Acquired: Fish / pet store
Posted Jun 29, 2013
I hate to say that I've been burned by pet store clerks before, but I truly have. I never trust a pet store clerk to give me the right recommendations on fish and compatibility, and it was the Gold Chinese Algae Eater (Nihm) that brought me to this conclusion.
Appearance - I love the way these guys look - long with a mouth that is modified into a sucking disc. They are definitely interesting to look at.
Compatibility with its own species - I never kept my algae eater with other fish of it's kind, but I've heard tell they are territorial with their own kind, and need to be able to carve out their own territory. I would treat them like a Betta Fish in this regard.
Compatibility with other species - definitely territorial little guys. My algae eater spent some of it's days just chasing around the other fish in my tank who got too close. What's more, they will actually suck on your other fish, sucking on their slime coating and creating potential for infection and disease. My algae eater only ever did this with my goldfish, and not my smaller species, but it was frustrating to deal with because...
Easy to keep - ...they need at least a 40 gallon tank to grow in to! Plus, it gets more aggressive as it gets older. They are not fish meant for community tanks, and really would do better on their own or with enough room to grow in a very large community tank. It's really a shame that so many people buy them for their smaller tanks going on the misinformation of 1) it's name and 2) pet store clerks who don't know any better. I actually talked a woman out of buying one when i saw her at line for the pet store, once. They don't do a good job cleaning algae, though they could live on it. I actually think he was eating the other fish's food to supplement the algae.
Activity level - They can be quite active. You will either find them swimming around, sucking on algae, or chasing other fish out of it's territory.
Visibility - These fish will hide, but I usually found mine suctioned on the tank or sifting through the gravel to find algae.
Health/Vigor - These fish can live to be 5 to 10 years - I think mine lived around 5 years or more. She was very active up to the last days of her life.
Interaction with owner - They aren't terribly curious fish, at least not that I found. I think my cat got more interaction with Nihm than I did. My cat would rush up to the tank and smack at Nihm whenever she was suctioned to the inside of the tank glass.
Easy to acquire - Chinese Algae eaters are pretty common, to my knowledge. I've heard tell they've also been confused with otocinclus, so watch out for that! Mine was a gold one, and I think those are probably not as common as the brown speckled ones.
Low cost to own - it depends on how you keep the fish. To give a Chinese Algae Eater an adequate tank, you need it to be over forty gallons. The larger the tank, the most costly the upkeep, of course. Plus she would be better off alone, and that's a lot of space and time and money to commit for one species.
Overall, I didn't hate my gold chinese algae eater. She was particularly annoying when she was attacking my goldfish, but she never did more than chase the other fishes in the tank around. She outlived the original species in the tank and ended up in a more suitable environment in the long run, but the only reason I had her with goldfish (cold water fish) was because I was told she would do fine in there (algae eaters are tropical fish). That is my main gripe about this species - the sheer amount of misinformation peddled by the people who work in selling them. Nihm was actually quite fun to watch and very interesting to look at, and I kind of miss her being in my tank, despite her territoriality.
So I'm just saying - education is key! Don't impulse buy a fish - do research on the species you see in the store before you make the decision. And do NOT trust what the salesman says.