A Complete Clown Loach Overview

clown loach

The clown loach is a peaceful amusing fish that coexists well with nearly any tankmate. Find out everything you need to know including their Profile, Characteristics, Origin, and other Helpful Information

The Clown Loach (or Tiger Botia) has distinct colors and playful behavior. It will liven up any aquarium.

This overview provides you with the complete Clown Loach care guide including their profile, characteristics, origin, and more helpful information.

Clown Loach: Short Profile

FeatureClown Loach Profile
Age: up to 20 years (Botia macracantha)
Size: 7 cm (Botia nigrolineata) to 30 cm (Botia macracantha)
PH value: 6 – 7
Water: clear and rich in oxygen – with a current
Water hardness: 2 – 20 ° dGH
Temperature: 20-30 ° C
Behavior: peaceful (Botia nigrolineata) to rough (Botia macracanthus)
Origin: Asia
Attitude: Society, group
Nutrition: Mainly live food, partly also flake and frozen food
Aquarium size: medium to large
Facility: Hideouts in the form of caves and plants
Ground: sandy , fine gravel or stony (depending on the type)
Swimming zone: Floor to lower area
Family: Loaches – Botiidae
Order: Carp-like species – Cypriniformes
Superfamily: Loach-like – Cobitoidea
Activity: diurnal
Reproduction: Free Speakers
Breed: difficult

Clown Loach: Complete Profile

Feature Clown Loach Profile
Clown Loach originIn 1852 Pieter Bleeker discovered the fish and scientifically described it under the name Cobitis macracanthus. The monotypical genus Chrombotia, which differs from the other botia in the color of the body, was established in 2004 by the Swiss ichthyologist Maurice Kottelat.
Clown Loach habitatIn their homeland, the loach can be found in very fast-flowing freshwater waters with little vegetation. The magnificent fish originally comes from Southeast Asia – to be found in the rivers of the island of Borneo and Sumatra, i.e. in the Indonesian archipelago. But in Indonesia you can sometimes find them in stagnant waters. In their home country, the fish are caught with sink or set nets and are served as meals.
Clown Loach appearanceThe most common form of the clown loaches found in the aquarium is the Chromobotia macracanthus, which is also called Hymenophysa macracantha, Botia macracanthus and Botia macracantha. The bright orange with the three wide, deep black transverse bands immediately catches the eye. One of the black stripes extends through the loach’s eye. A disproportionately large head and a mouth with a shelter form the typical appearance. There are barbels on the mouth.
Appearance and sizeThe dorsal fin and anal fin are light yellow with a black stripe, the pelvic fins and also the pectoral fins are orange to reddish. The particularly fine scales are also a common distinguishing feature. They are so tiny that you only see them on closer inspection. This form of the loach is very large, and even if aquarium dealers sometimes sell the ornamental fish as staying small, you can be sure that they can reach up to 15 cm in the aquarium. In the wild, the fish can sometimes be over 30 cm long.

The color serves as a camouflage in nature. The pattern and color of the clown loaches change with age. So you shouldn’t be surprised if you come across a specimen with a black nose.
Gender differenceThe distinction between males and females is very difficult and one is often wrong. You can actually only tell the difference when the female is mature enough to spawn and has a much larger girth than the male.
Clown Loach attitudeLoaches can be a bit rough at times, but are basically very sociable animals and especially love the company of their conspecifics. In essence, the fish is very peaceful and has a strong need to swim. If you do not provide a sufficiently large group with at least five – better ten – conspecifics, you have to fear that the fish will start to become aggressive or turn into the opposite and constantly hide. It should not be forgotten that the ornamental fish have a ranking that is determined by fighting. As the loach gets older, it will increasingly claim its own territory. The ranking not only determines who will eat food first, but also who will swim in front.
Clown Loach thornsThe thorns are harmless. If you have to catch the loaches, the best way to do this is with a feed trap and not with a net, as otherwise they can get tangled with the thorns in the net and injure themselves.
SocializationThreadfish and barbel are particularly popular as aquarium roommates. These can easily be socialized with the clown loaches. If the group of conspecifics is smaller than 5-10 animals, then they can wither and show undesirable developments in behavior. These undesirable developments express themselves as aggression or fear.
CommunicationLoach have a pharynx which they use for communication. They communicate with their fellow species using cracking noises. Because the head skeleton has a Weberian apparatus, they can perceive sounds and noises.
Defence mechanismAt first glance you can’t see the thorn under the loach’s eyes. This can be set up and rigidly protects against attacks from any predator. The two teeth are an effective defense method against birds of prey and larger fish. If the thorn is unfolded, it can injure the esophagus so severely that the attack of the predators is fatal. A toxic secretion intensifies the effect and can also lead to paralysis in other fish. But the popular rumor mill, which reports dangerous attacks on people, should not be believed. The worst that can happen to you is a minor allergic reaction.
FeedingThe loach prefers animal food, but is also not averse to vegetable delicacies. Technically speaking, they’re omnivores. The big fish devours various worms, mosquito larvae , Artemia , water fleas and especially likes to crack snails alive. But food tablets and frozen food can also be served. When looking for food, the ground is plowed up, so you can use sand as a substrate, so it is particularly easy for the fish to get its nutrients. Kies would hinder the search here.
Hunting other fishSo that the plants are not damaged when rummaging through the sand and are not dug up, they can easily be secured with adjacent stones. The search for food differs from fish to fish. One is a little wilder, the other much calmer. The most important thing is that there is enough free soil to dig. If you choose the planting too densely, you run the risk of the loach hunting other fish or at least chasing them.
Feeding time and foodThe feeding time is in the evening hours with live or frozen food. To bring a certain variety to the menu, you can also offer fresh vegetables and salads every few days. For example, you can easily place a peeled cucumber in an easily accessible place. To prevent too many germs from developing, it is advisable to place alder cones, beech leaves or oak leaves in the aquarium, for example. You also need a little patience here, because new food is often rejected first and only accepted at further attempts.
Clown Loach Ideal foodThe following foods can be placed on the menu:

·       Artemia
·       Krill
·       Mysis
·       Mosquito larvae red, white, black
·       River flea shrimp
·       Clam meat
·       Snails
·       Various vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots or red peppers (red peppers support a particularly intense color)
Breeding and reproductionBreeding Clown Loach in captivity is very hard. It tends to happen randomly.
Aquarium conditions
Temperature: 20-30 ° C
pH: 6-8.5
KH: up to 12 ° dKH
GH: up to 20 ° dGH

Clown Loach: 7 Cool Facts

1. Clown Loaches grow very large.

An aquarium for Clown Loaches should have at least 300 liters of water. According to some experience, about 4 animals can be kept in 540 liters because they are very lively. Other aquarists keep 20 to 30 Clown Loaches in a 2 meter tank with 500 liters. The exact number depends on the size of the animals.

Some people even recommend 1000 liters as the minimum size, because a group of at least 10 animals should be kept.

They supposedly grow quickly in sufficiently large aquariums. According to other sources, they grow slowly at a centimeter per year.

2. Clown Loaches need company.

Clown Loaches are sociable and need company with other species. At least 4 to 5 animals should be kept together in a large aquarium. At least 8 to 12 animals are better. According to the minimum requirements for keeping ornamental fish, at least 10 specimens should be kept together.

3. Clown Loaches like to play

If you are bored, you can ply gravel back and forth with your mouth, e.g. B. in her cave.

Clown Loaches even play with small rubber rings that are thrown into the aquarium.

4. Clown Loaches live in a hierarchy

Clown Loaches have a certain hierarchy among themselves.

When feeding certain animals always eat first and then they are followed by others. When the Clown Loaches swim in a group, the same animals swim in the front and the others in the back.

Every now and then fights are fought for the ranking and also for the best resting places. The animals spread their fins, the color fades and they tug at each other’s mouths. If the group is too small or the animals cannot evade each other in pools that are too small, they can also injure themselves.

5. Clown Loaches are noisy eaters! They make cracking noises

Sometimes Clown Loaches make cracking noises as if they are biting through glass. The noise is caused by the strong mouthparts. This can be clearly observed with food tablets.

6. Clown Loaches change color over time.

When Clown Loaches grow larger, their color pattern changes; the drawing does not go on for long, but continues to grow like a tree. They often get a black nose.

7. Determining the gender of Clown Loaches can be tricky

The sexes can be differentiated based on the caudal fin if the animals are larger than 10 to 15 centimeters. The tips of the caudal fin are straight in females, while in males they are curved inward.

In females, the incision therefore looks more like a pointed clip, in males it looks more like the pliers of an ear pince-nez.

It is usually easier to determine the gender differences in the larger body size of the females. The shape of the caudal fin may not be clear.

Clown Loach: Diseases and Infections

Protruding gill covers


Protruding gill covers, difficult, pumping breathing

Clinical picture

Protruding gill covers and pumping breathing at an increased respiratory rate are often the signs of a gill infection, as a result of which the gill epithelium becomes inflamed and the absorption of oxygen is impeded.


For many bacterial and parasitic pathogens, the gills are a highly perfected and finely structured tissue, a most welcome organ of attack. Flexibacteriar, Cytophaga), flagellates and gill worms (Dactylogyrus spp.) are usually involved in such diseases.


Before treatment with medication

  • Check ammonia levels
  • Check nitrite levels

If the value is found to be too high, the amount of feed must be reduced significantly and the fresh water changed. Up to 75% of the water can be changed several times a day, if necessary even more.

A bacterial infection can be treated with drugs that contain acriflavine, methylene blue, or nifurpirinol. A quarantine tank is recommended. 

Almost all anti-bacterial drugs can also kill the filter bacteria. After a treatment without a quarantine tank, the aquarium practically has to be retracted. Antibacterial natural substances such as peat, alder cones and sea almond leaves can be used to prevent and treat mild bacterial infections.

If gill worms are detected, an attempt can be made in a salt bath (max. 10 min) in the quarantine tank to stimulate the formation of mucus in the fish skin in order to repel the gill worms. Otherwise, drugs containing acriflavin, copper sulfate, praziqantel or hydrogen peroxide should be used. 

Since only the living worms and not the eggs of the parasites are killed, it is advisable to treat at least twice.
Read the instruction leaflet carefully before each treatment with medication and adhere to the prescribed quantities.


Since breathing problems can be caused not only by the pathogens described above, but also by inadequate water quality, a water analysis should always be carried out if the ornamental fish have difficulty breathing. 

  • Make sure there aquarium has the correct temperature
  • Use a properly working filter that generates slight surface movement in the water

Fin damage


Fin melting, fin damage, fin clamps (fin fever)

Clinical picture

The fins of the fish can show a flat opacity of the fin edge. In addition, the fin skin can be slightly torn in several places. This is best seen in the dorsal and caudal fins.


Bacteria are the main cause. But unicellular parasites, especially Ichthyobodo necator (Costia) or skin worms, like to parasitize the well-perfused membranes that are stretched out on the fin bones. This often leads to fin meltdowns.


Before treatment:

  • Move the affected Clown Loach to a quarantine tank to protect co-fish from infection and to be able to treat them more effectively.
  • The fresh water should be changed in the aquarium.

Treatment can be started with drugs that contain acriflavine, nifurpirinol, or methylene blue.

A combination treatment or a follow-up treatment is possible in order to prevent a possible Costia infestation. In cases in which a fungal infection has already spread to the base of the fin, additional treatment should be carried out. Treatment with relatively mild remedies containing acriflavin is usually sufficient.

Acriflavin can also be used in set up aquariums, but it stains very strongly. Plants can be damaged. The filter should be cleaned before use, after use acriflavin is removed by changing the water and filtering over charcoal.


  • Almost all anti-bacterial drugs can also kill the filter bacteria. After a treatment without a quarantine tank, the aquarium practically has to be retracted.
  • If there is a slight infestation with skin worms or gill worms, treatment can be carried out with salt baths (has a disinfectant effect) or with remedies that contain acriflavin, hydrogen peroxide, praziqantel or copper sulfate.
  • Read the instruction leaflet carefully before each treatment with medication and adhere to the prescribed quantities.


Since the sensitive fin skins react very sensitively to unfavorable water values, they should be checked regularly. A sharp drop in the pH value and degradation poisons such as ammonia and nitrite are particularly harmful.

Goggle eyes


One or both eyes stand out clearly, eye is cloudy.


  • Clearly recognized by the protruding eyes
  • The affected eye is very cloudy and can lead to death


Bulging eyes are not an independent disease, but always occur as a consequence of other infections. Bulging eyes are mostly associated with bacterial infections, ascites, parasites, tuberculosis, or poisoning. Even with care in the wrong water values, kidney problems can cause water to accumulate in the body, which cause such symptoms.


  • Identify the cause of these symptoms prior to treatment. Combating symptoms is not enough.
  • Check the water values ​​including the CO² value. If the CO², NH³ or NH4 values ​​are too high, the water must be changed immediately – there is a risk of poisoning.
  • Make sure the Clown Loaches have optimal aquarium conditions
  • Feed them vitamin-rich food to positively support the healing process.

A bacterial infection such as ascites can only be cured in the early stages. The affected fish should be moved to a quarantine tank for treatment. Medicines containing the active ingredient nifurpirinol should be used to fight the bacteria. Salt baths can have a supportive effect. However, you should pay attention to how much salt the respective fish species can tolerate.


  • If tuberculosis is found, the affected fish must be isolated immediately, as this infection is extremely contagious. There is no cure for tuberculosis. One can only try to influence the course of the disease with antibacterial drugs, with the active ingredient chloramine T or nifurpirinol. The aquarium and all objects in it must be thoroughly disinfected. The plants should be destroyed.


Unfavorable socialization and water values should be avoided. Degradation poisons such as ammonia and nitrite should always be kept in mind. The CO² content must also not exceed a certain concentration in the water. A varied diet rich in vitamins should be provided.

Other diseases and ailments

The following diseases can also afflict Clown Loaches:

  • Skin cloudiness
  • Parasitic holes
  • Sheds stand out
  • White spots on the skin
  • Fungus growth

Refer to THIS ARTICLE for more on diseases and ailments.

Clown Loach: Videos

Clown Loach: People also ask

Are Clown Loaches good community fish?

If you are a beginner fish keeper, you will find Clown Loaches to be a very social species. They are a great addition to the community aquarium. You have to aware that Clown Loaches are very sensitive and are more susceptible to diseases than other aquarium fish.

How many Clown Loaches should be kept together?

Ideally you can keep Clown Loaches in groups of at least 5. The only things you have to contend with is:
• All clown loaches are expensive.
• They grow quite large. Which means a group of five will require a 70-gallon tank or larger.

What fish are compatible with clown loaches?

The ideal tank mates for clown loaches include other clown loaches, tetras, rainbowfish, larger rasboras, gouramis, and barbs. Fish that should be avoided include those with long, fancy fins.

How long do clown loaches live?

Normally Clown Loaches live up to 10 years under ideal aquarium conditions. There are a lot of factors that can affect the life expectancy of this fish. In pristine natural conditions, this species can reportedly live up to 25 years.

Are Clown Loaches aggressive?

Clown Loaches are normally docile. They might tussle with each other a bit, but for the most part, they’re very peaceful fish. So they can’t hold their own against super aggressive, territorial fish.

How long do Clown Loaches take to grow?

While growth varies some, clown loaches should reach 4-5 inches in less than 2 years. Then they grow about a 1/2 to 2 inches every year after.

How big do Clown Loaches get?

The size depends on the conditions under which they grow. Some estimates ranging up to 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in), and with typical adult sizes ranging from 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in).

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