16 Best Freshwater Bottom Feeder Fish for Your Tank

bottom feeder fish

Every tank need bottom feeder fish that will roam around the bottom part of the aquarium. Not only for variety reason but their existence will actually help in maintaining the environment to be healthier.

Some people might put side eyes on these fishes, however, they are actually very adorable creature. When you have them in your tank, it would not take long for them to steal your heart because of their unique nature.

bottom feeder fish

Unique and Interesting Part of the Physiology

As their name suggested, this type of bottom feeder fish will mainly spend most of their live on the bottom part of the tank. They would not swim upward to the midwater or even the surface of the tank to get their food.

They are natural scavenger which will eat reminds of fishes and other invertebrates which often also a bottom feeder. Some of the fishes are herbivore which will eat plants material and algae that grows on the bottom. However, there are also some predators among them such as Pictus Catfish which will hunt for their living food.

Mouth anatomy

Since bottom feeder fish spend most of their life in the bottom it really affects their evolution. They have slowly built several traits which they can use to survive their natural environment. One of them is the inferior mouth.

The name might sound weird to some people, but the term inferior does not have anything to do with the function. In fact, its more on the position of the mouth itself which is near to the body of the fish. 

The bottom feeder fish name is chosen because the position of the mouth is on the bottom of the fish body. Their mouth is pointed downward which will help them to scavenge for their food. This mouth anatomy will also allow them to have their eyes upwards to watch the predators at the same time.


A lot of the bottom feeder fish has barbels around their mouth area. These whiskers are useful in helping them finding their food. The barbels are very sensitive so they can detect anything that touching it. 

A unique thing about these barbels is how they act like some sort of tongue because they are consisting of tasting cells. This means when there is food touching the whiskers then the fish can taste them and surely try to find it. 


Besides the barbels there are some fishes that also have this unique mouth function. They are available in several species such as Otocinclus catfishs and Pleco. They will use this suckermouth to latch themselves on the surface of biofilm or algae and eat them. 

The shape of the bottom feeder fish suckermouth is round which very similar to some kind of suction cup. The mouth will also allow them to keep still in one spot to eat even if they are living in water that move fast.

Flat Ventral

When you see bottom feeder fish, they usually have similar body shape especially on the ventral area. The shape of their ventral area is flat which have something to do with the way they live. This type of fish moves and rest on the bottom and the flat belly will make it easier for them to do it.

Of course, the degree of the flatness of the bellies are different on each species. For example, Koi fishes which actually also bottom feeder, their ventral is not too flat. However, stingrays and loaches have very flat ventral area which makes their appearance does not appear like fishes. Meanwhile, Cory catfish has medium degree ventral area flatness. 

Effect of Bottom Feeder on The Tank Maintenance

Having bottom feeder fish is actually very good for your tank. The reason mostly because of their feeding behavior which actually have positive effect to the tank maintenance. They are also very low maintenance which is why you would not have additional thing to worry about.

Most of the time, they will spend their daily live hiding or scavenge around for decayed plant or fish food leftover to eat. This will surely helpful for you to maintain the tank to be clean especially when you have messy eater.

The bottom feeder fish will prevent anything rooting on the bottom of the tank which is why it is good to help you maintain the water parameter. Furthermore, they will eat on the algae that grow on the bottom of the tank. 

That way, bottom feeder fish will help to control the amount of the algae to suitable amount that is enough to make your tank looked pretty. This will also help to free up the space and help in increasing the oxygen inside the tank.

Having bottom feeder will also create a new dynamic for your tank as there are actually variety of them. They are colorful and there are various shapes which makes them very interesting to mix into the tank. 

Best Bottom Feeder Fish for Freshwater Tank

Now that you have learned about their Physiology, it is time for you to see which one that you want to get for your tank. Bottom feeder can be invertebrates or fishes so you need to choose carefully based on your own preference. Here are some of the best one that you can get.

Here’s bottom feeder fish list for your tank.

appearance bottom feeder fish

Zebra Loach

If you want to get some type of loach for your tank, then zebra loach species will really give a unique flair. They gain their name because of the stripes that spread all over their body which looked a lot like Zebra. But appearance wise, their appearance is more similar to tree or rock.

Loach usually nocturnal which will be active at night, but this species is different. They are active during the day which means you will need to give them the right companion so they will get the right activity. 

As other bottom feeder fish they will also need to have enough spot to hide themselves. Their natural habitat consists of sandy bottom, thus try to add them into your tank. They are quite easy to maintain, but they also very sensitive to changes on the water. That means, you need to pay attention on the parameters well.

appearance of zebra loach

Synodontis Catfish

Synodontis catfish really has dramatic appearance. They also have unique behavior which can sometimes be peaceful but then active on the other time. Thus, if you really want to get fish that fits the two characteristics then this is the fish for you.

This bottom feeder fish behavior is also the one that makes them interesting to observe for a long time besides the obvious beauty of their dots and pattern. They will be very active in the burst of the moment which makes it fun to watch. 

They love to rubs their spines which then will create a unique squeaking sound. Sometimes, they will swim upside down but do not be alarm because they are just doing it for fun.

appearance of synodontis catfish

Twig Catfish

Farlowella acus as called Twig Catfish. Learning from their name, you must be able to guess what kind of appearance this fish has. Because of their twig like appearance, this catfish really stands out among other bottom feeder fish.

They are very lean and long which makes them very interesting to watch especially when they swim. They can grow up to 0.5foot in length which is pretty high number compared to other fishes.

For them to live well, you need to have oxygenated water that is also very clean. That way, they can have long lifespan up to 10years. They are quite fun to have in your tank, especially if you love to spend a long time just to find them.

appearance of twig catfish

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose pleaco is very easygoing which make it easy for you to take care of them. They usually very recommended by various aquarist to everyone that want to have bottom feeder in their tank.

The reason is because they have unique tentacles appendages which grows out on their nose which gives them their name. Furthermore, they also have long lifespan which is around 12years. This means you will have them for a long time which suitable for those that does not like changes a lot.

The best thing is, this fish has low maintenance so you can take care of them easily. Of course, their facial feature can be frightening for some people, but if that does not bother you, then you should try to get them for your tank. 

appearance of Bristlenose Pleco

Bumblebee Goby

For those that loves to have cuter fish, then this is the one for you. Bumblebee Goby are playful and love to tease each other which makes them interesting to have. If you love to have small fun group in your tank, then you should get them.

They gain their name because of their unique appearance that looked a lot like bees because of their black color and yellow stripes. They also often seen dashing around the tank actively like a little bumblebee. 

This bottom feeder fish has a unique water requirement which is brackish water. That is why, you need to make sure that your tank suits this requirement before you try to put them inside.

When you want to have the, you need to put least 6fishes into the tank since they love to be in group. Do not worry since their size is very small, so you can actually put a large school into the tank.

Appearance of Bumblebee Goby

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

For those that have large tank, then Tiger Shovelnose catfish will be good to have because their size is bigger than others. They can grow up to 4feet in length, thus you need to have 500gallons of tank to grow them.

This bottom feeder fish have very unique appearance; their shovelnose will make them appear like alligator. They are freshwater bottom feeder but make sure you have enough tank size especially when you put them together with other fishes.

One thing to pay attention is that they are quite aggressive in nature. They will also feed on other fishes that are smaller than their size. So, if you have this fish in the tank, make sure to not have other fishes that are smaller. 

Appearance of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

Yoyo Loach

Another loach which also a favorite among aquarist because they are very active. If you are used to passive loach then this species will surely be a good change to the tank. Yoyo loach will swim regularly as they inspect every corner of the tank which is very fun to see.

The pattern on this bottom feeder fish body is very unique which sometimes can blend them well to the background in some environment. However, in your tank, it might make them stand out more. 

If they are cared the right way, then their lifespan will be long which can be up to 15years. However, they are quite challenging to take care as their water requirement is very tight. But if you are up to the challenge then you should try to get them. 

Appearance of Yoyo Loach

Crossocheilus Siamensis

Crossocheilus Siamensis are known as algae eater which is why if you have tank with a lot of algae on the bottom, then this fish is a must have. They will eat the algae which help to control the population.

This bottom feeder fish are very easy to take care even beginners would not find too much difficulties. Their temperament is very peaceful which make them very newbie friendly and also loved by expert that love peace.

Since they are quite simple to take care of, you can pair them with various other fishes without worry. You would not find them causing any trouble because they are very passive. 

Appearance of Crossocheilus Siamensis

Cory Catfish

Corydora is one of the best fishes that you can get for the bottom of the tank. They are very easy to take care and their temperament is also very good. That is why, they are very good to have in any kind of tank.

The only challenge that you will face when getting this bottom feeder fish is only on the very beginning. They are very sensitive when moved to a new tank, so you need to pay at lot of attention to make sure the process went well. Once it is done, then you would not have anything to worry about anymore.

Another thing to consider is to have them in small school since they like to be in a group. Do not worry as they are quite small in size, so you can have a lot at once. They like to have plants around them so you should prepare some on the tank. 

Appearance of Cory Catfish

Kuhli Loach

A unique critter that you can have for your freshwater tank, Kuhli loach is very easy to take care of. They can live for long which is why a lot of people love to have them in their tank.

This bottom feeder fish is suitable for medium size tank because their size is not very big. This means most tank can fit them well so you have a great flexibility. They are a peaceful creature but still very interesting to look at. They are relaxed and will not cause trouble so it is easy to find companion for them.

Appearance of Kuhli Loach


You might not think the possibility of having this invertebrate in your tank. However, you should actually consider it further when you want to get bottom feeder fish. Then Freshwater snail is very good to have since they can help you help to control the population of the algae on the bottom of the tank.

In fact, freshwater snail is considered as one of the best to have among another bottom feeder. There are a lot of snail types that you can get but the most favorite are nerite and mystery snail. 

This bottom feeder fish alternative is very low maintenance so you should not worry too much. However, one thing that you need to pay attention is the copper substance inside the water. They are very sensitive; thus, you should not use or add any copper into the water.

Appearance of Snail


Another creature that people often overlook when trying to find bottom feeder fish for their tank. This freshwater shrimp will not only help in controlling the algae growth in the tank, but it will also feed on organic matters around the bottom of the tank.

They are very fun to watch and very easy to take care of so you should not have to worry when finding companion for them. As long as the other fishes can survive in the same parameters then it most likely be suitable companion. You can try to get cherry shrimp or amano shrimp for your tank.

Appearance of Shrimp


Another creature that sometimes missed to have by aquarist which actually good for your tank. Crayfish has a small size and will roam around the bottom of the tank. They can be a nice companion especially when you only have fish in the tank.

One thing that you need to pay attention when getting this bottom feeder fish is to find the right species. Some species can be quite aggressive especially those that does not used to be keep in captivity. 

The good thing about them is they can help to clean the bottom area of the tank. The reason is because they will be eating any organic matters that they find. They are very active creature that will roam around and being busy all day long. 

Appearance of Crayfish

Dwarf Sucker

For those that have freshwater tank, then Otocinclus is the one for to get. This catfish is very low maintenance so it is very easy to have. Occasionally they will eat the algae on the tank as a nice snack. This is a good think but sometimes, this will create waste on the tank. 

They are very good companion for other bottom feeder fish as long as they are not aggressive. They themselves are also very peaceful and will slowly move around to find something to eat. But sometimes they will dash from one corner of the tank to the other.

Appearance of Dwarf Sucker

Botia Loach

Botia loach, This genus has a lot of great fishes that are favorite of many aquarists. You can easily find one that you love among this genus so you should do your research well. Your local shop will surely have some of them in stock so you can easily find one.

One thing that you need to pay attention is this bottom feeder fish usually need to be in group. Since they are actually social creature so they need to be together to live well. If they are kept alone, then they will turn aggressive and will also show sign of withdrawal. 

They are very fun to have since their behavior can change from time to time. Sometimes they can stay in place for a long time. However, they can also actively scavenge around for their food. That is why, they are very fun to look at.

Appearance of Botia Loach

Channel Catfish

If you are looking to have a big size tank which actually bigger than most bottom feeder fish then you can try to have this catfish. Channel catfish can grow very big up to 90cm in length and can weight up to 50pounds. 

Because of their giant size, they are usually grown inside a fish farm instead of a tank. They need very large area to live which is around 300gallons in size. That is why, they might not suitable for home tank unless you have a giant one.

Those are some of the bottom feeder fish that you can have for your tank. As you can see each of them have different requirement. That is why, you need to pay attention to their requirement first before you decide which one to get.

Can Freshwater Aquarium Sharks Coexist with Bottom Feeder Fish in the Same Tank?

Freshwater aquarium enthusiasts often wonder if top freshwater aquarium sharks can peacefully coexist with bottom feeder fish in the same tank. It’s crucial to consider the compatibility and behavior of each species before introducing them. While some bottom feeders may handle themselves well, aggressive or territorial top freshwater aquarium sharks may pose a threat. Proper research and expert advice are essential to establish a harmonious tank environment for all aquatic inhabitants.

Which Bottom Feeder Fish is Best?

This is important to know which one that suit well with the condition of the tank you have. You should also make sure that they will suit the other fishes that you have in the tank to prevent anything bad from happening.

As long as you have done your research right, then you should not have to worry too much. Generally, they are very low maintenance as long as their initial requirements are fulfilled. Once they are done, then usually you will not find any difficulties with them in the tank.

Furthermore, bottom feeder fish will add great variety inside the tank which makes it looked pretty.

Millie Douglas

Millie Douglas

Hi, I'm Millie a passionate fish enthusiast and blogger. I loves learning about all kinds of aquatic creatures, from tropical fish to stingrays.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

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