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Plecos and Algae Eaters

Why do we keep selling hobbyists fish that are simply bad for their tanks?

December 19, 2011

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Every once in a while I feel the need to get up on a soapbox and rant about something. This is one of those occasions, and I beg your forbearance of me for this short period of time.

Why do we keep selling hobbyists fish that are simply bad for their tanks? Specifically, why do we keep selling folks common plecos (Hypostomus plecostomus) and Chinese algae eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)? Both of these fish are much more problems than they are worth, especially when there are lots of other easier, better ways to deal with algae in an aquarium. Common plecos get to be huge fish—I've seen some that were closing in on 18 inches. And on their way to becoming that big, plecos will very often destroy any plants or other such objects in a tank. If you think about it, the only times you see really large plecos are in bare tanks, maybe with an Oscar or other rough cichlid.
Chinese algae eaters
Chinese algae eaters (CAEs) are really no better. They are cheap, as are common plecos, but they really don't do much in the way of eating algae. This is particularly true as they grow, and as they learn that it is much easier to make a living by being around when the Flake Food Fairy drops food into the tank than to toil away scrubbing algae off rocks and plants. And that's the good news about CAEs. When they grow (and they will get to be 8 in. or so), they become very nasty fish. They are quite territorial with their own species, and will spend much of their time trying to clean the slime off the sides of fish, especially flat round ones such as discus and angelfish. Plecos are also accused of this, although I think it is less the case than with the CAEs.

In either case, there are plenty of other fish that will do a much better job at cleaning algae than either a common pleco or a CAE. I really don't understand why we continue selling fish that are not appropriate for the average hobbyist's tanks.

Hope I don't trip as I get down off my soapbox.

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Reader Comments

debra carlson    Springfield, IL

4/25/2015 7:38:50 AM

Help.I have a 4inch pieco in a 20 gallon tank,can I move it to my 44 gallon tank with a 7inch pieco?

Norm    Seattle, WA

11/25/2014 3:36:12 PM

Be careful about the term "common" pleco. It is applied to several fish, some of which can get 2 feet long, and others that are also opportunistic omnivores that may take a bite out of your other fish! However, the 'true' common pleco, L021 Pterygoplichthys pardalis is a medium sized fish; while some sites report up to 18" long, most only get 11" or 12" and do well in community tanks...eating algae, peaceful, and unfortunately often confused with other plecos wrongly called "common".

Tami    Burbank, IL

8/13/2013 7:02:28 AM

What are the better fish to keep for helping with algea in a tank? I had always had plecos, but I do know that what the article says is true, so I'd like a different type of fish. The article here has a link to "other fish" in the line that says there are better ones, but that just leads to an article on plecos. I'd really like to know since I am in the process of setting up and cycling a new 60 gal FW tank and making my fish list for it.

Martin    Burbank, CA

7/25/2013 2:03:35 PM

I am very surprised to know about the chinese algae eaters. I just started keeping fish 3 months ago, I have 3 tanks (15G tall, 10G tall and a 20G long) and I have chinese algae eaters on each tank, the Petco guys suggested it, well now I know, I am glad to be able to have this website, I am learning so much about fish keeping, I am just a hardcore animal lover.

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