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Emboldening clown loaches

Posted By: James Nickerson <jinickerson@hotmail.com>
Date: Sunday, 16 October 2005, at 1:32 p.m.

I've had three clown loaches for a couple of months now, and I'm totally enamored with them. When they're active, they can keep me entertained for ages. When I first got them, they were REALLY skittish, and I know that's normal. I made sure they had lots of hiding places (mostly pvc pipes, which they seem to love), got a floating plant to dim the light, added a tank background, and acquired some live blackworms to feed them. I think the blackworms convinced them I wasn't such a bad guy, and two of them started frantically swimming out in front whenever I got near the tank. The biggest one, though, never really overcame his shyness, and would only venture out very tentatively when there was no movement and it knew there was food.

When I ran out of blackworms, initially the two loaches were still very happy to see me, and voraciously attacked whatever I fed them. They would even eat out of my hand. But they slowly grew less enthusiastic, and I think some rearranging of the tank decorations finished off my friendship with all but one loach. It stays out constantly, especially when I'm near the tank, and eats practically everything I put in there. It had grown very fat, but the other two loaches refuse to compete for the food. I don't want to put so much food in there that the gluttonous loach can't eat it all, because he would get even fatter, and especially I don't want the other loaches getting the idea that they can just wait until it's dark to come out and eat.

Even though they're not as fat as the one, they still come out just barely enough to maintain themselves. I got a fourth clown hoping that numbers would rally them, but even though it's not as much of a scaredy loach as the other two, it doesn't seem to be affecting them at all. Plus it's a lot smaller than the gluttonous one, and so it just gets chased away from the food much of the time.

I really would like to know what else I can do to get these loaches out. Would adding one more make any difference? I've got lots of zebra danios and tiger barbs as dither fish. Sometimes the loaches even school with the barbs (mainly the one loach). They've got pvc pipes galore, as well as a couple other places they like to hide. Would they prefer a place with a bigger, more spherical cavity (like a coconut shell or flowerpot) where they can hang out together? Right now they like to sit on some petrified wood under an overhanging ledge together, sometimes.

I'm just worried because they're supposed to be social, but they practically never hang out together, except occasionally on the driftwood. They don't even fight with each other much, anymore. I never see them lie on their sides, or even relax hardly at all where they can be seen.
Thanks for any advice!


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