About the Freshwater Clown Loach

Chromobotia macracanthus - Clown Loach
Clown Loach. Ross Websdale

The Clown Loach is a favorite for freshwater hobbyists. It is a peaceful fish and coexists well with nearly any tankmate. It is also an amusing species to watch and feed as it's active during the day. They also eat those annoying snails that can wind up in your aquarium. The Clown Loach is sometimes called a scaleless fish, but it actually does have small scales embedded in its skin.

Clown Loach: Basics

  • Scientific Name: Chromobotia macracanthus
  • Synonym: Botia macracantha, Botia macracanthus, Botia macrocanthus, Cobitis macracanthus
  • Common Name: Clown Loach, Tiger Loach
  • Family: Cobitidae
  • Origin: Borneo, Sumatra
  • Adult Size: 12 inches (30 cm), usually smaller
  • Social
  • Lifespan: 15+ years
  • Tank Level: Mid, Bottom dweller
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon for 1, larger for a school
  • Diet: Omnivore, eats most foods
  • Breeding: Egglayer
  • Care: Intermediate
  • pH: 6.5 - 7.0
  • Hardness: to 12°dGH
  • Temperature: 75-86°F (24-30°C)

Description

If you've ever seen a school of clown loaches, it's hard to resist bringing a couple of them home. It's even harder to imagine that this beautiful fish is eaten as food fish in Indonesia and Borneo, where it grows to over a foot in length. Fortunately for the clown loach, among aquarium enthusiasts, it's a staple in the community tank rather than on the dining table. Its orange and black striped body, red fins and active behavior has made it one of the most popular loaches.

Habitat/Care

Unlike many loaches who are only active at night, the clown loach is very active during the daytime hours. Peaceful with its own and other species, it prefers to have companions with which it will form a school. Water quality is critical for keeping clown loaches healthy. Take care to keep the water very clean, well aerated and warm.

Loaches are particularly prone to ick infestations; watch them closely whenever new fish or plants are added to the tank. In the unfortunate event that an infection does occur, keep in mind that loaches, like catfish, are very sensitive to some medications. Often dosages must be cut in half to be safe. Read product information carefully before treating your loach!

Virtually all non-aggressive fish are suitable as tankmates for clown loaches. Because they prefer to live in schools, it's wise to keep three or more in a group. They don't like bright light and will hide among plants or rocks as well as sleep in holes, caves and other hiding places.

Diet

Clowns will accept a wide variety of dry and live foods, but their preference is for live foods, especially worms. You can even earthworms to them, as long as you harvest the worms from soil that hasn't been fertilized recently. Ideally, you should feed them several small meals throughout the day.

Breeding

Males can be identified by the tail, which is larger and hooks inward rather than pointing straight out from the body. Females are smaller and more slender. There are very few documented cases of clown loaches breeding in captivity. As a result, very little information is known about their breeding needs.