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FAQs About Clown Loach Behavior

Related Articles: Loaches, Dojos/WeatherfishA New Look At Loaches By Neale Monks,

Related FAQs:  Clown Loaches, Loach Behavior, Clown Loach Identification, Clown Loach Compatibility, Clown Loach Selection, Clown Loach Systems, Clown Loach Feeding, Clown Loach Disease, Clown Loach Reproduction, Loaches 1, Loaches 2, Loach Identification, Loach Compatibility, Loach Selection, Loach Systems, Loach Feeding, Loach Disease, Loach Reproduction,

Four adult 4" Clown Loaches formerly active, now invisible...    9/3/14
My long established, 5 years old, 200 litre (55USg) UK community tank has seen many inhabitants come and go, but the original five clown loaches -rapidly reduced to four following an early 'stuck-in-a-pipe incident' - have remained a constant: entertaining, hungry, excitable, delightful.
Until now. They are virtually invisible - the odd glimpse of a tailfin peeking out from under bogwood, or a twitching barbell-nose from a rock cave ornament.
Otherwise - empty tank scenario. So what has changed?
<Age perhaps alone... but there's a solution to encouraging them to be more outgoing... Adding another; a fifth... even if it's smaller... will bring them out more>
Certainly not the water - 7.5pH, zero nitrite, zero ammonia, a faint hint of nitrate, but six big thriving java ferns sucking on it. Regular 15-25% water changes weekly, as always. 27degsC temp. Subdued plant-Gro lighting 12 hours a day.
Last week I had to sell my herd of 6 young tank-reared male Aulonocara
Baenschi which at 4" each were just facing off and chasing/fighting and generally creating mayhem at all times.
<Oh! If these were in the same tank...>

Blue-nosed beautiful bruisers, they never seemed to interact with or worry the Clowns, and apart from the constant dust-ups with their own brothers, all was good in the tank, with Clowns in evidence day and night, feeding, swimming, cruising around.
Not now. A silent tank-scape, all day, all night. No-one else in the tank apart from small harmless bottom feeders (Corys, mini Plecs) and a trio of Synodontis petricola. It's almost as if the Clowns miss the rowdy African fish, and are now too nervous to emerge. They must come out at human-sleep-time because any flake/wafers or bloodworms left out for them have been hoovered up in the morning.
I've read around this subject extensively, as you would hope, before coming to you O wise ones J I seem to be looking at (at least) two solutions - apart, that is, from restocking the tank with another bunch of Lake Malawi hooligans! I could purchase an equal number of 4 juvenile CLs - who would initially have the run of the place but quickly be put in their place in the pecking order by the elder loaches - who would then have to forsake their hermit-like existence and keep 'the kids' under control, and get back to being visible to me. Or - cheaper option - I could get a shoal of, say, Cardinal Tetras with their constant colourful movement encouraging an imitative response from my sluggish clowns.
What would you advise?
<The addition of a three inch specimen. Oh and BTW; these aren't adult size... this species exceeds a foot/30 cm.s in length>
Or do you have better (or different) potential solutions to my sad, empty tank vista?
<If they were mine... Bob Fenner>
e: Four adult 4" Clown Loaches formerly active, now invisible...   9/5/14
Thanks for your thoughts, Bob Fenner, My LFS doesn't have anything larger than 21/2" but they do have a 'special deal' on a pair of those for £11, so I'll go with that and see w'happen ;-) BTW I only refer to my 4" fish as 'adults' because apart from a growth spurt 2 years ago, they seem pretty well stuck at their present size, which, considering my tank size is just as well!
<I see. Wishing you all well. B>

Clown loach, sliming beh.     6/15/13
Hi, We were recently given two clown loaches by a friend who was shutting down her tank. We have had them for about 2 months. One is about 5 inches long and the other about 4 inches. It is a 4 foot tank. They seem to be going very well but the last couple of weeks we have been getting a lot of floating material in the tank that we have not been able to determine what it is. I am now thinking that it is slime from the loaches body as they brush past the plants and rocks. It looks like cob webs and when we remove it with the net there seems to be nothing there. Would appreciate your opinion.
<Loaches can be quite slimy; particularly when "settling in" to new circumstances, or if some aspect/s of their water aren't to their liking.
Do review the latter here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/clnlchsys.htm
And perhaps go over the other Clown Loach files linked above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Clown loach      6/16/13

Thanks for your help, Bob.
<Hope it helps Sue; am a huge fan of Clown Loaches. BobF>

dark clown loach 12/3/12
Hello everyone,
I've not been in contact with you in a very long time because I've not had any aquarium health issue---until now.
<Long runs of healthy tanks are a good sign you are doing things right. 
Everyone has issues from time to time.>
I have a 3+ year old clown loach (3+ inches) that has become quite dark, with a black area at the bottom base of his tail. I've also noticed what looks like some sort of black parasite or worm protruding from his gill plate (one on each side) and there are 2 small black spots on his body that weren't there before.
<Darkening of the skin can mean a number of things. Tumors, flagellate infections, melanoma to name a few, but not an exhaustive list by any means. That you see what appear to be parasites would lead one to believe the dark patches are somehow related. Even the black spots and parasites are kind of hard to nail down with the descriptions provided.>
There are 5 other clown loaches (various sizes, larger and smaller) in the same tank that all appear fine (full of color). 16 discus, 5 bristle nose albino Plecos, and one 24" retic ray in same tank, all appear fine.
The tank is a 240 gallon, temp is 86, water change is constant drip @ 80 gallons per day.  
Any ideas?
<Quarantine the affected loach to minimize the risk to the rest of your livestock, for sure. It's much better to lose one loach than risk all those discus.  Next, scour the WWM site to see if you can find something that looks similar to what the sick loach has protruding from the gills. Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfshparasites.htm
I personally keep a UV sterilizer in the closet that I bring out on occasions like this. After removing the affected fish, I would put my sterilizer into the tank and run it for two or three weeks.  I don't know of many other aquarists who do that, but it's something to consider.>
Thank you,
<Good luck with this. - Rick>

A big Clown Loach    5/12/11
> Hi Bob,
> This might amuse. Looks about the size of an Arowana!
> http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5055174 
> Cheers, Neale
"Ye Gods, what a monster!" Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck in the original Dune movie. B

Clown Loach Acting Erratically. Hlth., beh. f's    4/12/11
Greetings from wet, rainy Seattle.
I have a wonderful 55 gallon set up with four Clown Loaches,
<Long term, much too small for these fish; realistically, you'll need 100+ gallons for four adults.>
a Gourami, and seven Phantom Tetras.
<Megalamphodus spp.? These do need cooler water, 22-24 C/72-75 F, than Gouramis and Clown Loaches.>
My clown loaches for the most part are doing fine, except for one of them.
He has gotten extremely pale and although he eats fine, he swims upward vertically and just seems to fall. I think it could be a problem with his swim bladder, but I am not sure.
<No; more likely a parasitic infection of some sort.>
This is my first time keeping loaches and I plan on getting a larger tank for them when they get larger, but for right now, I am concerned that the one I am watching could have something contagious.
<Is indeed a risk.>
I don't see any outward signs of what is wrong other than the erratic swimming behavior and the unusual way it sleeps (with its head up on a high rock laying on its side, the others just kinda plop down near the filter current), and the pale skin. It doesn't seem to be thinner than the others, and there are no outward signs of Ich/White Spot. It doesn't socialize with the others either.
<A bad sign.>
Any suggestions you could make would be much appreciated, I really do love my fish and I did everything I could to research them before I bought them, including making sure that tank conditions such as pH, the tank being cycled, the correct amount of current, and top notch maintenance were provided for them.
<Good. Don't forget Clowns are partially herbivorous, and do need some fruit and vegetables in their diet!>
I have kept Angels and Discus successfully before in other tanks around my home, and am concerned about the problems with the loaches. Thank you so much for your time,
~Ali H.~
<Clown Loaches are prone to both intestinal worms and various microbial parasites, and the use of both the antimicrobial Metronidazole (Flagyl) and a dewormer such as Levamisole or Praziquantel is highly recommended. These are safe with Clown Loaches. In the US, you may be able to obtain these from your pet store; elsewhere you'll need to get them from a vet. Cheers, Neale.>

Clown Loaches, beh., hlth.  2/18/10
<Hi, Amanda! Melinda with you here tonight.>
I have 2 Clown Loaches and one of them has began to fade and is practically a ghost at this point.
<Firstly, how long have you had these fish? Clown Loaches can take some time to "settle in," and just because one has, doesn't mean the other one is! What size system? Clown Loaches really do better in schools of at least five. Please read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/clownloachfaqs.htm, as well as the linked files above. They're really great fish, and are so much fun to watch, but really do need buddies to feel comfortable. Also, they can grow quite large (twelve inches, sometimes more), but grow very slowly. Still, something to keep in mind, especially with a schooling fish. The bioload gets to be quite a bit when multiplied by five or six. Also, Clown Loaches do fade at times (I'll discuss below).>
I have not seen him eat and he is in the corner of the tank and near the surface.
<Do you offer hiding places in this tank? I have a large piece of driftwood in my tank that I've deemed the "loach den." When kept in adequate numbers (I have six), Loaches are really all over the tank -- at the top, the bottom, and everywhere in between! However, they do need time to rest, and get away from the direct lighting we tend to subject our fishes to in home aquaria. This is where hiding places come into play.
When the Loaches are in their den, they tend to pile up and look ridiculously cute. When they emerge, they do not exhibit the dark coloration which is typical of the fish. Their oranges and blacks are much paler after they've been in hiding, and gradually darken as they move about the aquarium. On the other hand, color changes in any fish can indicate stress, and if you're seeing pale coloration for extended periods of time, this could be the culprit. Now, the thing is to figure out the cause of the stress. What are these fishes' tank mates? Could they feel predated by any fish in the tank? Are you feeding them adequately? Loaches enjoy the heck out of wet-frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and other meaty fare, but also have no qualms about demolishing a slice of cucumber overnight. So, they need vegetable matter, and if your aquarium doesn't have palatable live plants, they may be suffering. In addition to the wet-frozen foods, which I consider really important to any fish's digestive health, they also love Spirulina wafers and shrimp pellets, Spirulina strips, as well as carnivore pellets and pretty much anything else that
goes into the tank. In addition, Loaches need a lot of oxygen in the place they inhabit most (the bottom of the aquarium), and if the fishkeeper has not provided adequate filtration (eight to ten times the tank's volume per
hour), then this can be a problem. I mention this because of your observation that he spends a lot of time at the top of the aquarium, where more oxygen is present, due to gas exchange which occurs there. What type of filtration are you offering, and are you sure that the water is well-oxygenated? Clown Loaches typically have very adorable whiskers, or barbels, near their vacuum-cleaner-like mouths. Are these whiskers present on your fish (both the sick one, and the other one)? Absence of these can indicate stress, dirty tank conditions, poor choice of substrate, etc. >
I do not see any specks that could relate to ich or diseases.
I have tried every possible sight and pet store and no one seems to know the answer to my question. This is my last hope. Please help!
<Again, I'm wondering how long you've had these fish, whether the system is of a size to hold a group of them for at least a few years, what you're feeding, water quality, oxygenation, and whether you're offering hiding places. There is also an illness in Loaches commonly called "skinny disease," or "wasting disease." This is caused by an internal parasite.
There is some information available about the condition on WWM, and you can find it by using the search bar on our home page. I'd also recommend doing research on this condition wherever else you can find information!
Ultimately, this may be the cause of your fish's problem. However, there are a lot of other factors which could be to blame. At the very basic level, please review water quality, and ensure that Ammonia and Nitrite are at zero, and Nitrate stays below twenty with regular maintenance. This can be done through regular, weekly testing. The thing is, Loaches can be very difficult to treat, because they're what the hobby refers to as "scaleless fishes" (not actually scaleless, I don't believe, just have very small scales), so it's easier to rule out these other factors than try to begin
to treat for this internal parasite, because so many medications harm Loaches that wouldn't affect other fish negatively. If you can remedy his problem through other means, it would be better for him, and easier for you.>
Amanda Strauss
<Amanda, I think the key here is a lot of research on these fish. They're really wonderful, and so rewarding to keep, but even as small guys, do have specific needs, like any fish. If you feel that you don't have the room to add more, or are startled by their ultimate size, perhaps it's better that you return them and find more suitable fish. In any case, as I said, the first thing that comes to mind for many when they hear of a Loach that's not eating is "wasting disease;" however, I have found that by working to suit the fish's needs, the fish begins to eat and gain weight, and in the six Loaches that I have, I haven't seen this disease become evident. I hope the case is the same for you, and you have the chance to enjoy your Loaches, in a larger, well cared-for group, for many years. I know I've asked a lot of questions here, and I only mean to help you understand that a fish's health is in direct reference to every other aspect of his life!
So much has to be considered when a fish starts to exhibit strange symptoms -- it can be confusing. If you have further questions after reading, please feel free to write back.
--Melinda><<Excellent Melinda. B>>

Re: Clown Loaches   2/20/10
Hello Melinda,
My Clown Loach actually died last night sadly.
<I am so sorry to hear.>
I check the water parameters and everything seems to be right on spot.
<What numbers?>
I have many hiding places in my tank including large drift wood, plants, and such. I also turn off my light for a good 10 hours for the night right on schedule daily so they have some "down time" and have a filter that can do up to 80 gallons when I have a 42 gallon tank so I believe it is strong enough.
<Okay. The way you determine whether or not your filtration is strong enough is to take what the manufacturer says the filter's gallons per hour is, and divide that number the number of gallons your tank holds. Don't pay much attention to what they rate the filter for (for example, yours is supposedly for an 80 gallon tank), but instead, use this method. You're looking for turnover per hour of about 6 to 8 times. So, for a 42 gallon tank, you'd want a filter that handles at least 252 gallons per hour.
Depending on how you've stocked this tank, you may even want to go as high as turnover of ten times per hour. So, there are some variables, but knowing how much water filter is moving is a good step towards determining
if filtration is adequate.>
I am not sure about what happened but when I went to take him out of the tank his skin started to fall off.
<This sounds like he was just in the water for a while after he died, and began to break down.>
What cause of death would that point to?
<I don't think it's something which can be connected to the reason he died.
Did you see any red spots/lesions/etc? This wasn't a symptom you listed for me while he was still alive, so I wouldn't attribute it to what was wrong with him. However, please see the link I'm providing below for photos of "slime disease," which somewhat similar to what you describe.>
I've had him for about 3 months and he's always acted a bit different then a usual fish aside from the acting dead (which scares me half to death every time) but now I'm not quite sure how to treat my water or if it could possibly effect my other fish.
<Since you're not providing numbers on your water quality, I can't say for sure whether or not this is an issue. However, if the fish was in the tank for an extended period of time after death, then the tank could experience
an ammonia spike, so it's important to be testing regularly right now. I wouldn't try and treat the water, since we're still not sure what was happening to him. It could have been that he just never acclimated to the tank from his move, or it could be something more.>
My other Loach I know may have "skinny disease" and I do not know how to treat that either but on top of that now he or she is the only Loach in my tank. should I be buying more loaches?
<He'll be miserable alone. Yes, either return him to the store, or purchase a few more... but, as I said, this can seriously increase bioload, especially as these fish grow, and so this may not be the best option, due to this being a relatively small aquarium. There are still some things that haven't been addressed, such as what you're feeding. As I said before, it's best to cover all of the bases before jumping to that conclusion. The mere fact that this fish is living singly could stress him to the point of not eating.>
How should I treat both my tank water to get rid of any disease and my other Loach who may have "skinny disease"?
<I wouldn't treat, because we still don't know what happened. By the time you e-mailed, he was in pretty bad shape, and I addressed a lot of issues which I think are going to seriously affect the remaining fish if you're
not providing those conditions. The feeding and filtration are still question marks to me, as is water quality, and the fact that this fish is alone now is going to stress him more. I would just do a really large water change, and watch the fish for any signs of illness. The fact that you believe the remaining fish has skinny disease means that he either does have it, or he's not being properly provided for, and as a result, isn't gaining weight and growing properly. So, please review the needs I addressed in my first e-mail, and read here on skinny disease:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/clnlchdis.htm. The treatment for the condition is listed on this page, as well as a photo with some information on "slime disease." The reason I mention this is that you did
say he lost skin, or scales, when you took him out, and I don't think this is related to cause of death, but the fact that his body was in the water for a little while and began to decay, but I wanted you to see those photos, in case it jogs your memory as to whether you saw anything like this prior to his death.>
- Amanda Strauss

Re: Clown Loaches 2/22/10
The water was at Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrate Round 20 PPM.
<Okay, so that sounds good.>
I him or her freeze dried shrimp and basic bottom feeder wafers.
<This is a diet which I would augment with wet-frozen foods and some other vegetable matter, such as cucumber slices and Nori strips. Dry diets can cause problems with constipation, and we've already discussed these fishes'
need for vegetable matter. Despite being called "algae wafers," if you'll look at the ingredients on most bottom-feeder wafers, they contain a lot of fish meal. This means that the fish has to eat a lot more of it to get the vegetable matter he needs. Feeding vegetable-matter only foods in addition to these will help him get what he needs.>
The filter turn over is about 7 per hour.
<Okay, good to know.>
And if you believe that it might not be such a good idea for me to get more clown loaches to make my surviving one more comfortable, is there no other option other then to return it or watch it be miserable and ultimately die?
<I don't know what your plans are with fishkeeping in general, really, so I'm just trying to make sure you realize what you're getting into if you do up the numbers of loaches to five or six. Without knowing how heavily-stocked this tank is, it's hard to tell, but since, from my observation, these fish grow about an inch per year, I think you'd run into trouble in three years or so, if the rest of the tank is very lightly stocked. The good news is, it's not difficult to get rid of large clown loaches, and in fact, they fetch quite a bit of money (since they do grow so slowly). However, I know that in the time I've been fishkeeping, I've never been able to bring myself to either give away or sell a fish, because I get so attached. This is why, at this point, my house looks more like public aquaria than a house. But, if you don't have the ability to, in a couple of years, upgrade this system for their sakes, or are worried about finding them a new, proper home, then I would not increase numbers.>
I do not think the store will take him back without just disregarding him since I've had him for 3 months already and he has been in a tank with a possibly but not known to be sick fish.
<I think they would take him back, but there's no way to know unless you ask. Another option is to get on some fishkeeping forums and try to find someone near you who already has a group of loaches and wouldn't mind adding another. Craigslist is another option, and you could insist on a home check prior to giving him to someone to make sure they've got what this fish needs to thrive. Anyone who takes him has the opportunity to quarantine him to make sure he's not sick, so don't worry about that part.>
I love my fish. I just don't want to return him if there is a possibility they might throw him out or something.
<Then do try the other methods I mention above.>
I do not think they resell fish.
<Do... this is how I have found many of my fish -- full-grown or half-grown fish which are brought back to the store by hobbyists. I cannot say whether your store does, for example, I doubt a lot of the chain stores do this, but I know many of the more independent stores in my area commonly do this.>
And the link to the photos did not work and google doesn't bring anything up. Just healthy fish.
<The link should have been to a whole page with photos on it. If it doesn't show up as "link," you can copy and paste that into your browser.
If all else fails, use our google search bar and enter "skinny disease." When deciding what to do about this fish, I'd first look at the following:
Do I plan on getting a larger tank within a couple of years? Are other tankmates truly compatible with loaches to begin with? Am I willing to do the work it takes to improve diet to ensure health and long life for these loaches? Please write back if you've got any more questions, or if you can find that page I linked you to with the search bar.

Re: Clown Loaches -- 2/23/10
<Hi, Amanda!>
Okay. Thank you so much for your help Melinda. It is greatly appreciated.
<You're very welcome!>
I will take into account all the space issues and food changes.
<I can see you care a lot about your fish, and you're weighing all of the choices here. That's really great.>
It is good to know I have options and that someone was out there to help me see the many details of this rewarding hobby.
<I totally agree with you -- it's a very rewarding hobby. If it didn't take the work that it does, it wouldn't be so rewarding!>
If I do have more questions would I be able to email you in the future?
<Yeah, absolutely. If, for some reason, I am unavailable, there are plenty of other folks here who can help, as well.>
You are the best, by far, assistance that I have had since starting my many aquariums and I am very grateful to have been in contact with you.
<I am so glad to hear I've been of help. Since we spoke, I remembered there was an article on Clown Loaches in one of the fishkeeping magazines a few months ago which I found to be excellent. Though which one it was still isn't coming to mind, if I can find it, I'll save your e-mail here and let you know which one it was. Or, perhaps someone else (many of the folks on this great crew write articles for the same magazines I excitedly grab from the mailbox and read cover-to-cover each month!) saw that article and knows where it was can either forward that info to you or to me. In any case, I am glad to have spoken with you, as well, and though I know you have room in your heart for these spectacular fish, I hope you'll find room in an aquarium, as well -- they're such great characters and really a joy to keep. Talk to you soon!>

Chromobotia (behaviour)  2/13/10
Dear WWM Crew,
I have a question about Clown Loach. They are showing some very strange behaviour which I know is common for them, however I cannot find any record of it online.
They keep coming to the surface of the water and sticking their snouts/whiskers out and making a noise that sounds like popping bubble wrap (the only way I can describe it).
<These loaches do make clicking noises, and they're a combination aggression/reassurance sound they make to keep the group together and assert relatively dominance in the pecking order. Provided you have a big enough group, the chances of bullying or other odd behaviours aren't likely. This means you need at least three, and frankly, five or more is best. Given Clown Loaches get to around 25 cm/10 inches in length when kept properly, these are demanding fish that very few people keep properly.>
Otherwise they seem perfectly happy. All other fish are staying within the water and so I am reluctant to think that it is an oxygen issue.
<They will gulp air, even if the water is well oxygenated. However, they will gulp air more often if the water is too warm or not sufficiently oxygen rich, so do keep an eye on circulation and temperature.>
I am feeding them with both flakes and sinking pellets and they often show this behaviour when there is still food left at the bottom, so I do not think that they are hungry either.
<They do need vegetable foods as well, cooked peas being especial favourites.>
However during feeding time they are less likely to show this behaviour and they do sleep and so again I don't think it can be an oxygen problem. I have tested the water for Nitrite and Ammonia and both are fine. I am keeping the loaches with a neon, some harlequins and one plecy.
<One Neon? That's obviously not a good idea. Groups of six or more, please.>
The tank thermometer reads around 28C.
Can you give me any advice on what they may be doing? If it is an oxygen problem then would an oxygen plant help?
<Plants have no useful role in oxygenating aquaria. Too many fish, too few plants.>
Thanks very much
<Cheers, Neale.>  
Re: Chromobotia (behaviour)  2/13/10
Thanks Neale.
I only have one neon because the others have died over the years and will not be replaced.
<Oh, I see. Can it not be re-homed somewhere? Doesn't sound much like a happy existence to me!>
Any advice on how to add extra oxygen to the water?
<You can't "add" extra oxygen as such. Contrary to popular misconception, air stones and bubbles don't add oxygen. What they do is improve circulation, pulling water from the bottom, where the air stone is, to the top of the tank, where it can absorb oxygen from the air. In practice, air stones are pretty mediocre at this, and not used much in the modern hobby.
They were more of a thing in the past, and only of value in tanks with very small fish, such as Bettas. I can't see much point buying one for a fish like a Clown Loach that comes from fast-flowing, deep rivers. Unlike, say, Gouramis, Clown Loaches are not happy in stagnant water, and you really do need a very strong filter for a Clown Loach tank. Let's assume you're keeping three Clown Loaches in the minimum aquarium they need, 350 litres or 78 Imperial gallons. You'd need an external canister filter rated at about 8 times the volume of that tank in turnover per hour, i.e., 8 x 350 = 2800 litres/hour. Given that high level of circulation, an air stone either way isn't going to make any difference!>
I have the pump and one live plant. The pump has an extension that slows the force of the water as the fish found it too strong before.
<Which fish? Not Loaches; they LOVE strong currents. Obviously, you wouldn't keep Clown Loaches alongside Siamese Fighting Fish!>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Clown loach growth rate 11/19/07 Hi Crew, I read your website often and have gained lots of valuable info, but have never posted before. I'd like your advice on two questions. Let me say first I'm a newbie fish keeper who got stuck with the hobby when a friend moved away and left me with her tank. <A-ha!> Now I'm hooked, but still making my share of mistakes. My latest mistake was listening to the advice of a pet store guy and buying fish I had never researched myself and adding them to my tank without quarantining. <Hmm... not all aquarium stores give bad advice; indeed, many give excellent advice. But it does pay to have at least one good aquarium book to hand so you can confirm things like water chemistry, maximum size, etc. for the common community fish traded. There are many such books, and your public library almost certainly has some even if you don't want to buy one just yet.> I have a 20 gallon tall with 2 juvenile dwarf red honey Gourami. The tank has been established for over 3 months. I wanted something for the bottom of the tank, but I heard that Corys would damage their barbels on my gravel substrate. <This is something of a simplification. Sharp gravel can wear down their barbels, and they certainly do look happier when kept in tanks with sand instead of gravel. But plain vanilla smooth gravel shouldn't cause any serious harm or damage to catfish. The erosion of barbels often blamed on the gravel is more likely a sort of Finrot, and caused by secondary infections. So rather than that gravel _per se_ causing the problem, it's dirty gravel that does. Keep Corydoras in a clean aquarium where the gravel is periodically stirred up and the dirty siphoned off, and you shouldn't have any trouble.> The "helpful" pet store guy suggested I buy 3 clown loaches instead. He said they'd be "just fine" in my 20 gallon. <Eek!> Imagine my panic when I got them home, looked them up online, and realized what I'd gotten myself into. However, I like the loaches, and I have decided to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank in January (now all the loaches are about 1.5 inches each, so I'm guessing they'll be ok until for the next couple of months until the upgrade). From reading your site, I know that a 125 gallon tank will eventually be the only suitable home for these guys. <It does rather depend. Clown loaches certainly can get very big. But it takes a long time. Best practise is to plan ahead, but realistically many people keep them for years in relatively small tanks. A 20 gallon tank is probably too small for anything other than the short term given their size, but a 55 gallon should work for several years.> Now, I live in Hawaii but will move to the mainland in the next 1.5 to 2 years, at which point I'll have to give away the fish. (In anticipation of this, I joined the Honolulu Aquarium Society, so when I move I'll have access to a network of people who can help me find appropriate homes for the loaches.) So, my question: will my loaches be ok in the 55 gallon for the next 2 years, or will they outgrow it within that time span? <Clown loaches grow around 5 cm/2.5 inches per year under normal conditions. They're just not fast-growing fish. This will vary somewhat depending on water quality, diet, temperature, etc.> My second issue: My usual routine is a 25% water change every week, but I am considering switching to 10% every 3 days. The reason is that I will be away for a month in December/January, and house-sitters will be caring for my fish. I think the more frequent water changes might be easier for them, since they'd only have to deal with removing and replacing 2 gallons of water at a time. <I'd actually not have them do any water changes, unless you can really trust them. If they dump in water that hasn't been dechlorinated, or remove too much so that the heater or filter get exposed to air, you could cause problems. I'd far sooner have the fish relegated to 1/2 or 1/4 rations (say, a meal every 3-4 days) and then have the babysitters do nothing more than top up evaporation with water from a jug of dechlorinated water.> This would also decrease the risk that they'd shock the fish with sudden water fluctuations. So, my second question: If I change only 2 gallons at a time, do I thus add only 1 ml of chlorine/chloramine remover? I use Stress Coat, and the usual dose is 5 ml per 10 gallons. <5 divided by 5 is 1, so yes, 1 ml of dechlorinator per one-fifth of 10 gallons, i.e., 2 gallons, sounds right to me.> And one last related question (thanks for reading such a long email!): Do you approve of the 10% per 3 days plan? <It's a plan. But make sure you trust the babysitters not to do more harm than good. Going a month without a water change won't kill your fish. It was absolutely standard practise to keep fish this way 20 years ago, doing 25% water changes per month. I don't recommend it as a permanent plan for all kinds of reasons, but over a vacation, it might be the lesser of two evils.> I want the water to stay super clean for my loaches until I get back in Jan. and give them the 55 tank, but I also want to keep the water change schedule easy and fool-proof for the house-sitters. Your advice and knowledge is greatly appreciated! <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Hi! my name's Buffy and I'm 15 years old & from NSW. Clown loach beh. Here's the story: I used to have 2 clown loaches but 1 died. :( so i went to the fish store to get another one but got distracted by the tiger barbs and got 3 of those & forgot completely about the poor lonely clown loach. when i got home i swore to get one next chance i had. But the clown loach became one of the tiger barbs the same day i bought them. It doesn't act anything like a clown loach anymore. It now behaves in every way possible like a tiger barb. I have no idea what's going on with it! Maybe the similarity between the colours had both the loach and barbs confused...but it doesn't dig into the pebbles or act any thing like it used to or should! Please tell me why my clown loach has had such a sudden personality change! And what can i do? <Hello Buffy. It is absolutely normal for baby Clown Loaches to school with Tiger Barbs in aquaria. Clown Loaches are sociable fish: they need to be kept in groups of at least three specimens. When they are not, they feel "lonely". Since your Clown can't find any friends to school with, he's doing the next best thing, schooling with the Tiger Barbs, which do indeed look very similar. So, go buy some more Clowns, put them in the tank, and you should see everything get back to normal. Please remember Clowns get quite big; the average size in aquaria is around 15-20 cm, though specimens over 30 cm are found in the wild (and in big fish tanks). Cheers, Neale>

High Ammonia Levels  1/20/07 <Hi Cheryl, Pufferpunk here> I'm from Woodinville WA where we had a nasty wind storm that took out over 1,000,000 people's power for a week (or more).   <My biggest fear, with 9 tanks running.> Of course no one here had generators at the time (or could get one if they wanted to) and we never knew we would be without power for so darn long....(we have a generator now for the future...which I hope I'll never need.) <Always good to be prepared.> I was able to save all but 1 fish, by insulating the tank with blankets and doing water changes every 8 hours during the outage then after the power came back on, treating for fungus/parasites first--then bacterial infection. I lost the one fish. I ended up basically starting over after 25 years as far as an established tank goes.  I have a wet dry system, with a full load of fish and I now have high ammonia levels. I have been struggling with this since Dec. 21st. Its been about 6 weeks and it doesn't seem to be getting better. < :o( > I have been doing partial water changes aprox. every 2-5 days, (depending on how bad the ammonia level is). <Very toxic--should be 0 at all times.> I am using StressZyme each time, to add bacteria, also AmmoLock every other day because the levels are showing very high even after the water changes. I bought some Amquel but it didn't seem to do anything except make the tank smell nasty. So far the fish seem to be OK with all this. The water right now is very cloudy looking. Today's level was at 6-ppm (not good) So  I did a massive water change (80%) hoping to bring it down some. <Should be doing these daily.> From all I have read I am not sure if I should add AmmoLock or not. Any advice is appreciated. <Forget about all the above products you are using.  StressZyme contains no live bacteria, so you're basically adding waste to a tank that can't handle the waste already in there.  The ammonia-removing products you are using are preventing the good bacteria from developing, because it is starving it from it's food (eats ammonia), so it can't complete the cycle.  Find a shop that sells Bio-Spira (may be difficult to find).  This is the ONLY product that contains the LIVE bacteria found in an established, cycled tank.  DO NOT LET THE STORE SELL YOU ANYTHING ELSE!  To change ammonia to a usable, non-toxic form, use Prime as a dechlorinator.  Until you are able to get the B-S into your tank, you must do huge, daily water changes (80-90%), to get your levels down to 0.  When you do get B-S, add it directly to your filter.> My 6 clown loaches are 25 years old now and I'd hate to lose them after all this time.  I've had them longer than the husband! They are sensitive little creatures and I'm sure this is stressing them all out.  It certainly is stressing me out! <Yes, scale less fish are more sensitive to ammonia/nitrites.  Folks don't believe it when I tell them the longevity of these beautiful, entertaining fish.  They must be fantastic sight!>   The setup is a 75 gallon fresh water tank with a Tricon trickle wet dry system, aprox. 20 fish total. <Hmmm... not nearly large enough for a school of huge 6 clowns, plus 14 more fish!  The clowns should be around a foot long by now.  That would require at least a 200+ gallon tank.> Any further help is appreciated. <You should consider an upgrade.  The overstocking is a big part of your problem here, as the tank can't catch up with the bioload all those fish are producing.  Get that Bio-Spira ASAP & in the meantime, huge daily water changes are in order.  See:  http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html  ~PP>   Cheryl

Bio-Spira & Stunted Clown Loaches  2/1/07 <Cheryl> Thank you. I had heard about Bio-Spira from another fish group and called a store (that's far away) yesterday that had it.  I'll pick it up today.  I did another large water change last night and I will do a water change  before I put the Bio-Spira in. <For some strange reason, this is a difficult product to find.  As well as it works & the fact that it is the ONLY product that successfully instantly cycles a tank & brings back a crashed system (although they claim not to use it for this--I have), I think every store should carry it.  Just be sure to ask if it has ever been out of refrigeration.  I went to a shop that had some sitting on their counter.  They insisted it was fine there & they had been selling it that way for months.  I had them read the package & even though it had been sitting on that counter for a month (totally dead) they put in the fridge for future sale!!!> My 6 loaches I bought when they were tiny babies and they have all lived happily up till 2 years ago in a 40 gallon tank. The under gravel system (actually I had one custom made at the 12 year mark)  finally gave up on it after 23 years and I did up grade to the 75 gallon wet dry trickle system. The last 2 years had been super great, no problems at all. Not till the dreaded power outage. FYI my  loaches are nowhere near a foot long. Loaches grow very slowly. Maybe if they were in a bigger tank to begin with, they may be that large now, but I doubt it. My biggest 2 are half that size, aprox. 6 inches. the rest aprox. 4 inches. Very beautiful fish. I hope to have them around another 25 years (then I might need a bigger tank!) <I'm not too sure of their longevity but I think you're approaching the mark.  Too bad they're stunted though... would have been stunning at that size!  ~PP> Thank you very much for your help.   Cheryl

Clown Loach beh.    1/14/07 Hi. <<Hello again, Joanne.>> I have 'spoken' with Tom before about my guppies, he was really helpful and I hope you may be able to help again? <<I'll certainly give it my best effort.>> I have a 180 litre tank in which I currently have 9 neon tetras, 10 Black Neons, 6 guppies and 2 clown loaches (I appreciate these will eventually become too big to keep with the others but I will buy them their own tank long before this becomes a problem.) <<Excellent.>> The tank is heated, has an internal filter, airstone and fluorescent lighting, I have tested the water and it is as it should be. <<All sounds good.>> The problem I have is with one of the clown loaches, he has started 'sticking' himself to the side of the filter box where the water is sucked through the vents, and spends much of the day there and his gills are moving rapidly. I haven't moved him as he does unattached himself from the vent without any problem and continues to feed normally, still making the clicking noise. I have been told is a sign of happiness? <<'Excited' is probably more appropriate, Joanne. The clicking noises are generally associated with the fish when feeding and spawning but can also occur when the fish is frightened or startled.>> His colour is good. Does this sound like a disease or parasite problem? <<Not at all. These Loaches come from fast-moving waters in the wild and appreciate currents in their tanks. Hobbyists will frequently add powerheads to their aquariums, particularly for species-only setups, to provide these fish with the water movement they enjoy. In this case, it sounds like your fish has found a spot, even if it's an odd one, where it can enjoy some additional water movement. (I guess you do what you can when you're a fish!)>> I had a large heat treated piece of driftwood in the tank which the two loaches used as their home. When I cleaned the tank earlier this week, however, I noticed there were what looked like tiny black mites in the wood. I didn't put the wood back in the tank and provided them with a new home. Does this sound like it could be connected? <<Doesn't seem likely, Joanne. Your Loach doesn't display any signs of stress such as colors fading or loss of appetite. I believe he's just found a fun place to hang out.>> None of the other fish including the other loach are affected, and I cannot see any other visible symptoms. <<Well, the good news/bad news of Loaches is that parasitic infestations are pretty easy to spot since these fish are scaleless creatures. I've seen the term 'Ich magnet' applied to Blue Tangs in saltwater aquaria and, if there's a freshwater counterpart to these, Clown Loaches would surely qualify. I'm generally reluctant to tell anyone that there's absolutely no need for concern regarding a pet's unusual behavior but I think there's a more plausible explanation based on what you've shared here.>> I hope you can help. <<Other than my 'two-cents-worth', I really don't think you need my help this time, Joanne. Part of the appeal of these fish is their sometimes odd behavior and I think that's what you're getting from this one.>>   Thank you in advance Joanne x <<Nice to hear from you again, Joanne. Take care. Tom>>

Clown Loaches - Diseased, or Clownin' Around? - 08/12/2005 We have had 2 clown loaches in a 240 litre community tank for 8 months. They are in with two small eels (7inch) two angel two gourami and some pleco's. <Some....  How many?> Only two small Plecos have been introduced recently.   <Not much space for several territorial bottom-dwellers....> Over the last 24 - 48 hours one clown loach has stayed at the bottom often falling over on his side, <Can be quite normal....  Try a google search with "clown loach playing dead".> and his colouring have gone very dark (like bruising but all over)?   <Possibly a problem....> The other clown loach is desperately trying to help him but I don't what it is or how to treat him? <First, test your water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  Be certain ammonia and nitrite are always ZERO.  Maintain nitrate at 20ppm or less.  If your water is not within this range, do water changes to correct it.  If all checks out, and you see no other behaviour issues with this fish, all may indeed be quite well.  I would "wait and see" for now, and keep a close eye on the fish.> Please help,  -Karen <Wishing you and your fishes well,  -Sabrina>

Clown Loach I have 2 loaches, 2 black tipped sharks(?), and have just added 2 Oscars. I only mention all of the above because I do not remember seeing this problem before the Oscars were added. One of my loaches is constantly swimming at the surface with his mouth wide open, never closing it. He is seriously faded and seems to have red cheeks (I know that is silly but really what it looks like). The sharks are very worried about him and so am I. Can you help me? Kim <Sounds like this fish is extremely stressed... by? I would check your water quality... for ammonia and nitrite at least... Has this tank been set-up long? Is it big enough for these fishes? How is it filtered? Is it cycled? Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm - scroll down to Environmental Disease and read the Related FAQs files. Bob Fenner>

LOAFING LOACHES Hi Guys, I hope you can shed some light on why my 2 clown loaches have suddenly become very listless with one in particular just lying at the back of the tank. This is a marked change in behaviour as they have been very active for the month since I introduced them to my 200 litre planted tank. Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are fine and ph is 7. I do seem to have a bit of an algae problem despite doing weekly water changes and was wondering if the level of dissolved organic compounds may be too high and affecting the loaches adversely. I've since cut the lighting back to 9 hours and am going to reduce the amount of food I've been giving them. Any advice would be appreciated. Regards, Jane < It is not uncommon for loaches to be found occasionally lying on their sides. Many new aquarists become freaked out by their loaches strange behavior but it is normal for them. If they really are sick then look closely for ich. These guys can pick this up in a tank when all the other fish seem unaffected.-Chuck> 

Clown loach playing with black gravel -- pics? (03/02/03) This may be a rather bizarre question, but I'm sure I saw a series of photos of Clown Loaches that were moving black pebbles to the floor of their cave. Most of the gravel in the tank was a different color and they seemingly wanted the black gravel in their cave. I thought there was a link from this site to the series of photos, but I have searched every way I know how and I can't find it anywhere on the web. Have you seen these photos? <Nope, and I didn't have any luck in my searches, either. I'd check at www.loaches.com and post on their boards -- someone there might have seen or heard of these photos. --Ananda>

Clown loach no info.   2/10/06 I have a community tank consisting of tetras, a pleco, and recently the addition of 4 clown loaches in an attempt to look after a snail problem....three of the loaches are doing well, good colour, active, etc. However the third has lost colour, is very faded, and spends much of it's time away from his peers, often at the top of the tank swimming erratically. I'd read that the ammonia could be the issue however have tested and they are 0%, like wise the ph is good. what now? help Rebekah <... water quality? Temperature? See WWM re requirements, ranges. Bob Fenner>

Clown Loaches   8/24/06 Hi, <Hello> I have a clown loach that keeps rubbing across a terracotta pot piece in the aquarium. <What they do... are "clowns"> I gave it a water change and changed the filter and also turned the temp. from 80 to 84 degrees. <Good> Can you tell me why he is doing this and what I can do about it. He looks perfectly fine. <Is likely. Unless you see definite signs of disease, I would not be concerned... Do know that this is a social animal... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/clownloachfaqs.htm Bob Fenner

Clown loaches hiding for too long?   8/14/06 Hello there crew, My question is concerning my 55 gallon freshwater tank- more specifically- a pair of clown loaches. I've had them for almost a year and they are growing quickly, and keeping my snail population in check. <Neat!> Recently I put in a hollow piece of artificial drift wood and the opening is on top, so now both of them have taken to living full time inside. <Very common> The problem is they never come back out, or at least not that I have noticed, and after a few weeks I get nervous and pour them out. <Mmm, no need... will come out "eventually"...> When they come out they are really pale, the orange is totally white and the black stripes are just light grey. Their color returns quickly but they act very nervous if they cant get back in. They have other places to hide in the tank, but they don't seclude themselves the same way in those. Are they going to just sit in there until they die? <Nope> or are they breeding? <Not likely... really have to be quite large (several inches long)...> I  would appreciate your help on this one, Thanks -Julian <I'd try offering some favored food during the lights on hours... bloodworms, black worms, sinking tablets... and being patient. Possibly adding a third, smaller individual may cause these two to be more outgoing. Bob Fenner>

Re: clown loach, sys., beh.  8/25/06 Hi again,              This loach had a partner clown loach when he was bought a couple years ago but they fought a lot and the other didn't make it. I don't believe it was due to the fighting. His other tank mate died so there is only a little 2 inch Pleco of some sort in with him. It is a 20 gal tank. Is this unhealthy for him( stunt his growth or pine in loneliness) He seems aggressive but not a killer. He is 5 inches now. <Not enough room for other Botia here... but are social animals, best kept in small odd numbers where the environment allows. BobF

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