Care Guide for Clown Loaches-The Pack of Underwater Puppies
Thinking about getting a group of clown loaches? You’re in for a surprise. These gentle giants are a joy to own and have been with us for over 10 years. However, there are some things you need to know if your goal is to raise them to their full potential. Based on our experiences, here are some of the delights and pitfalls of caring for clown loaches that you should know before making the leap.
What is a Clown Loach and how do they work?
Chromobotia macrocanthhus is a beautiful, large loach from the western islands. 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. 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.
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. 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? Not in 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. Some clown loach owners have backup heaters or generators to ensure the water remains hot.
In general, clown loaches tend to be more active at dawn and dusk when the sun isn’t as bright. You can dim the lights to make them more active or use Indian almond leaves to natural stain the water. You can also add lots of hides to allow them to dart in 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. They may be more cautious if they have six. If you get 30, they will be out all the time. In other words, the more clown loaches you can house together, the more 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. 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
Clown loaches can be difficult to sex, but males have bright red dorsal and body fins. They also have golden-yellow bodies and slim frames. The females have darker fins and a wider body, as well as duller colors. Clown loaches can breed earlier than other species, but adults over three years old and larger than 4 in (10 cm) tends to produce more large eggs. Traditionally, fish farms used hormones to induce artificial breeding. However, some farms have learned how to naturally breed clown loaches by imitating their conditions in the wild.
The adult clown loaches of Indonesia swim upriver in order to spawn in small streams. Floodplains are formed during rainy season. 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).
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. 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 tall) female clown loach may produce thousands of eggs per year, but not all 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.