The body forms of Cobitidae range from vermiform – worm-shaped, long and thin – to fusiform – spindle-shaped, cylindrical and tapering toward the ends. Most true loaches do not have true scales, and like many other Cypriniformes or catfishes, they have barbels at their mouths (usually 3-6 pairs). Some other traits typically found in this family are a small bottom-facing mouth suited to their scavenging benthiclifestyle, an erectile spine below the eye, and a single row of pharyngeal (throat) teeth.
True loaches are mostly scavengers and are omnivorous, usually not very picky about their food. They may eat aquatic crustaceans, insects and other small invertebrates as well as scraps of organic detritus.