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Somileptes gongota

by Mark in Vancouver last modified Apr 17, 2015 11:08 AM




Somileptes gongotaScientific name: Somileptes gongota (Hamilton, 1822)

Common name: Moosefaced Loach, Jaguar Loach, Gongota Loach

Synonyms: Cobitis cucura, Somileptus gongota, Cobitis gongota, Canthophrys albescens, Somileptes bispinosa, Canthophrys bispinosa, Cobitis oculata, Cobitis amnicola

Distribution: Known from Assam and Meghalaya to Uttar Pradesh along the base of Eastern Himalayas in India. Also known from Mymensingh, Sylhet, Dinajpur and Rangpur in Bangladesh and from Koshi, Gandaki, Karnali and their tributaries in Nepal.

Sexual Dimorphism: Females are believed to be slightly larger and fuller bodied than males.

Maximum size: (13cm)

Similar to: None

Care: A very difficult species to maintain in the home aquarium. The tank should be well matured and have an established fine sandy substrate in order for this species to burrow and consume some of the microscopic critters (planaria etc) within. This species is quite skittish and will need a fair depth of sand in order to immerse itself completely when startled. They do not tolerate hard water, indeed, this species requires very soft and slightly acidic water - without this, they will not fare well. Moosefaced loaches do not appreciate bright lighting and are considered to be nocturnal; the use of a blue moon light tube may aid in observing their natural behaviour. More than one specimen can be kept in the same aquarium, and if at all possible, they should be kept in groups of at least 3 as they do seem to have some social needs. Tankmates, if desired, should be small and of a peaceful disposition. Moosefaced loaches are notorious jumpers, so a tight fitting hood should be fitted to their aquarium.

Somileptes gongotaFeeding: Moosefaced loaches find the majority of their food by sifting through the substrate. For this reason, it is important that they are only added to well established set-ups with a what could be described as a 'live' sand substrate. When first imported or introduced to their new home, these fish should be fed live California blackworms (Lumbriculus variegatus). Enough should be added to the tank to allow the worms to take up residence in the substrate. Blackworms are harmless, do not carry diseases and will not foul the tank like other foods. The Moosefaced Loach will subsequently sift the sand and readily consume the worms. This live food is the key to conditioning these fish and getting them through the difficult period of acclimatization - when it can be very hard to get them to start feeding again. Eventually, over a period of weeks, the Moosefaced Loach can be slowly weaned off live blackworms and gradually transitioned to taking small frozen foods such as daphnia and baby or adult brine shrimp. Once firmly established they will even eat high quality flake food that has drifted down to the surface of the sand. it's a good idea to periodically feed blackworms as a treat to keep the fish in good condition. They do not compete for food well, which is a good reason to keep them in a species-only aquarium.

Water parameters: pH: 6.0- 7.0 Hardness: Very soft Max dh: 6

Temperature: 68ºF to 72ºF (18-22°C)

Breeding: This species has not been bred in captivity.


Moosefaced Loaches are seldom exported due to the high mortality rates associated with the process. Those that do enter your dealer's tanks should be rested for several weeks after import and be given a worming treatment and an intensive feeding regime prior to sale. Needless to say, the shop should keep them in a quiet softwater stock aquarium with plenty of 'live' sand as the substrate. New purchases should be acclimatised to your aquarium with the utmost care and attention. The water should be mixed very gradually (the drip method is suggested) and the fish eventually released into a dark tank to minimize stress.

Bamboo cane, horizontal (no leaves)


Brian Lynch took these photographs that show how this species buries itself so effectively.

Somileptis gongota - Two buried in sand Here, two fish can be seen buried in the sand. Their activity of basically "swimming" through the sand has created the swirls and tracks that can be clearly seen.
 Somileptis gongota - Two buried in sand  A closeup view reveals how due to the top of the head positioning of the eyes, they can remain buried, yet see clearly what is going on around them.
 Somileptis gongota _Owner lifts fish from sand  Brian gently uncovered this specimen and lifted it clear of the sand to better see it.
 Somileptis gongota _ Fish rests on lifting device  The fish, though disturbed kind of plays "dead" to see what's going on and decide a strategy.
 Somileptis gongota - Fish takes a dive toward sand  Eventually deciding it is safe to move, all a blur, it takes a very rapid dive towards the sand.
 Somileptis gongota - Fish burying in sand  As sand explodes everywhere, it disappears under the surface with lightning speed.
This species, despite its bulky front half of the body and large head can bury itself with amazing speed.



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