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Clown Loach Care Guide For Beginners

Clown Loach Care Guide For Beginners

Clown Loaches, scientifically known as Chromobotia macracanthus, are captivating freshwater fish known for their vibrant appearance and unique personalities. Thriving in social groups, these loaches exhibit distinct black stripes that contrast against their colorful bodies, creating an eye-catching display in aquariums.

In this article, we will explore every aspect of caring for these fascinating fish, covering topics such as tank setup, dietary needs, health considerations, and the importance of maintaining an environment that fosters their well-being.

Let’s look at what is involved in the intricacies of providing optimal care for these captivating fish..

Key Takeaways

  • Clown loaches come from warm tropical rivers and need big tanks with at least 100 gallons of water to swim happily in groups.
  • You should feed clown loaches a mix of meaty foods and veggies, but be careful not to overfeed them.
  • It’s hard to breed clown loaches in home aquariums; they rarely have babies unless special methods are used.
  • These fish can live up to 20 years with proper care, which includes keeping the water at the right temperature (78°-87°F) and pH levels (6.5-7.0).
  • Make sure that tank mates for clown loaches are peaceful; avoid small snails or shrimp and aggressive fish that might harm them.

Clown Loach Origin & Habitat

  • Common name: Clown loach
  • Scientific name: Chromobotia macracanthus
  • Care level: Moderate – Hard
  • Size: Up to 12 inches (30 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group size: At least 5
  • Minimum tank size: 100 gallons (379 liters)
  • Tank level: Bottom dweller
  • Water temperature: 78°F and 87°F (26°C and 30°C)
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.0
  • Water hardness: 5-12 dGH

Clown loaches come from the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. In their home, they swim in streams and rivers with lots of plants around them. The waters are clean and flow quickly, which helps the fish stay happy and strong.

These streams often have a mix of both shallow areas and deeper spots where clown loaches can search for food or hide.

They also live in water that is warm all year round due to the hot weather in these forests. The water has just the right amount of acid (pH) that makes it perfect for them to live in.

Clown loaches love this kind of place because they find everything they need – food, shelter, and good conditions to grow up well.

Appearance & Size

Clown loaches stand out with their bright colors and striking patterns. They have a long body that looks a bit plump, along with a flat belly. Near their mouths, they sport pairs of barbels which help them feel around in the water.

As babies, these fish shine with orange bodies covered in bold black bands. 

At maturity, clown loaches can reach up to 12 inches long. But don’t expect all of them to get that big; most stay around 6-8 inches in an aquarium setting. One thing to keep in mind is that their vivid orange color fades over time too, they won’t remain as nearly as colorful as they are when they are little.

Older clown loaches take on softer tones like copper or even touches of grey and brown. These changes in size and color make each fish unique as it ages.

Personality & Behavior

Clown loaches are full of life and fun to watch. They love playing and can often be seen darting around the tank or tumbling over each other in a playful manner. These fish enjoy being with their own kind, so it’s best to have a group of them together.

A school of at least five will keep them happy and active but more is always preferable if you have the room.

With their peaceful nature, they make great friends for many different types of fish in a community tank.

When feeding time comes, clown loaches are helpful as well; they’ll search through gravel to eat up the food that other fish missed, keeping the bottom of the tank clean.

Life Span

Clown loaches, when provided with proper care and a suitable environment, can live up to 20 years. This relatively long lifespan makes them a commitment for aquarium enthusiasts. 

Maintaining stable water conditions, providing a balanced diet, and ensuring a spacious tank are essential factors in promoting the longevity of these vibrant and engaging fish. Regular monitoring and prompt attention to their well-being contribute to a fulfilling and extended life for clown loaches in captivity.

Clown Loach Care & Tank Setup

Creating the perfect home for your clown loach starts with understanding their specific care requirements and setting up an aquarium that mimics their natural habitat. This chapter will dive into how to establish a tank environment where your clown loaches can thrive, detailing everything from the ideal tank size to essential equipment and decor.

Before you add your clown loaches to your tank, make sure you quarantine them first to prevent the potential introduction of diseases or parasites into your aquarium ecosystem.

Tank Size

Clown loaches need a big home to swim and play. A tank that holds at least 100 gallons of water is best for them. This gives them enough room to move around and stay healthy and ensures each fish has its own space while still being part of the group.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 78°F and 87°F (26°C and 30°C)
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.0
  • Water hardness: 5-12 dGH

Maintaining the correct water parameters is crucial for the well-being of clown loaches, as they thrive in conditions that closely mimic their natural habitat. Ensuring your aquatic setup has the proper balance can be the difference between a flourishing environment and one that puts stress on these sensitive fish.

Water Temperature

Clown loaches thrive in warm water. Keep the tank between 78°F and 87°F (26° and 30°C). Use a heater to make sure the temperature stays right for these fish. They love water that feels like their home in fast rivers.

Keeping them happy means checking the heat often so it doesn’t get too cool or too hot.

Water pH Levels

These vibrant loaches like water to be a little bit acidic or just right, which means a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0 is best for them. But the perfect spot for their home is with water that has a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.

Keep your tank’s pH steady so your fish stay happy and healthy. You can check the pH often with pH test kits you buy online or at pet stores. If you need to change it, do it slowly so your clown loaches can adjust without stress.

Water Hardness

Clown Loaches thrive in water with a hardness of 5 to 12 dGH. This level of hardness keeps them healthy and mirrors the waters they come from in wild Indonesian islands like Borneo and Sumatra.

Hard water makes a good environment for these fish. It reduces their stress and fights off sickness. Check the hardness regularly with a water test kit to make sure your Clown Loaches are swimming happily in your aquarium!

What Clown Loaches Need In The Tank

Creating the perfect habitat for your fish is essential to their health and happiness; from the choice of substrate to tank decorations and plants. Every element plays a crucial role in replicating their natural environment and supporting their well-being.


Clown loaches like to dig, so a soft sandy substrate is best for them. This keeps their barbels safe and lets them play without getting hurt. If you don’t like sand, choose smooth gravel that won’t harm their delicate whiskers.


Your clown loaches will love a tank that feels like home. Add smooth rocks, driftwood, and caves where these playful fish can zip around and play hide-and-seek!

Avoid sharp or rough rocks which can scrape their skin.


Clown loaches love to have live plants in their tank. Plants help these fish feel safe by giving them places to hide. Choose robust freshwater plants like Java Moss, Hornwort, or Amazon Swords for your tank. These are perfect because they look like their natural habitat and are less likely to be uprooted by your clown loach.

You could also place floating water spangles in the tank for them, they provide shade and make the light soft, which these fish enjoy. 


Clown Loaches like it best when the lights are not too bright in their home. If you have strong lights, they might hide and only swim around when it gets dark. Keep the lighting soft, so they feel more at ease, just like in their natural rivers.

To keep your Clown Loaches active and playful, adjust your lighting setup to imitate their natural homes in rivers where sunlight doesn’t hit all the time because of trees and leaves above.

Use a timer for your tank lights so they turn on and off at good times, giving these fish a sense of night and day just like in nature.


These loaches come from tropical waters, so a heater is a must for keeping them warm and cozy. Put the heater where water moves around it so all parts of the tank are at the same temperature.

I recommend the 300-watt submersible fish tank heater to help your fish stay healthy and happy. If the water gets too cold or too hot, it can make them sick. Some aquarists invest in a backup heater or generator in the event of a power outage.

If you’re having any problems with your heater’s reliability, check out, forum. I have found some really useful tips here.


Clown loaches love clean and fresh water. They make a lot of waste, so you need a strong filter in their tank. A canister filter works great for big tanks that hold over 100 gallons, like this Penn-Plax Cascade All-in-One.

It will keep the water moving quickly and take out all the dirt they leave behind.

Good filters help make sure your clown loaches are happy and healthy. They stop bad things like ammonia from hurting your fish. Always choose a filter that can handle more water than your tank holds to be safe.

This way, your clown loaches get the best care possible!

Clown Loach Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for your clown loach, consider compatible species that share similar water requirements and a harmonious disposition to ensure a peaceful community aquarium.

Ideal Tankmates

  • Bristlenose Pleco: This fish is good at keeping the tank clean by eating algae. It also stays calm, which makes it a great buddy for clown loaches.
  • Kuhli Loach: They share similar needs as clown loaches and love to play hide and seek together in the tank.
  • Neon Tetra: Their small size and peaceful nature make neon tetras perfect pals for clown loaches.
  • Cherry Barb: These are colorful and peaceful, adding beauty to the tank without causing trouble.
  • Tiger Barb: Although they’re a bit more active, tiger barbs can still hang out with clown loaches if there’s enough space.
  • Bolivian Ram: With their calm behavior, these fish can share a home with clown loaches easily.
  • Angelfish: They are quite peaceful and look beautiful swimming around with clown loaches.
  • Black Skirt Tetra: These gentle fish won’t bother your clown loaches and will add movement to your aquarium.

Tankmates to Avoid

Clown loaches are friendly fish, but they can’t live with just any tank mate. Some fish and creatures should not be in the same tank as clown loaches.

  1. Invertebrates like snails and shrimp: Clown loaches love to eat these, so they should not share a tank.
  2. Aggressive fish: Fish that like to fight or bully might stress clown loaches out or hurt them.
  3. Large territorial fish: Big fish that need space might push loaches away from good spots in the tank.
  4. Very small fish: Tiny fish could become food for adult clown loaches if they fit into their mouths.
  5. Fin-nippers: Fish that nibble fins can damage the delicate fins of clown loaches.
  6. Slow-moving or long-finned fish: These can be easy targets for active clown loaches to bother, even if they don’t mean harm.
  7. Fish that need different water conditions: If other fish need warmer, colder, harder, or softer water than what clown loaches like, they won’t make good roommates.

Food & Diet

Clown loaches are omnivores and enjoy a varied diet consisting of high-quality pellets, flakes, and frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. 

Providing a diverse range of foods helps ensure they receive essential nutrients and vitamins. Additionally, incorporating vegetable-based foods like blanched spinach or zucchini is beneficial for their well-rounded nutrition.

How Much and How Often to Feed Them

These guys enjoy eating and can overeat if given the chance. It’s important to feed them the right amount to keep them healthy.

  • Give food once or twice a day. Each feeding time, drop in only as much food as your fish can eat in 2-3 minutes.
  • For young Clown Loaches, offer smaller meals more often. This helps them grow well.
  • Always take care not to overfeed. Too much food can harm both the fish and the tank water.
  • Watch out for signs of overeating such as very round bellies. If you see this, give them a little less food next time.
  • Make sure you check how much each fish eats. Some may need more or less food than others.

Breeding Clown Loaches

Breeding clown loaches at home is tough. They need special spots to hide, like caves or driftwood, to feel safe and ready for breeding. But even with the perfect spot, they often won’t breed in tanks like they do in the wild.

In Asia where these fish are from, big farms use special hormones to make them spawn. This way they can have baby clown loaches more easily. Regular folks with fish tanks usually can’t do this trick.

So it’s rare to see baby clown loaches born in a regular tank at someone’s house.

Common Health Issues

Clown Loaches are susceptible to common tropical freshwater fish diseases,

Clown loaches are prone to common tropical freshwater fish diseases, especially ich, a common fish disease that shows up as tiny white spots on their skin and fins. If you see these spots, your clown loach may need help fast because ich is highly contagious and can spread very quickly. 

It’s important to keep the water clean and at the right temperature to stop diseases like ich.

Ich can be treated using various over-the-counter medications. Despite common misconceptions, it’s important to note that Clown Loaches do have scales and can be effectively treated with copper-based medicines. Just remember to consider any copper sensitivities in other species you have.

I recommend seeking professional advice before treating your fish to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is administered.

Are Clown Loaches Right For Your Tank?

Clown loaches require a significant commitment due to their potential lifespan of up to 20 years, making this a crucial factor to consider. Additionally, it’s important to assess the available space and time, as they thrive in groups and need at least a 100-gallon tank. Given their somewhat challenging care requirements, be prepared for some dedicated effort in maintaining their well-being.

Other Loaches You May Be Interested In

  • Kuhli Loach: This loach is thin and has stripes too. But it is good at hiding because it looks like the ground under the water.
  • Dwarf Chain Loach: It’s tiny and has pretty chain-like lines all over. They come from rivers near Thailand.
  • Yoyo Loach: This loach has a slender silver or golden body with dark bands. It originates from the waters of India and Pakistan.
  • Dojo Loach: This loach displays a range of colors, from olive green, light brown, or grey, and often has a lighter belly. It originates from streams and ponds in eastern Asia.
  • Reticulated Hillstream Loach: This loach is a stunning little fish that looks like a mini-stingray. It comes from rivers and streams throughout Asia. 
  • Zebra Loach: It’s small with stripes just like a zebra. The zebra loach lives in fast streams in India.
  • Panda Loach: Visually striking with its distinctive black and white coloration, it boasts a sleek body built for the fast-flowing waters of China’s Guangxi province.

Wrapping Up

Successfully caring for Clown Loaches (Chromobotia macracanthus), requires a thoughtful and dedicated approach. Providing them with a spacious and well-maintained aquarium, ideally of at least 100 gallons to accommodate their social nature, is crucial for their overall well-being. Monitoring water parameters, offering a varied and balanced diet, and being attentive to signs of potential health issues are essential components of responsible clown loach care.

Remember that these vibrant freshwater fish can live up to 20 years, emphasizing the long-term commitment required. The rewards, however, are plentiful – observing their playful interactions and witnessing their distinctive personalities within their thriving aquatic homes.

By introducing these vibrant fish into your aquarium, you’re sure to attract the envy of others. I can’t help but smile watching them!

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...