The Clown Loach, also known as Tiger Botia, is an eye-catching freshwater fish known for its funny antics in the aquarium.

With its striking orange body color and the dark vertical bands that run across its body, the Clown Loach is a favorite among newbie and veteran fishkeepers alike.

There are a lot of things to learn about this funny but pricey tank member. Our Clown Loach enthusiasts will cover all the bases in this article: from the ins and outs of setting up the ideal aquarium for Clown Loaches, the do’s and don’ts of caring for this endlessly entertaining fish, and tips on how to breed this tank beauty with ease.


Scientific Name: Chromobotia macracanthus
Other Names: Clown Loach
Habitat: Rivers and lakes in Sumatra and Borneo
Temperament: Peaceful
Behavior: Excellent community fish
Diet: Omnivore
Lifespan: 3 – 5 years
Max Size: Up to 18″ (50cm)
Water conditions: Temperature: 75°F to 86°F (24-30°C); pH: 5.0 to 7.5; hardness: Soft to medium. dH range: 5.0 – 15.0
Tank size: 75 gallons, moderately panted tanks

Clown Loach Care 101

Sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Clown Catfish because of its physical similarities with other species of catfish, the Clown Loach got its name from some of its distinct features.

The word “loach” refers to freshwater fishes with barbels or teeth-like protrusions found near or on the upper lips of their mouths. These fish are known to be natural bottom-dwellers.

On the other hand, the term “clown” is shared by tropical fish that have vertical stripes or markings running across their entire body. Put these two terms together, and you have an apt summary of the freshwater Clown Loach: a bottom-dweller fish that has barbels on its mouth and dark vertical markings on its body.

Now, here is some care do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you add the Clown Loach to your aquarium:

– House Clown Loaches in Moderately Planted Tanks

Clown Loaches are highly active fish. They love darting around the tank or swimming through caves and dangling plants. As much as they love open spaces, however, they also need hiding places of their own.

A moderately planted tank is the best environment in which your Clown Loaches can thrive. By adding wood debris, a couple of rock caves, and some background and middle ground fauna, you’ll not only come up with an aesthetically pleasing tank but an aquarium that is custom-built to provide both space and comfort for your lively loaches.

– Use the Biggest Aquarium You Can Afford

Aside from using a planted tank, you should also ensure that your Clown Loaches live in an aquarium of at least 75 gallons for three to four juveniles. Mature Clown Loaches that live in schools of more than five need a tank that has a 180-gallon capacity at the very least. A good rule of thumb is to provide at least 30 gallons of aquarium space for each adult Clown Loach.

Remember that this type of fish is expected to grow to about a foot in length. They will need all the space they can get to swim freely, avoid territorial fights, and grow properly.

– Keep a Small School of Six Clown Loaches at Minimum

Choose to keep a school of at least six Clown Loaches in either a large community tank or a spacious single-species tank. While Clown Loaches can be kept in groups of three, their social and funny nature becomes more evident when they are kept in a small school size of six fishes.

Besides this, active schooling fish like Clown Loaches benefit from being kept in schools of six primarily due to the security that comes with being in a group. You’ll find that your Clown Loaches are more likely to showcase their strange and unique behaviors when the presence reassures them of their small school.

– Keep Consistent Water Parameters to Prevent Illness

Clown Loaches are highly prone to Ich or White Spot. As the name suggests, this illness presents as an isolated white spot on the face or body of your fish. One of the most common causes of Ich is poor tank water conditions.

So while your Clown Loaches may not be the most high maintenance fish in your tank, they are still susceptible to illnesses brought about by poor water conditions and the presence of parasites.

If your Clown Loaches do catch Ich or manifest one or several white spots, you should consider moving the infected fish to a quarantine tank. This tank should ideally have warmer water than the home tank. You can also manage Ich using hydrocortisone cream and ultraviolet light treatment.

Clown Loaches may recover from Ich without any intervention, but boosting their immune system with a balanced diet and supplementary vitamins will help them bounce back to being healthy a lot faster.

Clown Loach Diet: What Do Clown Loaches Eat Anyway?

In their natural habitat, Clown Loaches feast on small live prey and decaying plants. They are omnivores with a good appetite, which means that they are not likely to be picky eaters even in an aquarium setup.

That said, you should feed your Clown Loaches the best food you can afford. Here are some food items you can mix and match to ensure that your Clown Loaches receive a balanced and optimized diet:

  • Pellets and Flakes
  • Algae Wafers
  • Live food (blood worms, small snails, and mini shrimp; feed occasionally)
  • Freeze-dried or Frozen food (tube worms, brine shrimp, and krill; feed occasionally)
  • Fruits and Vegetables (watermelon bits and small banana slices; feed as a rare treat)

You can also invest in pre-packaged vitamins and mineral supplements that are sold in most local fish stores. Giving these to your Clown Loaches once a week or as instructed will provide them with the nutrients they might not get from their regular food sources.

Clown Loach Stats and Facts

Becoming familiar with your new Clown Loach’s origins, its preferred tank parameters, distinct markings, and even its expected size and lifespan are all excellent steps to take towards preparing for a successful fishkeeping experience. In this section, our experts give you a rundown of Clown Loach basics.

– Origins

Clown Loaches hail from the freshwater rivers of the Indonesian Archipelago. Specifically, they used to be abundant in the wild in the areas of Sumatra and Borneo. People there would catch them using nets in either river with fast currents or small freshwater pools where the water was calm and of moderate depth.

This Southeast Asian fish is known in the fishkeeping world as a beautiful jewel because of its bright coloration. However, in its home country, it is often caught and served as food.

Clown Loaches have been observed to migrate from their ever-moving tributaries and rivers to the still waters of flooded areas and bogs in the wild. It is in these calm waters, shaded by fallen trees and abundant leaf litter, that the Clown Loaches settle down to breed and lay their eggs.

– Size

You’ll hear different testaments when it comes to Clown Loach size. Young Clown Loaches that you can easily buy from your local fish store usually range from 2 to 3 inches in size. But don’t be deceived! A full-grown Clown Loach can reach up to 12 inches in length.

There are even reports from seasoned aquarists who have watched in amazement as their adult Clown Loaches exceeded the standard size of 12 inches to a whopping 18 inches!

– Physical Appearance

Clown Loaches are known for their bright orange color and the deep black markings that run vertically across their bodies.

Some Clown Loaches will have a pale yellow coloration, while others that hail from their natural habitat in Indonesia might have black markings near their mouths and on the tips of their fins.

They have very small barbels that jut from their mouths and behind their eyes. These are a bit difficult to see unless you can observe them up close.

– Temperament

Clown Loaches are generally peaceful aquarium inhabitants. They do not fare well with aggressive or boisterous tank mates. Upon reaching their adult size, they are no longer prone to attacks from most aquarium residents. However, young Clown Loaches will be the target of feisty fish and may be discouraged from coming out into the open if they are consistently bullied.

– Lifespan

The Clown Loach lifespan is known to last for a decade on average. Some extremely long-lived Clown Loaches reports attest to these fish living for up to 25 years in captivity.

Tank Requirements

Clown Loaches do best in moderately planted freshwater tanks with rock caves and wood debris for shelter or use as quick hideaways. You should also consider using a soft or sandy substrate when you prepare a Clown Loach aquarium.

Being the bottom-dwellers that they are, Clown Loaches will often forage for leftover food close to the tank floor. Having soft or non-abrasive substrates will prevent them from being unintentionally injured.

– Water pH Level

You’ll want to mimic the water parameters found in your Clown Loach’s natural habitat. This type of fish is found in warm tropical waters. So they can tolerate most standard freshwater tank setups. Keep your tank’s water slightly acidic to help your Clown Loaches remain healthy. A pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 should do the trick.

– Water Hardness

Clown Loaches are also known to tolerate most water hardness conditions. Keep your tank’s water hardness in the range of 5 to 15 dGH as Clown Loaches usually live in relatively soft to medium-hard water in the wild.

– Temperature

As for the ideal water temperature, your best bet would again be to mimic the Clown Loach’s natural habitat. Clown Loaches can be found swimming contentedly in warm water in the wild, with temperatures ranging from 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can opt to keep the temperature of your tank in the middle range at around 78 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit to provide your Clown Loaches with a near-perfect environment.

– Light Level

Keep the lighting of your tank dim to moderately bright. Clown Loaches can be extremely shy before they settle into their new home. They might not come out into the open at all if bright lights surround the tank. Use dim lighting or shaded lighting to encourage your Clown Loaches to come out and explore their new tank.

Unique Clown Loach Tank Behavior

If you have decided on adding a shoal of these funny fish, then you have probably been mesmerized by the different kinds of Clown Loach behavior. In this section, our Clown Loach enthusiasts will give you an overview of the fish’s behavior so that you know what to expect from the newest additions to your tank.

– Swimming Upside Down or Sideways

New Clown Loach owners might be alarmed when they witness their fish swimming upside down or sideways. However, for the mischievous Clown Loach, these swimming patterns are perfectly normal! Observe your fish for a few more minutes, and it should return to swimming right side up.

– Playing Dead

Another peculiar behavior that Clown Loaches have is playing dead, and it often leads to a panicked fish keeper scooping out a healthy fish from the tank. Clown Loaches usually sleep in a “play dead” position, which often shows them lying on one side at the bottom of the tank.

Before you scare the entire tank, take a few minutes to observe the resting Clown Loach first. If it is healthy and alive, you should be able to see movement around its gills.

– Clown on the Chase

If your community tank is large enough to have some freshwater snails in it, your Clown Loaches will find them and start rolling them around before eating them.

This behavior is one of the reasons seasoned aquarists introduce a school of mature Clown Loaches in a community tank with an overpopulation of snails. The Clown Loaches make short work of these shelled inhabitants.

Clown Loach Tank Mates

Knowing which fish will make excellent tank mates for your Clown Loaches will save you a lot of trouble and stress later on. One thing to always keep in mind when searching for tank mates that will play well with your Clown Loaches is temperament or behavior.

Here are the top three best Clown Loach Tank Mates that come at our experts’ recommendation:

1. Angelfish

Though Angelfish are sometimes territorial, they do not have a problem with large and silly Clown Loaches. You can pair these two species in a community tank and find that they do not make much fuss at all.

2. Eartheater Cichlids

This is another type of a rather peaceful cichlid that can be paired with the Clown Loach. Both the Clown Loach and Eartheater Cichlid are bottom-dwellers. Chances are, you’ll witness both these fish surveying the substrate for leftover food.

3. Plecostomus or Plecos

Plecos are one of the easiest fish to pair with almost every species. Their size and appearance make them unlikely to become a snack for large fish. Additionally, they mostly keep to themselves. You can pair these with Clown Loaches and still have a harmonious community tank.

All of these types of fish are known for being peaceful or, at the most, only mildly aggressive. They will play well with adult Clown Loaches that have almost grown to their maximum size.

Clown Loach Breeding

Breeding Clown Loaches in captivity, more often than not, ends in futility and frustration. These fish are just so difficult to breed in captivity that even the most experienced fish keepers will tell you to just buy more Clown Loaches from your local fish store instead of expending the time and effort to breed Clown Loach fry.

In the rare event that a Clown Loach breeding pair successfully spawns, there is still a very high chance that those newly spawned eggs will never be fertilized. In fact, you should expect the parent Clown Loaches to eat the eggs instead.

The fact that they are challenging to breed in home aquariums is one of the reasons why Clown Loaches are quite expensive compared to other tropical fish.

Conclusions on the Clown Loach

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article about the beautiful and funny Clown Loach. Here are the key points from this article that you should keep in mind at all times when caring for your Clown Loaches:

  • Clown Loaches are peaceful freshwater fish that thrive in planted tanks.
  • These fish can grow up to a foot or longer, so having a large tank with a capacity of at least 180 gallons is a must for a small school of Clown Loaches.
  • Clown Loaches do best on a diet of flakes, pellets, and the occasional live food.
  • Clown Loaches exhibit peculiar behavior, including playing dead and swimming upside down.
  • These fish are, unfortunately, difficult to breed in captivity.

Now that you know all of the basics, you should find it easier to bring Clown Loaches into your home tank.

With a bit of mindfulness and care, your new Clown Loaches will surely be swimming happily in their new aquarium.

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