Clown Loach: Characteristics, Care, and Habitat

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Native to Indonesia, the Clown Loach is a tropical freshwater fish that belongs to the botiid loach family. Its scientific name is Chromobotia macracanthus, but it’s also commonly referred to as the tiger botia.

Clown loaches are known for their playful and social personalities.

They are often seen swimming upside down or playing with each other.

Quick Facts

If you’re thinking about getting a clown loach, there are a few things you should know. Here are some quick facts to help you get started:

Common NamesClown loach, tiger botia
Scientific NameChromobotia macracanthus
Adult SizeUp to 12 inches
LifespanUp to 15 years
TemperamentPeaceful, social
Tank SizeAt least 100 gallons
Water ConditionspH 6.0-7.5, temperature 75-86°F
CompatibilityGood with other peaceful fish
Caring for Clown Loaches

Origin & Habitat

Clown Loach is a popular freshwater fish that is native to the rivers and tributaries of Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and Kalimantan.

During spawning periods, they migrate to flooded areas of the rainforest where soft, tea-colored water flows through boggy, slow-moving streams.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Clown Loach is Chromobotia macracanthus.

It belongs to the family Botiidae, which includes other popular aquarium fish such as the Yo-yo Loach and the Kuhli Loach.

In the wild, they are found in large schools, and they are known to be active and playful swimmers.

They prefer slow-moving, soft water with plenty of hiding places, such as rocks, caves, and driftwood.

Appearance & Size

Clown Loaches are one of the most distinguishable freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby, and it’s no wonder why so many enthusiasts adore them.


  • Coloration: Their base color is a vibrant orange to orange-yellow which makes them really stand out in an aquarium setting. Overlaying this vibrant base are three thick, vertical, black bands. The first band runs just behind the head, the second sits around the midpoint of the body, and the third is positioned near the base of the tail.
  • Fins: All fins are typically translucent with a slight orange hue, except for the caudal (tail) fin which can sometimes display black marks. Their pectoral fins are equipped with a sharp spine that can be locked in place, which is something handlers should be cautious about.
  • Shape: Clown Loaches possess a long, slightly compressed body which is indicative of many bottom-dwelling species. Their mouths are downward facing, perfect for rummaging in the substrate, and surrounded by sensitive barbels which aid in detecting food.
Clown loach tank mates


The size can be surprising to many novice fishkeepers.

While they may start off as small, lively specimens in pet stores, these fish have the potential to grow quite large.

  • Initial Size: When first introduced to aquariums, they are usually between 2 to 3 inches in length.
  • Adult Size: With proper care and over time, they can reach sizes up to 12 inches in a home aquarium. In the wild, there have been reports of them growing even larger.

Temperament & Behavior

They tend to form tight-knit schools, and a solitary Clown Loach can often become stressed or exhibit signs of loneliness.

These loaches are generally peaceful and can coexist well with other non-aggressive tankmates.

However, like many species, they do have a hierarchy within their group.

Minor skirmishes can occur, but these are rarely serious and are more about establishing social standing.

Many fish keepers, myself included, have been charmed by their playful antics.

Clown Loaches are curious creatures, often seen exploring every nook and cranny of their environment.

Social Behavior

Especially during their younger years, Clown Loaches are seen zipping around the tank.

As they age, they may become more sedentary but will still have their active moments.

While they can be active during the day, they do exhibit nocturnal behaviors.

It’s not uncommon to see them become more lively during dusk or dawn.

An interesting behavior to note is their ability to produce a ‘clicking’ sound.

This is usually observed when they are excited or during feeding times.

It’s one of those unique quirks that make them so endearing to their owners.

One other particularly intriguing behavior exhibited by Clown Loaches is their tendency to occasionally lie upside down or appear as if they’re playing dead.

This can be quite alarming to novice fish keepers.

However, in many instances, this is simply a quirky aspect of their natural behavior, and they’ll soon right themselves and go about their activities as usual.

That being said, if this behavior is prolonged or accompanied by other signs of distress, it might be an indication of an underlying issue in the tank or the fish’s health.

Tank Size and Setup

Tank Size

When it comes to clown loach, a minimum tank size of 100 gallons (380 liters) is recommended.

This is because these fish can grow up to 12 inches in length and need ample swimming space.

They prefer to live in groups, so you’ll need to consider their school size when selecting a tank.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 50 gallons of water for every adult clown loach in the tank.

Water Parameters

These freshwater fish that prefer a pH range of 6.0-7.5 and a temperature range of 75-86°F (24-30°C).

It’s essential to monitor the water parameters regularly and make adjustments as needed to maintain optimal water quality.

A high-quality and efficient filter is also necessary to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish.

These fish need high-quality water as they are very prone to Ich.

Tank Setup & Decorations

When setting up your clown loach tank, it’s essential to provide plenty of hiding places and decorations for your fish to explore.

This not only creates a more natural environment for them but also helps to reduce stress.

Some recommended decorations include rocks, caves, and driftwood.

Live plants can also be a great addition to the tank, but be sure to choose plants that can tolerate the water parameters and won’t be uprooted by your fish.

A tight-fitting lid on the tank is a must, as clown loaches are known to be adept jumpers.

Finally, be sure to avoid overcrowding the tank and provide adequate space for your fish to swim and play.

Tank Size Clown Loach


Clown Loaches are omnivorous fish, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter.

A well-balanced diet is crucial to keeping them healthy and happy in your aquarium.

What to Feed Your Clown Loach

To ensure a healthy diet, it is recommended to feed a mix of protein and vegetables.

Here are some options for each:


  • Insects
  • Crustaceans
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Small fish


  • Fresh vegetables (such as zucchini, cucumber, and spinach)
  • Plant matter (such as algae and spirulina)
  • Decomposing plant matter (such as leaves and wood)

Vegetables and plant matter should make up approximately 30-40% of a Clown Loach’s diet.

Feeding Schedule

Clown Loaches are active fish and require frequent feedings.

It’s recommended to feed them small amounts of food twice a day.

Overfeeding can lead to health problems, so be sure to monitor the amount of food you’re giving them.

Commercial Food Options

If you’re looking for a convenient option, there are many commercial foods available.

Look for high-quality options with a mix of protein and vegetables.

Some popular options include:

  • Tetra Shrimp Wafers
  • Fluval Color Enhancing Pellets
  • Hikari Bio-Pure Daphnia
  • San Francisco Bay Freeze Dried Krill
Mature Clown Loach

Tank Mates

When it comes to selecting tank mates for your Clown Loach, keep in mind that they are social fish and prefer to be kept in groups of six or more.

You need to ensure that the fish you select are compatible with their behavior, temperament, and water parameters.

Here are some of the best tank mates you can consider:

  • Other Clown Loaches: As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to keep Clown Loaches in groups of six or more. They are social fish and will not thrive without the company of their own kind.
  • Dwarf Rainbowfish: Dwarf Rainbowfish is an excellent choice for tank mates. They are peaceful fish that can coexist with Clown Loaches without any issues.
  • Rosy Barbs: Rosy Barbs are a good option for tank mates as they are compatible with Clown Loaches in terms of behavior and water parameters. However, they can be a bit nippy, so keep an eye on them.
  • Plecos: Plecos are a great addition to your Clown Loach tank. They are peaceful fish that can help keep your tank clean by eating algae.
  • Angelfish: Angelfish can coexist with Clown Loaches, but you need to ensure that your tank is large enough to accommodate both species. Angelfish can grow quite large, so consider that when selecting tank mates.
  • Tiger Barbs: Tiger Barbs can be a good option for tank mates, but they can be aggressive toward other fish. Ensure that your tank is large enough to accommodate both species and that you have enough hiding spots for your Clown Loaches.
  • Tetras: Tetras are peaceful fish that can coexist with Clown Loaches without any issues. They are also colorful and can add a pop of color to your tank.

Avoid keeping your Clown Loaches with aggressive or predatory fish, such as cichlids or larger species that can eat them.

Additionally, avoid keeping shrimp or snails in the same tank as they can be eaten by them.


Breeding Clown Loaches can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

Here are some tips to help you successfully breed Clown Loaches:

Clown Loaches are egg layers, and breeding usually occurs in pairs or groups.

To encourage breeding, create a suitable environment for your Clown Loaches with plenty of hiding places and a soft substrate.

Feed your Clown Loaches a varied diet of live, frozen, and dried foods to keep them healthy and in breeding condition.

When breeding, the female will lay eggs on a flat surface, such as a rock or piece of wood.

After laying the eggs, the female Clown Loach will guard them while the male fertilizes them.

It is vital to remove the adults from the breeding tank once the eggs have been laid, as they may eat the eggs or fry.

The eggs will hatch in 3-5 days, and the fry will become free-swimming after about a week.

Feed the fry a diet of newly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flakes until they are large enough to eat larger foods.

Breeding Clown Loaches can be challenging, but with the right environment and care, you can successfully breed these unique and fascinating fish.

Clown Loach Breeding

Why You Should Consider This Fish

The Clown Loach stands out as a compelling choice for aquarium enthusiasts.

Their vibrant colors and dynamic patterns are visually captivating, while their playful antics and sociable nature promise endless entertainment.

Ideally suited for those who appreciate observing natural behaviors, these loaches form tight-knit schools and often showcase quirky habits, such as their occasional tendency to lie upside down.

Additionally, their generally peaceful temperament makes them compatible with a variety of tankmates.

Considering their unique characteristics and the joy they bring to their owners, including myself over the years, the Clown Loach undoubtedly makes a delightful addition to any freshwater aquarium.


What is the ideal tank size for keeping multiple Clown Loaches?

Clown Loaches are active fish that require plenty of swimming space. For a group of five or more, a tank of at least 100 gallons is recommended. However, larger tanks are always better for these fish. Make sure the tank has plenty of hiding places and a soft substrate for them to dig into.

How can you tell the difference between male and female Clown Loaches?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between male and female Clown Loaches. However, females may be slightly larger and rounder than males, especially when they are ready to breed. Males may have a somewhat more pointed dorsal fin.

What are some common behavior problems seen in Clown Loaches?

Clown Loaches are generally peaceful fish, but they can become aggressive toward each other if they are not kept in a large enough group. They may also become stressed if kept in a tank with aggressive or territorial fish. Additionally, they may hide or become inactive if they are not provided with enough hiding places or if the water quality is poor.

Can Clown Loaches be bred in a home aquarium?

Clown Loaches can be bred in a home aquarium, but it is difficult and requires a lot of space. They are typically bred in large outdoor ponds in tropical regions of the world. If you want to try breeding Clown Loaches in an aquarium, make sure you have a large enough tank and provide them with plenty of hiding places and a suitable breeding substrate.

What is the growth rate of Clown Loaches?

Clown Loaches can grow up to 12 inches in length, but their growth rate can vary depending on factors such as diet, water quality, and tank size. Generally, they will reach their full size in 3-4 years.

How many Clown Loaches can be kept together in a tank?

Clown Loaches are social fish and should be kept in groups of at least five individuals. However, they can become aggressive towards each other if they are not kept in a large enough group or if the tank is too small. Make sure your tank is large enough to accommodate the number of Clown Loaches you want to keep.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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