Clown loaches are not known to clean parasites off of other fish. IMO, there are a few other reasons why the clowns would behave that way. I've seen this when other fish release eggs. Clowns will eat the eggs and will search the fish for more eggs. Clowns are always searching for food, so the pleco must of smelled like food for some reason.
I'd love to see some pictures of your fish if that's possible
I have just added 6 young 1" clowns to mt existing group of 10 and these small ones have been seen by myself and my wife on numerous occasions picking/grazing over the bodies of other bigger fish in the tank, it is mainly the large barbs and rasboras that they are doing this to and there is no sign of damage or that the are causing any distress.
3 previous small clowns did exactly the same thing but soon stopped as they grew.
Pardon my honesty - I am a Northerner
14 loach species bred, which will be next?
My observations are that Clown loach will try and clean the bodies of other living fish. My Synodontis notatus would invite this cleaning activity by hanging motionless and waiting for a trio of large Clowns to arrive.
I have also seen such activity with almorhae.
Garra, of course, are known for their cleaning activities and I have found that the African species are those most likely to carry on this activity, even when food is abundant, in aquaria.
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