Clown Loach – Species Profile & Facts

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If you’ve ever seen a clown loach, you know why this fish is so beloved in the aquarium world. The clown loach is a considerable investment, given that the fish is quite large and prefers to live in groups of at least 4-5 individuals.

You can keep one per tank, but it will be suboptimal for the fish’s mental health.

Fortunately, you can easily accommodate the fish into a community setup, provided you’re mindful of the tank’s layout and potential tankmates.

Today, we’ll touch upon all these topics and more to find out whatever we can about the clown loach. So, let’s start with the beginning.

What is a Clown Loach?

Clown loaches (Botia macracantha) belong to the Cobitidae family and are carnivorous freshwater fish coming mostly from Indonesia and Borneo.

This fish is generally peaceful and can easily fit in a community aquarium, preferably with equally-peaceful tankmates.

The only challenge with owning one or more clown loaches is the necessary space. These are fairly sizeable fish that display a lot of swimming energy and require a lot of space.

They also need plenty of hiding places, including rocky caves, wood structures, and whatever else they can use as safe spots. While most loaches are nocturnal, the clown loach also showcases a lot of daily activity.

That being said, expect the fish to be more active after dark and in the early morning hours. The clown loach will retract into its safe spots if the environmental light is too bright.

Clown Loach Requirements

Setting up the ideal conditions for the clown loach can be quite a challenge.

Fortunately, the entire process is pretty straightforward, so let’s discuss the specifics:

Tank Size & Setup

There’s no point in talking about the ideal tank size for one clown loach since you should have several loaches anyway. The minimum tank size for 3-4 juvenile loaches is 75 gallons, although many recommend 100 gallons.

A similar group of adult loaches would be better housed in a 150-gallon setup.

There are 2 primary reasons for this. The first one is the fish’s energetic behavior and size. Clown loaches can get to 12 inches and are sociable creatures that like to swim a lot and interact with each other and other fish. The second one is the fish’s need for a specific environmental layout.

You need a lot of live aquatic plants, caves, rocks, and other decorative aquatic elements to create a rich and lush setting.

This allows the clown loach to choose its activity level and dwelling area as it sees fit. Having more than one loach will put even more stress on the environment, requiring you to increase the tank’s size further.

So, I would go for a minimum of 100 gallons for 3-4 loaches, although you can reach 125 gallons if your fish are on the bigger end.

Water Requirements

As a freshwater fish, the clown loach requires temperatures of around 75 to 85 F, preferably with as few fluctuations as possible. The main point, though, relates to the water quality.

Clown loaches typically reside in clean waters with low currents, so constant maintenance and regular water changes are necessary to keep their environment clean and fresh.

The main problem is that clown loaches, and loaches in general, are prone to Ich due to poor water conditions. That’s because Ich is a skin parasite which affects loaches more than other fish due to the latter’s lack of scales.

Well, theoretically, clown loaches have scales, but they’re tiny and don’t offer much of protection.

This also makes the loach more sensitive to certain types of medications. So, prevention is more important in their case as it keeps them from dealing with Ich in the first place.

Invest in a good filtration unit, but mind the system’s power output. You don’t want the filter to create too much current, not to disturb the loach.

Also, keep the environmental light low. Loaches prefer shady habitats with hiding areas and low-to-moderate lighting.

This means you should pair your loaches with fish with similar environmental preferences.

Feeding and Diet

Clown loaches rank as omnivorous, but they like to consume more animal protein than other fish. This leads some aquarists to consider them carnivorous, although they do indulge in some algae eating occasionally. Provide them with a well-rounded diet consisting of live and dry food, along with the occasional algae wafers to complement their meals.

Clown loaches should be fed 2-3 times per day depending on their appetite and their access to food. They will compete over food with other loaches or fish sharing the same space.

Make sure you don’t overfeed your loaches. Only feed them what they can eat fast, in 2-3 minutes at most. Everything else will turn into food leftovers which you should remove immediately, if possible, to prevent stressing the environment.

A handful of bottom feeders should feel right at home in such a setting.

Do Clown Loaches Need a Heater?

Absolutely, they do. Clown loaches demand higher temperatures than even your regular tropical fish.

Tropical livebearers like guppies and mollies require temperatures in the 72-82 F range, while loaches fit more in the 75-85 F one.

A heater is necessary to keep the temperatures high enough to keep the fish healthy and comfortable and prevent dangerous fluctuations.

Do Clown Loaches Need a Filter?

If there’s anything that loaches need more than a heater, it’s a filter. The filtration system is necessary to oxygenate the loaches’ habitat, remove fish waste and food leftovers, and clean dead plant matter.

The filter is that much more necessary in a heavily planted tank with a fine sandy substrate, both of which are necessary when housing loaches.

Keep the filter’s power output in the manageable range, depending on what your loaches find comfortable. They don’t like fast water currents.

Also, these fish are rather sensitive to overall water quality, so don’t rely on the filter to do all the work.

Clown loaches require a stable cleaning-and-maintenance routine with regular waste removal and weekly water changes.

How Much do Clown Loaches Cost?

The price of a clown loach rests between $10 and $30, depending on a variety of factors.

The most important one is age, as juveniles are cheaper but also require more work to grow into healthy and strong adults.

Other factors influence the fish’s price pretty heavily as well, including the fish’s genetic profile and overall health.

The ideal trade should involve getting a healthy and strong juvenile with a clear color pattern and a manageable personality.

Most clown loaches are peaceful and docile, but all fish are different. Make sure you aren’t getting a more rebellious specimen that could cause problems in a community setup.

And always gather as much info as you can about the loach before purchasing it. You want to get a healthy and strong specimen.

This is important, knowing these fish’s predisposition to Ich and other diseases and that many sellers keep them in suboptimal conditions.

What is the Lifespan of Clown Loaches?

Clown loaches usually live around 10-15 years in optimal conditions. That being said, many specimens live as long as 25 years with optimal care and a balanced and nutritious diet.

Some of the factors that can influence your loaches’ lifespan include:

  • A clean and fresh environment with regular water changes and frequent tank maintenance
  • A nutritious and fulfilling diet, mixing live foods with algae wafers and other food options
  • Calm and peaceful tankmates to prevent tensions and aggression
  • Keeping loaches in a group to appease the fish’s need for social interactions
  • Providing sufficient space and a loach-oriented aquascape to create a heavily personalized aquatic setup
  • Constant monitoring to identify early health issues and ensure optimal treatment, etc.

All these factors will contribute to the fish’s lifespan and quality of life over the years.

And the effort of making them work is worth it, considering that they can expand your loach’s lifespan by literally decades.

How Big do Clown Loaches Get?

Clown loaches can grow to 12 inches in ideal conditions. They are large and active fish that require a lot of space to remain calm and happy.

While not all loaches can reach these dimensions, always consider them likely when getting your first few loaches.

Most clown loaches are sold as juveniles which are significantly smaller and can deceive your expectations. Get a larger tank from the get-go; your loaches will definitely keep up.

Are Clown Loaches Aggressive?

No, they’re not. Clown loaches are peaceful towards each other and other tankmates, provided they’re met with similar behaviors.

Always pair your clown loaches with equally peaceful fish to prevent tensions and aggression.

Also, look for fish species similar in size. Clown loaches like to eat animal protein very much, and smaller fish species like guppies will fit their diet perfectly.

Clown Loaches Tankmates

The ideal tankmates for clown loaches are other clown loaches. Other notable species include bristlenose plecos, tiger barbs, kuhli loaches, angelfish, etc.

Look for peaceful companions that don’t mind sharing space with other species.

Most importantly, make sure that the clown loaches’ tankmates have similar environmental preferences in terms of water conditions and overall tank layout.

Are Clown Loaches Good for Beginners?

No, I wouldn’t recommend clown loaches to beginners. These are rather difficult fish in terms of long-term care due to their preference for impeccable environmental conditions.

Combine this with the need for a large tank, and a beginner won’t be able to handle the loaches correctly.

A large tank is much more difficult to manage than a small one. When it comes to caring for the clown loaches, you need to:

  • Vacuum the substrate regularly to remove fish waste and food residues
  • Remove algae deposits and dead plant matter that can foul the water
  • Clean the filtration system regularly to make sure it’s running at full capacity
  • Perform regular water changes of 20% of the total volume at most
  • Provide the fish with several meals per day and remove fish residues immediately
  • Monitor the fish for health issues, given that they are prone to Ich and other skin parasites
  • Have a hospital tank ready to ensure adequate treatment and always discuss the treatment approach with a professional beforehand

All these aspects show that clown loaches are more difficult to care for in the long run.

Only consider investing in clown loaches if you already have sufficient experience handling larger fish with similar requirements.

How to Tell if Clown Loach is Male or Female?

Clown loaches are easy to differentiate based on sex. Females are plumper with rounder bellies, while males are slimmer and more aquadynamic.

Males’ tail tips are also rounder and bent inwards compared to females.

How do Clown Loaches Breed?

Unfortunately, you can’t breed clown loaches in captivity. These fish require strict environmental conditions to breed successfully, and even so, the success rate is low.

There are very few instances of people breeding clown loaches successfully, so I recommend skipping this process altogether.

Instead, focus on providing your loaches with the best life they can have and purchase some more if you plan on expanding their group.


Clown loaches are easy-going fish that enjoy large and lush swimming spaces with a lot of hiding areas.

They are generally easy to please in terms of environmental layout and water conditions, but you need significant investments and monitoring to ensure their safety.

Only invest in clown loaches if you’re ready for the task and are already reasonably experienced in the aquarium world.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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