Clown Loaches are one of the most popular aquarium fishes, undoubtedly because of their colouration and lively personalities. A clown loach seldom swims alone and when they are alone in an aquarium their growth is stunted, they are more susceptible to clown loach diseases and they die young. If you put a clown loach together with at least 4 other clown loaches they begin to thrive. On this website you will find general information about clown loaches, what they eat, preferred water conditions, which diseases affect them, etc.
The Genus species name of the Clown loach is Chromobotia macracanthus. Chromobotia means "colourful warrior" (chromo [Greek] = colour, botia [regional Asia] = warrior) and macracanthus means "large thorn" (macros [Greek] = large and acanthus [Latin] = thorny), alluding to the bifurcate suboccular spines. Clown loaches were given this Genus species classification in 2004 after being moved from genus to genus over the years. The common names are Clown Loach and Tiger Botia.
Although Clown Loaches are often sold when they are on about 4cm (1.5in) long, don't be fooled. This is their immature size and with proper care they can grow to 20-30cm (8-12in) or more! A small to mid-size aquarium will not do for fish this size, especially since they are fast swimmers and like to swim around for exercise. With proper clown loach care they will grow quickly to around 13cm (5in). After that, growth tends to slow down, but they can grow to 12 inches or more under optimal conditions.
When they are that large they are big and bulky and at that point it may be time to start thinking about a larger clown fish tank. That being said, aquarists, with small to medium (122cm or 48in) aquariums, who are thinking about buying Clown loaches should consider it a long-term commitment. The aquarium will have to be upgraded with the increasing size of the clown loaches and they can live over a decade if cared for properly.
When they are young, clowns have vivid orange colour with 3 black stripes (this is generally true, but the stripe patterns can vary significantly) which fade as they grow. On the bright side however, they don't outgrow their energy and personality. Proper clown loach feeding is essential for the fish to remain vibrant and healthy.
Clown loach fish have a bifurcated Suboccular spine below their eyes that they raise when they are stressed or to defend themselves. Note: This is an important consideration when transporting clowns, since being removed from the aquarium will stress them and they can puncture plastic bags with the raise spine. So it is a good idea to use a solid container to be absolutely safe, or at least double or triple bag if bags are all you have.
Clown loaches are widely available in aquarium shops, but they are a poor choice for beginner aquarists. The reason being, the aquatic environment must be very precise for the clown loach to thrive and remain healthy. They are very sensitive to pollutants and nitrates. If due care is not given to optimizing the clowns environment they are very susceptible to Ichthyophthirius (or Ich for short). Clown loaches are so sensitive to their environment it is recommended that the aquarium conditions be optimized for them specifically, even if other fish will be part of the community.
Only introduce clowns to fully cycled, established tanks whose conditions are set to match the needs of the clown fish. Even if you meet the exact needs of the fish, clown loach breeding highly unlikely in an aquarium, at least until someone determines what it takes to have them breed.
Clown loaches are a peaceful species and they will remain peaceful as long as the conditions of the aquarium suit their needs. Smaller fish are not bothered by clowns and other species are able to breed and the fry can develop and grow without fear of the clowns.
Clown fishes thrive when they are kept in groups (as with many members of the Botia genus). Clown fishes have complex social structures and some strange behaviour patterns (which may be why their common name is "clown"). Clown loaches must be together with at least 4 of their kind otherwise their growth will be stunted, they will become sick often and probably die young.