Nemacheilus masyai, the Checkerboard loach

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The Checkerboard or Arrow loach, Nemacheilus masyai, has recently arrived as by-catch in shipments of balitorines. Matt Clarke explains how to keep it.

Common name: Arrow or Checkerboard loach

Scientific name: Nemacheilus masyai

Origin: Western Malaysia including the Endau drainage; Thailand; the Mekong, Meklong and Chao Phraya basins.

Size: Up to 10-12cm/4-5"

Habitat: Shallow (less than 2m/6' 6"), moderately fast-flowing rivers with mud or sand bottoms.

Water: Found in both clear and blackwater streams, so slightly acidic or neutral conditions would be likely.

Aquarium: A 60-90cm/24-36" tropical or coldwater tank (in a warm room) with a sandy substrate and lots of rocks to hide among. Can be kept in a shoal with its own kind, but may squabble. Use a good filter and ensure that oxygen levels stay high.

Notes: This nemacheiline loach is a member of the family Balitoridae.

Identification: The colour pattern of this fish distinguishes it from other nemacheiline loaches from this region. It should have 12-17 dorsal saddles, plus 14-18 lateral blotches. There should be 13 soft rays in the dorsal and eight soft rays in the anal fin.

Similar species: N. pallidus looks similar but is slimmer, with more widely spaced spots and eyes that sit higher on the head than those of N. masyai.

Availability: These fish were on sale at Towcester Aquatic Centre in Northamptonshire. We have seen them on lists from exporters in Indonesia, but the fish may have been caught elsewhere. They came in with some interesting bycatch, including N. notostigma.

Price: Around 3 each.

This article was first published in the June 2004 issue of Practical Fishkeeping.