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What Kind Of Algae Eater Should I Get?


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#1 pica_nuttalli

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 04:52 AM

A lot of people come here asking "What Algae Eater would be best for my tank?" I'm sorry to say, but you've been asking the wrong question! Here's a list of better things to ask yourself, with a few other things to keep in mind:



( 1 ) Why should I get an Algae Eater?

The worst reason to get an algae eater is just as a "preventative measure". If there is no algae growing in your tank yet, you don't need any thing to eat it! Additionally, not all algae eaters eat all kinds of algae. The various species have different tastes and dietary needs. So if you don't have any algae yet, you can't know what sort of algae may (or may not) show up in your tank. Thus it's pointless to say you "need" an algae eater for your tank when you can't even say which kind would do any good. Its far better to say that you "want" an algae eater.

Simply liking an algae eating variety of fish is the best reason to get one. When you purchase an algae eater, you are actually purchasing just another fish for your community--but a fish with special needs. All algae eaters will eventually require supplemental feeding. Few tanks can or will produce enough algae to sustain an algae eater on just what it can scavenge. A good rule of thumb is:
IF YOU CAN'T SEE ANY ALGAE, THERE ISN'T ENOUGH TO BE EATEN.



( 2 ) What kinds of algae are there?

Surprise! This is an important question because not all algae eaters eat all kinds of algae! In order to best treat your algal problems, you need to identify exactly what your problem is. There are any number of excellent websites describing and identifying the different types of algae. This is a brief list of some articles worth reading:George Booth's definitive and often quoted "Algae"
The Krib's Algae Information Index
gf225's Pinned Topic on Algae from the Plants and Planted Tanks forum
The-Wolf's Pinned Topic on Algae from the Tropical Chit Chat forum
Yahoo Search: Aquarium Algae Types
Google Search: Aquarium Algae Types
This is brief list of the most common algae types (only the ones in green are tasty to fish):
  • Blue-Green Algae (actually a type of bacteria, no fish will eat it)
  • Green Surface Algae (those little green dots on your glass)
  • Brown/Diatomic Algae (appears in newer tanks, often goes away on its own)
  • Tufted, Hair & Brush Algae (looks like tufts, hair, a brush, string, beards)
  • Red/Black Algae (kind of a purple-red color, will quickly overtake slow-growing plants)
( 3 ) Ok, so I know what I'll feed my algae eater. Now what sort of fish can I get?

Snails! (I'm mostly teasing but they aren't always the worst choice. This is a great article that's worth reading if you're intrigued.) There are also a number of good algae-eating shrimp, but a shockingly wide array of fish like to eat the smaller varieties of shrimp. If you would be interested in these alternatives, I suggest you take a look in the Invertebrates, Amphibians & Aquatic Reptiles Forum for suggestions by the experts.

Back to fish... First things first. Not all algae eaters are catfish. Not all catfish are algae eaters. Not all algae eaters are bottom dwellers. Not all bottom dwellers are algae eaters. Loaches are not good algae eaters. Cory Cats are not good algae eaters. Catfish with big mouths are not good algae eaters. Not all plecos are good algae eaters. BUT! Most community fish like to eat a little algae.

The following are some common species of fish that enjoy munching on some greens now and then (while none of these will eliminate an algae outbreak, they do benefit from trace amounts of it in the aquarium):
  • Mollies
  • Platys
  • Guppies
  • Gouramis (Kissing Gourami are especially gifted, but reach 8 inches!)
  • Rosy Barbs (famous for eating hair algae)
  • Really, all Barbs like to eat green stuff to some degree
  • American Flagfish (a killifish famous for eating hair algae)
  • Many species of Malawi Cichlid
( 4 ) No, no. I'm determined to get a typical algae eater.

Ok, fine but remember:
DO NOT BUY AN ALGAE EATER UNLESS YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO FEED HIM. IF THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ALGAE THAT YOU CAN SEE IT, THEN THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ALGAE TO BE EATEN. IF THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ALGAE TO BE EATEN, YOU WILL NEED TO PROVIDE SUPPLEMENTAL FOODS.

Supplemental foods include carrots, sweet potatoes/yams, zucchini, cucumbers, fancy lettuces/cabbage (not iceberg, its bad for them), and of course freshwater algae wafers (available at most LFS). To get veggies to sink in your tank, simply blanche them´┐Żeither microwave them or drop them into boiling (dechlorinated) water for just a few seconds.

Some common algae eaters: (Extra-Special Thanks to The-Wolf for compiling the original of this!)
  • Cyprinids & Characins
Crossocheilus siamensis Siamese Algae Eater (SAE) / Siamese Flying Fox

Adult size 5 1/2" (14cm)
Good general cleaner: Red/Black, Tufted, Hair & Brush; Unlikely to damage plants
Often considered the best algae eater for larger tanks and the only known algae eater to eat red algae. Needs a well planted tank with a good tight fitting lids as they are very good jumpers. They thrive is schools but are also good to be kept in pairs. Interestingly the swim bladder is not very developed (compared to other fish), so the fish must be in constant motion or it sinks. The true SAE is often difficult to find and is commonly confused with the Flying Foxes. The SAE is generally distinguished by the serrated or blurred edges to the black stripe on its sides. The other similar looking species have straight edges on their stripe.
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picture by mr_miagi32


Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus Flying Fox

Adult size 6" (15.2cm)
Mixed results: Green Surface, Tufted, Hair & Brush; Unlikely to damage plants
Well suited to a community tank; however they are very territorial to other similar shaped fish. Avoid keeping more than one specimen and avoid shark shaped fish. They do best in slightly soft water with a pH range of 6.5 to 7. This fish can be distinguished from the true SAE by virtue of the fact that the Flying Fox is much prettier. While the SAE is a grayish-brown, the Flying Fox is warm almost golden-brown color. The black stripe extends from nose all the way through the fork of the tail, but the Flying Fox exhibits a smoother edge with an additional golden line running along the top of the black.
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picture by jimboo

Epalzeorhynchus sp False Flying Fox

Adult size just under 6" (15cm)
Mixed results: Green Surface, Tufted, Hair & Brush; Unlikely to damage plants
A pH of 7 or slightly higher is preferred by this species, anything under 7 and they have a habit of dying. Otherwise, they can be kept in any community tank. Adult specimens often get aggressive toward each other. They may also harass related species and other small bottom-dwellers like loaches/corys; aggression is far more pronounced in smaller tanks. Very similar in appearance to the SAE, but examine the stripe and fins. The stripe running down the sides should have smooth edges and stops at the base of the tail without extending to the fork. The fins also are yellow-tinged whereas all fins on the SAE are perfectly clear.
photo needed


Crossocheilus oblongus Siamese Flying Fox / Shark Algae Eater / Siamese Algae Eater

Adult size just under 6" (15cm)
Moderate algae eater: Green Surface, Tufted, Hair & Brush; Unlikely to damage plants
Ideal for a community tank as they are not aggressive but avoid other shark shaped fish just to be safe. However, the Siamese Flying Fox should be kept in pairs for results. The Siamese Flying Fox has a smooth black band running down its length that does not extend through the tail.
photo needed


Gyrinocheilus aymonieri Chinese Algae Eater (CAE) / Indian Algae Eater(IAE) / Sucking Loach.
Available in a golden form often called the Golden Sucking Loach.

Adult size 10" (25cm)
Unlikely to eat algae past 6"
The Chinese Algae Eater is NOT RECOMMENDED for the typical tropical community. Although a good algae eater when young, the CAE will become very aggressive as it ages. Long-term success is only reported in keeping CAEs with fish that are the same size or larger. Semi-aggressive fish such as some cichlids and fish with strong defensive capabilities such as the botia species may be feasible. In all cases, the CAE needs plenty of rockwork/driftwood from which to select a territory and hiding spot.
Golden Sucking Loach -- photo by The-Wolf
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  • Catfish
    Please note that for most sucker catfish, there are several species sold under each common name. Thus the genus has been listed as the reference. However, there are a few species under each genus which grow significantly larger than indicated. Always, always research and double-check before you buy. For additional suggestions, two great resources are our very own Catfish Forum and the L-list at planetcatfish.
Otocinclus sp. Oto / Dwarf suckermouth catfish / Dwarf Pleco

Adult size 1.5" (4cm)
Good plant cleaner: Green Surface, Brown/Diatomic; Won't damage plants
Often considered the best algae eater for small tanks. Well suited to community tanks but really should be kept in groups of 4 or more. They are very sensitive to water parameters and have a habit of dying for no apparent reason, however once established they do a fine job of keeping the tank algae free. The typical rule of thumb for picking out Otos is ask how long they've been in the shop and look for fat bellies. An Oto that's been in the LFS for over 3 weeks and has a round tummy will probably make it in a well-kept aquarium.
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picture by Nospherith

All of the following plecos require supplemental feeding to survive. They need lots of food and make lots of poop. We're talking foot-long strands of fish poo all across the aquarium here; if its not pooping a lot, your pleco isn't healthy. Count yourself as warned.


Ancistrus sp. Bristlenose Catfish

Adult size 4"-8" (10cm - 20cm)
Good glass cleaner: Green Surface, Brown/Diatomic; Generally won't damage plants
While one of the most commonly available smaller plecos, the Bristlenose should not be kept in tanks smaller than 20 gallons. Driftwood/bogwood is important to fill both dietary and territory needs. Adults are fairly territorial and may become aggressive to similarly sized plecos, perceived food-competitors, and other aggressive cave-dwellers (non-aggressive cave dwellers are typically tolerated). While a wide range of conditions is tolerated, they understandably do better in conditions more closely matched to their source, the Amazon (soft/acidic water). Males begin developing the trademark bristles at sexual maturity (~4 inches). Several species are easily bred in the aquarium and a pair can quickly overwhelm their owner with fry. (As a side-note, these fish are occasionally referred to as "Brittlenose Catfish" due to, I suppose, some confusion concerning the word bristle. ;) )
Albino adult male Ancistrus sp. -- picture by Tolak
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Adult male ( L ) and female ( R ) Ancistrus sp. -- picture by Jessica13
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A young Ancistrus sp -- picture by Nitro
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TFF Profile Available for Ancistrus dolichopterus.


Chaetostoma sp. Rubbernose Pleco / Bulldog Pleco / Rubberlip Pleco

Adult size 3"-5" (7.5cm - 12.5cm)
Good overall cleaner: Green Surface, Brown/Diatomic; Generally won't damage plants
The Rubbernose is a good algae eater for 10+ gallon aquariums. This is supposedly a rather timid fish, so don't expect to see much of him unless adequate refuge is provided (a fish with more places available for hiding sees the need less). Smooth rocks and rounded gravel are preferred. It is not recommended to keep this pleco with aggressive or high-activity fish.
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TFF Profile Available for Chaetostoma Milesi., picture by MXPX4318


Hypostomos sp./ Pterygoplichthys sp. Common Pleco / Sailfin Pleco

Adult size 12"-24" (30cm - 51cm)
Good general cleaner: Green Surface, Brown/Diatomic; Can damage plants
The Common Pleco is the cheapest pleco available. It grows to a remarkable size, lives for years and years, can be any of several dozen species and is often hybridized--so its exact needs and behavior patterns cannot be readily defined. Basically, don't get this fish unless you have a 55+ gallon tank. Common Plecos can grow as quickly as a half-inch every month. Big plecos will uproot plantings both by accident and intentionally. Most are quite shy and driftwood should be included in every common's tank.

While the Sailfin is a slightly more expensive fish than the Common, all the same issues apply. Except that Sailfin Plecos are far more likely to reach 24" than the Common.

Sailfin Pleco -- pictures by jimboo
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Sailfin Pleco -- picture by scott67892002
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Panaque maccus Clown Pleco / Clown Panaque

Adult size 3"-5" (7.5cm - 12.5cm)
Unlikely to eat algae
The Clown Panaque is a shy fish but territorial within its own species. It will occasionally pick on significantly smaller fish, but most tankmates should be just fine. Panaques are wood eaters and driftwood is an absolute must in its aquarium. While the Clown Panaque does need veggies and algae wafers in its diet, it won't do anything to clean your tank. Although sensitive to nitrate levels, the Clown Panaque is otherwise fairly hardy. A caution, though! Other species of Panaque can grow quite large, in some case reaching 3 feet in length!
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TFF Profile Available for Panaque maccus., picture by cometcattle

--------------------------------------------------

So there you have it! I hope this has been informative to you but please remember, you need to conduct your own research across several sources before acquiring any new addition to your aquarium. Fish aren't cheap but knowledge is free.

I'd like to give special thanks to the following people for their (occasionally unwitting) contributions:
--Auratus (rubbernose pleco profile)
--cometcattle
--Doggfather (bristlenose pleco profile)
--dwarfgourami
--Ferris
--Iron Man
--Jessica13
--jimboo
--LateralLine
--LoachLover
--mr_miagi32
--MXPX4318
--Nospherith
--rdd1952
--ryan (clown pleco profile)
--scott67892002
--SirMinion
--sylvia
--The-Wolf
--Tolak

If anyone would care to contribute clear, full-body photos of the indicated species, please feel free to pm me. (I'd also like photos of the species that already have pictures ;) )

Edited by pica_nuttalli, 03 April 2007 - 12:29 AM.


#2 The-Wolf

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 05:11 AM

here is a pic of my golden CAE
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Edit
Great post btw :clap:

Edited by The-Wolf, 29 July 2005 - 05:12 AM.


#3 pica_nuttalli

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 05:32 AM

lol! you deserve over half the credit; i'd have never gotten it done without the leg-work you did on the species profiles. :book: :nod:

#4 digital_run

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 06:58 AM

Very nice pica...definately needs to be a pinned article.

#5 andywg

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 08:15 AM

Most impressive! :cool:

The only thing I can think of adding is some of the excellent information from the planted guys on how to stop algae from forming - treat the cause, not the symptom, like.

Andy

#6 Bloo

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 11:24 AM

:cool: Awesome !

#7 Mr Miagi

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 12:04 PM

Top posting!! :thumbs: Thanks for including my name on the list! But why... :lol:

PM sent! :P

Edited by mr_miagi32, 29 July 2005 - 12:05 PM.


#8 Nospherith

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 05:21 PM

Woah, I didn't know someone would actually use one of my pictures. Sweet! Anyway, this seemed like a really good article with accurate information on algae eating fish, so *bump*.
-edit-
I just noticed this was pinned in some dark corner of the "Compendium Of Pinned Topics" which is an absolute maze of useful information. There's practically everything you need in those topics. Awesome article on algae eating fish either way, though!

Edited by Nospherith, 16 May 2006 - 05:28 PM.


#9 bamacracker

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 01:32 AM

Yeah, I know this thread is 2 years old, but I just had to say "THANKS!!!"

The money making numbskull at the local pet place tried his best to make me look and feel like an idiot when I went in to buy an algae eater. My last one died in a thermal incident (the heater failed) and the algae is everywhere! I went in to buy another bristle nose because they are cheap and so am I, and the guy tried to convince me I needed a $40 something I can't pronouce, because it would "eat algae its entire life."

He went on to tell me that my original must not have been a bristle nose because he was about a year old, more than 8 inches long and still ate algae.

After reading this very well written post, and referencing several of the other posts cited herein, I am on my way to a different store to buy several. :)

BTW, this is my first time to visit this board, and my VERY first post, but I just had to say Thanks.

The proud owner of 2 fifty fives, a seventy five, 2 tens and a twenty, and not a dollar invested in equipment! :hyper:

Edited by bamacracker, 03 July 2007 - 01:34 AM.


#10 jourdy288

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 08:57 PM

I always wanted a bulldog pleco. Could never find one though.

#11 ammasch

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 04:25 AM

After searching the internet, it appears as though I have algae, or at least the water turns completely green within a couple weeks despite various water treatments. From pictures on other sites, it doesn't look like I have the blue-green bacteria, but instead I have a fast-growing algae.

My tank is not in direct sunlight, but I did stumble across a bit on the 'net that says if I leave the tank light on for too long, the algae will turn the water green. I bought an algae eater this evening (I believe it's Siamese). So, I have a few questions.

1. How long should I leave the light on in the tank each day (currently I leave it on about 15 hours/day)?
2. Is this the correct type of algae needed to keep the algae-eater fed?
3. Is it enough algae to keep it fed (I assume it is, since the water is completely green but would like reassurance?
4. How do I know if the algae-eater is getting enough food?
5. Is there anything I can feed the algae-eater.
6. How do I get the water clear? I've already tried replacing the water, using water treatments, and even went so far as to replace the entire tank and all the accessories at the first of the year, only to have the water turn green again in 6 weeks despite regular (25%) water changes.

Obviously I'm new at this... I adopted the (green) tank from a friend who moved about 8 months ago and have been fighting with green water since.

Thanks so much!

#12 The-Wolf

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 12:59 PM

1. How long should I leave the light on in the tank each day (currently I leave it on about 15 hours/day)?
2. Is this the correct type of algae needed to keep the algae-eater fed?
3. Is it enough algae to keep it fed (I assume it is, since the water is completely green but would like reassurance?
4. How do I know if the algae-eater is getting enough food?
5. Is there anything I can feed the algae-eater.
6. How do I get the water clear? I've already tried replacing the water, using water treatments, and even went so far as to replace the entire tank and all the accessories at the first of the year, only to have the water turn green again in 6 weeks despite regular (25%) water changes.


1. unplanted tank, max 8hrs a day (split 4 in morning, 4 in evening). in a planted tank max 14hrs.
also if you have no plants, consider adding them. they will out compete the algae for the nutrients, look for fast growing plants such as amazon sword.
ask in the planted forum for what would be best for you.
2. not really. algae eater graze on the types of algae that grow on rocks, etc not the type that is free floating in the water.
3. algae is not their only food, they will eat any flakes etc that they come across
4. unless it is visibly getting thinner by the week, assume it is eating enough.
5. yes. you can buy algae wafers
6. you could try a 24-48 hr blackout. wrap the tank in a duvet or heavy blanket, turn off lights and if possible leave the room in darkness for that period.
do not feed, do not peek or unwrap. the object is to stop the photosynthesis of the algae. algae, like all plants, need light to create chlorophyll, with out light they die.

if the blackout fails, you can go down the chemical route. look for interpet green water or Sera aquariclear. both will do the job.
I also suggest that you change all the media in the filter but do half one day and the other half 3-4 days later, so as not to remove all the nitrifying bacteria.

HTH

#13 JT9563

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 07:54 PM

Just one to add with regards the CAE, though it may be some crazy anomoly. I had my Full grown CAE in with Cichlids, Catfish and a few other large fish, all the same size and bigger and it spent the enite time (appearing to) compete for tank domination and hiding places. My tank was pretty much a constant battle zone. I was reluctant to move him to the smaller tank but gave it a go anyway. He is now in a 90 ltr tank with 3 cory's and 5 guppies and they get along famously. Like I say, may be an anomoly, but it worked for me.

#14 Shelby

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:55 AM

I think what I have is the first one listed. My kids brought it home after spending the weekend at their dads. It zips all over the place very quickly and sticks to the side of the glass. At this point in time I do not have algae in my tank that I have noticed. It's a 10gallon with 2 guppies left in it out of 6. We are currently going through the whole ICH thing and that in itself is driving me nuts. My question is, should I be giving the algae eater wafers? or is it eating leftover food? It never stays in one place long.

#15 AstonN24vantage

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 11:06 PM

what about Queen Arabesque Plecostomus?

#16 Carlovel1

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 10:41 PM

what about Queen Arabesque Plecostomus?

:no:
This is a carnivorous species and will not consume algae. I have 3 and I can confirm L260's do not eat algae :X :)

#17 AstonN24vantage

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 04:38 AM


what about Queen Arabesque Plecostomus?

:no:
This is a carnivorous species and will not consume algae. I have 3 and I can confirm L260's do not eat algae :X :)

really? a few years ago i had algae problems and was about to buy one... glad i didn't!

#18 Carlovel1

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 06:47 PM



what about Queen Arabesque Plecostomus?

:no:
This is a carnivorous species and will not consume algae. I have 3 and I can confirm L260's do not eat algae :X :)

really? a few years ago i had algae problems and was about to buy one... glad i didn't!


L260 are delicate and need similar care to the L46 Zebra Pleco. And by my calculations, you would have been 10 years old when you were considering buying one. And you probably weren't as experienced back then as you are now so it was a lucky escape!

#19 AstonN24vantage

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:42 PM

yep!

#20 Teephphah

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 02:31 PM

All good information, but I'd love to see my newest favorite algae eater included in this list:

The Farlowella catfish (farlowella acus). These guys are AMAZING!

#21 SQWIB

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 02:03 PM

Hey guys newbie here, found this extremely interesting.
I picked up a few and they have all the characteristics of the Crossocheilus Langei but I can not find a black spot, looks a wee bit grayish but not black.
They are about 2" long.
Here's a few pics, what do you think?

Posted Image

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They're a tad dark but I tried taking them without a flash.

#22 hawkdaddy

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 06:37 AM

They look like crossocheilus siamensis (siamese algae etar) to me
I have 3 in my main tank, great fish




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