Panda Loach – Care, Lifespan, Diet & More

As a juvenile, the panda loach species of fish has white and black vertical stripes. As it grows into an adult, it develops mesmerizing reticulate patterns in the colors of black and gold. It has a lively and outgoing demeanor and thrives in a mature aquarium with plenty of algae and biofilm. We have covered these points further ahead in the article for your easy referral!

What is Panda Loach?

The Panda Loach is also referred to as the Yaoshania pachychilus in the scientific world. Yaoshania is the name given to this species after the mountain where it was discovered, Dayaoshan.

This is essentially a freshwater species of fish that is not very commonly found, even in natural waters. You will find the panda loach to be a great fish, especially for its stunning juvenile and adult colors.

Panda loach

It is of calm but outgoing temperament and fascinating social interaction with other members of its species. This intriguing, tranquil fish is an excellent contender for the mature subtropical aquarium as algae and biofilm grazer.

The panda loach is one of the fish species considered a rare aquatic species vulnerable to the possibility of extinction by the Chinese Red Book of Endangered Animals.

The prime reasons for this horrifying classification of this beautiful species of fish are the consistent degradation of natural aquatic environments, pollution, desiccation of rivers and water bodies, hydropower construction activities, and the practice of electro-fishing techniques. 

Origin & Habitat of the Panda Loach Fish

This subtropical species is native to Southern China, and you can typically find it in Guangxi. The water at this location is chilly, fast-flowing, and well-oxygenated. It goes over the different substrates, including smooth gravel, sand, water-worn rocks, and boulders.

Typically, this species’ preferred habitats are above 500 meters average mean sea level. The reason is that at this depth, there is a more significant presence of water abundant in crystallines and oxygen.

These characteristics of the water help panda loaches by boosting the quality of growth of the layer of biofilm on surfaces present in the water. The usual water depth of the Panda Loach habitat usually is 50 cm or less.

Yet, it may be murky due to suspended debris dislodged during periods of heavy rainfall, resulting in increased flow velocity and water depth. Bear in mind that vegetation usually only exists in the form of biofilms on surfaces in their preferred habitats!

How many panda loaches should be kept together?

Panda loaches are highly gregarious, gentle fish that thrive in groups of at least five. Because the Pachychilius panda loach is difficult to sex, the larger the group, the more likely you are to have a mix of both sexes. This may increase your chances of spawning. 

Appearance and Typical Behavior of the Panda Loach Species

The body of the Panda Loach is creamy white with striking black streaks and blotches. The black and white stripes on the juvenile fish are the most prominent.

As the fish matures, the pattern transforms to a more blotchy, brownish cream hue and is commonly marked by a dark band along the lateral line.

Generally, most purchased panda loaches are about one to two centimeters in length as young fish and grow to be a maximum of seven and a half centimeters long.

Panda loach on top of rock

As far as the behavior of this species of fish is concerned, they are peaceful, even when paired or housed with other fish of the same or different species. Although juveniles live a lonely existence, when they mature into adults, they engage in schooling behavior.

A panda loach with shrimp in your fish tank also makes for fantastic cohabitation in the long run. In fact, they are highly gregarious, gentle fish that thrive in groups of at least five. The Pachychilius panda loach fish species is difficult to breed.

Therefore, the larger the group, the more likely you are to have a mix of both sexes, which may increase your chances of spawning. You can keep Yaoshaniya Pachychilius panda loaches with similar-sized species that thrive in the same tank circumstances.

Some fish types that you can house with your panda loaches are danios, white cloud minnows, and other mountain stream loach species.

How big do Panda loaches get?

As babies, panda loaches grow roughly one to two centimeters in length. But, as adults, they can grow to be as large as 7.5 centimeters long.

Caring for a Panda Loach

Panda loach at bottom of aquarium

Caring for a panda loach requires consistency and attention. Without a specific living habitat, panda loaches don’t survive often. Here is your guide to caring for your panda loaches.

Tank size and tank conditions for panda loaches

Naturally, the fundamental requirement to caring for any fish, including the panda loach species, is a tank setup ideal for their long-term health.

Therefore, you’ll need a mature, river-style aquarium with highly-oxygenated, chilly water and a robust filtration system that creates a strong current rather than a new tank setup. This is the first aspect you must consider when making a tank suited to housing panda loaches.

Further, to mimic the panda’s natural habitat of a shallow stream, you should stick to using perfectly fitting cover slides on your aquarium along with vibrant lighting.

This will boost the growth rate of algae in your fish tank, which is, needless to say, essential to your panda loach’s well-being.

Temperature needs of the panda loach species

Bear in mind that things get complicated when trying to reproduce the subtropical water temperature that the Panda loach experiences in the wild, especially during the hot summer months.

So, it would be best to use a thermometer and consult your aquatic pet specialist about how you can maintain temperatures ideal for your panda loaches. Ideally, it would be great if you kept a water temperature of 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the water temperature in your fish tank rises, ensure that you also increase the concentration of the oxygen content in the water.

Water conditions that mimic the natural freshwater habitat of panda loaches

Because its natural habitat is shallow, clean, and high-flow water, this fish is susceptible to changes in water quality. The importance of regular aquarium maintenance and maximum oxygen saturation cannot be overstated.

As a result, you’ll require an oxygen pump. You should also keep the alkalinity of the water between 6.5 and 7.5 pH. An aquarium with a high water flow (10-15x turnover per hour) and clear, pure water is recommended for Panda Loach.

Lighting conditions required for the panda loach

This fish does not require special lighting conditions. Yet, it is recommended that you should arrange for moderate to high lighting intensity. This will help aid in the formation of algae and a biofilm layer to feed this fish.

Substrate for panda loach fish tanks

A sandy foundation should be your substrate of choice, as well as several hiding spots made of rocks, slate fragments, and pebbles. Bogwood should not be used in the aquarium since it might alter the water chemistry, making it too acidic and soft for these hard-water fish.

Click here to read about Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

A Common Problem with the Panda Loach Fish Species

The fact is that panda loaches are somewhat delicate fish, especially to take care of in an aquarium. You should avoid feeding this fish species a diet that is extremely rich in protein. A high-protein diet can be possibly fatal for the panda loach.

Ideally, you should make use of an automated fish feeding machine to ensure that your panda loach gets just the correct quantity of food when it needs to eat. By doing so, you can ensure that your panda loach doesn’t end up overeating.

Breeding panda loaches

Panda loach fish are notoriously difficult to breed in a home aquarium. If you want to breed your panda loaches, you should try to keep them in groups of four or more.

Mature female panda loaches are more likely to be heavier-bodied than males, so maintain them in groups of four or more.

Humankind has not really bred this fish in artificial settings or captivity, according to aquarium aficionados. It is critical to place a small group of Panda Loach in the proper settings in order to enhance spawning behavior.

If you want to breed this species actively, you need to conduct a study first, taking into account their water needs. In this situation, cool gentle water changes with a pH of 7 will be beneficial toward starting the mating process.

Panda loach Food & Diet

It is vital to note that panda loaches need a mixed diet consisting of vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources of nutrition. This is because panda loaches are naturally omnivorous fish.

In fact, in their natural habitat, Panda Loaches eat small benthic invertebrates that reside in the biofilm as well as algae grazers. They devour most things supplied to them in an aquarium if they are of a suitable size (tiny pieces).

It would be healthy enough if you offered a wide variety of foods, such as small bloodworms, baby brine shrimp, and daphnia.

Also, if your Panda Loach is particularly small, a small sinking catfish pellet or even powdered fry meals available in commercial pet markets would be perfect choices.

These fish have also been found to tolerate frozen meaty items, although you should only offer these on rare occasions. Another thing you need to remember about feeding panda loaches is that this fish will occasionally eat high-quality dry foods.

Still, they should be high in plant matter. You should provide them biofilm and algae that are naturally accessible in the aquarium to guarantee long-term health, or they may starve.

Are panda loaches hard to take care of?

These fish are gritty and require a highly specialized habitat to thrive. While difficult, it is possible with a bit of patience and knowledge about what the species needs.

We have discussed the most crucial aspects of caring for a panda loach in this article. With this knowledge, you can make the correct decisions in keeping your pet fish healthy!


Are panda loaches nocturnal?

Yes, panda loaches are nocturnal fish.

Do Panda Loaches eat snails?

No, panda loaches don’t eat snails.

Can you keep Panda Loach in a shrimp tank?

Yes, you can keep panda loaches in a shrimp tank as long as the tank is large and has a healthy water flow.

What is the cost of a panda loach?

A panda loach can cost as much as $50 but seldom higher than that.

About the author

I'm Gulshan, a passionate pet enthusiast. Dive into my world where I share tips, stories, and snapshots of my animal adventures. Here, pets are more than just animals; they're heartbeats that enrich our lives. Join our journey!