any of the small, generally elongated freshwater fishes of the family Cobitidae. More than 200 species are known; most are native to central and southern Asia, but three are found in Europe and one in northern Africa. A typical loach has very small scales and three to six pairs of whiskerlike barbels around its mouth. In some species, such as the spined loach (Cobitis taenia) of Eurasia, there is also a short, movable spine near each eye
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