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Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater: Why you should have them in your tank

In the vast family of algae eaters, the Chinese algae eater stands out pretty much because it spends almost its whole lifetime looking for food. Unlike the others, they are so much easier to care for making it a great choice for even beginners.

If you have been looking for a bottom-dweller to complete the community in your aquarium, then this fish is just perfect for you.


The Chinese Algae Eater, alias Honey Suckers, Sucking Loach, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri (its scientific name) is a freshwater fish – be sure to check out for these names too in stores.

They are mostly found in the lakes and rivers that are present in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. It’s quite interesting that these fish are rarely seen in China waters.

It is important to note that this fish won’t be an algae eater all through its lifespan. After its youth, the fish may start changing its food preference and begin to fancy living food. You may realize that it also begins to nip scales from your other pets in the aquarium.

When visiting a store to get them, ensure that you have around $3 for every fish you will buy. This species is hard to find in every pet store, but that does not mean it’s not in the store near you.

Typical behavior

In the wild, the Chines Algae Eaters are generally loners. The case won’t be any different in your aquarium. This is a great thing I guess because you won’t need to keep them in groups. Their aggressive nature does not even spare another fish from its species.

This fish won’t cause much of a trouble to your aquarium. You will notice that it will be occasionally aggressive to other fish species of a similar size in your tank.

Since they are generally pleased with the rocks and caves in the bottom of lakes in their natural habitat, they will tend to mostly spend their time at the bottom of your tank.

They will attach themselves to the sides of the tanks and feast on algae. This is by far the main reason you need it in your aquarium; to keep algae manifestation to the lowest level possible.

You will generally have more time to enjoy your aquarium instead of spending all of your time cleaning it.

Chinese algae eater appearance and size

chinese algae eater

This species of fish may not be that colorful as other species of aquarium fish available. Those present in the wild waters may be slightly different from the one in the aquarium in terms of coloring.

In the wild, chinese algae eater is seen to have clay-colored skin while in most cases, that of an aquarium has golden-colored skin – this makes them be referred to as the Albino Algae Eaters.

The fish has an elongated body and pronounced lips that enable it to stick on the side of your aquarium or rocks to scrape the algae out and feed.

The Honey Sucker has a pair of physiological organs slightly different from other species of fish known as brachial apertures. Through this pair of organs, water flows in to wash over its gills allowing it to breathe effectively.

This minimizes the need for the mouth to be used in breathing. Therefore, the mouth can solely be used for sticking to surfaces and feeding on algae.

How big do they get ?

Unlike most bottom-dwellers, this fish is relatively larger. This fish can grow to up to 11 inches in the wild and 5 inches in a tank.

It is important to provide extra space in case the fish grows longer than expected. Your tank size should be of a minimum of 50 gallons.

Full Grown Size

It will generally take an average of between 9 months and a year and a half to raise a Chinese Algae Eater to maturity.

You will have to have a sufficient size of the tank, a minimum of 50 gallons for each fish, to ensure that the fish is not stressed out.

Chinese algae eater lifespan

In case you need this fish, it is important to note that these fish live for up to 10 years. This means you will have to be very committed to taking care of them. In a healthy and clean environment, the can serve you for even more than ten years.

Chinese Algae Sexing

Sexing this species is difficult at times. However, with time females become fatter and rounded in shape while their male partners will have a horn-shaped protrusion on their head for mating.

 Care and handling

Chinese Algae Eater

The best way to keep any kind of living thing healthy is to have an ever clean environment. The Chinese Algae Eater is not an exception. Although they are generally a tough species of fish, having a dirty tank will slowly lead to disease.

In a tank setup, it is a common practice to clean up all the algae as it is a big problem for the fish.

However, algae being the main food for this fish, it may tend to be a problem. Therefore, when cleaning, do not remove all the algae from the tank.

There isn’t any specific disease limited to the Chinese Algae Eater. However, they may contract other diseases common to most freshwater fish.

One of the most outstanding diseases being Ich. This parasite causes spots to develop across the body of the fish. Not to worry as medications can be acquired from stores to slowly counter the problem.

In the instance that this disease is present in your tank, it is advisable to check for the following water parameters; ammonia, ph., water temperature, nitrates, and nitrites.

If the parameters are not to the favorable condition of your tank, then they may be promoting the disease’s spread. Fix the parameters fast to prevent further spread.

Overfeeding of the Chinese algae eater may result in problems such as bloat. Reduce the amount of food when you notice this.

However, a poor diet may also result in certain deficiencies of nutrients in the fish’s body. Good nutrition will create good immunity in the fish to fight diseases and recover quickly.

The moment you spot a sick fish, immediately transfer it to a quarantine tank. This will limit the spread of the disease to other healthy fish in your tank. You will only bring back the fish to your tank once you note that it has recovered fully.

Tank Setup

Your main aim should be setting out an environment close to the one on their natural habitat to ensure they lead a stress-free life.

To begin with. Lay sand or gravel substrate to the bottom of the tank. We recommend using sand to minimize scratching the fish’s skin as it swims at the bottom.

Put rocks and custom decorations to provide caves and enough shelter for them. They can make this there home for retreating to when stressed out.

You can also add live plants to maximize on shelter and clean the air in the water. Don’t worry if your plants being eaten by this fish; they probably won’t bother.

Maintain the water temperatures anywhere between 75 to 800F. You can use a heater to achieve this. The water pH should range from 5.8 and 8.0.

There should be enough flow of water around your aquarium. This is made possible by a good tank filter. To make the current stronger, use an air/water pump.

These fish need enough lighting. Standard aquarium lighting performs the trick just fine.

Finally, this species of fish hates nitrates. Constantly check your water to ensure the levels are at zero.


Algae is the main source of nutrition in their natural habitat. They latch on rocks with their sucker mouths and scrap off algae. Similar behavior is witnessed in the aquarium.

However, algae are not the only food they eat. In their natural habitats, they feed on maggots too to nourish them with protein. You can create a parallel nature too in the aquarium by adding in bloodworms, Fluval Bug Bites or brine shrimp once a week.

In a situation where algae are depleted in the tank, you can put in algae wafers. Trust me, they will gladly appreciate it. Regularly check to ensure there is an adequate amount of algae for them.

Tank Mates

These fish tend to lead alone lifestyle. They don’t get along with other fish species well, especially those of the same appearance and lifestyle as them. They become aggressive toward them. Therefore, it is great to keep separate from such kinds of fish.

A good example of a fish with a similar lifestyle as this fish is the Siamese Algae Eater. This is a similarly large species that loves it at the bottom of the tank looking for algae.

You should also avoid putting the, together with large slow-moving fish species such as the flat-bodied Discus fish. Chinese Algae Eaters may nip their body coat to feed on their slime coat.

You should avoid invertebrates such as snails and shrimp as they may be attacked by this aggressive fish.

However, there is a great variety of fish that get along with the Chinese Algae Eater pretty well.

Some good preferences will be the Zebra Danios, Emperor Tetra, Dwarf Gourami, Mollies, Clown Loaches, White cloud, Cherry Barbs, and fast-moving small fish.

This fish is also aggressive to its species. Therefore, it is best to keep them singly. If you need to keep them in groups, ensure you have a sufficient tank size to provide at least 50 gallons for each fish.

This will give them enough space to feed without necessarily getting in each other’s way.

How to breed Chinese algae eaters 

Chinese Algae Eater

Breeding this species in your tank is very difficult. In very rare cases will this be achieved in aquariums.

There is a very high probability that the fish you will get from a pet store will have come from a large fish hatchery. They make use of hormonal agents to acquire this breeding.

Many people that have achieved breeding at the comfort have their aquariums testify that they had to use a very large tank with bountiful vegetation.

I guess that this environment resembles its natural habitat in the lakes of Thailand. The extra space will certainly cut on the stress of being contained in a smaller environment.

However, it is not completely impossible to try mating them in your aquarium. You will need to purchase both male and female groups. This in itself is a challenge as both the sexes look identical.

Use this trick; the females will appear fatter and rounder than their male counterparts. The male also develops a breeding “horn” on their head.

Try to raise the temperature in your aquarium. Science has it that higher temperature environment generally trigger spawning in most species, so why not try it on the Chinese Algae Eaters? Also, ensure that their diet and water conditions are perfect.

Oh, before forgetting, you need to cross your fingers and wish for luck.

Is a Chinese Algae Eater good for Your Aquarium?

If you are looking for an undemanding hardy fish to counter the fast-growing algae, then the Chinese Algae Eater is a great friend for this.

Every time you will be peeping through your aquarium, you will mostly spot it latching to the sides of your aquarium looking for food.

It is easy to take care of. It is also a great choice for beginners as it is less demanding than other species.

The only challenge with it is its aggression especially towards fish with similar size and appearance. This should not be much of a problem if you have made the right selection of tank mates.

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