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The Top Bottom Feeding Fish For Your Freshwater Tank

Do you have an aquarium? Is it difficult to keep it clean?

If so, you could dedicate more time to cleaning it each week – but who wants to do that? Moreover, who has the time?

If you’re looking for an easier solution to your fish care woes, you might want to consider adding some bottom feeders to your tank. Not only do bottom feeding fish help keep your tank neat and tidy, but they are also quite easy to find.

There are hundreds of bottom feeding fish available, with many commonly found at the majority of popular fish stores. Each offer a unique set of personalities, behaviors, and level of care.

With that said, we’d love to introduce you to some of our favorites. Are you ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more about the most popular bottom-feeding fish.

Freshwater Tank

The Top Bottom Feeding Fish For Your Freshwater Tank

As we said, there are thousands of bottom-feeding fish for you to choose from. However, there are some that may be best for your specific needs, so it’s important that you consider the current set-up of your tank – as well as the fish you already have housed there – before making a decision on the species you include in your aquarium.

Here are some of our top suggestions.

1 Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli loach is one of the most popular freshwater bottom feeding fish. It looks just like an eel, and it’s a great companion for almost every other type of fish. It is good at hiding and loves to spend its time burrowing beneath the substrate. This fish has bold, beautiful stripes and will get along well with most of your other fish tank residents – and it will do a fantastic job at keeping it clean!

  • Personality

Kuhli loaches have a reputation for being incredibly peaceful, but they don’t like to be kept by themselves. These fish should be kept in small schools with other Kuhli loaches, as a single loach will spend most of its time hiding and keeping well out of sight of the other fish. Because of this, you should always keep your Kuhli loaches in groups – if you can’t do this, at least makes sure you don’t have your Kuhli loach with any kind of aggressive fish.

Kuhli loaches should not be kept with cichlids or other aggressive aquatic animals. These creatures can cause serious stress and potential injury to your loach.

  • Tank Conditions

Kuhli loaches are relatively easy to care for, except for the fact that they like to hang out beneath the substrate in your tank. As a result, you should use fine gravel or light sand to make sure these fish are not damaged by the jagged rocks of traditional gravel. In addition, Kuhli loaches have been known to swim inside filter inlet tubes. Cover these up with a screen to make sure they don’t have any access.

You should also make sure you include a tight-fitting lid on your tank. This will help prevent your more agile fish from leaping right out of the tank.

Kuhli loaches are most active at night. It would behoove you to add a nighttime viewing light if you want to be able to see these fish at work during the dark hours. They are omnivores and will eat most plant-based foods, along with live food like blood worms, tubifex, glass worms, and daphnia. Don’t think that your Kuhli loach can live on a diet of tank matter alone – it will also need regular feedings in order to stay healthy.

  • Appearance and Longevity

A fully-grown Kuhli loach can reach about four inches long at maturity. When fully grown, a Kuhli loach can live for about ten years in captivity.

2 Bristlenose Plecostomus

Bristlenose Plecostomus
Photo by Ken_Lord

The Bristlenose Plecos is an excellent choice if you are looking for an exotic-looking fish for your aquarium. Often called simply the Bristlenose pleco, this fish is excellent at keeping your fish tank clean and tidy.

  • Personality

A laid-back fish, the bristlenose plecos gets along well with just about every other kind of fish tank inhabitant. The only fish you need to be wary about are those that are overly aggressive or that might have a tendency to attack the fragile, peaceful plecos. These fish are otherwise quite entertaining to observe – you will enjoy watching them skim algae from the surfaces of your tank as they happily swim about!

  • Tank Conditions

Bristlenose plecos eat mostly plant-based diets. They prefer waters that are slightly hearted, as they need some movement in the water. As nocturnal fish, Bristlenose plecos will do most of their eating and playing during the evening hours. They need lots of rocks, plants, and other things to hide behind, but you need to be careful about what kind of decorations you choose to include – anything that can harm the sensitive barbie of the bristlenose plecos should be avoided.

These fish will eat just about anything plant- based, but will also clean up plant matter left behind by their tankmates. You might want to add some kind of dietary supplementation to ensure good nutrition – some good options include plecos food, which you can purchase at most pet stores.

  • Appearance and Longevity

The bristlenose plecos is perhaps best known for its bristly, tendriled nose. The fish itself will grow to about six inches long. This fish is large enough to clean up most of the waste in your tank, yet it’s not so large that it will crowd the rest of the tank – to give you a point of reference, the common plecostomus, to which this fish is closely related, will grow to about a foot long!

3 Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish 4
Photo by Johanes cheval

The Corydoras catfish, or the Cory cat, as it is often called, is one of the most popular algae-eating bottom feeders you can choose to include in your fish tank. This specimen is far from aggressive, and will get along well with most aquatic creatures. It has a gentle demeanor that can get it into trouble if it is housed with a more aggressive fish, as Cory will be hesitant to defend itself. Therefore, you need to consider the personality of your other fish before you decide to add Cory to your tank.

  • Personality

The friendly Corydroas catfish likes to be part of a group, so it’s a good idea to keep a large group of Calories if you add one to your tank. While swimming in a school is not mandatory to ensure the optimal health of your fish, it will have a better personality and overall appearance if you keep it in a group. In addition, there is nothing more enjoyable than watching your Cory catfish swim about with their friends!

  • Tank Conditions

In the wild, you will find Cory catfish in rivers and streams. They prefer to hide in rocks and plants, so in captivity, you should provide a similar habitat. These fish like sand substrates – gravel will be too sharp and can cut the delicate skin of the Cory catfish. The water would have some movement to mimic the flow of the native environment.

These fish like a majority of aquatic plants – some to consider planting in your tank include Java Fern, Hornwort, Java Moss, and Pennywort. Your Cory cat will absolutely love hiding among the leaves!

  • Appearance and Longevity

There are several types of Cory cats for you to consider in your search for the perfect bottom feeder for your tank. The albino Cory cat is not truly albino but is instead a pale pinkish-white. This striking fish has quite the energetic demeanor!

The peppered Cory, on the other hand, has distinctive speckles all over its body. It is very popular and can be found in most pet stores. The panda Cory catfish is also easy to find in stores. It has a light body and dark markings around its tail and head.

The pygmy Cory catfish only grows to about an inch in length. This fish enjoys swimming in the middle portions of the tank, and while it will spend a lot of time at the bottom, too, it does not discriminate when it comes to the various levels of the tank.

The next Cory for you to consider is the Sterbai Cory. This fish has gorgeous spots and is easily one of the most beautiful Cities to look at. Finally, the Julii Cory catfish has beautiful stripes. It looks like a maze all over its body! Since this fish is rare, you will want to be vigilant for signs of fraud – pet stores often sell False Jullis, which won’t provide you with the same kind of algae-eating abilities.

4 Zebra Loach

The Zebra loach is a unique fish that has dark striped markings. These can vary in color and style, but are usually relatively thick. Zebra loaches are very hardy and are famous for their ability to tolerate drastic variations in water quality.

  • Personality

The Zebra loach has a reputation for being a friendly, peaceful fish. That being said, they aren’t nearly as shy and timid as their relatives, the Kuhli loaches! They are fun-loving fish that like to play – in fact, they are sometimes so boisterous in their antics that they scare away other fish in the bank.

These fish are not schooling fish by nature, but they will school when given the chance. You don’t have to include them with loaches of the same type, either – they will get along well with loaches of other families. You should make sure you keep them with relatively peaceful creatures, and never house your Zebra loach with the Corydoras catfish. The two will compete for space and become overaggressive toward each other.

Yu also need to avoid housing your Zebra loach in a tank with fish that have long tails or fins, such as Betta fish. Zebrafish aren’t necessarily mean by nature, but they will often feel the need to nip at the long fins.

  • Tank Conditions

Zebras loaches are not nocturnal fish, like Kuhli loaches are, but they require a lot of places to hide. They like to play in the rocks, plants, and logs in your tank, so it’s a good idea to add plenty of these as hiding spots.

Zebra loaches also like to have a soft substrate, as they will spend a great deal of time burrowing beneath it. You might want to choose sand, gravel or rock can be okay choices as long as they aren’t overly rough. Unlike Kuhli loaches, they aren’t quite as tolerant of fluctuations in water quality. Therefore, you must be sure to change the water on a regular basis and to keep a close eye on your water conditions.

Zebra loaches do not like super bright lights – it is important that you keep the lights dim to keep them happy. Otherwise, they are relatively simple to care for. They will eat foods like bloodworms, tubifex, and brine shrimp, glass worms, and daphnia – live foods are best, buy freeze-dried and frozen versions will work, too. And remember – they will also eat some of the detritus in your tank!

You do need to be careful about housing your Zebra loaches with snails. Zebra loaches like to munch on tiny snails, so it’s important that you don’t house the two together unless you are looking to get rid of some snails.

  • Appearance and Longevity

Zebra loaches don’t grow very large – usually, no more than four inches long. When properly cared for, a Zebra loach can live up to ten years in captivity.

5 YoYo Loach

Photo by Kyle D

The YoYo loach is also known as the reticulated loach because it has a unique pattern of colors on its body. It gets its name from the markings that look like “O’s” and “Y’s” on its body. These are a favorite fish among aquarium hobbyists because they have an exceptional personality.

  • Personality

YoYo loaches are fun to watch, with many responding to their owners’ presence. Some owners claim that they can play with their loaches outside of the glass! These are very peaceful, docile fish – but they can become aggressive if housed with improper tankmates.

You should try to keep your YoYo loach with similar fish – they prefer to hang out in packs. Do not house aggressive or docile fish with your yo-yo loach. You will want to keep your YoYo with a fish that is of a similar disposition, as fish that are too timid can be bullied by your loaches.

  • Tank Conditions

These fish can be somewhat finicky when it comes to water quality. You will want to be vigilant about your water quality, including conditions like temperature, cleanliness, and pH. These nocturnal fish will enjoy digging in the substrate of the tank, and may spend ag do amount of time burrowing beneath it. Therefore, you should keep the substrate fine – sand would be an ideal choice.

A YoYo loach that is new to your tank may have a hard time getting accustomed to its surroundings. It may be shy and have a tendency to hide. Otherwise, this fish is easy to care for – you can feed a animal-based foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and other insects. However, like other loaches, you need to be careful about hiding this species with snails – it will eat anything in its path. This fish will also eat herbivorous foods, like algae.

Remember, YoYo loaches, like other loaches, can easily jump out of your tank. A lid is a necessity.

YoYo loaches can grow to a maximum of five inches long in captivity, but wild YoYos can grow even longer. It is not uncommon for these fish to live for up to ten years, but there are case sin which YoYo loaches have lived for fifteen years or more.

6 Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater
Photo by Fishlady_UK

The Siamese Algae Eater is a great cleaner to have in your tank! This fish is an excellent bottom feeder that makes a great addition to any freshwater aquarium. A delicate fish, this species will fit in well in most tank settings – as long as you have the room and proper water conditions for it.

  • Personality

The Siamese Algae Eater is a peaceful fish that rarely shows any kind of hostility toward other tankmates. Full of energy, this fish is often referred to as the Flying Fox. It has jerky movements that can easily upset fish that are calmer and more easygoing. These fish do best when they are provided with a group of other fish with which to roam around the tank.

You can easily keep this fish with numerous other tankmates. You might want to consider keeping them with fish like tetras, barbs, gouramis, guppies, or even other catfish, like Cory Catfish. This fish can also thrive when house among snails and shrimp. You do not have to keep them in schools, but these fish will offer some of the most engaging, entertaining behaviors when they are kept with other bottom feeders.

  • Tank Conditions

These fish are extremely versatile. They can thrive in numerous conditions and usually don’t need a lot of time to adapt to new environments. Often, they begin searching for food the moment you add them to the aquarium. These fish prefer heavily planted aquariums, which will provide them with lots of opportunities to eat the built-up algae.

The Siamese Algae Eater primarily eats algae as well as other detritus in the tank. This fish is not a picky eater and will eat just about anything you give it. You shouldn’t rely on the algae in your tank alone to feed your Siamese Algae Eater – you should also add supplements like pellets, flakes, and live foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp.

  • Appearance and Longevity

Siamese algae eaters are tiny fish, usually only growing to about six inches maximum. They are best known for their long lifespans, with some growing to the age of 10 years!

6 Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

The Otocinclus Catfish, also known as the Otto Cat, Otto, the Midget Sucker Fish, and the Dwarf Sucking Catfish, has a unique appearance when compared to other catfish – it lacks the signature “whiskers.” Nevertheless, this fish is one you should consider.

  • Personality

The Otocinclus catfish has a peaceful demeanor and gets along well with other peaceful fish. It does exceptionally well with Cory catfish, as well as most freshwater snails and shrimp. You should avoid keeping this fish with other species like cichlids, goldfish, Oscars, and convicts. These species are all known to fit with the Otocinclus catfish and can even kill it. Instead, a better idea is to place this fish with others of its own kind. They thrive in small schools.

  • Tank Conditions

Otocinclus catfish are herbivores and will enjoy being able to chew on the algae that comes to the surfaces of the aquarium. In some cases, your Otocinclus catfish will even chew on pieces of zucchini! This fish should be fed algae wafers to make up for anything it is missing in its diet.

In addition, you should only add an Oto to a tank that has plenty of hiding spots and aquatic plants – the tank should already be established to avoid any sudden drastic fluctuations. Any changes in temperature, pH, or other water conditions can be deadly for your fish.

  • Appearance and Longevity

The Oto catfish is small, only growing to a maximum of two inches long in adulthood. When given the proper conditions, this fish can live for up to five years in captivity.

7 Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish

The Twig catfish is another popular choice for a freshwater aquarium. This fish has a unique appearance and will often separate itself from its peers, preferring to swim around by itself. This fish will often attach itself to surfaces of things in the tank and will move quickly over to something else so that it can disguise itself. After all, that’s where this fish gets its name – it is known for its ability to attach itself to other materials.

  • Personality

The Twig catfish is not aggressive. As a result, it might get picked on by other fish. You will need to be very careful when you add this fish to your community tank, because it is easy for it to become bullied by other fish. You should only house it with fish that are the same or a similar size.

  • Tank Conditions

These fish look just like small twigs. As a result, they can easily blend into the rest of the aquarium’s environment. You might have a hard time detecting the twig catfish in its tank setting, but you will eventually be able to pick it out of its camouflage with some practice.

This fish succumbs easily to poor water quality, so it’s important that you take this into consideration when you are deciding whether you will be able to keep up with the needs of this unique bottom-feeding fish.

  • Appearance and Longevity

Twig catfish can grow up to six inches long, making them some of the largest aquarium bottom feeders you will find. These fish can live up to ten years in captivity, but it’s not common. Most will not live that long because they are so vulnerable to changes in the environment.

Tips For Raising Bottom Feeders In Your Freshwater Tank

These aren’t the only bottom feeding fish you need to consider! Among these popular fish, there are other species you can raise, too, such as crayfish, shrimp, and snails.

It’s no more difficult to raise bottom-feeding fish or other species than it is to raise fish who occupy other levels of the water column. That being said, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

For starters, make sure you follow any species-specific care instructions for the bottom feeder you end up bringing home. You will want to choose a tank that is large enough for the fish you have selected, and you will need to add tankmates that prefer a similar habitat.

Be sure to give plenty of time to cycle your tank before you add these fish to your tank – this is a good rule of thumb to follow with all aquatic inhabitants, but especially for bottom feeders, who can be sensitive to fluctuations in the quality of the water.

Avoid using any landscape objects that have sharp edges or small openings – these can seriously injure your fish. You will also want to watch your fish carefully at feeding time to make sure they are getting equal access to the food. Often, other fish in your aquarium will eat up all the food you have added before it has a chance to reach the bottom feeders. Sinking food pellets can often help to make sure the food is evenly distributed.

Finally, avoid overstocking your tank. You may feel tempted to add multiple bottom feeders, particularly if you have a problem with algae already, but adding too many fish to your tank is just not a good idea. Not only will it negate the benefit of having algae eaters or bottom feeders in your tank in the first place, but it will add more dangerous waste to the tank, doubling the effort your algae eaters need to expend to get rid of it.

Is A Bottom Feeding Fish Right For You?

Think you have what it takes to raise one of these opportunistic fish? We sure do! These fish are easy to care for and can be found at most pet stores. Therefore, they are a great option for anybody who is interested in raising fish – even beginners.

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