Clown Loach

Clown Loaches are intriguing freshwater fish with a unique sense of character. Their brilliant orange and black stripes, coupled with their engaging behavior, have made them an enduring favorite among aquarium hobbyists. These active and social fish necessitate a higher level of care than some species, but their personality and stunning colors make them an excellent addition to community tanks.

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Care DIfficulty


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12 inches (30.5 cm)

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10 to 15 years

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Table of contents

Origin, Appearance, Size, and Lifespan

The Clown Loach, or Chromobotia macracanthus, hails from the river systems of Indonesia, especially in Borneo and Sumatra. Their natural habitats are typically slow-moving rivers with a lot of plant cover and a soft substrate.

In the wild, Clown Loaches are found in calm, deep waters teeming with plant life, which provides both food and hiding spots, while the dimly lit environment enhances their bold colors. As highly social creatures, these fish flourish in groups and are commonly seen in schools of five or more.

Their native environment features warm, slightly acidic water. The temperature generally ranges between 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 30 degrees Celsius), with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5, and water hardness between 5 to 15 dGH. In order to replicate a similar environment in your aquarium, maintain a stable water temperature, use a high-quality filtration system, and incorporate live plants and driftwood for added enrichment.

By replicating the Clown Loach's natural environment and ensuring suitable water conditions, you'll help your fish lead a healthy and content life in your aquarium.

Clown Loaches are admired for their striking orange bodies adorned with thick black vertical stripes, adding a burst of color to any aquarium. Even though they can be relatively large, growing up to approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm) in captivity, their vivacious nature and striking appearance make them an excellent choice for those looking for an animated and vibrant aquarium inhabitant. These amusing fish bring delight to onlookers as they dart about the tank, making them a beloved choice among hobbyists of all skill levels.

With the right care, Clown Loaches can live up to 10 to 15 years in captivity. As sociable creatures, they thrive in groups and should be kept in schools of at least five individuals. To support their well-being and ensure longevity, it's essential to provide a spacious tank with plenty of hiding spots and caves, as well as a balanced diet that includes high-quality commercial foods and a variety of live or frozen foods.

Fun Facts

Having explored the appearance and lifespan of Clown Loaches, this section will shed light on some intriguing aspects of these vibrant fish that make them a star attraction in the aquarium hobby. With their playful behavior and striking markings, Clown Loaches are teeming with surprises that are sure to engage and delight aquarists.

  • Avoiding predators: In the wild, Clown Loaches have a unique way of warding off potential threats. They can produce a loud clicking sound when they're distressed or excited, which serves to confuse and deter predators, thus increasing their survival chances.
  • Sleeping on their sides: One fascinating characteristic of Clown Loaches is their unusual resting behavior. Unlike most fish species, Clown Loaches have been known to sleep on their sides. This behavior can sometimes worry new owners, but it's completely normal for this species.
  • Semi-transparent fins: Clown Loaches are distinguished by their semi-transparent fins, which are edged in black and white, adding to their distinctive appearance. These striking fins help them navigate their dimly lit habitats and serve as a form of communication with other Clown Loaches.
  • Color changes: Clown Loaches have the ability to change the intensity of their colors depending on their environment, mood, or health status. Under stress or in poor health, their colors may fade. However, when they are comfortable and in good health, their colors become more vivid, enhancing their appearance in an aquarium setting.
  • Schooling fish: Clown Loaches are schooling fish, preferring to move together in groups. This behavior not only provides a sense of security but also creates an impressive visual display in an aquarium. Their synchronized movements, coupled with their vibrant hues, can turn any home aquarium into a captivating underwater spectacle.

With this newfound knowledge of some fascinating Clown Loach facts, you'll be better equipped to appreciate the quirks and intricacies of these lovable fish. In the upcoming section, we'll delve into the ideal tank setups to ensure your Clown Loaches have a perfect environment to thrive and exhibit their lively behaviors and vibrant markings.

Recommended Tank Setups

This guide includes the key elements—tank, filter, heater, lighting, substrate, and more—to ensure you can establish a suitable environment for Clown Loaches and other compatible freshwater fish species in your aquarium. As you transition from cost-effective to high-end setups, you'll encounter more opportunities for customization, aesthetics, and advanced features. Clown Loaches are social fish and should be kept in groups of at least five to minimize stress and promote their well-being. Usually, Clown Loaches are priced between $8 and $15 per fish, but prices can vary based on aspects like size, quality, and availability.

Budget-friendly setup (around $200):

  • Tank: 55-gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($80 - $150)
  • Filter: Hang-on-back (HOB) or sponge filter rated for 55 gallons ($40 - $80)
  • Heater: 200-300 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($30 - $60)
  • Lighting: Basic LED aquarium light ($30 - $70)
  • Substrate: Budget-friendly aquarium sand or small gravel ($20 - $40)
  • Decor: A few pieces of driftwood and rocks, along with low-cost live plants like Java Fern and Anubias ($30 - $60)
  • Fish: Minimum 5 Clown Loaches ($40 - $75)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Mid-range setup (around $400 - $650):

  • Tank: 55-75 gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($150 - $250)
  • Filter: Canister filter or high-quality HOB filter rated for the tank size ($80 - $200)
  • Heater: 300-400 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($50 - $80)
  • Lighting: LED aquarium light with adjustable settings for plant growth and color enhancement ($70 - $150)
  • Substrate: Nutrient-rich aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks ($30 - $60)
  • Decor: A mix of driftwood, rocks, and live plants such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne species ($60 - $120)
  • Fish: 5-8 Clown Loaches ($40 - $120)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

High-end setup (above $800):

  • Tank: 75-100 gallon rimless aquarium with a glass canopy ($250 - $500)
  • Filter: High-quality canister filter rated for the tank size ($150 - $300)
  • Heater: 400-500 watt adjustable aquarium heater with an external temperature controller ($60 - $100)
  • Lighting: Advanced LED lighting system with customizable settings for plant growth, color enhancement, and day/night cycles ($200 - $400)
  • Substrate: Premium aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks, with added root tabs for additional plant nutrition ($40 - $80)
  • Decor: An arrangement of driftwood, rocks, and live plants to mimic a natural aquascape, featuring plant species such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, Cryptocoryne species, and carpeting plants like Dwarf Hairgrass or Monte Carlo ($80 - $200)
  • Fish: 5-10 Clown Loaches ($40 - $150)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Please remember that these figures are only suggestions, and you should take into account other considerations such as tank mates and the individual behaviors of your Clown Loaches when deciding on the number to house in your aquarium. Prices may fluctuate depending on location, brand, and availability.

Set Up Your Tank

Having covered the basics of the ideal aquarium conditions for your Clown Loaches, let's delve into the practical steps of how to put together your tank. We will walk you through selecting the ideal location, cleaning and setting up your tank, installing vital equipment, and properly cycling the water to ensure a healthy environment for your Clown Loaches. We will also guide you on the best acclimation practices to guarantee a smooth transfer for your Clown Loaches into their new home. This comprehensive guide will lead you to create a flourishing aquatic ecosystem in which your fish can thrive.

  • Step #1: Find the best location for your tank, ensuring it's not exposed to direct sunlight, heat sources, or chilly drafts. Check that the chosen surface is balanced and robust enough to support your tank once filled. If your tank requires a stand, follow the manufacturer's guidelines to assemble it, then position the empty tank on top.
  • Step #2: Start by cleansing your tank using clean, warm water. Avoid using any soap or harsh chemicals as they can harm your fish. With the tank clean, proceed to rinse the substrate (like sand or gravel) under running water until it's debris-free. Spread this substrate evenly at the bottom of the tank, creating a slight incline towards the back for aesthetic appeal.
  • Step #3: Before adding water to your tank, it's prudent to plan your aquarium's layout, determining where you'll place equipment such as heaters and filters. This foresight simplifies the setup process and long-term maintenance. Install the heater and filter following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. For those using a sponge or under-gravel filter, remember to position it below the substrate before adding water.
  • Step #4: Use items such as driftwood, rocks, and plants to decorate your tank, providing hideaways and enhancing the visual appeal of the environment. Make sure to maintain ample swimming space for your Clown Loaches. Arrange the decorations strategically, ensuring they won't interfere with or damage your equipment. For stability, you can anchor plants to rocks or driftwood.
  • Step #5: Add water to your tank, ensuring it's treated with a water conditioner to neutralize chlorine or chloramines if present in your tap water. To avoid disturbing the substrate, place a clean plate or plastic bag on it and pour water onto this surface. Fill the tank until it's about 2/3 full, then install the aquarium light and any other equipment like air pumps or CO2 systems. Consider using a light timer to regulate the day-night cycle, which is crucial for both fish and plants.
  • Step #6: Once all equipment is installed, complete the tank filling, leaving some space at the top for gas exchange. Turn on all equipment, monitor the water temperature, and adjust the heater as necessary. Allow the tank to cycle for several weeks to encourage beneficial bacterial growth and stabilize water parameters. This process can be hastened by adding a bacterial starter culture. Use an aquarium test kit to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.
  • Step #7: When your tank has fully cycled and water parameters are stable, it's time to introduce your Clown Loaches. Acclimate them slowly to the new tank conditions. Start by floating the unopened fish bag in the tank for about 20 minutes to equalize the temperature. Then, gradually add tank water to the bag, letting the fish acclimatize to the new water chemistry. Use a net to carefully move the fish from the bag to the tank, avoiding any unnecessary stress or exposure to the bag water.
  • Step #8: With your Clown Loaches in their new home, establish a regular feeding routine with appropriate quantities of high-quality food for your species of fish. Carry out regular water changes, approximately 20-30% every week or two, and consistently monitor water parameters using a test kit to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Observe your fish closely for any signs of stress or illness, particularly in the first few weeks following their introduction. Be ready to intervene if required, such as adjusting water parameters or seeking advice from an experienced aquarist.

By adhering to this step-by-step guide, along with the additional setup tips, you're poised to create a vibrant aquatic habitat where your Clown Loaches will thrive in their new home.

Recommended Water Parameters

Maintaining the correct water conditions for Clown Loaches is essential to their health and happiness. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

  • Temperature: Ensure that the water stays between 77°F and 86°F (25°C and 30°C), mimicking their natural tropical habitat.
  • pH: The ideal pH range is between 6.0 and 7.5, with a slight preference for more acidic conditions.
  • Hardness: Clown Loaches prefer soft to moderately hard water conditions (5-15 dGH).
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm, and aim to maintain nitrate levels below 20 ppm.
  • Lighting: Moderate to low lighting conditions is best, as Clown Loaches are somewhat nocturnal and shy.
  • Water movement: Moderate to fast water flow is preferred, replicating their natural riverine habitats.

Be sure to frequently test your aquarium water and perform necessary water changes to keep these parameters stable.

Routine Water Maintenance

Regular water changes are essential for a thriving Clown Loach tank, aiding in the removal of waste and excess nutrients. Here's a routine to follow:

  • Weekly water changes: Substitute 25-30% of the tank water every week.
  • Test water parameters: Regularly check pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and hardness.
  • Use a gravel vacuum: To maintain substrate cleanliness during water changes, use a gravel vacuum.
  • Dechlorinate the water: Prior to adding tap water to the aquarium, treat it with a water conditioner.
  • Match temperature and pH: Confirm that the newly added water matches the tank's conditions.
  • Acclimate the fish: After water changes, allow your fish time to adapt to the new conditions.

Other considerations to ensure your fish's well-being and your aquarium's aesthetic appeal include:

  • Monitor lighting duration: Aim for a consistent 10-12 hour photoperiod daily, keeping track of the duration of your aquarium lights. This aids in controlling excessive algae growth.
  • Plant maintenance: Regularly prune live plants and remove any dead leaves or plant matter to prevent water quality problems.
  • Filter maintenance: As per the manufacturer's recommendation, clean or replace the filter media every 4-6 weeks. Avoid replacing all filter media at once to prevent disruption of beneficial bacteria.

Diet and Feeding Schedule

As omnivores, Clown Loaches thrive on a varied diet. Here are some feeding tips:

  • Flakes and pellets: Use high-quality flake or pellet food suitable for omnivorous bottom feeders.
  • Frozen and live foods: Consider offering brine shrimp, bloodworms, or tubifex worms as special treats.
  • Vegetable matter: For added nutrients, provide blanched vegetables like zucchini or cucumber slices.
  • Feeding frequency: Aim to feed smaller portions twice a day, being careful to avoid overfeeding.

Stress and Diseases

Clown Loaches can suffer from stress due to poor water quality, unsuitable tank conditions, or aggression. Here's how to address potential stressors:

  • Watch for stress signs: If your Clown Loaches exhibit unusual behaviors like hiding, sluggish movement, or loss of color, they may be stressed.
  • Check water quality: Regularly test your aquarium water and maintain ideal parameters for Clown Loaches.
  • Monitor tank mates: Ensure your Clown Loaches are not bullied by other fish in the tank.

Clown Loaches can be susceptible to some common fish diseases:

  • Ich (white spot disease): If you see white spots on your Clown Loaches, they may have contracted Ich, a common parasitic infection. Raising the tank temperature to around 86°F (30°C) and using an anti-parasitic medication can help treat this.
  • Fin rot: This bacterial infection can lead to frayed or discolored fins. Regular water changes, using aquarium salt, and applying antibacterial medication can help combat this disease.
  • Skin flukes and worms: Clown Loaches can be susceptible to skin flukes and worm parasites. Treat these with a suitable anti-parasitic medication.
  • Clown Loach Disease: This is a disease specific to Clown Loaches, manifesting as a sudden change in behavior, refusal to eat, and eventual lethargy. Unfortunately, the cause and treatment are currently unknown.

Preventing disease in Clown Loaches is best accomplished by maintaining high water quality, feeding a balanced diet, and quarantining new fish before introducing them to the main tank.


Breeding Clown Loaches is considered challenging due to their late sexual maturity and specific breeding requirements. However, with the right conditions and patience, breeding can be successful:

  • Step #1: Set up a suitable breeding environment, ideally a large tank with a pH level of around 6.0 to 6.5, a temperature of 82°F (28°C), and soft water conditions. Include hiding spots and spawning areas for the fish's comfort.
  • Step #2: Choose healthy, mature male and female Clown Loaches for breeding. Unlike many other species, Clown Loaches reach sexual maturity quite late, often not until they are about 5 years old.
  • Step #3: Feed the breeding pair a high-protein diet of live or frozen foods for several weeks to enhance their vitality.
  • Step #4: Introduce the pair to the breeding tank, increase the water temperature slightly, and dim the lighting to encourage spawning. The eggs will be scattered by the female and fertilized by the male in open water.
  • Step #5: After spawning, promptly remove the adults as they might eat the eggs. The eggs will hatch in around 3 days, and the fry will start swimming in about a week. Initially, feed them infusoria or liquid fry food, gradually introducing crushed flake food as they grow.
  • Step #6: Monitor the growth of the fry and, if needed, separate them by size to prevent cannibalism.

Breeding Clown Loaches can be a rewarding experience, but patience, care, and attention to detail are critical to your success.

Recommended Tank Mates

Here are the top 10 suggested companions for Clown Loaches:

  1. Rainbowfish
  2. Rasboras
  3. Gouramis
  4. Angelfish
  5. Platies
  6. Swordtails
  7. Yoyo Loaches
  8. Bristlenose Plecos
  9. Siamese Algae Eaters
  10. Corydoras Catfish

Keep in mind to keep away from tiny, slow, or overly territorial species as they can cause issues for your Clown Loaches. Be observant of the behavior of newly introduced species to ensure they are not causing stress or exhibiting aggressive behavior towards your Clown Loaches.


In essence, Clown Loaches are a highly fascinating species of freshwater fish, recognized for their unique appearance and social behavior. These fish require specific water conditions, a balanced diet, and a well-structured environment to flourish in captivity. With appropriate care, they can live up to 10-15 years and serve as a lively component of any aquarium. When picking companions for your Clown Loaches, it's important to select peaceful species that won't harm them or invade their territory. Breeding Clown Loaches is complex and requires a dedicated hobbyist to achieve success, but it can be a rewarding experience. Altogether, Clown Loaches are a captivating and active species that can add charm and life to any aquarium setting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the optimal aquarium size for Clown Loaches?

Clown Loaches need ample space due to their size and activity levels. A 75-gallon tank is the smallest recommended size for a small group, but a larger tank is better for maintaining stable water conditions and providing sufficient space for them to roam.

How many Clown Loaches should be housed together?

As Clown Loaches are social fish, they thrive in groups. It is recommended to keep them in groups of at least 5-6. A larger group will not only make your fish feel more secure but also promote their interesting natural behaviors.

What water conditions do Clown Loaches require?

Clown Loaches prefer water temperatures between 77°F and 86°F (25°C and 30°C), a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and moderately hard water.

What do Clown Loaches eat?

Clown Loaches are omnivorous and need a diverse diet. You can feed them a combination of high-quality flake or pellet food, supplemented with live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and snails.

Are Clown Loaches compatible with other fish?

Yes, Clown Loaches are generally peaceful and can coexist with other similarly sized, non-aggressive species. Ideal companions include rasboras, rainbowfish, and bristlenose plecos.

How can I differentiate between male and female Clown Loaches?

Male Clown Loaches are generally larger and have a more pronounced suborbital spine compared to females.

How long do Clown Loaches live?

With proper care and optimal tank conditions, Clown Loaches can live for 10 to 15 years.

How do I breed Clown Loaches?

Breeding Clown Loaches is a complex task, as they require particular conditions, such as a large tank, soft, acidic water, and a quiet, well-structured environment. Use a separate breeding tank, and ensure you have a mature, healthy pair.

Do Clown Loaches require a planted tank?

While not strictly required, a planted tank can greatly benefit Clown Loaches. Live plants provide hiding spots, contribute to water quality, and create a more natural environment similar to their native habitat.

Can Clown Loaches change color?

Yes, Clown Loaches can undergo color changes due to various factors, such as stress, illness, or changes in water conditions. If you notice your Clown Loaches showing a loss of color, it's important to check the water parameters and monitor their health closely.