Chinese Algae Eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) are one of the best algae eaters you can get as they mostly spend all of their time searching for food. They are easy to care for so even beginners can keep them and this fish makes a great addition to a community aquarium that needs a bottom-dweller. Adult size: 15 – 25cm, minimum tank size 200 litres.
Surprisingly, the Chinese Algae Eater is rarely found in China. They are mainly found in rivers and lakes that run through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam where the water is warm and fast moving. They spend their time in the lower levels around a rocky floor surrounded by stones, gravel and sand. It will also seasonally migrate to muddy waters and flooded coastal areas.
To help water reach the gills when their mouth is attached to something, they have specialized organs (two branchial apertures force water across their gills to help with respiration). This leaves the mouth free to focus on scraping algae from walls and decorations.
Chinese Algae Eaters are natural loners, they are not social and don’t need to be kept in groups. In fact, they are likely to fight fellow members of their own species. They generally keep to themselves and don’t cause much trouble, but they may show signs of aggression towards tank mates of a similar size. Most of their time is spent in the lower levels of the tank, where they attach themselves to surfaces around the aquarium to feed on any algae.
It is best to give them extra space in your tank in case they grow a little larger than expected. Although they usually grow to about 13 cm in an aquarium, they need plenty of space.
Layer the bottom of the tank with substrate – you can use sand or gravel. We recommend sand as it is less likely to scratch them as they swim over it. Place rocks and decorations on the substrate to provide plenty of crevices for them to hide in. They can then claim a territory and retreat here when stressed. You can add live plants as another form of shelter, they will also help to keep the water clean. Though they will eat vegetation, they probably won’t eat your plants.
The outlet of your filter should create a sufficient flow of water around your aquarium. If needed you can use an air/water pump to make the current stronger.
They need a well-lit environment, so standard aquarium lighting will suffice.
This species is very sensitive to nitrates so make sure to perform regular water changes to keep levels as close to 0 ppm as possible.
Chinese Algae Eaters generally live a solitary life and stay away from other fish. They can become aggressive towards certain types of fish – typically ones of similar size, appearance, or lifestyle. One example is the Siamese Algae Eater, it’s another large species that patrols the bottom levels of the tank looking for algae. Large, slow-moving tank mates should be avoided too. Chinese Algae Eaters may latch onto something like the flat-bodied Discus, in order to eat their slime coat. There are still plenty of possible tank mates. Small, speedy species will easily be able to escape a Chinese Algae Eater, but it will probably ignore them anyway. You can try Mollies, Tiger Barbs, Platies, Clown Loaches, Dwarf Gourami, Swordtails, Danios, Cherry Barbs, Emperor Tetra, or White Cloud Mountain Minnow. Invertebrates like shrimp and snails are best avoided as they might get attacked.
It is safest to keep Chinese Algae Eaters singly, as they are likely to show aggression towards other members of their own species. They are sometimes kept in groups, but this requires a much larger tank so they each have plenty of space and don’t get in each other’s way – each fish should have 200 litres.
In the wild algae is their main source of nutrition. They rasp onto rocks and scrape off algae using their sucker mouths. They will do the same in your aquarium and will mostly be attached to walls or decorations to feed. However, algae are not the only things they eat in their natural habitat. They sometimes feed on small creatures like maggots. These provide a different set of nutrients (including plenty of protein). You can replicate this by adding some live or frozen foods into the tank once a week – bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp work well. Sinking foods like pellets are good for bottom-dwelling fish as they’re more likely to fall past fish higher up in the tank. If you don’t feel that there is enough algae in your tank, Chinese Algae Eaters will happily eat algae wafers.
You can also use spare green vegetables from your kitchen. Feed them small pieces of lettuce, spinach or marrow (zucchini), but you need to weigh it down so they can find in on the bottom of your tank. They don’t need a set diet, as they will feed themselves on algae and scavenge any food their tank mates have not eaten. Just regularly check that they have a supply of algae and occasionally supplement this with live or frozen foods and they will be fine.
The easiest way to keep your Chinese Algae Eaters healthy is to maintain a clean tank. They are generally hardy fish but an unclean tank will likely lead to disease. When cleaning your tank, don’t remove the algae as this would remove their main food source.
There are not any diseases specific to Chinese Algae Eaters, but they can contract many common freshwater fish diseases such as ick (ich)
If disease is in your tank, check the water parameters. These include temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. If they are not where they should be then they will be promoting the spread of the disease.
See Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment at Rebel Pets for help with diagnosing and treating diseases.
|Adult Size:||typically 13 cm, can reach 25 cm|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Beginner|
|Minimum Tank Size:||200 litres|
|Tank Level:||Bottom dweller|
|Temperature:||24 to 27°C|
|pH:||5.8 – 8.0|
|Hardness:||5 to 20 dGH (soft)|