Which Fish Are Bottom Feeders

Which Fish Are Bottom Feeders?

Bottom feeders are exciting and useful fish species. They are pretty useful to the environment, especially detritivores. These species collect dead organic matter and eat it up, which is a way of filtering.

By eliminating those materials from the marine environment, they create a balanced and healthy surrounding for other creatures, including fish species, which live in the same waters.

Bottom feeders can be seen as biogeochemical cycle guards. so, which fish are bottom feeders?

Which Fish Are Bottom Feeders?

Shallow Focus Photography Of School Of Fish

Bottom feeders are fish that primarily live and feed on the bottom of a water body. They get their food along the substrate rather than grabbing it from the surface or mid-water.

Some bottom-feeder fish are scavengers that often feed on dead fish and invertebrates, while others are herbivores that feed primarily on algae and other plant materials. Others like pictus catfish are predators.

Bottom feeder fish are divided into two categories:

  1. Freshwater bottom feeder fish
  2. Saltwater bottom feeder fish

1. Freshwater Bottom Feeder Fish

Freshwater bottom feeder fish are commonly found in lakes, rivers, and ponds.

However, most of them are not exclusive bottom feeders, which means they can also consume different food in other layers. Here are the most common freshwater bottom feeder fish.


In the aquatic wild, there are various catfish species that are interesting to fish anglers. The most popular ones are channel, Wels, blue, and flathead, and all of them are omnivores and optimistic feeders. They will consume almost anything, including marine animals, plants, or even small mammals.

Catfish usually feed on the bottom, where they feed on anything that fits into their mouth. Among the hundreds of existing catfish species, some are exclusive bottomfeeder fish, though not similar to species that are interesting to anglers.

Besides the bottom, where catfish like to spend most of their time, you may sometimes find them feeding in midwater layers or on the surface.


Bass is another partial bottom feeder, though it’s a predator fish. Various bass species include smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted.

This bottom feeder feed on small fish species, minnows, perch, frogs, and crayfish. Bass often hunt small fish species that mostly spend their time on the bottom.


Carp is perhaps one of the most popular fish species among anglers, and you can find them in numerous places across the world. Similar to catfish, carp is not an exclusive bottom feeder.

Various carp species include crucian, silver, grass, common, black carp, and bighead. They all get their food from the bottom and are common bottom feeder fish for ponds.

Common carp will eat a variety of food, including insects, fish eggs, crustaceans, and larvae that are commonly found on the bottom of the water. Unlike catfish, carp is a partial bottom feeder.

Read: How long should you wait to put betta fish in a new tank?

Goldfish in Water
Fish tank

2. Saltwater Bottom Feeder Fish

In saltwater across all the continents, you can find numerous fish species that feed on the bottom. Here are some saltwater bottom feeder fish, including those species that are attractive to anglers.


Halibut fish can be categorized into two:

  • Atlantic Halibut
  • Pacific Halibut.

The main difference between these two flatfish species is the size and the ocean they live in. Atlantic Halibut is bigger than Pacific Halibut, and it’s also the giant flatfish species in the world. Both fish species are exclusive bottom feeders.

Halibut feed on other fish species and essentially any aquatic animals that can fit into their mouth. Although they feed and hide on the bottom, you can sometimes see them on the water surface. Except for humans, sea lions, and sharks, Halibut have nearly no natural enemies.

Adult Atlantic Halibutcan may weigh up to 440 pounds. Their physical characteristics include a white belly and dark brown upper, and their eyes are located on one side of the head in adult specimens.


You can find numerous species of eels among bottom feeder fish. The most popular one among anglers is European Conger, and it’s also the heaviest among eels.

Eels can greatly vary in size though their lifestyle is quite similar. Most of the species attractive to anglers live near the shores, in shallow seas, and they often spend their time on the mud, sand, and under the rocks.

They feature a long and sleek body, and a fun fact is that the longest species are not the heaviest. Some eels, though rare, can be found in extreme depths too. An example is Gulper Eel.

These nocturnal creatures mainly feed on small fish species, though they also eat frequent cephalopod or crustaceans.

Read: Types of jumping fish


Groupers have muscular bodies and big mouths. Some species, such as the Atlantic Goliath Grouper, can grow big, weighing nearly 880 pounds.

There are different species of groupers, and their physical characteristics and habit may vary. However, most of them have no teeth and need to swallow their prey since they can’t bite.

Groupers primarily feed on fish, crustaceans, octopuses, and other aquatic animals. Some species are active hunters, while others wait and pounce on prey.

Their wide mouth enables them to draw the prey from a distance and dig into the sand to build a shelter. Groupers swallow the sand and let it out via their large grills.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Bottom Feeder Fish

Are Bottom Feeder Fish Safe to Eat?

Every bottom feeder fish mentioned in this list is safe to eat and tasty for dinner. Most bottom feeders are not just at the bottom of oceans and lakes. There are at the bottom of the food chain as well. Their algae and other detritus diet give them plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids, essential for human health.

Overeating anything is unhealthy, so you should avoid eating the same fish every day. Enjoying an occasional dinner will not affect your health.

Is Tilapia a Bottom Feeder Fish?

Although most people label Tilapia as bottom-feeder fish, that’s not strictly true. In the aquatic wild, Tilapia often feed around the mid-level of the water, though they will move to the bottom for food when they can’t find suitable food anywhere else.

They opt for lake plants and algae diets when they can get them.

Why Do People Buy Bottom Feeder Fish for Aquarium?

Bottom feeders are a great addition to nearly any aquarium. Their feeding strategies are what make them so desirable.

They are commonly low-maintenance fish that will spend their time cleaning your tank by consuming leftover food and decaying plant matter. This helps keep your tank clean and water parameters balanced since there will be no food rotting on the substrate.

Most bottom feeder fish will also eat algae. This will ensure your plants can get sufficient resources and maintain the aesthetic appeal of your tank.

You can find bottom-feeder fish in almost any river, lake or ocean, and they exist in hundreds of species across all continents.

Bottom feeders are interesting to catch, tasty and healthy, and play a vital role in the ecosystem. Next time you go fishing, particularly in freshwater, try bottom-fishing for some of these species, and you might get pleasantly surprised.

Read: Fish with highest mercury levels


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