Aquarium Maintenance

The Complete Care Guide for Siamese Algae Eater

siamese algae eater

This tropical fish is found on the Southeast Asian continent, including the lakes of Chao Phraya, the Mekong and the Malay Peninsula. Its natural habitats for rivers, streams and forests are flooded during the rainy season. Siamese algae eater prefer their natural habitat to rivers and streams. They can also be found frequently in flooded forest regions during the local rainy season.


Siamese algae are long and slender fish with a brownish-beige color. These species are identified by a bright black line running across the entire body, nose and tail, with one eye-catching stripe line on each side.

The black stripe line runs to the tip of the fish’s clear cadual fin with a mustache called rostal barbels.  This stripe line often withers in the water that helps the fish to hide from predators. On both sides, the Siamese female algae have a much wider middle section compared to the sleeker and slim male fish.

Another detail to look at is that these fish do not have a typical “swim blader” that most fish have. If the fish do not stay in constant motion, they will sink to the bottom of the tank or other water habitat.

Benefits of adding them in your tank

As their descriptive name implies, Siamese algae (or “sae” for short) eat the naturally growing algae found in their habitats. For this reason alone, these peaceful fish are terrific for keeping fast growing algae from growing in your aquarium overtime.

While many fish experts recommend small algae growth to maintain proper nutrition and ecosystem balance within your tank, too much can harm your fish and other aquatic creatures that live there.

Adding Siamese algae eaters to the aquarium helps control algae growing species and maintain good aquarium health which is important for the well-being of each fish living inside the tank. This also prevent cloudy water in your aquarium (which does not look good).

Types of Siamese algae eaters

There are two problems you will encounter when looking for an SAE team in your tank. First, there are several commonly marketed species sold as SAEs (or under more common names such as Asian or Siamese Flying Fox) that look similar as juveniles, but are unrelated and have different care and nutritional needs;

  • Chinese algae or CAE (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) is more aggressive and larger than true SAEs.
  • Territorial Flying Fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus) looks almost identical but has no interest in eating algae. Unlike true SAEs, they have dark coloured pelvis and dorsal fins.
  • False Siamese Algae Eater (Garra cambodgiensis) is one of the most commonly mislabeled imitations in pet stores. You can distinguish them with diagonal dye stripes on their dorsal fins.
Siamese Algae Eater vs Flying Fox

The flying Siamese fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus) often mitaken for the algae eater because they look alike. They both have a bright, dark stripe running through their body.

An easy way distinguish between these two types is to look for flaps in the corner of the mouth. Flying foxes have them but algae-eaters do not. However, this is almost impossible to check if the fish are still alive and swimming, so you can make the guesses you have learned by looking at the color.

The black stripe of the flying fox is usually smooth and ends at the base of the tail fin. Algae eater’s are not very similar and stretch to the end of the tail.

Temperament and behavior

The Siamese algae is known for its peace and tranquility. This feature makes these fish an excellent choice for community aquariums.

These fish are considered social, and they are in harmony with the many other fish and aquatic creatures found in the warm freshwater.

There are a few warnings first time owners should know before bringing this fish to their aquarium. As Siamese have to keep moving due to the lack of swimming trunks, you need to provide for them caves-holes and various plants or objects such as driftwood at the bottom of the aquarium. This allows these working fish elsewhere to escape others when they need a place to rest and relax in their busy lifestyles.

The behavior of Siamese algae eater can be described as active and definitely social. These fish are constantly on the move, and are constantly on the lookout for algae and other plankton commonly found at the bottom of tanks.

If a Siamese algae appears to be aggressive, you should carefully monitor the situation and determine which fish or other creature that caused this peaceful fish to react in this way. In rare cases, fish may need to be stored in a separate tank.

These fish can be territorial in nature, and it is best to keep one Siamese or keep 5 or more in a group. This mimics their normal state in the wild and will prevent one fish from claiming an area in the tank.

Habitat and Tank conditions

In the wild you will find Siamese algae eaters in the dense rivers and streams of Southeast Asia. This tropical water is slightly acidic and rarely has a fast current. Underneath the surface you will find many plants, rocks and logs that provide shelter.

Siamese algae time is divided between hiding in these habitats and food search areas. This is mainly algae, but also other substances that sink under the river. They are not the best explorers; they tend to live in shelters they are familiar with and rarely go up in the water.

Tank Conditions

As they spend most of their time near the bottom of the tank, the sandy substrate makes it safer for them to swim without scratching their body or damaging their sensitive barbels. You should also add plants to mimic their natural habitat.

There is a chance that your fish will start nibbling on other plants if they do not get more food. Keeping them healthy is the best way to protect your plants. One strategy is to use fast-growing species of plants such as the hornwort which can recover quickly if certain portions are eaten.

All fish like to have a place to hide from their tank mates, fish that live at the bottom especially. Create caves around the tank to escape them.

Many fish can jump, but some can do better than others. Siamese algae eaters are active and fast which makes it easy for them to jump out of the water. Always keep the lid of your tank closed at all times. To ensure that you don’t come to a fatal escape attempt.

You will need a heater to keep the water range at 75-79 ° F. Water hardness should be 5-20 dH. Ideally the pH can be between 6.5 and 7.0, but they can tolerate a wide range if needed (approximately 6.0-8.0).

They have no special water flow requirements, which is surprising because they naturally live-in rivers. This will slow them down and the current may be weak in the river bed where they live.

Tank Mates

Siamese algae eaters are peaceful creatures which means there is a long list of potential tank mates. This makes them a good tankmate for a community aquarium.

As these fish spend their time at the bottom of the tank, you need to think about other bottom dwellers too. Most bottom dwellers can be bullies or territorial to those who get in their way because they might eat or attack your algae eaters. This usually means avoiding cichlids, many of which should be stored only in the tank. Red-tailed sharks are another too; they bully others to protect their environment in old age. This is not a war your peaceful algae eaters can win.

There are many peaceful bottom dwellers to choose from. Corydoras is one of the best known and also angelfish. Tetras, danios, and guppies work well because they are small and not aggressive. You can also use large fish such as gouramis and barbs because their size does not come with aggression.

It’s good to remember that their tank mates don’t have to be fish. Some animals can be added too, most of them often eat algae as well. The most common are shrimp (manano, cherry and ghost) and snails (similar to nerite snails).

Mixing shrimp and snails with your fish reflects certain behaviors, adding more interest to your tank, but don’t overstock your aquarium tank.

Keeping the Siamese Algae Eaters Together

You can keep more than one SAE in a tank. They are schooling fish, they show their best behavior in schools by at least 4-6. This does not mean that you have to keep them in school all through, they do well if they are kept alone or in pairs too.

Diet information

Like most species of fish, aquarium owners need to feed each specie quality healthy food in order to maintain healthy living. Siamese algae eater tend to be less selective about the food available and are omnivores. This means they will eat dead insects, plant material, and dead fish (among other things).

Food in the wild

In their native areas, Siamese algae eaters eat a variety of algae forms, phytoplankton and periphyton. They will also eat dead fish and insects if they come across them.

Food in your aquarium

For best results when caring for Siamese algae eaters you will want to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. This fish loves a variety of algae that fortunately grows inside the aquarium.

Many fish experts recommend that they should be fed with a combination of fish foods that include protein and plant-based natural foods. In the tank, these fish can be fed most of any commercial or live food.

Warning for feeding these fish, do not overfeed them down or under feed them. On the other hand, too much protein can make fish reluctant to feed on their favorite algae menu.

Water conditions and tank size

The Siamese algae eater is easy to take care of, and it doesn’t need a lot of fuss or luxury tank conditions to thrive.

Generally, plan to go with a small size of 25 to 30 gallons of water. This will allow them to explore and be active, while also having hiding places.

Maintain a water pH of 6.5 to 7.0 which replicates the nutritious and stable water conditions these fish encounter in their common habitats in the wild.

Since Siamese are tropical fish that live in freshwater streams and rivers with low current activity, keep the aquarium water temperature set at 75 ° F to 79 ° F for best results. The ideal range of water solubility is between 5 and 20 dH.

Common diseases and prevention

Happily, Siamese Algae Eaters are prone to very few diseases. They can be affected by some of the most common problems affecting other types of freshwater fish tanks. However, they do provide clear symptoms and can usually be treated quickly and easily.

Ich is one of the most common diseases in freshwater areas. A small parasite causes the disease, which can be identified by small white dots on the body of an infected fish.

This is usually preceded by your fish rubbing its body against a rock or other scratchy spot in an attempt to scratch the itch. The disease is easily prevented by constant water changes.

Antibiotics: regular water changes is your best bet to prevent this. And if your SAE has contracted an Ich, it is best treated with regular water change and quality food.

Recommendations for Sick Sae’s: Be sure to make sure temperature of their water is warm enough for your fish when they are sick. They work best in warm water, which means that your fish can perform better and healthier and by simply rising at a gradual and mild temperature until the right temperature is reached.

Tank separation: Thoroughly rinse and clean any decorations you may have in the tank. Do not add anything new to the environment while SAEs are under treatment.


It is unlikely that you will be able to breed these fish on your own, even though they mate in the same way as most other fish. They are known only for breeding in farms with the help of hormones.

Simply having these fish to mate is hard enough and requires a keen eye. Females become about 30% larger when they are fully grown.

Breeding may be triggered by changes in water conditions (temperature, pH etc.), but so far little is known about how to breed in them in home aquariums.

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