Clown Loach (chromobotia macracanthus), or tiger botia, are wonderful freshwater fish to have in your aquarium, with tons of character and unusual looks, but what do you know about a Clown Loaches size and growth rate. How big do Clown Loaches get?
An average Clown Loach measures 3mm in length at birth and can reach 1 inch in its first 6 weeks. In the wild, a full-grown Clown Loach can reach 16 inches or more, with reports of 12 inches or more in captivity. In an aquarium, you can expect an average Clown Loach to reach 6-10 inches +.
Although a baby Clown will measure around 3mm, Clown Loach breeding is not the easiest (even for experts), and many of those for sale in fish stores have been captured.
If you are interested, I have written a complete guide to Clown Loaches. It should cover everything that you need to know about this species of loach from its natural habitat, diet, tank setup, water parameters, breeding, and much more. You can read the guide here: Clown Loach (Natural Habitat, Tank Setup, Care, Feeding, Size).
Clown Loaches Size Chart & Growth Rate
The table below will give an average of a Clown Loaches growth rate and expected size throughout its life cycle.
|Age||Size in cm||Size in inches|
|Birth to 6 weeks||3mm to 2.5cm||0.12 inch to 1 inch|
|6 weeks to 1 year||2cm to 7.5cm||0.8 inch to 3 inch|
|1-2 years||5cm to 15cm||1.95 inch to 6 inch|
|2-5 years||5cm to 16.5cm||1.95 inch to 6.5 inch|
|5-10 years||12.5cm to 20cm||5 inch to 8 inch|
|10 + years||15cm to 25.5cm (+)||6 inch to 10 inches (+)|
The sizes in the table above are expected averages and have been aggregated from aquarists who have shared their own experiences and my own experiences, and some research.
You can see from the table how fast a Clown Loach will grow, especially in the first couple of years of its life, and will usually start to slow until around 5 years of age when its growth rate reaches its slowest phase.
Plenty of aquarists have reported Clown Loach sizes of 6-8 inches within their first 2 years, whereas others have reported sizes much smaller. Many factors need to be considered when estimating growth rates for any fish.
You will notice that the guide to sizes in the table above are very broad, especially at 5-10 years and 10 years + because each Clown Loach will grow at a different rate in the early years, and it would therefore be difficult to estimate what size they may have reached by adulthood.
How Fast Does A Clown Loach Grow To Full Size
Once a Clown Loach reaches around 6-8 inches in length, growth will generally slow to around 1/2 to 2 inches per year. Whether a Clown Loach reaches full size within the first 5-10 years of its life will depend on many factors such as living conditions, general health, and feeding.
Clown Loaches will experience the main growth between the age of 1-5 years; however, a healthy loach will continue to grow throughout its life. If your Clown Loach reaches 10 years of age, this is considered good in captivity, and it will be considered to be close to full size at this point.
Clown Loach Lifespan
The average age of a Clown Loach in captivity is around 10 years, and with good care and a healthy environment, this can increase, with reports of them living as long as 20 years or more in the wild.
Even though it is doubtful that you will manage to keep a Clown Loach in an aquarium for 20 years, it is worth understanding that they will likely be a long-term investment in your fish tank.
What Factors Play A Part In a Clown Loaches Growth
The simplest way to guide you in which factors will play the biggest part in a Clown Loaches growth would be to emphasize the importance of making their environment as close to natural as experienced when living in the wild.
Good Clown Loach care is critical. It’s no coincidence that Clown Loaches both live longer, and grow bigger when living in the wild, so you would need to consider what factors would contribute to this in their natural habitat.
A few ideas would be:
- Food – (These botliids have varied diets in the wild). We have a very informative article titled, “What Do Clown Loaches Eat” which will give you a list of a Clown Loaches favorite foods and eating habits. Feeding Clown Loaches the correct food will have the biggest impact on their growth rate.
- Tank Water quality – (Oxygen levels, lack of harmful chemicals, cleanliness). Correct water parameters are important for any healthy fish.
- Tank Water temperature – (Temperatures enjoyed in the wild are between 25-30 °C or 77-86 °F).
- Space – (Freedom to roam, exercise, and exhibit natural behavior).
- Companionship and suitable tank mates – (Living in groups will make a Clown Loach happy and playful rather than stressed and not eating).
- Aquarium Plants – (Plant matter is also part of a Clown Loaches Diet and gives them privacy to roam and forage during the day. Both floating plants and submerged plants are good for blocking light and giving privacy).
There are many other factors at play, and some research wouldn’t hurt, but following the list above will go a long way to helping a Clown Loach feel at home, safe and happy, and should lead to natural growth.
What To Consider Before Buying A Clown Loach
As a common loach species, the Clown Loach is readily available at most fish stores. Because of their easy availability, they are a popular fish. Many new aquarists believe they are easy to look after because fish stores often don’t point out that they have certain needs and will grow well beyond what may be expected.
It is important to know the expected growth size of a Clown Loach before you decide to buy because many factors should play a part in your decision.
Below are some of the questions you should ask yourself before you buy Clown Loaches:
- What size tank do you have, or intend to have?
- What fish do you currently have or intend to get in the future?
- Do Clown Loaches prefer to live in groups or alone? How many should you get?
- How long do Clown Loaches usually live?
You will probably need to consider more than this, and it will be relevant to your own situation or tank setup, but the questions listed are important to consider for anyone who wants to own a Clown Loach.
As already mentioned, a Clown Loach likes to live in groups or schools of 10-15, so I would recommend putting a minimum of 3 Clown Loaches together when buying. It is kinder, and you will experience the most natural behavior from them.
If you choose to put less than 3 together, you may find that they will become timid and hide most of the time, and for the same reason, it is important to put them with tank mates that will not intimidate them.
Clown Loach tank size is important as they are schooling fish, and when in groups they will be more active and display much more of their natural behavior, especially in a well-planted tank with plenty of crevices to crawl through.
At What Size Should You Buy A Clown Loach
It is pretty safe to buy a Clown Loach when it has reached around 5cm in length, any smaller than this, and it is still very young and more susceptible to illnesses and parasites or a general change in conditions.
Clown Loaches are pretty hardy and cope well with new environments, but you will have the most problems when buying smaller than 5cm.
A healthy Clown Loach will display bright colors and have plenty of energy, so if they are looking pale or lethargic, then stay away.
What Size Tank Does A Clown Loach Need
Having a tank large enough to home your Clown Loaches is important as it will give them the space they need to move around. Unless you plan to increase your tank size in the coming years, you should estimate the potential size at maturity and how many Loaches you intend to have.
A rule of thumb would be that 1 adult Clown Loach would need a minimum tank size of around 30 gallons, so a group of 5 Clowns would need a minimum tank size of 150-gallons.
As Clown Loaches are bottom to mid-level dwellers, adding further fish that prefer to live at the mid to upper level of the tank should be fine, provided they are compatible, and you keep your aquarium well oxygenated.
Are Clown Loach Aggressive
Clown loaches are usually good for a community tank. Generally, very gentle and peaceful fish, even as they grow to their full size, usually live well with most small community fish and are non-aggressive.
I have heard some stories about aquarists that have added some meat to an aquarium housing several large Clown Loach and the result has been nothing short of a bloodbath. One aquarist described the scene as similar to a group of piranhas stripping a carcass to the bone. Generally, these loaches like to eat live food such as baby brine shrimp or other fry food, usually found at local fish stores.
I doubt that your loaches would ever show this type of aggression to their tank mates, but it is interesting to know that the potential is there for Clown Loaches to attack their food in this manner.
As omnivores, Clown Loaches are pretty good with pests such as common aquarium snails and will keep a snail population down. Although this species of loach will eat snails, there are other species of loach in the Genus Botia that will also eat snails and are smaller, so would better suit community tanks.
Please have a read of our “Clown Loaches Eating Snails” article, which talks a little more about their specific nutritional needs.
Good Clown Loach Tank Mates
Good tank mates can be Neon Tetras, Tiger Barbs, and Cherry Barbs when looking for small fish.
The Clown Loach will also get on well with other bottom dwelling fish like Plecos or invertebrates like freshwater crabs.
Tanks I have owned have often contained several plecos, rainbow shark, and red-tailed black shark, which they have gotten on great with.
If you have a group of large Clown Loach, providing they are well fed and their tank mates are not aggressive toward them, all should be well, but smaller fish that want to irritate your loach may end up as a tasty snack.
The size of a Clown Loach should not affect its temperament toward other fish; however, a large adult is very capable when it wants to be.
The Suboccular Spine
I have said that Clown Loaches generally have a very placid nature, especially when on their own or in tiny groups, but it would be wise for me to mention that they do have a hidden defense mechanism that you may not be aware of until it’s too late.
If a Clown Loach feels threatened, there is a small but very sharp barb called a suboccular spine that can be pushed down from the snout, and although not poisonous, I’m sure it can be quite painful and may mark other fish, so be wary when netting or handling yours.
When you see Clown Loaches swimming around at the local aquarium, they look pretty cute and mischievous, especially when they are small, but they will grow (MASSIVELY!!) so make sure you can accommodate for this.
The cuteness and mischievous will stay throughout their lives, and provided you can cope with the extra growth, I have never heard of anyone that has regretted having Clown Loaches as a part of their aquarium.
Happy Fish Keeping!