What Aquarium Fish Eat Poop? [Facts Checked]

What aquarium fish eat poop? Is there any fish that are habituated to eating the fish poop? That will be really nice since cleaning & maintenance requirements would have been much lower.

There are some bottom dweller fish and invertebrates such as plecos, catfish, sucker fish, shrimps, etc. which are known as poop eaters. However, they don’t eat fish poop, they often mistreat poop as their food. Accidentally, they may eat fish poop, but they don’t do that deliberately.

So, what aquarium fish you can add to help manage the fish poop in your aquarium? Are there any other ways? Let’s find out how you should manage the fish poop in your aquarium.

What fish will Eat Poop & clean the bottom of my tank?

Brown catfish Ancistrus dolichopterus in the aquarium
Brown catfish in the aquarium

Many aquarium fish are being used as the clean-up crew by fishkeepers. They clean the bottom of the tank by eating all the leftover foods, algae, and detritus. However, they don’t clean the fish poop. Instead, adding them to the tank will lead to more fish poop in the tank.

People often ask, do shrimp eat fish poop? If it’s not, what about snails? Do snails eat fish poop?

So, apart from fish are there any aquatic critters that clean the fish poop? The answer is NO. Shrimp and snails also don’t eat fish poop?

So, what’s the point of adding those bottom-feeder fish? Definitely, there are some valid reasons.

Bottom dweller fish help in many ways but not in poop management. They ingest foods that sink to the bottom, consume dead plant matter, and clean algae spores so that your tank remains pristine.

However, they can’t help you remove other fish poop, Instead, they will add more poop to your aquarium.

Still, you can add some of them to your tank, because of their other benefits. My favorite bottom feeder is cory catfish, they are beautiful, have different varieties, and most importantly keep my tank clean.

Different Bottom Feeder Fish & Their Functions

Fish & Inverterbrates Appearances Good At Do They Eat Poop
Catfish Some are ugly, some are beautiful Cleaning dead fish, invertebrates, and algae; depends on species No
Loaches Some are beautiful, some are scary in appearance. Removing worms, insects, and meat-based leftover food No
Shrimps Beautiful; comes with a range of color Cleaning dead insects, plants, algae, or food leftovers No
Snails Mostly beautiful Cleaning algae, dead plants, dead fish, extra fish food, and other waste No
Sucker Not so good looking Cleaning Leftover foods, plants, algae No

Why do You need To Remove The Fish Poop From Your Tank?

What happens if you keep the fish poop unattended in your tank? Fish waste builds up quickly especially if you don’t have a strong enough filter to handle that.

Fish waste including poop, urine, and discarded scale all contribute to ammonia spikes if your biological filter can’t manage that. Ammonia is toxic and detrimental to fish health. Moreover, ammonia is the single biggest cause of fish death in aquariums.

Therefore, you should implement proper measures to get rid of the fish poop so that it can’t hurt your fish.

A small Cordydora fish in a home aquarium
A small Cordydora fish in a home aquarium

How do I get rid of fish poop in my tank?

The idea of deploying some poop-eating fish is not feasible since no aquarium fish eats poop. So what are the effective ways to get rid of fish poop in your aquarium?

Using an aquarium gravel vacuum is the most effective & practiced way to get rid of fish poop. However, there are some other alternatives. One way is to direct the flow towards filter intake by a powerhead and use a sponge at the intake to catch the poop. Other ways are to use a shovel and net to capture fish poop manually or install a fish poop filter.

Let’s move into the details of each method.

Use An Effective Filter & Powerhead to Direct the Flow

Effective and sufficient enough aquarium filter you should consider first for poop removal. The filter circulates water in the fish tank. Garbage present in the water gets trapped inside filter media. However, still in some areas where the water movement is low fish poop can pile up.

So, one of the ways is to use a sponge in the filter intake and increase the rate of water flow of the filter. However, keep in mind this method is only applicable if the fish you’re having can tolerate a strong current. Not all aquarium fish such as betta can’t adjust to the strong water flow.

If you own a big aquarium a powerhead or wavemaker is a good way to move water. With a powerhead, you can direct the flow in a specific direction, for example towards the filter intake.

Powerheads are not generally suitable for smaller aquariums since they generate a very powerful current. You can use small water pumps for smaller aquariums.

The whole concept is to direct the flow toward the filter intake so that fish poop can’t sink to the bottom. In addition, if the water movement is strong, it may stir out some of the fish poop already present in the substrate.

Utilizing a sponge in the intake will help you catch and remove the fish poop easily from the aquarium. Simply removing the sponge and washing it in clean water will help get rid of the fish poop.

Buy A Gravel Vaccum

Close-up of a hand cleaning fish tank with vaccuum cleaner
Close-up of a hand-cleaning fish tank with a vacuum cleaner

The most effective way to remove the fish poop is to use a gravel vacuum. Vacuuming the gravel every few days will keep the substrate clear of fish poop.

This is the alternative to the first method. Having some maintenance accessories such as a gravel vacuum is quite handy for managing a fish tank.

A gravel vacuum stirs the top layer of substrates. Therefore, lighter debris including fish poop that is stuck inside gravel or sand gets sucked up along with water.

There are many types of gravel vacuums with varying prices. I have an article where I have listed the top & cheapest gravel vacuum for aquarium use. I encourage you to read that article.

Use A Shovel & Net

Aquarium net
Aquarium fish net

If you don’t have the budget or are the owner of a nano aquarium, you can use a shovel & net to clear the fish poop from the tank. It’s more of a manual approach & takes a bit more time.

Use the shovel to gently stir the substrate or scoop some of the fish poop visible on the substrate. For finer poop particles, use the net to catch those.

To keep the tank clear of fish poop you can use this method daily. However, if you have a sparingly stocked aquarium clearing the poop weekly is sufficient.

Install A Fish Poop Filter

A filter specially designed to catch fish poop is also a good alternative. This is a type of internal aquarium filter that operates by an air pump and creates sufficient suction to flow water through the filter.

Fish poop collects in the bottom chamber of the filter, after that water passes through a biological cartridge that holds 100 quartz beads and houses beneficial bacteria. Bacteria then break down the fish poop.

Comparison Among Methods To Clean Fish Poop

Method To Clean Fish Poop Suitable For Cost $ Where To Buy
Powerhead to direct the flow & install a sponge in the filter intake Best for a bigger aquarium & having Fish that can tolerate the strong current 50~100 Available On Amazon
Gravel Vacuum Best for all types of aquariums 30~70 Available On Amazon
Shovel & Net Nano or Small Aquarium 10~20 Available On Amazon
Fish Poop Filter Suitable for all aquarium, need an extra air pump 50~70 Available On Amazon

When You Don’t Need To Remove The Fish Poop?

Is fish poop always harmful to the aquarium? No, not at all, if you have the planted aquarium. So, Is fish poop good for aquarium plants?

Fish poop can work as a good fertilizer for plants. It is the concept used in making the aquaponic fish tank where fish poop works as food for the plants.

Therefore, if you have plenty of aquarium plants in your tank, then there is no need to remove the fish. However, if you have high fish density and if plants are not able to consume all the poops, then definitely you need to remove it.

Wrapping Up

Fish poop is ugly and annoying, and it needs to be removed. Unfortunately, no aquarium fish can help you get rid of that. If you to do it all by yourself either by implementing the right arrangements or using the right tools.

However, you can use fish poop to your advantage by adding some live plants to your tank. In this way, you don’t need to remove the fish poop, and also you can able to enjoy the beauty of a planted aquarium.

Sujit Modak

Leave a Comment