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 gentle giants are a joy to own and have been with us for over 10 years. That being said, they do come with a few caveats if you want to successfully raise them to their full potential. We have learned from our experience that there are some pitfalls and delights to caring for clown loaches.
What’s a Clown Loach?
Chromobotia macracanthus is a large and beautiful loach originating from the western islands of Indonesia. Its colorful appearance is what gives it its name: bright red-orange fins and a yellow-tan body with three prominent black bars. 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. We’ve even seen a clown loach pick up a little stone with its mouth while the other clown loaches chase it around, like a pack of playful puppies.
How big are clown loaches? Clown loaches can grow slowly and are often sold in small sizes. 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 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 #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. Clown loach owners often invest in backup heaters and a generator to ensure that the water is always hot.
Clown loaches are generally more active during dawn and dusk, when the sun isn’t as bright. To naturally tint the water with tannins, dim the lights or use Indian almond leaf to hide them. Consider adding plenty of hides for them to crawl into 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. If they are three or more, they might hide quite a bit. Six people may hide some of their activities if you have them. 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?
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. Feed them a protein-heavy diet of mollusks, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and sinking pellets. They love Repashy gel food and blanched zucchini slices.
Can clown loaches eat snails or are they more than happy to take care of your snail problem. 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. 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 breed clown loaches naturally, by copying 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).
Soon, the females will spawn when they are 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) female clown loach can produce thousands of eggs per spawn, but not all of them 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. You don’t need to have clown loaches if you don’t have the space, these are our favorites that share the same playful personality and come in a smaller package.