Clown Loach Full Guide – Care, Tank Mates, Size & Full Details!

Clown Loaches (Chromobotia macracantha) are a peaceful and striking freshwater fish native to the rivers and streams of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. They have been a popular addition to community tanks for decades due to their adaptability, hardiness, and low-maintenance care requirements.

Clown Loaches make an excellent choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists. Clown Loaches are an all-time favorite for aquarium enthusiasts, known for their vibrant colors and playful behavior.

If you’re considering adding these beautiful fish to your tank or looking to improve their care, this ultimate guide will provide you with everything you need to know. From tank size and water conditions to diet and tank mates, we’ve got you covered!

Quick Stats About Clown Loach

Scientific name: Chromobotia macracanthus
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Orange with black bars
Lifespan: 10+ Years
Size: 12 Inches
Diet: Omnivorous
Family: Botiidae
Minimum Tank Size: 75+ Gallon
Tank Set-Up: Tropical Freshwater
Compatibility: Community Tanks

Clown Loach Appearance

The Clown Loach is a visually stunning and distinctive freshwater fish that never fails to catch the eye of aquarium enthusiasts. These fish have a torpedo-shaped body, with a rounded and slightly arched dorsal line. Their bottom side is flat, and their mouth is underturned, housing several pairs of barbels, which they use for scavenging food.

The Clown Loach’s coloration is its most striking feature. Their base color is a bright yellowish-orange, which can range from a vibrant, eye-catching hue to a more subtle, pale shade.

This base color is adorned with three bold, vertical black bands. The first band acts as a mask, covering the eyes, while the second and third bands wrap around the body, giving the Clown Loach its iconic appearance.

The fins of the Clown Loach are a vivid red, creating a beautiful contrast with their body color. Some specimens, particularly those from Borneo, may also exhibit black pigmentation on their pectoral fins.

Sexual dimorphism is present in this species, with males generally displaying more vibrant colors and a larger, more exaggerated “V”-shaped tail, while females tend to be slightly plumper.

Natural Habitat of Clown Loach

Clown Loaches are native to the slow-flowing rivers and tributaries of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. In these tropical environments, they are commonly found in areas with abundant vegetation, where they can take shelter among the roots and submerged branches.

Their preferred substrate consists of sandy bottoms, mixed with pebbles and gravel, which they sift through in search of food.

During the monsoon season, Clown Loaches often migrate to shallower, floodplain areas with dense vegetation.

These environments provide a rich source of food and ideal conditions for spawning. In their natural habitat, the water is typically warm, with temperatures ranging between 72°F and 86°F, a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and a water hardness of 8 to 12 KH.

Origin and Distribution of Clown Loach

The Clown Loach originates from the tropical rivers and tributaries of the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

These fish have been a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts since the 1950s, and their striking appearance and relatively low-maintenance requirements have made them a staple in the hobby.

Today, Clown Loaches are bred in captivity and distributed worldwide for the aquarium trade. They are also an important source of food for the local population in their native regions.

However, wild-caught specimens are still occasionally imported to meet the demand of aquarium enthusiasts seeking a more authentic experience.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Clown Loach

Clown Loaches can reach impressive sizes, with adults typically measuring around 12 inches in length, although some specimens have been known to grow larger in the wild.

Juveniles are much smaller, usually sold at around 2 to 3 inches in length. When purchasing a Clown Loach, it’s essential to consider their potential size and ensure they have adequate space to grow and thrive.

These fish have a moderate growth rate, which means they will require a larger tank relatively quickly as they mature.

In captivity, a well-cared-for Clown Loach can live for at least 10 years, although some specimens have been known to live up to 25 years in pristine natural conditions.

It’s essential to provide optimal care for your Clown Loach, as poor living conditions and inadequate care can significantly reduce their lifespan.

This includes providing a suitable environment, maintaining proper water parameters, offering a balanced diet, and ensuring compatibility with tank mates.

Clown Loach Behavior and Temperament

Clown Loaches are social, active, and relatively peaceful fish that thrive in groups. They have a unique and fascinating behavior that often endears them to their caretakers.

Social Behavior

These fish are highly social and should be kept in groups of at least five to six individuals, although larger groups are even better. When kept in proper shoals, they will exhibit natural behaviors such as playing, chasing, and resting together. Inadequate numbers can lead to stress, which may result in poor health, reduced activity, and increased aggression.

Activity Level

Clown Loaches are known for their playful, active behavior. They love to swim around and explore their surroundings, especially if provided with an interesting and complex environment. They are also known to “play dead” by lying motionless on their side, a behavior that should not be mistaken for illness or distress, as they will quickly resume swimming once they feel safe.

Nocturnal Tendencies

Although Clown Loaches can be active during the day, they are primarily nocturnal creatures. They may be shy and reclusive during daylight hours, especially when first introduced to a new environment. Providing hiding spots and dimming the aquarium lights can help them feel more comfortable and may encourage daytime activity.

Compatibility with Tank Mates

Clown Loaches are relatively peaceful fish that can be kept with a variety of other species. However, they may nip the fins of slow-moving, long-finned fish, such as angelfish, which should be avoided. They do best with other peaceful, similarly-sized fish, like tetras, barbs, and gouramis.

Clown Loach Tank Setup with Full Details

Creating an optimal tank setup for Clown Loaches is crucial to ensure their health and happiness. The following recommendations will help you create a suitable environment for these stunning fish.

Tank Size

Due to their potential size and active nature, Clown Loaches require a large aquarium. A minimum of 75 gallons is recommended for a small group, although a larger tank of 100+ gallons is preferable, especially as they grow.


A sandy substrate mixed with small, rounded pebbles and gravel is ideal for Clown Loaches, as it mimics their natural environment and allows them to sift through the material for food.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Clown Loaches appreciate a well-decorated tank with plenty of hiding spots. You can use driftwood, rocks, and caves to create a natural-looking environment that offers multiple hiding places. Include plants, both live and artificial, to add more structure and shelter for your Clown Loaches to explore.

Water Parameters

Maintaining stable water parameters is essential for the health of your Clown Loaches. The ideal temperature range is between 72°F and 86°F, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and a water hardness of 8 to 12 KH. Regular water changes and monitoring of water quality are crucial to ensure the continued well-being of your fish.

Filtration and Aeration

Clown Loaches prefer well-oxygenated water, so ensure that your tank has adequate filtration and aeration. A canister filter or a hang-on-back filter with a good flow rate is recommended, as these will help keep the water clean and oxygen-rich. Consider adding an air stone or sponge filter to further improve water circulation and oxygenation.


As Clown Loaches are nocturnal, they prefer subdued lighting. You can use adjustable LED lights to control the brightness or add floating plants to diffuse light and create a more natural environment.

Tank Mates

Choose compatible tank mates for your Clown Loaches, such as similarly-sized, peaceful fish like tetras, barbs, gouramis, and rasboras. You can also consider bottom-dwelling species like Corydoras catfish and smaller plecos.

When selecting tank mates, avoid aggressive or territorial species that may stress or harm your Clown Loaches. It is essential to ensure that all fish species in the tank have compatible water parameters, temperature requirements, and dietary needs.


Clown Loaches are omnivorous and require a balanced diet of high-quality foods to thrive. Offer a variety of food options, including sinking pellets or wafers, freeze-dried or frozen foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp, and blanched vegetables like zucchini and spinach. Feed them in small amounts multiple times a day to ensure all fish have access to food and to minimize waste. Keep in mind that Clown Loaches have a reputation for being finicky eaters, so be prepared to experiment with different foods to find what they prefer.


Regular tank maintenance is essential to the health and well-being of your Clown Loaches. Perform weekly water changes of 25-30% to maintain water quality and remove excess waste.

Check water parameters regularly and adjust as needed to maintain stable conditions. Clean the substrate using a gravel vacuum to remove uneaten food and debris. Additionally, ensure that your filter media is regularly cleaned or replaced to maintain optimal filtration performance.

By following these guidelines and providing your Clown Loaches with a well-designed, spacious, and carefully maintained environment, you can help ensure that they live healthy, active, and fulfilling lives in your aquarium.

Step-by-Step Guide to Clown Loach Tank Setup

  1. Select the right tank size: Choose an appropriate tank size for your Clown Loaches, keeping in mind their adult size and the number of fish you plan to keep. A 75-gallon tank is suitable for juveniles, while a 150-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for adult Clown Loaches.

  2. Install appropriate filtration: Install a reliable and efficient filter that can handle the bioload of your Clown Loaches and maintain good water quality.

  3. Set up heating and lighting: Install a heater to maintain a stable water temperature between 72°F and 86°F (around 78°F to 79°F is ideal). Provide subdued lighting to replicate their natural habitat.

  4. Prepare the substrate: Add a sandy substrate mixed with small rocks, pebbles, and gravel to create a natural-looking environment for your Clown Loaches.

  5. Add decorations: Place driftwood, rocks, and caves in the tank to provide hiding spots and shelter for your Clown Loaches. Arrange them in a way that creates interesting spaces and swim-throughs.

  6. Introduce live plants: Plant a variety of live plants, such as Java Moss, Hornwort, Water Spangles, Anubias, Riccia fluitans, and Amazon sword plants, to provide additional shelter and improve water quality.

  7. Establish water parameters: Ensure your tank water has the appropriate pH (6.0 to 7.5), hardness (8 to 12 KH), and temperature to support the health and well-being of your Clown Loaches.

  8. Cycle the tank: Perform a fishless cycle to establish beneficial bacteria that will help maintain water quality and reduce harmful ammonia and nitrite levels.

  9. Introduce Clown Loaches: Once the tank is cycled and stable, carefully acclimate and introduce your Clown Loaches to their new home.

  10. Select compatible tank mates: If you wish to add additional fish species, choose peaceful and compatible tank mates, such as tetras, barbs, gouramis, rasboras, Corydoras catfish, or smaller plecos.

Tank Maintenance for Clown Loaches

Regular Water Changes

Performing regular water changes is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for Clown Loaches. Replace 20-25% of the tank water every week with clean, dechlorinated water. This helps to remove excess waste, maintain stable water parameters, and replenish essential minerals.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Clean the tank and decorations to prevent the buildup of algae and harmful bacteria. Use an algae scraper or a soft cloth to remove algae from the tank walls, and a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate, removing uneaten food and debris. When cleaning decorations, such as rocks, driftwood, and caves, avoid using soap or chemicals, as these can harm your Clown Loaches. Instead, use a soft brush or toothbrush to scrub away any algae or debris.

Filter Maintenance

Regular filter maintenance is vital to ensure efficient filtration and a healthy environment for your Clown Loaches. Clean the filter media every month by rinsing it gently in a bucket of tank water. This helps to remove debris while preserving the beneficial bacteria. Replace any worn-out filter parts or media according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and never change all the filter media at once, as this can disrupt the beneficial bacteria population.

Monitor Fish Health

Observe your Clown Loaches regularly to ensure they are healthy and active. Check for any signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or physical abnormalities. If you notice any health issues, consult a trusted resource or expert for advice on treatment and prevention.

Acclimating Clown Loaches

When introducing Clown Loaches to a new environment, it is essential to acclimate them properly to avoid stress and potential health issues.

To acclimate your Clown Loaches, follow these steps:

  1. Float the bag containing the Clown Loaches in the tank for 15-20 minutes to equalize the water temperature.

  2. Slowly add small amounts of tank water to the bag every 5 minutes for about 30-45 minutes. This allows the fish to adjust to the water parameters gradually.

  3. Use a net to transfer the Clown Loaches from the bag to the tank, avoiding the transfer of any water from the bag to the tank.

Clown Loach Diet and Feeding

Clown Loaches are omnivorous, requiring a diverse and well-balanced diet to thrive.

To ensure optimal health, include the following in their diet:

  1. High-quality commercial foods: Offer a variety of sinking pellets, wafers, and flakes designed specifically for bottom-dwelling fish. These foods contain essential nutrients and should make up the majority of your Clown Loaches’ diet.

  2. Live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods: Supplement their diet with protein-rich foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex worms. These can be fed as live, frozen, or freeze-dried options. Feeding these treats 2-3 times a week will help maintain a healthy immune system and enhance their coloration.

  3. Vegetables: Clown Loaches enjoy blanched vegetables such as zucchini, peas, spinach, and cucumber. Vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, promoting overall health and well-being.

Feed your Clown Loaches 2-3 times a day, offering only as much food as they can consume within 2-3 minutes. Adjust the feeding frequency and quantity based on their activity level, age, and growth. Be careful not to overfeed, as this can lead to poor water quality and health issues.

Clown Loach Tank Mates

Clown Loaches are peaceful and social fish, making them suitable for community tanks.

When selecting tank mates, consider the following options:

  1. Other Clown Loaches: Clown Loaches are highly social and prefer being in groups of at least five or more. Keeping them in groups will help reduce stress and promote natural behaviors.

  2. Peaceful, similarly sized fish: Tank mates should be non-aggressive and of similar size to avoid predation. Suitable options include rasboras, tetras, barbs, danios, and other peaceful loach species.

  3. Bottom-dwelling fish: Clown Loaches often coexist well with other bottom-dwelling species, such as Corydoras catfish, Kuhli Loaches, and smaller Plecostomus species.

  4. Peaceful cichlids: Some peaceful cichlid species, like the Bolivian Ram and the Blue Acara, can coexist with Clown Loaches without causing issues.

Avoid aggressive or territorial fish, such as large cichlids, Oscars, or Arowanas, as they may harm or stress your Clown Loaches. Additionally, be cautious with small invertebrates like shrimp and snails, as Clown Loaches may view them as food.

Breeding Clown Loach

Breeding Clown Loaches in a home aquarium is a challenging task and has rarely been accomplished. The main factors that make breeding difficult are their size, specific water requirements, and the need for a large group to encourage natural breeding behaviors.

In their natural habitat, Clown Loaches breed during the rainy season when water temperatures drop and river levels rise.

To stimulate breeding in captivity, you may try the following:

  1. Set up a separate breeding tank: A breeding tank should be at least 75-100 gallons in size and contain numerous hiding spots, such as caves and PVC pipes, to help the fish feel secure.

  2. Adjust water conditions: Gradually lower the water temperature to around 75°F (24°C) and increase water flow to mimic their natural breeding environment.

  3. Condition with a high-protein diet: Provide a diet rich in protein, including live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods, to encourage breeding behaviors.

  4. Maintain a large group: Keep a group of at least six Clown Loaches to increase the likelihood of having both males and females, and to promote natural breeding behaviors. Males are generally slimmer and have a more pointed snout than females, who tend to be rounder and fuller-bodied.

  5. Monitor for breeding signs: Pay close attention to any changes in behavior or appearance that may indicate readiness to breed, such as increased activity, aggression, or courtship displays. Males may chase females around the tank and engage in “nuzzling” behaviors.

  6. Be patient: Breeding Clown Loaches is a complex process that requires patience and persistence. It may take several attempts and adjustments to the tank conditions before any successful breeding occurs.

Raising the fry

In the event that breeding is successful and eggs are laid, it is essential to protect the eggs and fry from adult fish, which may eat them. You can do this by moving the eggs or fry to a separate rearing tank. The fry will require infusoria and other small, live foods as they grow and develop.

Remember, breeding Clown Loaches in captivity is extremely challenging, and success is rare even among experienced aquarists. However, with dedication, patience, and attention to detail, you may be able to achieve this rewarding accomplishment.

Signs of Stress in Clown Loaches

Clown Loaches can become stressed due to various factors, including poor water quality, incorrect tank conditions, or incompatible tank mates. It is essential to monitor your Clown Loaches for signs of stress, as stressed fish are more prone to diseases and other health issues.

Some common signs of stress in Clown Loaches are:

  1. Loss of color: A stressed Clown Loach may display a dull or faded coloration, which could indicate that the fish is feeling stressed or unwell.

  2. Lethargy: Clown Loaches are usually active and playful. If you notice your Clown Loach spending more time hiding or resting at the bottom of the tank, this could be a sign of stress.

  3. Rapid breathing or gasping: If your Clown Loach is breathing rapidly or gasping for air at the water surface, this could indicate stress due to poor water quality or inadequate oxygen levels.

  4. Loss of appetite: A stressed Clown Loach may refuse to eat or show little interest in food.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Clown Loaches

Clown Loaches can be susceptible to several common health issues. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to ensure the well-being of your fish.

Some common health problems in Clown Loaches include:

  1. Ich (White Spot Disease): Ich is a common parasitic disease that manifests as small white spots on the fish’s body. Clown Loaches are particularly susceptible to Ich. To treat Ich, you can use over-the-counter medications, but make sure to follow the recommended dosage for Clown Loaches, as they can be sensitive to certain medications. Increasing the water temperature to 86°F for a few days may also help speed up the parasite’s life cycle and make the treatment more effective.

  2. Fin rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that causes the fish’s fins to become frayed or discolored. To treat fin rot, improve water quality through regular water changes, and use a suitable antibiotic medication.

  3. Internal parasites: Clown Loaches may suffer from internal parasites, which can cause weight loss, a bloated abdomen, or stringy white feces. To treat internal parasites, you can use a specialized anti-parasite medication.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium of Clown Loaches

  1. Maintain optimal water quality: Regular water changes and monitoring of water parameters are crucial to ensure a healthy environment for your Clown Loaches. Aim to perform a 25% water change every week or a 50% change every two weeks.

  2. Keep the tank clean: Regularly clean the tank and decorations to prevent the buildup of organic waste and harmful bacteria. Make sure to remove any uneaten food and dead plant material.

  3. Provide a varied diet: A balanced and varied diet is essential for the overall health of your Clown Loaches. Include a mix of high-quality sinking pellets, live or frozen foods, and vegetables.

  4. Monitor tank mates: Ensure that all tank mates are compatible with Clown Loaches and not causing any stress or aggression. Regularly observe your fish for any signs of bullying or territorial behavior.

  5. Quarantine new fish: Quarantine any new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to your main tank. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and parasites to your established Clown Loach community.

  6. Regularly observe your fish: Regular observation of your Clown Loaches will help you identify any signs of stress or illness early, allowing you to take appropriate action to maintain their health and well-being.

Should You Get Clown Loaches for Your Aquarium?

Clown Loaches can be an excellent addition to your aquarium if you have the right tank conditions and resources to provide for their needs.

Before you decide to get Clown Loaches, consider the following factors:

  1. Tank size: Clown Loaches require a large tank (at least 75 gallons) to accommodate their adult size and active swimming habits. Ensure that you have enough space for a suitable aquarium.

  2. Tank mates: Clown Loaches thrive in a community aquarium with compatible tank mates. Research suitable tank mates and plan your community accordingly.

  3. Maintenance: Clown Loaches are sensitive to water quality, so you need to commit to regular tank maintenance, including water changes and monitoring water parameters.

  4. Diet: Clown Loaches require a varied and balanced diet to stay healthy. Be prepared to invest in high-quality foods and supplements.

Conservation Status

Clown Loaches (Chromobotia macracanthus) are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, it is essential to purchase Clown Loaches from reputable and responsible sources to ensure the sustainability and conservation of wild populations.

Availability and Pricing

Clown Loaches are widely available in the aquarium trade and can be found in most pet stores or through online retailers. The price of Clown Loaches may vary depending on their size and the retailer, with smaller juveniles being more affordable.

Typically, prices can range from $8 to $20 per fish, but they can be higher in some cases. It is advisable to purchase your Clown Loaches from a reputable breeder or store to ensure healthy specimens.

Frequently Asked Questions About Clown Loaches

Q: Are Clown Loaches aggressive?

A: Clown Loaches are generally peaceful and social fish. However, they can be territorial with other bottom-dwelling fish or their own species if not kept in an appropriate-sized group.

Q: Can Clown Loaches live alone?

A: Clown Loaches are shoaling fish and thrive in groups of at least five to six individuals. Keeping a single Clown Loach may cause stress, resulting in health issues and shortened lifespan.

Q: Can Clown Loaches eat snails?

A: Yes, Clown Loaches are known to eat snails and can be an effective natural solution for controlling snail populations in your aquarium.

Q: How long do Clown Loaches live?

A: With proper care and optimal tank conditions, Clown Loaches can live for 10-15 years or even longer in some cases.


Clown Loaches are fascinating and colorful fish that can make a wonderful addition to a community aquarium, provided that you have the space, resources, and commitment to meet their specific needs.

With proper care, these intelligent and playful fish can thrive and bring joy to your aquatic environment for many years. Always remember to purchase your Clown Loaches from responsible sources to ensure the conservation of their wild populations.