Freshwater Fish That Eat Poop

Freshwater Fish That Eat Poop | Do they help keeping your aquarium clean?

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Watching your colorful fish float around is a beautiful sight, but like all living things, fish actually poop, which is not so scenic. But hey, nothing that will scare a parent who has cleaned after three kids!

Welcome to EnviroMom!
Welcome to EnviroMom!

I’m sure you’ve heard about the clean-up crew of snails, Plecos, Corydoras, and snails who make sure that hard-to-reach places are clean in your freshwater aquarium, however, they do not munch on poop!

While the clean-up will help with cleaning, more tank buddies mean more poop, so you have to get your hands dirty to remove the poop!

In short, these creatures will help a little bit, but sadly you will still need to do the usual aquarium cleaning!

Related Articles: How Much Sand For Aquarium? and Using Play Sand for Aquarium

Which Species of Fish Will Eat Poop?

Eating poop seems far-fetched, even for a fish. However, some freshwater aquarium owners swear that their ‘clean-up crew’ is nibbling on their poop as an afternoon snack!

You would see some fish sniffing and investigating the poop if it’s floating in the water before reaching the sand at the bottom. This is because fish try to eat anything and everything floating around. So, if you caught your fish eating some poop, it was probably a nasty mistake!

Snail In Aquarium

However, there are some fish species that are prone to making this mistake. They are:

  • Pleco
  • Corydoras
  • Snails
  • Shrimp

Why Are These Species Attracted to Poop?

Most freshwater aquarium tanks have areas with low currents where particles settle. Since both these species are bottom dwellers, they often see the poop as food. 

They spend their days sucking algae off plants and the glass, turning over the gravel and sand, and looking for a snack that consists of worms, leftover food, and dead plant matter. On this hunt for a tasty snack, they accidentally eat the fish poop.

If you find these species eating fish poop more than usual, you should provide extra supplements and nutrients as the waste is insufficient to sustain their bodies.

Shrimp and snails are opportunistic feeds that go around your tank, searching for organic matter to munch on. They are not fussy and will probably eat anything that comes their way! This helps to keep your freshwater tank clean.

Shrimps and snails scavenge between the sand, rocks, and gravel to find dying plants and algae to eat. This gives them most of the nutrients they need to be healthy. Much like Pleco and Corys, shrimps and snails keep the tank clean by eating decaying matter, algae, and other impurities, which slows the water hardening process and reduces the ammonia content.  

Shrimp In Aquarium

In this very hard job that your little shrimps and snails have, they test the fish poop to see if it is a good source of nutrients and if it’s actually tasty. To their dismay…it tastes like poop! (Not that I know what that tastes like, ew!). Sometimes, your clean-up crew members do this if you don’t have them on the right diet with the right supplements.

How to Get Rid of Fish Poop in Tank

The best method to keep your tank free from poop lies with you! While the clean-up crew will help you in some way, you have to clean the poop by hand. Let’s look at the different ways.

Cleaning Poop from Sand

If you have colorful aquarium sand, then you know that looking at the poop won’t be a pretty sight!

Picking up the fish poop by hand can take a long time, and since it’s in water, the poop can break down into smaller pieces. This leaves an unhealthy residue in the tank, which is not good for the fish. Plus, your big hand into the tank might spook your poor pets!

A vacuum cleaner for your aquarium is the best way to clean fish poop.

First, you have to move the fish to a temporary location when cleaning the poop. Remove the fancy ornaments, rocks, and large gravel pieces. Your fishies can stray in a different fish tank or a polythene bag.

Make sure you put them in the same aquarium tank water so they are comfortable.

Man Is Cleaning Aquarium With Vacuum

Rake the sand to make the poop float to the surface, so it’s easier to vacuum. Pinch the intake tube or use a filter in the front of the tube to prevent a lot of sand from being sucked into the filter.

Using a turkey blaster or a small vacuum is the best for proper cleaning.

Cleaning Poop from Gravel

Cleaning poop from gravel is kinda tricky to handle than sand, as pieces of poop get stuck under the substrate.

Move your fish to a comfortable spot before starting! If you have a tank with a lot of plants, you should opt for a vacuum with a narrow mouth so you don’t bother the plants that much.

There are two ways you can tackle poop from gravel. You can use a siphon vacuum to clean the gravel substrate. This will get all the fish poop and other kinds of waste from the tank.

Alternatively, you can empty the tank and pour the gravel into a bucket. You can rinse the fish tank thoroughly and clean the gravel with a hose.

When you’re done, add your clean gravel to the tank and fill the tank with dechlorinated water. Make sure it’s the same temperature as always so your fish can be comfortable.

Using a Wavemaker and Filter

Aquarium With Wavemaker

You can use the water flow to your benefit. Using the wavemaker or filter across the tank’s substrate can help you make the clean-up process easier.

You can create the flow you want with the powerhead, or you can adjust the flow of the tank by putting a sponge by the intake of the filter, which increases the flow. Before doing this, you need to make sure your fish are able to handle it.

The faster flow directs the poop towards the filter intake, which makes it move to the filter instead of going on the sand or gravel. You still have to vacuum the remaining waste to get rid of lingering poop, however, this is the easiest way to clean.

How Often Should I Clean My Tank?

How often you clean the tank depends on how many fish you have and the tank size. However, a good rule to follow is to replace the filter every 3rd week, so the water is always clean. The quality of the filter often decreases after 3 weeks. A dirty filter can make the water murky.

Sponges must be rinsed weekly to take out the poop and other dirt. You don’t have to replace the sponge as often as the filter. You can vacuum the gravel or sand weekly or scrap the fish waste off the substrate when changing the tank’s water.

Don’t forget to clean poop off rocks and plants too!

Frequently Asked Questions

Aquarium With Small Fish

When should I add a clean-up crew to my freshwater tank?

If your freshwater aquarium has fish that do not eat all the food you feed them, even when you reduce the amount of food, it’s a good idea to add a clean-up crew. If you love these critters, why not add them as pets?

How can I reduce poop in my freshwater tank?

You should have a moderate number of fish, and your clean-up crew should be according to the number of fish and how big your tank is. This will avoid the quick accumulation of poop. Feed your fish the correct amount of food according to their condition, size, and age.

Additionally, it would help if you had a regular vacuuming schedule to make sure your tank is clean and healthy for your pet fish.

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