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Rapid algae growth is one of the most challenging pond or fish tank issues that aquatic pet owners struggle with. It isn’t easy to keep a bright and vivid tank if chemicals like chlorine and algaecide can kill your gorgeous fish collection.
For a naturally clean tank, you can look into keeping an algae-eating fish species like the Chinese algae eater. This fish species can help keep algae growth under control so you won’t have to spend hours emptying your tank and scrubbing slimy surfaces anymore.
In this guide, we are going to take a look at this unique fish species to see if it is truly the right pick for your aquarium and we are sharing some of the best care tips to keep your fish healthy and happy.
Chinese Algae Eater Species Summary
Chinese algae eaters are native to Southeast Asia and are often called honey suckers, sucking loaches, or Siamese algae eaters. They have quite a few distinctive features and trades that give them a unique character. Here is a quick look at some of these features.
Scientific Name: Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Food Sources: Algae, plant matter like vegetables, brine shrimp, and small insects
Avg. Fish Size: 10 – 11 Inches
Life Expectancy: 10 Years
Pond Size: 30-gallon minimum tank size
Water Conditions: 72 – 82 Degrees F, 6.0 – 8.0 pH level
Temperament: Semi aggressive
This fish species isn’t the most decorative. They have an enlonged body, they are pale brown to pale yellow in color with black stripes on the sides of their body. Some of them can have dark-spotted patterns along their upper backside but these patterns can vary. They usually grow at least 11 inches in length but in small tanks, they usually only reach a 5-inch length. Their most distinctive features are their protruding lips or suckermouth. This mouth is specially developed to help them create a vacuum against surfaces so the fish can scrape off food pieces or rest while clinging to these surfaces.
What do Chinese Algae Eaters Eat?
You may wonder why anyone would want to keep such an unimpressive fish species in their tank. Well, most people choose this algae eater for its diet. Chinese algae eaters love to eat all sorts of algae varieties. Their mouths are perfectly adapted to scrape algae growth off surfaces like rocks and glass or to suck small algae spores from the floor surface.
This fish species can be very helpful for keeping algae from taking over the tank. They are also helpful for clearing other messes out of the tank since the fish species also consume the following food sources.
How to feed Chinese Algae Eaters
To keep your honey sucker well-nourished, you need to be careful not to clear all algae from your tank since it is their main food source. If you use an algaecide in a pond or tank, it could cause your fish species to starve but more often, it will cause death due to poor oxygen levels.
Honey suckers should be supplemented with vegetables if the tank doesn’t have a lot of algae growth. You can chop and offer the following vegetables by dunking them into the tank close to your fish.
- Leafy greens
Chinese algae eaters are omnivores and consume both plant and animal matter. They need a bit of protein to stay healthy and nourished. Some aquarium owners also feel that adding a bit of protein to their diet can keep them from lashing out at other fish species. You can offer them protein sources like blood worms, maggots, frozen shrimp, frozen brine, or other frozen foods once a week but be careful to remove all leftover foods or these could turn the water all murky.
Are Chinese Algae Eaters good Algae Eaters?
This fish species is often chosen over other bottom feeders or algae eaters despite their aggressive tendencies because they are considered the best algae eaters. Algae form the biggest part of their diet and they have specially developed mouths that can clear tough or stubborn algae growths off surfaces but they can also easily suck up floating or lose microscopic algae spores from the tank floor.
Their love for algae does however decline a bit as they age. As mature fish, they need other nutrient sources like protein to keep healthy but will still continue to eat plenty of algae.
Siamese algae eaters are not social creatures. They keep to themselves and prefer to dwell on the bottom of the pond or tank. As young fish, they usually have a calm temperament but they can become territorial as they mature and may start to chase, bite and lash out at other fish species who enter their territory. They are especially likely to lash out if they are hungry, irritated, disturbed but usually act calm.
This fish species can however get along in a community but only if the correct tank mates are included in their ecosystem.
Are Chinese Algae Eaters Aggressive?
Honey suckers can become aggressive when they reach adulthood because they tend to be territorial. They will lash out at any fish species that enters their domain. This can include their own species.
They are not known to eat other fish but killing tankmates is not uncommon for them at all. They can be very aggressive and will instantly lash out and bite, or they latch onto the bodies to eat the slime coat of any other fish that gets close to them or that swims close to the community tank floor surface.
You can however pair this fish species with a few other fish species to create a gorgeous aquarium community that stays nice and clean.
The Best Tank Mates for Chinese Algae Eaters?
It is best to pair honey suckers with fast swimming fish species that prefer the upper part of the tank. These aquarium fish species are less likely to come in contact with your honey sucker and if your aggressive fish does lash out, they will still be quick enough to escape uninjured. Here is a quick look at some of the best take mates for these natural loners:
- Molly fish
- Zebra danios
- Emperor tetras
- Dwarf gourami
- Tiger Barbs
- White cloud mountain minnow
- Koi fish
When stocking your aquarium collection, it is best to avoid other bottom-feeding fish species. With too many bottom feeders, conflict can occur or there might not be sufficient food sources for both of these algae eaters. Here is a quick look at community fish species you might want to avoid in your tank.
- Otocinclus catfish
- Twig catfish
- Nerite snail
- Cherry shrimp
- Amano shrimp
- Other Chinese algae eaters
This fish species can help keep your tank water quality clean for longer but in some cases, you might still need to intervene and offer additional cleaning assistance. If too much gunk or algae takes over the tank, the fish can start to suffer.
A tank of at least 30 gallons is needed for keeping an algae eater but a minimum size of 50 gallons is recommended.
To create an ideal ecosystem for this fish, you can consider the following tank accessories.
Suitable Water Conditions
Algae eaters can survive in murky water conditions but for optimal health, it is best to keep them in a nice and clean tank. Tanks with a 6.0 – 8.0 pH level are ideal for this and many other tank mates. You can get an aquarium testing kit to test and restore the pH levels of your community tank after cleaning it with regular water before introducing the fish back into the tank.
A Thermometer and Warmer
This fish species flourishes at a water temperature range of 72 – 82 Degrees F. If temperatures drop below 72 degrees, they will become sluggish and their appetite can decrease. Temperatures over 82 degrees might encourage aggressive behaviors since they will increase their metabolism and higher temperatures usually promote breeding.
A Proper Filter
It is better to equip your tropical fish tank or pond with a proper filtration system than it is to manually clean the tank. With manual cleaning, all the algae (food) will be cleared from the tank while filters gradually filter out soft algae particles to keep the water from turning green.
A tank bubbler or oxygenator is very important for increasing the oxygen levels in your aquarium. In fish ponds, water features like a waterfall can also be a very good investment to keep your fish from suffocating.
Round Rocks & Sheltering
Algae eaters love to scrape food off rocks and other surfaces. You can add lots of round rocks to promote healthy algae growth and add sheltering so this fish species can hide away or rest.
This hardy fish species don’t generally suffer from any specific diseases but can contract many different freshwater diseases or they can become infected with parasites.
It is best to get medication from your local pet store if your algae eater isn’t doing well. Regular medication in the tank can gradually improve your tank condition and lighten the disease. Once your fish is healthy, you can gradually decrease the medication in the tank.
A poor diet can also cause diseases in fish while overfeeding may result in issues like bloating or obesity.
We do hope that this guide will help you take good care of your Chinese algae eater. If you have a tough time balancing your algae growth in your tank or pond then you should also have a look at some of our other guides where we share the best strategies to help you control algae in any type of pond or tank. On AlgalWeb, you can find the best info and resources to support a healthy and great-looking aquatic ecosystem.
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