By Aaron Guzman
Perhaps one of the most eye-catching fish in the hobby, and clearly one of the most popular fish for freshwater aquariums, the clown loach is quickly becoming an icon in community aquariums.
The clown loach, Botia macracanthus, goes by several names, including Cobitis macracanthus, Botia hymenophysa, Chromobotia macracanthus, Hymenophysa macracanthus and the Tiger Loach. These fish are found in still and fast moving waters in Indonesia, Sumatra and Borneo.
Housing the Clown Loach
Clown loaches are excellent candidates for community aquariums. They are a social, schooling fish and will do best if kept in pairs or small groups. While rare, clown loaches can grow to over 12 inches in length in the home aquarium. As such, they should be provided with plenty of space. A single adult specimen should not be kept in an aquarium of less than 40 gallons. The water should be kept at a stable temperature between 77-86 degrees F (25-30 C), and the pH should be maintained between 6.5-7.0.
Botia Macracanthus is very sensitive to water quality, so regular water changes and aquarium maintenance are a must. This species is also very prone to outbreaks of the Ich Parasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Be cautious when purchasing specimens and be ready to treat for the parasite or quarantine new clown loaches before introducing them to a community aquarium.
Due to their peaceful disposition, clown loaches can be kept with a wide array of tankmates, even smaller species of fish. They should not be kept with invertebrates, however, as these animals comprise a major part of the clown loach’s natural diet, especially snails. Clams, mussels, shrimp and snails should all be avoided as tankmates.
Feeding Clown Loaches
As stated before, Loaches are very fond of snails and are excellent at snail removal for infested aquariums.
Clown loaches are omnivores and will readily accept packaged or prepared foods of all kinds. They will prefer some vegetable matter in their diet such as seaweed or algae, and may graze on small patches of algae in the aquarium, though they are not efficient at algae removal.
Live foods are in important part of this fish’s diet. Small worms such as bloodworms/tubifex worms or blackworms are excellent food choices. Brine shrimp will also be happily snacked upon. If live foods aren’t available, loaches will eventually adjust to frozen or freeze-dried alternatives.
Clown Loach Breeding
Breeding these fish in captivity is a rare and challenging endeavor. Some sources claim to have bred them in captivity, however these instances are most likely achieved through hormone-injection.
In the wild, clown loaches spawn during the rainy season in fast-moving, spring-fed streams. Once released, the fry stick to calmer, slow-moving waters and estuaries until they reach adult size.
Since breeding clown loaches in captivity has been largely unsuccessful, these fish are exclusively collected from the wild for the aquarium hobby.
If you plan on attempting to breed these fish, begin with a small to medium sized school and attempt to single out suitable pairs, or take note of fish that naturally pair-off. The female clown loaches tend to be thinner prior to mating, and the males have a more pronounced fork in their tail.
Clown loaches are an attractive and quirky addition to community aquariums. If provided the proper care, clean conditions, and a healthy diet they will be a happy and long-lived resident in the freshwater aquarium.