10 Best Bottom Feeder Fish for Freshwater Aquariums

Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more

Bottom feeder fish can become an integral part of any aquarium out there. They are called bottom feeder fish because they dwell near the bottom of the aquarium, usually near the substrate, and they collect uneaten food and leftovers there.

They have developed some specific traits that make them more appropriate for living near the bottom of the tank. These traits help them survive in such an environment and enable them to live comfortably there.

They have traits like the inferior mouth. This trait does not mean that these fish don’t actually have worse mouths than other fish, but it means that they have their mouths more at the bottom of their bodies, which allows them to consume the food from the substrate easier.

They have barbels near their mouths that help them find the food – these are the whiskers that you can see on their bodies. Some of these fish have suckermouths, which help them to suck onto the surface and collect algae or such material. They also have flatter bellies, which helps them move around the tank easier.

It would be a good idea to have bottom feeder fish in your tank, especially because they represent and give your tank more variety and make it more interesting.

Another good thing about bottom feeders is that they clean the leftover food in your tank and also they get rid of any leftovers that could be left in the substrate.

In this article, we will look at the best bottom feeder fish for freshwater tanks. You can check out my other article, where I enumerate some of the most popular catfish species you can keep in aquariums.

1. Corydoras Catfish

Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish

The corydoras catfish are one of the best bottom feeder species that you can get for your tank. There are multiple reasons for choosing the corydoras catfish; firstly, they look awesome.

They have amazing colors and some interesting patterns of colors. You can find corydoras catfish in many color patterns.

The corydoras catfish are relatively small fish – the maximum size of these fish is 4 inches, but most of the time, they are even smaller. That makes them appropriate for smaller tanks – the minimum tank size for these fish is 10 gallons, but they can be kept in larger tanks if they are community tanks with peaceful fish.

Corydoras catfish are peaceful fish and are relatively easy to care for. They are also omnivores, but try to feed them varied foods. They prefer fine substrate on the tank floor, but they can adapt as well.

Make sure that the food reaches them, and make sure that you clean the substrate every now and then.

2. Loaches (Kuhli, Panda, Zebra, Yoyo)

Yoyo Loach

Yoyo Loach

When it comes to loaches, there is a great variety of subspecies of loaches that you can choose from.

They are all loaches, but they differ in color, appearance, behavior or some other feature. We will cover each subspecies individually.

  • Kuhli loaches are very interesting – they have long bodies, which can make them appear like they are snakes. They are at their most active at night, and they will remain in hiding spots during the day. The minimum tank size for these is 15 gallons.
  • Yoyo loaches are a subspecies of loaches with a very interesting name. Why are they called yoyo loaches, you might wonder? Well, it is because of their stripe patterns on their bodies which looks like it has the word yoyo written on its body. They can be shy, and they are better kept in schools.
  • Zebra loaches have vertical bands all over their bodies, which reminds us of zebras. They are possibly the smallest out of all loaches, which makes them a great choice for community tanks.
  • Panda loach, like pandas in real life, is quite rare fish. These fish are stunning, and their colors represent the colors of pandas. They are quite social and outgoing animals.

3. Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco

The bristlenose plecos are known as one of the best fish that can clean your aquarium thoroughly. They are cleaner fish that tend to dwell near the bottom of the tank, and they are masters of disguise. They tend to hide very often, and also have a very unique appearance that can vary in color.

They are peaceful fish that will do great in a community tank. They could prove to be very valuable for any tank, as they can get rid of the excess algae in your tank very efficiently.

This also makes them sustainable, as you won’t have to do much maintenance at all. If you do not have algae in your tank, they prefer herbivorous diet with plenty of vegetables – parboiled lettuce, cabbage leaves, peas, cucumber, and other similar things.

4. Pictus Catfish

Pictus Catfish

Pictus Catfish (sourceCC BY-SA 4.0)

The pictus catfish is a very distinguishable fish that is a very popular choice between the aquarium enthusiasts.

That is because of their unique and very beautiful appearance, their energetic demeanor and also their peaceful attitude towards other fish in your tank and also they are known as not very demanding fish.

They can live to up to 8 years, and they can grow to up to 5 inches. They are better for community tanks, especially larger tanks.

The minimum tank size for pictus catfish is 55 gallons, but it is better if you keep 3 or 4 of them together in a 150-gallon tank.

By nature, the pictus catfish is an omnivorous species, and they will eat just about anything. At the core of their diet should be high-quality pellets and also some fresh and frozen foods such as shrimps and bloodworms.

5. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

The otocinclus catfish are also known as one of the best algae eaters around. They are often known as otos or even dwarf suckers. The otos are quite small fish – they only grow to about 2 inches in size, and you can keep more of them together in a 10-gallon tank, for example.

They are very popular bottom feeder fish, because they clean algae very efficiently, but also they are not very demanding and can adapt to a variety of different settings.

They prefer to live near a sandy substrate, though. They are compatible with community tanks that have peaceful fish in them; they are not aggressive fish, in fact quite the opposite. Make sure that you keep peaceful fish and also smaller fish together with the otos because they can become prey to larger fish.

6. Bumblebee Goby


Bumblebee Goby

Bumblebee gobies are bottom dwellers that are one of the smaller fish on this list. They are appropriate for 10-gallon tanks of larger, and they reach the size of 1.6 inches at most.

They have a very interesting appearance; its colors look like those of a bee, and even the stripes on its body are similar to a bee’s.

What you need to know about bumblebee gobies is that they can be easily left without food by its competition, which is why it is not the best choice for community tanks.

If you do decide to keep them in such an environment, then make sure you buy sinking pellets or food that will reach the bottom of your tank.

They love to live in brackish waters with plenty of vegetation and hiding places.

7. Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater

As their name suggests, the Siamese algae eaters are – well – algae eaters. They are one of the best species of bottom-dwelling fish that you can choose if you have excess algae in your tank. But not only that, they have plenty of other very positive features.

They are peaceful fish and very social, which makes them perfect for community tanks. They can grow to up to 6 inches, and that is why they are appropriate for tanks of 20 gallons or larger.

A great thing about these fish is that they are omnivores and are not fussy eaters. They prefer a more vegetable-based diet, and if they run out of algae, feed them something similar.

They can live to up to 10 years and are a great choice as a bottom feeder fish.

8. Hillstream Loach

Hillstream Loach

Hillstream Loach

The hillstream loach comes from fast-moving waters of Asia, and they are more suitable for tanks with faster-moving water. You can recreate that by putting powerheads on your filter.

At first glance, they look very similar to the catfish. The only requirement for having the hillstream loach in your tank is that you should install powerheads to ensure a faster flow of water.

They will also feed on the algae that grow in your tank. It does not, however, represent a majority of its diet. You should provide them with a more varied diet.

In essence, they are omnivores, which means that they will eat meaty foods and vegetable-based foods. Provide pellet foods, frozen foods and also live foods from time to time to complement their diet.

9. Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish (source)

Under the name twig catfish we find two different subspecies: the F. Acus and the F. Vittata. The first species is an endangered species and is not found in aquariums at all; so, for this reason, we will focus on the second subspecies.

They are very interesting fish because they rarely swim; we can describe their movement around the tank as hopping around rather than swimming. This makes them a really interesting species.

They can grow to about 6 inches, which makes them appropriate for 20-gallon tanks or larger. They are peaceful fish, but not the best fish for community tanks due to their shy demeanor. But they still represent a good choice due to the low-maintenance and also a great attitude.

10. Whiptail Catfish

Whiptail Catfish

Whiptail Catfish

The last on the list is the whiptail catfish. This is a very unique-looking fish with a very long tail and some interesting features.

You can see how these fish could be popular, with their unique appearance which makes them a great choice for a bottom feeder to keep some variety in your tank.

They are very peaceful fish. They prefer to be kept in groups rather than alone, and they can grow to about 6 inches.

As to the aquarium size for them, they are best kept in aquariums of sizes of at least 30 gallons; if you want to keep more of them, then a 50-gallon tank is a better choice.

They tend to feed on the algae in your tank, so make sure that you put some rocks and plenty of high vegetation in your tank, which will provide them with algae but also some hiding spots.

All in all, these fish are very interesting to look at, but also quite simple to maintain as they will feed on excess algae in your tank.

Why You Should Keep Bottom Feeder Fish?

First of all, you should keep a bottom feeder fish because they will add some variety and some movement in the bottom parts of your aquarium. They are some of the most unique and beautiful fish that you can keep in your tank.

Another good feature about the bottom-feeder fish is that a majority of these fish feed on the algae and leftovers in your tank, especially near the bottom of the tank. For this reason, it would a good idea to have a bottom feeder fish in your tank to ensure that your tank is clean of algae and of excess food that can collect in the substrate.

In addition, most of these fish are very peaceful and do not need too much maintenance, as they are pretty self-reliant for most of the time.


Bottom feeder fish are interesting and beautiful fish that should be in every aquarium out there.

There are some of the most unique-looking fish under this category and most of them will benefit your tank in many ways; not only do they look great, but they will also clean your tank and rid it of algae and unwanted excess food near the bottom.

These fish on this list represent some of the best choices for bottom feeders, and we hope that you will be able to make a great choice from this list.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *