Best Bottom Feeders for Your Fish Tank

Best Bottom Feeders for Your Fish Tank

When stocking your fish tank its worth thinking about the 3 zones that tend to exist, surface feeding fish, mid water fish and bottom feeders. With most colourful fish available in your local fish store being mid water and surface fish it’s all too easy to forget about the floor of your tank.

Bottom feeders can be colourful, personable and a great addition to any tank, but it’s worth doing your research before picking any old fish. They will need specific foods and often need target feeding to make sure they get their fair share.

Some fish sold in fish and general pet stores get too big for the average tank, and no aquarium or public zoo will take them on once they’ve outgrown their tank. So pick fish that can live out their lives happily and safely in your tank.


Plecostomus, also known as sucker mouth catfish are a type of fish that range from perfect for the tank, through to one of the worst for the tank. Some stay small and are reasonably commonly available, whilst others can get to 50 cm long.

Common Pleco/Sailfin Pleco

Hypostomus plecostomus is frequently sold under the name Common Pleco and easily confused with the similar sized Sailfin Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps). Whilst no one can deny they are handsome looking fish and when they’re sold in the fish shop they are a cute and seemingly manageable 5 or 10 cm.

Normally sold as algae eaters common and sailfin plecs may eat some algae when they are younger, but they still need feeding a good diet, and they will start growing, and carry on growing, and either the size of your tank will lead them to become stunted and die young, or they will grow until they are 50cm long and have turned into giant poop machines.

Instead look for :

Bristlenose Pleco(Ancistrus)

These are great little plecs that grow to a maximum size of 15cm, if you get a male and a female they may breed in the tank. There are various different forms including albino, red and long finned.

If you want something a bit more unusual Clown Plecos (Panaqolus maccus) is a great little fish normally only growing to 9cm or less. A bit more expensive, but well worth the extra cost.

Corydoras or Cory Catfish

There are 142 species of Cory, but only a handful are easily available in pet stores. They are best kept on sand so as not to damage their barbells and need to be in groups of 5 or more. They will need cat fish food and it’s worth target feeding them to make sure they get their fair share.

  • C. Aeneus (Bronze and Albino Corys)
  • C. Plateaus (Peppered Cory)
  • C. Shultzei (Gold Shouldered Cory)
  • C. Panda (Panda Corys)

These four species are all readily available and will settle into most reasonably sized tanks, given the right conditions some will breed in a community tank.


Loaches are a mostly bottom dwelling family of fish, coming in a wide range of shapes, sizes and behaviours, from the worm like Kuhli loach, through to the brightly coloured Clown Loach. Strange behaviours are well known from this group of fish, including the Weather loach, often described as a living barometer. Its sensitivity to changes in atmospheric pressure, the signal of a change in weather, means that it will have a drastic behaviour change before rain or shine, or if it sees you get the food container out.

Most loaches are considered scaless, they do technically have scales, but they are compressed and within the skin. This does mean that they are sensitive to changes in water condition, and can be overdosed on medicines easily

The favourite loach has to be the Clown loach, with its bright colours and sometimes idiotically amusing behaviour, but growing to a foot long and needing to be kept in groups of 5 or more means that you will need a 7 foot + tank when these reach full size. But there are some fantastic loaches that are much smaller.

Yoyo loach (Botia almorhae) stays much smaller reaching sizes of up to 13 cm. It does need to be kept in groups and is a nice docile loach that can be kept with other peaceful fish. They need cave to feel secure, and once they are secure will often sleep in the open on their side looking rather dead. Often they come to recognise certain people and will get excited at their approach, or follow them along the length of the aquarium.

Dwarf Chain Loach (Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki) also known as Monkeys as a fantastic little species, although don’t try and keep them in a tank less than 76 cm in length. They like to be in groups and will shoal in mid water. They can be very boisterous and are unsuitable for very peaceful tank mates, growing to only 6cm they are not suitable for with bigger or aggressive species.

Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) looks like a tiny eel, with a maximum length of 10 cm they are still a small fish given their narrow shape. If kept with boisterous or aggressive fish they can hide and may not be seen for months. They have been known to swim into filters leading to fatal consequences.

Hill stream Loaches the common name hill stream loaches and Hong Kong plecs covers a few different scientifically describe species, but they all share a flattened body that looks like a pancake stuck to the glass on the tank. Often sold as a great addition to a cold water tank, these are best avoided. They need fast flowing water and lots of oxygen. If you want to set up a specialist tank they can be great little fish to keep, otherwise it’s worth avoiding them for other more suitable species.

Most loaches will enjoy eating any snails in your aquarium, including any you put in there on purpose, but there are cheaper and easier ways to get rid of snails that may be plaguing your tank.

Bottom feeders can complete your tank, and be an interesting addition to your set up. This list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully will give you a few ideas to get you started.



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