Chinese Algae-Eater is a sucker

16 Jan

Could also be called The Chinese Scale-Sucking Fish

I bought my very first Chinese Algae-Eater a few months ago. I had moved a bunch of fish into a 30 gallon tank, all of them from Southeast Asia. It’s not really a biotope aquarium but it was just fun and convenient for me to split up my fish populations in this manner. My 55 is all South American , the 30 is all Asian.

Anyway, I wanted an algae-eater of some kind, from Asia, and I saw a Golden Chinese Algae -Eater on sale for $1.99.

I clearly remember my first job in our local Tropical Fish Store, and my boss always warned customers, “Don’t put a Chinese Algae Eater in with large, slower moving fish like Angelfish or Goldfish.”  The Algae-eater was known to get aggressive and attack these fish by sucking on their sides, I assume to eat a few of their scales.

My boss was absolutely right with her advice, but it still surprised me when I saw my little 3 inch-long Chinese Algae-eater attacking my Tiger Barbs. Believe me, there is plenty of algae in the tank for this fish to eat, and plenty of other food for him, but when the Barbs came near the bottom, I watched him “leap” at them. Not nice, and I will have to watch him as he gets older.  If this continues and he injures his tankmates I will have to do something about it.

The Chinese Algae-eater gets large, about 10 inches long,  so I would have to say that it was probably a mistake to purchase this fish.

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10 Responses to “Chinese Algae-Eater is a sucker”

  1. itjustencouragesme January 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Yeah, definitely be careful. I haven’t had personal experience with them but from what I’ve read they don’t really eat much algae and as they get older are a one fish/tank. Definitely keep us updated.

    • fishtanx2011 January 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      I noticed my Kuhli Loaches aren’t coming out very often now. I believe the Algae -eater is the reason why. If I have to choose between the Algae Eater and my Kuhlis, I will choose the Kuhlis!

      • justin February 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

        Kulhis are my favorite

      • fishtanx2011 February 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

        A few days ago I saw that Petsmart has the Black Kuhli Loaches for a dollar each! What a deal! I love the four that I have.

  2. Christopher R Roberts December 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    It may be too late to give advice about this fish. I am studying Ichthyology for a doctorate degree. I am still new to the field, but we have several of the Chinese Algae-Eaters. It might help your tank to buy low growing plants for your algae eater to hide in. If it can hide from “predators” it may not become the aggressor. I plan to look into the issue further. Thank you!

    • fishtanx2011 December 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      I think at the time I had the Algae-eater the plants weren’t very thick on the bottom. Now that tank usually has a big clump of Java Moss to hide in. It’s too bad I couldn’t keep him, he was the Golden color variety and looked awesome!

  3. Christopher R Roberts December 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    From wikipedia: G. aymonieri are often bought as algae eaters because they will readily eat algae when young, but with age, their preference changes towards meatier foods, such as generic prepared aquarium foods, frozen crustaceans and small fish. This change is also reflected in behaviour, which becomes aggressive with age, especially so towards others of their own kind and fishes with similar colors.[7] There have been reports in the online aquarium communities that the G. aymonieri will attack, and kill, even larger fish such as cichlids. Not through fighting as such, rather it ‘sucks on’ to the side of larger fish, and keeps sucking until it removes skin, causing infection and often death. This occurs mostly with slow, flat fish species that it can catch and hang onto easily. Unlike most fish, it does not need to open its mouth for the intake of water, meaning that it can effectively suck other fish to death.

    There are many algae eaters that eventually seek to eat tank mates. It is very important to study your fish before buying so this situation will not arise. Thank you again for your time!

    • fishtanx2011 December 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

      The fish I had started this behavior while he was quite young, only about 3 inches long. When I worked in a Tropical Fish store many, many years ago my boss would warn people that Chinese Algae Eaters might attack larger fish like Angelfish and Goldfish. If this has been recognized as a problem for so long it surprises me that they are still a common fish to be bought for the community tank. Maybe the answer is finally to say “Enough” and stop producing it for the average aquarist, and only special order it for those who, for whatever reason, want one.
      The Wikipedia site that you mention would suffice to scare away any sensible person from buying one but how many places are selling these fish and describing them as good community fish?
      Well, at least anyone reading my blog won’t buy one!!!

    • fishtanx2011 January 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

      Very interesting. I would hope that fish shops would not sell aggressive fish to unsuspecting customers but it seems that it has always been a problem.

  4. lovesfishes808 June 22, 2015 at 3:03 am #

    I had 4 Chinese algae eaters. They were very tiny. As time went on, 3 died. The remaining grew to about an inch long. Just this Saturday morning I noticed that my rainbow fish which is about 2 inches long had a big red bruise on one side of him and the other side some of his scales were missing, and its a open wound. Was perplexed as to what occurred. Finally I had remembered reading a fish article about the Chinese algae eaters, and how they would become aggressive and latch on to the sides of fishes, and kill them. Even though I have been feeding it with algae wafers and it would eat the tiny fish food flakes on the ground or on the plants, My poor rainbow fish is now traumatized and will not swim close to the bottom but remains on top swimming around in circles. It seems he acts as if he is blinded, but his eyes are intact. I have been using Melafix and rock salt dissolved in water to help him heal. I have a sad feeling he may not last because I don’t see it eating like before. Its sad to watch a smaller rainbow fish who always stayed close by and would play with him try to get close to him, but it just stays by itself. I was so mad, that I killed the algae eater after I had a hard time catching it. I do not ever recommend that anyone keep these fishes in a tank. My tank is 30 gallons.

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