Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Chinese Algae Eater!
The Chinese Algae Eater may not be at the top of the “perfect” pet list, but they serve a very important function in many people’s home aquariums! Most people at some point in time run into an algae problem with their tanks. And their first thought is usually to go buy a sucker fish! The pet store I worked at had Chinese Algae Eaters being ordered in and departing with customers on a weekly basis. They are one of the most popular fish because of their useful function and therefore one of the most wanted!
The Chinese Algae Eater Gyrinocheilus aymonieri usually does an outstanding job at clearing algae from an aquarium while it is young. This is the primary reason people purchase them. However as they age, they can no longer sustain themselves on algae and plants alone and begin needing additional food sources to keep them healthy. This includes more meat sources. You will want to acquire algae eaters when they are young and small (less than 2 inches) to maximize the benefit you reap from their algae eating capabilities. Do realize that they can reach over 5 inches in length when full grown so make sure to take that into account when purchasing one. They should not be kept in an aquarium smaller than 30 gallons. These algae eaters can come in a variety of colors and have a stripe along their length from the nose to the tail. One of the most popular varieties is the Golden Chinese Algae Eater (check the video for a beautiful example of one). Belonging to the Carp (Cyprinidae) family, their mouth is in the shape of a disk which is used to suck and stick to surfaces. This is perfect for sticking to the sides of an aquarium.
Chinese Algae Eaters are found naturally in lakes and rivers in Southeast Asia and southern China. They usually stay in more shallow areas where there is plenty of sun and rocks where biofilm grows. They were first described in 1883 by Tirant. In it’s native countries, these fish are actually part of people’s diets! In 1956 people started exporting these fish to Germany specifically for use in the aquarium trade. They are on the IUCN Red List with their state being marked as Least Concern. This is because the populations have diminished in some areas (especially Thailand), but they have not declined enough in general to warrant mass concern.
As I mentioned earlier, you won’t want to keep one of these algae eaters in anything less than a 30 gallon tank to begin with. Because they grow rather large, you will want to eventually provide them with at least a 55 gallon aquarium. In general, they are easy to care for. The main concerns are to keep their environments clean with well-oxygenated water. Plan on performing regular water changes once or twice a month which replace a quarter to half of the aquariums water. Another fact to keep in mind is that as Chinese Algae Eaters grow into adults, they often become territorial. To keep them from picking on other fish, try to make sure there are at least 5 tank-mates. These tank-mates should ideally be fast swimmers who can hold their own.
Feeding these fish while they are young is generally quite simple. They are herbivorous as youngsters and can thrive off of the plant growth around the tank. You should still provide them with supplemented flake food and algae wafers. As they grow older they become omnivorous and should be fed a variety of flake, frozen, and live foods. These can include blood worms and brine shrimp.
If you are having problems keeping your algae down, or if you just think this happens to be an interesting fish, you should have no problem finding one at a pet store or online. They are very popular and readily available. Read more about the Chinese Algae Eater on Animal-World; including more details on breeding them and common ailments!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.