A family of fishes in the family Cypriniformes. Freshwater, benthic, sedentary fish up to 30 cm long. Body elongated, laterally compressed or spindle-shaped, covered with fine scales, sometimes hidden in the skin, or bare. Mouth lower, small, toothless. Antennae around mouth 6-12. Pharyngeal teeth single rowed. There is a vomeronasal apparatus. Eyes small. Swim bladder partly (anterior part) or completely enclosed in a bony capsule. Dorsal and anal fins very short. Nostrils elongated into small tubes. Larvae breathe through external gills. Found in the waters of Europe, Asia and Africa. Not found in Australia or America. Includes 150 species, 3 of which occur in Russia. Freshwater benthic fish. Does not rest in spring, spawns on the bottom. Bentophagous, some feed on fish. Have no commercial value. The loach (Misgurnus fossilis) and Siberian crayfish (Cobitis melanoleuca) are prey for sturgeon, burbot, grayling and pike.
Members of this family are small freshwater fish that have adapted to different types of water, from mountain rivers to lowland swamps. Their highly developed dermal and intestinal respiration enables them to live in low-oxygen environments. Almost all loaches are benthophagous and periphytophagous, feeding at dusk and at night and burrowing during the day.