Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri): Ultimate Care Guide

When deciding on species for a tank, most people tend to lean towards vibrant, lively species. The types of fish that will immediately draw eyes and attention to your tank. Fish that will leave people in awe of their beauty and grace. But that’s not the only type of fish that you can have in your tank. There are options for fish that serve a more practical purpose: like eating algae. Algae can be a menace for some tanks, with aquarium owners scurrying to find anything to help rid them of the algae. Well, what if a fish could do that for you? What if there was a unique species of freshwater fish that devoted itself to being a phenomenal Algae eater? Would you be interested in a fish like that? Would you want a fish that helps clean your tank? If you’re in the market for such a fish, then you’re in luck. Say hello to the Chinese Algae Eater.

The Chinese Algae Eater is not endemic to just China despite its name. These useful fish can be found in several locations outside of China, such as Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. You might actually know the Chinese Algae Eater by one of its other names, such as Honey Suckers or Sucking Loaches. Unlike most other fish traditionally kept in tank settings, the Chinese Algae Eater does not have a vibrant or exciting body. The color of their body is usually pale gold or brown. The belly of the Chinese Algae Eater tends to be a lighter color than the rest of their body. A dark black stripe can also be found running along the length of the entire body of the fish. Speaking of their bodies, the body of the Chinese Algae Eater tends to be long and slender, with small fins. The most eye-catching physical characteristic of the Chinese Algae Eater is their large mouths. They use their large mouths to create suction against smooth objects in order to eat algae.

Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)
Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

Chinese Algae Eater Care

When adding pets to your home, you need to be sure that you have the ability to care for them. A lot of people don’t consider the care that fish require. They think you can just toss them into a tank and feed them flakes every day, but as most aquarists learn, that simply isn’t the case. However, caring for Chinese Algae Eaters isn’t too difficult at all. They are quite hardy, meaning you can place them in a wide variety of tank conditions, and they will thrive. One of the most important parts of caring for a Chinese Algae Eater is ensuring that your tank has algae; they do eat algae, after all. You should be sure to include plenty of flat rocks in your tank. Algae will grow on the rocks, becoming the perfect snack for your fish. If you do just a bit of research, you can create the ideal environment for the Chinese Algae Eater and give them the care they deserve.

Are Chinese Algae Eaters easy to care for?

The bottom-feeding Chinese Algae Eaters are easy to care for, likely due to their hardy nature. Since they are hardy, Chinese Algae Eaters are more resilient to infections and illnesses. However, that doesn’t mean you should neglect them. It is still imperative that you maintain a tank that features Chinese Algae Eaters. These unique fish still have temperature and pH requirements, and you need to be sure that your tank stays within those wide parameters. Able to survive in a wide variety of both temperatures and pH levels, the Chinese Algae Eater is a great choice for aquarists of all ages and skill levels. They don’t have any outlandish tank parameters and don’t require a pump or bubbler, just a heater to keep the tank in recommended parameters. Setting a tank for a Chinese Algae Eater is also extremely easy; all you have to do is emulate their native habitats. They’re used to fast-moving streams and rivers across Asia.


The rivers and such that the Chinese Algae Eater calls home in the wild are usually in tropical areas. Since they are endemic to tropical regions, that means that the Chinese Algae Eater prefers its tank to have slightly warm water. On average, the temperature of a Chinese Algae Eater’s tank should stay between 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. While the temperature requirements of the Chinese Algae Eater aren’t too high, you should still invest in a heater. A strong heater can help keep your tank within the required parameters. If your tank fluctuates temperature too vastly and frequently, it can stress out the species living in it. A stressed fish traditionally has a lower life span than those that are not stressed. Since Chinese Algae Eaters can survive in a wide temperature range, you can easily find tank mates that all fit within that range, making a Chinese Algae Eater a great option for community tanks.

Water pH level

Chinese Algae Eaters are known to be hardy, and because of this, they can sometimes be subject to neglect. Just because a fish is hardy doesn’t mean its needs should be overlooked. Despite being hardy, the Chinese Algae Eater can be susceptible to changes in water conditions. Changes in pH level can and will easily impact the lives of the fish in your tank. Fluctuations in the pH tend to lead to illness and infections in the fish in the tank. If you want to keep your Chinese Algae Eater healthy, you should be sure to keep the pH level between 6.8 to 7.4. Frequent water checks can ensure that you catch any slight changes in pH level before they become a much bigger and more devasting issue. Vigilance is important, and that is the case for every pet, especially fish. Most tank issues can easily be remedied as long as they are caught early.

Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)
Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

Chinese Algae Eater Size

Beginning Aquarists and those who don’t research tend to over some very important parameters when selecting fish for their tank. One of the most important parameters frequently overlooked is the fish’s size when fully grown. This can easily lead to a fish rapidly outgrowing its tank; when this happens, the only choice is to rehome the fish into a larger tank, which can sometimes be very costly. When found in the wild, a fully grown Chinese Algae Eater can reach upwards of 11 inches in length. However, that number tends to be much smaller when kept in captivity. A Chinese Algae Eater kept in a tank only reaches around 6 inches in length, approximately 50 percent smaller than those found in the wild! The slightly smaller size means that you can fit your Chinese Algae Eater in a smaller than you may expect.

Food and Diet

As their name implies, the Chinese Algae Eater tends to eat algae. However, that is not all they eat. Chinese Algae Eaters can be fed green vegetables or small insects. Your Chinese Algae Eater will likely get most of its nutrients from algae. This means that your Chinese Algae Eater shouldn’t require much food from you, as long as your tank produces algae. If your tank doesn’t grow enough algae for your Chinese Algae Eater, you can always feed it some algae wafers. A balanced diet is very important for your fish’s health, but you also need to be very wary of overfeeding. Overfeeding your fish is the cause of many potential illnesses. It is also worth mentioning that any uneaten food will decay in the water, which will lower the water’s quality. It is also crucial to add some protein into the diet of your Chinese Algae Eater. Some options for adding protein are Daphina, Bloodworms, and Brine Shrimp. You should feed them some protein around once a week. It is easy to get into a routine of feeding your fish, but be sure to set a reminder just in case.

Chinese Algae Eater Lifespan

The lifespan of any pet is based entirely on the care that you give them. If you neglect or mistreat your pet, its lifespan will likely plummet. That is very true of fish; an aquarium likely requires more care than some other pets do. On average, the Chinese Algae Eater can live for between 7 to 10 years when kept in captivity. You’ll probably have your Chinese Algae Eater for the majority of a decade, so be sure that you’re prepared to have them for that long. If you decide to add a Chinese Algae Eater to your tank, then you’ll have a great and useful member in your tank for years. Keep in that the average lifespan of a pet is just an estimate and not a guarantee. Any pet can, unfortunately, live for shorter than expected. But if you want the best chance at your fish having a long life, you must be sure that you give it the proper care it requires.

Chinese Algae Eater Tank Size

The size of your tank is very important. You need to find a size that can both accommodate the fish contained within as well as the space you have available. If the tank you choose is too small, then it will likely cause too much undue stress on the fish living in your tank. The smallest tank that you can have for a single Chinese Algae Eater is 30 gallons. While the Chinese Algae Eater can survive in a 30-gallon tank, you should aim for one slightly large. The minimum recommended tank size for the Chinese Algae Eater is 50 gallons. A 50-gallon tank is perfect because it will allow your Chinese Algae Eater plenty of room to grow, and there will also be plenty of room for algae to grow. If you plan to have more than one Chinese Algae Eater in your tank, you’ll need to have a larger tank.

Tank Setup

The importance of setting up your tank properly can not be overstated. If you want your fish to have the best chance at a healthy, happy, and long life, then you need to make sure to set up your tank properly. When setting up a tank for any species, you need to be sure that you emulate their native environment. The native habitat of the Chinese Algae Eater is vast, moving rivers and streams in Asia. Chinese Algae Eaters are bottom feeders meaning that you should pay attention to the part of the tank. Starting with the substrate, you select a soft, loose one. Most would recommend fine sand or small gravel substrate. Larger gravel isn’t recommended because it may scratch the underbelly and body of the Chinese Algae Eater. One of the most important features you must include in a Chinese Algae Eater tank is small, flat rocks. Small flat stones are necessary because algae grows on them. You want to avoid algae in most tanks, except for a Chinese Algae Eater. In a Chinese Algae Eater tank, you want to promote algae growth because that’s the main component of the diet of the Chinese Algae Eater. A good pump is also important because it will create water flow, similar to that of the natural environment of the Chinese Algae Eater. You should also use rocks or even PVC pipes to create caves and hiding spots. Another crucial feature that needs to be considered is lighting. A standard lighting setup should be enough to keep your fish happy. You should also invest in a powerful filter; this is because Chinese Algae Eaters are sometimes sensitive to nitrate levels. A strong filter will help the tank clean and free of any potential dangers. Add a heater to your tank; this will ensure that your tank can stay within the acceptable temperature range. With just a bit of research, you can set up the perfect tank environment for your Chinese Algae Eater.

Chinese Algae Eater Breeding

Breeding a fish is one of the easiest ways to add more fish to your tank. However, it can be notoriously difficult to breed some species of fish. Chinese Algae Eaters are one such species. They are notoriously hard to breed, and there are no established ways to breed them. Most successful attempts at reproducing Chinese Algae Eaters have been completely by accident. Chinese Algae Eaters can be prone to aggression which makes keeping two of them together in the same tank a bit difficult. Another issue is that male and female Chinese Algae Eaters are nearly identical, making them extremely difficult to sex. Most experts recommend raising the temperature in the tank in an effort to trigger the breeding process. Some experienced aquarists also recommend feeding your fish a nutrient-rich diet to help promote breeding. You should also make sure to keep the water in the best condition you can; good water conditions can help encourage breeding.

How do Chinese Algae Eaters Breed?

It is very difficult to breed Chinese Algae Eaters, and it is only recommended if you are extremely experienced. Your Chinese Algae Eaters need to be at least 3 years old before you attempt to start breeding them. Chinese Algae Eaters begin to reach sexual maturity at around 3 years. The first step in breeding Chinese Algae Eaters is to set up a breeding tank. The breeding tank should be at least 100 gallons in size. It should also be good water flow, with plenty of vegetation and filtration to keep the water clean. The next step may just be the hardest one. You need to identify a healthy male and female Chinese Algae Eater. This can be extremely difficult because there are virtually no differences between male and female Chinese Algae Eaters. The one difference you may notice is that female Chinese Algae Eaters are slightly plumper than their male counterparts. Once you’ve identified a healthy male and female, you need to place them in the breeding tank.

You need to slowly begin increasing the temperature in the tank until it reaches 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeding the fish a healthy, nutritious, and high-protein diet. You must also keep the water clean and the parameters perfect. Around this time, in a professional breeding setup, the female Chinese Algae Eaters would receive injections of hormones. However, you likely won’t have hormone injections to give your female Chinese Algae eater, so you’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if they’re interested in breeding. If the female is interested, she will begin to lay eggs in the tank, up to 3000. If she is not interested, remove her from the tank and try again with another female. If the female lays eggs in the tank, the male will begin fertilizing them. Once the eggs have been fertilized, remove both the male and the female from the tank. This will prevent them from attempting the fry. While waiting for the fry to hatch, you should continue to maintain the water conditions and perform daily water changes. After about three days, the fry will begin to hatch. Once the fry hatch, you need to feed them a diet of algae until they are old enough to be moved into their own tanks, which usually happens in about 3 months.

Chinese Algae Eater Male or Female

Some fish have very obvious differences in their genders. Unfortunately, Chinese Algae Eaters are not one of those species. Telling the difference between male and female Chinese Algae Eaters is very difficult and only serves to make the already tricky breeding process even more difficult. Female Chinese Algae Eaters tend to be slightly plumper than male Chinese Algae Eaters. Both male and female Chinese Algae Eaters have thorns around their mouth. However, the thorns around the mouth of the male Chinese Algae Eater are more pronounced during the breeding season. More experienced aquarists will likely have more luck in telling Chinese Algae Eaters. But, with enough research and study, anyone can get better at telling them apart. You might even be able to become an expert.

Chinese Algae Eater Disease

Chinese Algae Eaters are known to be quite hardy. But just because they are hardy doesn’t mean that they aren’t susceptible to disease. There are no specific diseases that Chinese Algae Eaters are more prone to. As with all freshwater fish, Chinese Algae Eaters are sensitive to Ich. Ich is easy to spot on afflicted fish by the appearance of white spots on the fish. Bloat can also affect Chinese Algae Eaters. Bloat is caused by overeating; it is easily avoidable by feeding them a well-balanced diet. If you notice any unhealthy or unwell fish in your tank, you should immediately move them to a quarantine tank.

Chinese Algae Eater Tank Mates

Chinese Algae Eaters can be aggressive, limiting the potential for tank mates. You need to avoid any similarly sized fish or any fish that also occupy the bottom of the tank. The best option for tank mates is smaller, quick fish that stay in the upper portions of the tank. Some great tank mate options are Mollies, Tiger Barbs, Cherry Barbs, Swordtails, Zebra Danios, Platies, and many others. Before adding any fish to your tank, be sure that you thoroughly research to ensure there are no issues. Keeping two Chinese Algae Eaters in the same tank isn’t recommended. But if you wish to keep two Chinese Algae Eaters in the same tank, ensure that you have at least 50 gallons per fish.

Where can Chinese Algae Eaters be found for sale?

Chinese Algae Eaters can be found for sale at many different online retailers. You can also likely find them in local fish or aquarium stores because they are popular because of their innate algae-eating abilities. If you plan on purchasing your Chinese Algae Eater online, make sure that you pick a reputable retailer that properly cares for their fish. On average, the Chinese Algae Eater can be found for around $5. Which makes them an affordable choice for any tank.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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