Name: Chromobotia macracanthus
Origin: Indonesia, Sumatra, Borneo
Clowns in a clown car, it is just not fair!
A brief introduction to the care of Clown Loaches
So you want to get yourself some of those little black and orange striped loaches, you saw in the local fish store, for what? $4.50 each. They are appealing, a good price, and you can find these little guys everywhere! I know how you feel, you have to have at least one for your tank. Oh, and you heard they are good at snail control too. Definite sale!
I am writing this to debunk the ideas that I see come through this site, time, and time, again. Clown Loaches are not to be kept singly, they are not to be kept in small shoals (2-4) in a 120 liter tank. They are not to be purchased to just eat snails, then you wonder why in two months, they are either too large for the tank, or dead.
The Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus), needs a lot of room to move. This species of loach can grow to a maximum size of 40 cm if cared for properly. They like to be in large groups and shoal. They are very social creatures, and therefore, keeping just one is downright cruel, it will suffer from stress and loneliness, ultimately not living a full life as it could have if there were more around to shoal with. A minimum of five is recommended for the fish to feel secure, and establish a natural pecking order. Also, you should be prepared (depending on your age) for this fish to possibly outlive you! Clowns may live for up to 40 years if proper aquarium condition are provided for them. A tank size of 180x60x60 cm is the minimum for a group of adult clowns. They require frequent water changes, and highly filtered water, the turnover should be approximately 8-10 times an hour. They also like current, and powerheads should be provided to keep the water moving.
Plants you ask? Well if you like planting them everyday and having holes punched through them, go for it. I would suggest plants that need to be anchored to decor such as Anubias, any other type of rhizome or even tuber plants should be OK.
Please be aware that if you do decide to purchase these fish, you ask the fish store staff to double or triple bag them for you. They have bifurcated suboccular spines, located under the eyes, that will raise when stressed, and could poke a hole in the bag. They also have been known to sleep or rest in odd positions. Some new owners panic when they find them laying on the aquarium floor on their side or even upside down, only to find they are fine after all. They may do the "loach dance" where they swim and tumble in circles, for no known reason.
There are many other loach choices out there. If only we could get our fish stores to stock them as readily as Clowns. Zebras make a nice alternative, they are quite entertaining and only grow to around 10 cm. Yoyo's, as well, make nice loach shoals. There are many different loaches in the Botia category, they are all fine fish, but please be aware all Botia are very sensitive to less than superb water conditions, and therefore should not be the first fish added to a new aquarium. They are better suited for a well established, well maintained aquarium.
Oh and if that snail problem still plagues you, try to remedy the root of the problem, and not add fish to solve it. If you must however get loaches to eat the snails, please remember, smaller species for smaller tanks, and always large groups to insure the well being of the fish.
The point of all this? Don't pack Clown loaches in a tank less than 470 L, it's like putting 20 circus clowns in a Volkswagon bug, surely it's not comfortable for long.
This is quite a social loach that thrives in groups of 4 or more. It is active by day and will suit itself well in most community tanks. This species as most other loaches are prone to white spot, or Ich. Breeding of this fish in captivity is extremely rare and specimens of this species are usually imported after being caught in the wild. I have noticed that these fish make a loud "clicking" noise towards others in the group. I believe that this "clicking" is used as means of communication between clowns which can be observed during territorial disputes or when these fish are being fed. There is a distinct pecking order within a group of these fish.
One thing that many people fail to realise is that the clown loach has little razor blades under its eyes. No joking around! Many people handle the fish while putting them into their aquarium and notice cuts later on, and say, how did these get here!? The razors are a tent shape, and protrude only when they are out of the water, or under attack or extreme stress. This fish is a great community fish, its only downfall being that it grows rather large. It will dart around the bottom of the tank looking for food, (snails, leftover flakes, etc.) And will eat flake food that happens to go down to their swimming zone. The best way to describe the way they eat is like a chipmonk. They suck up the food with the little "feelers" flinging this way and that and it looks like the mouth of a chipmonk eating its food. If this fish gets a "pinched in" look on its belly, you either need to feed it more or move it to a less stressful environment.
From a lesser experienced to others: When I saw my clown fish lying on their sides resting for the firt time, I thought they were seriously ill, but that was not the case. Some of them just like to relax using this position, it is perfectly normal. Always keep more than one. I got my first clownie by a lucky coincidence, but he seemed shy and inactive - 2 more of his beautiful kind, and he was a different fish.
I agree with Ronni, smiling. I too was instantly saddened to see my then 4" loach laying on its side. That sinking feeling knowing that my husband's favorite fish is soon going to be covered over out back by the irises. You get out the net and open the tank. Dropping the net to literally 2" from the fish and... HEY you little clown bugger. Yep it springs up and swims to the other side of the tank (laughing all the way I am sure). One note to all at all time be mindful of the loach's secret weapon. When netted and during handling watch out for their raisors that come out of the sides under their eyes, by the pectoral fins. They can cut and you won't even know it some times. Moments later you are bleeding and you don't know why.
I have three of these ludicrous fish and they are great favourites. They are really active and they are the focal point of our lush planted aquarium. And that is the problem - they are merciless plant destroyers and they do it for fun as they do everthing. This is a habit the fish store did not communicate when we bought them 3 years ago as cute little 4cm fish. I know when the loaches have been on a binge because there are quantities of new leaf shoots floating on the surface, they especially adore the dwarf echinodorus species quadricostatus, latifolius, parv-tropica and tennellus, and seem to delight in snipping each new leaf off at the centre of the crown accompanied by the clicking noises they emit when excited. They also munch holes in the other plants and relish the really expensive ones such as the larger exotic swords plants ocelot, barthii and rose varieties which I would add are guaranteed fish-proof by the growers. But our loaches haven't read the books! So my advice for what it's worth is that the loaches are brilliant fish but not for a tank where a lot of money has been invested in substrate and technology to grow plants - the carnage will make you weep. But on the bright side at least we don't have any snails!