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Clown Loaches Eating Snails – Is It Normal?

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I am a big fan of Clown Loaches. They look great and have loads of personality. Many new aquarists get concerned when they see Clown Loaches eating snails in their tank and are unsure if this is ok for their health. I mean, can eating snails really be good for them?

It’s perfectly normal to find Clown loaches eating snails in their aquarium. They love an easy meal, even if it’s not their first choice. A Clown loach will eat many foods, such as insects, crustaceans, and worms in the wild. You may even catch them nibbling at your favorite plants. Just make sure that snails are not the only food on offer.

If you have Clown loaches in your tank, you should brush up on their eating habits to ensure you are feeding them the correct foods to meet their needs.

Clown Loaches Eating Snails - Is this normal?

Clown loaches are known to grow quite large and can be impressive to see at their full size, but they will need you to understand their dietary requirements to lead long and healthy lives.

I have written a complete guide on Clown Loaches, so if you want to brush up on your knowledge about this species, why not have a read? It covers everything from a Clown Loaches native habitat, diet, tank setup, and breeding, among other things.

Benefits Of Clown Loaches Eating Snails

If your Clown loaches eat snails in your tank, and they are the pest snails you want rid of, then be thankful that you have found this great solution.

A small snail population in your tank can quickly become a problematic overpopulation of snails, causing your aquarium to look unsightly. A snail problem can add to the build-up of waste, which in turn will quickly become a further problem, upsetting the chemical balance of your tank.

A build-up of waste in your aquarium can cause Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate levels to increase, which will become toxic and cause illness and death among other fish.

Snails are not all bad, as they will eat leftover food that would otherwise rot and lead to high ammonia levels in your aquarium. Snails will also eat algae which is another pest in our aquariums.

If the snail population in your fish tank has become unmanageable, you should try to reduce their numbers by hand, either catching them or using chemical treatments. Once snail numbers have declined, your loaches will do a good job of keeping those numbers down.

Clown loache love to eat aquarium snails
Clown loaches love snails as part of their diet.

The easiest way to initially get rid of snails is to remove them by hand. This can be quite a time-consuming job, so an alternative is to buy snail traps that can be hidden away and emptied regularly. Snail traps are usually quite effective at keeping numbers down.

Clown loaches suck snails from their shells, leaving the unsightly empty shell behind, so you must remove them by hand.

Do Clown Loaches Eat Snails In The Wild?

Clown loaches are excellent hunters in the wild, and snails are one of their favorite foods. As bottom feeders, clown loaches are well adapted to hunting through gravel and mud to seek out snails, and their abundance means they rarely go hungry.

As well as snails, Clown loaches eat a variety of food sources. Commonly found in community tanks, they are often wrongly sold to new aquarists by pet shops and fish stores to solve their snail problems.

Luckily, Clown loaches like snails, but they are not the best fish to control snail populations, especially large ones. These loaches are often bought with the idea that they will hunt out every snail in their tank almost overnight.

Many other fish species will eat snails. If you like loaches, it may be wise to consider smaller botiids other than Clown Loaches. Zebra loaches, Yoyo loaches, Khuli loaches, or the Dwarf Chain Loach are great alternatives, especially if you only want fish for eating snails in your aquarium.

The Zebra loach will grow to around 3.5 inches, and the Dwarf Chain Loach will grow to around 2.5 inches, so they are much better suited to a smaller fish tank and will help with snail control as they are great little snail eaters.

Clown loaches will certainly help control snail population problems and are especially good if you own several loaches, but snails are by far not their main or only source of food and would eat much more than a snail-only diet in the wild So what do they eat aside from snails?

If you are new to keeping these Botia, you will be surprised at how varied their diet can be.

Below is a sample of the types of food a Clown loach enjoy:

  • Plants & Green Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and peas.
  • Fruits like bananas and strawberries.
  • Crustaceans like shrimp, scuds, and crab meat.
  • Insects and other aquatic invertebrates.
  • Worms such as bloodworms
  • Commercial fish food (Ideally sinking food)
Clown Loaches Eat Crustaceans as well as snails.

Clown Loaches also like live food as they are scavengers and active hunters in the wild that like to pursue their prey. The job of any aquarist should be to keep their fish tank as close to their natural environment as possible.

Do Clown Loaches Eat Big Snails?

Clown loaches can definitely eat big snails when they are fully grown, which often surprises people that aren’t aware of how big clown loaches can grow. A full-size clown loach will often reach 10 inches in an aquarium, so larger snails are not off the menu, although smaller snails are preferred and easier to chew.

The video below demonstrates how interested clown loaches are in snails for food.

Clown Loaches Eating Snails

If a clown loach has plenty of food in its tank, it will only go after snails for the fun of hunting, keeping larger snails in your aquarium safe in most circumstances.

Larger snails, such as Mystery snails, Nerite snails, or Assasin snails, may get nipped and harassed by larger clowns, so I don’t advise trying to keep larger snails, and I am also aware of a customer I had that fed his clown loaches garden snails.

If you do try to keep large snails and they are getting pestered, you may have to remove them into another tank and try to train your clown loach to appreciate other foods. After a few weeks or months, try and add your snails back.

Do Clown Loaches Eat Snail Eggs?

Although clown loaches do eat snails, they don’t eat snail eggs, leaving them to hatch and increasing the snail population. Not eating snail eggs is one reason why clown loaches are not the best choice for removing snails from an aquarium.

When using clown loaches to keep on top of a snail problem, you will need to perform regular water changes and general cleaning of your aquarium to stay completely on top of the situation.

Snail eggs can be laid anywhere, so you will have to search them out under plant leaves and other sheltered areas to completely remove the problem.

Wrap Up

Clown loaches should not be purchased specifically to clear snails from your tank, but they can be very good at keeping their numbers down. There are much better snail-eating fish than clown loaches if your snail population becomes an ongoing problem.

If you already have Clown loaches, it is worth doing some homework on them. They are lovely fish, so understanding their needs, such as preferring to live in larger groups and that they have quite a varied diet, will help you maximize their potential within your aquarium and lead much longer and healthier lives.

If your clown loach eats snails, think of it as a blessing!

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