Clown Loach – Habitat, Care, Feeding, Tank Size, Breeding

The clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) is popular fish food in Indonesia and a staple in colorful aquariums. It has a long whitish-orange to the reddish-orange body. The fish is characterized by three dark, thick, and vertical bands. It has four barbels and it can make clicking sounds. The fins and tails have a red color.

Wild clown loaches can reach a foot in length, but they will typically grow to around 12 inches in the aquarium. Its peaceful nature makes it an ideal candidate for a community tank. You can enjoy watching the fish on the day when it is most active.

You should be careful when handling a clown loach because they have a spine under each eye. Your fingers can easily get pricked by this spine, which is meant for defense.

Clown Loach Natural Habitat


Clown Loach

The clown loach is indigenous to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. It lives in rivers and tributaries shaded by plants and covered with plant detritus like branches and twigs.

Flooding forces the clown loach to move to flooded plains and blackwater waterways. Breeding adults relocate to smaller streams to spawn annually. The temperature range in these habitats is 77-86ºF, with the PH between 5.0-8.0.

Clown loach fish thrive best in places that experience subdued lighting. They prefer areas with lots of overhanging and floating vegetation or places with riverbank overhangs.

These fish love such habitats mainly for protection against predators among other factors. So if you can replicate such an environment in the aquarium your clown loach would be very happy.

Also, the rivers where these fish live are characterized by rocky pebble substrates. Their floodplains have muddy substrates with lush green growing plants.

This means that their tank should contain a pebble or muddy substrate with a few lush green aquatic plants similar to those found in their natural habitat.

Clown Loach Fish Tank Requirements

Before you are getting any clown loaches, you need to consider a couple of things regarding their tank requirements.

Tank Size

Adult clown loaches are quite big, and you want to give them ample room to move around. The issue of tank size is complicated by the fact that you need to keep at least six of them.

Clown loaches thrive in active schools as they can get stressed if only a few of them are in one tank. The fish will also co-exist peacefully with schools of other compatible fish like tiger barbs.

Keep in mind that the fish can get quite large, and some have even recorded lengths of 18 inches. Their growth rate is, however, slow, and you can start juveniles in a 55-gallon tank. You will need 120 gallons to accommodate their adult sizes.

The tank should be complemented by a tight-fitting cover because clown loaches are curious and skilled jumpers.


You can use a substrate blend of gravel and sand to mimic the natural habitat of the loaches. It should be fine to avoid injuring the barbels on the fish. You can scatter rounded rocks and stones across the tank’s bottom.

Plants and Decoration

Clown loaches thrive in densely planted tanks since they are adapted to shaded areas in the wild. The fish are notorious for nibbling and uprooting plants, which rules out weaker varieties.

Some hardy plants to consider include Anubias, Java Moss, Hornwort, Java Fern and Hygrophila. They can leave significant damage on plants with soft leaves like crypts and Amazon swords.  You can attach the plants on driftwood and rocks and leave the clown loaches free to explore the bottom part of the setup.

Loaches appreciate hiding spaces in the form of driftwood, caves, and tubes. In the wild, the fish cram into tubes no wider than their flanks, which makes it easy for them to be harvested. You will often miss the loaches, as they love to hide in the provided hiding spaces.


Unlike most loach species that come alive at night, the clown loach is active during the day, although it seems to prefer the early morning. You can use bluish lighting to encourage the fish to come out and look for food.

The fish will be most active during the night. Subdued lighting is recommended for a clown loach tank, and you can use floating plants Water Spangles and Hornwort.


The tank should be fitted with a powerful filter, and you can invest in a  canister filter a bigger hang-on-back filter. They thrive in moderate to strong current, but they can still adapt to still water. Clown loaches like well-aerated and oxygenated water, and you can use an airstone to achieve this.

Clown Loach Water Conditions

Water quality and temperature are also very important for these fish, so make sure you provide them with the best environment in order to keep them healthy.


The ideal temperature range for clown loaches is 75-85 °F. you should invest in a reliable heater and a thermometer to keep track of the temperature. However, the temperature in the tank should be adjusted close to 86 °F or simply, the upper tolerance limits.

Water Hardness and PH

The water hardness should be between 5-12 dB and the PH at 7-8. The pH should always remain constant although some fluctuations of between 7 and 8 are allowed.

Clown Loach Water Quality

Clown loaches need pristine water, which means that regular water changes are a must. Renew at least 10% of the water each week with pre-conditioned and treated water.

You also need to clean the tank every three weeks to get rid of impurities. Vacuum the substrate, clean the ornaments, and scrub the glass. Use aquarium-safe cleaning solutions instead of soap and chemical agents.

Clown Loach Diet and Feeding Schedule

Wild clown loaches prey on invertebrates like snails. They thrive on an omnivorous and nutritious diet in the wild.

Give them algae wafers and shrimp pellets. You can treat them with live and frozen foods like bloodworms, shrimp, and earthworms a few times a week. You can feed them twice a day in small quantities. The fish will also eat any leftover meals from other tank inhabitants.

The loaches are bottom feeders, and they should be given sinking food especially if there are other fish in the aquarium. You can provide the occasional vegetable like zucchini and shelled peas.

Clown loaches are popularly bought to control snail populations in the aquarium. Wild populations love eating snails, but the fish will not control snail outbreaks in a tank. Snail outbreaks are also brought about by excessive waste, and clown loaches need pristine water conditions to thrive.

Clown Loach Tank Mates

You can keep clown loaches with other bottom-dwelling fish like the Bristlenose pleco and the Kuhli loaches. If you want to keep the loaches with cichlids, look for peaceful ones like the Angelfish and Bolivian Ram. Other ideal tank mates are tiger barb, zebra danio, and swordtails.

In the wild, clown loaches can be found in the same habitat as:

  • Hard-lipped Barb
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Barred Rainbowfish
  • Spotted Eel-Loach
  • Asian Arowana
  • Comb-Spined Catfish

This should tell you that your clown loach will do well with the aforementioned fish in the same tank environment.

Community fish such as Neon Tetra, Cherry Barbs, or Black Widow Tetra will also coexist with your clown loach fish. Certain species of Cichlids will make good tank mates with your fish provided that you settle for the less aggressive ones.

Make sure that they all share the same tank water parameters before you can bring them together. Remember not to keep predatory fish and your clown loach in the same tank.

You can also include a few invertebrates among your list of clown loach tank mates. Freshwater lobster, crayfish and freshwater crabs (such as Red-Clawed Crab) can make good tank mates with your loach fish.

Clown Loach Breeding

It is notoriously difficult to breed clown loaches, but you can try your luck by starting with a mating pair. The parents can eat the eggs, and you should remove them from the breeding tank as soon as the male fertilizes them. Start the fry with a diet of live-cultivated infusoria and give them brine shrimp and tubifex worms as they grow.

For you to breed your clown loaches successfully, you should consider the following steps:

You may start by looking for a sexually mature pair of clown loaches. Usually, they are six inches in length. Place them in separate tanks for several weeks while feeding them highly nutritious fish food. After some time the female loaches will appear larger in readiness for reproduction.

The moment you notice that the female looks larger, you should pair it with the male in a tank with excellent water quality and plenty of aquatic plants. Ensure that water temperature is between 78 °F and 80 °F. The pH levels should be 6.2 to 6.4 so that your fish can breed and hatch successfully.

After some time the female clown loach will lay eggs and the male will fertilize them. Normally the fertile eggs appear pink and can wriggle or move freely. Infertile eggs will look brownish.

After hatching, feed the tiny fry on live cultivated infusoria. As they grow remember to feed them baby brine shrimp, ground-up fish flakes, and tubifex worms.

Wrapping Up

Clown loaches are active bottom-dwellers and peaceful additions to a community tank. Use tubes to provide hiding spaces since they are timid, and keep the tank under subdued lighting. While keeping them is relatively easy, breeding the loaches is quite tricky.

Loaches   Updated: May 22, 2020
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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