If you’re an aquarium tank owner, a typical problem to contend with is the build-up of fish poop. You don’t want to let this pass since aquatic organisms are quite sensitive and could easily die in an inhospitable environment.
Additionally, poop accumulation can block your filter media.
The next obvious thing you want to do is clean your tank thoroughly.
But before you think about removing fish excrement from your aquarium manually, there has been hype about using other aquarium organisms that eat up the poop.
Read the article to know what eats fish poop in freshwater aquariums.
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Waste Material In Fish Tank
An aquarium tank requires uttermost care and maintenance for its survival. Let’s delve deeper into what waste types you are likely to encounter.
Organic waste is perishable and quickly decomposes, mixing with soil or water. Fish poop falls under organic waste.
It eventually breaks down into ammonia and nitrate, ultimately dissolving in water. Other organic wastes you’re likely to find in a fish tank include small insects, pollen, or dust particles.
Inorganic materials in the aquarium tank do not readily decompose— negatively interfering with the aquarium’s ecosystem. Examples include plastic particles, minerals, salts, or sand.
Are There Poop Eating Fish In Freshwater Aquariums?
There are no poop-eating fish; that’s a misconception. Adding fish to your aquarium to feed on poop will only lead to more fish poop.
That said, the clean-up job for your fish tank is solely your responsibility, and depending on other organisms for it won’t bring out the desired results.
Feces from your fish lack essential nutrients and don’t qualify as suitable feed for other organisms.
However, some fish species have a penchant for sniffing and picking at floating poop before it settles in the tank soil or gravel. This should not be taken as an affinity.
If you observe more closely, you’ll note that they will spew out the poop after tasting it.
Fish hobbyists have spotted two common species of fish that people mistake as poop eaters. These are Plecos and Corydoras.
The two species are tank bottom dwellers and regularly dig the substrate for food leftovers, dead plant matter, and worms.
These fish types will also spend the better of the day consuming algae from the aquarium glass walls.
While searching for leftovers, they mistake fish poop for food and consume it in the process.
Identifying Fish Poop
Fish poop color is slightly brownish like sand, but in most cases, it usually takes the color of the food the fish feeds on.
A white-colored poop in fish is a sign of an internal infection which calls for check-ups to ascertain any underlying health conditions in your fish.
How Much Poop Is Safe For Your Aquarium?
Fish poop in moderate amounts inside the aquarium breeds no trouble since the natural Nitrogen cycle remains unaffected.
However, you want to eliminate excess excrement, which can turn into ammonia over time. Elevated levels can cause Ammonia poisoning in the fish.
The Natural Clean-up Crew
The clean-up crew of your tank constitutes organisms that can help clean up fish poop. That said, no one can do the job better than you.
Some examples include:
- Snails (Bladder snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails)
- Shrimps ( Ghosts and Amano shrimp)
You want to ensure the fish species in your water tank are compatible with this crew before adding them. Else it could turn out to be a recipe for disaster.
These organisms prove handy in reaching the nooks and crannies of your fish pond that you may not get to manually.
- These organisms eat algae, fish food leftovers, and decaying matter, thereby eliminating impurities.
- Subsequently, ammonia is reduced in your freshwater tank, keeping the water soft.
Snails and shrimps will not actively search for fish poop; however, they may do so if you give them a reason to.
For example, if the feeds you provide to them lack adequate nutrients, they may scavenge and taste fish poop to see if it’s a viable source of nutrients.
How To Clean Fish Poop?
Unfortunately, the clean-up crew is not your best shot at getting rid of fish poop in your aquarium. That leaves you with only one option— doing the job yourself.
Viable options include:
- Removing fish poop by hand / Manual cleaning
- Siphoning the Waste materials with a vacuum
1. Removing the Fish by Hand / Manual Cleaning
Manual cleaning can be an uphill task, but it’s worth the hassle. You can conduct it conventionally or unconventionally.
Cleaning the fish poop conventionally involves manually transferring fish to another container, emptying the tank, and scrubbing it out.
If you opt for the unconventional route, you’ll want a powerhead to generate a water flow. A powerhead is typically a water pump that you can stick at the side of the aquarium to help create a flow in the desired direction.
Direct the flow towards the substrate so that all the fish poop channels towards the filter intake.
Powerheads aren’t ideal for small water tanks. You’re better off with small water pumps containing suction cups that can easily stick to the glass.
Additionally, you want to add a sponge to the intake of your filter. The sponge gathers the fish poop and can be dragged and cleaned in a water bucket outside the aquarium.
Do keep your fish in consideration while using this method. Some species can become quite agitated because of the increased flow.
2. Siphoning The Waste Materials With A Vacuum
Another idea you want to explore when removing fish poop is using a gravel vacuum. You’ll find this method valuable, especially if manual cleaning is proving to be quite challenging.
Using a gravel vacuum allows you to change water while rinsing the gravel simultaneously.
1. To begin with, scrape algae off your glass walls using a metal scraper.
2. Rake aquarium decorations and gravel to extract
poop bits embedded in them.
3. Insert the siphon tube into the tank and make sure that it is pointing upwards. At this moment, it should start getting filled with water. Let the tube fill completely.
4. Lift the tube out of the tank. As soon as it empties halfway, reinsert it back into the tank. Make sure it is still pointing upwards.
5. The siphoning action kicks in at this moment, and the water is sucked through the tube into a bucket.
6. Now, you can point the tube downwards towards the gravel and start siphoning out all the floating debris and poop.
7. Crimp and uncrimp the hose with your other hand to start and stop the siphoning action.
8. After you are done removing all the waste from the tank, cover the mouth of the tube with your hand entirely and take it out gently.
You should use any of the two methods mentioned above regularly to get rid of fish poop in your aquarium depending on the size and number of fish.
We advise against stocking too many fish since it will increase your maintenance workload.
If you ever wondered if some fish species consume floating poop in your aquarium, you can surely rest those thoughts. No known fish consume poop.
Some species, such as Plecos and Corydoras, may blindly taste the poop before spewing it.
However, there are other aquarium creatures that will occasionally feed on fish excrement if the tank is lacking in nutrients. Interestingly, these creatures do not have a natural appetite for poop.
So, where does this leave you? You got to get used to removing the fish poop manually from your aquarium to ensure a clean and sustainable environment for your fish.
We hope the clean-up methods mentioned above give you a headstart.
Job Kiniale is a certified crop scientist and gardening enthusiast with a passion to help beginning gardeners navigate their newfound hobby. Let’s talk about plants, backyard ideas, and general gardening advice. Outside work, Job loves spending time with family.