What Eats Fish Poop?

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Fish poop is one of the primary sources of ammonia in any aquatic ecosystem, which means it requires careful management to prevent environmental hazards.

Different fish produce different amounts of poop at different paces, depending on the species, size, diet, and other factors.

Today, we’re talking about fish waste and ways to remove it fast and effectively before it poisons the environment.

What Fish Eat Fish Poop?

None. No fish species consume fish poop intentionally simply because such matter holds no nutritional value. There’s a reason why it’s called poop, after all.

That being said, some fish can swallow fish waste accidentally, primarily catfish and other substrate lurkers.

That’s because bottom dwellers eat their meals off of the substrate, so, you know, shit sometimes happens. But don’t count on bottom-dwelling species to control the amount of fish waste on purpose because that’s not happening.

Instead, you should have a thorough cleaning schedule set up to remove waste and dead matter and keep the environment fresh and healthy.

Do Snails Eat Fish Poop?

Snails don’t eat fish poop either, despite their reputation as slow, opportunistic scavengers that will eat mostly anything.

These animals will, however, consume a lot of dead matter, primarily plant-based, aka algae. This is most likely why so many aquarists consider snails the ultimate cleaning crew.

But, as is the case with fish, snails won’t get any sustenance from fish poop either, which is why it’s not on their menu.

Do Shrimp Eat Fish Poop?

Shrimps are great aquarium scavengers, but they won’t consume fish poop, either.

They might have a bite by mistake but will spit it right out once they realize the confusion.

That being said, it’s worth having a handful of shrimps in your fish tank, so long as they get along with their tankmates.

Shrimps are substrate lurkers that consume a lot of food leftovers and decaying plant matter, contributing to the system’s overall cleanliness and stability.

If you’re looking for a poop management job, though, shrimps are not fit for the job.

How to Get Rid of Fish Waste?

You can use several cleaning methods to remove fish poop from the ecosystem.

These include:

– Substrate Vacuuming

This is the first line of defense, given that a good vacuuming session is at the crux of a reliable maintenance system. The vacuuming job itself does more than eliminate the poop residues.

It also removes food leftovers and dead plant and animal matter that could cause spikes in ammonia levels.

Just make sure you adapt your vacuuming job to the tank’s layout. Soil, for instance, only requires surface cleaning because stirring the entire substrate is the closest you’ll get to an environmental tragedy.

Not to mention, if you’re using soil, you most likely have rooted plants which don’t fare well with in-depth substrate vacuuming.

Sand, on the other hand, demands deep vacuuming because of the benefits that come with it.

Such a vacuuming job won’t only eliminate dirt, poop, food leftovers, and other surface matter but also pop and defuse potential anaerobic pockets before them growing too large.

This means that substrate stirring is necessary when vacuuming your sand.

Make sure to do it regularly, preferably at least once weekly. If not, the anaerobic pockets will grow excessively, leading to environmental poisoning when you finally decide to vacuum.

– Good Filtration System

The filtration system is a must in any ecosystem thanks to its many benefits.

The filter is absolutely necessary to remove floating particles, many of which are degrading plant matter, food residues, and even lighter fish poop sinking to the substrate slowly.

The filter’s effectiveness depends on its positioning and power, so always look for the best balance between the filter type and the tank’s requirements.

This is a fine line to consider, given that there are multiple types of filtration systems available in terms of power, size, and filtration type.

Not to mention, different fish species have different filtration requirements. Some fish prefer faster water currents, while others need calm waters with minimal water movement. You should always choose the right filter for your ecosystem.

The filter’s positioning and type also make quite the difference in terms of what to expect. You shouldn’t place the filter too close to the substrate, especially in sand aquariums.

The intake may suck in the sand, causing clogging issues over time. Also, keep the intake farther from the plants and your fish’s main dwelling area, especially if the filter’s power is on the higher end.

Finally, keep in mind that the filtration system alone cannot handle all of the fish poop.

That’s because the filter’s suction power is the most relevant in the intake’s immediate vicinity. But if your fish decide to poop somewhere else, your filter may not be of much use.

– Aquarium Plants

Aquarium plants are great in fish tanks for numerous reasons, one of them being their scavenging behavior.

Plants don’t really qualify as scavengers, but they perform a similar job when it comes to using fish poop as fuel.

Plants are great at breaking down fish waste and other organic matter and using it as fertilizer.

The problem is that the effect is minimal, so you shouldn’t rely on live plants to keep the ecosystem stable. Instead, you should have them as backup resources, reducing the fish’s damaging effect on the ecosystem.

The maintenance job should mix multiple cleaning approaches for the best results.

Have some good cleaner fish, add more live plants into your tank, vacuum the substrate regularly, get a good filtration system, and perform regular water changes.

How to Reduce Fish Waste in Your Tank?

Aside from the aforementioned cleaning methods, there are some prevention techniques that will reduce the amount of waste your fish produce as well.

As you may suspect, these relate to the fish’s diet and eating behavior.

In short:

  • Do not overfeed your fish – Overfeeding is most often the primary cause of excess fish waste. The more your fish will eat, the more poop they will produce, but that’s not always a good thing. Just because your fish eat a lot doesn’t mean that’s good for them. The most obvious problem is that fish don’t know how much they should eat; they will simply eat. It’s up to you to control their diets and meal plans. Overfeeding can cause digestive problems and obesity, but will also cause the fish to produce more waste more frequently. To circumvent the issue, only feed your fish whatever they can eat in 2-3 minutes.
  • Control the water temperature – Make sure that the water temperature stays within the fish’s optimal range. If the water is too cold, your fish will experience digestive problems, aside from other conditions. The warmer the water is (to a point, of course), the more active the fish’s digestive system will become, allowing for better nutrient absorption and less poop.
  • Check the food’s type – Not all foods are equal. Some are more easily digestible than others, resulting in your fish producing more poop more often. Alternate your fish’s meals to see which results in more poop, and try to avoid those. Or, at least, feed them to your fish sparingly.
  • Consider the right fish type – Not all fish will produce poop at the same rate or in similar amounts. Some fish only eat once every 2-3 days, while others eat 2-3 times per day. Goldfish, for instance, are notoriously messy, producing more waste than most other species. Cichlids also fall into this category, especially due to their messy eating behavior. So, you should always choose your fish species carefully if poop accumulation is your top concern.


All fish produce waste, so this is a problem that needs addressing at some point.

Fortunately, I’ve provided you with management strategies and prevention points to keep your aquatic ecosystem healthy and stable.

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.

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