Clown Loaches Eating Snails – Is This Normal?

I am a big fan of Clown loaches (Chromobotia Macracanthus), Botiine loaches of the Botia genus. They look great and have loads of personality. Many new aquarists get concerned when they have 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?

Clown loaches absolutely love to eat the snails in your aquarium, it’s like the finest caviar. A Clown loach will eat many foods such as insects, crustaceans, and worms in the wild. If you have a planted tank, you may also 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 definitely brush up on their eating habits to make sure you are feeding them the correct foods to meet their needs.

Clown Loaches Eating Snails - Is this normal?

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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 around this species, why not have a read? It covers everything from a Clown Loaches native habitat, diet, tank setup, and breeding, among other things.

You can read the guide here: Clown Loach (Natural Habitat, Tank Setup, Care, Feeding, Size).

Benefits Of Clown Loaches Eating Snails

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

A small snail population in your tank can quickly become a very 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 first try and reduce their numbers by hand, either catching them or using chemical treatments. Once snail numbers have declined, your loaches will do a good job at keeping those numbers down.

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 it requires you to remove the shells by hand anyway.

Another important fact is that Clown loaches tend not to eat snail eggs. The eggs will go on to hatch, so you will need to perform regular water changes and general cleaning of your aquarium to stay completely on top of the situation.

What Do Clown Loaches Eat

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 wipe out a large snail population. These loaches are often bought with the idea that they will hunt out every snail in their tank almost overnight. It is also lucky that they make great community fish and will happily mix with other non-aggressive fish.

Many other fish species will eat snails. If you like loaches, it may be wise to consider smaller botiids other than Clown Loaches such as Zebra loaches (Botia striata) or the Dwarf Chain Loach (Sidthimunki Botia), especially if you only want them to eat snails.

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 small list of the types of food a Clown loach will 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

This list is quite short, but we have a great post titled What Do Clown Loaches Eat, which will show you how varied a Clown loaches diet can and should be and is a very informative article.

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.

Clown Loach Size

Most people will buy their loaches when they are very young, often only measuring around 3 to 4cm in length. Because of this small size, beginner aquarists don’t realize they can grow much bigger, which means they are not the best fish to keep in smaller fish tanks which beginners will often use.

Clown loach size expectations from beginners often make me smile as they are usually only around 6-8cm.

I briefly mentioned above that Clown loaches sometimes grow up to around 40cm in the wild. This kind of growth is unlikely to happen in your home setup (although not impossible). Some of the largest reported in captivity have grown to 30cm. A couple of the Loaches that I have owned have grown to between 10cm and 15cm in length.

Clown loaches prefer to be with other Clowns, preferably in groups of 3-6, so buying 3 or more can lead to problems if using a smaller tank when they all begin to grow.

It is also important to consider the best tank mates for these botiids. Although they are generally peaceful fish and will mix with many fish species, as they grow larger, you will need to research the best tank mates to avoid problems further along.

Clown loaches are fairly slow-growing, with the average lifespan in captivity being around 10 years. This is only half of their reported lifespan of 20 years or more in the wild, so they would naturally only reach part of their potential growth in a home aquarium.

Why not check out our Clown Loaches Size Chart and guides for more information?

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.

If you do already have a Clown loach(es), it really 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.

Jon O'Connell

I have kept both marine and freshwater fish and set up almost 100 aquariums. Although I am no longer doing it professionally, I hope I can help others to enjoy keeping happy, healthy fish by sharing my many years of experience.

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