Chinese Algae Eater Care: Dos & Don’ts for a Healthy Fish

The Chinese algae eater is a freshwater fish that feeds on algae. These kinds of fish are popular because of their useful and entertaining algae-eating habits.

Chinese Algae Eater – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about the Chinese Algae Eater below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameGyrinocheilus aymonieri
Common NamesChinese algae eater, honey sucker, sucking loach
AppearanceThe Chinese Algae Eater is gold in color and has a long, slender body and small fins. Its most notable feature is a dark line along the length of its body. This line can be solid all the way along, or it can be broken into sections.
DifficultyCare for the Chinese algae eater is not difficult.
DistributionThe fish is predominantly found in other parts of Asia, including the Chao Phraya basin in Thailand and large rivers in Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
LifespanThe average lifespan of a Chinese algae eater is 2-5 years.
ShoalingNo, the Chinese algae eater is not a shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe temperament of the Chinese algae eater is semi-aggressive.
Keep in Groups of1 or more.
Tank MatesOther large fish that are not slow-moving. Once grown, the Chinese algae eater tends to eat other fish for their coating, so be careful which fish are in the same tank.
DietThe Chinese algae eater’s diet consists mainly of algae but also includes other plant matter and small animals.
Length11 inches
Sexual DimorphismMales will develop more tubercules on the mouth, while females will have a much thicker and rounder body.
Breeding DifficultyVery difficult as they are not known to breed in captivity.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for Chinese Algae Eater is around 24-26°C (75-79°F).
Water pHThe ideal pH for Chinese algae eaters is 6.5 to 7.5.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for Chinese algae eater is 5-19 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for a Chinese algae eater is 60 gallons, while the recommended tank size is 90 gallons.


The Chinese Algae Eater is a great fish to include in your freshwater aquarium. They’re easy to care for, peaceful, and fun to observe!

But because these fish are so popular (and rightfully so), it’s important that you know what you’re doing when it comes to ownership. Unfortunately, inexperienced aquarists sometimes get the wrong idea about this species, which leads to problems.

That’s why we put together this guide. We hope that when you read it, you will learn everything you need to know about Chinese Algae Eaters from their ideal habitat conditions all the way through breeding.

About Chinese Algae Eater

The Chinese Algae Eater is a fascinating fish that has its own unique personality. This species can be quite playful and loves to interact with humans (and other fish).

However, they do need an adequate tank size to truly thrive. These freshwater fish are well-known for their algae-eating abilities, making them the perfect addition to heavily populated tanks. As long as you have enough space and good conditions, this species will flourish!


The most defining feature of the Chinese Algae Eater is a solid dark line that runs along its body.

These fish have long slender bodies that are gold in color with small rounded fins.

Their Length

As we mentioned earlier, the average length of a Chinese Algae Eater is between 10 and 11 inches. This makes them one of the largest species in the aquarium trade!

As such, it’s important to provide these fish with plenty of room when setting up their habitat. If you don’t give them enough space, then they will be cramped and stressed.

This will lead to a host of health problems, and we don’t want that!


The typical lifespan of a Chinese Algae Eater is about 2-5 years.

The exact lifespan of a Chinese Algae Eater depends on several factors. The quality and size of their habitat, water conditions, diet, and general care all play a major role in their overall health.

That’s why it’s important for you to pay close attention when setting up their home. These fish are very sensitive, and even minor changes could shorten the lifespan of your fish significantly.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are a few distinctions between male and female Chinese Algae Eaters. However, the most notable difference is the size of females. Females tend to be noticeably larger than males, especially when it comes to their belly region.

Males also have tubercules around their mouths, whereas females don’t.

It’s also worth noting that males tend to be more aggressive around other fish. They are often seen attacking and eating other fish species, while females typically mind their own business.


The Chinese Algae Eaters prefer warm, shallow waters that are rich in vegetation. These fish are mostly found at the bottom of rivers and lakes, feeding on algae. However, they will also swim up to the surface from time to time.

When kept as pets, this species prefers a tank with similar characteristics and conditions found in its natural habitat. A good environment for these fish is one with plenty of plants and driftwood.

Caring for Chinese Algae Eater

When they are first brought home, Chinese Algae Eaters require a slightly different tank setup than when they mature. They need more hiding places and live plants. The inclusion of plants is essential as it helps to keep their water quality high and gives them somewhere to hide from light if needed.

As they grow older they also grow much larger, and so they will require a much larger tank.


The Chinese Algae Eater is an opportunistic eater. They will eat whatever they can get their mouths on, which makes them very easy to feed.

These fish primarily eat algae (hence the name) and are often sold as ‘aquarium cleaning’ fish for that reason. However, these fish will not truly flourish unless they are fed a more varied diet in addition to this.

It’s important that you don’t make assumptions when feeding these fish. Offer some additional nutrients by adding commercial pellets or flakes. These fish love live foods such as blood worms and brine shrimp too!

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

One of the biggest concerns new owners have with Chinese Algae Eaters is overfeeding. This species is very easy to feed and will happily gobble up any food that you give it!

The best thing to do when feeding your Chinese Algae Eater is to provide them with small meals throughout the day. Also, you should keep an eye on how much they are eating compared to what they are leaving behind (this means adjusting their meal size).

Possible Diseases

There are not any species-specific diseases that affect the Chinese Algae Eater. However, they can contract common freshwater fish ailments like Ich and fin rot, just like other species.

Ich is a condition caused by parasitic organisms called ichthyophthirius multifilis. The disease causes white spots to form all over your fish’s body (usually on the fins). If left untreated, it could kill your fish in as little as two weeks!

Luckily, there are various treatments you can use at home to clear up this issue before it has a chance to develop into something more serious.

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for Chinese Algae Eater fish, it’s important to use the right kind of equipment. These fish are used to living in flowing water filled with rocky substrate.

To keep your fish healthy and happy, choose an aquarium that has plenty of room for swimming space as well as several places for algae to grow. Keep in mind how much vegetation you want to include (more on that below).

Also, make sure that there is no chance of the habitat getting too warm or cold. You don’t want any temperature fluctuations due to faulty heaters!

Aquarium Size

As we mentioned earlier, the ideal tank size for Chinese Algae Eater is around 60 gallons. However, if you want to keep a larger group of fish together, then a 90-gallon aquarium would be better.

Note: It’s not just about providing enough room for these fish to swim and hide. They are also used to living in large bodies of water in their natural habitat. So keeping them confined to smaller tanks could cause stress and disease.

Water Conditions

The best water conditions for Chinese Algae Eaters include a pH balance of 6.5 to 7.5 and temperatures between 75°F and 79°F (this is like their natural habitat).

In the wild, these fish live in flowing rivers. For your Chinese Algae Eaters to live their most happy lives, it’s best if you try to replicate this in your aquarium.


The ideal pH for Chinese algae eaters is 6.5 to 7.5. The good thing about the Chinese Algae Eater is that they’re not overly sensitive to water conditions and can do well in a range of levels, unlike some other species, which have specific needs you need to meet in order for them to thrive .


The ideal water temperature for Chinese Algae Eater is around 24-26°C (75-79°F).

Keep an eye on the tank thermometer to ensure that this range is maintained. Anything outside of this window could result in serious health complications.

Note: We recommend getting a heater to give you the most control over your water temperature. This will avoid any accidents and keep your tank consistent.


The recommended water hardness for Chinese Algae Eaters should be between 5-19 dH.


The most important part of Chinese Algae Eater care is the quality of water. Without a high-quality filtration system, you’ll constantly be dealing with too much organic waste and other problems caused by poor water quality.

Your tank should have an internal filter that can cycle between 10 and 20 gallons per hour. You might need something stronger if you want to house more fish in your aquarium.

Note: Make sure that the filter has enough surface area for biological nitrification to take place effectively. That means don’t get one of those tiny filters intended for nano tanks!

Aquarium Plants

Some species of fish are naturally found living in rivers and streams with very little vegetation. In those cases, you can skip adding any aquarium plants for them entirely (though we always recommend it as a safety measure).

However, you might want to go the extra mile when caring for Chinese Algae Eaters. These freshwater fish thrive around plants! Not only do they enjoy eating algae off plants, but they also use them as places to hide.

For the best results, pick up some hardy plant types that can withstand a bit of nibbling here and there. Common favorites among aquarists include Java Ferns or Amazon Swords. You could also try floating varieties like water wisteria.

Behavior and Compatibility

Chinese Algae Eaters are not much of a schooling fish. They prefer to be alone or in groups of 6 or more.

However, they should always have other large peaceful fish that can’t be swallowed by the Chinese Algae Eater. This is because these fish do grow up and become aggressive with smaller creatures!

How Many to Keep Together

Due to the size of the Chinese Algae Eater, we recommend keeping only 1.

If you want to keep more, keep in mind that these fish naturally form a hierarchy, and when kept in low numbers they can tend to bully the weaker ones quite heavily. We recommend keeping 6 or more to counteract this, although you will need a very large tank to accommodate.


The Chinese Algae Eater is a fairly territorial fish that can act aggressive towards other fish that it feels is trespassing on their territory.

Tank Mates

When picking tank mates, it’s important to look for hardy fish that won’t be a target of the Chinese Algae Eater. Avoid any aggressive species or slow-moving bottom feeders.

You can find many compatible tank mate options if you stick with other algae eaters and non-territorial species. Here are some good matchups:

Cherry Barb (our favorite)

Rummy Nose Tetra

Celestial Pearl Danio


Breeding Chinese Algae Eaters is very difficult in a home aquarium and is generally not attempted. Most of the breeding of these fish occurs in fish farms with the use of hormones.

Are Chinese Algae Eater Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

As you can see, Chinese Algae Eater fish is a fantastic choice if you want to help keep your aquarium clean.

Not only do they eat algae, but they’ll also snack on any plant matter that starts to grow in your tank. This means you don’t have to worry about the usual issues with overgrown aquariums!

There are a couple of things you should consider before deciding if this is the right species for you:

These fish tend to be aggressive when it comes to their territory and food. While no one fight will cause serious injuries or even death, constant aggression can wear down other creatures living in the same habitat. If done long enough, Chinese Algae Eaters could even kill other fish by eating them! Therefore, you should always make sure that these are peaceful community fish before adding them into another tank (more on this below).

Also, these aren’t really good beginner fish due to their size and feeding habits. This might not seem like an issue at first glance since owners of large tanks usually have some experience with owning fish beforehand anyway. However, beginners often start off with small freshwater tanks where keeping aggressive and active species just isn’t feasible.


Chinese Algae Eaters are a great choice for any tank that needs some help keeping things clean. These fish will consume algae in wild environments and even appreciate it when you grow plants in their aquariums!

You’ll also be helping keep your water cleaner by having this species around. When kept in large groups, these fish can significantly reduce the amount of waste and debris floating throughout your tank. You might not see them doing it, but rest assured they are!

Another perk is the low-maintenance level of care required to keep Chinese Algae Eaters happy and healthy. Though we recommend sticking within the recommended ranges.


While Chinese Algae Eater fish can be a godsend for cleaning up algae in your tank, they do have some downsides that you should be aware of.

The main downside is their aggression towards other fish. If given enough space, though, they tend to live peacefully (but semi-aggressively).

Another downside is their large size, which requires a larger tank and more consideration with regards to tank mates.


As you can see, Chinese Algae Eater care is a very manageable task that shouldn’t scare away the more experienced aquarists.

These fish are not only fun to own but extremely useful as well. We don’t know of any other species that keep algae levels down so effectively!

If you have questions or suggestions on how we could improve this guide, leave a comment. We love to hear from our readers and we’re always looking for ways to improve our guides!

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