Dojo Loach 101: Size, Tank Size, Water Criteria, Care & More

Unique, friendly, with impressive weather-predicting abilities? Sounds like the Dojo Loach. This eel-like, active, and intelligent fish can be any fishkeeper’s most interesting community tank addition yet. 

But whether you’ve heard of this aquatic marvel or not, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be searching the nearest pet store for these exciting bottom-dwellers!

The table below gives a quick overview of the Dojo Loach profile.

Profile AttributeValue
Care DifficultyEasy to Moderate
Lifespan7-10 years
DietOmnivorous
Color(s)Wide variety (olive, yellow, brown, orange, and green)
TemperamentPeaceful/Active
Maximum SizeUp to 11 inches or 28 cm
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons (ideal of 55 gallons up)
Tank SetupShady/plenty of hiding places
FamilyCobitidae
CompatibilityCommunity/very social

Below is our Dojo Loach care guide, continue reading to find out more about its appearance, tank mates, breeding and more.

Overview of Dojo Loach

The star of this care guide, the Dojo Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) also goes by the names Weatherfish, Pond Loach, and  Weather Loach. This incredibly unique creature originated from China and Northeast Asia. But nowadays, the Dojo has since been introduced to various habitats all over the world. 

While not the most striking in appearance, the Dojo Loach more than makes up for it with its amiable personality, intelligence, ease of care–the list goes on! These Weatherfishes are even known to respond to approaching storms or changes in the environment’s atmospheric pressure!

By far one of the most interesting aquarium fishes you will ever come across, this aquatic weatherman is not only popular among expert hobbyists, but even newbies looking for a new friend. 

Appearance

The Dojo Loach has a sleek, elongated look, which gives them a snake- or eel-like appearance (or a hotdog look to some owners). This rounded body slowly tapers flat towards its tail end. Dojos come in a variety of colors. The most common ones are shades of green, brown, and olive green with a mottled or marbled mud-brown or dark moss green pattern. 

There is also a very interesting and rarer variant of Dojo Loach called the Golden Dojo. This fairer Dojo variant has a striking golden orange body coloring, very faint patterns, and is quite slim. Both color variations however turn a lighter yellow towards their undersides. 

In all Dojo Loaches, they have slightly pointy heads with 10 barbels around its mouth, much like the whiskers of a catfish. Two pairs of these barbels are on the bottom end of its mouth, while three pairs are on top. The barrels are for sifting through the substrate for food and other debris, or when Dojos are nervously trying to hide. 

The male and female Dojo Loaches have very subtle differences. The most prominent is that the  males have evidently larger-sized pectoral fins than the fairer sex, while the females have larger bellies or abdomens. These differences become extremely useful when trying to breed your Dojos, however, they are not very easy to spot.

Lifespan

Weather Loaches are able to live around 7-10 years. Like other fishes, this lifespan estimate depends very heavily on the water conditions where it resides. Tropical or warmer water temperature is known to drastically shorten its life. Conversely, the cooler water temperatures can extend how much longer they can live.

By nature, the Dojo Loach is called hardy for a variety of reasons. One, it is able to tolerate non-ideal water parameters well, giving room for a few mistakes here and there. Another reason is that in times of drought, the Dojo Loach has a remarkable capability of burying itself deep in moist mud and hibernating until the conditions outside it become favorable again. 

This enables the Dojo Loach to last for extended periods of time without any water. 

How does the Dojo do this? To put it simply, this loach has an extremely unique ability. It doesn’t only breathe using its gills, but also using its skin and intestines! Now that’s surviving. 

Average Size

In the wild, a Weather Loach may reach up to 11 inches or 28 centimeters. However, in an aquarium or tank setting, their size range is significantly lessened. Dojo Loaches usually only reach about 6 inches in an aquarium. 

Dojo Loach Care Advice

Do you want a Dojo Loach to make your community aquarium more exciting? Good decision. Now take a look below to learn how to give these weather-sensitive freshwater fishes the loving care they need.

Tank Setup

In the wild, the Dojo Loach is found in a vast array of locales. From rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams to the even murkier swamps, and rice fields. In your community aquarium, however, these eel-like fishes generally prefer a soft substrate like fine-grained sand or a gravel substrate with no large or sharp pieces.

This is immensely important because the Dojo Loach is a hardcore bottom-dweller, only occasionally drifting to the middle or upper water levels. They love hiding their bodies within the mucky debris at the bottom. If they’re not hiding, they’re also seen digging for food, twigs, or other tank rubbish in their beloved substrate. 

Since Dojos love to cover themselves so much, adding caverns and plants will do them wonders. Some owners even testify that they hardly see their Dojos all at once, because at least one is always hiding (cute!). You may add smooth rocks, caverns, twisted roots, bogwood, and driftwood. As for plants, Anubias, Java moss, and ferns are good choices. You may abide by the philosophy: the more hiding places, the better. 

In terms of lighting, a dark and shady bottom tank setup would be perfect. These adorable weatherfish are partial to nighttime, so they usually hide under rocks and other shady areas when it’s bright out. 

When you’ve got your tank all set up, keep in mind that Dojos are active and can sometimes jump around and slink inside your filters and tubes. So make sure those are covered well, or else you would find yourself with one Dojo missing. 

Weighing down or tying your tank plants to bogwood can also be a good idea. That’s because as your Dojo Loach grows with proper care, they can end up uprooting your plant decorations. Finally, as with almost all properly maintained aquariums, make sure their environment is always pristine and crystal clear. Perform weekly water changes, regular substrate cleanups, and your Dojo might just do a trick for you.

Tip: Don’t overcrowd your tank with plants, and choose softer vegetation. Dojos have very soft bodies with faint scales, so harsh textured decor may hurt them.

Tank Size

The thing to note here is that Dojo Loaches are active and love the company of their fellow Dojos. Isn’t that just sweet? Technically, a 30-gallon tank is fine for a Dojo Loach, but an even larger tank of around 55 gallons would definitely be better. 

55 gallons is large enough to accommodate these Weatherfishes’ playful behavior, give them some other fishy friends, and more space to hide in decorations. So do these shy guys a favor and give them some well-deserved space.

Water Parameters

Dojos are very hardy and adaptable, capable of tolerating plenty of newbie fishkeepers’ mistakes and oversights. Despite this, we want to help you prevent as much snafu as possible with this guide. This will not take much, as Dojo Loaches have very minimal water requirements which are all very easy to meet. 

Typically, when buying a tropical freshwater fish, you would expect them to appreciate the water environment to be similar to their native habitats. For Dojos, however, this isn’t exactly accurate. 

Unlike other freshwater fish, Dojos appreciate a cooler room temperature freshwater tank, with a temperature range of about 68–72 °F or 20–22 °C. This is no doubt cooler than the categorized tropical temperature. This is because as previously discussed, warmer tank temperatures can be fatal to the Weatherfish and cause its lifespan to shorten immensely. 

A neutral pH of 6.5-8.0 would be the safest for your pet loaches, although they are known to tolerate even more acidic water pH. Keep the water hardness at a level of around 5-12 dKH with a moderate level of water movement and you’re almost done.

Finally, the most important water parameter your Dojo needs is a consistently clean and well-oxygenated tank environment. Set up a good filtration system, perform daily checks, weekly water changes (at least 30%), substrate cleaning and your Weather Loach will be happy for a long time to come.

Tip: Settle an established ecosystem in your tank setup for a while before introducing your Weatherfish to its new home to avoid shocking them and making them ill.

Common Diseases

Unfortunately, the peaceful Dojo Loach can also succumb to a variety of diseases despite its sturdiness. For one, its relatively faint amount of scales, which serves as a protective layer, don’t do it any favors, thus making them very susceptible to parasitic attacks. 

Some diseases you must watch out for are:

  • Ick or White spot disease (your Dojos are especially vulnerable to this, due to their lack of adequate scales)
  • Skinny disease (caused by internal parasites; this disease will make your Dojo lose weight despite having a regular and appropriate diet)
  • Flukes

Dojo Loaches are quite sensitive to medication, so the best thing to do for your aquatic pets is to give them ideal water conditions and a proper diet. Keep your loaches happy and don’t stress them out to prevent vulnerability to illness. Even the decorations in your tank can bring bacteria and disease. Make sure everything in your aquarium is always clean, including the water (30% water change every week), substrate, and ornaments.

Food & Diet

Thankfully, there is not much to be concerned about when it comes to feeding the Dojo or Pond Loach. They are omnivorous (they’ll eat almost anything!), eat several times a day, and have an extensive list of food choices!

Food suitable for the Dojo Loach include:

  • Worms (Bloodworms, Earthworms)
  • Small crustaceans (small shrimps)
  • Insects and insect larvae
  • Daphnia
  • Also eats algae and some blanched veggies
  • Also eats snails sometimes
  • Flake food
  • Sinking pellets 
  • Sinking wafers

The important thing to note when feeding a Dojo Loach is to ensure that the food gives them balanced nutrition. They should be fed small meals multiple times in a day (with variety), and not keep smaller fish as tank mates. The last reminder is that your loaches should not eat their tank mates for lunch.

Tip: Dojo Loaches are very intelligent, pet-like creatures. For a bit of excitement, you can even train your Dojos to get food from your palm!

Breeding & Mating

Breeding of this species is in demand in the market due to it being a delicacy in some Asian countries, as well as being sought-after in the aquarium trade. This is especially true for the Golden Dojo. 

Regrettably, aquarium spawning of the Dojo Loach is a rarely successful occurrence. In the wild, Dojos breed once a year, after experiencing different seasonal conditions. In captivity, you need to stimulate these natural events to trigger the breeding process. 

Some of these include conditioning your Dojos with live or frozen food, manipulating their tank to a higher temperature, reducing the intensity of the light, as well as creating sudden increases in water flow. Successful breeding of Dojos is difficult not only for beginners, but even seasoned enthusiasts.

If however, the breeding process is triggered, the courting of the Dojo will soon follow. This can last for hours, where the male Dojo swims around his ladylove for a few seconds. After that, he proceeds to twist around the female to release her eggs. Once eggs of around 20 or so are scattered into the tank, the male naturally proceeds to fertilize them. 

Ta-da! Finally-baby Dojos. Now, was that so hard?

Dojo Loach Temperament & Behavior

Finally-here is where the Dojo truly shines. These Weatherfish are energetic, peaceful, sociable, and yet surprisingly hardy. They’re not just ‘friendly’ either. Dojo Loaches are also capable of learning and performing tricks, playing dead, and jumping around the tank. Truly, they’re one of the most ‘pet-like’ fishes you will ever have in your aquatic community. 

They’re fantastic community fish as well, getting along with a vast selection of fish species. Some owners have even seen their Dojos swimming or playing with other fishes in the tank. You can be sure that picking out tank mates will be an absolute breeze!

However, Dojo Loaches can also be nervous and fidgety. They’re semi-nocturnal, so during the day, they like hiding under rocks or the tank substrate. 

Probably the most interesting thing about a Dojo is the connection to its name. Dojo Loaches or Weather Fishes respond to, well, weather changes. In fact, throughout history, the Weather Loach was used by some cultures to predict impending storms and bad weather. Scientists have even utilized the Dojo Loach as an indicator of tsunamis!

This is because the Dojo Loach is said to be very sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. When they sense these fluctuations, Dojos start exhibiting skittish behavior. They start twirling around, swimming up and down, or in other words-they go absolutely nuts. This might cause panic for some owners, but this is perfectly normal and part of what makes them special. 

Dojo Loach Tank Mates

Dojo Loaches are some of the most peaceful, friendly fishes you could ever have in an aquarium. They absolutely love to be around other Dojo Loaches (consider getting 3), as well as various fish species. Much like yourself, Dojos are also not meant to go through life alone. 

Tank mates compatible with the Dojo Loach are:

  • Fancy goldfish (any goldfish is perfect since they have the same requirements)
  • Other Dojo Loaches
  • Lake Tebera rainbowfish
  • Paradise fish
  • Golden barbs
  • Rosy barbs
  • Corydoras
  • Plecos
  • Argentine bloodfins 
  • Zebra Danios

Since Dojos are bottom dwellers, it would make sense to also pick tank mates that swim in different layers (upper, middle) from them. This way, they will not bother with each other. 

But don’t put incredibly small fish either. As peaceful as the Dojo Loach is, it might still eat small tank mates due to its omnivorous nature. Plus, there is a very high chance they might eat them by mistake (sorry shrimps!). Large fish with a predatory or aggressive nature is also not ideal.  But of course, equally friendly and peaceful tank mates are the best options to live alongside your Dojo. 

To Conclude

The next time you’re looking for the perfect addition to your community aquarium, you might want to check out the Dojo Loach. They’re fun, friendly, and positively one-of-a-kind. So whether you’re a newbie or an expert hobbyist, these Weatherfish will swim right to your heart, come rain or shine.

Note: Please consider the environment before printing this Dojo Loach care sheet.

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