Bottom Feeder Fish | the best 5 for your Aquarium

Bottom feeder fish are very popular with aquarists. Besides being much easier to take care of, these fish are natural cleaners and will make any aquarium glow. You will love watching these fish swim gracefully at the bottom of your tank.

All of that said, you are probably wondering where is the starting point? Which type of this fish should I go for?

The market these days has so many types of fish to offer. It becomes a little bit confusing to choose the best fish for your needs. This is why we have compiled a list of the best bottom feeder fish list for you to pick from.

They thrive well in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums depending on the type you have selected. Therefore, you can always add this fish in any type of aquarium you have set up.

What are bottom feeder fish?

There are three different levels of fish species: the surface feeders, mid-water feeders, and bottom feeder fish. It is important to know these levels to get the right fish if you are just starting up your aquarium or want to add a new type of fish.

This fish usually live and eat at the bottom of the aquarium. Unlike most fish that find food at the mid-level of the water, these fish acquire their food from the substrate. Some scavenge on dead fish and invertebrates while others are herbivores and eat mainly algae. 

Distinguishing Features of Bottom Feeders

Let’s check on some traits that define this fish.

Inferior Mouth

Living in the bottom calls for unique specialized traits. This is why these fish have an inferior mouth. The mouth is situated more towards the bottom of the fish’s mouth. You know why? Because it allows the fish to graze for algae while looking out for predators. Excellent adaptation in my opinion.

Barbels

These are whisker-like protrusions near their mouths. They are highly sensitive to touch and also have tasting cells. This ensures the fish gets the right food. Interesting!

Suckermouths

Species of bottom dwellers like plecos have specialized mouths that allow them to latch on to surfaces to graze on algae or biofilm. This type of mouth also helps them a lot in their natural habitat to grazing amidst fast-flowing water.

Body Shape

Most of these fish have similar body shapes; a flattened ventral region. This is said to allow them to settle comfortably in the bottom of the tank. This flattened body isn’t that severe in varieties like the koi. However, varieties like Chinese hillstream loaches have extremely flattened bodies that they don’t even look like a fish at all.

5 Best Types of Bottom Feeder Fish

Now that we know what a bottom feeder is, let’s look at some types of it ideal for your aquarium.

There are several individual species out there that we can’t possibly look at all of them here. Therefore, I will only look at the best categories while giving you some remarkable species in each category.

  • Loaches

This forms the most common bottom-dwelling fish. They come in so many sizes, forms, and odd characteristics. Speaking off odd behavior, did you know the Weather Loach is widely known for its sensitivity to atmospheric pressure? The Kuhli Loach and the Clown Loach also have distinct temperaments and sizes.

This sensitivity to the environment in this species is brought about by the fact that their scales are compressed in the skin. Loaches eat snails, so it would be a terrible idea to keep the two in the same tank.

Yoyo loaches grow up to 5 inches and will, therefore, require a cave for security. Dwarf Chain Loaches grow only up to two inches and are peaceful hence can be kept in groups. The Hill Stream loaches will require water conditions with high flow rates and an adequate supply of oxygen. This is attributed to their flattened bodies.

  • Plecostomus

These fish are mostly referred to as suckermouth catfish and are commonly kept by many aquarists. This fish grows up to 18 inches making it highly suitable for the average tank size. This fish is nocturnal. They, however, have special eyelids to protect their eyes from direct sunlight during the day.

Hypostomus Plecostomus (common Pleco) is a similar sized fish as the Sailfin Pleco. This similarity causes so much confusion between these two varieties. These fish are about 2 to 3 inches long but others grow even up to 18 inches. Because of this size, they hardly adapt to an average aquarium and therefore do not live that long. Consider feeding them with a supplementary diet that will elongate their lifespan.

  • Cory Catfish

bottom feeder fish

 

There are several fish in this variety. However, the Bronze Cory catfish has stood out to be the commonly used variety in many aquariums. They make a great choice for a standard aquarium. It is recommended to keep them in a group of 5 or more. Sand substrates should also be used. With optimal conditions, this fish can breed in the tank.

  • Carps

This is a hardy variety of fish and will thrive well in any sort of water condition. They are found in North America and are exported to other continents and will live just perfectly in any environment. Common carps have their teeth situated in their throats. They, therefore, use their ventral mouths to graze food at the bottom of the tank. Algae, larvae, insects, and plants constitute the main diet for common carps.

  • Sturgeons

These are perhaps the longest-lived fish on the planet. They have been there since the age of dinosaurs. This can be attributed to how hardy they are. They have existed perfectly in both salty and fresh water in North America. They have five rows of bony plates around their body that make them seem to be five-sided.

Their ventral mouth doesn’t have teeth. As a result, barbells enable them to identify and close in on food at the bottom of the tank.

Great Bottom Feeder Fish Options

Saltwater

A few saltwater options would be Zebra Hermit Crabs, Nassarius snails, and Blue Sapphire Damsles. These are ideal for cleaning the aquarium substrate.

Freshwater

Freshwater options include Plecos, Otocinclus, and Cory cats.

 

Food Choice for a Bottom Feeder

This fish can live well on algae, larvae, and insects. But this can be a reliable source of food their entire life on your aquarium. This is why you need to supplement their diet regularly. You could use flakes and pellets just to make them a little bit healthier than your neighbor’s fish. Fluval Bug bites would also be an excellent choice.

However, do not overfeed them. Ensure that they can be able to finish the food in about three minutes. You don’t want any leftovers in your tank. Uneaten food will convert to waste potentially spiking ammonia levels in your tank calling for a water change. You don’t want to be changing the water every 3 minutes.

Best Tank Conditions for a Bottom Feeder

This fish will do just fine in a warm water setting, 72 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect. You should however research to find the specific water temperature for your specific fish species before beginning a bottom feeder aquarium setting.

Ideal water temperature will ensure your fish is not susceptible to diseases.

FAQs

Q: Is Tilapia a bottom feeder fish?

A: Most people hold the opinion that Tilapia is a bottom dweller. From facts, this isn’t entirely true. In the wild, Tilapia will be seen eating at the midwater ranges. They would only go to the bottom in search of food when they cannot find it anywhere else. This is when they will opt for algae and other plants.

In a farm setting, Tilapia consume a well-balanced plant-based diet. At times, they may be supplemented with fish oils for that extra omega-3 fatty acids. The food is floated on top of the water where the tilapia will come to feed from-no feeding from the bottom.

Q: Can I eat a bottom feeder?

A: Of course you can eat them. They are highly nutritious and tasty. You have to try them out sometime. It is not aquariums and lakes where this are at the “bottom”. In the food chain, they are also at the bottom. They feed directly from plants giving them bountiful omega-3 fatty acids.

Predatory fish in higher levels in the food chain will tend to be contaminated with mercury and other pollutants.

 

Should You Get a Bottom Feeder?

This fish should definitely be in your tank. They can thrive well in both saltwater and freshwater, so no matter the kind of aquarium you have set up, they will be gladly comfortable.

It is always important to have the facts right before acquiring any type of fish. This fish will enhance the cleanliness of your tank as well as present a colorful tank.

If you are feeding your fish properly, keeping the temperature just right, and regularly cycling your water, you will be surprised at how long your fish or snail can live.

You will also get to reap some free cleaning services from this fish.

Say goodbye to algae!