Care Guide for Clown Loaches: The Pack of Underwater Puppies
Thinking about getting a group of clown loaches? You’re in for a surprise. These jovial giants are an absolute pleasure to keep, and we’ve had the privilege of owning them for more than 10 years. However, there are some things you need to know if your goal is to raise them to their full potential. These are our experiences with caring for clown loaches.
What is a Clown Loach?
Chromobotia macracanthus is a large and beautiful loach originating from the western islands of Indonesia. The clown loach’s name comes from its brightly colored appearance. It has yellow-tan bodies, three prominent black bands, and bright red-orange fins. You will also see them making silly clown-like sounds, such as clicking to communicate and lying on their backs to sleep. A clown loach has been known to pick up small stones with its mouth and chase them around like a pack.
What size do clown loaches get? Clown loaches are typically sold as relatively small juveniles in pet stores, and most people do not realize how big they get because they grow so slowly. In our care, they have reached lengths of 12-13 inches (30-33 cm) long with a beefy body of 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) tall, almost the size of an American football.
Adult clown loaches’ colors tend to fade as they age.
Are clown loaches aggressive? Not in our experience. We will go over appropriate tank mates later in this article, but we have kept them in African cichlid tanks, community aquariums, and oddball fish setups. They may occasionally fight, but this is normal behavior that establishes their pecking order. (As a side note, be aware that they have a retractable spike under each eye that can accidentally get caught in your fish net or hand if you need to move them.)
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Clown Loaches
Our #1 piece of advice is to keep the water hotter than normal at 82-86degF (28-30degC). Clown loaches can be prone to ich (or white spot disease), especially since they are often transported in cooler temperatures, so when you take them home, make sure to isolate them in a quarantine tank first so that they won’t accidentally spread disease to your other fish. If necessary, treat them with salt or Ich-X medication. Then wait until they are well fed and healthy before transferring them into your main tank. Clown loach owners often invest in backup heaters and a generator to ensure that the water is always hot.
Clown loaches are more active in the morning and evening when the sun is not as bright. If you find them disappearing all the time, consider dimming the lights or using Indian almond leaves to naturally stain the water with tannins. Also, add plenty of hides so they can dart into them and feel safe inside.
What size tank do clown loaches need? For juveniles, the minimum size we recommend is a 55-gallon aquarium. Because clown loaches are slow growers, this fish tank may last you until they are about 3 years old or 6 inches (15 cm) long. Afterwards, you will need to upgrade their aquarium to a larger size. Make sure you have enough room for a monster tank because it can be very difficult to rehome large fish.
Keep as much clown loaches as you can. You have the possibility of them becoming 1-foot giants.
How many clown loaches should be kept together? As a schooling fish, they can be a bit shy if you do not get enough friends (of the same species) to hang out with. If you have three, they may hide a lot. If you have six, they may hide some of the time. They will always be out if you have 30. In other words, the more clown loaches you can house together, the more you will see them.
Are clown loaches good community fish? Yes, as long as you do not put them with fish or invertebrates that are small enough to fit in their mouths. In fact, if you cannot keep a giant group of clown loaches, try adding a bunch of schooling fish to act as dither fish. Dither fish are outgoing species that swim out in the open, signaling to timid fish that it is safe to come out. Rainbowfish, Congo tetras, and tiger barbs are all suitable tank mates that can encourage your clown loaches to stop hiding.
What do Clown Loaches Eat
Clown loaches love the heat, which also increases their metabolism. Make sure they are fed plenty. They are not picky eaters and use their whisker-like barbels to scavenge the floor of the aquarium for any remaining crumbs. They should be fed a high-protein diet consisting of mollusks (bloodworms), tubifex worms, sinking pellets, mollusks, and bloodworms. They love Repashy gel food and blanched zucchini slices.
Are clown loaches allowed to eat snails? If you don’t want your clown loach to be a snack, do not add any expensive pet snails.
Provide a wide variety of fish foods for your clown loaches to ensure that they get a well-balanced diet.
How to Breed Clown Loaches
Although clown loaches are difficult to sex, male clown loaches have bright red dorsal fins and golden-yellow bodies. They also have slender frames. Females, on the other hand, have darker fins, broader bodies, and duller colors. While clown loaches can breed at an earlier age, adults that are older than three years and bigger than 4 inches (10 cm) tend to produce greater amounts of larger-sized eggs. Traditionally, fish farms used hormones to induce artificial breeding. Some farms are now able to breed clown loaches naturally by mimicking the wild conditions.
Adult clown loaches in Indonesia swim upriver to spawn. Farmers have found that they should prepare the adults for breeding at higher temperatures (around 82°F/28°C), higher pH levels (to imitate rivers) and in medium to hard water. The ideal temperature for breeding is around 78°F (25°C), lower pH (6.2), and softer water (to mimic the floodplains in the rainy season).
The females will soon spawn if they become fat and swollen. The eggs are loosely scattered throughout the aquarium and will swell up in size after being laid. The eggs should be removed from the aquarium if they are not being fed. Although clown loaches can be eaten as live baby brine shrimp when they hatch, some breeders prefer microworms that sink to ground to allow the fry to eat them.
A 7-inch (18 cm tall) female clown loach may produce thousands of eggs per year, but not all will be fertilized.
Clown loaches are very popular fish because of their striking looks and fun-loving nature, but most people do not buy enough to make a healthy-sized school or they are not prepared to house them in the long run. If you have fallen in love with this fish, then be ready to build the right environment for them that will showcase their unique behavior. However, if you don’t have the real estate to keep clown loaches, consider some of our favorite loaches that have the same playful personality but come in a much smaller package.