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Posted By: Emma Turner <emmasteve@clownloach.freeserve.co.uk>
Date: Saturday, 19 March 2005, at 9:19 p.m.

Hi all,

As you can see, it is quite late over here in England (it's about 2:15am), and for the past couple of hours Steve & I have been observing some very unusual behaviour between a large 9" female clown and a large 9" male clown. I have kept Clowns for over 13 years, so am well used to seeing squabbles etc, but tonight something different has been happening which I thought I must share!

The female loach is very distinguishable from the male as she is much more rounded and wide in girth. The male, although just as long, is slimmer with a much more deeply forked and larger tail. The female I have had for 13 years, the male is a fairly recent addition (rescued from a customer who's tank he'd outgrown) and was added about 2-3 months ago. Since adding the new loach to the tank, there has been no signs of any real aggression between these two. There are around 30 other Clown loaches in the tank, ranging from 3" up to 9". Occasionally there is the odd argument between loaches, but nothing too serious - anyhow, after caring for them for 13 years, I am well used to seeing what happens when 2 loaches grey out and fight.

Tonight, the two Clowns in question behaved very differently. Initially, they did grey-out to a degree and display their fins, which at first I just believed to be some dispute over who was boss. But as it went on, I noticed quite a few different things were happening. Although they were being extremely aggressive towards one another, there were moments when they appeared to be quite tender towards one another too. They shooed away any other loach which ventured near them (by biting at them), which was fairly frequent given the amount of Clowns in the tank. After a while, the male would go up to the female and nuzzle against her dorsal fin with his mouth. At first I was convinced he was going to bite her fin, but he didn't. This kept happening in between bouts of aggression, then the male ran his barbels down from the front of her dorsal fin and down towards the front of her head. There was no aggression at all in this, it actually looked like he was stroking her softly with his barbels and she didn't resist in any way. This kept happening over and over during the course of a couple of hours, mostly on the bottom of the tank but sometimes they seemed to want to swim upwards together a little and went about half way to the top (the tank is 28" high). When they came back down again, he would start stroking the dorsal fin again, and sometimes (not every time) she appeared to almost roll over onto her side. We saw her go onto her side numerous times, and I counted three times when she stayed on her side for that little bit longer and he then did the same 'stroking' action on her flanks and underside. They continued every now and again to swim about half way up the height of the tank together, and then back down again, all the while maintaining bodily contact (usually side by side, but on occasion they almost seemed to entwine).

All this happened about an hour after the aquarium lights had gone out. I had the lights on in the room, so there would have been some light entering the tank, although not a lot. Unfortunately after a couple of hours, something startled all the fish in the tank, and they have not since resumed this behaviour. I tried desperately to photograph what was happening, but due to the lighting and the distance I was away from the tank, it was not very successful. I am going to try and upload what photos I can in a while, but most are going to be of fairly poor quality.

What do you all think about this behaviour? I am pretty excited by it, as it is not what I am used to observing. Does anyone know whether it bears any comparison to the rare aquarium spawning behaviour sometimes mentioned on here? I am not sure what was involved with that. There is a definite heightened state of excitedness and aggression between these two loaches, although not in the same way as loaches usually fight over territory or whatever.

For anyone who's interested the aquarium information is as follows:
The aquarium is 84" x 30" x 28" and is filtered by three Eheim Professional II filters (with a UV steriliser on one of the returns) and 2 large Aquaclear powerheads for additional water movement. The hardness of our aquarium water is about 6 deg DH and has a neutral pH. Ammonia is zero, nitrite is zero, and nitrates are around 30-40ppm. We did a 20% water change 2 days ago, and other than that, have done nothing out of the ordinary. The temperature is at 82.5 deg C. Apart from the large number of Clowns, other fish species in the tank consist of 20 Puntius mahecola, a few Hemmigrammus ulreyi, some Corydoras sp, and some Ancistrus sp.


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