It has been said they have been spawned accidentally, scattering tiny red adhesive eggs, but not much more is known about the breeding habits of the Dojo Loach or Weather Loach and they are not yet bred commercially.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

The Dojo Loach is quite hardy, but Loaches in generally are more susceptible to disease than other aquarium fishes. This may have to do with the faint body scales. Take caution when introducing these fish to an established tank. This loach is also very sensitive to different medications used to treat many diseases; a separate hospital tank is needed. Cold water and condition changes can also cause stress to this fish which makes them even more prone to disease.

Most common disease that affects this loach is Ich. Ich is short for Ichthyophthirius, also known as "white spot disease". It is a parasite that can attack nearly all aquarium fishes, but you'll find that loaches are often the first to be attacked. Take great care in treating ick as loaches are very sensitive to the medications used to treat it. Often the dose is half of what is normally used.

The second most common thing that affects loaches is a thing called skinny disease. This can be diagnosed fairly easily. If your loaches are eating a nitrous and healthy amounts and still seems to loose weight it is a good chance it has skinny disease. This is caused by internal parasites and can be treated with medication if used carefully.

An outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping these sensitive types of fish, it is common to catch deteriorating water conditions and disease before other fish are affected. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Weather Loach the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.

Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Dojo Loach or Weather Loach is one of the most common loaches and is readily available at pet stores or online.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Dojo Loach

chenise johnson - 2014-01-13
Hi all, we have two dojos, both which are usually very active. But our bigger one has become sick over the last week. He's very lethargic and his fins dont seem to be moving. He wiggles down to the bottom of the tank and back up again every so often but now spends his time hanging over the filter. Currently doing tank tests. What could this be please help!xxx

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-01-16
    The information you've provided leaves little to go on as to what could be wrong. However, loaches are susceptible to something known as 'skinny disease', which isn't really on disease but rather a name for a condition where the fish get lethargic, stop eating, and basically waste away. If your fish stays lethargic, I would suggest that some type of treatment would be in order.   

    Many fish diseases are Gram negative bacteria. The Mardel brand makes two good products, Maracyn and Maracyn Two, that can be used together for a full spectrum of bacterial infections. Maracyn is erythromycin, and tends to deal with Gram positive bacteria while Maracyn Two is minocycline, and tends to deal with Gram negative bacteria (Gram negative bacteria affects fish when their defenses are low).

    This is a good place to start, but if this treatement doesn't work, then you will need to look at other treatments. Neither of these will affect internal parasites, and neither seems to be active against Mycobacteriosis (Kanamycin can be used for mycobacteria). There are a number of different parasitic medications, but be careful not to use any treatments that are not safe for scaleless fish!
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Erin - 2009-12-29
These are one of my favourite fish of all time. They may not be colourful, but with their ugly-cute faces, gentle temperaments, otter-like playful personalities, and their affinity for human contact, they really can grow on you. These fish have become more like pets to me than any of the other fish I have kept, and are reported to be long-lived, from 12-15 years. All of these things are the markers of an ideal pet. Over time, they can become fairly large. I now have 4 Dojo Loaches. Of the four, one is the Gold variety, and the other three are the regular Browns. I have had the original Brown pair for almost two years. My second-largest, Whiskers, is 7 inches long and fairly slender with a distinct lateral line; the upper half being golden with brown spots and the lower being lighter. The tail of Whiskers is spade-shaped. The largest of these, Tickles, is over 8 inches long and probably close to an inch in diameter. I believe this one is female. She is grayish brown with all-over darker spots, and has a rounded tail. I have wondered if these two are slightly different species, though I purchased them at the same time. The final two Loaches are my babies; Jackie and No-Feet. Jackie is the one of gold variety. His body is peach-coloured, and very slender compared to that of No-Feet, who is about the same length at 4", and resembles Tickles most in looks and body type. Jackie is a standout among the bunch. He got this name from Jackie Chan, as he is always moving about the tank and performing curious antics such as draping himself over plants and hanging there in odd positions. Jackie and No-Feet can often be found swimming together throughout all levels of the tank. Tickles and Whiskers used to be more active, but it seems as they have aged, they have become more sedentary, spending their days resting near or under a log. Sometimes I will find all four of my Dojos resting on top of eachother. When I bought the first ones, I knew nothing about them. I was told they could be kept together or alone. I got one, but before even leaving the store, changed my mind and got another on a hunch. I now know these fish are at their best in groups, and each time I introduce a new member, it is immediately accepted and brought into the Loach Clan. The Dojos have been nothing but gentle towards my other fish, and have a special relationship with their nonspecific Loachmates, especially the Kuhli Loaches and the Peppered Loaches (Lepidocephalichthys). Both these other types from time to time will join on the Loach Pile. This is funny and entertaining to watch. I am currently keeping them in a 55 Gallon Community, but am planning to upgrade to a 75 soon so they can have more room. This new tank will take into consideration their requirements for hiding spots, resting spots, and places to explore. In my experience, robust plants are best, as Dojos like to redecorate. Sometimes this is purposeful (that PLANT is in my favourite spot!), and sometimes it is not. Any finer-leaved or stemmed plants are usually knocked around unintentionally. I have found Amazon Swords, larger Cryptocoryne, and Giant Vallisneria are excellent for having extended root systems less likely to be dug up or disturbed. Other good plant choices include ones you can tie down to wood such as Anubias or Java Fern. Ideal tankmates for these fish are larger Barbs and Rainbowfish who, like the Dojo, enjoy cooler temperatures. If you would like something smaller, Danios or Rasboras might fit the bill, but I would stay away from the Giant Danio. I brought a trio of these home once, and though they were not aggressive, their constant racing around the tank was unsettling to my Loaches. They began to burrow and hide until only their eyes were showing. It has been a wonderful experience having these fish, and they are my main concern when designing this new tank. Enjoy your Loaches!

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Trish S - 2009-11-23
I've had dojo loaches for several years now. I used to have a pair, but the female died a year or so ago along with several other fish. The male, though, is still going strong. The funniest thing about this pair was their personalities. The female was forever bullying the male. His growth even seemed to be stunted while she was in the tank hen-pecking him. Once she died, though, his growth increased significantly. He'll never be as big as she was, but he filled out quite nicely. Now, though, the chinese algae eater tends to pick on him some. He's just so laid back, that he doesn't really seem to care much.

My dojo is in a 26 gal planted community tank with mollies, neon tetras, upside down catfish, and the algae eater. He's probably six to eight inches long (I haven't bothered to try to measure him). With the exception of the algae eater, he gets along wonderfully with his tank mates. He's one of the most interesting fish in the tank that can be seen regularly (since the upside down cats like to hide during the day), and I can't imagine not having him in my tank! He likes to kick back and relax on the heater (which isn't currently on, because winter has not really hit our area yet). He can also be found darting up to the surface to take a gulp of air now and then - especially when the weather is unsettled. Since I'm in Missouri, that's fairly frequently! He's very friendly with me, and he seems to enjoy being "petted". I don't do it frequently, though, because I worry about messing up his slime coat. I don't let the kids do it, because I worry about their dirty hands in my tank!

He does burrow down in the gravel, and there has been more than once when I thought he'd died because all I saw sticking up out of the gravel was his tail. After a few minutes, though, he'd wiggle his way out and swim up to the top! It's awesome to watch. I don't panic so much now when I can't find him, because it usually just means he's doing what dojos do. I don't let myself get attached to my fish very often, but I can honestly say that I love this fish. I would be heartbroken if something happened to him.

Reply
Christopher Hall - 2008-01-28
The reason this afforable little loach farts is related to its name: the weather loach. Most fish have swim bladders, small sacks filled with air that help maintain bouyancy. In this fish, the swim bladder is attached to some bone. When a low pressure system moves in (as when a storm developes), the swim bladder changes in size. Because of the bony attachment in the loach, it feels this change. This causes it to become more active, often racing to the surface to grab a gulp of air (something like us trying to pop our ears in an air plane). Sometimes this air goes into the digestive tract, and gets espelled. There is your farting fish.

These fish do like to be touched; I've held one in my hand for several minutes. They are quite funny and anyone who dislikes them based on their looks don't deserve them.

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Joey - 2007-01-08
I have a pair of dojo loaches called Ziggy and Zorro and everyone who has seen them instantly falls in love with these litte guys. They are friendly and gentle with the other fish (A mix of fancy goldfish and three hillstream loach) and seem really attached to each other. i feed a wide variety of foods, including flake, tubifex, bloodworm, catfish pellets and algae wafers. But the dojo loaches favorite is chopped earthworms which they go totally nuts for! They are really active fish who take everything in their stride.But they do like to have hiding places however or they will get stressed. I have a piece of curved bog wood in my aquarium which the loach (both the dojo loach and the hillstream loach) use as a kind of bedroom, all disapearing into it and then popping their heads out if they think something is going on! dojo loach do tend to dig up tank ornaments, plants and even the tubing for the air stones. So you need to make sure you have a good depth of gravel in your tank and that plants are bedded into the gravel firmly. But these guys are well worth a bit of extra work.

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N. Damon - 2007-04-25
We have had to dojo loaches for at least 2 years and although I didn't like the look of them at first my adult son purchased them for his tank. He went out of town to work leaving me to care for them. They are great fun to watch and indeed have their own personalities. We had not given a thought to changing the environment of the tank from that of our usual fish but after going online yesterday and learning more about them we have completey redone our tank with new gravel which is softer and they can burrow in. It is well worth the great effort we have gone through. They are in a 50 + 5 sided tank and enjoy zooming around like lightning. We added most of the old water back in as we needed more gravel and they were jumping like trout in a lake. Great fun to watch and lovable once you get used to their more eel like appearance. Our local pet store doesn't have a lot of success in getting them in alive but have agreed to special order some for us. We found we have a male and female so may in the future attempt the breeding instructions we found on the web. We have regular brown dogo's. We once had a pair that were more silver/blue but can't find any information on them nor do they show up online. Those who are part of this world of Dojo's seem to enjoy them as much as we do. While their tank was in a corner of the room for almost a year since moving them out into an area where they can SEE what's happening they are much more active and having a lot of fun. Any info. on tank mates of a more colorful nature would be appreciated, thanks all and help keep these wonderful creatures more known to other fish lovers who might not yet have discovered their special uniqeness.

  • Alisabeth - 2010-09-29
    Our dojos (we have 3 of the gold variety) thoroughly enjoy the company of our ryukin goldfish and butterfly koi. Recently, we added two black moors to our tank and they are all getting along as well. The koi and the ryukin goldfish come in all varieties of colors that might compliment your tank habitat. =)
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