Clown Loach (Botia Macracantha) Our ultimate care guide for this stunning Fresh Water tropical fish.
If you’re an avid fish enthusiast who has a passion for colorful, interesting fish, then you’ve probably been drawn to the clown loach once or twice.
It’s no wonder that this enthusiastic fish has captured your attention- the species is loved by many hobbyists for its striking colors and fun personality.
Popular Name Clown Loach
Scientific Name Chromobotia macracanthus
Size 12-20 cm
Temperature 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 6.0-6.5
55 gallons +
Origin Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, Kalimantan
Price Starting at $4.99
The clown loach is a dining room favorite in both Indonesia and Borneo, but luckily for the fish, it is a popular aquarium resident in the Western world and is safe from most fishermen.
The clown loach is best known for its unique coloration: orange and black striped body and red fins. It’s also widely known for its active personality and energy.
For freshwater hobbyists, the clown loach is a popular favorite as it is not only beautiful and exciting, but it’s also an even-tempered tank mate that gets along with a variety of other fish. Unlike an overwhelming number of other fish, the clown loach is most active during the daylight hours, so it can be easily observed and enjoyed.
In their natural habitat, clown loaches can grow to be up to 30 cm, however, in a home aquarium, the average adult clown loach is around 15-18 cm with some kept in very large aquariums reaching almost 25cm and sold for around $200 each.
The biggest I have ever seen in a home aquarium was 20cm and that tank was 250 Gallons and nearly 8 feet long.
To successfully keep a school of clown loaches, it’s important to take good care of them and keep them happy. Of course, your loaches need food and clean water but they also require additional care to live their expected 15-year lifespan.
Most clown loach never reach their full size in captivity unless you have a very large aquarium.
Water quality is very important and regular water changes will help. They also like a strong current to simulate their wild environment.
A clown loach should be fed a diet that is high in protein, but is balanced and includes both meat and vegetables. They can eat a variety of foods including vegetable flakes, frozen and freeze-dried worms, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, and fruit matter such as banana matter, cucumber, melon, and blanched spinach.
They should be fed multiple times a day, and each meal should be small enough to be consumed within 10 minutes. If you have snails in your aquarium, clown loaches may pick at the snails, as they are a good source of readily available protein.
In general, clown loaches prefer live food- a preference that can be hard to honor. If you have a garden or backyard, however, you can easily provide your loaches with juicy earthworms. Loaches can eat the worms as long as the soil in which they came from hasn’t been fertilized recently or sprayed with any pesticides.
Clown loach certainly love their vegs and have been known to nip at plants and kill them off. Make sure you offer them regular plant matter to eat. We use a fish food clip that holds a piece of Lettuce for them to eat. If fact vegs whether that’s in the form of dried flake or fresh Lettuce.
Vegetables or plant matter should make up around 30-40% of their diet.
One of the worst things you can do is to overfeed your fish. This is always a risk if you go on vacation and ask a friend or family member to feed your beloved fish. Read our recommendation on feeding your fish.
Clown loaches should be kept in schools of at least six. This doesn’t seem like a problem until you consider what size of tank you will need to house six large fish. Ideally, the minimum tank size needed for a small school of clown loaches is 55 gallons.
Some clown loaches do get bigger than the average size, so it’s always a good idea to buy a tank that is even larger than 55 gallons. As the fish age and mature, they will need to be moved to a tank that is, at minimum, 75 gallons.
Due to the strong currents in their natural environment, clown loaches like to have a strong filter that can move the water in their tank. This can be achieved by using a strong powerhead, or a sizeable HOB filter (hang-on-back filter).
Canister filters can work as well, make sure you buy a suitable size one that has a good flow rate. Also, read the reviews to make sure you’re buying the right one for your fish tank. We love the Fluval 406 for tank between 50-75gallons available from Amazon, the link is provided for you above.
The decor for the clown loach tank should be plant and rock heavy. The tank should include large river rocks that are smooth and rounded and an abundance of live plants. Each loach tank should include at least one cave that has a low-ceiling for the clown loach to hide in.
Sand substrate is the best option for the inside of their tank, but if you are unable to get your hands on some, a fine gravel will work.
Loach tanks should undergo frequent water changes and 25-50% of the aquarium’s total water volume should be changed every month. Read our full article about how to do a partial water change correctly.
Many fish are hard to sex. The clown loach, though, can be sexed by observing their fins.
The male loach’s tailfin will be bent inwards just a little, while the females will appear straight and normal. Usually, the female appears to be larger and plumper than her male counterpart, as well.
It’s rare to successfully breed clown loaches in captivity, however, it isn’t impossible and can be done with a great deal of determination, commitment, and care.
In order to start the breeding process, both fish need to be sexually mature and generally, this happens when the fish is 2-4 years old and at least 7 inches in size.
To successfully tempt the fish to breed, the male and female pair should be conditioned and given live food multiple times a day. After a few weeks of this, the female clown loach may begin to gain weight- this is when mating is likely to take place.
After mating, the female should be removed from the tank. Her eggs will hatch within a few days and the fry will need to be fed brine shrimp several times a day. At about two weeks old the fry are large enough to start eating flake food and will start to grow rapidly.
The majority of freshwater clown loach are bred in fish farms in Singapore using hormones injections. Very few are wild caught and the ones that are, normally fetch a handsome price. Their colors will be brighter and bolder.
It’s unusual for fish enthusiasts to have a tank of clown loaches without including a variety of other interesting fish for them to interact with. With this being said, not all fish get along with the clown loach and some get along with them better than others.
Tank Mates to Avoid
Guppies should be kept away from the clown loach as they tend to have trailing, soft fins. Although clown loaches aren’t particularly aggressive, they have been known to nip at fish with long, trailing tails. Although this may not be fatal, it can be unfortunate and upsetting and cause problems within an otherwise peaceful community tank.
Many cichlids also have fancy, trailing tail fins which makes them a less than preferred tank mates for clown loaches. As with guppies, cichlids should be kept away from clown loaches to avoid potential tail nipping.
Silver dollars and clown loaches get along relatively well temperament-wise, however, they clash when it comes to one small aspect: plants. Clown loaches love plants and thrive with many of them, whereas silver dollars are known to destroy plants, which could leave the clown loach with very few if any at all.
It’s important to note that some hobbyists have successfully housed these two fish together despite the problems surrounding plants and vegetation.
Tank Mates to Consider
Tiger barbs are silver/gold in color and have black stripes with orange fins. They are lively and playful and will school with other friendly fish.
They need a balanced diet that includes both meat and vegetables, and can eat anything from live brine shrimp to commercial flaked food.
They thrive in aquariums with plenty of rocks and plants.
You can purchase tiger barbs online for around $1.99 on liveaquaria.com.
Black Ghost Knifefish
The black ghost knifefish is s timid and reclusive in nature. It’s an all black fish with white and black striped tail and rounded frontal fins.
It prefers to live in a tank with plenty of rocks and places to hide and will at a variety of foods including meat, earthworms, and frozen and flaked commercial foods. It uses a weak electrical signal to locate its food.
You can purchase this fish online at liveaquaria.com for $19.99.
Swordtails are elongated fish that are most commonly red with black tails which are sword-shaped, giving them their name.
Swordtails are peaceful fish, but males shouldn’t be housed together as they can become aggressive towards each other.
They should be fed a variety of live and commercial foods including meat and vegetables in the form of flakes, as swordtails eat a lot of algae in their natural habitats.
You can buy swordtails online at aquariumfish.net for $4.99-$5.99.
Ropefish have eel-like, elongated bodies and have a peaceful nature. Ropefish need to have access to the surface, as they need oxygen. They are nocturnal and can seem reclusive, however, they are very social and should be kept with others of their kind.
Their tank should be heavily planted and have an abundant supply of rocks and crevices, as well as other places to hide like driftwood.
They require live food such as insect larvae, tubifex and bloodworms, and chopped meats. They can also be fed meats such as beef heart.
You can buy this fish online at liveaquaria.com for around $29.99.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
In case of sickness, can I use medication on clown loaches?
Medication can be used on clown loaches, however, in tanks where they are present, you’ll usually need to underdose the tank by a least 50% to keep the loaches safe. Their scales are small and extremely sensitive to many aquarium treatments and medications, so be sure to check the medication instructions before using it in a clown loach tank.
How are clown loaches have been bred in captivity?
For many aquarium owners, breeding the clown loach is merely a wild dream and doesn’t turn into a reality. Hobbyists often witness breeding behaviors and sometimes even the release of eggs, but there are no recorded cases of offspring surviving.
In Asia, clown loaches are bred in large outdoor pools with the help of hormones.
Can I add clown loaches to a new tank?
Clown loaches are sensitive to water conditions. Therefore, they should not be added to tanks that are less than 3 months old- the more mature the tank, the better.
How often should I do water changes in a clown loach tank?
On average, water changes should be carried out regularly. As a rule of thumb, 30% of the tank’s total water volume should be replaced every week. This is especially true if the tank lacks an adequate supply of plants, as they help to keep nitrates out of the water and make the tank safe for clown loaches.
How can I increase my chances of successfully breeding clown loaches?
Breeding this type of fish is almost always unsuccessful. However, if you’re set on trying to breed your own loach fry, you can increase your chances of finding a mating pair by allowing your fish to school.
When they do this, sexually mature fish may break off into mating pairs.
Feeding mating pairs – once they have been established- frequently may also increase the odds.
How many clown loaches should be kept together?
Ideally, clown loaches should be kept in schools of at least 6 or 7 fish.
Can I house clown loaches with invertebrates?
It’s a good idea to avoid housing these fish with invertebrates, as well as clams, mussels, shrimp, and snails. These animals will compete with the clown loach for food, as they share many of the same dietary needs. As a result of competing for food, the clown loach may end up underfed and unhealthy.
Final Thoughts on keeping Clown Loach
Clown loaches are recommended for relatively experienced hobbyists but are a rewarding addition that can bring excitement to any tank. They can grow to be very large and since they are a school breed, require a very large tank that has peaceful tankmates and plenty of space.
Clown loaches eat a varied diet but need an abundance of protein.
If you’re up for the challenge, the clown loach will be a great addition to your aquarium.