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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Send in the Clown Loaches (for the Week of Aug. 31, 2008)

August 26, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: Erm, what's a clown loach?


A.: A freshwater fish from Indonesia that people keep in fish tanks sometimes. The "clown" part of the name comes from the fish's colorful colors. Its body is goldish, orange-ish, yellowish or all three-ish, with three big blackish bands ringed around it. One band looks like a mask on the face. The tail and some of the fins are bright reddish.

So: Clowny, eh? Eh? OK, kind of.

Clowny, too, is how the clown loach sometimes acts in a fish tank. Loaches Online, a Web site packed with loachy goodness, says groups of clown loaches sometimes do "loach-dancing." And sometimes one will fall asleep in a funny way or place, like floating upside down. "Hello, Polly Clown Loach! This is your nine o'clock alarm call! [tap tap tap ...]"

They're not a good fish for beginners, however. They need a big tank. They do best with other clown loaches. And they might start small, an inch or two long, but some get as big as a shoe. Woo! Maybe even a clown shoe! Yes.



P.S. Like fish? Learn more in Ohio 4-H's "Fishy Science" project. Call your county 4-H office.


Get details on the Fishy Science project book, which is best for teachers and 4-H advisors who work with children in grades 3-5, at

Find Loaches Online at "(Clown loaches) are regarded as a poor choice for the beginner aquarist despite their wide availability in fish shops," the Web site notes.

"Chromobotia" is the clown loach's genus; it means "color warrior."

A clown loach can make its bright colors look washed out, and can do it quickly. Loaches Online calls this "graying out." It happens during squabbles and is normal.

"Loach" comes from the Middle English (14th century) word loche, which in turn comes from laukka, a word from Old French, Late Latin or both that means "fish" or "slug" though in this case the first one.

Further clown notes: Clown loaches have barbels, whiskery doodads for feeling things, around their mouths. They also have tiny spines below their eyes. Scientists call these suboccular spines. The spines, used for defense, aren't venomous.

Other loaches, all of them also with excellent names, include the skunk loach, the kuhli loach, the zebra loach, the yoyo loach. Say that last one five times fast. Exxxcellent …

Props to Satchel Pooch.

About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly feature for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at, to and for a 4th-grade reading level.

For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776.

Online at

Kurt Knebusch