Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus): Ultimate Care Guide

Common NameClown Loach
Scientific NameChromobotia Macracanthus
OriginMalaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Kalimantan
Temperature78F – 85F
Water pH6.0 – 7.5
Adult Size5.9 – 7.9 inches

Clown Loaches are a type of loach fish with an arched body that is slender and made for cutting through the water quickly. Clown Loaches have an orangish to yellow body with black wavy stripes. They also have a black stripe that cuts down over their eyes.  Clown Loaches have bright red fins that resemble clown shoes. Clown Loaches also sport 4 pairs of barbels on their lower jaw and lip that are hard to see unless you are looking up close. They are not only named for their interesting markings, but they are named for their active and silly behaviors in the home aquarium. Owners of Clown Loaches have reported them swimming upside down and even playing dead.

Clown Loaches make a clicking sound that they use to communicate a variety of things with one another and other fish. The Clown Loach clicking is used when defending territory, for mating, and just simply when they are happy. These clicking sounds are made by grinding their pharyngeal teeth.

Clown Loach Facts

  • Clown Loaches make a clicking noise when they are happy, when they are defending their territory, or when they are mating.
  • Clown Loaches are not only named for their interesting and bright markings, they are also given their name due to their interesting behavior in home aquariums.
  • It is almost impossible to breed Clown Loaches in captivity, and most of the fish for sale have been commercially bred using hormones to induce spawning.
Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)
Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)

How to Care for Clown Loach

A significant part of caring for fish entails making sure that their dietary needs are met. Fortunately, Clown Loaches are very easy to feed. They are described as true omnivores that will eat almost anything if the opportunity presents itself. While they aren’t picky feeders, they should be fed a high quality fish food. Their diet can be supplemented with treats such as bloodworms, earthworms, and small shrimps.

Do Clown Loaches Eat Snails?

Clown Loaches are often sold to aquarists as a helpful fish for pest snail control in the home aquarium, but this is not true. In the wild Clown Loaches will eat snails if they get the opportunity, but they will not actively go after them.

Do Clown Loaches Eat Algae?

Clown Loaches are omnivorous fish that will eat anything they can get if given the opportunity. Clown Loaches in the wild will eat invertebrates, insects, decaying plant matter, and algae. Clown Loaches are an active fish that can be seen enjoying algae from time to time, but this is not a reliable method of making sure that they have adequate nutrients.

Size & Lifespan

Clown Loaches can reach up to 12 inches at full maturity, but they usually only reach between 5.9 and 7.9 inches in length. In the wild, Clown Loaches regularly grow to this size and sometimes larger. If they are cared for properly, they can live up to 10 years in the home aquarium. 

What is the Maximum Size of a Clown Loach?

Clown Loaches can reach a maximum of up to 12 inches in the home aquarium, but they rarely reach this size. If they are kept in ideal conditions with a much larger tank for them to grow into, you have a much greater chance of your Clown Loach reaching a larger size than average. In the wild, Clown Loaches often do reach this much larger size.

What is the Growth Rate of a Clown Loach?

Clown Loaches are slow to grow to their maximum potential adult length, but they do grow at a steady pace. You can expect Clown Loaches to grow at around 2 inches per year.

Clown Loach Tank Requirements

If you want to set up a Clown Loach tank for yourself, you will want to consider the size of the tank. Since Clown Loach can have their growth stunted by being kept in a smaller tank, you will want to make sure that you are providing them with adequate enough room to grow into. To house a small school of Clown Loach you will need a minimum of a 75 gallon tank. It is a good idea to provide Clown Loaches with more room if you can as a smaller tank could potentially stunt their growth and you will not see your fish reach their maximum potential size.

Clown Loaches prefer to be kept in warmer waters that range in temperature from 78F to 85F, and 6.0 to 7.5 pH. Since Clown Loaches require warmer waters, a reliable water heater is a must, as well as a quality water filter. It is a good idea to perform regular water parameter checks to make sure that your aquarium is kept in optimal conditions for your Clown Loaches. This will keep your fish happy and healthy.

What is the Natural Habitat of the Clown Loach?

Clown Loaches are found wild in the island waters of Indonesia, Borneo, and Sumatra. They inhabit the slow moving, clear streams. They inhabit these streams until monsoon

season where they are forced into floodplains by monsoon flooding. Clown Loaches live in these flood plains for 7 to 8 months out of the monsoon year.

How Do I Setup the Ideal Habitat for a Clown Loach?

When choosing substrate for a Clown Loach aquarium, you will want to choose sandy substrate or smooth pebbles. Clown Loaches can often be found scavenging the bottom of the tank, rooting through the substrate for food. It is possible for them to damage their sensitive barbels with rough substrate.

The natural environment of the Clown Loach is densely planted, so it is safe to assume that they would enjoy much of the same in captivity. Floating plants are a great option for helping to keep their light levels at the desired level. Clown Loaches prefer low light setups as they mimic the overgrown waterways of their natural habitat.

When choosing decor for your Clown Loach aquarium, you will want to go with pieces that give your Clown Loaches the most possible places to hide and explore. Some owners of Clown Loaches have achieved this by placing large PVC pipes partially buried into the substrate and covered with the substrate to camouflage them.

Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)
Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)

Clown Loach Tank Mates

Clown Loaches are fish that prefer to live together in a group so that they can school together. It is recommended that you keep a group of at least 5 or more Clown Loaches together. It is best to purchase a group of juvenile Clown Loaches, and let them mature together. This is especially helpful to the aquarist who is hoping to purchase a breeding pair.

Are Clown Loaches Aggressive?

Clown Loaches are not considered aggressive fish. They are a good choice for community setups as they will not go out of their way to harm other fish. Clown Loaches are scavengers in the wild, but that does not mean that they will actively go after other fish for food. That being said, Clown Loaches tend to become rather large fish at full adult size, and like all large fish, they will potentially see much smaller fish as a meal.

Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates For Clown Loach

When choosing tank mates for Clown Loaches, you will want to choose other fish that first match with similar water parameter requirements, and dietary needs. Clown Loaches are a naturally peaceful fish that prefer to live and school with other peaceful fish. Clown Loaches are not particularly predatory when it comes to other fish, but keep in mind the size of the adult Clown Loach. Like most other fish, they will potentially eat fish that are much smaller than they are.

The best tank mates for Clown Loaches are other Clown Loaches. Rainbow Fish, Barbs, Gouramis, Plecos, and Tetras all make for great tank mates for Clown Loaches.

You will want to avoid housing them with fish that are territorial, food aggressive, or predatory. Clown Loaches do not pair well with Cichlids.

Clown Loach and Betta

Clown Loaches and Betta Fish make for great tank mates. They both require similar water parameters and dietary needs. It is important for the success in keeping multiple species together that you provide them with the adequate amount of room. This will allow each fish to get away from one another, and not constantly be in their area. This is especially helpful when housing the more territorial Betta Fish with the Clown Loach.

Clown Loaches will not harass the Betta Fish to the point of harm, but it is possible that they will bother the Betta Fish by nipping at its long fins. Betta Fish will chase after Clown Loaches if they are bothering them, but they will not cause harm to them.

Clown Loach and Tiger Barb

Clown Loaches and Tiger Barbs make for great tank mates if certain conditions are met. They both require roughly the same water parameters and dietary needs, as well as space requirements. Tiger Barbs like to spend their time in a school, similar to the preferred behavior of Clown Loaches.  In fact, the busy personality of the Tiger Barb can make the Clown Loach more comfortable. Clown Loaches tend to be less cautious about open spaces of water if there are fish already schooling in the area.

If you are planning on housing these two species together, you will want to make sure that you are providing a large enough tank for both species. This can be tough to achieve in a home aquarium setup. Both species love to school in a group, but even a small group of 6 Tiger Barbs should be housed in a tank that is at least 200 gallons.

Another element to take into consideration is the size of each fish. When they are purchased as juveniles they will be roughly the same size, but Clown Loaches have a relatively slower growth rate when compared to most other fish species. It is possible that as the Tiger Barbs mature and become larger, they could potentially harass the  still small Clown Loaches.

Clown Loach and Shrimp

It is not advisable to keep Clown Loaches with any type of Shrimp as they will see them as food and go after them. Some keepers of Clown Loaches suggest that they can be kept together if all of the dietary needs of the Clown Loach are being met, but even then it is still not a foolproof safety measure for keeping your Shrimp safe in a community tank with Clown Loaches.

Clown Loach and Oscar Fish

Clown Loaches and Oscar Fish can be compatible tank mates as long as the tank is big enough, and set up properly. Oscars will eat any fish that can fit in their mouths, so you will want to make sure that your Clown Loaches are not small enough that they could be mistaken for a meal. Owners of both Clown Loaches and Oscar fish report the two species being able to coincide peacefully as long as they are raised together from juveniles. This can be difficult due to the slower growth rate of the Clown Loach. Make sure that you are monitoring any new fish to your aquarium so that you can correct any problems as they arise.

Clown Loach and Discus

Discus are shy fish, but they can be placed into a community setup if they are given time to get used to their surroundings before other fish are added. It is possible that the activity of busy Clown Loaches could stress out the Discus.

Clown Loach and Angelfish

Clown Loaches are an excellent tank mate for Clown Loaches. Angelfish mouths are too small to eat Clown Loaches, but Clown Loaches could potentially nip the long, flowy fins of the Angelfish. If both species are being housed together in a large enough tank with plenty of hiding places for both fish, and lots of plants and decor, there should be no issues with keeping the two species together. Like with all new additions to any community setup, it is best to monitor the behavior of your fish to ensure that they are getting along.

Clown Loach and Goldfish

Clown Loaches can not be kept with Goldfish at all. This is not a matter of their personalities or diets, but it is a matter of what temperatures and water parameters they require. Clown Loaches have to be kept at much warmer temperatures than Goldfish, and they just simply can not be housed in the same aquarium.

Clown Loach Breeding

It is considered difficult but not impossible to breed Clown Loaches in the home aquarium. If you are wanting to breed Clown Loaches, it is best to purchase an already mated pair, or purchase a group of individuals and wait for them to mature and pair off on their own. Clown Loaches mature at around 2 to 4 years of age, and around 7 inches in length. When mature Clown Loaches are nearing their spawning time they will change their diet and only accept live fish as their food source. This makes them grow rather wide.

It is advisable that you set up a dedicated breeding tank that is heavily planted. This will make the Clown Loach more comfortable with its surroundings and encourage them to breed. The male and female Clown Loaches will swim together under the surface of the water as they make their happy clicking noises. The female Clown Loach will lay around 400 eggs. Once the male and the female Clown Loach are done spawning, you will want to remove the parent fish as they will cannibalize their own young.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Clown Loach?

It is possible to tell Clown Loach males and females apart by simply looking at them. At full maturity the female Clown Loach is much more rounded than the male. The male Clown Loach has a more curved tail tip whereas the female Clown Loach has a more straight tip.

Clown Loach Eggs and Fry

Once the Clown Loach female has laid her eggs, the male has fertilized them, and both parent fish are removed from the breeding tank, can you then begin to observe the Clown Loach eggs. The eggs take up to 14 days to hatch. Once they hatch they are free swimming and able to eat.

Clown Loach Disease

Clown Loaches are susceptible to many of the same diseases as other fish. This includes bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. If these illnesses are caught early enough on, then they could potentially be cured. If left untreated, ailments will spread and even become deadly for all fish in your aquarium. You will want to make sure that you are quarantining any new fish, plants, or decor before you introduce them into your aquarium.

Are Clown Loaches Susceptible to Ich?

Clown Loaches do not have scales, and this makes them more susceptible to contracting Ich. Ich is a parasitic infection that shows up on the body of the affected fish in white, blotchy spots. Clown Loaches do not do well with most medications that are used to treat Ich, and it can often become fatal for the affected fish.

Where Can I Find Clown Loaches For Sale?

If you are looking to purchase Clown Loaches for your home aquarium, you should be able to purchase them in specialty pet stores or online from a breeder. You will want to make sure that you are purchasing your fish from a reputable source to ensure that the fish you receive are healthy. You can expect to pay around $4 per fish at their smallest. You can expect them to cost a bit more the larger they are. Some larger specimens of Clown Loach will sell for around $30.