10 Thing You Need to Know About the Clown Loach

We’re going to cover everything you need to know about the clown loach. This includes but is not limited to clown loach size, growth rate, lifespan, tank size, feeding, tankmates, overall behavior, aggression, breeding and egg laying.


Clown Loach

What Are Clown Loach?

The Clown Loach is a bright orange and black tropical freshwater fish. They originated in Indonesia. They are regularly eaten in Asia, but they’re popular with aquarium enthusiasts. Look for fish that are several inches long, since the smaller and younger ones are more fragile.


These fish are semi-aggressive. They can peacefully share a tank with some species, especially if they’re similar in size and have plenty of space to satisfy their territoriality. You can reduce aggression by giving fish lots of enclosed spaces like caves, tubes and other hidey-holes. Then they won’t fight with other fish over shelter.

Proper Tank Mates

They can peacefully share a fish tank with mollies, minnows, cory cats, betas and angelfish. They may or may not be able to share a tank with other loaches, whether of the same species or related species. Use caution when putting them in a tank with larger catfish, killfish, gouramis, new world and old world cichlids.

Conversely, these fish are social with their own species, since they prefer to form schools for safety from predators. You should consider having three or more in the same tank. If you don’t have another Clown Loach, they may associate with any other benthic species in the tank.

Don’t put the Clown Loach in a tank with larger, more aggressive species.

Breeding and Egg Laying

The Clown Loach is a spawner. They are difficult to breed in captivity. In the wild, they’ll migrate to flooded areas of the rain forest. They’ll look for slow-moving waterways filled with plants and plant debris. Then they’ll create a nest. We actually know very little about Clown Loach breeding, because there are so few documented cases of them breeding in captivity.

That is why nearly every Clown Loach was captured in the wild. When the females do spawn in captivity, the female or another male will likely eat the eggs before they hatch. Yet the exploitation of the species is leading researchers to try to figure out how to breed them in captivity; expect more news on this in the future, but don’t expect them to breed in your tank.

Development and Growth Rates

They can reach up to 12” or 30 centimeters in length. Female Clown Loach are both smaller and more narrow than the males. Fish purchased at the pet store should be several inches long already so that you don’t buy a delicate young fish that is prone to illness. The ones you find for sale in the pet store are 1.5” to 3” long, and these are just juveniles. A small adult will be 8” long.

Life Span

In a well-kept freshwater aquarium, they’ll live up to ten years. Clown loaches are prone to ich / white spot disease infections. And they’re very sensitive to medications to treat ich, so you may need to use half the normal medication dosage or else risk killing the fish you’re trying to save.

This is due in part to the fact that they have small scales; the scales are so small that some mistakenly think they have no scales at all.

Make sure the fish you are buying are comfortable and healthy, since you don’t want to buy Clown Loach that is infected with ich. Never buy a Clown Loach from a tank that has any dead fish in it

Tank Size

We’re going to give a minimum tank size for adult Clown Loach as 100 gallons. These fish are rather shy and don’t like bright light. You can give the tank some shade, or you can put a lot of plants and rocks in the tank for them to hide in. Another option is putting in a blue “moonlight” that makes them think it is early morning or late evening, when they’re going to the most active.

Because they are a daytime loach species, they will be active during the day and thus be seen by fish enthusiasts. Then you’ll be able to see their periodic “clown-like” behavior of swimming upside down or sideways from time to time. There are also rare occasions where they “play dead”. A healthy Clown Loach will return to normal behavior almost immediately.

We’ve already said they need tanks to have a lot of hiding places and plants. The tank should have a soft, sandy substrate, as well. Don’t put gravel in the aquarium, since this will damage the barbels of the clown loach.

General Care

Their water temperature should be between 72F and 86. They can tolerate water pH from 6.0 to 7.5. In theory, they can handle water pH as low as 5.0, but that’s not good for them. The carbonate water hardness should be between 8 and 12 KH.

The overall water hardness should be 5 to 12 dH; they could survive water hardness as high as 15 dH, but again, that’s not ideal and shouldn’t be tolerated for long. However, the ability to tolerate these extremes is one reason why the Clown Loach is so popular with beginner fish keepers.

These fish evolved in fast moving streams, so they need good water movement in the aquarium. They’ll prefer decent currents in the aquarium. Have some low flow areas, too, that allow the fish to rest, though this can be met by having a lot of hiding holes. The water needs to be very clean and well-aerated. Frequent water changes and an effective filtration system are essential.

These fish have a defensive spine under each eye. These spines could snag on a net if you try to catch the fish and they could prick you if you handle the fish by hand.

Feeding Behavior

The Clown Loach is omnivorous. They should be fed several small meals a day. Smaller Clown Loach will eat almost any prepared food like flakes, sinking pellets or tablets. They’ll eat nuisance snails like bladder snails that are attacking your live plants. The Clown Loach prefers live food. They’ll love worms.

They can eat earth worms as long as the soil wasn’t fertilized recently. They’ll eat freeze dried tubifex worms, frozen brine shrimp, and diced mussels. They’ll prefer tubifex worms that have been fortified. Because they are omnivorous, you could feed them small pieces of banana.