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Algae Eater

Algae Eaters

includes plecostomus and chinese algae eater species

Plecos and Chinese Algae Eaters are both well-known Algae Eaters. These vigorous Algae Eaters make excellent natural freshwater aquarium cleaners.

Algae Eaters

Algae Eater Facts

Average Adult Size 2 to 12+ inches long, depending on species
Average Life Span depends on species
Diet omnivore
Minimum Aquarium Size: 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature: 72-82°F


A well-balanced Algae Eater diet consists of:

  • Algae and sinking algae wafers.
  • Supplement with raw zucchini or cucumbers as a treat once or twice a week. Raw vegetables should be anchored near the bottom of the aquarium.


Things to remember when feeding your Algae Eater:

  • Feed daily.
  • Typically feeds at night.
  • Some plecos require driftwood as part of their diet.


  • Keep in an appropriately sized aquarium; provide proper filtration to maintain health. Acrylic aquariums are not recommended for large plecos as they will scratch the acrylic. Chinese algae eaters prefer rapidly moving water.
  • Stable water quality and parameters are critical to the health of the aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, Petco provides free water testing.


  • Spend most of the time on the bottom or hanging from the side of the aquarium.
  • Attach to glass, rocks, and other hard surfaces with their mouths.
  • Plecos are very territorial towards other Plecos; Chinese Algae Eaters are peaceful while young, but territorial when older.
  • Will uproot or eat most live plants.
  • Primarily nocturnal (active at night).

Habitat Maintenance

  • Daily: check filter, water temperature and other equipment.
  • Weekly: check water quality at least once a week.
  • Monthly: change 10-25% of the total volume of water every 2-4 weeks or as needed. Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually.


  • Can be kept with community fish; keep only one Pleco per tank; limit the number of Algae Eaters as they mature.


Signs of a Healthy Fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Eats vigorously
  • Attaches to the side of the aquarium or décor or moves along the bottom of the aquarium

Avoid overcrowded conditions; they are a major cause of stress and disease. Maintain good water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration.

Red Flags

  • loss of color
  • cloudy eyes
  • labored respirations
  • frayed fins
  • weight loss

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Cloudy eye Symptoms or Causes Eyes are covered with white or gray slime and appear cloudy, fish may appear offcolor and swim awkwardly. Suggested Action Improve water quality; consult your aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health Issue Fungus Symptoms or Causes White cottony growth and/or discoloration of the eyes. Suggested Action Quarantine fish; use a commercial antifungal remedy as directed.
Health Issue Bacterial infections Symptoms or Causes Cloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Suggested Action Improve water quality; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed.
Health IssueIch Symptoms or Causes White spots appear on fins and body, fish rubs against hard objects or swims awkwardly. Rapid respirations. Suggested Action Quarantine fish immediately; use commercial ich remedy as directed.


Ask a store partner about Petco's selection of books on algae eaters and the variety of private brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All private brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Atypical Mycobacterium and Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to for more information about aquatic life and disease.

This care sheet can cover the needs of other species.

Note:The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please refer to the sources on the following page or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.