Care Guide for Clown Loaches – The Pack of Underwater Puppies
Are you thinking about buying a group clown loaches? Then you’re in for a treat. These jovial giants are an absolute pleasure to keep, and we’ve had the privilege of owning them for more than 10 years. There are some caveats to consider if you wish to help your clown loaches reach their full potential. These are our experiences with caring for clown loaches.
What’s a Clown Loach?
Chromobotia macrocanthhus is a beautiful, large loach from the western islands. Its colorful appearance is what gives it its name: bright red-orange fins and a yellow-tan body with three prominent black bars. They also exhibit silly, clown-like antics such as lying on their sides to sleep, making clicking sounds to communicate, and piling on top of each other in a tight corner. One clown loach even picked up a small stone with its mouth, while the other clown loaches ran after it. It was like a group of playful puppies.
What size are clown loaches? Because they grow so slow, most clown loaches are sold as small juveniles. We have seen them grow to lengths of 12-13inches (30-33cm), with a hefty body measuring 5-6inches (13-15cm), almost the same size as 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. Although they may sometimes fight with one another, this is normal behavior and helps establish their pecking orders. (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. You can treat them with IchX medication or salt if necessary. After that, wait until they’re healthy and well-fed before transferring them to the main display tank. Some clown loach owners have backup heaters or generators to ensure the water remains hot.
Clown loaches are generally more active during dawn and dusk, when the sun isn’t as bright. You can dim the lights to make them more active or use Indian almond leaves to natural stain the water. You can also add lots of hides to allow them to dart in and feel safe.
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. They may hide a lot if they have more than three. They may be more cautious if they have six. They will always be out if you have 30. Also, the more clown loaches that you can keep together, the more often 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?
Their metabolism is also boosted by the hot climate clown loaches like, so be sure to give them plenty of food. They are not picky eaters and use their whisker-like barbels to scavenge the floor of the aquarium for any remaining crumbs. Feed them a protein-heavy diet of mollusks, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and sinking pellets. They also like munching on blanched zucchini slices and Repashy gel food.
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
Clown loaches can be hard to sex, but males have bright red on their dorsal fins, golden-yellow bodies, and slender frames. On the other hand, females have darker colors, longer bodies and more pronounced fins. 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).
When the females become fat and swollen, spawning will occur soon. 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. The clown loaches that have just been hatched are large enough for you to eat baby brine shrimps, but some breeders prefer micro worms that can sink to the ground so the fry can 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.