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Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:28 pm
by djoneser
I was reading a post the other day (which I of course cannot find now) in which someone was rebuilding their tank and they listed in the rebuild that they had changed the substrate from sand to gravel in order to make the Clowns color up more.

I need some clarity on this if anyone can provide it. I have long been under the impression that ANY fish with barbels was better off in a sand environment over a gravel one, due to the sand being more gentle on the barbels on the fish. So...

1. Are Clown loaches better off with sand or gravel as a substrate? (and why if you can..)

2. Will clown loaches "color up" more on a dark substrate or are they better off with an orangey volcanic base color? (as they have naturally in native ranges)

Thanks in advance :)

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 3:10 pm
by KittyKat
Not specifically about clown loaches, but there is at least one Cory species which has been observed as preferring fine gravel over sand when both were available. As least from what I have observed, the most common reason for barbel damage is poor water quality, not substrate, as long as sharp substrate is avoided. Sand is recommended because most of these fish dig or sift through substrate, while gravel can't be sifted and can be difficult or impossible for some of them to dig into.

About the colour difference: there should be no colour difference between the same fish on identically coloured gravel and sand. Sand just usually happens to be lighter. Also, what our eyes perceive the colour of the sand to be might not be what the fish perceive it to be, which is why on "similar" coloured gravel and sand, the fish *may* look different.

With regards to your precise questions, someone else can help you better than I :)

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 7:00 pm
by Emma Turner
Sand. Every time. I have seen many clown loaches with barbel erosion during my years in the trade, all of which were kept on too coarse a gravel substrate. So sad, and so easily avoidable.

I kept my clowns on a dark golden silica sand substrate for many years and their colours were vibrant (although many do not naturally retain quite such bright colouration into adulthood). We changed over to a black and grey sand about 6 months ago, and this has had the effect of darkening down the colours of the fish - they display a lot more black, even along the lateral line in some. As long as you choose an inert soft sand substrate, your clowns will benefit from a cleaner environment and less chance of barbel erosion and secondary infection. Any debris/detritus will sit on top of the sand (unlike gravel, which can harbour lots of nasties if not loooked after rigorously) and in an aquarium with a strong current, this will be swept up into the water column and taken out by the filtration.

Hope this helps,

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 11:21 pm
by chefkeith
I think Sand is better because it stays cleaner. I haven't needed to gravel vac in years.

As for substrate color,
I think the background color and decor color, along with shading, and lighting have just as much impact as the substrate color. I don't think the impact is all that much either.

IMO, Clown Loach color (light vs dark) has more to do with their emotional responses.

Temperament - aggressive (lighter) vs passive (darker)
Feeding - competing for food (lighter) vs foraging at own pace (darker)
Position in hierarchy - insecure (lighter) vs secure (darker)

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:08 am
by hamfist
Lots of "anti-gravel" posts here but is it the size of the gravel or the sharpness of it which will damage the barbels ? My experience keeping a range of barbelled fish over smooth gravel is that I have never had a fish develop any type of barbel damage/infection.
Unfortunately, so much of the gravel I see for sale is sharp and, IMO, totally unsuitable for any earth-sifting or barbelled fish. I almost always have to send off to get proper pea gravel when I need it.

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:44 pm
by redshark1
Same loaches on black gravel


And natural gravel


I think the difference as illustrated in my case is very clear.

Two of my aquaria have sand but I prefer natural pea gravel for my loaches.

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:15 am
by hamfist
Sorry to derail temporarily but, Redhark1, just how big (and old) is that enormous boesmani rainbow in your pics ? It looks almost as big as the clowns.

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:40 am
by redshark1
No problem hamfist. The Boeseman's Rainbows are nearly seven years old (the fry were hatched on 31/01/05). the male you ask about is 14cm or 5.5 inches.


Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:30 pm
by djoneser
Thanks for the responses everyone and I do believe that it was your rebuild Redshark1, that I had been reading (but could not find when I looked), and made me question what I *think* I know about substrates and Clown Loaches.

Redshark1 your clowns are freaking awesome and lovely, and to me their color patterns seem to be more natural and vibrant on the lighter colored substrate. My question to you would be "why are you using gravel in both tanks over sand"? Is there a specific reason? (not trying to tell you how to keep fish, your methods are obviously working well, more curiosity on my part)

Awesome Boesemani also!

Re: Best substrate for Clown Loaches?

Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:53 pm
by redshark1
Hi dejoneser, the reason I prefer gravel is that I successfully employ undergravel as my preferred method of filtration in my current setup.

My Clowns are in this successful setup for the full term. Long may it last.

However, I would not dream of knocking what anyone else does as there are many interesting and successful fishkeepers here.

I also have a successful tank with no artificial filtration as well as other experiments.

What has attracted me to undergravel is it's simplicity, setup cost, running cost and sheer effectiveness.

Also very important to me are the reduced risk of flooding, reliability, longevity, stability and ease of maintenance.

These are the reasons for my development of undergravel filtration and scaling down and complete abandonment of external filtration.