Chinese Algae Eater
Scientific Name: Gyrinocheilus aymonieri*
Possibly Sold As: Algae Eater, Golden Algae Eater, Indian Algae Eater, Sucking Loach, Golden Sucking Loach
Area of origin: Streams in Thailand and Northern India
Min/Max Tank Size: Varies; suggested 20-30g depending on source. 25g is probably acceptable.
Suggested Care Level: Moderate (Hardy, but some special care needs)
Water conditions: Well-oxygenated with fast current; ideal pH range is 6.0-7.5; 72F (22C) - 82F (28C)
Diet: Contrary to name, these fish are omnivores and require food from plant and protien sources. Will eat algae when young, but prefer sinking wafers, fresh greens, and frozen/live insects with age. If not provided with stable food source (ie. not just algae) in community tank, will attack and consume other fish.
Temperment: Semi-Agressive/Agressive. When young, CAEs make suitable community fish. With age, however, they will become increasingly territorial and agressive. Adults should not be housed together. Known for wounding and killing slow moving and flat-bodied fish. May attack, kill, and consume any and all tank mates at maturity depending on disposition. Supervise adult specimins carefully - like you might a male betta - if keeping in community tanks.
Suggested tank mates: Tough, fast-moving, stream-dwelling species with similar care needs who can fend for themselves and are unlikely to approach bottom feeders. (Overly inquisitive fish may provoke territorial CAEs into attack.)
Breeding: Captive breeding has never been achieved sucessfully on any significant scale; one or two scattered accounts of accidental breeding sucess in extremely large community tanks.
Personal observations, Advice: See Article Below.
*Some specimins may also be G. kaznakovi
Chinese Algae Eaters: An Undeserved Reputation?
May 8, 2006 : 12:00 AM
The following "fissue" was written to expose the myths and prejudices about the Chinese Algae Eater, a common aquarium fish that is often returned to stores when uneducated buyers find that they are not exactly what was advertised...
What it a Chinese Algae Eater?
The Chinese Algae Eater, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, is a medium/large Gyrinocheillidae family omnivore that is actually native to India and Thailand. A long bodied brown-green fish with decorative side markings and a strong sucker-mouth, they may also be observed in an albino/gold coloration in pet stores. Solitary and territorial, they may grow to length of 11 inches (though seldom exceed 6 in aquariums), and may live for over 10 years with proper husbandry. They are not, contrary to popular belief, a true algae eater, and thus should not be purchased as such.
A Fish by Any Other Name...
Chinese algae eaters go by a variety of names, often simply referred to as an "Algae Eater" in pet stores. Other common names include Indian Algae Eater, Sucking Loach, Gold Sucking Loach, or Golden Algae Eater. None are particularly accurate, as the species is in fact a bottom-feeding scavenger with no real preference for algae upon reaching adulthood.
Peaceful Community Fish?
Many pet stores list the Chinese Algae Eater as a "peaceful community fish," and encourage the purchase of "schools" of Chinese Algae Eaters. While younger fish may indeed cling together, adult Chinese Algae Eaters are notoriously agressive, and will actively attack and kill others of its species unless kept in extremely spacious conditions. Furthermore, though fast-moving, agressive fish are seldom affected, Chinese Algae Eaters are known for eating the slime coats and eyes of other fish when not offered adequate non-algae dietary options. There have also been accounts of Chinese Algae Eaters killing tankmates through trauma by hard-hitting body blows when they feel their territory is being disturbed.
An Undeserved Reputation
The Chinese Algae Eater, though genuinely agressive, has a somewhat undeserved reputation, particularly amongst the fishkeeping community, where new aquarists are often encouraged to return or kill such a "useless and agressive" species. However, the traits that we find so undesireable in Chinese Algae Eaters are some of the same traits we admire in other solitary agressive species like the betta. This suggests that the hatred towards the species stems not from genuine negative traits, but from a prejudice inspired by the bad experiences many fishkeepers had with them.
Because they are marketed both as non-agressive and suitable for communities, many unsuspecting fishkeepers buy this inexpensive and beautiful fish, only to be dissapointed by its inability to effectively control algae, or enraged when it kills its tankmates. Years of similar experiences shared by aquarists mislead by pet stores have created an overwhelming bitterness and animosity towards Chinese Algae Eaters - and the fish get the brunt of it. Too agressive to be accepted as returns at most pet stores as they age, and requiring large and often solitary accomodations, many Chinese Algae Eaters are culled or die of neglect when they become problematic. This tradgedy only highlights the importance of researching all species - including fish - before purchasing.
Restoring the Image of the CAE
Is it possible to break down the extreme prejudice against the Chinese Algae Eater in the fishkeeping community? Maybe not, but here at A Better Place for Bettas, we'd like to try! Since most of the negativity towards the species was caused by bad experiences, it is vital that information about the Chinese Algae Eater reach the public before the animals are purchased. Only by making informed decisions about pet care can animals and owners alike lead a healthy and happy existance. We have information like that seen in this "fissue" on our up-and-coming webpage, and when we see someone being told to get rid of their Chinese Algae Eater, we offer information on proper care instead. After all, pets are a life long committment, regardless of if they have fur or fins! Here are some basics regarding the care of Chinese Algae Eaters:
Ethical Considerations and Final Word
- Chinese Algae Eaters are best kept solitarily in a minimum of 20-25 gallons.
- If you wish to keep CAEs with tankmates, you must make sure the species you select are at low risk for attack; no flat-bodied or slow moving species. A spacious, well-planted tank with plenty of hiding spaces decreases the chance of attack.
- Because they are stream dwellers, they require a fast current and high aeration. They also prefer a fine substrate such as sand or fine gravel as they enjoy burrowing.
- Acceptable tank temperatures range from 72F (22C) to 82F (28C), so heaters are required in most homes.
- pH is fairly variable, with 6.0 to 7.5 considered acceptable.
- Diet should consist not only of algae wafers or herbivore pellets, but also food suitable for omnivores and carnivores. Fresh cucumber and frozen blood worms make excellent treats.
- If a large/mature Chinese Algae Eater needs to be rehomed, an adoptive home should be sought if possible, as pet stores find mature fish just as undesireable as most aquarists.
While Chinese Algae Eaters are indeed a beautiful, active, and fairly hardy fish, A Better Place for Bettas does not suggest purchasing them. Why? Because of their agressiveness, Chinese Algae Eaters are not aquarium bred, and as thus, are exclusively caught from the wild or are mass-bred in crowded fish farms (which are harmful to the environment). Wild animals suffer immensely when kept captively due to the stress of an unnatural environment, and it is our firm stance that non-domesticated fish (and other animals, for that matter) be left where they belong: out in nature! Many fish populations (though not the CAE) are suffering in the wild due to over-capture for the fish trade, something we find truly tragic since many will die due to stress or poor husbandry.
If you are interested in adopting a Chinese Algae Eater, there is no need to run to the store and support the capture of wild animals; I am certain you can find many needing loving, understanding homes at fish forums throughout the internet! Many well-intentioned "newbie" fishkeepers purchase Chinese Algae Eaters with good intentions, but are unable or unwilling to keep them when they become agressive. By offering an alternative to returning these fish to the store, you can make a fishkeeper and a fish very happy!
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