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Clown Loach
(Botia macracantha)


clown loach, Botia macracantha

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Clown loaches or Botia macracantha belong to the family Cobitidae. They are native to the rivers and streams of Borneo, Sumatra, and Indonesia. Their vertically striped bodies make them a favorite among freshwater aquarium owners. The striping consists of three wide, black vertical bands on an orange body. This configuration has also earned them the nickname of tiger loaches. Their mouths have three downward pointed pairs of maxillary barbels.


A barbel is a slender, whisker-like tactile organ. Maxillary refers to the barbel’s location near the mouth. These tentacle-like organs house taste buds and are used to search for food in murky water. Barbels are a bottom dwelling species of scavenger fish like catfish and carp. Barbles and downward pointed mouth are what distinguish bottom dweller from other fish. The clown loach is one such bottom dweller.

Bottom dwellers in general make a good addition to any community fish tank. The scavenging of food from the aquarium substrate helps prevent harmful chemical build up in the water. Most bottom dwellers are peaceful fish that tend to keep to themselves. They don’t concern themselves with what is going in the water above them.

The clown loaches you see for sale in fish stores are very young. They look so cute it is tempting to buy one and take them home. Make no mistake. Clown loaches are among the largest freshwater varieties available commercially. They can grow up to 16 inches long as adults. Take this into consideration before deciding to purchase one.

An interesting behavioral note: Clown loaches have a peculiar tendency to spend a lot of time lying on their sides. Don’t be alarmed. They are not sick or injured. This is just their normal behavior.

The clown loaches’ native water habitat is neutral water (pH of 7.0) with a water temperature between 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Clown loaches are intolerant of poor water conditions. They are prone to develop ich if left in unsatisfactory living conditions for extended periods of time.

Like all scavenger fish, clown loaches are omnivores. They can generally scavenge enough food that has been missed by the fish above them to survive just fine. But food that sinks, such as sinking wafers will insure they have more than enough nourishment to survive.

Clown loaches are egg layers. They are not known to breed in captivity. Attempts to do so have been mostly unsuccessful. There are a few instances where clown loaches have been reported to spawn in captivity. But this is a rare occurrence.

The clown loaches are aware enough of their surroundings to realize they have been removed from their natural habitat. As a result they have higher stress levels than many other fish. A good way to help reduce their stress levels is by providing them with plenty of hiding spaces on the bottom of your tank such as rocks and plants. Once they adapt to their new surroundings they will be just fine.

Clown loaches are a long lived species given proper living conditions. It is not uncommon for them to live from 40 to 50 years of age. It takes them years just to reach sexual maturity.

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