The horseface or horsehead loach is a relatively shy bottom-dweller that likes to burrow into the substrate; it will sift the sand through its gills in search of microorganisms or other food. Its long snout is reminiscent of a horse muzzle, hence its name.
The fish can be identified as a member of the genus Acantopsis because it possesses long barbels on its lower jaw. In addition, its head is pointed and somewhat flattened, giving it a horse-like appearance. The fish is completely uniform in color, ranging from bright gold to yellowish-brown. This uniform coloring gives the fish camouflage when hiding among the substrate in its natural habitat or within an aquarium environment. The maximum length of this species is about 15 cm (6 inches). It can change color to match its environment.
The horseface loach inhabits the basin of the Kapuas River in Borneo, Indonesia. It is found wild-caught there, as well as commercially farmed for the aquarium trade throughout Asia and Europe. The fish prefers a tropical climate but can tolerate temperatures down to about 60°F.
The horseface loach has a timid nature and should be kept in an aquarium with many hiding places among rocks or driftwood. The substrate, or bedding, should consist of fine sand mixed with some small pebbles; the water must be soft to moderately hard at 6-12 dGH, slightly acidic (pH 6.8-7.8), and clear.
The fish will eat almost anything offered, including most commercially available sinking pellets and flake food. Supplement the diet with live worms or brine shrimp if possible to ensure optimum health for this bottom feeder. Some specimens of the horseface loach will learn to take prepared foods from the surface of the water.
This loach is rarely bred in the home aquarium, and is even more rarely seen for sale in aquarium shops. It is very shy and needs hiding places to feel comfortable. Only experienced aquarists should try keeping this fish due to its sensitivity to changes in water chemistry and temperature fluctuations.
Hidden in the soft substrate in the riverbed in home aquaria, Horsehead loaches also like to dig themselves in under rocks and wood. They have a long slender body that has two sharp ridges running along the length of its back from behind the head to the base of the tail. The eyes of this fish are on top of the slightly elevated head, so it is necessary to provide some cover within the aquarium for them to hide in when they feel threatened.
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