Chinese Algae Eater : Care, Size, Lifespan, & Tank Mates

By Alberto Roy

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The Chinese Algae Eater is a native of Asia. It has a slim body and is golden-brown in color. Horizontally, a darker stripe is found. It can be either solid or broken up into spots. It is kept in aquariums to keep algae under control.

It is recommended to have a minimum of a 30 gallon aquarium with enough plants, rocks, driftwood, and hiding places. Although it can tolerate different water conditions, the water quality must be constant to avoid stress.

The Chinese Algae Eater can defend its territory in smaller community tanks. When fully grown, this species of algae eater may become more aggressive.

Introduction to Chinese Algae Eater

The Chinese Algae Eater freshwater fish has a mixed reputation. Aquarists believe they are aggressive, while others believe they eat only algae. Some even mistake them for other species.

We thought it was a good idea for this guide to clarify the confusion.

Introduction to Chinese Algae Eater

It will teach you everything you need about the Chinese Algae Eater. Here are some helpful tips for caring for the Chinese Algae Eater, including how to care for them, their average size, aggressive tendencies and what they eat.

In aquariums, breeding has never been attempted. We don’t know much about the sex of male and female.

Algae on plants, rocks and glass is the main source of food. If there isn’t enough algae, algae-based wafers should also be offered.

Chinese Algae Eater Care and Maintenance in Aquarium

The Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus Aymonieri) is a freshwater fish that helps its tank owner manage algae. This is what we know from theory.

But, in reality, things can be quite different. An adult species, after being a diligent tank cleaner in its youth can now enjoy live food and even nip its tank mates’ scales.

Habitat in nature

Two words are needed to describe the latin name of the Chinese algae eater: Greek Gyrinocheilus and gyrinos. Gyrinos is a Greek term meaning a tadpole>> + cheilos. This is due to its triangle-shaped mouth, which is similar to a tadpole’s.

Aymonieri: In memory of Etienne Francois Aymonier (1844-1929), a Franch linguist, researcher and author.

Chinese Algae Eater Care Guide & Species Profile

Chinese Algae Eater Care

In 1883, the first scientific description of the fish was published. It lives in mountain streams and lakes that run over large areas of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Kalimantan Peninsula.

It doesn’t live in China, despite its name (chinese suckers fish). Today, wild species are not allowed to be exported. All the fish you see for sale were raised in fish hatcheries.

The golden alga eater lives in rivers and streams with flowing waters. It has a rocky bottom of field stones, pebbles and gravel. These are often areas where there are flooded trees and their root systems.

The seasonal migration of this algae eater can see them in more muddy waters or even near the coast. It prefers to stay on flat surfaces, but it can also stick to stones with its inferior mouth when there is strong flow.

The fish is primarily used in South-East Asia, its country of origin, for trading purposes and not for decorative purposes. It can grow to 10-12 inches (25-30cm) in wild.


Natural coloring is quite variable. Wild species are pale clay-colored, with a reticulate pattern on the surface and a lateral dark stripe. The stripe can break and form a line of spots quite often.

However, it is more common to find golden-colored species in tanks. It is either a golden algae eater, or an albino algeater. This coloring is its only distinguishing feature.

The Chinese Algae Eater fish is large. It can grow to as much as 11 inches (28cm) in the wild. However, in a tank the fish is approximately 5 inches (13cm).

It is a long-bodied animal with a sucker mouth that sticks to stones and causes algae fouling. Gyrinocheilus aymonieri is unique in that it has two branchial openings through which water can get in and wash its gills.

This allows the fish mouth to be freed from the need to breathe. It is only used to remove algae from different surfaces. It has pronounced lips and acts as a sucker using rigid, coarse lamellas.

Chinese Algae Eater vs. Siamese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater vs Siamese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater can be confused with Siamese Algae Eater. These are two totally different types. The mouth of the latter is unusually shaped and has a black lateral stripe running along its entire body. They are food rivals, and the more timid and peaceful SAE is often subject to Chinese Algae Eater attacks.

Although the chinese suckers fish is great for both beginners and more experienced aquarists there are some unique features. Fish are usually bought to control algae in a tank. However, the fish grows quite large and can’t handle fishes that are similar in size and appearance.

It also likes clean water. Chinese Algae Eater can be kept with fish of the same genus as you, but it will not adapt to different tank water parameters.

Perfect cleaning of the tank glass and plants from algae fouling is a different story. It’s more likely that fish will clean the tank glasses if they have no food. But if it has something better, it will join all other tank dwellers to eat it. This is especially true of adult fish species, which can compete with other fishes for food and ignore algae.

Care and maintaining a tank

  • Scientific Name Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
  • Family Gyrinocheilidae
  • Common Names: Chinese Algae eater, golden algae eater and albino algae eater, chinese succker fish, caefish


Life expectancy 10 years or more.

  • Tank size 200 Liters (52 Gallons) or more
  • Temperament Aggressive
  • Large fishes in a tank type community
  • Diet Omnivorous
  • Temperature 75-80degF (24-27@C).
  • pH 5.8-8.0
  • Water hardness 3-12 degrees dGH
  • Size up to 11 inches (28cm)


Given its size, the Chinese Algae Eater has a lifespan of about 10 years. It can live longer than that, however, often.

Tank size

The Chinese Algae Eater fish is active and spends most of its time at the bottom. A tank of 26 US Gallons (100 Liters) is sufficient for fish juveniles. A tank of 52 US Gallons (200 Liters) is sufficient for adult fish species. The fish can jump easily from the tank so it must have a cover.

Water parameters

This fish is strong and durable, and can be adapted to many tank conditions. The fish can adapt to a wide range of water parameters. The recommended water temperature for fish is 75-80 degrees F (24-27@C), pH 5.8-8.0, and GH = 3.12. It prefers tank water with strong circulation and oxygen.

Tank set-up: Decorations and plants

If there are several shelters, the Chinese Algae Eater should feel comfortable in any tank. As decorations for tanks, you can use large stones, ceramic shelters and snags. If the fish lives with other species, they will look great. It will be easier to reduce fights and conflicts by having many shelters.

As a substrate, it is better to use large or medium-sized roundstones. It is easier to remove the algae. Bright lighting will encourage algae growth on decorations and plants, which will allow the fish to continue feeding. It will be more natural in such an environment and can be kept with other active and energetic fishes.

The fish should not be able to damage the tank if it isn’t thickly planted. You can choose from any type of plant. The fish won’t eat any tank plants if it has enough food. They should have as many plants as they can find, and they will use them as shelters.


The fish lives in mountain rivers and so it needs clean, oxygenated water. A tank will need a canister filter. A water flow is also a good idea. A tank should be emptied once a week and 30% of the water in it should be refilled.


The wild golden alga eater eats algae, fouling on plants and stones, as well as small maggots. You should keep your fish healthy by feeding it fresh or frozen food. High-quality dry flakes or pellets, as well as food such as brine shrimp, bloodworm, and daphnia will work.

Remember that fish can become starved if they are not hungry. After boiling water is poured on the fish, you can also feed them with lettuce, spinach, and cabbage leaves. Young algae are calm and can be kept in tanks for a long time. Adult species can be more aggressive and less hardworking than their younger counterparts.

Golden algae eaters prefer dry food that is in the form of pallets. They get to the bottom of the tank quickly and keep their shape for a while, so they can easily scrape softening food. It includes high-quality fish components such as mussels and spirulina.

They should be fed every day. However, if they don’t feel hungry after eating dry food they will be less inclined to eat green algae. If you notice a lot of poor plants in your tank, it is better to make them starve.

Tank mates

They can be kept both individually and together. The latter is only true for young species. Large species can become territorially dependent and cannot be supported by their tank dwellers or any of their relatives.

Is your chinese alga eater attacking other fishes? This happens all the time. Chinese Algae Eater is known to be aggressive towards other species and those with similar appearances, size, and lifestyles, such as SAE. A tank can only hold one fish, particularly a small one. Keeping more than one fish will result in the death of the weakest species.

This genus is not recommended for tank mates of large slow fishes such as angelfish, discus, goldfish, and Altum angelfish. Gyrinocheilus can damage the integument of their fish by sucking on it, scraping off slime and rubbing against the fish’s body. Gyrinocheilus can be found in community tanks with average-sized tank mates.

These include clown loach, tiger barb and clown loach.

Interspecific aggression can be reduced by keeping a group fishes. You should still keep at least three species or more, as they have hierarchic relationships. If there is a smaller group, fish might start to pinch weaker species.


Gyrinocheilus is a wild Gyrinocheilus that feeds on algae and dirt on rocks and plants as well as small maggots.

You should give your fish some frozen or live food every now and again to keep it healthy. High quality dry flakes or pellets will work as well as food such as brine shrimp, bloodworm, and daphnia.

Remember that the fish may not eat algae if it isn’t hungry or overfed. After boiling water is poured on the fish, you can also feed it with lettuce, spinach, and cucumber.

Young species are calm and can be kept in tanks for a long time. Adult species can be more aggressive and less hardworking than their younger counterparts.

Gender differences : male vs female

Although it is difficult to identify gender, adult females tend to be larger than males and appear more round. A male reproductive organ develops a “horn” for breeding.


It is difficult to breed Chinese Algae Eater in home aquariums. In large numbers, young fish species have been imported to Europe since 1955. This is proof that Gyrinocheilus can be a very infertile fish. It is now bred in hatcheries that use hormonal agents.

This makes it difficult to breed them at home. Hormonal injections are necessary. An aquarist must have the necessary knowledge and experience to manage this situation.

At 2 years of age, the Chinese Algae Eater begins to reproduce. You will need a separate tank with a capacity of 200 liters, strong water flow, and good filtering to breed them.

You can place a net on the bottom and some broad-leaved plants at its corners. The light should be dim. The following water parameters should be observed: T=24degC pH=6.0-8.8, and GH not exceeding 5. Daily tank water must be renewed at 10%

Two hormonal injections are given to the female with eggs. The first one is done before the eggs are spawned and the second is when the fish are put in the tank. Two males should be placed there.

A female fish can lay as many as 3000 eggs, which males fertilize. Once they have laid eggs, it is time to remove the breeders. You must give eggs constant care. This includes water renewals every day and the removal of dead eggs. To preserve more embryos, you can add antifungal agents to the water.

The incubation period lasts about one day. The juveniles are fast growing and show no signs of cannibalism toward their relatives.

Species Summary

The Chinese Algae Eater fish is unique and a favorite among aquarists. They are not very colorful and can be lonely creatures. Their penchant for eating algae makes them an excellent choice for anyone who wants to maintain a clean tank.

These fish can be found most often outside of China, despite their name. These fish are native to the Chao Phraya Basin and can be found in rivers throughout Laos and Vietnam.

These fish are scientifically known as Gyrinocheilus aymonieri. They are known by many other names within the aquarist community. These two are most well-known: the Honey Sucker and Sucking Loach.

These fish, no matter what their name is, can be difficult to care for. They require water that is clean and a variety of habits.


A typical Chinese Algae Eater’s lifespan is approximately 10 years. They are a good fish for aquarists who are willing to make a commitment. A species with a shorter life expectancy might be better for casual hobbyists.

Many factors can affect their lifespan, as they do every day. Water conditions and diet are two of the most important factors. It is also important to know the condition of the fish when they were purchased.


Chinese Algae Eaters, as we have mentioned, don’t have the bright colors of other fish. They are a muted color and have a very simple pattern. They can sometimes be mistaken for Siamese Algae Eater. But you can see the differences if you pay attention to the details.

The majority of specimens have a pale or golden body. The fish’s belly is usually lighter. A dark black stripe is added to the base color.

Gyrinocheilus Aymonieri resting upon the substrate

The stripe runs horizontally along the length of the fish. Some fish may break up the stripe into smaller dots. Black coloration can be found in nearly all specimens.

There are some color mutations that exist, but they’re rare.

The fish are very slim and have small fins. The dorsal fin is a unique feature. The dorsal fin is small and has several firm rays. This gives it a slightly spiky appearance.

The most striking physical characteristic of the Chinese Algae Eater’s Chinese Algae Eater may be their mouth. The mouth of these fish is large and has large lips. The mouth creates a vacuum to prevent smooth surfaces from being scratched. You can see the mouths of your fish moving when they are attached to the glass.

Chinese Algae Eater Size

When fully grown, the average Chinese Algae Eater can grow to around 10 or 11 inches. They can sometimes grow to be as small as 6 inches in captivity if they are kept in the recommended tank size.

Although some home aquarists are able to increase their fish’s size to this extent, it is not common. You should allow your Chinese Algae eaters plenty of space, regardless of whether you want them to grow larger.

Chinese Algae Eater Care

Anyone can take care of Chinese Algae Eater. This species doesn’t require a lot of experience. These fish can survive in any environment and are very resilient. You don’t have to worry about keeping them entertained if they eat algae constantly in your tank.

To prevent stress and disease, however, it is important to provide them with a good habitat and to maintain optimum water quality. These fish can be difficult for aquarists if they are not taken care of properly. These are some guidelines to be aware of.

Tank Size For Chinese Algae Eaters

How big should your tank be to house a Chinese Algae Eater. These fish require at least 30 gallons. This is assuming that you have only one Chinese Algae Eater.

Water Parameters

The biggest mistake new owners make in caring for Chinese Algae Eaters, is failing to maintain a clean water tank. These fish won’t stay healthy in a tank that is dirty, contrary to popular belief.

The goal is to have clean water with controlled algae, so that the fish can eat throughout the day.

To avoid any harmful changes in water parameters, they must be monitored and maintained. To ensure the following parameters are met, invest in testing equipment.

  • Water temperature: 74°F to 80°F
  • pH levels: 5.8 to 8.0 (6.5 to 7.5) is the sweet spot.
  • Water hardness: 8-10 KH

What to Include in Their Tank

As with all fish, mimicking their natural environment is key to providing them with a richer environment. Rivers are where you will find Chinese Algae Eaters. These rivers are warmer and offer plenty of hiding places for fish.

Chinese Algae Eaters spend the majority of their time bottom-feeding and looking for food in the lower parts of their habitat. This is why you need to pay special attention in this area of your tank.

A fine sand substrate can be used to cover the bottom. You can also use small gravel. Sharp gravel pieces can cause injury to fish while they swim. You can place large rocks in the sand. To give your fish hiding places, you can also use artificial caves.

We recommend that you choose a few flat, smooth rocks. These rocks can collect aquarium algae. The rocks will be cleaned by Chinese Algae Eaters who will latch onto their smooth surfaces.

Make sure you have a tight-fitting lid at the top of your tank. Chinese Algae Eaters, with their sucker mouths, are known escape artists. To prevent unwanted surprises, make sure the lid is securely closed.

These fish will tolerate standard lighting. They love lots of light. They spend a lot of time in the water column so you don’t have to provide them with powerful lighting. They can be provided with enough light by standard fixtures.

High-powered equipment is crucial for filtering. This fish is very sensitive to nitrates so the filter must be effective enough to maintain low levels. To avoid stress, it’s a good idea for your fish to have regular water changes.

Author Note: Many aquarists neglect water flow. These Chinese Algae eaters live in rivers that are very fast. These waters are very fast and the fish can stay still by latching onto smooth rocks.

With a good pump, you can create a strong water flow. To keep water flowing, direct the outlet towards the tank’s side.

Author Note: Although you can achieve success with a 30 gallon tank, we recommend a larger tank (ideally 50 gallons). These fish can grow to be quite large, so a bigger tank will allow them to reach their full potential and provide plenty of food.

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