Recreate The Clown Loach Fish's Natural Environment

Published: 23rd February 2011
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Clown loach fish are only found in Indonesia (specifically on Borneo and Sumatra). They live in murky backwater rivers where the water may be moving swiftly or standing still. The waters are densely vegetated and there is plenty of food for the feisty bottom-feeding clown loaches. They are on omnivorous and often enjoy eating crustaceans in the area or nibble on plants in the water. Borneo and Sumatra both straddle the equator so the temperature is quite high for most of the year. The temperature of the waters that the clown loach live in hovers around 74-85 degrees Fahrenheit (23-29 degrees Celsius). They live in large groups and densely populate the river beds. It is in the clown loaches nature to hide and they love hiding in spaces that they can barely fit into or dig themselves into the river bed with only their head sticking out.

How can you use this basic information in designing a comfortable aquarium for clown loaches to live in?

First and foremost, the clowns love to have places to hide and plenty of vegetation. You can build little caves with rocks or buy cave objects at the store. You can use old plastic piping, or that old model car you use to play with when you were younger. You can use pretty much anything to make a hiding place for a clown loach, but you want to make sure that there are no sharp edges. Since they enjoy squeezing into areas that are probably too small for them to be squeezing into you don't want them to get caught on sharp edges and injure themselves. As for the vegetation, pretty much anything will do, but if you want to go all out you can use plants that grow in Borneo's or Sumatra's rivers; for example, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Pista stratiotes, or Nuphar japonicum. The older the clowns become the more they like to nibble on vegetation, so stick to the fast growing and robust species of plants.

Clown loaches sometimes dig themselves into the substrate of an aquarium, so make sure there is nothing sharp in the substrate since it may do them harm. It is also a good idea to create a current in the aquarium that the clown loaches can swim against. They are fast swimmers and they can grow to be quite large (up to 12 inches or 30 centimeters). That being said, you may have to upgrade to a larger aquarium. For full grown clown loaches, a 125 gallon (540 Litre) tank is recommended. This is one of the reasons that buying a clown loach is a long-term commitment. They can live to be more than 10 years old!

After the setup and organization of the clown fish tank, there is still the problem of water quality. They are very sensitive to the water quality and they become sick much more easily than most other aquarium fish. Their natural waters have a pH that tends to be acidic (pH = 5-7) and water hardness between 7 and 12. After achieving those properties in your tank and keeping the water temperature between about 74-85F (23-28C) your clown loaches should be pretty happy.

Don't forget that clown loaches get lonely really easily and when they're lonely they get stressed, their growth may stunt, their colours may fade (don't confuse this is with the 'graying out' of their colours with age) and they may die young. So, always keep your clowns in a group of at least 5 and they should be as happy as peas in a pod.

The process of analyzing a fishes natural habitat and then trying to mimic it in an aquarium is known as biotyping. It is an idea that is recommended by many aquarists.


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