Friday, November 10, 2006
Siamese Algea Eater - Crossocheilus siamensis
Common name: Siamese Algae Eater
Scientific name: Crossocheilus siamensis
Geographic location: Southeast Asia
Size: Up to 15cm (6 inches)
Conditions: 72F-82F, pH 5.8-7.8
Skill level: Intermediate
Minimum tank size: 30 gallons
The Siamese Algae Eater (SAE) is well known to most veteran planted tank hobbyists. Like its name suggests, this fish eats algae, and unlike other fish that may be called algae eaters, this fish does the job. This is one of the trickiest aquarium fish to understand due to confusion and over enthusiasm for its abilities. However, it is fairly easy to care for once they are established in a tank.
First, you need to learn how to tell a true SAE from the many similar imitations that are often sold. The Flying Fox is just one look-alike that does not eat algae to the same extent an SAE does. True SAE's have a black band down their middle, but this black band has rough edges. The stripe also extends onto the tail, which is almost clear otherwise. There is also only one stripe. The rest of the fish is a brownish-beige. Any other stripes, markings, or color on the fins and it is not a true SAE.
SAEs do eat algae, mostly hair algae. However, if there is not enough algae in your tank to satisfy the SAE, it will quickly turn its attention to any other fine leaved plants. I have had my SAE strip moss, Rotala wallichi, and Mayaca fluvalitis. I've finally learned that I simply cannot keep any fine-leaved plants in the same tank or they will be eaten.
The SAE is not a cure-all for algae. It won't eat tons of algae, so you have to help fix the problem yourself as well. Also, it won't eat all types of algae. Green spot algae and blue green algae are not on the menu. These fish also eat less and less algae as they grow larger, and they do grow large. They can top out at almost 6 inches, so a large tank is a must, especially if you have more than one. They can also get aggressive towards other fish as they get larger. They tend to like to chase and harass other fish, however I've observed mine trying to school with similar looking fish (with a black band down their middle) like my otocinclus cats and Boesmani rainbows. Perhaps some of this aggression is mistaken for attempted schooling, as I have not seen any aggression so far from my SAE.
As an interesting fact, SAEs do not have a swim bladder like other fish to control their buoyancy. Instead, they must remain swimming or they sink to the bottom. You'll often observe an SAE resting on a leaf or piece of driftwood for this reason.
Bottom line: Make sure you get the right fish, bring a book if you have to. Don't put it in with fine leaved plants or they will be eaten. Finally, have a large enough tank with other semi-aggressive fish as it may beat up on extremely shy fish.
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