Clown Loaches are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium scene. They’re found in tanks all over the world!

And it’s pretty obvious why.

These fish are easy to care for and absolutely beautiful. This makes them a great choice for beginners who want to add a splash of color to their tank (or seasoned aquarists who don’t want a high-maintenance species).

This guide will cover the fundamentals of Clown Loach care to help you know what to expect, and how to help them thrive. You’ll learn about their ideal tank size, diet, tank mates, and more!

Species Summary

The Clown Loach (scientific name: Chromobotia macracantha) is a peaceful freshwater fish with a quirky appearance.

Appropriately named for their vibrant colors, these fish make beautiful additions to community tanks. They are widely distributed and have been a staple in the fish-keeping community for several decades.

A Clown Loach swimming toward the glass in the tank

They come from inland waters in the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Interestingly enough, these fish serve as a valuable source of food to those living in the area. However, thanks to their penchant for spawning in large numbers, wild-caught fish are also sold all over the world.

Hardy and easy to care for, Clown Loaches are an excellent choice for aquarists of any skill level.

Average Clown Loach Size

The average Clown Loach size when fully grown is around 12 inches. It’s said that they can get a bit longer in the wild, but most fish will max out at this length when kept in captivity.

When you see these fish in pet stores they’re usually no more than two or three inches long. As a result, many potential owners make the mistake of thinking that these are small fish. As you can tell, this is definitely not the case.

Author Note: Clown Loaches have a moderate but steady growth rate. This means if you start them out with a smaller tank when they’re not so large, you won’t have a lot of time before you need to upgrade.

Lifespan

The typical Clown Loach lifespan in captivity is at least 10 years.

There are a lot of factors that can affect the life expectancy of this fish. In pristine natural conditions, this species can reportedly live up to 25 years! However, this is quite rare in captivity.

Despite their long lifespan. Clown Loaches are not immune to health problems. Poor living conditions and a lack of good care can cut their lives short. Never a long potential lifespan as an excuse to cut corners with their care.

Appearance

There’s no denying that Clown Loaches have an interesting look. Everything from their shape to their color is unique!

The body of the Clown Loach is noticeably arched. The dorsal line is curved while the bottom of the fish is flat. That upper dorsal line curves from the base of the tail to their underturned mouth!

The mouth of this freshwater fish is similar to catfish and other loaches. Several pairs of barbels surround their fleshy lips to help scavenge for food.

While it’s difficult to see, these fish do have pointy spines. They’re located just below the eyes and can extend as a self-defense mechanism. They’re not venomous, but the spines can prick your finger or get caught in netting.

A few Clown Loaches looking for food

The Clown Loach is covered in several colors. These colorful freshwater fish are primarily yellowish-orange. The vibrancy of this color can vary from fish to fish. You’ll see some fish with eye-popping orange while others have more subdued pale yellow.

Either way, the base color is accompanied by three black bands. The bands are vertical and take on a triangular shape. The front stripe covers the eye like a mask while the back stripe extends into the dorsal fin.

Most of the fins are bright red in color. Though, some fish coming from Borneo tend to have black pigmentation on the pectoral fins.

The Clown Loach is sexually dimorphic. Males are typically more vibrant and colorful. They also have a larger tail with a more exaggerated “V” shape. Meanwhile, the females are usually slightly plumper.

Care

There’s a reason why this species is seen so often in the fishkeeping community! Clown Loach care is very easy since these fish can adapt to most aquarium conditions well.

Unlike other species, they’re not super fussy. This species can handle slight fluctuations in their habitat without major problems.

That said, providing an optimal level of care is always important. The goal is to provide an environment where these fish can live happy and healthy lives. To do that, follow the established care guidelines below.

Clown Loach Tank Size

Because these fish are sold as juveniles, many aren’t prepared to accommodate their steady growth rate. To avoid making that mistake, you need to plan for a spacious tank from the get-go.

At the very least, a group of juveniles must be kept in a 75-gallon tank.

However, we recommend utilizing a tank that can hold 100 gallons or more. That will provide ample room to swim and grow.

Now, as adults, the minimum tank size goes up significantly. For a small group of adult Clown Loaches, you’re going to need a tank that can hold 150 gallons of water or more.

As a good rule of thumb, adults need about 30 gallons of space each.

Water Parameters

The most important thing to consider when caring for any fish is the water conditions. Your fish can only stay healthy when they’re in the right environment. Luckily, managing water parameters is one of the easiest parts of Clown Loach care.

These fish come from warm tropical waters. As a result, they’ll do just fine in standard tropical tank conditions. Stick to these parameters, and you should have no problem keeping your fish healthy.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 86°F (around 78°F to 79°F is the sweet spot)
  • pH level: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 KH

It’s also very important to perform regular water tests to be sure these parameters are being maintained. Use a reliable test kit and check the aquarium every few days.

This will allow you to provide consistency and prevent any unwanted shifts. While these fish are pretty hardy, they’re not immune to suboptimal water conditions.

What To Include In Their Tank

Decorating your new tank is where you can get a little creative. Clown Loaches love a well-decorated tank filled with plants and natural hiding spots.

For most of their life, the fish live in large slow-flowing rivers. However, they often move to shallower bogs after the monsoon season.

To replicate this environment, fill the bottom of the tank with a sandy substrate. You can mix small rocks, pebbles, and gravel to provide a more natural look.

Then, fill the tank with all kinds of live plants!

One freshwater Clown Loach in a well-planted aquarium

Plants will serve as a hiding place for the fish while also providing some much-needed shade. We recommend plants like Java Moss, Hornwort, Water Spangles, Anubias, Riccia fluitans, and Amazon Sword plants.

Incorporate a healthy mix of floating plants and submerged plants. After that, add some driftwood, rocks, and caves.

Author Note: Keep the lighting relatively subdued. In the wild, the waters they call home are darker. So strong lights would only throw off their natural cycle.

Standard filtration equipment will work fine with this fish (there’s no need to get anything heavy-duty). As long as it can effectively cycle the tank to remove ammonia and nitrates, it will serve your fish well.

Common Possible Diseases

Clown Loaches can suffer from all of the major tropical freshwater fish diseases.

However, they are especially at risk for Ich.

This species is usually the first to show symptoms in a community tank, so you’ll need to keep an eye out and provide care as soon as you can. Understanding this is also helpful because it will allow you to protect the other fish in your aquarium.

The ectoparasite is highly contagious and quickly spreads throughout the community. Thus, you’ll need to quarantine infected fish as soon as possible.

You can treat Ich with many over-the-counter medicines. Contrary to popular belief, Clown Loaches do have scales and can be treated with copper-based medicines.

Author Note: Don’t forget to consider any copper sensitivities in the other species you own too.

However, you must exercise caution. Clown Loaches are known to be sensitive to a wide variety of medications. Most owners will provide half of the dosage to avoid problems. Read medication instructions closely to ensure that you’re treating your fish safely.

Food & Diet

When it comes to picking food for your Clown Loach, these fish are pretty easy to please. They are omnivores that readily accept most commercial food products without any issue.

One of the best ways to go is by providing sinking pellets and algae wafers as their main diet staple. Chances are, you’ll see them foraging for any leftover flakes that other fish didn’t eat as well!

In addition to dried food, you can provide Clown Loaches occasional live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods as snacks. They enjoy earthworms and bloodworms. Brine shrimp works well, too.

Clown Loaches also love to eat snails!

These fish are known to eat any freshwater snail they can get ahold of. They can help keep snail populations in your tank under control!

Behavior & Temperament

Clown Loaches are peaceful and easy-going. They usually stick to the middle and lower parts of the aquarium. However, these fish can cohabitate with most peaceful species (even ones that dwell in the same areas of the tank).

These fish are most active when the lighting conditions are low.

You can usually see the fish swimming around the tank in the early morning or after the sun goes down. When they’re not doing that, you can find them hiding out under plants for shelter from the light.

Clown Loaches are considered to be schooling fish. When kept in groups, the fish will swim around and chase each other. It’s a playful behavior that’s a joy to watch!

Unfortunately, social behavior tends to go away when they’re not kept in groups. Solitary fish or those kept in smaller pairs tend to be shyer and more skittish.

Author Note: This is why we always recommend keeping them in groups. It will give them more confidence, reduce stress, and make them more fun for you to observe.

Tank Mates

The best Clown Loach tank mates are going to be others of the same species. We recommend keeping at least five fish together.

Chromobotia macracantha in a group

A neat thing about this fish is that you don’t have to worry about achieving a specific male-to-female ratio. Territorial behavior isn’t an issue with this species!

When it comes to keeping them with other species, you have a lot of options. Any non-aggressive fish that shares the same environmental needs will typically work just fine.

Here are some suitable tank mates for the Clown Loach:

Can You Keep Them With Cichlids?

We hear from a lot of potential owners who are curious if Clown Loaches can be kept with cichlids. While there are definitely exceptions to the rule, this is not something we recommend (especially with bottom-dwellers).

There are so many other great tank mate options out there that the upside is not worth it in our opinion. If you really want cichlids as well, we recommend just getting another tank.

Breeding

Unfortunately, Clown Loach breeding is very difficult in captivity. A vast majority of the fish in the pet trade are wild-caught.

Some aquarists may get lucky and initiate spawning in the right conditions, but the eggs are rarely fertilized. Even if they do get fertilized, the males and females will usually eat the eggs before they hatch!

The reason it’s so difficult to breed Clown Loaches in captivity is that these fish migrate to spawn. They move to flooded bogs after the monsoon season to lay eggs. It’s nearly impossible to replicate those conditions in a captive environment.

Because of this, we recommend avoiding any attempts for the health and happiness of your fish. Since the chances of success are so small, they’re better off in a consistent and stable environment.

If someone manages to figure out how to consistently (and safely) pull this off in captivity we’ll update this section with their methods.

Now You’re Prepared

As you can see, there’s a reason why these fish are so popular. We’ve been a huge fan of them for years, and recommend them to other aquarists constantly!

Clown Loach care is not challenging and can be handled by just about anyone. When you combine this with their natural beauty, you get a species that deserves every bit of attention it gets.

If there’s anything you think we should add to this care guide feel free to let us know. Our mission is to provide the best information online, and we could always use a little extra help!

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