By Rajiv Sharma*
Siamese Algae Eaters (SAEs) or Crossocheilus oblongus are freshwater fishes. They belong to Cyprinidae family. SAEs are one of the best algae eaters. They are one of the most active fishes in consuming algae. The whole time, they are busy grazing algae over rocks, woods, glass surface, filter pipes, and other decorations. They can be referred to as freshwater goats due to their algae grazing habits.
Siamese Algae Eaters have a long narrow cylindrical body. Upper side of the body has some paly brown and golden tint. They have black strips from mouth to tail. These strips are covered by thick golden strips.
Identifying the gender of Siamese Algae Eater is difficult. They are almost identical, but females are large in size in comparison to males. This is the only visible difference between males and females. Their gender can be identified at the age of 3-4 years. It is very difficult to identify their gender in early stages of life.
Feeding Habits and Behaviour
Siamese Algae Eaters are omnivores and easily accept flake foods and pellet foods in aquarium. Although their main diet should be vegetable based, they like planted aquariums with lots of plants. In absence of algae and food, they can also nibble delicate plant leaves and mosses. So, provide them healthy food in the absence of algae. Their body shape allows them to enter in most of the aquarium parts in search of algae.
They are peaceful and social creatures. They search the spots of algae in groups and graze together without any fight for food. They sit on the spot and then graze the algae. Most of the times, they stay near the bottom surface of decorations. Any sharp decorations or rocks may damage their barbels.
Siamese Algae Eaters belong to fast moving streams and rivers of South Asia. Water of these rivers is acidic with high content of oxygen. These rivers have lots of rocks, gravels, and tree logs in the bottom, which provide them algae.
Siamese Algae Eaters can be kept in 100 litre aquarium with lots of plants and hiding places. Artificial caves can be made to form such hiding places for them. Soil or substrate should be fine and smooth. Sharp decorations and items should be kept away from SAE setups. They like moderate lighting. The ideal range of pH is 6.5 to 7.5. Temperature ranging 23 degree Celsius to 27 degree Celsius is ideal. Water flow should be moderate to high as per their natural habitat. Nowadays SAEs in the hobby are from fish farms. They are able to adopt a variety of water conditions. They like acidic and oxygenated water. Adding some driftwoods in aquarium is helpful for making water acidic. Water flow also plays an important role in cleaning and oxygenating water.
They are peaceful by nature so don’t keep them with aggressive and very large-sized fishes. SAEs are known to nipping the fins of long-finned fishes such as betta fish or gold fish. Always keep in mind before housing them with these fishes. Bottom dweller fishes like Rainbow Sharks and Red tail sharks are terrestrial. Keeping them with these sharks is not advisable. Most of the cichlids are territorial fishes. They can harass any intruders in their territory. It is advisable, not to keep Siamese Algae Eaters with Cichlids. It is best to keep them only with peaceful fishes. Any large-sized fish can harass them till death. The best tank mates for SAEs are small peaceful fishes like tetras, danios, rasboras etc.
Taking care of Siamese Algae Eaters
Keeping SAEs is not a difficult task. They are easy to keep and maintain. They don’t have any specific requirements. Some important points to remember while keeping SAEs are as following:
- Water should be clean with moderate to high flow. Clean filter time to time. They can live happily in a wide range of water parameters. Keep them in toxin free water. The parasite of disease White Spot (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) can easily infect them.
- Keep them with smooth substrate. Sharp substrate and decorative materials can lead to cuts and scars. These scars and cuts can lead to many types of infections.
- Provide them lots of hiding places. Artificial caves or coconut shells can be used to form such hiding places for them.
- Never keep them with territorial and aggressive fishes.
- Introduce SAEs in a properly cycled aquarium. Check water parameters carefully prior to releasing them.
*The author is founder of online aquarium forum www.aquapetz.com, an aquarium hobbyist and planted aquarium designer. email id: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ph. 9958075234