Saddle-back Loach Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Saddle-back Loach is a peaceful and unique freshwater fish that is perfect for the beginner aquarist.

This little loach is easy to care for and can be a great addition to any community tank.

They are also very active and interesting to watch as they go about their day.

If you’re thinking about getting a Saddle-back Loach, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about their care.

Species overview

Saddle-back loaches (scientific name: Chaetostoma Milesi) are a type of freshwater fish that’s native to Colombia.

They are most commonly found in the Magdalena River basin but have also been documented in other areas of the country.

This fish prefers slower moving waters with a lot of vegetation. This is something that’s common to many types of loaches as they like to have plenty of places to hide.

The saddle-back loach is a peaceful fish that does well in a community tank. They are compatible with a wide variety of other fish species and get along well with their tank mates.

One of the most interesting things about the saddle-back loach is the unique pattern on their back. This pattern is what gives them their common name and is one of the main reasons why they are such a popular choice for aquariums.


Saddle-back Loach

The Saddle-back Loach is a very distinctive looking freshwater fish that is sure to stand out in your aquarium.

As the name suggests, the most notable feature on this fish is the large black saddle that runs from the base of their head all the way to the beginning of their tail.

This saddle is bordered by a thin line of white that really makes it stand out. The rest of their body is a light brown/tan color.

This species has a very long and thin body with a slightly flattened appearance. Their head is narrow with small eyes that are set far apart.

The Saddle-back Loach has a relatively small mouth that is located at the very bottom of their head.

This fish has two dorsal fins that are roughly the same size. The first dorsal fin is located just behind the head and the second is located towards the back of the body. They also have a small anal fin that is located just before their tail.


Saddle-back loaches have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years. However, there are reports of them living up to 10 years in captivity.

As with most fish, their lifespan will be greatly impacted by the level of care they receive. If they’re in a well-maintained tank with good water quality and a nutritious diet, they’ll likely live towards the upper end of their lifespan.


Saddle-back Loaches grow to an average size of about 4 inches, with some individuals reaching up to 6 inches in length. These fish are relatively slender, so they don’t need a ton of space to swim around.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for a single Saddle-back Loach is 30 gallons. If you want to keep more than one Saddle-back Loach, you should add an additional 10 gallons for each fish.

So, for a school of five Saddle-back Loaches, you would need a tank that is at least 50 gallons.

Water Parameters

Saddle-back loaches come from a variety of habitats in Southeast Asia. They can be found in slow-moving streams, rice paddies, and even stagnant ponds.

This gives you a pretty wide range of potential water parameters to work with.

The most important thing is to maintain consistency. These fish are sensitive to sudden changes and can easily succumb to stress-related illnesses.

When in doubt, go for the middle of the road. The water parameters below should work well for most loaches.

  • Water Temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 15 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 2-12 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

The Saddle-back Loach is a bottom-dwelling fish that likes to hide amongst the substrate. Because of this, you’re going to want to use a substrate that’s soft and not too abrasive.

We recommend using a sand substrate in their tank. This will allow them to burrow and hide as they please without harming themselves.

As for other decorations, the sky’s the limit. They’re not too fussy when it comes to these things.

Rocks, driftwood, and plants are all suitable choices. Just make sure that any plants you use are anchored down well since these fish like to dig around a bit.

Common Diseases

The Saddle-back Loach is a hardy fish that doesn’t usually fall ill. However, like all other fish, they are still susceptible to disease if the conditions in their tank are poor.

One of the most common diseases that these fish experience is ich. This is a parasitic infection that will present itself as white spots on the body of your fish.

If left untreated, ich can be deadly. However, it’s relatively easy to treat if you catch it early. The main thing you need to do is raise the temperature of the water in your tank to around 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

This will cause the ich parasites to detach from your fish and die. You’ll also need to do a full water change and clean the filter to remove any traces of the parasites.

Another disease that these fish are susceptible to is bacterial infection. This can happen if the water quality in their tank is poor, or if they have an open wound.

The most common symptom of this is fluid-filled bumps on the body of your fish. If you notice this, you’ll need to do a full water change and treat the water with a bacteria-killing medication.

Behavior & Temperament

The Saddle-back Loach is a shy fish that spends most of its time hiding in caves or other dark places in the aquarium. It is a nocturnal fish, so it is most active at night.

The Saddle-back Loach is a peaceful fish that gets along with other peaceful fish. It is not aggressive towards other fish, but it may hide if it feels threatened.

The Saddle-back Loach is a scavenger that will eat just about anything. It is not a picky eater.

The Saddle-back Loach is a good beginner fish because it is easy to care for and is not aggressive.

Tank Mates

Saddle-back loaches are peaceful bottom dwellers. They’re not aggressive and will do well with most other fish species.

The only real concern is that these fish might be bullied by larger or more aggressive tank mates.

Because of this, it’s best to pair them with similar-sized fish that are also on the peaceful side.

Here are some compatible saddle-back loach tank mates to consider:


The Saddle-back Loach is a beautiful and unique fish that is not too difficult to breed in captivity.

First, you need to set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 30 gallons and have plenty of hiding places. These fish like to have a lot of plants, so make sure to include some live plants in the tank.

You also need to make sure the water is soft and acidic. The ideal pH range is 6.0 to 7.0.

Once the tank is set up, you need to add two males for every female. These fish are not very picky when it comes to mates, so any healthy fish will do.

Feed the fish plenty of live food to get them ready for breeding. Then, start changing about 50 percent of the water each week.

When the female is ready to spawn, she will lay her eggs on the underside of a plant leaf. The male will then fertilize them.

The eggs will hatch in about a week. You can then move the fry to a nursery tank. Feed them baby brine shrimp and other live foods.


The Saddle-back Loach is an excellent addition to any freshwater aquarium. They’re peaceful, easy to care for, and make a great addition to any community tank.

We highly recommend this fish to anyone who’s looking for a low-maintenance addition to their aquarium.