To have a well rounded ecosystem for your aquarium, you want all levels of fish habitats. The bottom feeders are sort of known to do the dirty work of clean up crew. If you think about it, everything has to fall to the bottom of your aquarium and it makes for a dirty aftermath. You can really help keep your tank cleaner by choosing a suitable bottom feeder fish.
Note: Exotic Species (bottom of page).
Most Popular Bottom Dwellers for Aquariums
This list of bottom dwellers consists of the most common species found in common aquariums. Make sure to check out our archive of threads to help assist you in finding the “best” bottom dweller for your aquarium setup. Sometimes it is tough to find the best species because every fish aquarium is different in it’s own unique way. Let’s start this list now before I get sidetracked by more cool fish species.
Snails are Some of the Most Popular
The snails are the experts of smooth surfaces. They absolutely love sucking on the side of your glass in your fish aquarium all day and every day. I would say they are the most efficient bottom dweller because they consume so much and give off so little. Issues arise with snails eating live plants but if you keep an eye on them it shouldn’t get out of hand too fast. Huge community for snails and people love them in their aquariums. I’m more if a catfish type of person but I also enjoy a large snail. It seems like everyone who owns snails always has a crazy story to tell regarding them.
Cory Catfish Love to Be in Groups
The Cory species from the Catfish family is a great addition to an aquarium. They don’t get more than a few inches long and are very compatible with other fish. The #1 reason why they do so well is because they eat meaty substances along with algae substances.
This omnivore will eat dead fish and they happen to love it. This means that almost anything that sits at the bottom of your aquarium get eaten by the Cory catfish. Very comparable to the Plecostomus catfish except they grow very large and you need a large tank for them.. which some of us don’t have.
My personal favorite of the bottom dwellers is the Pleco fish. Reason being, this creature is somewhat of a dinosaur in my opinion. It lives from 20-30 years long and can grow up to 2 feet long at times. Tell me that’s not crazy!
The Pleco is constantly feeding and is nocturnal. When you go to shut the lights off, that’s when the Pleco starts its day. It has a special eyelid that closes during sunlight to protect its vision and opens up and night. I love these things but I must warn you, when you have a 12 inch Pleco in your tank… it eats a lot and poops a lot. Consider your algae problems gone if you have a Pleco.
Loaches Show So Much Personality
A very popular choice due to the personality levels. These fish love to be in groups and really will show passion towards each other with their movements. You actually have to watch out for loaches crawling out of your tank because they can get out of the water and desire some basking in the sun.
They really enjoyed digging in gravel and findings or next tasty meal. I have seen some stories online where they have moved so much that the decorations have fallen on them and they have gotten stuck under the decorations.
Chinese Algae Eaters are Awesome
These guys are very nice when they are juvenile to teenager stage but as soon as they hit adulthood… you may notice them trying to kill your other fish. If you don’t keep them fed well, they will take matters into their own hands. Guppies and small fish usually fall victim because of their small size.
The Chinese Algae Eater grows up to 6 inches long and that’s where the problems come into. When a bottom feeder gets to be this large, it causes problems. This fish almost becomes ‘aware’ of its own growth in size and abilities.
Crayfish is Not Commonly Thought Of
Across station that a lot of people don’t think of as being an aquarium bottom feeder is the crayfish. They actually do an excellent job of cleaning the bottom of your aquarium and they will even devour dead fish when given the opportunity. It’s really eye catcher as well too because there is a species of crayfish that is a bright and vibrant blue color. Outside of being a tasty snack for us humans this crustacean makes for an awesome bottom feeder of your aquarium that most people never think if. You want to do proper research on hiding spots though because I do know that these crayfish get very insecure when I don’t have the proper places to hide.
Shrimp Filter Small Particles the Best
What works out so well in aquariums with freshwater shrimp is they act as a meal for most of your fish and also to eat smaller particles of algae and decay than most other scavengers. How they do it as they have small hairlike antennas that filter constantly so that they can feed on what these hairs filtering through the water. It’s almost like a piece of fish filter except it’s built into their organs and it just works amazingly. On top of constantly cleaning your aquarium there also a tremendous meal for your fish as a live food source.
Crabs Can Really Do Some Justice
May seem like a crab isn’t going to get much done because of how slow they move around but they actually are tremendous scavengers. It is important to research different types of crabs and the different sizes of shells in which they need to be able to grow and move forth with their lifestyle. Keeping up with what type and size of Crabshell is a big deal and part of the care that goes with your crab as a pet.
More “Exotic” Bottom Feeder Species
Exotic fish seem to be growing in popularity and we decided to add a section devoted to exotic species of bottom dwellers.
Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Species
Do not purchase a Tiger Shovelnose catfish unless you are prepared to provide with the type of large aquarium that it will require as an adult. A lot of Tiger shovelnose catfish are euthanized or released into the wild each year by aquarists that purchased them when they were still small enough for the standard hobby aquarium. More info here
Have Any Info to Add?
Reply from Vanessa H:
I’ve seen a common misconception that these catfish and bottom fish eat other fish’s poop or waste and that’s not the case. Most of these fish if not all.. are mainly algae eaters but some share an omnivore trait and can eat meaty foods too. And because there is always so much to eat on the bottom, these fish thrive. I know here in the state of Florida that Plecostomus fish lurk the ponds everywhere because an aquarium owner let theirs go in the lake and now were over populated with them. Don’t let your fish go in the wild! But yeah.. I love my bottom feeders and the Cory cats have got to be my favorite because hey are so small and keep to themselves ever so peacefully. http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/nitrate.cfm
Reply from David F:
I’m surprised that the article did not go more into detail regarding the different cat fish species. I think right off hand I can I will sleep around 20 different species of catfish narrow bottom feeders so it’s kind of a big deal to mention them. I’ve been trying to do some research to find the best species of catfish for my aquarium and I have a 55 gallon and size so I was looking for a good source but there is a much info here on catfish.
Reply from Pete S:
I’m surprised there’s no information regarding freshwater stingrays. I do know that they are super popular and they go for a couple of hundred of dollars apiece. I’ve been trying to find a good deal on some but they’re tough to come by. I think every aquarium owner should take a lot of concern over the bottom feeding fish because they are the cleanup crew any kind of picks how clean your aquariums going to be. Is fish that hang out on the bottom are going to be the ones that cleaner tanks and make it so that we don’t have to put forth as much work to help clean it.
Reply from Admin:
The spectrum of bottom dwellers was only touched based on here but if we were to get into marine and saltwater habitats, there would be much more. This is our guide on freshwater aquarium bottom dwellers. Helping clean our tanks and showing tons of personality while doing it. The bottom of the feeding scale is my favorite habitat and that’s why I write these cool articles. Let me know what you guys think and your future plans of bottom dwellers.