what eats fish poop in aquarium?

Hello fellow aquarium enthusiasts! If you’ve ever wondered about the less glamorous side of fishkeeping – cleaning up fish poop – you’re not alone. Fish waste is a natural part of life in the underwater world, but did you know that some aquatic creatures can lend a helping hand in keeping your tank clean? In this extensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the intriguing world of “what eats fish poop in the aquarium.” We’ll explore the types of fish that can play the role of underwater janitors, when it’s best to introduce them to your tank, and how to maintain a pristine environment for your aquatic buddies.

But before we plunge into the world of fish waste management, let’s address a crucial question: Is it safe for your fish?

Is It Safe for Fish?

The well-being of your aquatic pets should always be your top priority. It’s only natural to worry about introducing new tank mates or methods to manage fish waste. However, when done correctly, adding a cleanup crew can actually enhance the overall health of your aquarium.

Fish, like any living creatures, are sensitive to changes in their environment. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that any new additions or modifications to your tank are well-planned and executed carefully.

When considering the safety of your fish, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Compatibility: Some fish species are more territorial or aggressive than others. Introducing new tank mates, even those intended for cleanup, can lead to stress and conflict if not carefully chosen.
  • Tank Size: Overcrowding your aquarium can lead to poor water quality and stress for your fish. It’s essential to maintain a balanced fish-to-water ratio.
  • Water Parameters: Fish have specific requirements for water temperature, pH levels, and other parameters. Adding new species should not compromise these conditions.
  • Disease Risk: Whenever you introduce new fish to your aquarium, there’s a risk of introducing diseases. Quarantining new arrivals before adding them to your main tank can mitigate this risk.
  • Biological Balance: If your aquarium is newly set up, it may not have established the necessary beneficial bacteria to process fish waste. In such cases, it’s best to allow your tank to mature before adding a cleanup crew.

So, in short, adding a cleanup crew can be safe for your fish, but it requires careful consideration and planning to ensure a smooth transition.

Now that we’ve addressed the safety concerns, let’s explore which fish can take on the task of poop patrol.

What Fish Will Eat the Poop in Your Aquarium?

Now, let’s dive into the fascinating world of fish species that have a penchant for munching on fish waste. Not all fish are up for the task, but some are more than willing to lend a helping fin.

What Kind of Fish Eats Poop?

Several fish species have a natural inclination to nibble on organic matter, including fish waste. Here are some standout candidates for your aquarium’s cleanup crew:

  • Corydoras Catfish: These delightful bottom-dwelling fish not only add charm to your tank but also play a crucial role in keeping it clean. Corydoras sift through the substrate, consuming bits of leftover food and fish waste.
  • Plecos: Often referred to as the “vacuum cleaners” of the aquarium world, plecos have an insatiable appetite for algae and detritus, which includes fish poop.
  • Otocinclus Catfish: These small algae-eaters also snack on soft algae growing on tank surfaces, contributing to a cleaner environment.
  • Siamese Algae Eaters: As their name suggests, these fish excel at devouring algae. They can help control algae growth while also consuming some fish waste.
  • Garra Rufa Fish: Popularly known as “doctor fish” or “spa fish,” Garra Rufas nibble on dead skin and waste particles, offering both a cleaning service and a spa experience for your fish.

While these fish species can undoubtedly assist in maintaining a cleaner aquarium, it’s crucial to remember that they shouldn’t be solely relied upon for cleanup. Regular maintenance and water changes remain essential for a healthy aquatic environment.

When Not To Add a Cleanup Crew

Now that we’ve explored which fish can assist in poop cleanup, let’s discuss situations where it might not be the best idea to introduce these aquatic janitors to your tank.

Can Expired Aquarium Salt Harm the Organisms in My Aquarium?

Expired aquarium salt can potentially harm organisms in your aquarium. Using aquarium salt beyond its expiration date can alter the salt’s chemical composition, affecting water parameters and causing stress or even fatalities for aquatic animals. It is crucial to check the aquarium salt expiration date and replace it accordingly to ensure the well-being of your aquarium inhabitants.

When Not To Add a Cleanup Crew

While a cleanup crew can be a valuable addition to your aquarium, there are scenarios where it’s best to hold off on introducing these fishy janitors:

  • New Tank Syndrome: If your aquarium is brand new and has not had time to establish a stable biological balance, it’s best to let it mature before adding a cleanup crew. Beneficial bacteria need time to develop and process fish waste.
  • Overstocked Tanks: If your aquarium is already crowded with fish, adding more may lead to stress, aggression, and water quality issues. Overstocking can exacerbate these problems.
  • Aggressive Tank Mates: Some cleanup crew candidates may be docile, but others can be territorial or aggressive. Ensure compatibility with your existing fish to prevent conflicts.
  • Inadequate Filtration: If your aquarium’s filtration system is not up to the task, introducing a cleanup crew may not effectively address water quality issues. Upgrading your filtration should be a priority.
  • Lack of Hiding Places: Fish that eat poop often appreciate hiding spots and shelter. Ensure your aquarium provides adequate hiding places to reduce stress for both your cleanup crew and existing fish.

In these situations, it’s essential to focus on addressing the underlying issues, such as water quality, compatibility, and filtration, before considering a cleanup crew.

When To Add A Cleanup Crew

Now that we’ve covered when not to add a cleanup crew, let’s discuss the ideal scenarios for introducing these helpful fishy friends to your aquarium.

When To Add A Cleanup Crew

Adding a cleanup crew can significantly benefit your aquarium, but the timing and circumstances must be right for a successful integration. Here are some scenarios where it’s a good idea to consider adding a cleanup crew:

  • Established Tanks: Cleanup crews are most effective in well-established aquariums with stable water parameters. If your tank has been running smoothly for several months, it may be an opportune time to consider adding a cleanup crew.
  • Moderate Stocking: Avoid overcrowding your aquarium. An appropriate fish-to-water ratio ensures a more balanced ecosystem and less stress on the fish.
  • Algae or Detritus Issues: If you’re grappling with persistent algae or detritus buildup, a cleanup crew can be a valuable asset in keeping these problems in check.
  • Adequate Filtration: Ensure your aquarium’s filtration system can handle the increased biological load caused by the addition of a cleanup crew.
  • Compatibility Considerations: Research the behavioral traits and compatibility of potential cleanup crew candidates with your existing fish to minimize conflicts.

By carefully considering these factors and assessing the specific needs of your aquarium, you can determine when it’s the right time to add a cleanup crew.

How Do You Get Rid of Fish Poop in an Aquarium?

Now that you have an idea of which fish can help with poop cleanup, let’s explore other methods to ensure your aquarium stays pristine.

Will Lowering pH in My Aquarium Help Control Fish Poop?

Lowering ph in an aquarium can potentially help control fish poop. Maintaining the correct pH level is crucial for a healthy aquatic environment. By lowering the pH, you create a more acidic environment that can discourage the growth of harmful bacteria and parasites, ultimately reducing fish waste. However, it’s important to note that pH alone may not be the sole solution; proper filtration, regular water changes, and a balanced diet are also important factors in maintaining a clean aquarium.

How Do You Get Rid of Fish Poop in an Aquarium?

Proper waste management is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium. Here are some effective methods to get rid of fish poop in your tank:

1. Use Intake Sponges and Flow to Your Advantage

Placing fine mesh sponges over your filter intakes can trap larger particles, including fish waste, before they enter the filter. Regularly clean and rinse these sponges to prevent clogs.

2. Get Yourself A Proper Gravel Vacuum

A gravel vacuum is a valuable tool for removing debris, including fish poop, from the substrate during water changes. Regular gravel vacuuming helps maintain water quality and reduces the accumulation of waste.

Fish poop, though often seen as unsightly, is a natural byproduct of fish metabolism. While it contributes to nutrient buildup in the aquarium, it also contains essential nutrients that can benefit your aquatic plants. It’s a delicate balance between managing excess waste and harnessing its potential benefits.

To ensure you strike the right balance, consider the following tips:

  • Water Testing: Regularly test your aquarium water parameters, including ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. High nitrate levels can indicate an excess of fish waste and suggest the need for increased maintenance.
  • Aquatic Plants: If you have live plants in your aquarium, they can absorb some of the nutrients present in fish waste. Ensure your plants are healthy and well-maintained to help manage nutrient levels.
  • Feeding Practices: Avoid overfeeding your fish, as this can lead to excessive waste production. Provide only the amount of food that your fish can consume within a few minutes.
  • Regular Maintenance: Stick to a consistent schedule for water changes and aquarium cleaning. This helps prevent the accumulation of fish waste and maintains water quality.

By implementing these practices, you can strike a balance between managing fish waste and promoting a thriving aquarium ecosystem.


In the world of aquariums, keeping fish poop in check is just one of the many responsibilities of a dedicated fishkeeper. While some fish species and cleanup crews can assist in this endeavor, it’s essential to remember that they are not a substitute for proper maintenance.

Maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium involves a combination of strategies, including regular water changes, effective filtration, and responsible feeding practices. By carefully considering your aquarium’s specific needs and the compatibility of its inhabitants, you can strike a balance that ensures a thriving aquatic environment.

So, embrace your role as the caretaker of your underwater ecosystem, and may your aquarium always sparkle with the beauty of happy and healthy fish.


Q1: Can I use snails to clean up fish poop in my aquarium?

A1: Yes, certain snail species like Malaysian trumpet snails and nerite snails can help with algae and detritus cleanup in your tank. However, their primary focus is not fish poop, so their impact on poop cleanup may be limited.

Q2: How often should I perform water changes to manage fish waste?

A2: The frequency of water changes depends on your aquarium size, stocking levels, and filtration. As a general guideline, regular partial water changes (10-20%) every 1-2 weeks can help maintain water quality and reduce the accumulation of fish waste.

Q3: Do I need a cleanup crew in a planted aquarium?

A3: Cleanup crews can be beneficial in planted aquariums as they help prevent detritus buildup, which can affect water quality and plant health. However, the choice to add a cleanup crew should consider the specific needs of your plants and other tank inhabitants.

Q4: Can fish get sick from living in a dirty tank with excessive fish waste?

A4: Yes, poor water quality resulting from excessive fish waste can stress fish and make them more susceptible to diseases. It’s essential to maintain clean water conditions to ensure the health and well-being of your fish.

Q5: Are there any fish species that actively contribute to a cleaner tank?

A5: While some fish are excellent at consuming algae and detritus, actively contributing to a cleaner tank, it’s essential to note that no fish species will completely eliminate the need for regular aquarium maintenance. Cleaning techniques like water changes and substrate vacuuming remain crucial for a healthy tank.

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