Chinese Algae Eaters – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) is a pale brown color freshwater fish. They are also sometimes called as Honey Suckers and Sucking Loache. Contrary to what their name would have you believe, they are not a common species in China but are found in freshwater bodies of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Chinese Algae Eater, esp. the young ones, are among the best at cleaning up algae in aquariums. These fish have huge appetites and are easy to take care of, even for beginners. They can be added to a relatively new aquarium too.

You can also consider having a Chinese algae eater-only community as they grow older. This is true especially since older algae eaters can get a bit of an attitude. But they will give you plenty of reason to keep them around once their appetite for algae dies down. These fish are versatile additions to both new and matured aquariums.


Making the Most out of Your Chinese Algae Eaters

The Chinese Algae Eater survives by putting its strange mouth to use. They will cling to rocky bedrocks and surfaces by using lips made for sucking. These fish can withstand rapid waters and even dangerous mountain streams.

You can consider keeping a Chinese Algae Eater solely for its punchy personality. Hobbyists sometimes enjoy the personality changes in algae eaters as they age. Outside of its use as an efficient cleaner, these fish can be interesting additions to your community.

Both young and mature Chinese Algae Eaters tend to have big personalities. They can get pushy with other fish and sometimes get grumpier with age. But as long as this doesn’t put you off, you can enjoy a livelier aquarium group.

Chinese Algae Eaters are an exciting choice for aquarists of all levels of experience. If you currently have a large aquarium setup, Chinese Algae eaters are a particularly appropriate choice. The largest piece of the remaining puzzle to keeping them is setting up your tank.

Behavior – Are Chinese Algae Eaters Aggressive?

Chinese Algae Eaters don’t do well in groups. You’ll usually spot them alone at the bottom or sides of your tank. Since they keep to themselves, it’s usually a bad idea to give them friends.

Keep your algae eaters away from groups to avoid aggressive behavior. You should be extra careful with fish that are the same size, or even other Chinese Algae Eaters.

Alone, your algae eaters will stay stuck to rocks and glass. They’ll play nice when young but will get territorial when they’re older. It will be easier to figure out where your fish hangs out as it matures.

Chinese Algae Eaters can also get aggressive with vegetation. They can destroy or eat live plants in your tank. It can be hard to catch them in the act since they’re nocturnal. Don’t crowd your algae eater’s tank with too many living plants to avoid stressing them out.

Appearance – What do Chinese Algae Eaters Look Like?

The most noticeable part of the Chinese Algae Eater is its mouth. Chinese Algae Eaters’ mouths have large lips they use to stick to rocks. Algae eaters have long bodies covered in small fins like other bottom-dwelling fish. The average adult body size can range around two and 12 inches long.

The color of your Chinese Algae eater will probably vary. These fish tend to look paler when they’re out in the wild. Wild algae eaters have dark stripes and clumps of small spots. But your Chinese Algae Eater will more likely be golden with no marks.

Chinese Algae Eaters also have a special way of breathing. These fish have branchial apertures that they use to take in water and clean their gills. This unique feature lets Chinese Algae Eaters use their mouths to eat and grab onto surfaces.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

New Chinese Algae Eater owners can get anxious when picking out a tank. Since these fish are loners, they need a lot of space to make them feel comfortable. New owners can get overwhelmed by large tanks and the space they need.

Fortunately, even larger tanks are relatively cheap. A good-quality, 50-gallon fish tank usually ranges between 150 to 250 US Dollars. It is highly recommended that you give one Chinese Algae Eater space of at least 50 to 55 gallons.

You can decide what to add to your new tank once you have your Chinese Algae Eater. Your fish’s size, age, and even gender will help you build its habitat.

Setting Up Your Tank

You will want your new tank to make your algae eater feel relaxed. Chinese Algae Eaters naturally swim in moving rivers and lakes. Your tank should mimic these conditions as best as possible.

Make sure that you research quality heaters for your tank. The right temperature will keep your Chinese Algae Eater healthy and stress-free. Use your tank heater to keep Fahrenheit between 75 and 80 degrees.

You can also adjust your tank’s pH levels to mimic your fish’s natural habitat. Your tank’s pH levels should be around 5.8 to 8.0. These fish tend to be robust and can deal well with smaller changes to their environment.

Your tank’s water flow is also crucial to keep your fish happy. Your tank’s filter outlet should create a steady flow of water. You can also purchase an air & water pump if you want stronger currents of water. A good starting habitat will help you keep your algae eaters healthy for a lifetime.

Maintaining a Tank Habitat

Good filtration is the first step to creating a quality habitat. Reasonably sized glass tanks with moving water will keep Chinese Algae Eaters healthy.

Check your tank’s filters and water temperature at least once a week. This will guarantee a stable, robust habitat for your Chinese Algae Eaters.

Your tank needs the right surface for your algae eaters to hang out at the bottom. Give your fish a bottom layer of sand or gravel to improve filtration. You can even add other rocks at the bottom for your fish to hide between.

New aquarists can consider growing algae early in their tank. You can keep vegetation to a minimum if you’re eager to for algae to grow. Remember that not all plants are compatible with algae growth. You can also use constant, bright light to help algae grow faster.

How to Choose Tank Mates

Fish that are as big as your Chinese Algae Eaters will cause trouble. These fish will attack other algae eaters if they share the same 50-gallon tank. But that doesn’t mean that your algae eater can’t have tank mates.

You can give each adult algae eater larger tanks if you have multiple fish. Adults will require more space because they get territorial with age. Chinese Algae Eaters also get more aggressive as they age. It’s highly recommended that you keep older algae eaters in their own tanks.

You should absolutely avoid fish that move slowly or hang around at the bottom of your tank. These fish are easy targets for your algae eaters and can even infect them. Consider purchasing small, fast fish that like to be at the top of your tank.

In general, adult Chinese Algae Eaters are usually best kept alone. It is also overall easier to take care of a single-fish tank. Maintaining their habitats can also be time-consuming at the start. Having a single habitat is easier to keep for longer periods of time.

Since algae eaters are so territorial, it’s also less problematic to spruce up only one habitat. This will also tie back to the potential for aqua-scaping your tank.

How Do I Feed My Chinese Algae Eaters?

Chinese Algae Eaters do well in the wild by eating mostly algae. It is also easier for them to access certain nutrition in nature. Domestic Chinese Algae Eaters have similarly simple diets.

Algae is, unsurprisingly, a large part of your fish’s diet. But you should still aim for a balanced diet to give them. You can give them insects like maggots, worms, and certain larvae. Live and frozen foods like crustaceans are also effective.

You can feed younger fish algae flakes and wafers that sink. If you don’t see a lot of algae in your tank, wafers are a good way to feed young algae eaters. Also treat them now and then with blanched spinach, cucumbers, and zucchini. You can also try anchoring raw veggies to the bottom of your tank.

Remember that if you feed your fish too much, they’ll stop eating algae. Your Chinese Algae Eaters are nocturnal, so you might not always notice them eating. You should watch how much algae grows in your tank to avoid overfeeding them.

Your fish might get bloated if you end up overfeeding it. The easiest way to de-bloat your algae eater is by reducing food portions until the problem is gone.

Chinese Algae Eaters Diet

The Chinese Algae Eater diet is straightforward, but there are some caveats to consider. Adult algae eaters sometimes like to chase other fish as “food”. They may be trying to suck on their slime or nibble their fins. This is a huge no-no since a fish’s slime helps keep away harmful bacteria.

All Chinese Algae Eaters need a steady source of protein. They usually get it easily in different parts of nature.  Older algae eaters need even more protein and will get sick without proper nutrition. And, diets low in protein will harm your younger algae eaters in the long run. Frozen crustaceans and other meaty options are an easy way to balance your fish’s diet.

Be careful, too, of foods that don’t sink to the bottom of your tank. Your algae eaters, especially when young, will greatly benefit from food they can easily reach.

Care Guide – Is My Chinese Algae Eaters Sick?

Healthy Chinese Algae Eaters have big appetites and clear eyes. When it comes to healthy fish, your tank is arguably the most important part. It can be tempting to keep your tank completely spotless. But you should always make sure to leave some algae in your tank so your fish will still eat.

And if it hasn’t been stressed enough, give your algae eaters some space. Overcrowded Chinese Algae Eaters are much more likely to get sick and stressed. Quality water, filtration, and enough space will put you on the right track.

If you’re still worried about your algae eater’s health, there are warning signs you can check for. Take any of the following symptoms seriously if you notice them:

  • Pale-ish color
  • Clouded eyes
  • Not sticking to walls
  • Sudden body marks
  • Weakened fins
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased aggression

You can sometimes use antifungal or antibacterial remedies to treat these symptoms. But if your algae eaters are getting sick, the reason is probably related to your tank and water quality.

Not all is lost if you realize your algae eater is ill. You can set up quarantine tanks for single algae eaters and move them there. This is especially helpful if you’re worried about getting your other fish sick as well. You can move your sick algae eaters back to your main tank once they’re feeling all better.


Breeding Chinese Algae Eaters at home can be very tricky and isn’t recommended. Even experienced aquarists don’t usually have the tools to breed Chinese Algae Eaters. These days, algae eaters you see in the store are bred in hatcheries using hormones.

If you’re determined to try breeding, you can start by sexing your Chinese Algae Eaters. Sexing your fish is easiest when you know they have all reached adulthood.

Adult females usually look especially round and fat. Your adult male algae eaters will have what looks like a small horn on their head when breeding.

Should You Add Chinese Algae Eaters To Your Aquarium?

To put it simply, keeping a Chinese Algae Eater is straightforward, no matter how much experience you have. It is best to use these fish to clean your tank’s algae. If you want a tank with lots of fish, consider starting with other options.

Beginners will enjoy these fish since they’ll only be caring for one. And expert aquarists can delight in the finer details of managing habitats and tank mates. No matter what your level of experience is, the Chinese Algae Eater is highly enjoyable to keep.

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