Maintaining a healthy freshwater aquarium is a balancing act. Regular water changes ensure optimal water quality by removing the byproducts of the nitrogen cycle that accumulate over time. But sometimes they aren’t enough to keep your tank looking its best.
Between uneaten fish food, fluctuating tank temperatures, and excessive lighting, algae can quickly become a problem in any tank. Rather than turning to chemical solutions that might do more harm than good, consider a natural alternative: the Siamese algae eater.
Here’s what you need to know about this feisty freshwater fish and how to properly care for one in your own aquarium at home.
Introducing: The Siamese Algae Eater
The Siamese algae eater (Crossocheilus oblongus) is a member of the carp family, Cyprinidae. They’re a bottom-dwelling species native to the tropical waters in mainland Southeast Asia. These fish can be found in streams, rivers, and flooded forests throughout the rainy season.
This species has a long, narrow body that grows up to 6 inches (15cm) in length. Most Siamese algae eaters achieve their maximum size by two years old, though they can live for over 10 years in ideal conditions. The Siamese algae eater is closely related to the red algae eater (Crossocheilus langei) and is easily confused with the flying fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus), another Southeast Asian member of the carp family. All three species exhibit dark horizontal striping, a tapered snout, and a forked tail.
- Origins: Southeast Asia
- Habitat: Streams, rivers, and flooded forest
- Climate: Tropical
- Maximum Size: 6 inches (15cm)
- Lifespan: Over 10 years
- Diet: Omnivorous
What makes the Siamese algae eater so popular should be obvious from the name – these fish make quick work of algae in the freshwater aquarium. More specifically, stubborn forms like hair algae and black beard algae.
How Effective Are They As Algae Eaters?
With the word “algae eater” in the name, you should expect these fish to make effective members of an aquarium cleanup crew. Like Plecostomus, Siamese algae eaters have suckermouths which enable them to adhere to smooth surfaces in the tank. When it comes to their algae-eating prowess, however, they’re most effective against filamentous forms of algae like hair algae and black beard algae.
Many aquarium hobbyists find that Siamese algae eaters eat more algae as juveniles than they do as adults. This may be because they rely more on algae as a food source when they’re small. Once they grow up, the fish are better able to compete with their tankmates for other food sources. To optimize your Siamese algae eater’s ability to help control algae, avoid offering large portions of food.
Another way to increase the efficacy of your Siamese algae eater is to keep more than one of them. Stock your tank appropriately according to its volume, however, and be mindful that these fish can become territorial as they mature. It’s best to keep a single individual or a group of three or more.
Care Tips for Siamese Algae Eaters
As a tropical species, it’s best to keep Siamese algae eaters in warm, lushly planted tanks. Because they achieve lengths up to 6 inches, it’s important to provide ample space for your fish to grow. A single Siamese algae eater may do fine in a 30-gallon tank, but much larger tanks are recommended for groups. Not only will a larger tank give your fish space to establish territories, but it increases the surface area on which algae can grow.
To mimic the natural habitat of Siamese algae eaters, aim for a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Temperatures are best maintained between 75°F and 79°F.
Ideal Tank Conditions
- Size: At least 30 gallons
- Type: Planted
- Temperature: 75°F to 79°F
- pH: 6.5 to 7.0
- Water Hardness: 5-20 dH
Though Siamese algae eaters can often be found in rivers and streams in their native habitat, they would likely be slow-moving. The ideal setup for this species is a densely planted tank with moderate water flow. Be sure to include rocks, driftwood, and other décor items to give your fish places to hide.
Maintain high water quality in your Siamese algae eater tank by performing weekly water changes. Avoid disturbing algae-growing surfaces as much as possible during cleaning. You may find little need to vacuum the substrate as long as you’re not overfeeding – your Siamese algae eaters will eat food that sinks to the bottom of the tank as well as the algae that grows in it.
Tankmates for Siamese Algae Eaters
To keep your tank pristine, you may want to combine your Siamese algae eaters with other algae-eating species. These fish are generally peaceful by nature, but they do like to have their own space. Avoid keeping this species with other territorial bottom-dwellers like red tail sharks. Peaceful bottom-dwellers like Corydoras, however, make good tankmates.
There’s little need to worry about fish that occupy other levels in your tank. Top- and middle-dwelling fish like tetras, swordtails, gouramis, and barbs are unlikely to bother your Siamese algae eater. Just keep in mind that Siamese algae eaters are very energetic, so avoid keeping them with shy species that may become stressed with constant activity.
Snails make peaceful tankmates for Siamese algae eaters and they may target different types of algae. Just be sure your tank is large enough with adequate planting to support numerous algae-eating species.
Whether you’re looking for an active, entertaining addition to your planted tank or want to take a natural approach to algae control, the Siamese algae eater is worth considering. These agile fish bring activity to a community tank and they’ll help you keep conditions clean and pristine. Visit Shrimpy Business to find these lovely new additions to your tank.
Siamese algae eaters are generally easy to care for. Like any fish, however, they do best in an established tank with a consistent maintenance routine. With proper care, your Siamese algae eater could provide you with years of algae-eating benefits.