I have had my algae eater for around 2 years and he was much more trouble than I though he'd be when I first got him at 4 cm. He is around 18 cm in a 150 liter tank now, and is always picking on my cories. I will keep him for now, but I will probably give him away soon because he doesn't eat a lot of the algae anymore.
I have had my Chinese algae eater for just over three years now. He is my favorite member of my tank, expressing the most personality by far. I'd say he is only about 10 or 12 cm by now, which isn't bad for keeping him in a 37 L tank. I have recently moved him into a 110 L tank and I'm eagerly waiting for him to grow much larger. As a community fish he is great, definitely in charge though, and he keeps even my much larger pleco in line. He doesn't eat much algae anymore, eating mostly flake food that finds its way to the bottom. My only problem with him is he's a bit shy and I don't get to see him come out as much as I'd like, unless I sit really still.
Chinese algae eaters are one of my favorite aquarium fish, but they are definitely not for everyone. Their aggressive temperament is undesirable for many with community tanks, yet we find the same trait endearing in many other species such as bettas and cichlids. So, if you want a peaceful community fish, this is not the species for you. My first CAE was sadly only with me for three years. He/she originally belonged to my mother, who never cleaned the gravel during water changes, resulting in a toxic build-up of hydrogen sulfide (you wouldn't believe the reek of it!). The fish survived, but suffered neurological and gill damage. It lived to be 13 cm long, but suffered chronic poor health. However, I did learn quite a lot keeping the species through this special needs fish, which has helped me with my current healthy CAE. I've found that my CAE's thrive alone in a 110 liter aquarium with a fast current and high aeration. They love fine gravel or sand as a substrate to bury themselves, and seem to be most comfortable with many hiding caves and plants. On a diet of sinking wafers, frozen insects, and fresh leafy green vegetables, they become large, plump, and healthy - unlike the scrawny little specimens in pet stores. These guys are amazingly active and should really be given plenty of space to swim. They are also fairly messy and high-waste. I can't imagine keeping one cramped in a 40 L aquarium for life after seeing what an engaging and inquisitive species it is.
I have my algae eater for more than 11 months now. Of course it was not alone and it used to attack the goldfishes when they approached to the bottom of the aquarium, this obviusly showed that it was very aggressive. It damaged the fins and scales of these goldfishes, so I put it in an smaller aquarium with Malawi lake cichlids and it became a coward. I decided to create a territory exclusive for it (a cave with a piece of wood, a plant and rocks) and it seems to be happy there.
I recently read that Chinese algae-eaters are sometimes mistakenly sold as oto cats (they are similar in appearance when young). Chinese algae-eaters are very aggressive and WILL attack other fish and suck off their slime. Not a good choice for any aquarium and especially not for community one.
I've had my CAE for more than 4 years. He's around 10 cm and really quite a good looking fish. He shares a large tank with 5 pretty big goldfish. I've noticed comments about aggression in CAE's, but can honestly say that Ken (yes I named him) is part of a happy community, often hangs around with the goldfish and has never attacked any of them. Also, I've no idea what he eats as he seems to graze on clean glass, but clearly he's not starving!
I personally find these little guys attractive, but they definitely have special needs and can be a bit of work. I have a 10 cm and a 15 cm CAE in a 75 L aquarium by themselves. They eat chlorella tablets from the local health food store, San Francisco Bay Emerald entree, and my homemade frozen fish food. They love to graze constantly, which is probably natural, but as a result I end up having to clean their tank twice a week. Also, be aware that they are not pure algae eaters, they are omnivores and they have big appetites. Like us, if they get hungry, they go hunting. Moral of the story: Just like every fish out there, the CAE is enjoyable and problem free when kept in the right environment. Research what you buy, and if you donít want a gray/brown/tan fish that might hide a lot, eat a lot, make a mess, attack your other fish, and get large, donít buy the CAE. PS: When I look into the beady eyes of the massive six-incher (when he decides to come out so I can see him) it's all worth it.
I had three of these guys in my 200 L tank about a year ago (I think). They were all about 5 cm, and brown. One grew fairly quickly, had solid black eyes and turned a fully bright yellow. The next had normal eyes and turned yellow with some marbling. The last one was growing slowly, had solid black eyes and still had its brownish colouring and pattern. They were pretty cool, playing with each other, and also being VERY skittish whenever I came along. I then found out what they were and how large they can get! A friend's sister took the brown one and the fully yellow one, thankfully. My last one is now probably just over 10 cm, and is anything but aggressive. I hope he stays that way. He is now in a 150 L tank, heaps of hiding places, with angelfish, cories, plecos and tetras. He likes to dig in one specific place, and hangs around with the cories sometimes. I'm not sure if he eats algae, but he likes his algae wafers. His marbling is slowing disappearing, which I only just noticed after finding a picture of him taken about half a year ago. He is growing very slowly. Hope this helps in understanding this fish.
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