The variety of sea and river inhabitants is amazing. Among them there are pretty cute creatures, and there are those who, with their appearance, cause fear or hostility. The latter include loach fish. Outwardly, they are very reminiscent of a snake, squirming strongly and making unpleasant sounds if they are caught. However, the loach is a very interesting fish, whose habits and lifestyle are worth learning more about.
Origin of the species and description
Loaches are unique animals. They are a representative of a relatively small group of fish with an elongated body, smooth scales. On the lips, these fish have filiform antennae. Outwardly, they are very similar to a snake or an eel, but they are not. The loach belongs to the subfamily Cobitidae, the loach family. They form a separate genus of loaches. By the name, you can understand that such fish can wriggle. Their body is flexible, elastic. It is extremely difficult to hold a loach in your hands. In the water, such an animal feels great, moves at high speed.
Interesting fact: Loach is a fish with unique natural abilities. Unlike other river inhabitants, it is able to easily endure the drying up of water. When the river dries up, the loaches dig into the bottom to a great depth – about fifty centimeters. This makes it possible for him to survive even under very dry mud.
Loaches are part of a huge family of loaches, which today has about one hundred and seventy-seven species of fish. All fish are combined into twenty-six genera.
The genus of loaches is quite large, among the most common species of these fish can be distinguished:
- misgurnus fossilis or common loach. Distributed in Asia, Europe. The length of this river dweller often reaches thirty centimeters. The color of the back is brown, the belly is yellow;
- cobitis taenia. In Russian it is called — ordinary pinch. This is the smallest member of the family. Lives in many European countries, Japan, China, CIS countries. The length of such a creature does not exceed ten centimeters. The color is dominated by a light yellow hue;
- misgurnus anguillicaudatus or Amur loach. The population of such a river dweller is quite large in the reservoirs of Sakhalin, Siberia, China, Asia and Japan. In the wild, this animal reaches a length of twenty-five centimeters. The body color is light brown.
Appearance and features
Loach is quite easy to recognize. This is a fish with a thin body, the length of which ranges from ten to thirty-five centimeters. The scales of such a creature are either completely absent, or very small and smooth. The body of the fish is completely streamlined, which makes it very maneuverable and fast.
The characteristic differences between loaches include small gills and eyes, filiform antennae located on the lips.
The body of this fish is rounded. This anatomical feature is due to the fact that the loach is adapted for sharp and short swimming. He will not be able to move for a long time under the water column. This animal overcomes the distance in short and sharp jerks. The fins are small and also have a round shape. The body is densely covered with mucus for additional protection.
The body color of most varieties of loaches is inconspicuous. The back is yellow-brown with dark dots, the belly is painted in light yellow. The fins are brown, a dark solid strip runs through the center of the fish, and shorter stripes on the sides. In appearance, loaches resemble snakes. For this reason, many fishermen disdain such fish, although dishes from it are very tasty.
Interesting fact: Loaches are often called people who cunningly walk away from danger or from a direct answer. This nickname is closely related to the natural anatomical features of loach fish. They have everything done in order to quickly slip away in the water surface.
Loach fish are divided by gender into females and males. You can distinguish them by some external features. For example, ladies are always bigger. They are superior to males not only in length, but also in weight. Males have longer pectoral fins. They have a pointed shape. In females, the pectoral fins are rounded, without thickening or other features.
Where does the loach live?
Loaches are selective animals. They are suitable only for quiet rivers and reservoirs, with trees on the banks and dense vegetation. For this reason, such aquatic inhabitants can be found in deaf channels, slow-flowing rivers, swampy places, ditches, in lakes and ponds with a large layer of silt. Usually in such places there are very few fish. Loaches prefer to live at the bottom of water bodies, where they find food for themselves. These fish spend most of their time in the mud, burrowing deep there.
Due to the presence of a large amount of mud, silt, these fish can live for a long time even in severe drought. If a swamp, lake, or pond dries up, the loach can survive. It burrows deep into the wet mud, and an additional respiratory organ helps to keep the body in working condition. It is a small part of the hindgut. Loaches easily adapt to their habitat, therefore they are quite common on the planet.
The natural habitat includes the following territories:
- Eastern and South Asia;
Loaches prefer temperate or warm climates. It is also very important for them to have enough food. In Asia, this fish is represented by the largest population. The population of Asian countries appreciates loaches very much. There, this fish is actively bred and eaten. In other areas, loaches are also valued from a scientific point of view. In many countries they are used as model objects for various laboratory studies.
Now you know where the loach is found. Let's see what it eats.
What does the loach eat?
Loaches are excellent hunters. They catch and with great appetite absorb various small river inhabitants. These fish find their food at the bottom of the reservoir. Few fish can boast such good hunting data. For this reason, loaches often displace other fish from the reservoir, which simply do not have enough food. Tench, crucian carp and carp suffer from loaches more often than others. If you put the above fish in one small pond with loaches, then after a short period of time their number will decrease greatly.
The daily diet of the loach includes various crustaceans and molluscs. Sometimes loaches eat mud, silt, and various river vegetation. Also, these river dwellers like to eat insect larvae: bloodworms, mosquitoes. These insects just live in swampy reservoirs. Alien caviar is also a favorite delicacy of loaches. These fish easily and quickly find it in any corner of the river or reservoir. Loach caviar is eaten in unlimited quantities.
An interesting fact: Almost all loach food lives at the bottom of a swampy reservoir or river. To find it, this fish uses its sense of touch. The main organ of touch of the loach is the antennae. He has ten pairs of them, and antennae are placed in the corners of his mouth.
In captivity, the loach is also extremely voracious. But it can starve up to six months. The diet of the “home” loach includes moths, earthworms, raw meat and ant eggs. Fish eat food only from the bottom.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The way of life of loaches is measured, calm, sedentary. They live in the selected reservoir for the rest of their lives. They spend a lot of time buried deep in the mud. These fish choose swampy, stagnant waters for their habitat, where there are very few or no other fish at all. The loach prefers to spend most of its time in densely overgrown places where there is a lot of silt. In such swamps and reservoirs there is little oxygen, so you can often see that loaches rise to the surface to release exhaust air and swallow fresh air. At such moments, the animal emits a squeak. The same sound can be heard if you catch and hold a loach in your hands.
Interesting fact: Loach is generously gifted by nature with various properties. So, his skin is very susceptible to atmospheric pressure. If the weather is warm, then these fish rarely rise to the surface, and in bad weather (for example, before rain), the water surface begins to teem with them.
Loaches spend almost the whole day in silt, where they find food for themselves. They eat worms, crustaceans, molluscs. They love to feast on someone else's caviar. Loaches swim little, abruptly and in short distances. They very deftly overcome various obstacles under water, thanks to their anatomical features: smooth scales, long torso, rounded body shape. Loaches are very quirky and tenacious. They are not afraid of drought and polluted water. They dig deep into the silt and hibernate if suddenly the pond is dry. After the rain, these fish come back to life again.
Many experienced fishermen claim that loaches can easily move on land like snakes. If several reservoirs are located nearby, then large individuals easily crawl from one to another. It is difficult to judge how true this fact is.
Social structure and reproduction
Reproduction process in this species fish has its own characteristics:
- spring is the ideal time for the reproduction of offspring. Water in small ponds should be completely warm, get rid of ice;
- after mating, the female looks for a suitable place to place the eggs. Usually these fish spawn in dense thickets near the shore. Sometimes eggs are deposited in temporary reservoirs, for example, when a river floods. In this case, there is a high risk of death of fry when the river returns to its banks;
- the laid caviar is quite large, it can reach a value of 1.9 millimeters. This is not surprising, because the parents of such fry themselves have large dimensions. Caviar has a thin shell, can stick to the leaves of aquatic plants;
- after leaving the eggs, the fry attach to the plants and feed on the yolk. At this time, all their organs and body are in constant development, acquire the necessary properties. After a short period of time, the fry begin to feed on their own.
They find suitable food for themselves with the help of antennae, which perform the function of touch. The development of loach larvae occurs with a significant lack of oxygen. A little later, the fish will be able to grab air, rising to the surface. In the larval stage, powerful blood vessels help them to breathe, and then very long external gills. After becoming an adult, these gills decrease in size and then completely disappear. They are replaced by other, real gills.
Natural enemies of loaches
Loach is a quirky, tenacious fish. She doesn't have many natural enemies. It also has to do with where it lives. As a rule, loaches prefer to live in swampy reservoirs, where other fish are completely absent or their number is very small. However, there are still animals that eat loaches for food. The most dangerous natural enemies of loaches are predatory fish. Loach is an important part of the diet of burbots, pikes and perches.
Of course, even a predatory fish is not easy to catch a loach. Loaches can quickly hide from danger, burrow very deep into the silt. But sometimes even this does not help to get away from the predator. Also, birds often attack loaches. Feathered loaches become prey when they try to move to a nearby body of water on wet grass. Some birds manage to get this fish right from the bottom of a half-dried pond or swamp. It is extremely rare on land that a loach becomes the prey of other predatory animals that accidentally happened to be nearby.
You can also call a person an enemy of snake-like fish. Vine does not look very attractive. Many fishermen, having accidentally caught such a fish, simply throw it ashore. Other fishing enthusiasts specifically catch loaches in large numbers and then use them as bait.
Population and species status
Conservation status of loaches: Least Concern. Despite the impact of many negative factors, loaches retain a high population in most of the natural habitat. This is due to the natural capabilities and abilities of loaches. First, these fish are very prolific. They multiply rapidly, laying many eggs at a time. Secondly, the loach is a tenacious fish. She is able to survive in the most extreme conditions.
This river inhabitant is not afraid of drought, lack of oxygen. It is able to survive even in very polluted water, and this animal can wait out the drought under a large layer of silt. Also loaches are able to move from one reservoir to another. They crawl like snakes through wet vegetation from one source of water to another. Despite the preservation of a high population, scientists have recently noted a slow decrease in the number of loaches.
This is due to the influence of the following factors:
- drying of swamps, stagnant reservoirs. Although loaches can survive in such conditions, but not for long. After a while, they again need water, but many reservoirs dry up forever;
- eating fish for food. In Asia, loaches are a favorite delicacy of people. For this reason, the number of fish is declining in Asian territories;
- use as a profit. Loaches are specially caught by fishermen for fishing for pike, catfish, crucian carp.
Loach is a snake-like fish that rarely causes sympathy. However, this is a unique creature with amazing abilities to survive in difficult conditions. This fish impresses not only with its unusual appearance, but also with the ability to literally “resurrect” after the complete drying of a reservoir or river.