SIAMESE ALGAE EATER - Guide for Aquarium

SIAMESE ALGAE EATER – Guide for Aquarium

Siamese Algae Eater, sometimes called SAE, which is an acronym of its name, is a popular fish among others. It is most notable because of its algae eating ability. An ability gained by spending most of its time in dense aquatic vegetation.

It has an attractive black stripe. And, this fish species originates from South Asia like Thailand, Malay Peninsular, and also in the basins of Chao Phraya.

Siamese algae eater is a natural bottom feeder, often found in flooded forests and streams as well as rivers. It is a family of Cyprinidae and one of the species of Crossocheilus Siamensis or Crossocheilus oblongus.

This fish is often misidentified with its Copy cats (flying fox and false SAE) because of their similar features and ability.


Siamese algae eater are rarely aggressive. As a result, they make quite a perfect choice for community aquariums. That is aquariums that have different species of fish in them.

They are quite energetic and would often be found swimming around fast. Another thing is, they are a social fish and would do well with other fishes in the aquarium except for the territorial ones.

Siamese algae eaters being a social fish are always active, swimming fast around their tank which would make a territorial fish feel insecure.

“Crossocheilus siamensis” are natural bottom feeders and would spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank to find growing algae or other plankton to eat.

These fish are somewhat territorial towards their own kind. Therefore, it is best to keep a single one or a group of more than 5. If held in school, Siamese Algae Eaters will naturally form groups and feed together.

Food/Diet requirements

Before you think of committing to taking care of these fish, it is essential to learn how you can keep them healthy.

According to their name, these fishes are active Algae eaters. As such, they eat species of algae like black beard algae that many algae eaters would not even give a try.

When in the wild they eat algae, vegetation, periphyton, phytoplankton,, and other plant matters. However, Siamese Algae eaters are not just herbivores, they also eat dead fish, insects. Thus, making them omnivores.

These fishes are not often selective with foods and would eat anything you put in the aquarium including pellet foods, flakes, algae wafers, and live foods such as bloodworms, shrimp, frozen varieties.

They can also be fed readymade foods such as API fish foods pellets, Hikari sinking wafers, Tetraveggie, and Fluval bug bites.

Siamese algae eaters being a scavenger, would prefer sinking food like pellets. However, aquarists should keep in mind that too much protein makes them feel less attracted to algae as they grow older.

Therefore, do not overfeed them as this may result in them not eating Algae in the tank anymore, which am sure isn’t what you want.

Overfeeding them can also lead to swimming bladder diseases and bloating. Keep to standard time when you start feeding them and give them enough food they can eat within 2 to 3 minutes.

When you notice your algae level is increasing feed them less.

How Siamese Algae eaters look and size

The species of Siamese Algae Eaters may come in varying colors of grey, gold, silver, and black-white. And, they usually get a bit bigger than most of the freshwater tropical fish species that you can keep in tanks.

They have a long slender body that can reach up to 6 inches (15.24 cm) in length if fed and cared for properly.

Siamese algae eaters have a bold black stripe on each side of their body that runs from their forehead to their tail. That is the length of their body.

They have an almost bright caudal fin apart from the black stripe and a “mustache” that some call rostral barbels.

Siamese Algae eater males show more territorial dependence towards each other. Therefore, it is recommended for aquarists to separate the males and put them in a different tank.

Also, Siamese Algae Eaters do not have a swim bladder which may cause them to sink to the bottom of the water and may die if they do not stay in constant motion. As a result, it is crucial to keep the right water conditions and circulations in your tank.

Can many Siamese Algae Eaters be kept in an aquarium?

Though they do well alone, they also are a schooling fish and would be happy in a group of about 4-6.

Siamese algae eaters growth rate

Siamese Algae Eaters grow at a rather slow pace. And, finally reaching up to about 6 inches maximum in their lifetime.

How to Differentiate Siamese Algae Eater from its Copycat (flying fox and false SAE)

Siamese Algae Eater is often confused with many Algae eaters, especially its Copy cats. These include the Flying-fox (Epalzeorhynchus kalopterus) and False SAE (Epalzeorhynchus kalopterus).

Aquarists had to come up with a name such as True Siamese Algae eater to even differentiate Siamese algae eaters from others. But, here is the difference between Siamese algae eater and other algae eaters like Flying fox and false SAE.

The apparent discrepancy between True Siamese algae Eater and them is the horizontal black stripe on the length of their body. Thus, starting from the fish mouth to the end of its tail.

Both flying fox and false Siamese algae have a sharp, smooth black stripe with a golden stripe just above. Although, the black stripe on flying fox stops on the body before the fishtail.

Meanwhile, the lateral stripe of the real Siamese Algae eater has ragged edges between the golden coloration and the black stripe.

Another difference is that The Siamese algae eater have a single pair of barbels by their mouth whereas flying fox and false SAE have two pairs of barbels. Though this distinction can be hardly seen in small fishes, it still a perfect means of identification.

Also, flying fox has black and red lines on its finnage, which becomes more visible as they mature.

Flying fox is a bit more aggressive than the Siamese Algae Eater. They also consume fewer algae when compared with the True Siamese algae.

Finally, knowing the difference in the behavior of True Siamese algae and its Copycats can help differentiate them.

Tank Mates of Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese algae eater have the peaceful temperament. But, they would not still do well with some of the bottom-dwelling fishes since they are territorial and like to harass others to protect their territory.

However, there are still some peaceful bottom dwellers to choose from. An example is “Corydoras” this genus has a different kind of species that would be a good tank mate with Siamese algae eater.

Other fishes like tetras, danios, guppies, bristlenose plecos that live in other areas of the water can be good tank mates too.

Keep in mind not to add any notorious fish as it may eat your Siamese algae eater. This especially includes “cichlids” that must be kept in a species only tank.

Do not forget, the tank mates you choose does not have to be only fish. As such, you can add other algae-eating animals like shrimp (cherry, Amano, ghost) and snails like nerite snails too.

Some other unsuitable tankmates are Large fish that can harm this fish such as Oscars, red tail sharks, tiger barbs, and giant wolf fish. Siamese algae eater may nip the fins of fishes with long fins. Though it rarely happens, aquarists should be on the lookout for this attitude.

What is Siamese Algae Eater Life Span?

Siamese algae Eater is one of the fish that is blessed with a great life span. As a result, it can live up to 10 years or more if taken care of properly.

How to Properly Care for Siamese Algae Eaters

Although, Siamese algae eaters are not difficult to keep. It is still essential to learn how to care for them should you decide to keep them.

Below we give you a break down of how to keep these aquarium fishes healthy and ensure they are happy.


Maintaining the right water temperature in the tank is very critical when keeping Siamese Algae Eater. Hence, SAE is a natural freshwater fish and would require a heat of about 75 – 79°F (23.88 – 26.11°C) to keep them healthy and happy.

To get the right measurement, use a heater that can work for an extended period without having to stop it many times to ensure you keep the temperature in the recommended range. Certainly, a good aquarium heater will keep your tank water within the recommended temperature range.

PH level

Maintaining the pH level of the water at a range of 6.5 – 7.0 to ensure the overall health of this fish is very important. Anything Otherwise may lead to an increase in the stress level of Siamese Algae eater.

The best method to test for pH levels is by using a digital PH tester.


You should keep the hardness of water at 5 – 20 dGH (dGH is the unit used in measuring water).


Siamese algae eater requires good lighting in the tank because the growth of algae occurs due to light. As a result, a stable source of lighting is not debatable.


A standard filter can be kept in the tank of these fish since they are a natural cleaner.

Tank region

Siamese algae eater prefers to dwell in mild-warm water. Therefore, aquarists should prepare the water of the tank accordingly.

Changing of water/Cleaning method

You need not put so much effort into cleaning the tank since this fish will eat up most of the algae in the tank. But then, that should not stop you from scrubbing out the walls of the tank with a mild liquid wash and a soft brush.

Afterward, wipe out the corners and walls with a cotton cloth.

Tank water needs to be changed once a week or once a month. As such, if your method of changing the water is once in a week, then change 10% of the water. However, if it is once in a month, change about 20%, to maintain the water quality in the fish tank.

Natural habitat and water salinity

In the wild Siamese algae eater live in tropical waters, these tropical waters are a bit acidic. Therefore, the water in the tank must be a bit acidic to replicate this fish natural habitat.

Algae eaters are found in high-quality water conditions that resemble pristine streams that do not have a fast current. So, you do not need to create unique water flows in the tank.

At the bottom of the water in their natural habitat, you will find lots of rocks, plants, and logs that serve as shelter for this fish. Siamese algae eater are often splitting between hiding in shelters and scavenging for foods. Where the food is mostly algae and other things that they can find at the bottom of the river.

Interesting facts

  1. Apart from Siamese algae eater or SAE this fish also has another name called Black Brush Algae Eater.
  2. Their males have long tubercles that grow in its mouth.
  3. Siamese algae eaters are rarely sold in pet stores. Hence, most ones in pet stores are misidentified algae eaters
  4. They are the most popular algae cleaner for aquarium
  5. Siamese algae eater are similar to the carp

How to Set Up Siamese Algae Eater Aquarium

Siamese Algae Eater is a durable and robust fish that can adapt to a wide range of tank water conditions. Just like every other fish in the tank, it feels more comfortable in a planted tank that is thick and has enough space for swimming.

To swim comfortably around the tank, SAE needs good water flow just like the one in its natural habitat. If there is no natural flow, you can create it by using a filter. Note, Siamese algae eater cannot tolerate a high level of nitrate or ammonia in water.


They are a trendy fish. Although, it is often misidentified with its Copy cats. But, with the guide in this article about how to identify them, you can easily differentiate them.

Ideal tank size

Aquarists should plan to have a tank of at least 4 foot long, 30 – 35 gallons in size to ensure the best results when caring for this fish.

They usually grow to about 6 inches in size and an active fish. Therefore, aquarists should give them enough room in their tank to swim and hide.


It is usually challenging to differentiate between the male and female Siamese Algae Eater. That is to say, there is no visible difference especially when they are young.

However, as they grow older, the mature female fish tends to be about 30% larger than the males and looks more rounded if you take a closer look.


Siamese algae eater mate the same way just like other fishes. Thus, the male Siamese algae eater burrows through the substrate and tries to entice the female to follow it. This process is mostly known as “tail-standing” or “shimmying”.

You may notice their stripes fading; it is usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes it is a mating display or a result of stress. However, there is no reliable information about Siamese algae being bred successfully in an aquarium without hormonal agents’ support.

The species mostly on sale are either bred in fish farms or caught in the wild. Changes in the conditions of water (pH, temperature, etc.) can trigger spawning.

Aquarist level: Keeping Siamese algae is suitable for a beginner since it does not require any special skills.

Does Siamese Algae Eater consume all algae?

One of the most challenging algae to eradicate is black beard algae, it survives most common algaecides treatments, and it gives aquarists headache. Luckily enough, The Siamese algae Eaters can eat black beard and most other algae.

How to acclimate Siamese algae eaters?

To acclimate a Siamese algae eater, you can either use the floating method or drift method.

Tank Conditions

Since Siamese algae eaters spend most of their time at the bottom of the river. As such, sandy substrate makes it safe for them to swim around the tank without damaging their sensitive barbels or scratching their body.

Plants are needed in the aquarium to serve as shelter for these fantastic creatures while keeping the water well oxygenated and clean. Of course, this would lower the stress level of this fish.

Siamese algae eaters tend to nib on plants when they are hungry. To eliminate this, use species that are fast-growing like hornwort so it can recover quickly if any parts get eaten.

Build stable caves around the tank. So, they have a place where they can hide when they feel tired or want to keep away from other fishes.

They are not aggressive towards others, so there would not be any problem of who goes where. Fishes are naturally good at jumping, but some do it better than the others.

An example is The Siamese algae eater. They are speedy and active, which makes it easier for them to jump from the water. Therefore, it is smart to keep a lid on the tank to ensure they do not jump out by accident.

Above the aquarium, install a powerful air pump and connect it to several air stones to create a strong current.

Benefits of Adding Siamese Algae Eaters to Your Tank

  1. They are fun and an excellent social community fish. As such, they get along pretty well with other species
  2. Siamese Algae Eaters are low maintenance and do not require a lot of caring to thrive.
  3. They are good at eating algae that are challenging to get rid of and can cause ecosystem imbalance thus may be detrimental to the health of other fishes in the aquarium.

Aquarium Decoration

Driftwood is a functional décor in their aquarium because algae that grow on it serve as food to them. Freshwater plants like java moss and hornwort can also serve as decoration in their tank to keep greenery and replicate their natural habitat.

They prefer a combination of pebbles, larger rocks, and sand that can create a labyrinth of nooks and crannies for the fish to find cover.

Siamese Algae Eater diseases

Siamese algae eater is a hardy fish. But, still prone to diseases like every other scavenger.

Therefore, giving a healthy balanced diet is very important and as well as clean water.
You will notice your fish is ill when they start becoming inactive and down most of the time. Or, sometimes when their stripe starts fading.

Be careful though, what you are adding to the tank may be one of the reasons your Siamese algae eater is getting sick. Some of the illnesses of Siamese Algae eater are parasite infection, bacterial infection, and ich.

Ich is a widespread disease in freshwater aquariums. It is usually caused by a parasite that makes small white dots appear around the body of a fish.

The symptoms are generally your fish rubbing itself against things in your tank to ease itching. Regular water changes can prevent ich and can reduce the chances of toxins building up.

There are over the counter treatments you can purchase to help heal diseases such as ich. However, If the sickness is getting out of hand, take it to the veterinary doctor who can recommend the appropriate treatment for it. This is because a wrong medication or treatment may lead to constipation and digestive problems.

Avoid feeding them low-quality food or unrefined foods since it may lead to the cause of several diseases like a swim bladder infection and bloating in fish.

Using harmful decorative products such as plastics can also release toxins that can lead to infection. Also, be mindful of how you add new fishes to your aquarium too as they may Introduce diseases inside the tank.

It is recommended to quarantine fresh fish before adding them to your tank. This is to determine whether they are healthy or not.

Is Siamese Algae Eater the Right Choice for You?

Siamese algae eater is a very lovable creature that can be a delightful member of your aquarium community. If cleaning your fish tank has been a constant headache for you because of severe algae, Siamese Algae eater is the right choice for you.

Though they would not take up all the work, they will still help lighten your duties and also add beauty and liveliness to your tank at the same time. More so, be careful of mislabeled algae eaters copycats


In this article, we gave a complete Siamese algae eater care sheet to show you how easy it is to keep SAE.

Keeping Siamese Algae Eater does not require any expertise. Merely taking care of their primary needs will make them thrive. And, “them” being the lovable fish that they are, will in return help you maintain a clean tank that is essential for all the pets in your aquarium.

It is an excellent choice for beginners and aquarist enthusiasts that want their fish keeping experience to be lively. Even more, it is an exciting fish to keep if you have enough space in your aquarium!

Take also look to other Freshwater Fish you can keep in a home aquarium.