Fish Care Guide

Why Did My Algae Eater Die?

Anytime you store large quantities of water with the lid open, such as in an aquarium, the presence of algae will always be a lingering problem. You can spot them by their spongy, moss-like appearance.

They will feed on the nutrients within the tank and absorb the light being illuminated. In other words, algae are pollutants that need to be removed constantly.

Thankfully, we have fishes that we collectively call “algae eaters”. Note that the term does not refer to one species of fish only.

For every type of algae, there is a corresponding algae eater. Among the popular choices because of their all-around appetite and unique appearance are the Siamese Algae Eater, the Hillstream Loach, and the Twig Catfish.

Algae Eaters can vary in length and temperament. Most of them though are compatible with peaceful fishes yet they can also be an easy target for larger ones.

They may be very useful but there will be situations wherein they can be at death’s door. If you want to keep your tank algae-free, it is important to know why your algae eaters are dying!

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Why Your Algae Eaters Are Dying

Algae Eaters can die due to the following situations: starving, getting sick, living long enough, and being preyed upon by other fishes.

The challenge here is to spot if your algae eaters are suffering from any of the said situations. It can be difficult to discern at first glance only.

1. Starvation

If your fish tank is clean of algae, it means that the algae eaters are doing their job. Unfortunately, that can also mean that they will have lesser food from that time on.

On the other hand, it is not practical to add algae to your tank just to feed a particular small group of fish. Good thing is that most algae eaters can eat other sources.

Nowadays, there are algae pellets available in local pet stores, giving you an easy and controllable way of not letting your algae eaters get hungry.

You can also introduce driftwood as part of their diet. Even so, do not assume that algae eaters are in the same category with scavengers like the janitor fish. 

2. Illness

Knowing that your algae eater is dying from starvation is easy. You only need to see if you already feed them on the right schedule.

A pristine clean tank can also mean that your algae eaters run out of food sources. But, if they are dying despite sufficient food sources, illnesses can be the source of the issue.

Refusing to eat, getting sluggish, hiding more than usual, losing its natural color, swimming erratically, having cloudy eyes, and oftentimes being motionless can all indicate that the algae eater is sick.

What can be the cause? There are also many of them.

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One common cause is poor water conditions. It may be due to the abundance of waste, the development of unwanted bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, or the high levels of nitrite and ammonia.

Stress is another common cause. Algae eaters’ stress can be traced back to their experiences in poor water conditions.

Competition for food, as well as frequent bullying by more aggressive fish, all contribute to stress as well.

3. Old Age

If you are keeping algae eaters for a long time in your aquarium, it will not be surprising that they can end up dying once they reach their normal lifespan. Siamese algae eaters have a lifespan of 10 years.

A Hillstream Loach can live between 8 to 10 years on average while a twig catfish can live between 10 to 12 years.

So, if you keep an algae eater and maintain your tank at its optimal conditions, you have approximately 10 years to enjoy its existence.

4. Preyed Upon

Why do your algae eaters are dying? They can be dead much quicker than you’ll notice if they are living in an environment with aggressive, large fishes.

Most algae eaters are small in size and rather peaceful. If you put at least one aggressive fish, expect your algae eaters to be easy prey. If not getting eaten, the threat can be enough to cause them stress.

How To Prevent Dying Algae Eaters

How to prevent algae eaters from dying? There are simple ways to do so. Below are some of the most effective and sufficient solutions in order to extend your algae eaters’ lives.

1. Schedule Feeding Time

As mentioned, there are other options that the algae eaters can feed upon. Driftwood can also be food for them also.

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If you want a stress-free option, you can just buy algae pellets in the pet store. There are feeding instructions included depending on the number of your algae eaters.

2. Provide Optimal Water Conditions

The water conditions depend on the number of algae eaters that you have. Usually, three is the preferred quantity for a fish tank with a volume between 20 and 55 gallons. The general rule of thumb is “one inch of fish per gallon”.

Siamese Algae Eaters can grow up to 7 inches. So, in a tank with 55 gallons of water, 3 of them seem to be the optimal number.

If you are looking to add more, not only you will secure a larger tank but also you need to adjust the water parameters such as pH level and chemical balance.

If you want to be accurate, research care guides from legit sources for the specific algae eater that you’ll be having. If you are planning to have a variety of them, you can select the average levels of each of the common water parameters.

In cases of sick algae eaters, the moment you spot one, it is important to isolate it right away to prevent the spread of the disease. To correctly diagnose the illness of the quarantined fish, seek professional help. 

3. Select Appropriate Tank Mates

Generally, algae eaters have a peaceful temperament. Therefore, you need also peaceful fish as the tank mates.

Danios, tetras, goldfishes, and other schooling fishes are great choices for tank mates, whatever the type of algae eater you’ll be having. 


Algae eaters are very useful fishes. If you feed them well and prevent them from having a stressful environment, you can be guaranteed that they will live long enough.


Passionate fishkeeper. Nature lover. Creative thinker. Music junkie. Adventurer.

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