Clown Loach

Species NameChromobotia macracanthus
Common NameClown Loach
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan10-15 years, but can live over 20 years in ideal conditions
Adult Size10-12 inches (25-30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons for juveniles, 125+ gallons for adults
Temperature77°F – 86°F (25°C – 30°C)
Water ConditionspH 6.0-7.5, Soft to medium hardness

About the Clown Loach – Species Summary

Native to the freshwater rivers and streams of Borneo, Sumatra, and Indonesia, the Clown Loach, or Chromobotia macracanthus, stands out due to its vibrant coloration and unique patterns. Recognized for its orange body adorned with three bold, black vertical bands and a distinctively curved spine beneath the eye, this loach has become a favorite among many aquarists. Although they require specific care and conditions, their playful nature and visually striking appearance make the efforts worthwhile. Additionally, their propensity to snack on pesky snails makes them a functional addition to many freshwater aquarium setups.

Clown Loach Lifespan

Clown Loaches are long-lived fish when provided with the right care. While their average lifespan ranges between 10 to 15 years, there are instances of them surpassing 20 years in well-maintained aquariums. Their longevity is a testament to their hardy nature, but it also requires aquarists to be committed to their long-term care.


A Clown Loach’s beauty lies in its striking coloration and pattern. Their base color, a bright orange to reddish-orange, is dramatically contrasted by three bold black bands that vertically stripe their body. One band runs through the eye, another at the mid-body, and the third near the caudal fin. A defining feature of Clown Loaches is the spine below each eye, which they use for defense. Their mouths are downturned with thick lips, and they possess barbels on the lower jaw.

Average Size

In their natural habitats, Clown Loaches can grow up to 16 inches. However, in aquariums, they typically reach sizes between 10 to 12 inches. This makes them one of the larger loach species, necessitating spacious tanks as they mature.

Clown Loach Care

Tank Size

Juvenile Clown Loaches can start in a 55-gallon tank, but as they grow, an upgrade will be inevitable. Adult Clown Loaches should ideally be housed in tanks that are 125 gallons or larger. Considering they’re schooling fish, they need ample space to swim, forage, and interact.

How To Set Up Their Tank

Replicating their natural environment will help Clown Loaches feel at home. Opt for a sandy or fine-gravel substrate and add plenty of hiding places with driftwood, rocks, and cave-like decorations. Live plants can be incorporated, but ensure they’re sturdy species as Clown Loaches are known diggers. Java fern, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne are all suitable choices.

Lighting Requirements

Clown Loaches are not particularly fussy about lighting. However, softer lighting can help mimic their natural habitat and reduce stress. Using floating plants to diffuse light can also be beneficial.


A pH level between 6.0 and 7.5 is suitable for Clown Loaches. Consistency in pH is more crucial than the exact value, as sudden shifts can be harmful.


Clown Loaches thrive in warmer waters. A temperature range between 77°F to 86°F (25°C to 30°C) is ideal. Regular monitoring with a reliable aquarium thermometer ensures a consistent temperature.

Water Parameters

Soft to medium hardness is best for Clown Loaches. To keep nitrates low and maintain water clarity, regular water changes are necessary. A well-functioning filtration system is also crucial to remove waste and promote oxygenation.

Disease Potential

Ich is a common ailment for Clown Loaches, partly because they lack scales. Quarantining new tank inhabitants and maintaining clean water can help prevent this. If they do contract diseases, it’s crucial to avoid medications containing copper, as loaches can be sensitive to it.

Food & Diet

Clown Loaches are omnivores, eagerly accepting a varied diet. High-quality sinking pellets, live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia, and occasional vegetable matter will ensure they receive all essential nutrients. Their love for snails also makes them natural pest controllers in aquariums.

Behavior and Temperament

Clown Loaches are active and social fish, known for their playful antics. They often rest on their sides, which can alarm inexperienced owners, but it’s a natural behavior. They are best kept in groups, as they form hierarchies and enjoy social interactions.

Tank Mates

Peaceful community fish make the best tank mates for Clown Loaches. Tetras, Rasboras, and similarly sized peaceful species are ideal. However, it’s best to avoid aggressive or overly territorial fish.


Breeding Clown Loaches in home aquariums is challenging and rarely achieved. In the wild, specific environmental cues, like changes in water temperature and flow, trigger spawning. If attempting to breed, provide a separate breeding tank with controlled conditions. It’s also essential to ensure a mix of both male and female loaches, though differentiating between them can be difficult.

Clown Loach FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)