Clown loach

Scientific name Chromobotia macracanthus
Descriptor Bleeker
Year of description 1852
IUCN category LC
Family Cobitidae
Genus Chromobotia
Chromobotia macracanthus Chromobotia macracanthus


Chromobotia macracanthus, usually called Clown loach or Tiger botia, is a tropical fish native to Asia. Although no official alert has been launched at this stage, populations have been strongly affected for years by deforestation and fishing for the aquarium trade.

Who is it?

Genus Chromobotia

In 2019, the genus Chromobotia has only one species, the clown loach. The species was previously placed in the genus Cobitis. It belongs to the subfamily of Botiinae, itself included in the family of Cobitidae, also known as loaches The clown loach differs from all other Botiinae genera by its unique color pattern, consisting of three large black bands (one on the eye, the other two on the body), on a bright orange-red background. From a morphological point of view, the frontal lobe ends in barbels. The anterior chamber of the bladder is partially covered with a bone capsule. The suborbital spine is bifid and not strongly arched. The head is bare.


  • Average size
    15 cm
  • Maximum size
    30 cm
  • Longevity
    20 year
  • Pattern
    vertical stripes
  • Average size
    15 cm
  • Maximum size
    30 cm
  • Longevity
    20 year
  • Pattern
    vertical stripes

How to recognize the Clown loach ?

The largest specimen observed to date measured 305 mm and weighed 469 grams. He was captured in the Musi River in Sumatra.

Sexual dimorphism

There is no visible dimorphism.

Behaviour & Life cycle

  • diet
    omnivorous with carnivorous tendency
  • Sociability
  • territorial
  • Way of living

The Clown loach is a fish living in scattered groups. Adults are mainly found in the bottom of rivers and canals. They are sometimes found hidden under rocks, in submerged woods or in holes in the mud.

Juveniles are found in flood plains. These fish have a predominantly carnivorous diet, hunting benthic insects and aquatic snails. They also eat vegetables to complete this diet.


  • Reproduction
    ovipare qui pond sur substrat découvert
  • Migratory species

The Clown loach is an oviparous fish that lay on an exposed substrate. In the wild, it is a migratory fish that reproduces in rivers before reaching the bed of more imposing rivers. Breeding in captivity is difficult.

Harmless species

This species does not represent any particular threats to humans when encountered in its natural environment.

Where to find it?

Geographic distribution & Conservation

Until the 2000s, there was no direct signal on the state of health of wild populations. However, a study published in 2012 reports a complicated situation.

Clown loach stocks are now seriously threatened in the wild. The collection of wild juveniles is considered to be far too intensive. The number of catches increased from 20 million individuals per year at the end of the 1990s to 50 million in the year alone of 2009. This number is not viable in the short term.

In addition to commercial overexploitation, several Indonesian rivers, many of which are where clown loach are located, suffer from pollution associated with human activities, such as gold panning. These areas are also largely transformed by deforestation. The primary forest is replaced by palm and rubber plantations.

Unfortunately, efforts made in recent years to breed these captive fish have largely failed. As demand does not cease, if no alternative to overfishing is found, the species risks disappearing.

Where to see this species?

What is its habitat?

Natural environment characteristics

  • Temperature
    22 - 30 °C
  • pH (acidity)
    5 - 7
  • gh (hardness)
    5 - 12
  • Flow

Biotope presentation

Due to their migration for reproduction, clown loach frequent a wide variety of environments, generally in rivers. These experience significant variations throughout the year, both in terms of flow and depth and in terms of water parameters (T °, pH).

The older individuals live in the deeper areas, the younger ones staying in smaller rivers.

The vegetation is normally dense and thick, the marshy waters being bordered by tropical forests. The substrate is mainly composed of humus (various plant detritus) and leaves, with the presence of submerged roots and trunks. The water is tea colored, quite acidic.


Not recommended

We do not recommend keeping this species in an aquarium. It has unpredictable needs which, if not met, generate significant stress, potentially leading to a shorter life expectancy, an interruption of its growth or the development of pathogens.

To go further

Species of the same family

To read on the web

Sources & Contributions

Participation & Validation

The Fishipedia team and specialist contributors are committed to providing high-quality content. However, although the information comes from scientific sources or testimonials from specialists, the cards may contain inaccuracies.

Benoit Chartrer

Benoit Chartrer


Translation done with the valuable contribution of our translators, who make this information available to a wider audience. We sincerely thank them for their commitment.

Bibliographic references

Biology and culture of the clown loach Chromobotia macracanthus (Cypriniformes, Cobitidae): 1- Hormonal induced breeding, unusual latency response and egg production in two populations from Sumatra and Borneo Islands - Marc Legendre - Darti Satyani - Siti Subandiyah - Sudarto - Laurent Pouyaud - Etienne Baras - Jacques Slembrouck - Aquat. Living Resour. - 2012.

Botia kubotai, a new species of loach (Teleostei: Cobitidae) from the Ataran River basin (Myanmar), with comments on botiine nomenclature and diagnosis of a new genus - Maurice Kottelat - ZOOTAXA - 2004.

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