At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Clown Loach?

R. Britton
R. Britton

A clown loach is a popular tropical aquarium fish. Bottom-dwelling and bottom-feeding fish, clown loaches needs plenty of open space to swim, because they are energetic and participate in all kinds of bizarre and entertaining group "dances." This is a shoaling species and needs to be kept in a group of five or more to remain happy and healthy. A large tank is required to keep these fish, because they can reach up to 16 inches (40 cm) in length.

The base of the tank should be covered with a fine, smooth medium, such as soft sand or fine, smooth gravel. The clown loach uses its snout and delicate barbels to sift through the ground cover in search of food and, if the tank medium is not smooth, it can cause significant damage to the fish. This orange and black striped fish should only be added to a mature, well-established and well-maintained aquarium, because it is highly sensitive to unstable or changing water conditions. It also requires a strong, rapid filtration system.

Adding pieces of driftwood to a clown loach can provide places for the fish to hide and help reduce stress.
Adding pieces of driftwood to a clown loach can provide places for the fish to hide and help reduce stress.

Prone to white spot and other bacterial and fungal diseases, as well as stress, the clown loach requires an exceedingly clean tank with optimal living conditions. It needs lots of places to hide, such as bogwood, driftwood or rock formations, to reduce stress. The clown loach quickly becomes stressed if not kept in a small shoal with others of its species, with few pH changes or other tank variations.

The clown loach is a scaleless species. This means it is susceptible to chemical poisoning. Even medications added to the tank can be dangerous to this fish. No chemical should be added to the tank unless absolutely necessary, unless it is designed specifically to be safe for scaleless fish. Copper-based substances should never be added to a tank containing clown loaches, because it will likely kill them quickly.

If medication must be added, small water changes should be done daily to remove the chemical from the tank as quickly as possible; a carbon filter also can be added to the filtration system to draw out the harmful elements. Clown loaches are susceptible to diseases such as white spot, or ich, and require immediate treatment, because this type of disease can spread rapidly and kill loaches particularly quickly. There are some natural remedies available, and these should be considered in the early stages of infection.

Notorious for devouring even well-established plants, clown loaches are boisterous and energetic, knocking over plants and ornaments as they flit about the tank. Although not very aggressive, the clown loach will sometimes bite at the fins of species with "fancy" or long tails, such as the Japanese fighting fish or angel fish. Caution should be taken when choosing tank mates for clown loaches, because they can cause extensive damage to the tails and fins of other species, creating open wounds that leave the victims open to infection and even death if they continue to be harassed by clown loaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Clown Loach and where does it come from?

The Clown Loach, scientifically known as Chromobotia macracanthus, is a tropical freshwater fish native to the rivers and streams of Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. It's renowned for its vibrant coloration and playful behavior, making it a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

How can you identify a Clown Loach?

A Clown Loach can be identified by its striking orange body with three thick, black bands and a long, pointed snout. Its fins are typically red or orange, and it has a movable spine beneath each eye, which can be extended as a defense mechanism. Juveniles are more brightly colored than adults.

What size tank does a Clown Loach need?

Clown Loaches are social and active fish that grow quite large, up to 12 inches in length. They require spacious aquariums to thrive, with a recommended minimum tank size of 75 gallons for a small group. Larger tanks are necessary for adult specimens or if keeping a school, as they prefer to live in groups.

What do Clown Loaches eat?

Clown Loaches are omnivores with a preference for a varied diet. In the wild, they feed on worms, crustaceans, and plant matter. In captivity, they should be offered a mix of high-quality sinking pellets, live or frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp, and vegetable matter to ensure proper nutrition.

Are Clown Loaches prone to any specific health issues?

Clown Loaches are susceptible to Ich, a common parasitic aquarium disease, especially when stressed. They can also be affected by poor water conditions, which can lead to Skinny Disease, a bacterial infection. Maintaining clean water and a stress-free environment is crucial for their health.

How long do Clown Loaches typically live?

With proper care, Clown Loaches can have a long lifespan, often living for 10 to 15 years in captivity. There have been instances where they have lived for over 20 years, highlighting the importance of a well-maintained aquarium and a balanced diet for their longevity.

Discussion Comments


@wesley91: When you go to purchase your clown loach fish, there are a few things to look for. You want to make sure that you are getting a healthy fish.

A healthy clown loach fish has clear distinct colors. A stressed fish will have dull color or even appear whitish.

Also, make sure the fish is active. A healthy clown loach is usually hard to catch. Don’t buy the fish if they are smaller than two inches if you have never had a clown loach in your tank. They are much more sensitive when they are young.

I should also say that clown loaches like to rest on their side, sometimes giving an appearance as though they are dead. That is completely normal and is not a bad sign. I would suggest buying at least 3 of them at a time because they are schooling fish and don’t do well alone.


@wesley91: Clown loaches are a very popular aquarium fish. The only problem with these fish is that they often succumb to ick and they can be very sensitive to poor water conditions. Keeping your tank exceptionally clean is essential to these fish and their ability to thrive.


I have an aquarium and I love tropical fish. I want to add some clown loach fish. What should I know before I buy them? I've never had them before and I really don't know a whole about them.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Adding pieces of driftwood to a clown loach can provide places for the fish to hide and help reduce stress.
      By: Helen Hotson
      Adding pieces of driftwood to a clown loach can provide places for the fish to hide and help reduce stress.