Care Guide for Clown Loaches: The Pack of Underwater Puppies
Are you thinking about buying a group clown loaches? If so, you are 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 is a Clown Loach?
Chromobotia macracanthus is a large and beautiful loach originating from the western islands of Indonesia. The clown loach gets its common name from its colorful appearance, consisting of bright red-orange fins, a yellow-tan body, and three prominent black bands. The clown loach also has silly antics, including lying on its backs to rest, clicking sounds to communicate with each other, and piled on top of one another in tight corners. 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. 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.
As they age, the colors of adult clown loaches tend to fade.
Are clown loaches aggressive or friendly? Not based on 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 number one piece of advice is to keep your water warmer 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. 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.
Try to keep as many clown loaches as possible, with the expectation that they will become 1-foot giants in the future.
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. 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?
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. They should be fed a high-protein diet consisting of mollusks (bloodworms), tubifex worms, sinking pellets, mollusks, and bloodworms. They also like munching on blanched zucchini slices and Repashy gel food.
Can clown loaches eat snails or are they more than happy to take care of your snail problem. Unless you are looking for a quick snack, don’t add costly pet snails to the clown loach tank.
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. The females have darker fins and a wider body, as well as duller colors. Although clown loaches can reproduce earlier than others, those who live longer than three years or are larger than 10 cm (10 inches) tend to have more 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. Cooler temperatures are better for breeding, with a lower pH of 6.2 and softer water (to imitate floodplains during rainy seasons).
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. Newly hatched clown loaches are large enough to eat live baby brine shrimp, but some breeders prefer live micro worms that sink to the ground for the fry to easily eat.
Female clown loaches can produce thousands upon thousands of eggs each spawn. However, not all of these eggs 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.