Can Clown Loaches Live with Mbuna?

No, Clown Loaches can’t live with Mbuna due to their conflicting habitat preferences and temperament. Also, they are not friendly with each other.

Clown Loaches and Mbuna Cichlids are two distinct fish species with different needs and behaviors. Clown Loaches are known for their peaceful nature and preference for calm aquariums. And, Mbuna Cichlids are highly territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding and defending their territory. 

The conflicting nature of Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids makes it unwise to keep them together in the same tank. In this article, I will exactly discuss why you should not keep Clown Loaches with Mbuna.


Why Clown Loach and Mbuna Can’t Live Together?

Clown Loaches and Mbuna cannot live together in the same aquarium due to several reasons. These include conflicting habitat preferences, differences in behavior and temperament, potential aggression and stress, territorial disputes, and potential harm to the fish.

Let’s delve into the details of why these two species should be kept separately:

  • Habitat Requirements: Clown Loaches prefer a peaceful environment with plenty of hiding spots like caves or driftwood, while Mbuna cichlids thrive in rocky habitats with ample hiding places.
  • Water Parameters: Clown Loaches prefer slightly acidic to neutral water conditions, while Mbuna cichlids require high alkalinity and pH levels to replicate their natural habitat in Lake Malawi.
  • Temperature Needs: Clown Loaches prefer slightly cooler water temperatures, typically around 75-82°F (24-28°C), whereas Mbuna cichlids thrive in warmer temperatures ranging from 77-82°F (25-28°C).
  • Social Behavior: Clown Loaches are social fish that prefer to be kept in groups, while Mbuna cichlids can be highly territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding and defending their territory.
  • Aggression and Stress: The aggressive nature of Mbuna cichlids can cause significant stress to Clown Loaches, leading to potential health issues and decreased lifespan.
  • Size Differences: Clown Loaches can grow relatively larger, reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, while Mbuna cichlids are generally smaller. The size discrepancy can further escalate aggression and territorial disputes.
  • Feeding Habits: Clown Loaches are omnivores and prefer a varied diet including sinking pellets, vegetables, and live or frozen foods. Mbuna cichlids, on the other hand, are primarily herbivores, requiring a diet rich in plant matter. Meeting the dietary needs of both species can be challenging in a shared tank.
  • Behavior in Breeding: Clown Loaches do not display aggressive breeding behaviors, while Mbuna cichlids are known for their territorial disputes and aggression during the breeding process.
  • Potential Physical Harm: The constant chasing, fin nipping, and territorial disputes between Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids can result in physical injuries, such as torn fins or even death.
  • Stress-Related Diseases: The stress caused by keeping these incompatible species together can weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases such as ich or fin rot.
  • Environmental Maintenance: Maintaining optimal water conditions for both species can be challenging due to their differing requirements, increasing the risk of stress and health issues for both fish.
  • Visual Appeal: Mixing Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids may not provide an aesthetically pleasing display, as their coloration and patterns may clash or get overshadowed.

Considering these various factors, it is best to keep Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids in separate aquariums to ensure the well-being of both species.

Clown Loach vs Mbuna: Why They Are Different?

Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids are distinct fish species with notable differences in habitat preferences, behavior, feeding habits, and compatibility.

Let’s compare these two species to understand why they are different and why they should be kept separately.

FactorsClown LoachMbuna Cichlids
Habitat PreferencePeaceful, calm environmentsRocky habitats, ample hiding spots
Water ParametersSlightly acidic to neutralHigh alkalinity, higher pH levels
Temperature Range75-82°F (24-28°C)77-82°F (25-28°C)
Social BehaviorSocial, prefers to be in groupsHighly territorial and aggressive
Aggression LevelPeaceful, low aggressionAggressive, especially during breeding
SizeCan grow up to 12 inches (30 cm)Generally smaller in size
Feeding HabitsOmnivorous, varied dietPrimarily herbivorous
Breeding BehaviorNon-aggressiveTerritorial disputes during breeding
CompatibilityPeaceful, compatible with other calm speciesAggressive, best kept with other Mbuna cichlids
Visual AppealVibrant colors, playful behaviorDiverse colors and patterns
Suitable Tank SetupCaves, driftwood, hiding spotsRocky environments, ample hiding places
Potential IssuesStress, and aggression from tankmatesAggression, territorial disputes
Well-beingThrives in peaceful environmentsThrives in aggressive settings

Understanding and respecting these differences is crucial for creating suitable environments for both species. Therefore, it is highly recommended to keep Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids separately.

Can Mbuna Kill My Clown Loach?

Yes, Mbuna cichlids have the potential to kill Clown Loaches as they are aggressive from born. Mbuna cichlids are known for their powerful jaws and can inflict serious injuries or even kill smaller and less aggressive fish like Clown Loaches. If a Clown Loach is introduced into a tank with Mbuna cichlids, it may be perceived as an intruder, triggering aggression from the Mbuna. This can lead to relentless chasing, fin-nipping, or physical harm to the Clown Loach. 

Can Mbuna Eat Clown Loach?

While it is not common for Mbuna cichlids to eat Clown Loaches, there is a possibility of it happening under certain circumstances. Mbuna cichlids are primarily herbivorous and their diet consists of plant matter and small invertebrates. However, in cases where a Clown Loach is significantly weaker, it may be seen as potential prey by aggressive Mbuna cichlids.

Will Clown Loach And Mbunas Hurt Each Other?

Yes, Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids have the potential to hurt each other if they are housed together in the same aquarium, especially by Mbuna.

While Clown Loaches are generally peaceful and non-aggressive, Mbuna cichlids can be highly territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding or when defending their territory. The size discrepancy between Clown Loaches, which can grow relatively larger, and Mbuna cichlids can lead to bullying, chasing, and fin-nipping. The aggressive behavior of Mbuna cichlids can cause stress, physical harm, and even death to the more peaceful Clown Loaches.

Additionally, Clown Loaches may become stressed and intimidated by the constant aggression, which can impact their overall health and well-being. To ensure the safety and harmony of both species, it is recommended to keep Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids in separate aquariums.

Clown Loaches in Mbuna Tank: Things Can Happen!

When Clown Loaches are introduced into a Mbuna tank, several complications, and unfavorable outcomes can arise. The aggressive nature of Mbuna cichlids and their territorial behavior create a challenging environment for the peaceful Clown Loaches. 

In general, Mbuna’s aggression can lead to relentless chasing and fin-nipping, causing stress, exhaustion, and physical harm to the Clown Loaches. As they prefer calm tank mates for their compatibility. Their size disparity can exacerbate the issue, as larger Clown Loaches may become targets of aggression from the Mbuna. The constant aggression and stress can weaken the Clown Loaches’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections. 

Additionally, the competition for food resources between the omnivorous Clown Loaches and primarily herbivorous Mbuna cichlids can result in malnutrition for the Clown Loaches. The aggressive behavior of the Mbuna disrupts the Clown Loaches’ need for hiding spots and a peaceful environment, further compromising their well-being.

Ultimately, the relentless aggression can cause injuries and even mortality among the Clown Loaches, making it clear that keeping them in a Mbuna tank is not advisable. It is crucial to prioritize the well-being and safety of both species by maintaining separate aquariums that cater to their specific needs and behaviors.

Still Want to Keep Clown Loach with Mbuna?

If you are still interested in keeping Mbuna and Clown Loach together for experimental purposes, you should do it at your own risk. Keeping Clown Loaches with Mbuna cichlids can be challenging due to their contrasting behavior and habitat preferences.

While it is generally not recommended, some enthusiasts may still want to explore the possibility of keeping them together. If you are determined to proceed, it is crucial to consider several key points to minimize potential issues and promote a harmonious environment for both species.

Points to Consider When Keeping Clown Loach with Mbuna:

  1. Tank Size: Provide a spacious tank to accommodate the active swimming nature of Mbuna cichlids and allow enough space for Clown Loaches to retreat and establish their own territories.
  2. Hiding Spots: Include plenty of hiding spots, caves, and driftwood in the tank to create separate territories and allow the Clown Loaches to find shelter when needed.
  3. Mbuna Species Selection: Choose the Mbuna species known for their relatively peaceful behavior, as some Mbuna species can be excessively aggressive and pose a greater risk to the Clown Loaches.
  4. Size Compatibility: Introduce Clown Loaches that are larger in size compared to the Mbuna cichlids to minimize the risk of aggression and predation.
  5. Feeding Regimen: Provide a well-balanced diet that meets the nutritional needs of both species. Include a variety of food options to cater to the omnivorous diet of Clown Loaches and the herbivorous preferences of Mbuna cichlids.
  6. Monitoring Behavior: Observe the tank closely for any signs of aggression, fin-nipping, or stress. Be prepared to intervene and separate fish if aggression becomes problematic.
  7. Water Parameters: Regularly test and maintain water parameters, ensuring appropriate pH levels, temperature, and water quality suitable for both species. Mbuna cichlids typically prefer higher alkalinity and pH levels compared to Clown Loaches.
  8. Tank Mates: Avoid keeping other aggressive fish species or fin-nippers with Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids to minimize conflict and stress in the tank.
  9. Provide Distractions: Include floating plants or decorations to create visual barriers and break lines of sight, reducing aggression and providing a distraction for both species.
  10. Tank Maintenance: Regularly perform water changes and maintain tank cleanliness to ensure a healthy environment for all fish.
  11. Observation and Patience: Continuously monitor the tank dynamics and observe the behavior of each individual fish. Patience is key in allowing the fish to establish their hierarchy and minimize conflicts over time.
  12. Stress Reduction: Provide a calm and peaceful environment with minimal disturbances to reduce stress levels for both Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids.
  13. Prepare a Backup Plan: Be ready to separate the fish into different tanks if the aggression persists or if the well-being of either species is compromised.
  14. Seek Expert Advice: Consult with experienced aquarists or seek advice from reputable sources with knowledge of both Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids to ensure the best possible care for your fish.

While it is not without risks, keeping Clown Loaches with Mbuna cichlids can be attempted by considering these points. However, it is crucial to remember that maintaining separate tanks tailored to the specific needs of each species is the recommended approach to ensure the optimal care and well-being of both the Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids.


Clown Loaches and Mbuna cichlids are not at all suitable tankmates. While there may be exceptions and enthusiasts who have successfully housed them together.

As you have gone through the article and discovered most experts won’t recommend you to keep them together. From my personal experience, I also don’t recommend to try messing with each other. It can be suicidal in the end.

But if you are still interested in doing it, you might have to take the advice I have already given.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top