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How To Keep Clown Loaches With African Cichlids!

As clown loaches and African cichlids both increase in their popularity, the number of people within the fish keeping community who want to keep both species of fish is also starting to increase.

Due to the reputation of African cichlids being an aggressive fish, we often see people reaching out and asking if you can keep clown loaches with African cichlids in the same aquarium with this being somewhat of a controversial topic.

You can keep clown loches in the same aquarium as some species of African cichlids with minimal issues provided the tank is large enough and you add both fish species to the tank as early as possible.

Getting the fish to get used to each other in the same tank as early as possible can be a great way to reduce aggression between the two species.

Usually, when people look to add cichlids to a community tank, we would always recommend that you go with a more peaceful species of cichlid like the Blue Acara Cichlids, Yellow Lab Cichlids or German Blue Ram Cichlids but when it comes to clown loaches, the can do well with a wide range of African cichlid species.

We would still usually recommend against trying to mix a hyper aggressive species such as mbuna cichlids with your clown loaches though as it’s just asking for trouble.

Can Clown Loaches Live With African Cichlids?

A small school of at least five clown loaches can live in an aquarium with some species of African cichlid with minimal issues.

Unfortunately, many fish keepers often make easy to avoid mistakes that increase the chances of aggression between the two species but with a little prior planning, these do tend to be easy to avoid in most setups.

We would always recommend that you research the specific species of cichlid that you are wanting to keep in your tank if possible as the hyper aggressive cichlids are usually very bad options for a community tank no matter what you do with your setup.

This includes species such as the mbuna cichlid, the red devil cichlid, the green guapote cichlid, and the dovii cichlid but there are other hyper aggressive species out there too.

This is why so many people, especially those who are new to the fish keeping hobby will often choose to shy away from keeping cichlids in their aquarium tanks no matter the species.

It can take a surprising amount of research and work to make a community tank safe that has cichlids in it and it is also why we usually recommend that our readers only go with Blue Acara Cichlids, Yellow Lab Cichlids or German Blue Ram Cichlids in their tanks with clown loaches or other species of fish if possible.

Will Clown Loaches And African Cichlids Fight Each Other?

In some situations, clown loaches and African cichlids will fish each other and although some of these aggression triggers can be avoided with the correct prior planning, some of them can be hard wired into the fish.

If you have had your clown loaches or African cichlids in your aquarium for more than a couple of months then we would not recommend you try to add the other species as they will be territorial.

We constantly see people trying to keep their fish into aquariums that are far too small for them but overstocking an aquarium with cichlids in it can prove fatal for some fish.

Space runs at a premium in the smaller aquarium setups and you will commonly find that many cichlid species that can be calm and relaxed in larger tanks can quickly switch to being aggressive in smaller tanks.

You then have to factor in that clown loaches are a schooling fish that usually requires five or six fish as an absolute minimum before the fish are comfortable too.

Some beginners to keeping clown loaches have accidentally added a single clown loach to their tank and as stress levels in the fish increase, they can start to become aggressive to their tank mates too even if they are in a larger tank as they really do need a small school to be comfortable.

How Do You Keep Clown Loaches With African Cichlids?

The most important thing to keep in mind when keeping clown loaches and African cichlids in the same aquarium is tank size and most setups will need an aquarium that is a minimum of 100 gallons in size.

You should also try to add both the clown loaches and the African cichlids to the tank when the fish are as young as possible too so they can grow together.

This is an underrated tip that really can help to prevent aggression between the two fish as they grow. This is partly due to clown loaches being a more relaxed and easy-going species where as many African cichlid species are fast moving and active.

If the clown loaches aren’t brought up in a tank from a young age with the cichlids then their rapid movements can spook the clown loaches and stress them out to a level where they may nip and chase the cichlids with this often ending badly for the loaches.

You should also do your best to make sure that there are plenty of sight breaks be it tank decorations, plants, or actual fish hides for your loaches to go and relax if they start to get stressed.

The sight breaks are a great way to keep your African cichlids calm and relaxed too and they can drastically reduce the chances of your cichlids randomly attacking the fish in their tank.

How Many Clown Loaches Should Be Kept With African Cichlids?

The number of clown loaches that you can keep in an aquarium with your African cichlids will depend on the size of your aquarium but we would never recommend that you ever keep less than five clown loaches in your tank.

This will usually force you to have an aquarium that is at least 100 gallons in size as an absolute minimum before you even think of adding African cichlids to the tank.

This is commonly overlooked and the main reason that so many people out there have problems with mixing African cichlids and clown loaches in their tanks as they are using aquariums that are just too small.

By this, we mean that many people are keeping their fish in tanks that are too small just for their clown loaches never mind their clown loaches with other fish species, especially African cichlids.

If you are set on keeping clown loaches with African cichlids then it is probably best you think about your available budget before buying any fish as the sheer costs of an aquarium that is large enough for your project can easily be enough to put most people off the project.

We have seen a number of discussions on social media where once people are advised on the actual tank size required to safely mix the two species, they opt for an alternative fish to keep that will be happy in a much smaller tank.


That brings our article going over keeping clown loaches with African cichlids to an end. We hope that we have been able to help as many of our readers as possible and that we have been able to help you realize that this many not be the best path forward in your fish keeping journey. This is a challenging combination of fish to keep together and although it can definitely be done, it does usually need a high budget and a few years of fish keeping experience to make it work.