Chinese Algae Eater: Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) is a popular freshwater fish that originates from Southeast Asia. These fish are often kept as cleaning crew in aquariums which is why they are called algae eaters.

Chinese Algae Eaters have an active temperament, which makes them fun to watch in the aquarium. They also help keep your tank clean by eating algae off of rocks and plants. 

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about these fish spread online. These fish are often confused with Siamese algae-eater (Crossocheilus oblongus). Both of these fish look very similar but the Chinese Algae Eater is less colorful and has a slightly different appetite.

In this guide, you will be provided with the right information about Chinese Algae Eaters and the right way to care for these species. 

Species Profile & Overview

The Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) is a freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. Despite their name, these fish are native to the Chao Phraya basin in Thailand as well as surrounding countries like Laos and Vietnam.

They are often found in slow-moving rivers, and bodies of water that have plenty of vegetation. Due to this, they have developed an appetite for algae and plant matter. 

In some places, Chinese Algae Eater is known by other names including Honey Sucker fish or Sucking Loach.

Regardless of what you call them, these fish are very active and often seen swimming around looking for food or chasing after other fish in the tank. They can be semi-aggressive but they will usually not attack other fish unless provoked first. 

These fish have become famous among aquarium hobbyists due to their ability to consume large amounts of algae without damaging live plants. This makes them an ideal choice for those who have algae problems in their tank.

Additionally, these fish are relatively hardy and easy to care for compared to many other species of tropical fish. Which makes them popular among beginner aquarists. 


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

The Chinese Algae Eater is not the most beautiful fish you can own. They are neither the most beautiful algae eater species you own. However, they are amazing algae eaters that make them an in-demand fish. 

They have an elongated cylinder body shape with large eyes and proportionally sized fins in comparison to their body size. They are covered in spots and patches of dull green that don’t have much contrast with their yellowish body color. 

The fins also lack colors and are mostly translucent with no colors. However, some specimens can have a hue of yellow on their fins. 

The patterns of these fish vary depending on age, gender, and the environment they live in. But all feature some combination of bright shades of yellow and green. 

Their mouth is the most unique physical feature they have. Same as South American plecos, the Chinese algae eater has a rubbery downturned mouth that helps it stay attached to objects. 

Overall Chinese Algae Eater makes a stunning addition to any tank with an algae problem. These fish have the potential to grow large so it’s best to keep them in a large tank.

Adult Size

In the wild, Chinese Algae Eater typically grows to be around 11 inches in length. Both genders stay about the same size but females can look more pumped during the breeding season. 

However, in an aquarium, most Chinese algae eaters will stay around 6 inches in length. This is due to the lack of proper diet and the smaller space they live in. 


The Chinese Algae Eater has a lifespan of 5 – 7 years in captivity, although some individuals may live up to 10 years or more with proper care. 

The main factors that can affect the lifespan of Chinese Algae Eater are water quality, diet, and tank size. Poor water quality can lead to stress and illness which can shorten the life expectancy of these fish. Diet is also important for their health; they should be fed a variety of foods to be able to live a healthy life. 

Finally, tank size plays an important role in their longevity as well. Smaller tanks will not provide enough space for them to swim around freely. This may cause undue stress on the fish leading to shorter lifespans. 

Behavior & Temperament

Chinese Algae Eaters are very active and energetic fish that love to swim around the tank. They will usually spend most of their time grazing on algae, but they can also show aggression toward other fish in the tank. 

They may nip at fins or chase other fish away from food sources, so it is important to provide plenty of hiding places for any smaller or more timid species. 

Chinese Algae Eaters should not be kept with slow-moving bottom dwellers such as Corydoras catfish as they may become overly aggressive towards them.

Chinese Algae Eater is a schooling species that prefer to live in groups of six or more. But due to their large size, it’s often very hard to keep them in a group. At the same time when keeping multiple bottom-dwellers, they can pick fights over territory with each other.

These species are interesting and entertaining fish that can provide hours of entertainment for their owners. Watching them clean the glass and plants is something appreciated and fun to watch. 

Chinese Algae Eater Care

Chinese Algae Eater are very easy to care for and will not demand a lot of attention from their owners. This makes them a great addition to any home aquarium, as they can help keep the tank clean and free of algae. 

They are also very hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. However, it is important to provide them with plenty of hiding places and decorations. Which we will discuss later in this guide.  

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a Chinese Algae Eater is 50 gallons. It’s best to keep only one of these fish in that size of the tank, as they can become territorial and aggressive towards other fish. 

However, these fish prefer to live in groups, so it would be ideal to add more of them if you have a larger aquarium. Generally, you can add one more Chinese algae eater per 15 – 20 gallons of water your tank can hold. 

This is because these fish are quite active and need plenty of space to swim around in order to stay healthy. A large aquarium allows them to swim and explore more areas, which can reduce stress levels and territorial behaviors. 

What To Put In A Chinese Algae Eater Tank

Aquascaping for Chinese Algae Eater fish should be done with a focus on creating an environment that mimics their natural habitat. This means using rocks, driftwood, and plants to create hiding places and provide shelter from predators. 

The aquarium should also have plenty of open swimming space so the fish can move around freely. The best aquascape for Chinese Algae Eater is one that features a lot of plants along with other natural decorations. 

Plants serve many purposes in a fish tank, including beautification, oxygenation, and temperature regulation. Adding some colorful gravel or sand to your aquascape will help finish off the design while also making cleanup quicker and easier.

Try to keep things as natural as possible, as that will help you to make your aquarium look more naturalistic and beautiful. Water quality and stability can also be improved by using natural decorations.

Buce Plants, Anubias, Java Fern, and Vallisneria are just a few examples of live plants that get along well with Chinese Algae Eater. Make sure the tank has enough light for the plants and that they are regularly fertilized so that they can thrive.

Some live plants that are compatible with Chinese Algae Eater include Buce Plants, Anubias, Java Fern, and Vallisneria. To keep these plants thriving in the tank, you should make sure to provide them with adequate lighting and fertilize them regularly. 

Be sure to prune any dead leaves or stems as needed to prevent algae growth. Even though these fish eat the algae it’s better to feed them fish food than to have an algae problem. In fact, an algae problem might be the main reason you are reading this guide. 

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

Light Requirements

These fish live in heavily planted areas where the light hits the plants first creating shades for these fish. So similarly in an aquarium, you can only use a strong light if you have enough live plants. 

High-quality lights are beneficial for plants because they provide the necessary energy for photosynthesis and growth. The intensity and spectrum of light can also help bring out the colors of Chinese Algae Eater, making them more vibrant and beautiful.

Depending on the type of light, it can cause the fish to appear brighter or duller than their natural coloration. For example, blue lights tend to make them look darker while yellow lights will bring out more vibrant colors.

When buying an aquarium light, it is important to choose one that is specifically designed for planted aquariums. This type of lighting should provide enough intensity to grow plants and maybe algae for the fish to eat. 

Water Conditions & Parameters

Chinese Algae Eaters are very adaptable and hardy species. They can survive in a wide range of water parameters, but it is important to match the tank’s water parameters to their natural habitat as closely as possible. 

This will ensure that they have the best chance of thriving in your aquarium environment. Doing so will also help them avoid stress and potential health issues caused by an unsuitable environment.

They also need plenty of oxygen in the water for optimal health, so make sure your aquarium is well-aerated. Matching the aquarium water to the waters in their natural habitat is important, but more importantly, you should focus on keeping parameters consistent in the tank. 

Considering these points, here are the ideal range of parameters for Chinese Algae Eater:

  • Temperature: 74 – 80 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH: 5.8 – 8.0
  • TDS: 50 – 200 PPM

Changing the water weekly is essential for keeping the tank healthy and safe for its inhabitants. The amount of water you should change depends on the size and stocking of your tank, but a good rule of thumb is to replace about 10 – 25% each week. 

Filtration System

Chinese Algae Eaters need a strong filtration system to keep their tank clean and free of debris. A good filter will help remove any uneaten food, waste, and other organic matter from the water. 

This helps maintain healthy water conditions for the fish by keeping nitrate levels low and oxygen levels high. It also prevents ammonia buildup which can be toxic to the fish. 

When picking a filter for an aquarium it is important to consider its flow rate, media type, and maintenance requirements. 

The flow rate should match the size of your tank so that all areas are properly filtered; too much or too little flow can cause dead spots in your tank where beneficial bacteria cannot thrive.

Media types vary depending on what you want to achieve with your filtration; some filters contain activated carbon which removes odors while others have biological media such as ceramic rings or sponges that provide surface area for beneficial bacteria colonies to grow on. 

Finally, make sure you choose a filter that requires minimal maintenance as this will ensure it remains effective over time without having to constantly replace parts or perform frequent cleaning cycles. 

Considering all these, we recommend having a canister filter for your Chinese algae eaters. These filters are easy to use and provide a great level of filtration. They are great at breaking down toxins like ammonia and keeping the tank clean. 

Common Diseases and Prevention

Chinese Algae Eaters are highly susceptible to aquarium diseases, such as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ich), which is a protozoan parasite that can cause white spots on the body of the fish.

Other common diseases include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasitic infestations. These diseases can be caused by poor water quality or stress from overcrowding in the tank.

These diseases may cause loss of appetite, lethargy, labored breathing, skin lesions, discoloration, fin rot, or tail rot due to secondary bacterial infection and even death if left untreated for too long. 

Poor water is one of the main reasons these fish get sick. High levels of ammonia and other pollutants can lead to internal and external diseases. So to prevent diseases in an aquarium, it is important to maintain good water quality.

Quarantining new arrivals before introducing them into your main tank is also another way to prevent the disease from spreading in your tank. New fish that are kept in poor conditions during transport and in pet stores can come with diseases. 

Diet and Feeding Requirements

The Chinese Algae Eaters are omnivore species. At younger ages, they tend to lean towards algae and other plant matter. But as they grow they will start to develop an appetite for high-protein foods. 

In the wild, they feed on algae, small crustaceans, and insect larvae. They find their food by scavenging through the substrate of the water body in which they live or by grazing on plants and other surfaces for algae.

In captivity, they should be fed a varied diet of high-quality flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms, and live or frozen brine shrimp. Feeding them once daily is recommended as they can stop eating algae if you give them more food. 

Dry foods are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals; but they can’t provide all the important micronutrients. So a mix of different foods can make a stable and nutritious diet for them. 

Breeding Chinese Algae Eater

Breeding Chinese Algae eaters can be a challenging task that only expert breeders should attempt. These fish grow large and need to be in groups to breed. This makes their breeding a challenge.

They will also need specific water conditions and simulations to trigger their breeding behaviors. Recreating the natural events that happen in the wild is not easy to replicate in captivity. 

This is why not many breeders attempt to breed these fish. At the same time, these fish are not that much in demand and they are not pricey fish to encourage breeders to breed them. This means not many breeders have attempted to breed them and thus not much information is available on the specific details of breeding these fish.

Tank Mates

Chinese Algae eaters are generally peaceful towards other tank mates. But they can become aggressive if kept in a small tank. These fish are bottom-dwellers and need adequate bottom space to live stress-free. If you have other bottom-dwellers like plecos or corydoras, you might see some aggression. 

That being said, when given larger tanks, Chinese Algae Eaters will usually leave other bottom-dwellers alone and focus on eating algae instead. They tend to be more active and less aggressive in larger tanks as well since there is plenty of space for them to move around without feeling threatened by other fish.

It is best to house Chinese Algae Eater with peaceful fish that swim in the water column. Ideally, you want these tankmates to be fast swimmers too. This will ensure no fish harm each other in the tank. 

Considering these, here are our top picks of tank mates for Chinese Algae Eater:

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


Chinese Algae Eater is a unique and interesting addition to any aquarium. They can keep your tank clean by eating algae, which can be beneficial for other fish in the tank. However, they can also become aggressive towards other species if not kept in an appropriate size tank with plenty of hiding places. With proper care and maintenance, Chinese Algae Eater can make a great addition to any home aquarium!

Gyrinocheilus aymonieri Chinese algae-eater
Electrophoretic and Karyological Characters of the Gyrinocheilid Fish, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Gyrinocheilus aymonieri