Clown Loach – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

The Clown Loach is often a necessity in any fish enthusiast tank. The Clown Loach is a vibrant and playful fish that gets along well with 99.99% of all types of tank mate candidates. They are peacemakers and will shy away from conflict with tank mates. The Clown Loach is a bottom dwelling fish that will add movement in the bottom quarter of your tank. True Loach’s are nocturnal fish, although Clown Loaches stray from bright lights; they are active during the day. Staying in the lower area of your tank playing amongst the rock work and plant life.

Clown Loaches loving finding a hidden snail in your plant life; as snails are their favorite snack.

The Clown Loach has gone through two name changes before sticking with the name Clown Loach. Once given the name Cobitis macracanthus by a man named Peter Bleeker. Along with the name Botia macracanthus by Dr Marcus Kottelat. Now it’s official, it’s a fish with us very own genus and is called the Chromobotia macracanthus.

Clown Loach are Indonesian natives. Which means they are tropical fish. These fish are freshwater fish that are often found within flowing rivers during low tide seasons. Swimming upstream into smaller streams to spawn during monsoon season.

These fish haven’t gained their popularity in aquariums until recently. Therefore, they haven’t been extensively harvested in vast numbers in their native state. Unlike fish if other breed there is still an abundance of fish in the wild as in farmed environments. Living up to ten years; these fish are a long-lived fish that would thrive in a community tank.


Typical Behavior

These fish are not a fish you would want as a single fish aquarium. They are a highly social fish who thrive in a tank of other fish. They find fun in digging through the substrate searching for something to eat.

Due to be a shoaling fish they do best within a large tank with at least 5 of more Clown Loaches. If you buy less than five Clown Loaches these fish will quickly become stressed out and stay in high alert. This will cause them to become very shy and timid. They will not be active; hiding from other fish a majority of the time. If you have 5 fish and your Clown Loaches are having this behavior you may need a few more. As long as they have a large enough shoal these fish will be very active and outgoing fish.

Clown Loaches don’t always forage and look for the next bite. They find fun in chasing fish within their shoal around the tank. Stirring up something entertaining to watch.

These fish have been known to “play dead.” They lay on their side at the bottom of the tank and just lay there. Mimicking a dead fish. This is normal and doesn’t mean any sign of a health problem with your fish. This is normal behavior.

These fish have a matriarchal system. They will have an alpha female that they follow around and mimic. It’s often the oldest female within the shoal that lands the leader role.


These fish have deep tail fin that allows them to glide through the aquarium faster than other fish. Clown Loaches are orange with multiple black bars amongst its back. Most often the number of bars will end up being 3.  Often doing to be one that looks like a mask over the eye, one amongst the floral fin that goes onto the top of its back, and one between the other two.

A major difference between Clown Loach’s and other fish of is the fact that these fish don’t have scales. Rather a slimy mucus layer that supplies a protection for the fish. In most cases the presence of a black dorsal fin bar is a sign of aggression in the fish. It is not the case in Clown Loaches. As mentioned before these are a peaceful friendly breed of fish.

These fish have two sets of barbels on their nose. This is the things that look like whiskers. It helps them shift through the substrate. Clown Loaches also have a lateral system that alerts the fish for predators and a change in water.

In the wild there are two completely genetically opposites. One from Sumatra and one from Borneo. The Sumatra have a reddish orange color pectoral fins to display. While fish from Borneo have black pectoral fins.

If you were ever able to get your hands on an albino Clown Loach, get it. These fish are very rare. These fish still have some orange pigmentations, although they are faint; and all the black is replaced with white.

Clown Loach size

Juvenile Crown Loach’s trick inexperienced aquarium owners; being a regular sized guppies and juvenile gives this thought it’ll be a fish the same size as most other aquarium fish. That’s not the case. Clown Loach my start out as 2-3 inches as a juvenile, but they grow to be roughly 12 inches full grown.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

You will find these fish in slow moving, clear water in the wild. They reside mainly in rivers and streams.

Although, during the monsoon season they are migrating fish in order to spawn. They will come into a heavily planted area to spawn to feel safe and protected.

They will not spawn until the peak of moon season.

The rivers and streams often stay fairly warm, ranging between 75°F-85°F and normally have a Ph between 6-8. These fish are not keen to bright lights due to be a natural bottom feeder. They like just enough light to see to get around. They aren’t fans of big fancy lights or heavy filtration systems.

They prefer to live in areas with a lot of floating plant life and debris that cover the light coming in. They will also be found in overhangs.

These heavily planted areas not only block the light but cause a sense of safety to the fish. They believe that they aren’t being seen by predators and can remain calm and live longer. A fish with high stress will not live long. Keep this in mind it is essential in order to have a thriving tank.

Rocky and muddy substrate are often the most common substrates found within the habitat of these fish. Clown Loaches are found in muddy substrate with flooded plant life during the monsoon season.

Tank set up

You may want to have a mixture of sand and pebbles to create an environment that delivers a natural feel to it. The lighting will be the key to making these fish feel comfortable. Being a natural bottom feeder they like timid lights. Having to bright lights will cause these fish to not feel safe or comfortable; resulting in a shorter lifespan. Clown Loaches are active in dim lighting, when less predators are out feasting. You can achieve this by having floating plants blocking some of the light.

Having plants in your aquarium not only provides darkness to your tank; it also helps in aerating the tank. Along with supplying a place for hiding when sleeping or times these fish feel vulnerable. And a play to play.

These fish survive longer in the highest temperature allowance at 86°F but can tolerate cooler waters. Not only does it increase life expectancy in warm water, but it decreases the chance of the fish getting diseases, such as Ich.

The Ph should be monitored closely and should vary between 7.4 and 7.8. Although, there is some room for a slight fluctuation. This aquarium will need a heating and filtration system.

Keep in mind when purchasing a filtration system because while you need one that has a good filtration behind it; you need is to not produce strong currents. Because again, this is a slow water no current fish.

Clown Loach Tank Size

The minimum tank size for young Clown Loach is 75 gallons for a shoal of fish. As for adults you will need at least 150 gallons for a shoal of full-grown Clown Loaches. You need approximately 30 gallons of water per full grown Clown Loach.

Tank Mates

Clown Loaches can be found housing with a variety of different breeds of fish. Being a social and nonaggressive fish Clown Loaches get along well with its neighbors. Some of the neighbors being Tiger Barbs, Spotted-eel Loach, Barred Rainbowfish, Comb-spined Catfish, and Asian Arowana fish.

In a ranked community these fish will get along with fish that have similar personalities as fish in its natural habitat. Fish such as Cherry Barbs, Neon Tetra, Tiger Barbs, and Black Widow Tetras.

Being a social fish, these fish would get along well with other bottom dwelling species such as Kuhli Loach, Borneo Sucking Loach, and the Bristlenose Pleco.

Most species of Cichlids would strive in a tank with Clown Loaches. Although these are not a bottom dwelling fish, they strive in similar water conditions to the Clown Loach. This would add movement to different sections of the tank making it more visually appealing. Cichlids aren’t an aggressive fish so they would not provoke or harm your Clown Loaches. Being an easily maintainable fish, along with its easy-going personality it gives you a wide array of fish that do well and flourish with Clown Loaches.

Some people make the decision to house Clown Loach’s inside of an invertebrate tank. Using a mixture of freshwater lobster, Crayfish, Blue Lobster, and red-clawed crab. When choosing the tank mates for a Clown Loach it’s important to do your tease arch on each species of fish to ensure you aren’t adding any predatory fish into a tank with Clown Loach.

Keeping Clown Loach together

It’s recommended that these fish aren’t bought as a single fish for multiple reasons. As mentioned before this fish is a shoaling fish so it doesn’t feel safe alone. Without other fish of its kind it feels small and in harm’s way at all times. Another reason is that this fish is a social fish and it needs other fish of its kind to socialize with or it will become shy and will constantly hide.

It’s best kept with five or more Clown Loaches this will give them a sense of security. Giving them the opportunity to reach its full potential and not live a life in fear.

Caring for Clown Loaches

The Loach species as a whole is very prone to Ich. A fish disease also known as “the white spot disease.”

Ich is an ectoparasite that barrier itself into fish’s gills and skin. Often causing a bacterial or fungal infection throughout the fish. Loach’s get infected first due to the absence of scales.

It can be hard to spot physically at first. Although, the fish will begin scratching itself against things due to the disease.

It’s important to quarantine the fish at first sight of abnormalities; this will give your other fish a chance of not getting the disease.

Once quarantined you should treat the fish with chemicals like copper sulphate or Formalin based medicine. You can commonly find some Ich cures at your local pet store.

Water quality is one of the most important factors to play into the health of your Clown Loach. It’s important to keep up with water changes (recommended to do weekly ½ tank cleanings). These fish are sensitive to things such as nitrates. It’s recommended to do tri-weekly substrate vacuums time keep parasites from stockpiling up on your fish.  And again, watch the tank temperature.

What do they eat?

You should feed these fish a mixture of shrimp pellets and algae wafers. They also are great for going around sucking up the crumbs of the leftover fish tank for its neighbors.

Although they love shrimp and bloodworms, they would eat it all the time. It’s best to only feel them shrimp or bloodworms up to three times a week.

They also appreciate snails and would eat them every day.


Clown Loaches are beautiful active fish that would be an amazing addition to any tank. They call for a little experience in fish keeping due to their problems getting Ich so easily. These are bottom dwellers that are active and have fun playing and chasing each other around.

This fish will add that movement that no one can help but watch. Clown Loaches can add that thing you are missing in your tank.

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