How To Keep Chinese Algae Eaters (Gyrinocheilus Aymonieri): Full Care Guide

If your aquarium is prone to algae, then you should consider adding a Chinese algae eater to your tank. 

These freshwater fish have developed a controversial status among aquarists, as they are known to be violent and territorial.

How To Keep Chinese Algae Eaters (Gyrinocheilus Aymonieri): Full Care Guide

However, the species is often confused with others, which is why we have decided to create this guide to teach you more about Chinese algae eaters and their habits. 

In the article below, we have compiled some interesting information about the species and how to care for them, as well as some fascinating facts about their size, tendencies, food, and tank mates. 

What Are Chinese Algae Eaters?

When it comes to beautiful fish, Chinese algae eaters do not rank at the top of many lists, as the species is not particularly colorful and is known for its solitary nature.

However, the species is also known for its ability to eat algae, which has made it a popular choice for those with dirty aquariums. 

While their name associates the species with a single country, Chinese algae eaters are most commonly found outside of China, as the species is native to the Chao Phraya basin.

This means that the species can be found in rivers and lakes across Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Otherwise known as Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, this species also has other names among the aquarist community, with honey sucker and sucking loach being the most common.

Despite this, Chinese algae eaters can be difficult to look after, as they require specific water conditions that could change with age. 

How Long Do Chinese Algae Eaters Live?

In most cases, Chinese algae eaters can live around 10 years. Because of this, the species is only suitable for experienced aquarists who are dedicated to the maintenance of their tanks.

If you consider yourself a casual owner, then you should consider purchasing another species with a shorter lifespan. 

Of course, there are various factors that could benefit or impact the fish’s lifespan, such as water conditions and diet. The overall state of the fish can also vary depending on the seller and their previous conditions. 

What Do Chinese Algae Eaters Look Like?

As we mentioned before, Chinese algae eaters are not known for their vibrant appearance, as the species is rather dull in both color and pattern.

Because of this, the fish is often mistaken for its Siamese counterpart, which features a similar look. However, both species also differ in various ways. 

In most cases, Chinese algae eaters will boast a pale brown body with a black stripe, with the fish’s stomach being lighter in color. The stripe will run the entire length of the fish’s body, although smaller dots can also accompany it.

Despite this, black marks remain a common feature in most specimens. 

When it comes to shape, Chinese algae eaters can be identified by their slender bodies and small limbs. In fact, the species is notable for the presence of several dorsal fins, which give the fish a distinctive and sharp appearance. 

However, the most notable feature of the species is its sizable mouth, which also comes complete with round lips.

The mouth is used by the fish as a vacuum, which allows it to latch onto flat surfaces and consume bacteria. If the fish latches itself to the side of your tank, you should be able to watch them eat. 

What Size Are Chinese Algae Eaters?

What Size Are Chinese Algae Eaters?

When it comes to size, most specimens are able to grow to around 10-11 inches, although this measurement can change depending on the fish and its environment.

For example, most captive specimens are able to reach 6-inches in length, which means they are suitable for minimum-sized tanks. 

In certain cases, some home aquarists have been able to breed Chinese algae eaters that surpass this size, although these instances are considered rare.

However, this does not mean that the process is impossible. If you want to increase the size of your fish, you will need to give them enough room to grow. 

Care Guide

Chinese algae eaters are easy fish to look after, as you don’t need prior experience to keep the species alive. In fact, these fish are known for their robust nature, which means they are able to thrive in various conditions.

The species also consumes algae and does not need to be constantly entertained. 

However, this does not mean that the species can thrive in any habitat, as you will need to remain mindful of the water quality to reduce the chances of stress and disease.

There are also other elements that could endanger the fish’s life, which we have outlined in the care guide below. 

Tank Size

When it comes to keeping Chinese algae eaters, you will need to purchase an aquarium that can hold 30 gallons of water, as this should be enough to hold a single specimen.

However, we do recommend choosing a larger tank to ensure the fish’s growth and potential. In most cases, a 50 gallon aquarium should be enough to produce a decent amount of algae and increase the fish’s size. 

Water Parameters

A common misconception is that Chinese algae eaters can thrive in contaminated water, which is not true.

Because of this, many aquarists will often overlook the water conditions in their aquariums, which can stress out the fish and make them more susceptible to fatal diseases and infections. 

When it comes to Chinese algae eaters, it is important that you keep the tank clean, with a small amount of controlled algae as the fish’s main food source.

Because of this, water conditions will need to be maintained and monitored constantly to ensure that the fish’s environment is not contaminated.

For the best results, we recommend purchasing special tools to test the water. You can also analyze the water quality using the parameters below: 

  • Temperature: 74F – 80F
  • PH Levels: 5.8 – 8.0 (6.5 – 7.5 is the best place to land)
  • Hardness: 8 – 10 KH

Tank Accessories

When it comes to keeping fish, you will need to create an aquarium that mirrors their natural environment and the same can be said for Chinese algae eaters.

As we mentioned before, these fish are native to Southeast Asia, which means they will need warm water conditions and tons of places where they can hide. 

Chinese algae eaters are often classed as bottom-feeders, as the species will spend most of its time searching for food on the river floor. Because of this, you will need to make sure that the bottom of your aquarium is suitable for the feeder’s needs. 

This can be accomplished through the use of soft substrates such as fine sand, which should produce a comfortable bed for the fish to feed. However, you can also use small gravel, although the sharp pieces could harm the fish as they swim.

Chinese algae eaters will also need hiding places and artificial caves, which can be constructed using large rocks and driftwood. 

For the best results, we recommend using flat rocks with smooth surfaces, as these can be used to collect algae and provide a decent food source for the fish.

Once the rocks have congealed, your Chinese algae eater can use their mouth to latch onto the surface and consume the unwanted bacteria. 

Beyond this, you should also invest in an aquarium with a lockable lid, as Chinese algae eaters have been known to escape their tanks. 

When it comes to light, Chinese algae eaters thrive in well-lit environments, which means standard bulbs should be enough.

It is important to remember that Chinese algae eaters will spend their days at the bottom of their tanks, which means they don’t need vast amounts of light to remain content. 

Despite their robust nature, Chinese algae eaters can be sensitive to the nitrates in the water, which means they will need a high-powered filtration system to remain content in their new environment.

It is also important to perform constant maintenance and water changes to reduce stress and disease. 

Chinese algae eaters are native to rivers with powerful currents, which means they will need the same conditions in their tanks. Because of this, you will need to purchase an aquarium pump to stimulate decent water flow. 


Fortunately, there are no diseases specific to Chinese algae eaters, which means you don’t have to be concerned about their health. However, this does not mean that the species is immune to various aquatic diseases. 

For example, Chinese algae eaters can experience numerous diseases associated with freshwater species, with the most common being ich.

This condition is caused by the stress related to poor water conditions, which can make the fish more susceptible to fatal diseases and infections. 

It is also important to remember that Chinese algae eaters are prone to a condition called bloat, which is a cosmetic problem that comes from overfeeding.

If your fish develops this condition, you will need to contact a veterinarian, otherwise, the condition could worsen and lead to future problems. 


Chinese algae eaters are notable for their diet, which can change as the species matures. In most cases, adolescent specimens will be able to survive on a diet of algae and other natural debris.

However, this penchant will begin to wain once the species matures, which means you will need to find other sources of food that contain the same nutrients that the fish needs. 

For example, mature Chinese algae eaters will often need more protein in their diet, which can take the form of bloodworms, brine shrimp, and insect larvae.

However, you can also reintroduce the species to algae with the help of wafers, which are full of nutrients and can be added to the aquarium. 

However, it is important to remember that every fish is different, which means you will need to be mindful of your fish’s diet to determine any changes in their appetite. If these changes arise, you will need to find other sources of food. 



Despite being known for their violent tendencies, Chinese algae eaters are actually a cool and solitary species, as they spend their days searching for food at the bottom of their tanks.

Because of this, the species is not very active and will prefer to hide in small spaces than interact with other fish. 

However, this does not mean that the species is peaceful, as Chinese algae eaters have been known to attack other fish of similar build and color.

For this reason, you will need to be careful when choosing potential tank mates. It is also important to note that Chinese algae eaters should never be housed with other members of their species. 

You will also need to be careful when keeping different species, as Chinese algae eaters have been known to latch themselves onto larger fish with gentle natures.

While this won’t harm the fish, it can be a nuisance and lead to other problems. Common victims of these attacks include angelfish and platies. 

Tank Mates

When choosing a tank mate for your Chinese algae eater, you will need to proceed with caution, as certain species could provoke the fish and incite attacks. You will also need to provide enough space for the fish to remain at a safe distance. 

Here are some tank mates that are suitable for Chinese algae eaters: 

  • Molly fish 
  • Emperor tetra 
  • Tiger barbs
  • Dwarf gourami 

Some aquarists believe it is possible to house the species with other algae-eaters such as shrimp. However, we would not recommend this, as Chinese algae eaters can be violent and territorial. 


If you are interested in breeding Chinese algae eaters, then you could be at a disadvantage, as there are no concrete breeding methods for this species. In fact, most breeders have only accomplished this goal by accident. 

This is because Chinese algae eaters are naturally violent and will attack other members of their species no matter their gender.

Beyond this, the species is universal in its appearance, which means there are no physical differences between males and females. For this reason, breeding the species is both hard and pointless. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know all about Chinese algae eaters, you will need to decide if they are the best match for your aquarium. 

While the species is able to reduce the amount of algae in your tank, it is also known for its violent nature, which means it comes with limited tank mates and is unsuitable for potential breeders.

Despite this, the species still remains a firm favorite with aquarists and can benefit even the dirtiest of aquariums.

Bethany Young

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