Clown Loach 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates & More

For those fascinated by aquatic life, the Clown Loach makes a great subject for study. What type of fish are they? What makes them unique? How should you care for them? Let’s look at the Clown Loach in more detail. 

Species summary 

The Loach is a tropical fish and found in freshwater areas. They reside inland in rivers and tributaries in Sumatra, Malaysia, and Borneo. They are happy in flowing waters as well as still.  During breeding, they will migrate to flooded areas such as rainforests and streams. 

The Clown Loaches was first named in 1853 and has been renamed twice. They aren’t endangered as yet and are still found in abundance in native areas, probably because they spawn in large numbers.  The past 20 years, they have been harvested greatly for aquarium use. Loaches are tough cookies and nocturnal creatures. 

Care Guide

If you choose to purchase Loaches for a tank or aquarium, what do you need to know, and how do you take care of them ?

Tank Size

Loaches are active fish and if you purchase several as a group you should allow 30 gallons (0.11 m³) of water per Loach. So, you’ll need a tank that has a capacity for 150 gallons (0.57 m³) at a minimum. 

Tank Mates

Loaches are a friendly bunch, so can coexist with most community fishes. In the wild, they are generally found with Tiger Barbs, Black Widow Tetra etc. They can also be placed with low dwelling fish such as Bristlenose Pleco and the Kuhli Loach. 

If placed with invertebrate marine life, freshwater species such as crayfish or lobsters would make great companions. Always avoid predatory fish as it would not be a safe environment for the Loaches. 

Fish such as Guppies shouldn’t be placed in the tank alongside Loaches as they can occasionally nip fish with trailing long tails, which may cause some conflict in the tank. Silver dollars should also be avoided as they may destroy any live plants placed in the tank; this is likely to upset the Loaches greatly as they adore plants!  

Tiger barbs make great companions with Loaches as they love to play and are super friendly. They are also easy to feed and love plants like the Roaches. 

It’s advisable to keep Loaches in social groups, as they fare badly when isolated. If alone, they won’t venture out much and will spend considerable time hiding behind tank objects and plants. In groups, they are typically active and visibly happy.

Same Species Tanks

As mentioned, Loaches love company, so keeping them together is the ideal outcome for these friendly fish. They feel confident in numbers and in the wild they won’t feel vulnerable to potential predators.

If kept together, they will play and perform many interesting displays to keep observers entertained. It also provided an opportunity to breed them if required. 

Water Parameters

It’s important to remember that Clown Loaches are tropical fish and as such water needs to be right for them to thrive. Water temperature should sit at a balmy 72-86F, pH levels between 6-7.5 and water should be 8-12 KH. 

Checking the water adheres to these parameters is crucial, and using a high quality kit should be a priority to avoid any potential water conditions that affect the Loaches’ health. Water should always be clean, warm and well aerated. 

What To Put In Their Tank

Clown Loaches love a nicely decorated tank. In the wild they are used to a rich and green environment with a lot of plants, pebbles and rocks. 

Add as many live plants as you can fit and use hardy material to replicate their natural habitat. The plants will provide a place for them to hide as well as shade when needed. Plants such as Water Spangles, sword plants and Anubis are ideal.

As Loaches are mostly active during the night, you could add a blue light that emulates moonlight to the tank to encourage them out so you can enjoy them during the day.

Common Diseases

Clown Loaches can be quite sensitive and are prone to several common illnesses such as ich or white spot. 

White spot or ICH is a common ailment due to the layer of tiny scales found on the Loaches’ body. It’s important to stay vigilant to an outbreak of Whitespot in order to treat it before it gets worse as it is very contagious.

Discuss treatment with aquatic professionals to ensure you use the right treatment and don’t make it worse. 

The Loaches are also prone to a disease that causes them to lose a substantial amount of weight despite regular eating. There are effective treatments, but again research first and talk to a specialist if possible. 

Food & Diet

Loaches are omnivores and in the wild can be found feeding on snails, worms, or crustaceans. They’re easy to feed in an aquarium. They should eat a mixture of dried fish food, algae wafers and shrimp pellets.

Frozen food can be served a few times a week and live food can be given occasionally. Little and often feeding is the best way, as waste will cause water quality problems. 

Loaches love snails so you could purchase them in bulk and freeze them or try breeding them yourself. 


Roaches typically live 10 years in captivity, however if kept in perfect conditions they have been known to live up to 25 years. They tend to die earlier in captivity. 


Clown Loaches are known for their beautiful, colorful appearance and have distinct tiger-like markings. They are generally light or dark reddish orange. They have 3 long black lines across their bodies that run from the dorsal fin round to the tail.

Their front fins and tail are typically red. Young Loches possess the most vibrant markings, dulling slightly as they mature. 

The Loach body is arched, but underneath remains flat. They have fat lips with surrounding barbels, which helps them find food. They also have pointed spines, but are difficult to see. 


The Loaches are large fish and can grow up to 12 inches (ca. 30 cm). Youngsters are usually 2-3 inches. 

Behavior & Temperament

Loaches are friendly little souls and when kept in groups rarely show aggressive behavior. They swim around mostly in the early morning and when natural daylight has ceased. When together, the Loches will swim around each other and be very playful; a fascinating spectacle. 

They have a clear hierarchy, with an alpha female directing the group. They engage in ‘shadowing’ where the smaller fishes will press against the bigger one and mimic movements. The Loches often do so with members of the aquarium and not just their own. 

Interestingly, Loaches may sometimes look dead when they are still alive and kicking. They are in the habit of sitting in strange positions, looking like they’ve swum off to fish heaven. A sweet little idiosyncrasy.  


Breeding loaches in captivity is no easy task because much of their breeding activities are dependent on environmental factors. 

Females utilize vegetation in flooded areas (typically monsoon season) and use floating plants to lay eggs. In captivity, it is an intricate process. The male and female fish need to be sexually mature, which can be hard to identify. The biggest determining factor is size. They tend to be 7/8 inches long at age 2-3.

When preparing a pair to breed, they should be fed several times per day so that the female gains weight at which point the pair are more likely to mate. There needs to be 3-5 males in a tank to one female. 

Once mated, the female and male should be placed elsewhere or there is a risk they may consume the eggs. Fertilized eggs are visible after a few hours and are transparent; any unfertilized eggs must be removed. 

It’s crucial water temperature is maintained to allow incubation to continue.  Eggs usually hatch in a few days. The fry should be fed live food 2 – 3 times a day and once they are two weeks old they can move onto flake food. They should grow fairly quickly. In large fish farms, they are given hormones to promote growth. 

Gender Differences: Male vs. Female

Clown Roaches are sexually dimorphic meaning there are no differences between the genders.  Having said that, females tend to be a bit bigger than males, with a slight difference in the curvature of the spine. 

Fun Facts

  • The Loach has a movable spine just below the eye that can be painful if disrupted by an enemy 
  • They grind their teeth together that makes a loud and interesting clicking sound 
  • Loaches can be shy in new environments and when introduced to fishy strangers
  • Their black and orange coloring is what earned them the name of ‘Clown loache’
  • Due to their size they are able to swim very fast but not for extended periods. 
  • So, there to have it! Studying the humble Clown Loach is a fascinating exercise indeed. There’s so much to learn about these tiny creatures, and with the right care and handling, they’d make a great addition to any aquarium.