Clown Loach 101: The Ultimate Care Guide

Clown Loach Close Up
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 13, 2024
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Is maintaining a clean and stable aquarium becoming too challenging? Consider the captivating clown loach! This article underscores the benefits of this remarkable fish and how it could solve your aquarium problems. Envision a tank devoid of algae, teeming with vibrant and dynamic aquatic life. The clown loach, celebrated for its amusing demeanor and diligent snail consumption, can effortlessly make this vision a reality. Bid farewell to relentless cleaning and the struggle against unwanted pests. Get ready to eliminate persistent algae and introduce an enchanting new member to your aquatic family. Let’s embark on an exciting journey to transform your aquarium into a marine paradise. Start this transformation today by continuing to read!

Article Summary

  • Clown loaches can be found in freshwater areas of Indonesia, particularly the rivers in Borneo and Sumatra.
  • A minimum tank size of 55 gallons (200 liters) is recommended for a school of clown loaches.
  • Breeding in captivity is difficult, and the chances of successfully raising the young are low.

Overview of Clown Loach

Clown loaches, scientifically known as Chromobotia macracanthus, are colorful and playful tropical freshwater fish that belong to the Botiidae family. They are also called “Tiger Loach” or “Tiger Botia.” These fascinating creatures thrive in aquariums with plenty of plants and hiding spots.

Clown loaches can be found in freshwater areas of Indonesia, particularly the rivers in Borneo and Sumatra. During the day, these loaches remain active and can become relatively tame once they feel secure in their environment.

Physical features of The Wild Clown Loaches

Clown loaches have a distinctive appearance with their orange-red body and black stripes. They have an arched body shape with a curved dorsal line and a flat bottom.

Their mouth is equipped with several pairs of barbels. They possess pointy spines below their eyes for self-defense, although these are not venomous.

A closer look at the vibrant colors of the clown loaches
Vibrant Clown Loaches

The base color of clown loaches is yellowish-orange, adorned with three black bands. Their fins are mostly bright red, though some individuals from Borneo may display black pigmentation on their pectoral fins.

Clown loaches can grow up to 12-15 cm in length. However, their growth rate can reach 1-1.5 inches per year during their initial years under optimal conditions.

Juvenile clown loaches (up to 1 year old) can grow up to 0.5-1 inch in length, while sub-adult single clown loach (1-2 years old) may reach sizes of 2-3 inches. Adult clown loaches (2 years and older) can grow as large as 8-12 inches in length within an aquarium setting.


Several factors influence the growth of clown loaches, including genetics, diet, stress levels, tank size, and water quality conditions.

In their natural habitat – rivers and waterways – these fish adapt to various lighting conditions and seek shelter among rocks or inside caves formed by holes in riverbanks.

Differences between Male and Female

Females tend to be slightly plumper than males, while the tips of the male’s tail curve inward slightly compared to the straight tips of the female’s tail. Males exhibit more vibrant colors and have a more prominent tail with a pronounced “V” shape.

Clown Loach Care: Keeping in a Tank

Clown loaches are fascinating freshwater fish that can make a lively addition to your tank or freshwater aquarium. Here are some essential points to consider when keeping them in captivity:

Clown Loach: Lifespan in Captivity

In captivity, clown loaches have a typical lifespan of at least 10 years. However, it is important to note that these fish can live up to 25 years in pristine natural conditions, although this is rare in captivity.

Clown loaches typically live for at least 10 years in captivity…

This means that with proper care and a suitable environment, clown loaches have the potential to live a long and fulfilling life in captivity. It is crucial for owners to provide them with a well-maintained tank, appropriate water conditions, and a balanced diet to ensure their longevity.

Additionally, regular monitoring of their health and addressing any issues promptly can also contribute to extending their lifespan in captivity.

While reaching the upper end of their potential lifespan may be challenging, creating an optimal habitat and providing proper care can greatly increase the chances of clown loaches living a healthy and happy life in captivity.

Tank Size and Setup

When setting up a tank for clown loaches, it is recommended to provide a minimum tank size of 55 gallons (200 liters) for a school of these fish, but it’s advisable to give a larger tank as they grow or if you have more clown loaches.

To create a suitable environment, ensure the tank setup includes a natural substrate, smooth stones, pebbles, snags, roots, and tree branches. Avoid using sharp-edged stones that could harm the fish.

Clown loach in a tank with smooth stones
Clown Loach at The Bottom of The Tank

Additionally, fill any small slits or cracks with silicone sealer to prevent the fish from getting stuck. Since clown loaches are skilled at moving between objects and swimming through tight spaces, it’s essential to incorporate suitable hiding spots in the tank.

Finally, remember to have a cover on the tank to prevent the fish from jumping out.This is especially important if you have an agile clown loach, which is more likely to jump out of your tank.

Water Parameters and Maintenance

They must consider their preferences to provide optimal water conditions for clown loaches. They prefer soft, slightly acidic water conditions.

Therefore, it is recommended to maintain a temperature range in the high 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 25-28 degrees Celsius). Additionally, the pH level should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5. To ensure the ongoing health of the fish, regular water changes are necessary.


When it comes to choosing a filter for clown loaches, there are a few important factors to consider. Clown loaches are active and playful fish that produce a significant amount of waste, so a good filtration system is crucial to maintain clean and well-oxygenated water in their tank.

Canister Filter

Consider using a canister filter for effective filtration. This type of filter is known for its effectiveness in removing debris, excess food, and waste from the water.

Canister filters typically have multiple chambers or compartments that house different types of filter media, such as mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration media. This allows for thorough and efficient filtration, ensuring that the water quality remains optimal for clown loaches.

Canister filters also tend to have a higher flow rate, which is beneficial for clown loaches as they prefer well-oxygenated water. The strong water flow can simulate their natural habitat and provide them with the ideal conditions they need to thrive.

When selecting a canister filter for clown loaches, it’s important to consider the size of the tank and the number of fish you have. Canister filters come in various sizes, so be sure to choose one that is suitable for your tank’s capacity.

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the canister filter are essential to ensure its optimal performance. This includes regularly replacing or cleaning the filter media, as well as checking the impeller and tubing for any clogs or blockages. By properly maintaining the filter, you can ensure that your clown loaches have a clean and healthy environment to thrive in.

Clown Loach: Diseases and Treatment

Clown loaches, like many freshwater fish, are prone to ich, which is a common fish disease.

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that causes the deterioration of the fish’s fins, while velvet disease is caused by a parasitic organism that gives the fish a velvety appearance. Dropsy, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by swelling and bloating of the fish’s body.

When it comes to treating these diseases, it is important to be cautious with the use of certain medications. Clown loaches are particularly sensitive to substances such as formalin, malachite green, and copper, which are commonly found in fish medications. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully read the labels and instructions of any medication before administering it to clown loaches.

In cases of ich, which is one of the most common diseases affecting clown loaches, treatment typically involves raising the water temperature gradually to around 86°F (30°C) and adding aquarium salt to the tank. This combination helps to accelerate the life cycle of the ich parasite, making it more vulnerable to medication.

However, as mentioned earlier, caution must be exercised when using medications containing formalin, malachite green, or copper, as they can be harmful to clown loaches.


Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to fish diseases. Maintaining good water quality, providing a balanced diet, and avoiding overcrowding in the tank are all important factors in keeping clown loaches healthy and less susceptible to diseases.

Regular observation and monitoring of the fish’s behavior and appearance can also help identify any signs of illness early on, allowing for prompt treatment and a higher chance of recovery.

Remember these tips when setting up a tank for clown loaches. Providing them with suitable food fish, water conditions, ample swimming space, and proper care will ensure their well-being in captivity.

Diet and Feeding

Clown loaches have an omnivorous diet, meaning they eat live and prepared foods. These fish tend to take small fish, although this is also true of most species. They enjoy feasting on small crustaceans, worms, and insects. They consume algae and plant matter as part of their regular diet.

Clown loaches have an omnivorous diet…

In captivity, these fish can be fed various foods to meet their nutritional needs. High-quality pellets, flakes, and frozen or live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp are excellent options for feeding them.

Including vegetable-based foods in their diet is also essential. It is recommended to provide vegetables such as blanched peas or zucchini medallions occasionally.

To enhance the care of your clown loach, we highly recommend providing snails as a food source. These fish greatly enjoy snails as part of their diet.

Feeding Reminders

Remember to maintain a balanced diet when feeding your clown loach to prevent any nutritional deficiencies.

Overfeeding should be avoided to prevent water quality issues in the aquarium. It is best when keeping clown loach to provide them with small portions twice daily to ensure there is no food wastage.

By following these feeding guidelines and providing diverse food options, you can help your clown loach thrive and maintain optimal health throughout its life expectancy.

Clown Loach: Temperament in the Aquarium

Clown loaches are known for their unique temperament in the aquarium. Here’s what you need to know about their behavior and social interactions.

General Behavior With Other Fish

Clown loaches are generally peaceful fish, but they can become territorial during the breeding season. It’s important to provide enough space to establish their territories without causing harm to other tank mates.

These loaches are active swimmers that love exploring every nook and cranny of the tank, so they enjoy having plenty of hiding spots and obstacles to keep them entertained.

However, occasionally, clown loaches may exhibit fin-nipping behavior towards slow-moving fish. This is a natural instinct for them, but monitoring their interactions with other tank mates is essential.

Social Behavior

Clown loaches are highly social fish and prefer the company of their species. Though they live in schools, you may notice clown loaches’ aggressive and territorial behavior.

In the wild, they show shoaling behavior. Clown loaches live in large shoals and migrate during monsoons to flooded plains. Keeping them in groups of three or more helps replicate their natural behavior.

Clown loaches are highly social fish…

Resting Behavior

One peculiar behavior of clown loaches is “playing dead.” This resting state often worries keepers as they may mistake it for illness or death. When clown loaches rest, they lie on their sides motionless, resembling lifeless fish.

Carefully observe the fish’s gills to differentiate between playing dead and actual death. If you notice slight movements indicating breathing, then it is still alive. However, it’s crucial not to disturb or stress clown loaches while they are in this resting state.


Avoid tapping on the glass or making sudden movements near the tank to avoid disturbing or stressing clown loaches.

Understanding these aspects of clown loach temperament will help you create a suitable environment within your aquarium where they can thrive alongside other fish species peacefully.

Clow Loach Tank Mates

It is crucial to consider these loaches’ compatibility with other fish species, including other types of loaches, such as the Zebra. These loaches are recognized for their peaceful nature, allowing them to coexist harmoniously with a diverse range of community fish.

Suitable Companions

Regarding the suitable tank mates, they are tetras, rasboras, and dwarf cichlids. These small, active fish make great tank mates as they share similar habitat requirements and behaviors. Their pectoral fins are less likely to be targeted by the loaches.

Incompatible Species

Regarding tank mates for clown loaches, avoiding keeping them with aggressive or fin-nipping fish is crucial. Jaguar cichlids, red devils, Jack Dempseys, and jewel cichlids should not be housed with clown loaches.

It is also advisable to avoid keeping them with fish with long fins, such as Bettas and fancy plecos, as the loaches may nip at them.

Another unsuitable tank mate for clown loaches is goldfish, as they prefer lower temperatures, while these loaches require higher temperatures in their tropical freshwater habitat.

If you have snails in your aquarium, removing them as soon as possible is recommended because the clown loaches tend to enjoy eating them. Similarly, these active fish will likely see ornamental shrimp as tempting meals. Therefore, it is best to avoid keeping them together to prevent any issues or harm to the shrimp.

Clown Loach: Breeding Requirements and Challenges

To breed clown loaches, you need to find a sexually mature breeding pair, ideally around 6 inches long. Spawning usually occurs during rainy seasons in their natural habitat.

After spawning, the female and male Clown Loach should be removed to prevent them from consuming the young and eggs. The eggs can be raised like other freshwater fish fry, feeding them live infusoria, baby brine shrimp, and ground flakes.

Feeding the clown loaches small meals multiple times a day is important, with adult loaches being pickier eaters than the younger ones. Meaty supplements like fresh, frozen, and dried shrimps benefit their nutrition.

Breeding clown loaches can be challenging due to their specific requirements. They require separate breeding tanks with appropriate water parameters. Successfully raising the young has low odds, and there is expected to be a loss of many fries during the process.

Buying Clown Loach For Your Tank

When buying clown loaches, you should consider a few things to ensure you bring home healthy and happy fish for your tank. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind:

Check the general conditions in the fish store: Before purchasing clown loaches, look around the store. Make sure the tanks are clean and well-maintained. Observing other fish in the store is also a good idea to ensure they appear healthy.

Look for healthy fish: Clown loaches should have vibrant colors and clear skin. Avoid any individuals with pale or discolored patches, which could indicate illness. Active clown loaches that swim around energetically indicate good health.

Make sure they have hiding places: Clown loaches enjoy having hiding spots in their tank. Check if the fish store provides suitable hiding places like caves or driftwood. This will help your new clown loaches feel secure when introducing them into your tank.

Only buy loaches smaller than 2 inches/5 cm if you have kept them before: If you’re new to keeping clown loaches, it’s best to start with slightly larger individuals. Smaller ones can be more delicate and require extra care and attention.


Float the bag containing the fish in your aquarium for 10-15 minutes before releasing them into their new environment.

When bringing your new clown loaches home, it’s essential to acclimate them properly to avoid shock from sudden changes in water temperature or chemistry.

Remember these tips when purchasing clown loaches for your tank, ensuring you choose healthy individuals to thrive alongside other tank mates. By providing the right conditions and care, your clown loaches will bring vibrancy and liveliness to your aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do clown loaches have teeth?

Yes, clown loaches have small, pointed teeth. These teeth are primarily used for feeding purposes and are not typically harmful to humans or other tankmates. However, it’s important to handle them with care to avoid any potential injuries.

Do clown loaches clean the bottom of the tank?

Clown loaches are not explicitly known for cleaning the bottom of the tank like some other aquarium fish and species. While they may occasionally nibble on leftover food or detritus, their primary role in the aquarium is not as cleaners. Regular tank maintenance, such as gravel vacuuming and water changes, is necessary to keep the tank clean.

Are clown loaches sensitive to ammonia?

Yes, clown loaches are highly sensitive to ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to fish and can cause severe health issues, including stress, respiratory problems, and even death. It is crucial to maintain good water quality and ensure that ammonia levels are consistently kept at zero to keep clown loaches healthy and fish healthy.

Can clown loach live without oxygen?

No, clown loaches, like all fish, require oxygen to survive. They extract oxygen from the water through their gills. Clown loaches will struggle to breathe without sufficient oxygen levels in the tank and may suffocate. Proper aeration, water circulation, and regular water changes are essential to maintain adequate oxygen levels for clown loaches.

Do I need lighting for Clown Loaches?

While lighting is not specifically required for the well-being of clown loaches, it does play a role in their overall environment. A light cycle that mimics natural day and night patterns can help regulate their biological rhythms. Additionally, lighting enhances the aesthetics of the aquarium and allows for better viewing of the fish. It is recommended to provide a suitable lighting setup that balances the needs of the fish and the aesthetic preferences of the aquarist.

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