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- Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, Great Britain.
They come from a very rainy habitat, including flooded land, lots of plants, and tropical rain forest type of areas, so I would think softer is better than harder water.
Happy fish keeping!
And please note that conductivity will rise while the water changes will be reduced - we are still adding sth to the tank, especially when we feed our fish, and this food of course is built of elements, which will dissolve in water (after going through a digestive system) and increase conductivity. We have to be aware of that.
My clown loaches have been living in moderately hard water. My tap water straight out of the tap is around 250-265 ppm. They've been perfectly healthy despite going through tank breakdowns and stress. I've had them since 2012 perhaps. One of them I bought later, when already several years old. He was a singleton that someone had kept in a small tank for years and then brought back to the local shop here. I picked it up after looking at it for a week getting more stressed alone in a 10g tank. He really flourished after 5-6 months in my tank and has since grown tremendously. His colours really improved. I have a thread on him here somewhere. So my harder water is not a problem.
If fish are healthy and not sickly when you keep them, chances are they are perfectly fine. When fish start getting odd diseases, die prematurely, then something is not right, be it the water stats, water conditions in general, the food given, or aggressive tank mates.
Very soft water in fish tanks is not the same as very soft water in nature. In nature, the water stats are extremely stable due to the large volume of moving water. In a soft water tank, with low Kh, the stats can swing wildly causing stress to even very soft water fish.
There were a few old threads in here about clown loaches getting covered in black spots and having eroded fins. It turned out to be due to extremely soft water with no buffering capacity that swung the ph all over the place.
So as long as the water is extremely stable and not extremely hard, the clowns will be fine. That's why I'd say keep them in soft enough water if you can but on the verge of hard, with enough buffering capacity. If not, keep them in your current tap water. Stable is more important then the actual stats.The buffer is used up by the nitrification process as well as keeping the stats stable and it gets naturally depleted due to the constant ammonia produced in a small volume of water. It's a fish tank in the end of the day, not nature, so we have to go by what is feasible.
Clown loaches are not prone to diseases even if they are kept in harder water. One of the main reasons some soft water fish get sickly in harder water is because the range of bacteria that lives in such water is a lot more variable. Not many micro-organisms like acidic conditions. Hence some fish are not immune to the new stuff they get exposed to in harder water
Clown loaches thankfully are very hard fish. The only issue they are known for is white spot but if they ever get it and get over that hurdle, they should be fine as long as the water quality is kept right. The reason people kill clown loaches regularly is because they buy them for small tanks to clear snails and the likes. Then they wonder why the clown loaches die or get skinny diseases, etc.. It's the water conditions, not the water stats. Large weekly water changes is essential to clown loaches.
I've read about the black water swamps where young clown loaches go to feed during the rainy season. There's no evidence however that adult clown loaches inhabit such waters. In fact, they stay main upper river and there's still no reliable information about the exact water conditions in there. We learn about them as we keep them. Use your own knowledge, instinct and common sense to evaluate the condition of your fish. If your fish stay healthy, you are doing it right. If you lose the odd clown loach every so often, there's a problem.
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