Chinese Algae Eater - Detailed Guide: Care, Feeding and Breeding | Shrimp and snail breeder (2023)

Chinese Algae Eater - Detailed Guide: Care, Feeding and Breeding | Shrimp and snail breeder (1)

The Chinese algae eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) is a well-known freshwater fish in hobby fisheries. They are loved by most aquarists for their effective role in cleaning up the tank and keeping it algae free.

While this is a job they do best in a juvenile stage, their dietary preference changes in favor of meatier and live foods as they mature.

Keep reading for everything there is to know about the Chinese Algae Eater and how to successfully keep and care for this fish in your aquarium.

Quick notes on the Chinese algae eater

NameChinese Algae
Other namesCAE, sucking loaches, sucking catfish, golden algae eater
Scientific nameGyrinocheilus aymonieri
Tanksize (minimum)30 gallon (~ 120 liter)
To holdEasy - Average
Maattot 28 cm (~ 11 inch)
Optimal temperature22 – 27 °C (72 – 80 °F)
OptimalPH6.0 – 8.0
OptimalGH5 – 20
ResidentsMiddle and bottom
NitrateLess than 20
Eating patternOmnivore
Lifespanup to 10 years
Color formOlive brown, yellow, albino, marble and leucistic

Origin and taxonomy of the Chinese algae eater

The Chinese algae eater, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, was first described by Tirant in 1883. It is named after the French linguist and explorer, Étienne FrançoisAymonier. Chinese Algae Eater was first exported to Germany in 1956 for the aquarium trade, before that they were used as food fish in the native countries.

This species belongs to the genus Gyrinocheilus and includes other species: the algae eater Gyrinocheilus pennocki and the Borneo algae eater Gyrinocheilus pustulosis, unlike Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, they are rarely seen in the aquarium trade.

Remark: The word Gyrinocheilus is derived from two separate Greek words, 'Gyrinos' meaning 'tadpole', and 'Cheilos' meaning 'lip' (because of its somewhat triangular, tadpole-like mouth shape).

Natural habitat ofChinese Algae

The Chinese algae eater is native to mainland Southeast Asia. Despite its name (Chinese Algae Eater), it is found in the northern Malay Peninsula, Chao Phraya, Mae Klong, Mekong River basins of Cambodia, Yunnan Province of China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. They inhabit bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams and flooded fields.

In the wild, the Chinese Algae Eater can be found in clear, shallow waters with adequate sunlight exposure and the presence of densebiofilmthat floods the substrate.

The substrate usually consists of pebbles, gravel and sand. CAE uses its squeegee to cling to solid surfaces, especially in fast-flowing water.

They also perform seasonal migration to muddy and deeper waters.

Description ofChinese Algae

Chinese algae eater is a large species of fish with long slender bodies and small fins, the length of its body reaches 28 cm in the wild. However, they tend to get smaller in aquariums where they often rarely exceed 7 - 9 inches (~15 - 22 cm).

With proper care and good water condition, the Chinese Algae Eater can live up to 10 years.

The species is characterized by the presence of an elongated body, yellow eyes with a black ball and a suction mouth inside which they use to anchor themselves to surfaces and scrape algae. A unique feature is the small dorsal fin with several stout rays that give it a pseudo-spike appearance.

The color of Gyrinocheilus aymonieri varies. They are often yellowish or light brown, the underside is lighter. Also present are dark black stripes running horizontally along the entire length of the fish, sometimes broken into small dots, they have no barbs.

Remark: Common Chinese algae eaters often turn muddy brown as they age.

Several color variants of CAE exist, including gold, albino, marble, and leucistic.

They also possess specialized organs that allow water to reach their gills when their mouths are attached to something; two branched openings are responsible for this role, they function in a way that forces water through the gills to aid respiration.

(Video) Mystery Snail Care and Breeding: Your Friendly Neighborhood Algae Eater!

Chinese algae eaters are very similar to other schooling fish species, including some species of Crossocheilus, for example, Siamese algae eater, C. atrillimes and C.langei, Cambodian wood sucker Garra cambodgiensis, and flying fox Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus.

Difference between Chinese Algae Eater and Siamese Algae Eater

The Chinese algae eater is usually misidentified as the Siamese algae eater. They share some similarities; both are algae eaters and have similar physiques, but the Siamese algae eater has different body characteristics.

The Siamese Algae Eater lacks the distinct proboscis mouth of the Chinese Algae Eater and there are jagged edges in the horizontal stripe running through the caudal fin.

Chinese AlgaeSiamese Algae
Body shapeMore elongated
Horizontal stripeUnequalSoft
StreepStops at the tip of the tailWalks to the tip of the tail
Shape of the headEyes are close to the topEyes are located in the center of the head

Behavior of Chinese algae eaters

Chinese Algae Eaters are usually peaceful when young, but as they get older they become territorial and aggressive towards others. This species is known for sucking the mucous membranes and tearing off the scales of their fellow inhabitants, which is a serious problem, as it provokes all kinds of infections.

Adult Chinese algae eaters are also known to feed on smaller community fish as well.

Remark: CAE are mostly active at night and often hide when the other fish are being fed. It may be one of the reasons why they resort to sucking slime and effectively killing all of their tank mates.

They are best kept with active, fast-moving, top-dwelling fish species; those who spend most of their time in the upper echelons of an aquarium.

Keep in mind that adding Chinese algae eaters last in an aquarium will help reduce territorial aggressiveness. Some hobbyists suggest keeping them in groups of 5 to reduce aggression towards other species, but this is only recommended if you maintain a very large tank.

At the same time, small groups (2 - 3) are also not recommended unless you have a huge tank. The strongest can bully others to death.

Keep in mind that Chinese algae eaters are good jumpers. They are also extremely fast swimmers. It can become a real problem if you decide to keep it in a planted aquarium.

Chinese algae eaters have strong personalities and can be a lot of fun to watch. They are also quite shy and skittish.


  • Social:Nee
  • Active:And
  • Temper tantrum:Semi-aggressive

Feeding Chinese algae eater

Chinese Algae Eater is a versatile feeder. They will feed on a variety of foods apart from algae in the tank that they are known to consume.

They should be fed quality flake food and algae wafers on a regular basis. For example (link to Amazon):

You can also add a mix of vegetable matter to replace algae, blanched vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, zucchini or cucumber, and green peas can serve for this purpose.

Important: As young animals, they are excellent at feeding algae and cleaning plants, stones, gravel, etc. As they get older, their diet changes radically until they hardly eat any algae at all.

Since Chinese algae eaters tend to become omnivores (more carnivores) as they age, their diet should be supplemented with meatier foods, such as:

  • frozen seafood,
  • live and frozen foods such asbloodworms,blackworms,
  • brine shrimp enriched with vitamins,
  • water fleas.

Tip: Due to their nocturnal nature, you can feed them about 30-60 minutes after the lights have gone out to satisfy their appetite and reduce potential aggression towards fellow residents.

(Video) Siamese Algae Eater | Beginner Guide

Be sure to remove any uneaten food after 24 hours as this can easily affect the water quality and is detrimental to the health of the fish and their tankmates.


  • Type of diet:Omnivore
  • Food Preference:Algae when young, more protein rich feed as adults.
  • Power Frequency:Daily

You can read more about it in my articles:

How to properly blanch cucumbers and zucchini for shrimp, snails and fish
Indian almond leaves and alder cones in a shrimp tank.

Are Chinese algae eaters safe for plants?

If you have a planted aquarium, you will always find Chinese algae eaters actively foraging through and grazing on the plants. Don't worry, they don't eat healthy plants. However, they will eat dying, decaying or decaying plants.

However, keep in mind that Chinese algae eaters are quite fast and have a strong mouth. It can be a problem for tender and sensitive plants in the tank as they can accidentally damage it.

Another problem is that Chinese Algae Eaters often do everything they want; they can uproot or knock over plants.

Floating plants,Anubias,Java sailing,Amazon swordcan be a good choice for Chinese algae eater tank.

Keeping and HousingChinese Algae

The good thing about these fish is their hardiness. They survive well in fast-flowing and brackish water.

Tank Size:

Pet stores often say that a 10 or 20 gallon (80 liter) aquarium is a good choice for this fish. This is wrong. The Chinese Algae Eater will easily outgrow these aquariums within 4 – 6 months!

The minimum tank size for housing Chinese algae eaters is 30 gallons (120 L). However, if you plan to stock a group of these fish, you should opt for an aquarium of 220 gallons or more.

Larger tanks are essential as it helps to curb the territorial aggressiveness of adult Chinese algae eaters and ensure they maintain adequate distance from tank mates as they grow in size. They need some space. It is always the key to territorial aggression and bullying.


Temperature: The optimum temperature range for this species is in the range of 74°F to 80°F (23°C to 27°C).
pH:Chinese algae eaters are quite hardy and can tolerate a pH level of 6.0 - 8.0.
Hardness:The water hardness value must be between 5 and 20 dGH.


You can never go wrong with a fine sand substrate and a little gravel mix.

Avoid coarse gravel; the sharp edges can injure/scratch the body of the fish as they swim in the lower parts of the tank.


Light is not important to the Chinese Algae Eater.Reliefmust be adjusted to the needs of the plants in your aquarium.

Bright lighting helps encourage algae growth on plants and decors. However, if you are new to this hobby, DO NOT! You have to understand the balance in the tank. Otherwise you will have so many different types of algae that it will be a disaster.

Water flow:

The water movement must be strong enough to mimic the currents in the natural waters in which they live. A powerhead or filter canister can provide much-needed flow.

(Video) One very misunderstood fish. How to care for: Golden Chinese Algae Eater | Care Guide | FFL


The best way to make the Chinese Algae Eater feel lively and comfortable is to mimic their natural habitat. In addition to artificial caves, you can also place large smooth stones on the surface,driftwood, PVC pipes and twisted roots, these give them a place to hide or explore.

They are very shy fish. This is why it is absolutely important to set up the aquarium so that they have plenty of room to hide and a lot of privacy.

Basis tankuitrusting(links to check the price on Amazon)

Care and maintenance

This fish is easy to care for, you don't need much experience to successfully keep the Chinese Algae Eater healthy in your aquarium. Always keep the tank water clean and well oxygenated to provide the best habitat and living conditions for the fish.

You should do a 25% partial water change weekly or biweekly, or 25-50% at least once a month to maintain good water quality. This fish is very sensitive to nitrate, make it a priority to keep the nitrate level as low as possible.

During water changes, use a vacuum siphon to rid the substrate of food debris and waste.

Sex determination of Chinese algae eaters

Distinguishing between men and women is difficult. However, what you need to know is that the females are plumper than the males, although they both have several small tubercles or thorns around the mouth, those of the males are more pronounced in spawning conditions.

Growing Chinese Algae Eaters

There is very little proven knowledge about the breeding and reproductive behavior of the Chinese algae eater, as well as established methods of successful breeding.

In my research I have found that spawning in captivity is likely caused by adjusting water temperature and parameters (24°С or 75F, pH 6.8, GH 4 – 5), as seen in many fish species, but that not sure. for now. Good ventilation is also an important part.

Next you need a group with male and female counterparts and this is somewhat difficult to achieve. Chinese algae eaters reach maturity at 1-2 years old.

The females of the Chinese algae eater need some kind of hormonal injections: before spawning and immediately after spawning.

The next day after spawning, the female lays about 3000-4000 eggs. After that, the parents should be immediately removed from the breeding tank. Otherwise they can eat all the eggs.

The incubation period is quite short, lasting only one day. However, the percentage of healthy eggs is extremely small due to the susceptibility of eggs to fungal diseases. Whitened eggs should be removed immediately.

The young of the Chinese Algae Eater are not aggressive towards each other.

Problems associated with Chinese algae eaters

While there are not many diseases specific to the Chinese algae eater, they can still be plagued by some common diseases.

One of them is Ich. This happens due to a parasite that causes small white spots all over the body. The cause of this disease is poor water conditions, so you should always try to maintain stable water parameters to avoid stressing the fish.

Another problem is bloating, which is caused byoverfeeding. Feeding fish with a balanced diet / proper portion of food will help keep them in good condition.

If you discover an unhealthy fish in the aquarium, you should also move it to a quarantine tank to prevent the disease from spreading to other inhabitants in the aquarium. When they are healthy again, you can reintroduce them to the main tank.

(Video) Chinese Golden Algae eater | A complete guide | Review - Gender Identification | Tamil

Chinese algae eater and suitable tank mates

In that respect, Chinese algae eaters prefer a solitary life. Ideally, they should be separated from other fish species, especially those of similar size, lifestyle, and appearance.

These fish can be a very poor choice for acommunity tankset up. Think twice before adding Chinese Algae Eater to your aquarium, you can find much better options such asPygmy Cory catfish,Otocinclus catfish, enz.


Large and slow-moving tankmates should not be kept in the same tank as the Chinese Algae Eater. These semi-aggressive fish can cling to their flat bodies to eat their slime coating, resulting in injuries and most likely parasitic infections. Some examples are Discus and Angelfish.

Remark: Many aquarists believe this type of behavior is the result of improper feeding. Chinese algae eaters only attack their fellow inhabitants when they are really starving.

In some cases people say they have never had any problems with the Chinese Algae Eater and are quite calm. Well, it's either they're very lucky or their fish was only half grown.

Do not keep Chinese Algae Eaters with small fish species (such as guppies). They can/will eat them.

Possible tank mates to consider are Swordtails,Zebra Danio, Clown Loach, Cherry Barbs, Tiger Barbs, Emperor Tetra, Platies and Mollies.

Shrimp and snails:

Inverts likedwarf shrimpInfreshwater snailshould not be introduced to an aquarium with Chinese algae eaters as they are very likely to be attacked. This fish can suck the snails out of their shells.

It is possible to keep them with shrimps or snails when they are young and small. Unfortunately, these fish grow very fast and soon you will need to keep a constant eye on them to make sure they are free from any potential harm. Until one day it is too late.

Therefore: no, no and no.

Dwarf frogs

There are even examples that Chinese algae eaters feed onDwarf frogsslimy skin! Therefore, do not keep them with dwarf frogs.

Crayfish and Crab:

Absolutely not! Keep them away from all kindscrayfishand the mostfreshwater crabs.

Although it is very unlikely that crustaceans will consider Chinese algae eaters as prey. They can still wound them with their claws while defending.


While the Chinese Algae Eater is a popular fish for novice, intermediate and experienced aquarists, it may not be the best choice when it comes to peaceful freshwater fish for aquariums. It certainly does an excellent job as an algae eater when it is young and thus helps to keep the aquarium free of algae.

However, Chinese algae eaters have very specific needs and preferences, otherwise there could be disastrous consequences.

They grow very large, and in many cases the pet stores conveniently forget to tell you that. In addition, this species of fish is a bugbear for non-compatible tank mates such as Angelfish and Discus among others. Unfortunately, many people have been tricked into buying the wrong fish!

So try to be alert to any aggressive behavior that is likely to be displayed by them. Also, keeping Chinese Algae Eaters in very large tanks will help curb their territorial tendencies and ensure they live in harmony.

Chinese Algae Eater - Detailed Guide: Care, Feeding and Breeding | Shrimp and snail breeder (5)

(Video) Top 5 Algae Eaters to Clean Your Aquarium


Chinese Algae Eater - Detailed Guide: Care, Feeding and Breeding | Shrimp and snail breeder? ›

Bloodworms, Daphnia, Moina, and brine shrimp are all great sources of protein suitable for these fish. If you find that your fish don't have enough algae in the tank or are starting to lose interest in eating them, then you can renew their interest by feeding them algae wafers.

What should I feed my Chinese Algae Eater? ›

Bloodworms, Daphnia, Moina, and brine shrimp are all great sources of protein suitable for these fish. If you find that your fish don't have enough algae in the tank or are starting to lose interest in eating them, then you can renew their interest by feeding them algae wafers.

Can Chinese algae eaters live with snails? ›

Inverts such as dwarf shrimp and freshwater snail should not be introduced into a tank with Chinese Algae Eater as they are very likely to get attacked. This fish can suck the snails out of their shells.

How many gallons does a Chinese Algae Eater need? ›

Tank Size. So how big should your tank size be for a Chinese Algae Eater? At the very least, these fish need 30 gallons. That number is assuming you only have one Chinese Algae Eater in your aquarium.

Are Chinese algae eaters easy to take care of? ›

Chinese algae eaters are fairly easy to keep and quite hardy. But they are not suitable for community tanks because they are pretty large in size and aggressive which causes a lot of stress in the tank.

How often should algae eaters be fed? ›

Feeding Guide

Feed twice a day. To accommodate the slower feeding habits of most algae eaters, feed the amount of food your fish will consume within two hours.

Do Chinese algae eaters need driftwood? ›

I've used this food with great success for many years, and algae eaters love them. Also, to keep these fish healthy, you absolutely must provide them with driftwood to rasp on in their aquarium. Driftwood provides much needed fiber in their diet, and they can sicken and even die if there isn't any driftwood available.

Do snails remove algae from aquarium? ›

Almost all freshwater snails are beneficial scavengers that eat algae, dead plants, dead fish, extra fish food and other waste. This cleaning ability makes them an outstanding addition to your freshwater tank.

Which snail is best for algae? ›

Nerite Snail

Snails from the Neritidae family are well-known for being one of the best algae eaters in the freshwater aquarium hobby and are even capable of eating green spot algae.

Will a Chinese Algae Eater eat baby fish? ›

The Chinese Algae Eater is, by far, the most notorious of algae eaters when it comes to attacking and eating other fish. Although they're relatively peaceful and herbivorous when young, they soon grow to a large size and can easily acquire the taste for small fish, and even the slime coats of larger fish too!

How many algae wafers should I put in my tank? ›

We would recommend one of the wafers every couple of days. You could even break it in half and feed one half per day, if you prefer. As to the other fish, feed once or twice a day, and 1 pieces of food (flake, pellets, whatever) per INCH of fish.

How long do Chinese algae eaters live in captivity? ›

The Golden Chinese Algae Eater is semi-aggressive towards other fish of its own kind but tends to get along with other fish species. They are however not overly aggressive and only squabble over territory. With proper care, they can live for up to 10 years.

How long do algae eaters live in a fish tank? ›

Siamese algae-eaters will often school together, but are also content living solo. When two are kept together, they will often establish their own territory as they mature. They can be a long living fish, with reports of lifespans up to ten years.

Do Chinese algae eaters eat snail eggs? ›

It is possible for algae eaters to eat snails. Plecostomus are bottom-dwelling scavengers that tend to eat a variety of foods, including snail eggs and meat. However, not all types of algae eaters will consume snails, as some prefer fresh vegetation or prey of a smaller size.

What is the most peaceful algae eater? ›

Bristlenose Plecostomus (Bristlenose plecos)

Not unlike the Siamese Algae Eater, the Bristlenose Plecos is known for its ability to chomp its way through algae while peacefully living alongside a range of other species.

Does overfeeding fish cause algae? ›

Algae bloom – Algae growth is one of the most common problems seen in aquariums. The number one cause is overfeeding. Unsightly blue-green and red algae multiply when there are large quantities of dissolved organic material, nitrates and phosphates in the water. Which is common when fish are overfed.

Do algae eaters need algae wafers? ›

If plan to keep bottom feeders or algae eaters in your tank you may need to supplement their diet with algae wafers. It is common practice for freshwater aquarium hobbyists to add bottom feeders and algae eaters like corydoras catfish and plecostomus to their tanks to help control algae build-up.

How long can an algae eater live without a filter? ›

How Long Can Plecos Live Without a Filter? Plecos can live for up to 2 hours without a filter. These guys produce a lot of waste, so it's important to make sure their tank is well-aerated, and they have access to clean water.

Do Chinese algae eaters eat string algae? ›

They are known to eat most types of string and hair algae, such as the commonly found green hair algae. Some hobbyists claim they can even tackle the dreaded black beard algae, making them perfect additions to planted tanks.

How can you tell if a Chinese Algae Eater is male or female? ›

An adult male Chinese algae-eater will develop tubercules or "horns" on the nose. An adult female will have a much thicker and rounder body than a male, whose body is thin and narrow.

Can Chinese algae eaters live in cold water? ›

Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)

The Siamese Algae Eater is an extremely popular choice when it comes to selecting cleanup crew members for a cold water tank. These attractive fish are peaceful and relatively easy to look after, making them ideal community fish for a beginner's tank.

What kills pet snails in aquarium? ›

However, bleach is the most effective way to kill snails and eggs. Potassium Permanganate: Prepare a soaking solution using one gallon of water and a half tablespoon of potassium permanganate. Soak for fifteen minutes, then rinse well before planting in the tank.

Can snails ruin your aquarium? ›

Harmless Helpers. Although they are often called pests, these aquatic snails actually transform your aquarium into more of its own ecosystem. Most snails are beneficial to aquariums because they are detritivores. In other words, they eat decaying matter such as fish waste, uneaten food, and rotting plants.

Do snails make tanks dirty? ›

While Mystery Snails can do a good job helping keep the tank clean, they also add to the bio-load of the tank like other living organisms. In that way, a Mystery Snail is just like any other tank inhabitant. They feed from the tank and they produce waste into it.

How many snails can be in a 5 gallon tank? ›

A good rule of thumb is to aim for one snail per gallon for tiny snails and two snails per five gallons for bigger snails. The ultimate aim is to allow your snails enough space to move around and thrive while preventing overcrowding and maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the tank .

How many snails can be in a 10 gallon tank? ›

You can keep up to 6-8 land and garden snails in a 10-gallon tank. Some people even keep them individually as pets. They are relatively easy to care for and don't require a lot of space. Besides, they add a touch of cuteness to any home aquarium.

Do algae eaters eat leftover fish food? ›

If there is enough algae and dead plant matter to keep them busy, they will keep to themselves. They have also been known to eat fish eggs and leftover food.

Why is my algae eater attacking my fish? ›

There is some evidence to suggest that poorly fed algae eaters are more likely to try to feed on the sides of other fish. Evidence suggests that they attack the slime coat as they are looking for nutrients and will attach to the sides of other fish to try to feed on this.

Do algae eaters clean fish tanks? ›

Algae eaters (also known as a clean up crew) are an integral part of the aquarium hobby, due to their ability to manage and help keep your tank's ecosystem balanced. And an effective algae eater won't just keep algae under control.

What do Chinese algae eaters eat besides algae? ›

If there aren't enough naturally occurring algae within the aquarium, they can also be fed sinking algae wafers and pellets. Some other acceptable foods to the Golden Chinese Algae Eater are; Crushed spinach or lettuce. Shelled peas.

What kind of food do algae eaters eat? ›

Algae eater or algivore is a common name for any bottom-dwelling or filter-feeding aquatic animal species that specialize in feeding on algae and phytoplanktons. Algae eaters are important for the fishkeeping hobby and many are commonly kept by aquarium hobbyists to improve water quality.

Are you supposed to feed algae eaters? ›

Assuming the fish is successful in removing the algae, it will need to be fed. A lot of people believe that because these fish eat algae, they don't need to be fed anything else and will simply survive on the algae in the tank. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Can Chinese algae eaters eat other fish? ›

The Chinese Algae Eater is, by far, the most notorious of algae eaters when it comes to attacking and eating other fish. Although they're relatively peaceful and herbivorous when young, they soon grow to a large size and can easily acquire the taste for small fish, and even the slime coats of larger fish too!


1. Why I Needed a Snail 🐌
2. Nerite Snails & Aquarium Algea Eaters- Care & A History of Alleyway Snail Dealers like Lovell Reeve
(FISHTORY! (Secret History Living in Your Aquarium))
3. 10 of The Best Algae Eaters For Your Aquarium
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4. Don’t Buy a Chinese Algae Eater Fish
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5. The Best Algae Eater fish
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