Care Guide for Clown Loaches – The Pack of Underwater Puppies
You might be interested in purchasing a bunch of clown loaches. If so, you are in for a treat. These jovial giants are an absolute pleasure to keep, and we’ve had the privilege of owning them for more than 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’s name comes from its brightly colored appearance. It has yellow-tan bodies, three prominent black bands, and bright red-orange fins. They also exhibit silly, clown-like antics such as lying on their sides to sleep, making clicking sounds to communicate, and piling on top of each other in a tight corner. One clown loach even picked up a small stone with its mouth, while the other clown loaches ran after it. It was like a group of playful puppies.
How big are clown loaches? Clown loaches can grow slowly and are often sold in small sizes. They have grown to a length of between 12-13 inches (30-33cm) and a robust body that is 5-6 inches (13-15cm) high. This makes them almost as big as an American football.
As they age, the colors of adult clown loaches tend to fade.
We have not seen clown loaches being aggressive. 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 tip is to keep the water at 82-86 degrees F (28-30 degC). 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. Treat them with Ich-X medication or salt if needed, and then wait until you’re sure they are healthy and eating well before transferring them to your main display tank. To make sure the water stays hot enough at all times, some clown loach owners invest in backup heaters or a generator for power outages.
In general, clown loaches tend to be more active at dawn and dusk when the sun isn’t as bright. To naturally tint the water with tannins, dim the lights or use Indian almond leaf to hide them. Consider adding plenty of hides for them to crawl into 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 you have three, they may hide a lot. Six people may hide some of their activities if you have them. They will always be out if you have 30. 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?
The hot temperature that clown loaches prefer also raises their metabolism, so make sure to feed them a lot. They are not picky eaters and use their whisker-like barbels to scavenge the floor of the aquarium for any remaining crumbs. You can feed them mollusks and bloodworms, tubifexworms, sinking pellets, and tubifexworms. They enjoy Repashy gel food, blanched zucchini slices, and Repashy gel food.
Can clown loaches eat snails or are they more than happy to take care of your snail problem. Unless you are looking for a quick snack, don’t add costly pet snails to the clown loach tank.
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. The females have darker fins and a wider body, as well as duller colors. Although clown loaches can reproduce earlier than others, those who live longer than three years or are larger than 10 cm (10 inches) tend to have more eggs. Traditionally, fish farms used hormones to induce artificial breeding. Some farms are now able breed clown loaches naturally, by copying the wild conditions.
In Indonesia, adult clown loaches swim upriver to spawn in small streams and flood plains during the rainy seasons. Based on experience, some farmers have figured out that the adults should be conditioned for breeding in hotter temperatures around 82degF (28degC), higher pH of 7.5, and medium to hard water (to imitate the rivers). Then breeding occurs best at cooler temperatures around 78degF (25degC), lower pH of 6.2, and softer water (to imitate the floodplains during the rainy season).
Soon, the females will spawn when they are 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. 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 upon thousands of eggs each spawn. However, not all of these eggs 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. You don’t need to have clown loaches if you don’t have the space, these are our favorites that share the same playful personality and come in a smaller package.