There are three zones in your tank to consider when stocking species of fish. These zones are for the surface feeders, the mid-water fishes, and the bottom feeders.
The colorful surface fish and mid-water fish are fascinating, but those who do the dirty works are the aquarium bottom feeders.
What are the best bottom feeder fish for aquariums?
1. Yoyo Loach
- Origin: Bangladesh, Pakistan, India
- Scientific Name: Botia almorhae
- Common Names: Reticulated Loach, Y-Loach, Yo Yo Loach, Pakistani Loach, Almorha Loach
- Description and Size: Its body is silver with dark coloring. It is more apparent when younger but gets reticulated during maturity. It got its name because of its giraffe-like pattern markings wherein there are lots of Y and O on its body. The fish can turn bluish during dim light and can convert to gray when in fighting mode and hiding. Its mouth is always pointing downward with four pairs of whiskers called barbels.
- Behavior: They call it Yoyo because the fish used to bounce like a Yoyo toy. It is peaceful and playful among aquarium bottom feeders but can also feed on the surface of the water. The fish is a bottom dweller and an egg-layer. It gets excited with its fish keeper and can play with him.
- Compatibility: The fish is very personable with small catfishes, can get along well with its cousin, the clown loach. It forms a school of the same kind so you can keep at least 3 in your tank. It is not good to join timid and slow-moving fish and aggressive ones.
- Food: This loach fish is an omnivore, and can devour on most foods, various insects, herbs, dry and live foods, brine shrimps, bloodworms, and algae.
- Life Span: 15 years
2. Clown Loach
- Origin: Borneo, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Malaysia
- Scientific Name: Botia macracantha
- Common Names: Clown Loach
- Description and Size: It has an arched body that is lean and long. Its nose is long with whiskers. True to its name, the body coloring is bright orange-yellow, with V-shaped striped and its tail and fins are bright red. It can grow up to a length of 12 inches when in adulthood.
- Behavior: It is peaceful, active during the daytime, and better off with low light. It wants companions in its community. Loaches prefer hiding spots like hardy plants, wood, rocks, and enclosed spaces. It hides in caves, holes, or tubes.
- Compatibility: It is perfect for mixing with its own fish species to form a school and other non-aggressive fishes.
- Food: carnivore; dry and live foods, worms
- Life Span: 10 years
3. Kuhli Loach
- Origin: Indonesia, Malay Peninsula
- Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
- Common Names: Coolie Loach, Leopard Loach, Cinnamon Loach.
- Description: It looks like a small eel with a distinct color, brown bands, and bold yellow stripes; adult size is 4-5 inches.
- Behavior: peaceful, bottom dwellers, bottom feeders, night cleaners, want to cower and hide, slinks on a tank, burrow, jumps out of the aquarium, prefers schooling
- Compatibility: can join with non-aggressive fish but not Cichlids
- Food: meat and herbs, live feeds
- Life Span: 10 years
4. Zebra Loach
- Origin: Southern India
- Scientific Name: Botia striata
- Common Names: crossbanded loach, candy stripe loach, lined loach, tiger loach, zebra botia, striped loach, zebra loach
- Description and Size: hardy fish, with yellow or orange vertical stripes on the entire body, can reach the size of 4 inches.
- Behavior: It is a community fish, peaceful, friendly, and playful and loves to seek and to hide, egg-layers, prefers bright lighting, and it is not nocturnal.
- Compatibility: It is friendly with other loaches and can form a school with them, not recommended to join with angelfish, guppies, tetras, bettas, and other fish with long tails and fins to avoid being also nipped not compatible with cory catfish because they are both territorial fishes.
- Food: It is omnivorous, can eat live feeds, herbs, daphnia, and bloodworms, glass worms, tubifex, brine shrimps, unwanted snails, and it loves to scour your tank for detritus.
- Life Span: 10 years
1. Bristlenose Plecos
- Origin: Trinidad and Tobago, Guianas, Brazil
- Scientific Name: Bristlenose plecostomus
- Common Names: Janitor fish, Algae sucker, municipal fish, suckermouth
- Description: fun and exotic to look at with a tendriled nose, long whiskers, with a sucking mouth. This species differs from the common pleco. There are lots of pleco types; the Clown pleco is gorgeous, however, and the smallest.
- Size: 6 inches (common pleco can grow to a foot long)
- Behavior: tranquil temperament, nocturnal, efficient tank cleaner, algae eater, the best of all aquarium bottom feeders
- Compatibility: any aquarium fish that is not aggressive
- Food: any kind of food but prefers plants and bits of veggies
- Life Span: 10-15 years
2. Otocinclus catfish
- Origin: South America
- Scientific Name: Otocinclus sp.
- Common Names: Otto, Oto Catfish, Otto Cat, Midget Sucker Fish, and Dwarf Sucking Catfish
- Description and Size: This differs from other catfish species because it displays none whiskers.
- Behavior: They should keep it in a smaller aquarium and a small group.
- Compatibility: It is compatible with any non-aggressive fish cory catfish, snails, and shrimps.
- Bad tank mates include goldfish, oscars, cichlids, and convicts.
- Food: Herbivorous. It consumes a small portion of algae at a time, on the glass surface and plants.
- Maximum Size: 1-2 inches
- Life Span: 5 years
3. Twig catfish
- Origin: Columbia and Venezuela in South America
- Scientific Name: Rineloricaria lanceolate
- Common Names: Whiptail Catfish, Twig Catfish
- Description: Twig catfish looks unique, and because of its narrowed and thin appearance, they call it a tiny twig. They are difficult to feed, so raising them is difficult.
- Maximum Size: 4-6 inches
- Behavior: a loner fish, peaceful, almost into a motionless mode, not much into swimming, it camouflages with the landscape.
- Compatibility: It can join the Pencil fish, Tetras, and Hatchets.
- Avoid joining with Bards and Cichlids.
- Food: It feeds on tiny pieces of vegetables, plants, and algae.
- Life Span: 10 years
4. Cory Catfish
- Origin: South America
- Description: The Cory catfish is a hardy fish that can tolerate brackish water. Its sizes and colors vary. It has whisker-like barbels that extend from its face.
- 161 species are belonging to this genus.
- The most popular ones are:
- Pygmy–smallest, only an inch size
- Panda–is light-colored with black marks
- Peppered–with speckled marking
- Julii–the rare one
- Behavior: bottom dweller, a schooling fish, not aggressive, active in the daytime
- Compatibility: can adapt to any aquarium fish
- Food: omnivorous diet
- Size: 2 to 3 inches
- Life Span: 5 years
- Description: Crayfish are little crustaceans fun to observe.
- They resemble the tiny lobsters.
- Crayfish have joined head, thorax, and mid-section body. Its color differs from green, bright red, sandy yellow, or dark brown.
- Maximum Size: 3 inches long
- Behavior: They are entertaining with their actions.
- As crustaceans, they shed their exoskeleton, replacing it with a new one that forms in a matter of weeks.
- Compatibility: Livebearers, tetras, catfish, cichlids, goldfish, and barbs
- Food: Omnivorous; it can devour dead fish
These are tiny free-swimming crustaceans that have long stretched bodies; some are curled. They have thin legs that they use for perching.
Other shrimps used as aquarium bottom feeders include the following:
- Cherry Shrimp – in crimson color, and the most popular freshwater shrimp for aquariums
- Babaulti Shrimp — in a variety of colors and stripes
- Blue Bolt Shrimp – is unique and belongs to a rare species and has a color blend of green, blue, and yellow.
- Crystal Red Shrimp – is expensive but very gorgeous because of its body pattern and difficult to care for.
- Blue Tiger Shrimp - is a beautiful blue shrimp that can add color to any tank.
- Crystal shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Ghost shrimp – are all transparent in looks, easy to care for, and are excellent scavengers.
- Amano shrimp – belongs to the most abundant shrimp variety that can grow 2-3 inches, too large for your fish to eat, and it is the best algae-eater. They are easy to care for but hard to breed.
- Bumblebee shrimp – has white and body patterns
- Panda shrimp – a unique type but has an eye-catching coloration.
Snails are tiny creatures that add a whimsical touch to the environment Aquarists put snails in their tanks for hopes of maintaining smoothness on the tank’s glass surfaces.
They do not attack your plants; if they do, you can drive them away anyhow. Snails can consume much dirt and algae but give off a little.
Even if they reproduce, their life span is just short, 1-2 years, because they fall prey to other inhabitants in your tank so you can adopt a few pieces only.
Other hobbyists do not prefer to include them because they thrive so, filling up your tank with the unwanted amount. You can select which type will work for your best, those who do not reproduce.
Some efficient aquarium bottom feeders are:
1. Malaysian Trumpet Snail
- Scientific Name: Melanoides tuberculata
- Features: It has an elongated shell resembling a conical sugar cone.
- The shell grows in rings as it swirls up from its apex.
- The shell has patterns of colors from grey, brown, or creamy-white.
- Maximum Size: 2 cm
- Compatibility: Peaceful community fish.
- Hobbyists regard these snails as pests not pets
2. Ramshorn Snail
- Features: Its size is its shell width. It gets more extensive when the whorl gets longer. The slimmest part of its shell whorl is the part close to the apex. The widest part, however, is the one closest to its aperture.
- Maximum Size: 2 cm
- Compatibility: They can go along well with other peaceful community fish. Loaches and Cichlids are not suitable tank mates.
- They might have tendencies to eat overpopulated snails in the tank.
- Information: Perfect for a planted aquarium, but they can attack plants in there are few algae and dead meat particles.
- As they age, they lose their transparency.
3. Rabbit Snail
- Scientific Name: Tylomelania app.
- Features: It has a grooved spiraled pattern in a conical shell shape; the older it gets, the longer the cone turns. It looks like Trumpet snail or the Assassin snail.
- Maximum Size: 2 inches (young age); Adult size can grow to 4.7
- Compatibility: Any small tank mates, those that are non-aggressive
- Information: They are slow-breeders so they will not fill up your tank.
4. Mystery Apple Snail
- Scientific Name: Pomacea bridgesii
- Features: The snail has a calm behavior, and it doesn’t thrive. Its compound eyes are visible on its cephalic eyestalk. Color ranges from Brown, Blue, Black, Purple, White, and Gold.
- Maximum Size: 2 inches
- Compatibility: Any planted community
- Information: Herbivore; 1-year life span; Its other names are the common apple snail and mystery snail. It can be mistaken for the Chinese or the Japanese counterparts that are invasive.
5. Nerite Snails
- Scientific Name: Neritina sp
- Maximum Size: 1 inch or 2.5 cm
- Compatibility: Compatible with most community fish. Avoid cichlids, crayfish, loaches, and goldfish.
- Nerites live on the bottom and known to be substrate cleaners.
- They are the best among the types of bottom feeder fish for aquariums.
- They have different sizes and shapes.
- Nerites do not grow big and just breed slowly.
- They love to stay at the bottom of the tank because they enjoy cleaning the substrate.
- There are three types of Nerite Snails:
- Black Racer Nerite Snail – is brown that has areas of dark grey, black or gold. It has slight grooves on the shell which runs parallel to its aperture up to the back. Black Racer shells are in the brown color range and can have areas of dark gold, dark grey or even black.
- Tiger Nerite Snail – has a smooth shell rather than rigid, brown but with some black areas that form some leopard spots and tiger stripes patterns.
- Zebra Nerite Snail – has a golden brown coloring with black stripes resembling the zebra pattern. It is much smoother in texture unlike some nerite snails with a grooved shell.
- Origin: Southeast China, Malay Peninsula and the rest of Southeast Asia
- Scientific Name: Crossocheilus oblongus
- Common Names: Chinese Algae Eater, Sucking Loach, Sucker Loach, Indian Algae Eater, Siamese Algae Eater, Algae eater, Sucker Fish, Lemon Algae Eater, Honey Sucker, Golden Algae Eater, and Biforate Carp
- Description and Size
- True Siamese Algae Eater has a long and narrowed body that can reach up to six inches during adulthood.
- They are in gold or pale yellow, with a black stripe from the tip of its nose to the tail, with some black spotting on the tail fin and its back.
- Females are larger than males.
- These fish are not aggressive because they are peaceful.
- Even if they are new to their environment, they can work at once and hunt for algae.
- They like a planted aquarium so they can hide and roam around.
- Compatibility: The fish is compatible with aquarium bottom feeders like corydoras, nerite snails, amano, ghost and cherry species of shrimps.
- Angelfish and some peaceful community fish are ideal tank mates, including bigger fishes like barbs and gourami, which are not the aggressive types.
- Small fish like tetras, guppies, and danios are also excellent tank mates.
- The fish are better off without cichlids.
- Food: You can supplement its diet with pellets and algae wafers if herbs and meat become insufficient.
- Some fish in your aquarium bottom feeders fish list do not eat many algae but the Siamese
- Algae Eaters can eat anything, including the black beard algae.
- They can even get satisfied with small crustaceans and the slimy fish coating.
- Life Span: 10 years
Mollies and other Livebearers
- Origin: The fish is native to America but later introduced to Asia and Europe.
- Behavior and Adaptation: They breed in the aquarium, so make sure you have enough space.
- Though they may not feed on algae as some others in this bottom feeder fish list, mollies and some livebearers can eat algae if they become hungry.
- They are peaceful fishes, friendly, and prefer to swim in a school.
- These livebearers get along well with Swordtails, Bigger Tetras, Corydoras Catfish, Angelfish, and Platies.
- They get comfortable in hardy and brackish water, so adding aquarium salt may help them.
- Maximum Size: 2 to 4 inches
- Life Span: 5-7 years.
Some Livebearers which are aquarium bottom feeders are:
- Scientific Name: Poecilia sphenops
- Features: Black colored body; hence black is beautiful
- Behavior: peaceful, playful with the other livebearers in the tank
- Information: Black Mollies do not eat as much as the other types of bottom feeder fish for aquariums, but they eat algae from plants, woods, rocks, and other decorations present in the tank.
- Scientific Name: Xiphophorus hellerii
- Features: The fish has an elongated body with flatted sides.
- It has an unusual tail that resembles the shape of a sword where they got its name. The tail can have several rays.
- The fish color is red, but the tail is black. There are other hybrid types of this species such as the koi swordtail, neon swordtail, and pineapple swordtail.
- Behavior: can be both shy and aggressive; males can fight each other.
- Swordtails prefer shallow, well-planted community, where they can feed on algae, detritus, and other insects.
- Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
- Origin: Central America
- Features and Behavior: They are active fish from the tropics and are fast-breeders.
- Platies are fun fish to have; maintenance is easy because they are very hardy.
- Platies come in different patterns and colors. You can distinguish males having a long sword-like tail base.
- Maximum Size: 2 inches or 5 cm
- Life Span: 2-3 years
- Some varieties are:
- red wagtail
- salt and pepper
- Mickey Mouse
- Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
- Origin: native to South America, in the tropics of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela, but records state its discovery in Berlin
- Maximum Size: 3 to 6 cm
- Features: They have varied coloration and body patterns; Therefore, the “rainbow fish” began.
- They differ in tail shapes and numbers, including its veil, lace, flag and sizes of fins or if double-swordtail.
- Behavior: Guppies became famous as “million fish” because they multiply quickly.
- They are the types of bottom feeder fish for aquariums that do not lay eggs, but juveniles at once but have tendencies to eat its fry.
- They also feed on mosquito larvae.
- Life Span: 2 years
Bottom feeders are often the last ones in your priority list, but they can also be colorful and adaptable if you know the right species to add.
Maintaining balance and harmony in the aquarium’s ecosystem is a fish keeper’s concern, not just a responsibility.
Research and make your bottom feeder fish list before purchasing some.