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Chinese Algae Eaters - Proper care & Tank setup

Chinese algae eater, picture 1 Chinese algae eater, picture 2 Chinese algae eater, picture 3 Chinese algae eater, picture 4 Chinese algae eater, picture 5 Chinese algae eater, picture 6

Brief description

This page is a guide on raising Chinese algae eaters; Use a form at the bottom of this page to share your experiences or ask questions in case they aren't covered here yet. Also visit this page: Chinese algae eater - Gyrinocheilus aymonieri profile with forum which contains plenty of user contributions!

“Chinese Algae Eater” is the most common name for the Gyrinocheilus aymonieri which is also less commonly known as the “Indian Algae Eater” and the “sucking loach”. This fish is often mistaken for the Siamese algae eater which is a similar species yet quite different. Saying that G. aymonieri are Chinese is misleading because this fish does not come from China, in fact in comes from northern India and central Thailand. Additionally, this fish is not a loach so the name “sucking loach” is an inaccurate use of terms, although some of its characteristics are quite similar to that of a loach.

Regardless of where it comes from, this algae eater, in its youth is very useful in clearing aquarium surfaces of algae. It quickly inches its way along every surface all the while sucking the algae in its path. Once the task is done, the algae eater starts at the beginning to clean everything all over again. The job is never done for this diligent young worker.

As the algae eater matures he gets tired of working so hard. The sucker fish that used to be helpful and hardworking is now a pest, and quite a large one at that. This fish has the potential to grow up to 12 inches in length although captivity usually brings them up to only 6 inches. Mature algae eaters prefer meatier foods and they prey on the fish with broad, flat sides so that they can suction their mouths to it. They are quick enough to chaise down and suck slime coats off tankmates as they go by, stressing everyone else out and weakening their immune systems. Many fish die as a result of the algae eater’s behaviors and this gives them a bad reputation in the aquarium industry.

Aquarium set-up

Mature G. aymonieri are territorial fish and need plenty of space to defend. They require hiding places and a wide variety of sustenance. These fish will fend for themselves if adequate nourishment is not provided by their caretaker, which is why many aquarists find their aquatic community numbers diminishing. The Chinese algae eater will not hesitate to pick a fish from the crowd to suck on.

To keep G. aymonieri happy it should be kept in a minimum of 25 gallons. A larger tank is even better to maximize algae growth. An algae eater will dwell in any region of the aquarium that has a surface to cling to but it is unlikely to swim in open waters unless it is busy chasing a fellow tankmate. This fish is not very particular about water conditions although consistency is always the key. Keep your pH between 6.0-8.0 with soft to hard water and a temperature somewhere between 72-82ºF. These are wide ranges for water conditions which means this highly adaptable species would be capable of surviving in a wide variety of places.

In the wild, Chinese algae eaters are found in Northern India and Central Thailand. They inhabit rivers and streams in places where the current is quick moving. Algae eaters use their disk-shaped mouths to suction themselves to solid surfaces to keep from being swept up in those currents. Their mouths are located on the underside of their heads which is a highly prolific trait possessed by bottom feeders. Also useful is their flat bellies which allow them to rest comfortably on flat surfaces. There is a small spiracle on the head that allows water to pass into the mouth and over the gills yet still allows enough suction for the fish to hold on. The Chinese algae eater has a long, thin body of bronze coloration with hues of yellow and brown. There is a black stripe from nose to tail fin, sometimes with equally distanced spots breaking up the stripe. Sometimes there are black spots located on the caudal fin while the pectoral, anal, dorsal and pelvic fins are usually clear of any markings. This species is also represented in a golden strain which is a little more attractive than the common version. This gold algae eater has a bright yellow back and a silvery-white belly. There is no dark stripe running along the flanks of this variation of algae eater.


Sexing this species of fish is quite hard to do. Theories that males are slimmer than females have been discussed. Female fish in general tend to be plumper especially when getting ready to lay her eggs; however, I could find no evidence to back up this theory for this particular species.


Information about proper breeding conditions for this fish is elusive and hobbyists have documented only accidental spawning. Those that have noted these accidents have specified that they tried and failed to duplicate the process. Optimum water conditions and breeding preparation procedures have been speculated but never proven successful. For now Chinese algae eaters must be caught in the wild to maintain the aquatic industry supply.


Two pictures were provided by pitugo.

Chinese algae eater, picture 7 Chinese algae eater, picture 8 Chinese algae eater, picture 9 Chinese algae eater, picture 10


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