Care Guide for Clown Loaches: The Pack of Underwater Puppies
You might be interested in purchasing a bunch of clown loaches. Then you’re in for a treat. These friendly giants are a pleasure to keep and we’ve had them for more 10 years. There are some caveats to consider if you wish to help your clown loaches reach their full potential. Here are some things you need to know about caring for clown liaches based on our experience.
What is a Clown Loach anyway?
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. They are also known for their silly, clown-like antics. For example, they will lie on their side to sleep, make clicking noises to communicate and pile on top of each others in a corner. We have seen clown loaches pick up little stones with their mouths and chase them around as a pack of playful puppies.
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. In our care, they have reached lengths of 12-13 inches (30-33 cm) long with a beefy body of 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) tall, almost the size of an American football.
Adult clown loaches’ colors tend to fade as they age.
Are clown lolaches aggressive? In our experience, not. 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 may be susceptible to ich, or white spot disease, especially since they have been transported in cooler temperatures. When you take clown loaches home, make sure they are in a quarantine aquarium first to prevent them from spreading disease to other fish. Make sure to give them salt and Ich-X medication if they need it. Wait until they are fully grown and healthy before transferring them back to your main display tank. Many clown loach owners purchase backup heaters for their water supply to ensure it stays hot.
Clown loaches are generally more active during dawn and dusk, when the sun isn’t as strong. To naturally tint the water with tannins, dim the lights or use Indian almond leaf to hide them. Also, add plenty of hides so they can dart into them and feel safe inside.
What size tank do clown loaches need? For juveniles, the minimum size we recommend is a 55-gallon aquarium. This aquarium will likely last for about 3 years or until they reach the height of 6 inches (15cm). 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 many clown loaches you can, in the hope that they will grow into 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. They may hide if they have more than three. Six people may be hiding some of the time if you have them. When you have 30, they will be everywhere. 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. They should be fed a high-protein diet consisting of mollusks (bloodworms), tubifex worms, sinking pellets, mollusks, and tubifex. They love Repashy gel food and blanched zucchini slices.
Do clown lolies eat snails? Do not add expensive pet snails to your clown loach tank unless you want them to become a quick snack.
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. While females are more colorful, they have darker fins, larger bodies, and duller colours. Although clown loaches can breed early, adults older than 3 years and taller than 10 inches (or more) tend to produce larger eggs. Traditionally, fish farms used hormones to induce artificial breeding. Some farms have learned to naturally breed clown loaches, mimicking wild conditions.
In Indonesia, clown loaches are found swimming upriver to spawn. A few farmers have discovered that the adults should not be kept at 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius), higher pH of 7.5, and medium-hard water in order to reproduce like rivers. Cooler temperatures are better for breeding, with a lower pH of 6.2 and softer water (to imitate floodplains during rainy seasons).
The females will soon spawn if they become fat and swollen. The eggs are loosely scattered throughout the aquarium and will swell up in size after being laid. To prevent eggs from being eaten, the adults should not be allowed to enter the aquarium without parental supervision. 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 per spawn from a 7-inch (18-cm) size, but only a few 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.