Bottom Feeder Fish – Best & Worst For Your Home Aquarium

Bottom feeder fish are a must have for most aquarists. Why? Because they help maintain proper water quality for other fish, keep the tank clean, and don’t cause too much trouble. They’re also entertaining to watch!

While bottom feeders can help clean your tank by eating the leftover food that sinks to the tanks bottom and algae, they can’t perform miracles. So don’t expect them to get rid of all the debris in your home aquarium as soon as you introduce them to their new home.

Nevertheless, bottom feeders are a great addition to a spacious tank. You just have to do extensive research to get the best species that are good for your home aquarium, and we’ve got you covered!

In this article, we list some of the best bottom feeder fish and the fish species to avoid for your home aquarium.

Read on to learn more about bottom feeder fish!

What Are Bottom Feeder Fish?

Bottom feeder fish are aquatic creatures that tend to spend most of their time at the bottom parts of a home aquarium or a body of water, even when eating.

Unlike other fish species that will swim to the water surface to get the food, bottom feeders usually wait for their meal to sink to the bottom of the tank and end up eating their food along the substrate.

Due to this fact you’ll find that most bottom feeder fish are also scavengers as well. Scavengers are known to eat decaying matter like algae , dead fish and other plant materials.

To be certain you’re choosing a bottom feeder fish there are certain physical characteristics inherent in these aquatic creatures that make them stand out:


Barbels are very similar to cat whiskers and are found around the fishes mouth. Most bottom feeder fish have barbels to help them taste and find food in the substrate.


A fish’s mouth is very important to their survival. Some bottom feeders have specialized mouths called suckermouths that allow them to stick to certain surfaces like tank glass that have food. Fish like plecos have suckermouths which have a suction cup to help them suck algae and other debris to eat.

Body shape

You’ll find that most bottom feeder fish have a specific body type that allows them to scour for food at the bottom of the tank or on the substrate. Most bottom feeder fish have flat bellies so that they can easily rest and move along the substrate when looking for food. That’s why you should ensure to keep soft substrate with bottom feeders so they don’t get injured while looking for their next meal.

15 Best and Worst Bottom Feeder Fish For Your Aquarium

With so many fish species accessible today, it can be confusing and hard to find the best one for your fish tank. Personal preferences aside, you also have to consider your tank size, their temperament and other fish species already in the tank.

With all this in mind, check out our list of the best bottom feeder fish species to add to your tank:

1. Rosy loaches

  • Size: 1-1.3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Loaches are some of the most common bottom dwelling fish. And you’ll clearly see that as you go further in this list. The rosy loaches are a great addition to your home aquarium and a favorite among most fish keepers because of their size making them ideal for both small and community tanks.

Their natural habitat is filled with plenty of vegetation so you should ensure that your home aquarium has plenty of plants and vegetation to keep them comfortable.

Although they are hardy fish, drastic changes in the water parameters will not be good for them. Due to their schooling and social nature, these fish feel more comfortable in groups so you should be ready to get more than one rosy loaches for your aquarium.

2. Bumblebee Goby

  • Size: 1-1.2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you’re more concerned about aesthetics, the bumblebee goby is one of the best looking bottom dwelling fish that you can get for your home aquarium. They are peaceful and relate well with other fish species as long as they have enough room, food, and the proper water parameters to thrive.

Because of their small size, the bumblebee goby prefer to be kept in groups of at least six to feel safe and comfortable in their new environment. You’ll notice them constantly darting across the tank while they feed on the algae. This can be very interesting to watch if you have the time to admire their mesmerizing swimming.

3. Zebra Loaches

  • Size: 3.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Zebra loaches are excellent for community tanks because of their beautiful body patterns and peaceful nature. Unlike other loaches, the zebra loach is not nocturnal. So you shouldn’t be surprised when they interact with other tank mates during the day. If you chose the other tank mates carefully, you won’t have any thing to worry about.

These loaches are also easy to care of as long as you give them plenty of hiding spaces and ensure that the substrate is soft because they will be burrowing there in search for food. You should be careful with maintaining the proper water parameters because zebra loaches are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature.

4. Kuhli Loaches

  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

You’ll notice several Loaches on this list because they’re ideal bottom feeders according to most fish keepers. Kuhli loaches are one of the most popular loaches because they aren’t too large and are easier to care for. These cute loaches will be happier in a planted tank filled with tons of hiding spots although don’t be surprised if you find them around your sponge filter.

Their beautiful bodies help them stand out in any aquarium if you’re looking to make your fish tank more colorful, while their smaller size makes them perfect for most small fish tanks which also gives you more space to add several hiding spaces, tank decorations and other necessary equipment. But you’ll have to keep them in a group for them to feel safe. Because Kuhli loaches are peaceful, you can rest easy without having to worry about fights breaking out in your home aquarium.

5. Yo-yo loaches

  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Another loach you can consider for your fish tank is the yo-yo loach. They are perfect for most fish tanks because of their social nature and they are very active bottom feeders. You’ll find them swimming around the tank and interacting with their environment.

With a lifespan of between 10-12 years, these fish can grow healthy and happy if you give them the care they need. Because they are freshwater fish, maintaining warm water parameters is crucial for their well being.

6. Bristlenose Pleco

  • Size: 4-5 inches
  • Diet: herbivores
  • Temperament: Peaceful

While common plecos do a good job at cleaning your tank the Bristlenose plecos are much better at that job. They are small and peaceful fish that can eat the leftovers in your tank and prevent algae growth. These cleaner fish spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.

To keep these fish happy you need to add several hiding places in the tank because they love to hide a lot being that they are nocturnal fish. So during the day, they’ll either be napping on driftwood or in the caves. Later in the day, they’ll come out of their hiding spots to feed on the algae and aquarium plants.

Like other plecos, these fish will keep to themselves and won’t bother the other fish in the community tank.

7. Corydoras catfish

  • Size: 1-4 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

The Corydoras is a peaceful fish species that will get along with most fish species in a community tank. You don’t have to worry about them growing too big because they only grow to maximum of 4 inches by adult age. If you want to give these fish the best care, here is Cory catfish care guide to help you out.

But one thing about the Corydoras catfish is they are schooling fish and prefer to be kept in groups of at least six to feel at home and safe. With a lifespan of 3 to 5 years you will have a fun time watching these beautiful fish swimming around the substrate all day.

But their size is also determined by the species of Corydoras you choose. These species are highly adaptable to different environments but mostly spend their time at the bottom of an aquarium looking for their next meal.

8. Siamese Algae Eater

  • Size: 6 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

One of the best bottom feeders are the Siamese algae eaters because as the name suggests they will feast on most of the algae in your tank. You can keep them alone or if you have the space, with two or three other Siamese algae eaters. By adult age, they grow to six inches which means you’ll have to move your fish to a larger tank.

Siamese algae eaters are also easy to take care of even for beginner fish keepers. They are low maintenance yet hardy making them one of the most sought-after freshwater bottom feeders today.

9. Otocinclus Catfish

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

These catfish are known to be one of the best algae eaters you can find. Most fish keepers prefer these catfish because they only grow to 2 inches which is great if you have a small fish tank. With this in mind, the minimum tank size for these fish is a 10-gallon tank.

Like most small fish, the otocinclus catfish is a schooling fish species. To keep them happy and at ease, you need to keep them in groups of 10 or more. They have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years and prefer warm water temperature while they eat the algae along the plants decor and tank glass.

They are schooling fish so you’ll have to keep them in a group for them to be happy in their new fish tank for comfort and safety from aggressive fish.

10. Twig Catfish

  • Size: 5-7 inches
  • Temperament: Shy and peaceful

Twig catfish are very calm bottom feeder fish for any freshwater aquarium. They are thin, with long bodies hence the name ‘twig’. They are quickly becoming more available because of how good they are at eating algae in fish tanks. They also eat a variety of leftover foods and green algae but that means they require more care than other fish.

Although these catfish are great bottom feeders, they need a tank with plants and driftwood because they like to attach themselves in areas where algae and nutrients are easily available. While they can comfortably eat algae, they need their diet supplemented with other foods too.

They are commonly known as armored catfish because they have a protective barrier on their bodies that protects them from predators and injury. With a lifespan of 10-12 years, they can help you keep your tank clean for a long time to come.

11. Amano Shrimp

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Having an amano Shrimp for your fish tank is a great idea because these creatures are efficient in eating algae and debris in the fish tank, even the food stuck in small spaces or in between the course substrate.

The fact that they do not excrete as much as other aquatic creatures like fish means that they won’t tamper with the water quality even if they’re constantly eating the algae and other leftovers in the tank (in fact it should help quality).

As long as you maintain the proper water parameters and provide numerous hiding places for these shrimp, they’ll be content in your home aquarium. You must be careful however, because larger fish could end up eating them when left without food for long periods.

12. Mystery Snails

  • Size: 1.8-3 inches
  • Diet: omnivorous
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Mystery snails are a great addition to any home aquarium. They are not only friendly and come in beautiful colours but as long as you feed them, they won’t cause any trouble in the fish tank. One key benefit of adding mystery snails is that they are omnivorous and can thrive while snacking on leftover food and algae in a tank. If you choose these bottom feeders, here is a mystery snail care guide to help.

Also known as the apple snail, these freshwater creatures grow to between 1.7 to 2.5 inches by the time they are adults. So this means you won’t need a lot of space or have to move to a bigger fish tank as they grow. If you’re looking for the best snails for a betta tank, here at 12 of the common and friendly snails you can choose.

13. Pictus Catfish

  • Size: 5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

The Pictus catfish have a lifespan of close to 8 years if given the proper care and good diet. Pictus catfish are active bottom feeders that you’ll enjoy having in your home aquarium. Their bright colors also make them ideal for aquarists looking to beautify their freshwater aquariums.

Pictus catfish are however very large and won’t to do well in a tank filled with smaller fish species. Keeping them in a tank with fish of the same size of them will prevent any injuries to the fellow tank mates.

Pictus catfish are greedy when it comes to food so you should ensure they are well fed. Although they are omnivores and can eat plant matter and meaty foods, these catfish are very willing to eat the algae in your tank.

These bottom feeding fish aren’t very demanding. As long as you give them plenty of swimming space and several hiding spots when they get tired, they can be pretty manageable to care for.

Most catfish species are predatory and could end up eating your other fish if left unattended to. Many aquarists have found themselves in trouble when they bought catfish at a young age, that end up growing too big and ended up eating other tank mates.

There are a couple of fish species that you shouldn’t consider adding as bottom feeders to your tank. They include:

14. Chinese Algae Eaters

  • Size: 6-10 inches
  • Temperament: Aggressive

Chinese algae eaters can be good for some fish tanks but some fish keepers tend to avoid them because it grows to 6 inches which might be too big for most home aquariums. If you don’t feed them well they might end up targeting smaller fish especially in a community tank. You need to ensure that you monitor their diet and ensure that they are fed well to prevent this.

If you have a large enough tank these fish will be perfect because they’re very good at removing algae and preventing algae growth in the tank.

15. Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

  • Size: over 3 feet
  • Temperament: Aggressive

The Tiger shovelnose catfish is great for fish keepers with large tanks and plenty of room. If you’re up for the task, you’ll have a long journey ahead because these fish can live up to 20 years in the right environment.

These large bottom feeders are better suited for experienced aquarists because they have some aggressive tendencies that you’ll need to keep an eye on (not to mention growing very large as mentioned).

Other bottom feeder fish you should avoid include Channel Catfish and Redtail catfish.


Which fish cleans the glass of the tank?

The best bottom feeder fish that clean the tank glass include common plecos, bristlenose and otocinclus catfish because of their suckermouths.

Which fish eat brown algae in your tank?

Most sea creatures that feed on most types of algae including brown algae are nerite snails, otocinclus catfish, and amano shrimp.

Do snails help keep a fish tank clean?

Yes. Most aquarium snails are scavengers so they will eat dead plant matter, leftover foods, and algae in the tank.

What happens if you have too many snails in the fish tank?

Too many snails are not good for any fish tank. While they can help get rid of the algae and debris in your tank, they could end up overfeeding on your live aquarium plants.

What is the best bottom feeder fish for your tank?

Before choosing the best bottom feeder fish for your home aquarium, you need to consider the size of your fish tank and other other fish species you will be placing in the tank. You don’t want to keep fish that are aggressive with peaceful fish because they can get injured or worse, eaten.

Some of the best bottom feeders include otocinclus catfish, rosy loaches, Kuhli loaches, yo-yo loaches and mystery snails, because they won’t grow too big to take up too much space in your home aquarium. Most of these fish species need to be kept in groups so nano tanks are definitely not recommended.

Bottom feeder fish are essential for most fish tanks because they not only help clear sinking food, leftovers, and algae from the tank, but they can keep your fish company without getting in their way because they will spend most of their time at the tanks bottom.

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