Maintaining your aquarium’s cleanliness is one of the most important things you must do to ensure your fish remain healthy. Of course, this does not mean that cleaning the aquarium and replacing the water inside is not an arduous task.

If you do not have a water filter, you must keep changing the water frequently. Some people choose to change the tank water daily to ensure their fish remain in good condition.

If you own a filter, things are easier as you would not require to change the water as frequently. However, it still has to be a regular practice you will have to get used to. Thankfully, some fish can actually help you with cleaning the bottom of the tank themselves. Let’s take a look at the best fish for cleaning the bottom of the tank.

fishes in aquarium

What Are Bottom Feeders?

Essentially, these bottom-dwellers are fish that feed on food that has either fallen at the bottom of the tank or stuck in very tight spaces. Bottom-feeders are usually very active species of fish that deliberately look for food in the most surprising places. There are also some species that feed on the algae that grow on the walls of fish tanks.

These peculiar types of fish are a huge advantage for any fish parent as they play a vital role in keeping your aquarium clean. However, bottom-feeders do not only make your life easier by cleaning parts of the tank that you might not be able to reach or clean thoroughly.

They also maintain the cleanliness of the tank for more extended periods of time and help you keep all of your fish clean and healthy. This is very important as exposure to dirty water and an unmaintained tank can cause a lot of health conditions for your fish.

The Characteristics of Bottom Feeders

Physiologically, many of the species that are considered bottom feeders share a lot of characteristics. A common feature for many of these small fish species is the location of their mouth. For many bottom feeders, their mouth is located at the lower part of their body, making it easier to eat while also continuing to look out for more food.

Moreover, for some species, their mouth also works as a suction cup, which helps them latch onto food usually stuck on surfaces like algae and fish tank gravel.

These species are considered scavengers because they have to look hard in the substrate to find food. For this reason, many also have barbels, whisker-like sensory extensions near the mouth that help fish locate food more easily.


These barbels tend to be very sensitive; for some species, they can even allow fish to taste the food they have discovered just by touching it. Finally, many species also have a flattened lower abdomen, which allows them to move easier.

Best Bottom Feeder Fish

There are many good examples of fish species that are great bottom feeders for your freshwater aquarium. Let’s take a look at the ten best fish for cleaning the bottom of the tank.



Loaches are a great option for your aquarium since they are great scavengers. A great thing about this category is that there is a large variety of loaches, so it won’t be too hard for fish parents to find a kind that fits with the rest of the fish in their freshwater aquarium.

Kuhli loaches are among the best as they are great at locating food. Their whiskers help them find scrap fish food quickly. If you are looking for a Kuhli loach that will be very successful in helping keep your tank clean, you should consider getting more than one, as they are more efficient in small groups.

However, you should note that they are mainly nocturnal and prefer to hide in dark places for the majority of the day, so you might not be able to see them in action.

Unlike the Kuhli loaches, which are generally small, clown loaches tend to be much larger, so they are more appropriate for larger aquariums. They also work better in groups as they tend to be more active when more of their kind are around.

They are very social and generally peaceful, but if you keep them in a small group, they might become aggressive. Therefore, you should consider getting more than one as well, but due to their bigger size, you should make sure that your aquarium has the appropriate size.

Among the many kinds of loaches besides the Kuhli and Clown loaches, there are many other types, such as the Dojo loach, the Botia loach, the Dwarf Chain loach, the Zebra loach, the Yoyo loach, and much more.

Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish

The Corydoras Catfish, also known as the “Cory Catfish,” is one of the most popular bottom feeders for freshwater aquariums. They are great at cleaning the excess food inside the tank but tend to be very peaceful and interact well with most other fish in an aquarium. Therefore, they are a great choice for a community tank.

There are many different species to choose from, like the Dwarf Cory Catfish and the Pygmy Cory Catfish. Depending on the type, some might differ in size, so you must consider if the catfish you want to purchase is appropriate for a smaller or larger aquarium.

One thing to note is that while they are bottom feeders and will eat a lot of scraps in the tank, they will still have to be fed, so make sure to keep their diet as balanced as possible.

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

This catfish is a very small fish and is an algae eater that is effective in keeping your aquarium’s glass walls clean. They mainly eat algae but might require to be fed with some extra greens. This cleaner fish needs to be in large numbers, so make sure to have at least a dozen of them together. While they do thrive on algae, the quality of the aquarium’s water is also important, so make sure to keep your aquarium in good condition.

Freshwater Shrimp

Freshwater Shrimp

Another very popular choice, the freshwater shrimp, is perhaps what most people think of when they hear about bottom-feeder fish. These shrimps come in a wide variety, so there are a lot of different types that you can choose from, like the Cherry shrimp or the Crystal Red shrimp.

A lot of them eat algae, but some also feed on pellet foods, so make sure to feed them as needed. Their miniature size is perfect for them to get in small areas, which might be harder for you to clean. Moreover, if you have enough shrimps in your tank, you might be able to get them to reproduce, so you will get even more of them.

Of course, shrimps have a big disadvantage: they cannot be placed in the same tank with any type of fish. This is because many large fish actually see the shrimps as a food source, so you must be careful of what fish you pair them with.

Generally, some kinds of catfish interact well with freshwater shrimps, so they might be a suitable option if you already own that type of fish.



Snails are also a great option for your tank. Aquarium snails locate and consume most of the algae and scraps in the small areas and at the bottom of your tank. Moreover, they require very little to no maintenance, but they still provide great efficiency in cleaning.

However, one thing to note is that much like shrimps and snails are also a food source for larger fish, like some types of loaches. Therefore, you must first research what other types of fish snails can coexist.

Moreover, some species of snails also tend to reproduce quickly, which can be a problem for your aquarium if you suddenly end up having more snails than you bargained for.

The nerite snail is one of the best snails to use in an aquarium because it eats away algae growth and can also clean fish tank gravel, live plants, driftwood, and other fish tank water decorations. The nerite snail can thrive in fresh and saltwater, but they require salt water to reproduce.

The ramshorn snail is another good choice for aquariums and also adds color. They clean algae growth off glass, plants, and decorations. The ramshorn snail also eats hair algae and keeps the substrate clean and maintained.


If you want to add more fish to your freshwater aquarium but are worried about the added intensity of the maintenance it would require, perhaps a good option would be to get some bottom-feeder fish.

These different types of fish would not only be great additions to your aquarium but also help you keep it cleaner for longer periods. Between catfish, shrimps, snails, loaches, and more, there are many options for you to choose from.

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