Clown Loach: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Clown Loaches are some of the most beloved freshwater fish amongst aquarists.

It’s hard not to love them, they are really easy to look after and are visually beautiful. The perfect freshwater fish for beginners who want to brighten up their tanks, or even more experienced fishkeepers who want an easy-to-look-after friend.

Our guide will cover everything you need to know about Clown Loach care. Including diet, tank size, tank mates, and much much more!

Species Overview

The Clown Loach or Tiger botia, with the scientific name, Chromobotia macracanthus, is a tropical freshwater fish of the Botiid loach family. They get their name from their vibrant appearance which has made them a popular species choice among many aquarium enthusiasts.

Historical records state that Clown Loaches originate from specific regions in the Indonesian islands, specifically, Sumatra and Borneo. And they’ve become a staple food for many individuals in this region.

With modern trade routes, you can find Clown Loaches making an important part of the human diet in different regions across the globe. If you want them purely for your fishkeeping venture, these low-maintenance water creatures will give you a wholesome aquatic experience.

LifespanOver 10 years
Care levelEasy
Behavior and TemperamentPeaceful
CompatibilityNon-aggressive and Compatible Fish
Food and Diet                                                            Omnivores
Size12 Inches
Tank SetupTropical Freshwater
Tank Size (Min)100 Gallons


A typical Clown Loach can live for as long as 10 years. That’s a decade already. But just like many living creatures, the average lifespan will largely depend on a range of factors including climate, food, and other tank mates.

In a peculiar case of rarity, these amazing species can enjoy a 25-year lifespan under pristine conditions. Sadly though, this is never possible in captivity. One thing aquarists should never forget is the fact Clown Loaches are never immune to pests and diseases.

And as expected, exposing them to poor living conditions can greatly limit their lifespan.


Regarding appearance, a vibrant, colorful look is probably the first thing you will notice in a Clown Loach fish. Everything about these amazing creatures will capture anybody’s attention and that’s why they are the best option for adding a unique color splash to your aquarium.

With a flat bottom, a slightly curved dorsal line, and an arched body, it’s easy to see why the Clown Loach is every seasoned aquarist’s best friend. Like many loaches, Tiger botia’s have unique mouths that almost resemble the freshwater catfish.

Baby clown loach
Baby Clown Loach.

Don’t worry about your safety because these fish species are not venomous, opting to use their pointed spines for defensive purposes instead.

The vibrancy of their colors goes beyond the ordinary yellow-orange. And you will most likely see some Clown Loach fish varieties with a pale yellow or bright orange appearance.

And to complete their colorful look, Clown Loaches display bright red fins that add a unique decorative element to their appearance. If you notice a more colorful and vibrant species, it is likely male. The females are somehow fleshier with less vibrancy.


It is said that the average size of a Clown Loach will depend on whether they are growing in the wild or captivity. An ordinary Clown Loach in an aquarium will measure approximately 12 inches in optimal growth.

However, some researchers assert that they can go slightly beyond this length under optimal conditions in the wild. Generally, they exhibit a steady growth rate over time. But most of the species seen in pet stores will never go beyond 2 to 3 inches.

And this has tricked many people into believing that Clown Loaches are among the small fish species, which is never true.

Many aquarists buy them as small fish. But just a few months later, they realize that they will have to upgrade to larger tanks sooner than expected.

Clown Loach Care

Every aquatic enthusiast craves the sight of a Clown Loach in their tank, and it’s easy to see why. Caring for them is quite easy and that’s one of the main reasons you should consider keeping them in your aquarium. It all starts and ends with maintaining the right conditions in their habitat.

A spectacular trait of these animals is their ability to adapt to practically any condition. Obviously, like many species, they demand good aquarium conditions to thrive. But unlike their mates, they don’t possess a fussy character trait.

Give them the right conditions and they will thrive. Give them a slightly unstable environment and they will still flourish. But even with that said, do not deprive your Clown Loach friend of the right conditions in their habitat if you can provide it.

Quality care is always necessary to set Clown Loaches free and enable them to live a blissful life.

clown loach fish in aquarium.

Tank Size

Well well well! Now, it gets interesting at this point. The funny thing about Clown Loaches is that most of them are sold as small fish.

So, in the beginning, neither the aquarist nor their pet friend seems prepared to keep up with its amazingly steady growth rate. This is where many aquarists go wrong.

So, the best strategy to adopt when keeping them is to start with large tanks right away. Usually, a 75-gallon tank does the trick for smaller fish.  

But if you want to go with a larger size, a 100-gallon tank will be another great option to give them enough room for simultaneous growth and swimming.

For the same reasons, an adult Clown Loach would be best kept in a 150-gallon tank or a larger size. As you expand your aquarium, you will want to maintain at least a 30-gallon space for every adult loach.

Water Parameters

The most significant aspect of keeping aquatic animals is to provide optimal conditions. For Clown Loaches, living in an unstable environment is not a tragedy. Even then, it would pose a serious threat to their general health and well-being.

It’s important to remember that they originate from freshwater lakes in Indonesia.

A region almost entirely dominated by a warm tropical climate. So, that should give you the initial clue of what to include in your aquarium when keeping these fish species.

Generally, the three essential parameters you should hold in check when keeping Clown Loaches in your aquarium include water hardness, temperature, and pH level.

To begin with, the ideal water temperature for a Clown Loach’s survival and optimal growth lies between 72°F and 86°F.

On the other hand, the pH levels should be maintained in the region of 6.0 to 7.5. Finally, water hardness should never go beyond the levels of 5 to 12 KH for optimal growth and survival.

The easiest way to find out if the current habitat follows these parameters is by conducting scheduled tests on the water. Also, you may want to check your aquarium regularly to be sure the optimal conditions are met.

Even with their highly adaptable nature, don’t be fooled into believing that a Clown Loach will thrive under extreme shifts in aquatic conditions.

Chromobotia macracanthus.

What to Put in Their Tank

Not everybody is naturally creative and that’s pretty normal. But never forget that Clown Loaches would do well with a colorfully decorated tank with plants to mimic natural hiding points.

This fish species spend almost their entire lives in soft, gently flowing rivers, only moving to shallower surfaces with the conclusion of the monsoon period. So, you should aim to create a better environment or at least mimic such conditions when bringing them home.

Of course, the decoration doesn’t have to be spotless but you could go with pebbles, gravel, and small rocks to give a natural appearance. This should come after filling the bottom surface with sandy soil.

With this done, now it’s time to complete your tank with all the natural elements you can find. Plants are meant to act as natural hiding spots for Clown Loaches while also giving shade in hot conditions.

That being said, some of the best plant species to introduce to your aquarium include hornwort, riccia fluitans, water spangles, and java moss among the rest. Again, you can introduce caves, rocks, and driftwood after adding the natural plants.

What’s more, standard filtration is an inevitable part of Clown Loach care that should be done to remove ammonia, nitrates, and other harmful substances. Don’t forget the lighting conditions which should mimic the actual tropical environment in Indonesia.

The original water sources for Clown Loaches are slightly darker. So, going with strong lights could only destroy the pristine aquatic conditions.

Common Diseases

Like many fish species from freshwater sources, Clown Loaches are susceptible to all kinds of diseases. However, they are always at an increased risk of contracting the Ich disease.

If you are going to keep Clown Loaches as part of a larger fish community in the aquarium, you will instantly notice the Ich symptoms in this group when the disaster strikes. But on the bright side, this could also help you give quality care and attention to other fish of different species.

On that note, we have some good news and bad news for you regarding the Ich disease. The bad news? Ich is a highly contagious disease that can quickly spread to the entire community if not well managed. So, you may need to isolate the plague-ridden species straightaway to help save the community.

And now the good news? You can easily manage this disease with the right over-the-counter medications. However, Clown Loaches have a high sensitivity to a range of popular medications so you will need to take great caution when managing this condition.

You can start by reviewing the medication instructions keenly before administering it or just giving half the recommended dosage if you are unsure of the safety practices.

What do Clown Loaches Eat?

So, what do Clown Loaches eat? Well, interacting with known omnivores must be interesting. For beginner-level aquarists, you finally have easy pleasers that will feed on most of the commercial foods and food products in your aquarium.

Clown Loaches are omnivores so they will love pellets just as much as they enjoy algae wafers. Don’t even be surprised if you see your Clown Loach buddies eating surplus flakes that the other fish species in the tank might have tried to avoid.

Occasional treats of frozen food, snacks, and freeze-dried foods in addition to brine shrimps, bloodworms, and earthworms would greatly make a Clown Loach’s day. And before we forget, they enjoy snails, too.

Believe it or not, you won’t find a more satisfying natural way to reduce the snail population in your aquarium.

Behavior and Temperament

Clown Loaches have never been violent. They are peace lovers and their easy-going nature allows them to readily coexist with fish of different species.

Usually, they love to stay at the middle and the lowest ends of the aquarium without distracting other members of the community.

It’s said that a Clown Loach’s behavior will depend on how you keep it. You can learn a lot from these freshwater buddies if you keep them in groups rather than individually.

On an ordinary day, you won’t get enough of the endless joy that comes with watching them play around and chase after each other in groups.

On that note, Clown Loaches tend to be more active under low lighting conditions. So, if you don’t spot them swimming in your aquarium early in the morning or late in the evening, they are likely at the lowest end of the tank sheltering themselves from bright light.

Clown Loach Tank Mates

Given their unique traits, you can already tell that a Clown Loach’s best mate will equally exhibit a peaceful and easy-going demeanor. The least you can do to keep your fish happy and active is to keep other fish of the same species in the same tank.

But they won’t have any problem cohabiting with non-aggressive fish from other kinds of species in the same aquarium.

That being said, some of the best fish species that have done just fine with Clown Loaches in the same tank include the following:


Breeding is probably the trickiest part of keeping Clown Loaches in captivity and it’s easy to see why. In the wild, they are known migrants who will want to spawn with the conclusion of the monsoon season.

But replicating the same conditions in an aquarium setting is almost impossible. Even if you get lucky with initiating the spawning process at the most appropriate time, a Clown Loach will have minimal to no chances of fertilizing the eggs.

And even if fertilization were to happen, the male and female animals will be ready to feast on the eggs before they hatch. So, this complicates the breeding process even further.

If you are unsure of what to do regarding breeding, it’s better not to try so hard because the results will almost certainly end in disappointment.

Final Thoughts

Clown Loaches are beautiful. But beauty is a too relative term to explain their popularity in the modern aquatic world. They are friendly, peaceful, and easy to maintain.

If you are an aquatic enthusiast looking to get started with this hobby or a seasoned aquarist with an eye for low-maintenance fish species, we can’t help but recommend Clown Loaches for your aquarium.

Keeping them is a smart decision that will almost certainly guarantee a satisfying experience. And when you think about their colorful appearance, be sure to create an aquarium that will capture everyone’s attention.