10 Best Bottom Feeder Fish for Your Aquarium

Select the best bottom feeder fish from the list

Adding bottom feeders to your aquarium is beneficial in many ways. They bring variety and fun as they are unique and eccentric. Bottom-dwellers of your aquarium team can be excellent cleaners. Some of them are great algae eaters. At the same time, others do housekeeping duties consuming food leftovers and tank wastes.

For the bottom feeders, there is a special place in my heart! In general, they are not the most beautiful and attractive looking fish, but they are useful friends for the rest of other aquarium members. 

You should have some bottom feeders in the tank to keep its environment pristine. Also, If you want to make a self-sustaining aquarium, it is mandatory to have some. Without them, you can’t imagine such a one.

There are several choices for bottom-dweller fish. Sometimes people get confused picking the right ones. I have compiled a list of the best bottom feeder fish from my own experience, which may make your selection process more manageable in less effort. 

 

What Is Bottom Feeder Fish?

In general terms, bottom-feeder fish are those who eat foods from the bottom of a water volume. In an ecosystem of a pond, aquarium, or river, water volume is divided into three layers, top, middle, and bottom. Fish is also categorized based on which strata of water they usually stay and eat food. 

Bottom dwellers or bottom feeder fish are those who live at the bottom layer of water and also take the food that grows or sinks at the bottom. 

Types of Bottom Feeder Fish

There are many types of bottom feeder fish. They are different by nature, size, and habit. For instance, some of them live on dead plant matter or plant matter. Also, some eat other bottom feeder animals. 

So, let’s dig down a bit deeper about their Types. There are two major categories, freshwater, and saltwater. There are some subcategories, also. But here, I’ll focus mostly on freshwater bottom feeder fish for the aquarium.

Based on nature, we can make the category of freshwater bottom feeders in mainly below types.

Catfish

Catfish are a large family of fish and actually a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Their prominent barbels are like a cat’s whisker, and that’s the story behind their naming. 

Catfish vary in a wide range of sizes, from the world’s largest freshwater fish species Mekong Giant Catfish to tiny parasitic species Candiru. Many of the catfish members (particularly from the genus ‘Corydoras’) are extremely popular in the aquarium trade as bottom-dwellers. 

There are a few species of marine catfish, such as Hardhead catfish, Coral Catfish, etc. 

Loaches

Loaches are freshwater bottom-dwellers found in rivers and creeks throughout Asia, Europe, and America. Many of their species burrow in the sand and inhabit riverbeds making a broad territory. Loaches are popular in the aquarium trade, particularly Kuhil Loach, Clown Loach, and Dwarf-Chain Loach are familiar names. 

Suckers

Suckers are a freshwater fish family with almost 80 species native to North America. They are usually river fish and live in flowing streams. Hog sucker, the white sucker, the blue sucker, the longnose sucker are the familiar members of this family. 

Suckers are not that popular in aquarium fish, yet you can keep them, but they are not tolerant of warm water or poor water conditions. 

You may confuse suckermouths or dwarf suckers with this species, but they are not from the sucker family and actually catfish. 

Carps

Carp is a very large group of freshwater fish species native to Asia and Europe. But they spread all around the world nowadays. Many members of the carp family (including common carps) are bottom feeders. 

Many Carp species are vastly popular in the fishkeeping arena. Many of you may be surprised to know that Goldfish are actually genetically modified aquarium fish from the Prussian carp. And Koi is a modified subspecies of Common carp.

List of bottom feeder fish:

The list of bottom feeders is endless. All of those are not suitable to keep inside the aquarium. So, I’ve come up with a list of the 10 best bottom feeders that will be perfect for freshwater aquariums.

10 Best Bottom Feeder Fish for Freshwater Aquariums

Bristlenose Catfish

Scientific Name: Ancistrus

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Herbivorous

Maximum Size: 6″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 5 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 20 Gallons 

Bristlenose Catfish are popular fish with a unique appearance that forms a real gem for attraction. It is a perfect choice as a bottom feeder fish for both beginners and experienced aquarists.

The species are large and tend to grow up to 6 inches long. The catfish typically occupy more space after attaining adulthood. Therefore, you are expected to have a larger tank that can easily accommodate the fish without stress.

The most wonderful is that the fish tend to be tolerant of different tank water conditions. This enables the species to survive almost everywhere across the world.

Bristlenose catfish is low maintenance fish, and the species have a peaceful temperament. This makes the species compatible with other aquarium fish of the like-minded.

Bristlenose is mostly vegetarians as they are algae eaters, though they can also feed on other small fish species. However, they are hardy species but can be attacked by fish ich. The good news is that the infection is treatable and can be prevented.

Kuhli Loach

Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 5″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 10 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 20 Gallons 

This is a unique tropical community fish popularly known as great cleaners. The most beautiful thing is that the species have a long lifespan of about ten years. Hence, make them suitable for beginners to keep them as bottom feeder fish in the aquarium.

Kuhli Loach has a slender body with relatively small fins that are hard to see from a glance. The aquatic creatures grow up to 5 inches long at maturity. The good news is that they do not need more room when growing up.

The fish species come in a variety of colors. Hence, you can choose the one that suits your needs and preferences. Keep in mind that their color appearance can sometimes be scary.

Another important feature to note is that these species are easy to care for and maintain. They are omnivorous, which implies that they can eat everything. However, the species’ healthiest food is bloodworms, brine shrimps, water fleas, and tubifex.

The best water condition for Khuli loach’s survival should have a warmer temperature that ranges from 73 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tiger Pleco

Scientific Name: Hypancistrus

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 4.5″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 8 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 20 Gallons 

Tiger pleco is a peaceful species that thrive in an aquarium with a good current and water that contains a high amount of oxygen. Hence, not a great choice for beginners. But for the skilled aquarists, they are one of the best bottom feeder fish to add. 

The best thing to note is that tiger pleco are true omnivores. They not only feed on algae but also insect larvae and tiny crustaceans. You can also supplement their diet with bloodworms and algae wafers. This will help them meet their nutritional requirements with ease.

Besides that, these species are quite aggressive during breeding. It is the reason behind the recommendation of having a huge tank of water.

Like other fish types, the species tend to experience common diseases such as dropsy, bacterial infection, intestine parasites, fungus, and velvet. The best way to prevent such a situation is to ensure the water is clean and provide medicated food to the fish pets.

Plecostomus

Scientific Name: Hypostomus plecostomus

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 15″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 15 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 30 Gallons 

Plecos are good cleaner fish, but to be frank, not suitable for beginners.

The most interesting thing is that the species’ temperament ranges from peaceful to aggressive depending on the species.

Keep in mind that Plecostomus tends to grow up to 12-15 inches long. Some species tend to be large, and this implies that they might need a larger tank.

Another great feature is that these species can live in both saltwater and freshwater. They have a unique body that can easily adjust to the prevailing water conditions.

Plecostomus feed on algae, which can be supplemented by either raw zucchini, cumbers, or vegetables.

The species are hardy. But they can still be infected with common aquarium diseases like ich swimmer bladder diseases, tail rot, and fin rot.

Zebra Loach

Scientific Name: Botia striata

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 4″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 15 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 20 Gallons 

Zebra Loach (Botia_striata)

This species is a freshwater loach native to the rivers and streams in the Western Ghats of India. In aquariums, they love to snack on algae and plant matters from the substrate and glass.

Zebra loaches are unique in appearance, which attracts the aquarists. They have a series of alternative stripes throughout their bodies to circle them vertically. 

These species are quite hardy and can tolerate a wide range of fluctuation of the condition. This feature makes them a suitable choice as a bottom feeder both for beginners and experts.

Zebra loaches are comfortable in the well-oxygenated aquarium, thus planted aquariums are more suitable for them. 

They are omnivorous and take a variety of food, including live worms and small snails. They are fond of algae and fresh vegetables and show no objection to prepared flakes and pellet foods.

Zebra loaches can live as long as 15 years in ideal conditions. A fully grown Zebra loach can be 4-inch long. 

They are very peaceful fish, do not interfere with others’ businesses, instead remain busy searching for food at the bottom of the tank.

They are quite hardy fish and not susceptible to the illness so easily. The most common disease of Zebra loach is the itch, and in most cases, which is the consequence of unhealthy tank water. 

Keeping the tank condition clean and healthy, you can easily ensure their good health.

Cory Catfish

Scientific Name: Corydoras

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Herbivorous

Maximum Size: 2.5″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 5 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 10 Gallons 

Cory Catfish (Corydoras)

Cory catfish or Corydoras are native to the freshwater streams of South America. They can be an entertaining addition to your aquarium. They are one of the best bottom feeder fish suitable for beginners. 

Cory catfish are easy-to-care and perform very well as a scavenger to clean the aquarium.

They are small schooling fish, love to dwell in groups, mostly at the tank bottom. They are a bit timid and do better if kept in a school of six or more. A fully grown Corydoras does not exceed 2.5 inches in length. The expected lifespan of them is five years in captivity.

Cory catfish consume uneaten food leftovers from the bottom, but that might not be sufficient for their nutrition. They are omnivorous and take a variety of foods. 

Feeding them is quite easy, but floating food is not suitable for bottom dwellers. So, feed them some sinking food as much as they can finish in five minutes.

Cory catfish can suffer from itch and fin rot if the tank environment is not healthy. Most of their diseases are preventable, keeping a clean aquarium condition. If you find the disease is well-spread, take the prescription from a vet.

Otocinclus

Scientific Name: Otoclinus vittatus

Care Level: Medium

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 2″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 5 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 10 Gallons 

Otocinclus

There are at least 15 species of Otocinclus. Among them, Otoclinus vittatus is the most common, known as Dwarf sucker in another name. Not too perfect for the beginners, but Otocinclus are a popular bottom feeder and one of the best algae eaters. 

They are very peaceful non-aggressive fish and protect themselves from aggressive predatory fish. So select their tankmates carefully. 

A fully grown Otocinclus rarely exceeds 2 inches in length. Thus they are suitable for nano tanks. They have an expected lifespan of 5 years in captivity.

Otocinclus are herbivorous, and in the wild, they feed on algae. They are great algae cleaners in the aquarium, yet you need to provide them external foods for proper nutrition. 

Algae wafers are available in the market to feed them. Fresh vegetables are good for Otocinclus. You can chop off vegetables into small pieces and feed them.

This fish group is hardy and not prone to any particular disease, but they can suffer from some common parasitic and fungal problems. Ich is the most common disease for Otocinclus, resulting from unhealthy tank conditions and improper nutrition. A proper diet and a healthy aquarium can keep away their suffering.

Siamese Algae Eater

Scientific Name: Crossocheilus oblongus

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 6″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 10 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 20 Gallons 

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eaters are bottom-dwelling freshwater fish native to the mainland of Southeast Asia. They are one of the most popular and effective algae cleaners in the aquarium. This attractive and delicate bottom feeder can stay in groups or even alone. Nothing can stop doing their house cleaning duties.

They are energetic fish and swim around very fast. For the quick scattered moves, they got a name, Flying Fox. Their sporadic movements often can scare other calmer species. But that doesn’t mean they are going to attack anyone. Siamese Algae Eaters are peaceful.

The adults can get a size of 6 inches, which means they are large enough, and a 20-gallon tank is a minimum requirement for them. Siamese Algae Eaters have a relatively long lifespan of 10 years in captivity.

They are algae lovers, but they are omnivorous and take a variety of foods. Definitely, they prefer algae and plant matters as they are used to those in the wild. But in aquariums, they are perfect scavengers and take whatever they get at the tank bottom, including dead fish and insects.

Luckily they are hardy enough and not susceptible to any particular disease. However, like most other bottom-dwellers, they can be affected by itch and other fungal diseases. Proper nutrition and healthy tank condition are key to keeping your Siamese Algae Eaters healthy and energetic as they are naturally.

Synodontis Catfish

Scientific Name: Synodontis

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Maximum Size: 8″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 10 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 30 Gallons 

Synodontis Catfish

Synodontis is a large genus of catfish consisting almost of 300 species, and many of them are popular bottom feeders in the aquarium trade. They are native to the lakes and rivers of Africa. They are pale in coloration with black spots throughout the body.

They are nocturnal fish and prefer to hide in the daylight. But if they feel the presence of food, they may come out of their hiding places to grab it. Synodontis are usually peaceful but sometimes turn to be semi-aggressive.

A fully-grown Synodontis catfish can be 8-inch long, and some species grow even more. A 30-gallon or bigger tank is ideal for keeping them. They have an expected lifespan of 10 years in ideal tank conditions.

They are omnivorous and take sinking catfish foods happily. Frozen bloodworms and prepared flakes are good for their balanced nutrition.

Like most other catfish, Synodontis are hardy fish and not prone to any particular disease. High nitrates in water can cause infected barbels for your catfish. To keep nitrates levels low, perform regular water changes, and maintain low fish density.

Bumblebee Fish

Scientific Name: Brachygobius xanthozonus

Care Level: Medium

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Carnivorous

Maximum Size: 1.5″

Expected Lifespan: Up to 3 Years

Ideal Tank Size (Minimum): 30 Gallons 

Bumblebee Fish

Bumblebee fish is a small species of freshwater gobies native to Thailand and Indonesia. They have a long thin black body with yellow stripes. Bumblebees are my favorite fish for their personalities though they are not typical tank cleaners, they are delicate tiny bottom-dwellers.

They are not big at all! The fully grown Bumblebees are 1.5 inches only. They are a great choice for nano tanks, and a 10-gallon is ideal for them. 

The average lifespan of Bumblebee goby is three years in ideal condition. They require little special care in captivity. Depending on the provided care, they can live even longer.

They are peaceful in behavior and like to socialize with their own kinds. They love to dwell in groups and do well in shoals of five or more. Bumblebees are compatible with other peaceful species.

They are carnivorous and so feeding them can be a little tricky. These fish species are picky eaters at the beginning. Bumblebees prefer live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimps. They also take frozen foods. Bumblebees require protein-rich foods for proper nutrition.

Unfortunately, they are not that hardy and susceptible to many common diseases. But most of the diseases are preventable by maintaining good water quality. Stressed fish gets sick easily, and proper nutrition is vital to keep them energetic.

Bottom Feeder Fish for 5 Gallon Tank

Five-gallon tanks are too small for most of the bottom feeder fish. You can keep Cory Catfish as they are small schooling fish, but they won’t be happy in such a small tank. Rather you can try small shrimps (as Amano shrimp) and snails as bottom feeders.

Bottom Feeder Fish for 10 Gallon Tank

Cory Catfish & Otocinclus are perfect bottom feeder fish for 10-gallon freshwater tanks. Cory catfish are small schooling fish. You can keep a group of six members in a 10-gallon tank. They will happily swim around. For Otocinclus, you can keep 2 – 4 of them in nano tanks comfortably with other non-aggressive species. 

Bottom Feeder fish for 20 Gallon Tank

Bristlenose Catfish, Kuhli Loach, Tiger Pleco, Zebra Loach, and Siamese Algae Eaters are perfect choices for 20-gallon tanks. I’ll suggest keeping a team of loaches consisting of 2 or 3 members if you prefer them to keep in your 20-gallon tank. But keep only one Bristlenose Catfish, Tiger Pleco, and Siamese Algae Eaters in each 20-gallon tank.

Bottom Feeder fish for 30 Gallon tank

Bumblebee Fish, Synodontis Catfish, and Plecostomus are my best choices for 30-gallon tanks as bottom feeders. Bumblebees are a kind of Cichlid, and you can keep a pair in your tank. Synodontis Catfish and Plecostomus are relatively large bottom-feeders, so only one in a tank is perfect.

Bottom Feeder Fish with Betta

Bettas are fighting fish and rightly named as Siamese fighting fish. They fight for no reason. So, most other fish species are not compatible with Betta in the same tank. But you can keep one or two passive bottom feeders with them, who don’t really bother Bettas. 

I’ll suggest Bristlenose Pleco, Glass Catfish, or Cory Catfish as bottom feeder fish for the Betta tank. But it is not wise to add new fish in an already established Betta territory. Always add Betta as the last member.

Bottom Feeder Fish with Goldfish

Goldfish are peaceful non-aggressive creatures. So most of the bottom feeders can live with them. But don’t put Goldfish with any predator and aggressive bottom feeders like sharks. 

FAQs

What do bottom feeder fish eat?

There are various kinds of bottom feeders. They are different in nature, and so their food habits are also different. Some of the bottom feeder fish are herbivores, and they feed on algae. 

But most others explore the bottom of the tank, searching for food leftovers, invertebrates, and dead organisms. Scavenger bottom feeders play a vital role in keeping the aquarium environment clean and healthy. 

Bottom feeders can take prepared pellets and flakes also. I’ve seen many bottom-feeders consuming floating foods in low, competitive environments.

Do I need a bottom feeder in my fish tank?

Like all other fishkeepers, I’ll suggest you have bottom feeders in the aquarium. They keep the aquarium clean and add some variety. So, in my opinion, bottom-feeder fish can be a great addition to your aquarium if you choose them rightly.

Do bottom feeders eat fish poop?

Most bottom feeder fish that we keep in our home aquarium don’t eat fish-poop. Only Corydoras and Plecostomus catfish are known to eat those staffs, but it is not their primary food.

Final Words

The bottom feeders may not be the most attractive looking fish, but they are useful. Different inhabitants have particular roles in establishing a healthy aquarium environment, and the bottom feeders play an important one.

Bottom feeder fish are unique in appearance and behavior. You should have bottom feeders in your aquarium out there to add some uniqueness and varieties. 

And at the same time, they will clean algae and consume food leftovers giving great benefits for the aquarium. Besides, the bottom-feeder fish are peaceful and don’t require special care. Adding them to the fish tank will add no extra hassle rather usefulness. 

I hope this list of the best bottom feeder fish will be fairly suggestive for your picking process.

What bottom feeders are you keeping in your fish tank or what you liked most? How is our list of bottom feeders? Was it helpful for you?

Put your comments below.

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Sujit Modak Aquarium Tales Owner
Sujit Modak

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my aquarium blog. Fishkeeping is my passion, and I started this fascinating hobby back in 2006. Besides my engineering profession, I deeply studied many fishkeeping topics since I started building my home aquarium. I researched effective aquarium filtration and lighting of planted aquariums. I am keeping 20+ species of freshwater and saltwater fish as my aquatic pet collection. I successfully experimented with a complex ecosystem inside the aquarium, biotope aquariums, aquaponics, etc. I would love to share some learnings from my hands-on experience of the last 14 years. Hopefully, my sharing will be somewhat helpful to make your aquarium journey awesome! 

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