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Chinese Algae Eaters Care Sheet

Chinese Algae Eaters Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers the Chinese algae eater species:

  • Chinese algae eater
  • Gold Chinese algae eater
Chinese Algae Eater Fish


Scientific name: Gyrinocheilus aymonieri

Chinese algae eaters are well-known for their ability to consume large amounts of algae as juveniles, but many people do not realize that their dietary requirements change as they age. As adults, Chinese algae eaters prefer more protein in their diet. Native to the Chao Phraya basin and rivers throughout Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, they are sometimes confused for the Siamese algae eater or flying fox. They are solitary and considered semi-aggressive, sometimes picking on their tank mates—however, these vigorous algae eaters make excellent natural freshwater aquarium cleaners.


Typical appearance and behavior 

  • Chinese algae eaters appear as light brown with a solid or dotted black strip along their body or gold in color
  • They are long, slender fish with a large suction cup style mouth they use to attach to the glass, rocks and décor  
    • They spend most of the time on the bottom of their habitat scavenging for food or hanging from the side of the aquarium
    • Chinese algae eaters are peaceful while young, but territorial when older
    • They may uproot or feed on most live plants
    • They’re primarily nocturnal (active at night)



Care Difficuty Beginner
Average Life Span Up to 10 years with proper care
Average Adult Size Up to 11 inches long
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Habitat Size 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 72-82°F



Habitat size

Keep in an appropriately sized aquarium, which can range from 10 gallons for juvenile Chinese algae eaters to a much larger aquarium for an adult.

Building your habitat

  • Water health - Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Moderate to turbulent water circulation should be provided to mimic water currents and high oxygen levels found in a Chinese algae eater’s natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period. Chinese algae eaters will benefit from the addition of freshwater salt to the aquarium; the specific gravity should be kept at 1.004. Always research your species-specific needs before adding freshwater aquarium salt. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor - Provide plenty of space for swimming as well as plants, rocks or decor for hiding places
  • Chinese algae eaters are good escape artists; a secure cover is recommended 



A well-balanced Chinese 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
  • Adults will benefit from sinking pellets, frozen and freeze-dried brine and mysis shrimp and bloodworms 

Things to remember when feeding your Chinese algae eater:

  • Feed daily
  • They typically feed at night
  • Thaw frozen foods before feeding 


Chinese algae eater care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your Chinese algae eater healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions; they are a major cause of stress and disease


Where to buy

Chinese algae eaters are available for purchase at your local Petco location; availability varies by location. Please call ahead to check availability.




Tank mates

May be compatible with community fish such as: 

Keep only one Chinese algae eater per tank



Signs of a healthy Chinese algae eater

  • Clear eyes
  • Eats vigorously
  • Attaches to the side of the aquarium or décor or moves along the bottom of the aquarium
  • Bright, even coloring
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye
  • Labored breathing
  • Frayed fins or discolored fins
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Erratic swimming
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Listlessness
  • Elevated scales


Common algae eater health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueCloudy eye Symptoms or CausesEyes are covered with white or gray slime and appear cloudy; fish may appear off-color and swim awkwardly. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueFungus Symptoms or CausesWhite cottony growth and/or discoloration of the eyes. Suggested ActionQuarantine fish; use a commercial antifungal remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add freshwater aquarium salt; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueIch Symptoms or CausesWhite spots appear on fins and body; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically; rapid respirations. Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately; add freshwater salt and use a commercial ich remedy as directed;. consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueCottonmouth or columnaris Symptoms or CausesCottony white growths along the body and/or gills, frayed fins and gills turn brown and necrotic in late stages; caused by bacterial infection. Suggested ActionQuarantine fish; improve water quality; lower aquarium temperature to 72°F to deter bacteria from growing; medicate as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.



  • What do algae eaters eat? As juveniles, Chinese algae eaters will primarily eat algae. As they age, they will also crave protein-based foods such as sinking pellets, frozen or freeze-dried brine shrimp and bloodworms. 
  • How big do Chinese algae eaters get? Chinese algae eaters can reach an adult size of 11 inches. 
  • How many Chinese algae eaters per tank? Chinese algae eaters are semi-aggressive and will fight with one another; it is best to only have one per aquarium. 
  • How fast do Chinese algae eaters grow? The growth rate of the Chinese algae eater will vary by individual, depending on the amount of algae and supplemental nutrition being provided. 
  • Will Chinese algae eater eat shrimp? Chinese algae eaters are semi-aggressive and may find another bottom-dwelling species as competition. Large algae eaters are capable of consuming shrimp. 
  • Where to buy a Chinese algae eater? Chinese algae eaters are available for purchase at your local Petco store; availability varies by location.


Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center partner about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All 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.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.