Algae is the bane of my existence. Whether it’s on the pond in the neighborhood mucking up the peacefulness of the pond or the slimy blobs floating around the aquarium – I hate algae.
Thankfully, there are some really unique and fun species of fish who love to snack on the stuff. Specifically, there’s the vibrant golden Chinese Algae Eater, a lovely addition to any appropriate aquarium.
These little fish go to town on the stuff, destroying the muck and slime happily – and they’re easy for beginning aquarists to care for.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to care for them so they can live a long, happy life helping you keep that green slime at bay.
Quick Intro to Chinese Algae Eaters
|Scientific Name:||Gyrinocheilos aymonieri|
|Other Common Names:||Indian Algae Eater, Sucker Loach, Sucker Fish, Golden Algae Eater, CAE|
Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where to Buy
Chinese Algae Eaters, a member of the Gyrinocheilidae family, is a bottom-dwelling freshwater fish known by a variety of names such as Sucking Loach and Honey Suckers, originating in southeast Asia. While not a rare fish, it can be uncommon and might be difficult to find at your local pet store.
Despite its name, this fish is rarely found in China. It makes its home in lakes and rivers in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
This fish species is known for living around ten years. If their aquarium and water are kept clean, then the fish will be healthy and there is a good chance the fish can live more than ten years.
This species has an elongated body and small fins. They have a suckermouth with pronounced lips that allows them to latch onto surfaces while eating.
When this fish is attached, it uses specialized orans called branchial apertures to help get water to their gills. The organs force water across the gills so that they can breathe while holding onto a surface. With their mouths free from needing to focus on breathing, this species is free to eat p all the algae it finds on the tank walls and decorations.
While this fish looks like other bottom dwellers, it is larger than average. In nature, this fish grows upward of eleven inches but when kept in a tank they average around five inches in length. However, despite their tendency to have stunted growth while in captivity, it is best to make sure their tank is larger in case the fish keeps growing.
This fish is not known for being a fish as colorful as most aquarium fish. When this fish is found in the wild its base color is pale brown. On the side of the fish is a dark stripe that sometimes breaks and has spots. There is variant of this species that has a solid gold color with no stripes or spots on its skin.
Optimal Water Conditions for Chinese Algae Eaters
|Water Temperature:||75°F – 80°F|
|Water Flow Rate:||This fish needs moderate flowing water in their tank.|
|pH:||6.5 – 7.5|
|Water Hardness:||8 to 12 dH|
|Minimum Tank Size:||50-gallon tank|
|Optimal Tank Size:||A single Chinese Algae Eater needs a tank of 50 gallons of water for optimum health.|
|Optimal Tank Shape:||A normal tank size is fine.|
|Recommended Filtration Type:||Undergravel filter|
This species is native to fast moving warm water In various Asian countries. This fish loves to spend time in the lower areas of the water where it can be surrounded by sand, rocks, and gravel. This fish is known to migrate to muddy waters located in coastal plains during season changes.
When putting together the aquarium for your fish, it is important to put effort into recreating your fish’s native habitat. The closer you can recreate their native waters the less stress your fish will experience.
In order to keep your fish happy and safe from scratches, it is important to use sand as the substrate for the aquarium. If you use gravel for a substrate then there is a chance your fish could injure themselves while trying to find algae to eat.
It is important to put decorations in your tank for your fish. This species needs to have places to swim and hide. You can either buy premade caves or build one out of rocks. It is important for the fish to have their own territory and a place to hide if they feel threatened.
Another great thing to add to your tank is underwater plants. Even though this fish eats algae they will most likely leave the tank plants alone.
It is important that your tank includes a water heater so that the water temperature stays with 75-80F.
This fish species needs to have a filter that creates a sufficient water flow in the aquarium. If need be an air/water pump can be added to the tank to make the water flow stronger.
This fish needs to have its tank well lit. A quality standard aquarium light is sufficient.
Creating the Landscape
One thing all fish have in common is that the closer their tank mimics their environment the happier and healthier they will be. The Chinese Algae Eater is located throughout Asia in various rivers. These waters are warm and have a lot of hiding places for the fish.
This fish species spends most of its time at the bottom of the water. It scavenges for food in the wild and at the bottom of whatever tank they are living in. Due to this fish spending so much time at the bottom, it is important to make this section of your aquarium your focus.
The bottom of their tank needs to be covered with fine sand. Some choose to use small pieces of gravel, but these sharp pieces can cause injury to your fish as they try to scavenge for food.
Artificial caves make for great decoration in the tank and a place for growing algae for your fish. You can also construct your caves from rocks and driftwood. The important thing is to provide a place for your fish to swim and hide in.
Another great addition to your tank is several smooth rocks. These will easily collect algae that your fish will be more than happy to consume. The smoothness of the rock will provide a space for the fish to latch onto while eating.
It is especially important to make sure that your tank has a lid that fits tightly on it. This species of fish is known for being an escape artist. If your lid does not latch into place there is a good chance your fish may harm itself trying to explore outside its tank.
|Best Plants:||Pretty much any.|
|Best Lighting:||This species has normal light needs.|
|Best Decorations:||Smooth rocks.|
|Decorations to Avoid:||Avoid decorations with jagged edges.|
Physiological Considerations for Chinese Algae Eaters
|Size:||10-11 inches in the world and5 inches in captivity.|
|Preferred Tank Region:||Bottom of the tank.|
|Scale Thickness:||Normal scale thickness.|
|Gill Considerations:||No unusual gill considerations.|
|Swimbladder Considerations:||No special swim bladder considerations.|
|Fin Shape Considerations:||No special fin considerations.|
The typical lifespan of a Chinese Algae Eater is from ten years. Under optimum conditions, this fish can live considerably longer. The long life of this makes this fish better suited for those who are willing to make a long-time commitment to their fish.
In the wild, this fish will grow upwards of ten or eleven inches in length. When they are kept in an aquarium their length typically caps off at six inches. Some professional fish keepers have been able to increase the length of their fish, but this is an exception and not the norm.
There are a few factors that contribute to your fish’s lifespan. The most important is providing a good diet for your fish and ensuring that the water conditions of the tank are kept at a high quality.
This fish is known for having a muted look. Most fish of this species has a pale brown or golden body with a light-colored belly. Most of these fish have black stripes that run horizontally across the length of the fish’s body. There are color mutations that exist.
This species has a long slender body and small fins. The dorsal fin has several firm rays which cause it to have a spiky look.
The most unique feature of this fish is its mouth and lips. This fish can create a small vacuum against a smooth surface with its mouse. When it wants to the fish can connect to the side of the tank and latch onto the glass.
Chinese Algae Eaters are known to be natural loners that like to spend most of their time in the lower areas of the tank where they attach to surfaces around the aquarium and look for any algae growth to eat in your freshwater aquarium. This is not a flashy species and would rather hide than show off, though they do well as community fish in a tank where they’ll mostly be left on their own. They are not overly social and do not require being kept in groups with other similar fish. In fact, they may go after the slime coat on other fish so ideally, they should be stocked with fish that won’t bother them and vice versa.
It is common for them to fight other members of their species if they are house together. The only way to safely house this species together is by giving them enough room so that they can avoid each other. Each fish will need at least fifty gallons of space.
If they are houses with other fish species, they typically do not cause much trouble as long as there is plenty of room in the tank. However, they are known to show aggression towards any fish that are the same size as they are or swim too close.
For owners who insist on housing Chinese Algae Eaters with other fish, the key three things to avoid are fish of a similar size, appearance, and live near the bottom of the tank and eat algae. But, it should be noted, even if you house a fish that is larger and peaceful, Chinese Algae Eaters have been known to latch onto the fish and harass them.
It is best to avoid housing this species with invertebrates. Any shrimp or snails in the same tank will get most likely get attacked.
Some good tankmates to consider for your Chinese Algae Eater include:
- Cherry Barbs
- Clown Loaches
- Dwarf Gourami
- Emperor Tetra
- Molly Fish
- Siamese Algae Eater
- Tiger barbs
- White Cloud Mountain Minnow
- Zebra Danios
Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations
Chinese Algae Eaters are known to be a species that is incredibly difficult to breed at home. There are only a few recorded cases of breeding happening while being kept in an aquarium.
Most pet stores purchase their stocks from large-scale fish hatcheries. Part of the way the larger hatcheries achieve breeding is through the use of hormonal agents.
The only ones who have had success at spawning this fish at home are those who can afford to have large aquarium setups. It is thought the reason why these large tanks have helped is that the water flow mixed with many plants helped to reduce the fish’s stress and resembles the natural environment the fish would be in.
To further complicate the matter, it can be difficult to tell the male and female of the species apart. They look virtually identical with the females look a little fatter and the males will develop tubercles on their head during mating season.
One way to help trigger breeding is to increase the temperature of the tank. It is suggested to increase the tank temperature by three degrees a day until the tank reaches 80F. This temperate replicates the spawning temperatures that occur at the end of spring.
During this time it is important to feed the fish a high nutrition diet and keep the water levels perfect. With some luck, spawning might occur.
For the Chinese Algae Eater, their primary source of food and nutrition in the wild is algae. When in their native environment they will latch onto rocks and eat all the algae they find using their sucker mouths.
This means that this fish does not require having a set feeding schedule that you have to adhere to. Instead, they will hunt down and eat algae whenever they start to feel hungry. The only thing that you need to do is make sure that they have a regular supply of algae and any other supplemental food that they may want
Algae is not the only thing this fish will eat in the wild. This fish will also eat small insects such as maggots.
In the aquarium, these fish will behave like when they are in the wild. They will attach themselves to walls and decorations to eat all the algae they can find. If, however, you feel that there are not enough algae in your fish tank to keep your fish fed, then this fish will be more than happy to eat things such as algae wafers.
Besides algae, you can feed this fish a variety of green vegetables. Some great choices that this fish will happily eat include zucchini, lettuce, and spinach.
It is possible to feed this species other food besides algae and other plant matter. Live or frozen foods added once a week can be a source of much-needed protein. Some of the more common foods include daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.
As your Chinese Algae Eater grows it may start to lose its taste for algae Some have reported a need to start feeding their fish other things as their fish grows older. Some fishkeepers have been able to renew the fish’s interest in algae. They have found success by using algae wafers.
Whatever you decide to feed your fish, it is important to make sure there are no leftovers from food that you add to the tank. Food leftovers will start to rot and this will compromise the quality of the tank water. Your fish can get sick or even die from bad quality water.
|Best Sustenance Food Type:||High-quality flake food and algae wafers|
|Additional Food For Optimal Health:||Algae wafers, worms and small crustaceans.|
|Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and Growth:||A well-balanced protein and plant matter diet.|
|When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life Cycle:||As long as it remains healthy eating algae then there is no need to feed the fish additional food.|
Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them
The best way to ensure the health of your Chinese Algae Eaters healthy is by making sure your tank remains clean and the water stays remains at the highest quality possible. In many ways, this is a hardy fish but they are very susceptible to illness caused by having an unclean tank.
With a typical fish, cleaning the tank would involve removing all the algae that are built up. However, for a fish that centers its life around eating algae, to clean out the algae would mean to remove all of its food. Make sure to leave enough algae so your fish will not go hungry.
There are no diseases that are specific to Chinese Algae Eaters. However, this fish can contract numerous freshwater fish diseases.
One of the main diseases is Ich. This is a parasite that causes white spots to form across the fish’s body. There are numerous over-the-counter medications you can buy for treating your fish.
If a fish develops Ich it is important to check all of the water parameters. If your water temp, pH, nitrates, and ammonia are off then that could be what caused the spread of the diseases in your fish tank.
Ich can also be caused by a lack of proper nutrition. If your fish isn’t healthy then it can’t fight off illness.
Overfeeding your fish can lead to a problem called bloat. This can be fixed by reducing the amount of food you are feeding your fish.
|Best Antibiotics:||Over the counter antibiotics|
|Treatments to Avoid:||N/A|
|Food Recommendations When Sick:||Nutritious live food.|
|Hospital Tank or Isolation Withing the Community Tank:||Hospital tank|
4 Facts About Chinese Algae Eaters
- The Chinese Algae Eater’s scientific name is Gyrinocheilus aymonieri.
- This fish’s nickname is honey sucker and sucking loach.
- This species’ color ranges from grey, grey-green, tan, and light brown. They also have irregular dark stripes along with dark spots on their body.
- There is a variant of this fish that can be found with light gold and no spots or stripes.