Clown Loach Care Guide

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Clown Loach Care Guide

Clown Loaches are cute, colorful community tank residents that get along with just about everything, including each other! They are eager eaters and easy to care for as well; just make sure that you have a tank large enough for them as adults!

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Chromobotia macracanthus
Adult Size 8 to 12 inches
Temperament Peaceful; Schooling
Lifespan Up to 20 years
Care Level Easy
Water Temperature 75-84℉
Appearance Bright Orange with Black Bars and Red Fins
Water pH 5.0-7.0
Diet Omnivorous
Tank Size 90+ Gallons

Clown Loach Overview

Typical Clown Loach Behavior

When we think of bottom dwellers, we usually think of shy catfish and other fish. But Clown Loaches are a delightful exception; being both active during the day and more than willing to swim out and about in the open! Clown Loaches also enjoy the company of both other fish and their own kind, forming shoals that interact with each other constantly and with little fighting.

Clown Loaches are also some of the few aquarium fish that make audible noises! They don’t have vocal cords like we do. Instead, they use their pharyngeal (throat) teeth, grinding them together to make grunts and clicks. These noises can convey aggression, mating intent, or simply enjoyment of a good meal!

Clown Loach Appearance

Another benefit to Clown Loach keeping is their attractive color pattern! They have a vibrant yellow to orange base with deep black stripes and lipstick red fins. As they grow older, they may become a more muddy orange and their black bars fade to a deep green or brown. But their essential pattern remains the same. When young, Clown Loaches are fairly slim but they tend to grow quite chunky as adults!

Like most Botia, Clown Loaches also have a narrow, tapering mouth fringed with tiny whiskers. Like catfish, Clown Loaches use these whiskers to seek out hidden morsels of food in muddy water and rocky crevices!

Life Span

When well cared for Clown Loaches are very long lived. 10 years is a decent average but they are known to live up to 20 to 25 years in captivity! So be aware that any Clown Loach you buy is the start of a long term relationship!

How Big Do Clown Loaches Grow?

Not only are Clown Loaches long lived; they are fairly large as well. They will reach anywhere from 8 to 12 inches as adults. And remember that Clown Loaches are also schooling fish that need the company of their own kind. This means that you’re looking at a minimum of 90 gallons for a trio, with 125 gallons or more being better for a group of Loaches. When younger, they can be kept in aquariums of 20 gallons in size but they will quickly outgrow this small of a setup.

Sexing Clown Loaches

At first glance, Clown Loaches look almost identical to one another. But with a little time and attention, you can pick out the faint sexual differences between males and females once they are 3 to 4 inches in length.

Male Clown Loaches are going to be more vibrantly colored than females, which tend to show an obvious muddy hue in their colors even when young. Rather than bright orange, a young female Clown Loach will be a dirty orange or even faintly grey in color. The red tones in her fins also aren’t as intense as those of males.

Clown-Loach

Compatible Tank Mates for Clown Loaches

Clown Loaches are excellent community fish for a wide variety of tank mates. While they do get big they are peaceful because their mouths are too tiny to eat any but the smallest of tank mates. They also prefer eating worms, shrimp, and other invertebrates anyway.

You can keep Clown Loaches with any sort of peaceful community inhabitant. This even includes smaller fish like Neon Tetras, Bettas, and Platies. A Clown Loach will eat young fry or any eggs scattered about – but then, so will your other fish.

They also make great tank mates for cichlids, arowanas, and other large fish once fully grown. Just keep them away from truly aggressive fish. Since they are scaleless fish Clown Loaches have easily damaged skin that can also get infected from bites.

Other Clown Loaches are by far the most important tank mates because Clown Loaches feel most secure when there are others of their own kind around. When kept singly a Clown Loach may become shy and retiring, only coming out to feed.

Good tank mates for Clown Loaches include:

  • Tetras, Danios, Barbs, Platies, and other Small Community Fish
  • Bettas, Gouramis, Angelfish, and other Medium Sized Community Fish
  • Cichlids, Arowanas, Stingrays, and other Large Community Fish

Water Conditions for Clown Loach Care

Temperature

As Southeast Asian natives, Clown Loaches do have preferences when it comes to temperature. In this part of the world the climate is constantly tropical and keeps the water at a range of 75-84℉. Anything under 72℉ is stressful for them because it depresses their appetite and immune system, opening them up to ich and other opportunistic diseases. Heat and clean water are two of the best ways to keep your Clown Loaches healthy!

Water Chemistry

Second, we need to talk about water chemistry. Clown Loaches aren’t too picky but they do have a preference for acidic, even blackwater conditions (pH 4.5-7.0). In blackwater regions the water is soft (low in dissolved minerals) and rich in decaying plant tannins and other substances that create acidity. Clown Loaches will tolerate alkaline conditions (pH 7.0+) but they don’t thrive nearly so well and never breed there.

Clown Loaches aren’t especially sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, nor are they resistant. So keeping them in a mature aquarium with ample biological filtration is important. Especially once they grow into their full adult size, which means loads of fish poop for your filter to process.

Being scaleless fish, it’s important to prevent diseases from occurring with heat and clean water because Clown Loaches can be hypersensitive to medications. A normal dose for most fish can be stressful or even fatal to Clown Loaches because their lack of scales means they absorb much more medication than the manufacturers intend. So avoid ever needing to use medications on Clown Loaches.

Tank Setup for Clown Loaches

Plants and Substrate

Clown Loaches are omnivorous; they have a strong bias towards invertebrates but they do enjoy soft plants on occasion. They only nibble but you may see holes and missing leaves from juicy plants like Cabomba and Elodea. They will ignore tougher plants like Anubias, Java Fern, and Vallisneria, so plant these if you don’t want to see nibbles from your Loaches.

In terms of substrate, you should always keep Clown Loaches on a sand substrate. These fish love to root around the bottom, looking for food with their sensitive whiskers and even burrow into the sand if they smell something tasty but hidden. Gravel can cause injuries to their whiskers and scratch their skin, leading to infections that are hard to treat.

Clown-Loach-Eating-scaled

Feeding Your Clown Loaches

Clown Loaches are true omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal matter, but they favor their carnivorous side. So you’ll want to provide them with plenty of protein. Live and frozen foods like tubifex worms, brine shrimp, and blood worms will get a ready feeding response! As will a protein-rich flake or pellet that uses fish meal, shrimp, salmon, or other main ingredients. Occasionally offer them some vegetable matter as well, such as blanched zucchini or spinach, for variety!

How Often Should I Feed My Clown Loaches?
For such large fish Clown Loaches are extremely active! When young, you’ll want to feed them three times per day, moving down to twice per day as they reach 6 inches or larger in length.

Breeding Your Clown Loaches

How Can I Condition Clown Loaches to Spawn?
Most Clown Loaches are actually bred in captivity these days! But unfortunately, Clown Loaches are almost impossible to spawn in home aquariums. This is because in the wild, they are migratory fish, kind of like salmon. They wait for seasonal cues in temperature and water conditions and then move upstream in giant schools to spawn.

Fish farms in Southeast Asia use a combination of seasonal cues, food, and hormonal treatments to induce Clown Loaches to spawn on demand in giant outdoor ponds. But this isn’t really practical for a home aquarium setup.

How Can I Tell If My Clown Loach is Pregnant?
Still, there have been rare incidents where Clown Loaches have spawned in captivity! So if you think your female is pregnant, the signs are fairly obvious. She will normally be slightly thicker than her male companions. But as she swells with eggs, her middle will bulge out substantially.

Also, you’ll notice the males picking up on her hormones and chasing her around. Since they are egg scatterers, the males are constantly vying to be in place for the moment she’s ready to spawn!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Clown Loaches Eat?
Clown Loaches are omnivorous but eat mostly animal protein.

How Big Do Clown Loaches Grow?
8 to 12 inches as adults!

How Can I Breed Clown Loaches?
Clown Loaches are only able to be bred in massive outdoor ponds in tropical regions of the world.

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