Clown Loach – Chromobotia macracanthus

Clown Loach - Chromobotia macracanthus

  • pH: 5-7
  • gH: 2-8 dGh
  • Temperature: 24-30C
  • Maximum Size: 30cm
  • Minimum Tank Size: 650 litres, 180x60x60cm


The clown loach is native to Borneo and Sumatra where they inhabit blackwater rivers, moving upstream to lesser tributaries and wetlands to breed. There are some differences between clown loaches from Borneo and those from Sumatra: clown loaches from Borneo have black markings on their pelvic fins (or even completely black pelvic fins) whereas Sumatran clown loaches have reddish-orange pelvic fins.


As far as tank mates are concerned, the first thing is to make sure you have enough clown loaches. They are a social fish and need to be in a group of their own kind so 5 or 6 is the minimum that should be purchased. I have seen warnings against keeping them with fish that have flowing fins due to a tendency to nip at them, but that has not been my experience. I keep mine with a pair of rotkiel severums and have had angelfish in with them as well in the past with no problems. I believe this may be because I have such a large group of clowns – 11 of them. Most peaceful fish will get along well with clowns, though not anything likely to be upset by their somewhat boisterous behaviour. Apart from the severums, my clowns share their tank with a common pleco, a bristlenose pleco, 6 Siamese algae eaters and a shoal of Buenos Aires tetras.

Housing and Feeding

Apart from the obvious need for a very large aquarium, to keep happy clowns you’ll need a sand substrate for them to dig in and plenty of structure in the tank – caves, rocks, bogwood, and branches. They love to explore and enjoy having plenty of places to hide and take a rest. Use powerful filters to provide some flow and a good level of oxygenation; maintain a low nitrate level as high nitrates are not well-tolerated by clown loaches. Clown loaches are often sold as snail eaters to people with a pest snail problem. While it’s true that they will eat snails, they’re unlikely to deal with a big outbreak and in any case should be bought and provided for as a fish that is desired for its own sake, not just as a (likely unsuccessful) solution to a problem.

Clown loaches are greedy feeders and will take just about anything offered. A good quality catfish pellet is suitable as a staple. They will also take algae wafers, sinking granulated foods (Tetra Prima) and extra treats of bloodworm (live or frozen) will be appreciated. Clown loaches need some plant matter in their diet so fresh veg (courgette, sweet pepper, sweet potato, cucumber, melon) a couple of times a week is essential.


There have been no documented, successful captive breedings of the clown loach at the time of writing, although farmers in the Far East have been breeding them artificially using hormone injections for some time.


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