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Odd Clown Loach Behaviour

Posted By: Kit <kitjaguar@comcast.net>
Date: Thursday, 6 January 2005, at 9:06 p.m.

I'm new to this forum, so please forgive me if I am doubling something that was posted in the past! I have a 90-gallon tank, stocked with a variety of community fish, and 4 clown loaches. Two are about 4 inches long, and 2 are about 3.5 inches long. I've had them all for about 3 years, and were some of the first fish I ever got (they survived my start-up days!). This evening, I observed some really peculiar behaviour, and hoped that someone here might help me interpret it.

One of the 4 was not involved, and stayed hiding in one of the caves. The other 3 formed a grouping in one bottom corner of the tank, gravel bottom, no cover there but there was one slate slab standing upright (sticking about 2.5 inches out of the gravel). The smallest of the 3 spent the entire time hovering vertically, head up, with its belly to the corner of the tank, about 2 or 3 inches off the bottom. Below it, the two larger ones rested on the bottom on their bellies, and then would flip onto their sides and lie there. Sometimes they'd overlap fins, sometimes back to back, sometimes belly to belly, but generally with their heads towards the side of the tank and tails towards the center. They'd lie there like that for 2 or 3 minutes, not moving at all, and hardly seeming to breathe. In fact, at first I thought they were dying! When other fish came by, they would sometimes get up, and sometimes not (usually the larger fish like the bala sharks would make them move, but they ignored or rolled on top of the cory cats). They were not distressed at all. When I moved, the trio swam quickly away, clearly energetic. In a minute or so, they all returned to the same area of the tank and resumed their prior positions. The ones on their sides didn't stay there all the time - they would get up occasionally and move about, change position, but seemed to be very focussed on each other. The one swimming vertically in the corner ignored the others and was ignored by them, but all 3 maintained the formation and resumed it when disturbed. After about half an hour, they stopped the behaviour and started acting normally, swimming around, hiding and emerging, feeding, and being normal loaches.

It was clearly not fighting, there was no egg-laying or sperm-releasing that I could observe, nor any other readily-identifiable explanation. Although I regularly feed them batches of snails from another tank, the last batch they received was a good 2 weeks ago. They had brine shrimp, but that was last week. I had topped off the tank the night before, but it was only down maybe 3 inches, and I hadn't done anything differently from prior top-ups. They are on a 12 hour light/dark cycle, and I did a partial water change about 3 weeks ago.

I can't think of any other variables to report, and most of these are probably irrelevant! Any insights or thoughts anyone can contribute will be most appreciated.



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