The beautiful red tail is the most obvious eye catcher of the Cherry Fin Loach, but the color and patterning is also very attractive!

The Cherry Fin Loach Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis is a pretty little loach with distinctive red coloring, hence its scientific name and its common name. The species name rubidipinnis come form Rubeus (rubi) which means “red”, and Pinna (pinnis) which means “fin”.

This river loach sports a gold to brownish background which can have a reddish cast to it. There are multiple dark stripes and spots and a dark horizontal line running along the length of its body. The fins are transparent and both the tail and fins are marked with spotted lines.

The Cherry Fin Loach is a relatively small, peaceful loach and is great for a community aquarium. They are Hillstream Loaches, meaning they come from cool fast-moving streams. They will do best in a “river” type aquarium with good water movement and subdued lighting. Provide a sand or small gravel substrate. Though fairly hardy they may tend to be shy, so be sure to provide plenty of hiding and resting places created with plants, rocks, and driftwood.

Hillstream Loaches often enjoy the company of their own kind as well as other community fish. Though generally peaceful with their tank mates some species have been known to nip occasionally. Usually this is just among themselves. It is recommended that they be kept in groups of at least three, with larger groups of five to seven acclimating easier than smaller groups.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Balitoridae
  • Genus: Acanthocobitis
  • Species: rubidipinnis
Cherry Fin Loach – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 77.0° F (22.8 to 25.0&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Cherry Fin Loach Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis was described by Blyth in 1860. They are found in Asia from Myanmar and India. They are distributed throughout most of Sagaing, Mandalay, Bago, and Yangon Divisions, Shan and Mon States. It has also been said that they may be in India and Bangladesh as well, but this has been questioned, suggesting a case of misidentification.

They come from a variety of habitats with many having extreme changes during season changes like during the monsoon season. During the monsoon season the currents become very strong and then during the dry season the rivers and streams go down and the current slows and becomes more brownish in color.

Because of the currents there is really not much aquatic plant life and the substrate is normally made up of sand and large rocks. Many of the areas run through dense forests making the bottom leaf covered. In nature these fish are considered micropredators feeding mainly on insect larvae.

The Cherry Fin Loach is listed on the IUCN Red List. Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis is a widely distributed species throughout Myanmar with no major widespread threats affecting its population. It is therefore assessed as Least Concern (LC).

  • Scientific Name: Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern


The Cherry Fin Loach will reach just about 3 inches (8 cm) in length and has a lifespan of 8 years. True to its name it has a beautiful red tail fin. Its overall coloring is a gold to brown that can have a reddish cast to it. Multiple dark stripes and spots and a dark horizontal line running along the length of its body. The fins are transparent and both the tail and fins are marked with spotted lines.

This loach is quite similar to a couple of its cousin loaches from the same region. The most familiar and also a quite popular loach is the Ocellated Loach or Mountain Banded Loach Acanthocobitis urophthalmus. This fish actually use to be classified as Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis as well.

You can distinguish the Cherry Fin Loach from the Ocellated Loach by a couple of things. First the Cherry Fin Loach has 14 – 15 1/2 branched dorsal rays. A second and simpler distinction is that the Cherry Fin Loach has a complete dark lateral line along its body. The Ocellated Loach on the other hand, has an incomplete or sometimes even just spotted line.

Another similar, but lesser known loach, is Acanthocobitis zonalternans. This loach is smaller, reaching only about 1 3/4″ (4.5 cm), and has a larger eye than the Cherry Fin Loach.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Lifespan: 8 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Cherry Fin Loach can be hardy under the right conditions. They are not recommended for beginners because of their need for pristine water and they do not have scales. Not having scales make 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.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Cherry Fin Loach is an omnivore, feeding mainly on insect larvae in the wild. In the aquarium this loach will generally eat all kinds of live foods, sinking pelleted and tablet foods, flakes, and algae. They like frozen foods as well.

A high quality diet will bring out the best coloration on this fish. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake or tablet food everyday. Feed mosquito larvae, brine shrimp (either live or frozen), tubifex, daphnia, and some vegetable foods such as algae wafers. This is a bottom feeder so it is important to make sure food sinks.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – A high quality diet will bring out the best coloration on this fish.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – This is a bottom feeder so it is important to make sure food sinks.

Aquarium Care

Because the Cherry Fin Loach naturally occurs in areas with fast moving waters they require pristine water and can not tolerate accumulations of organic pollutants. Frequent water changes of about 30% a week are required for the Cherry Fin.

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

Aquarium Setup

The Cherry Fin Loach is primarily a bottom dweller, but also a shy fish that needs to have ample hiding places. Because these fish do best in groups, a larger tank is needed. Ideally provide a 30 gallon aquarium or more with good water movement, subdued lighting, and places for retreat such as rocks, caves, and roots. They do best in soft to medium, slightly acidic water.

It is recommended to have a tank set-up that resembles its natural habitat, slow moving rivers.The substrate should be sandy or small smooth gravel. Larger smooth rocks should be used as hiding places. Driftwood and branches should be added to provide shade and places for quick retreat. Java Ferns can be introduced and will attach to the decor.

Using an external power filter will work best, with power heads to provide good water movement in the lower portion of the tank. That will help prevent anything from being left unclean on the bottom. These fish also require a high proportion of dissolved oxygen which can also will be accomplished by the filter and powerheads. A rivertank manifold can be added to provide a unidirectional flow to simulate its natural habitat.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) – Because they do best in groups, a 30 gallon aquarium is suggested.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Sand – Should also have smooth rocks and boulders.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting – Make sure there is ample shaded areas.
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 77.0° F (22.8 to 25.0&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 8 – 18 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Strong
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

A good community fish, the Cherry Fin Loach will tolerate other tank mates as well as enjoy other members of their own species. They tend to be gregarious and it is recommended that they be kept in groups. This fish appreciates the company of its own kind, a group of three to seven being ideal. This will help diffuse aggression among the group so it is less likely to harass tankmates. Male Cherry Fin Loaches can come very territorial and aggressive if kept alone or in small groups. So a mixed sex group of 6 or more will actually be best. Also larger groups of five to seven acclimate easier than smaller groups.

Once established they can become more boisterous with tank mates, so should be kept with like sized or larger companions. They will sometimes intimidate but rarely do actual harm to their tank mates, although with age, certain individuals do become quite quarrelsome.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Best to be in groups of 6 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Monitor – Make sure tankmates are similiar size or larger. If they are small, they should inhabit the top regions of the tank.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Adult females are a bit larger and bulkier then males. Males will develop bright red fins, mouthparts, and barbels. Males will also possess a suborbital flap..

Breeding / Reproduction

They are not yet bred commercially, and currently all fish are wild caught.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown – They are currently wild caught, have not been bred in captivity at this time.

Fish Diseases

Cherry Fin Loach are scaleless and prone to disease, so take caution when introducing these fish to an established tank. The Cherry Fin Loach is also very sensitive to medication 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.

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 Cherry Fin 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 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.


The Cherry Fin Loach is occasionally available.