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chinese algae eater

Chinese Algae Eater – Image provided by: USGS

Chinese Algae Eaters: 10 truths and 20 lies. Which are which?

Here are the 10 truths you should know about your Chinese algae eater. The truths are sprinkled in with 20 lies. Which are which?

1. What Should You Feed Young Chinese Algae Eaters?


A.  Worms, tuna, beef heart, etc.

B.  Algae wafers and other foods like blood worms and flake food.

C.  Whatever the other fish are being fed is fine.

Tap here for answer to question #1.

Answer: B.  When CAE’s are young, they will need mostly algae wafers supplemented with protein based foods like blood worms and flake food.

Chinese algae eaters need more to eat than just the algae in your aquarium. Chinese algae eaters need to be fed, just like your other fish. They will need sinking food so they can “find” the food.  A good way to give these fish flake food is to put a good sized portion of flake food in your palm, add a couple of drops of water to wet and then form into a tight ball. This ball will sink where it can be enjoyed by your algae eater and other aquarium fish.

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2. What Should You Feed Adult Chinese Algae Eaters?

A.  Worms, frozen fish foods, shrimp, insects, and fish tablets.

B.   Sucker fish are used as aquarium cleaners. They will eat algae that grows in the tank and left-over fish foods they find.

C.  Mostly frozen aquarium fish foods including algae blocks and beef heart.

Tap here for answer to question #2.

Answer: A.  Frozen fish foods, Worms, shrimp, insects and fish tablets.

As your Chinese Algae Eater (CAE) gets older, you will want to switch them to a mostly protein diet. In the wild, the juvenile CAE will graze on algae because it is easy to get into their oddly shaped mouth. As an adult, their mouths are large enough to eat worms, shrimp and other small insects, hence the need for adult fish to switch to protein based foods in the aquarium.

3.  What Foods Should You Avoid Feeding Your Chinese Algae Eater? 

A.  Ground beef. CAE’s don’t digest beef very well and could get sick.

B.  Fish slime.

C.  Canned tuna. Canned tuna contains parasites which can make your Chinese Algae Eater sick.

Tap here for answer to question #3.

Answer: B.  Fish slime

Fish slime grows naturally on fish, including community fish in your fish tank. An adult CAE will chase other fish to nip at fins and chew on their slime coat. This is harmful to your other fish. A fish’s slime coat protects the fish from bacteria, fungus and parasites. Unfortunately you can’t stop them from doing this when you’re not looking. Maybe put them in a tank by themselves.

Answers A & C :

A.  Ground beef. I probably wouldn’t feed this to my fish, but Discus fish love beef heart so it doesn’t seem like ground beef could hurt your fish if they’ll eat it.

C.  Tuna in a can is cooked. This kills any parasite your fish could get. 

4.  What is the most important action you can take to grow an enormous, super healthy Chinese Algae Eater?

A.  Put one of them in a 70 gallon or larger fish tank. Big tank = big fish.

B.  Clean their tank often. This includes frequent water changes.

C.  Provide a varied and abundant diet.

Tap here for answer to question #4.

Answers: A, B & C

Sorry, this was a trick question. All three actions are important to raising Enormous Algae Eater

Why Are The Fish Dying In My Small Desktop Aquarium And How Can I Stop It?

On-site article link.

The Fish Market

Chinese Algae Eaters are nasty little / big fish. Here’s something better that likes algae:

Japanese Trapdoor Snails

Japanese Trapdoor Snails. What they do with their trapdoor is anyone’s guess!

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5. Where can you collect Chinese Algae Eaters in the wild?

A.  CAE’s, being native to Florida in the U.S., can be collected in just about any stream in the state.

B.  Chinese algae eaters can be found in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

C.  In China. Most CAE’s are found in North China near the cities of Changchun and Harbin.

Tap here for answer to question #5.

Answer: B.  Chinese algae eaters can be found in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

6. What Is The Natural Environment Of Chinese Algae Eaters?

A. CAE’s prefer the brackish, slightly salt water ofponds near the ocean.

B.  Chinese Algae Eaters inhabit ponds where algae is abundant and the water movement is gentle.

C.  Chinese algae eaters’ natural habitat is in fast flowing streams.

Tap here for answer to question #6

Answer: C.  Chinese algae eaters’ natural habitat is in fast flowing streams.

You can mimic this environment by adding air bubbles and powerheads.

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Darter Goby with “Bed Head”

darter goby

– click bait statement goes here…-

Tap picture to view on-site article link. Opens in a new tab.

Image Gallery: Tap pictures below to see larger image.

gold chinese algae eater
Golden Chinese algae eater
chinese algae eater

Picture above provided courtesy of USGS* Tap picture to see larger image.

7. What types of fish are good to keep with my Chinese Algae Eater?

A. Tetra’s and other fast moving fish.


B.  Oscars, plecos, angelfish, discus and other large fish.


C.  A school of other Chinese algae eaters.


Tap here for answer to question #7.

Answer: A. Tetra’s and other fast moving fish.

You’ll want to keep fish similar to tetras. I.E. Fast moving smaller fish.

The reason for this is that your CAE won’t be able to chew on them. 

B. No!  You don’t want to keep Discus and Angelfish or other large fish with your CAE. These types of fish look like a good, easy to chew snack to a Chinese algae eater. Large fish usually move slowly through the tank. This makes it easy for a CAE to latch on for a good chewing. In other words, the CAE will turn your large fish into a large chew toy. 

C. Nope. Chinese algae eaters are aggressive with members of its own species or species that inhabit the same level of the aquarium. This would include other CAE’s, siamese algae eaters, flying fox algae eaters and red tailed sharks. “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Angelfish with a red circle with a slash through it on black background

8.  What steps should I take to get my  my Chinese Algae Eaters to breed? 

A.  You need to use “The Large Pond Method.”

B.  To breed Chinese Algae Eaters you will need a tank that is at least 200 gallons with water heated to 82 degrees F. 

C.  Provide hiding places for the mated pair. Over-feed them and provide a cool water, water change. This will get them to start laying eggs.

Tap here for the answer to question #8.

Answer: A. “The Large Pond Method.”

Unfortunately, Chinese algae eaters are just about impossible to breed in the aquarium. The Chinese algae eaters that are for sale in your pet store have been bred in large ponds under premium conditions. Even in ponds, hormones will be used to stimulate Chinese algae eaters to breed.

9. What should I do to set up my aquarium for my Chinese Algae Eater?


A.  Set up a 55 gallon tank. Set the water temperature at 78 degrees F.  pH of 7.


B.  Make things easy on yourself by placing your new Chinese Algae Eater in your community tank. If the other fish are ok in there, your algae eater will be too.


C.  Set up a 70 or more gallon tank. Add water. Set the temperture at 78 degrees. The pH should be around 7. Once the tank has cycled ad some Tiger Barbs and your Chinese algae eater.

Tap here for answer to question #9.

Answer:  C. Set up a 70 or more gallon tank. Add water. Set the temperture at 78 degrees. The pH should be around 7. Once the tank has cycled ad some Tiger Barbs and your Chinese algae eater.

The Chinese algae eater needs a tank appropriate for its full-grown adult size. The adult size of a Chinese algae eater can range from 6 inches to 11 inches for an older, well cared for specimen. I’m thinking at least 70 gallons. The more the better. 

CAE’s need an aquarium that has clean, well oxygenated water and a decent amount of water movement. A couple of large cannister filters, strong powerheads and lots of fine mist bubblers are recommended because of this need.

A wide range of water hardness can be tolerated, but a PH of 6.5 to 7 is ideal.

Temperatures should be kept at a range appropriate for a tropical fish aquarium, 75 F to 79 F.

The Fish Market

Bought an algae eater anyway?
Now show you really don’t care by adding fake mushrooms to your aquarium. From Amazon!

(Note to self: “write article on creating super tacky aquariums & CAE’s.”)

The Fish Market:

Angel Aquarium Statue for Fish Oxygen

Angel peeing

Tired of plain ol’ boring air bubblers? This angel bubbler should pee…Opps, I mean pep things up.

10. How many years will my Chinese Algae Eater live? 


A.  3 years to 5 year

B.  3 to 7 years

C.  10 years


Tap here for answer to question #10.

Answer: C. 10 years. I’ve never kept an algae eater long enough to die of old age. Most online fish keepers say 10 years.

If I was buying a CAE I would give an educated guess at 5 to 15 years. I suspect it depends on how well the fish keeper does in maintaining optimal conditions for fish.


Editorial comment: Although your CAE may live to be 10 years or more old why would you keep one? 

They are unattractive and aggresive. If I was keeping a fish for ten years I want it to be colorful and interesting.

Don’t buy a Chinese Algae Eater. More than likely you and the fish will regret it. 

Credits for this article go to:

Wikipedia: Gyrinocheilus aymonieri


small juvenile Chinese algae eater

Juvenile Algae Eater

Photo provided by C. E. Timothy Paine – Flicker