Aquarium management and upkeep is essential to a thriving aquaponics system. Bottom feeders are the cleanup crew of your tank, they eat whatever is left at the bottom of the aquarium, from fish food to algae. There are many viable options for your tank; let’s take a look at which will suit yours best!
The Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus cirrhosus) are small tropical fish that range from three to four inches in size. Coloration varies from browns to blacks with yellow to albino. Many aquarists with 15-30 gallon tanks chose to use this fish as their primary bottom feeder because they are very good at cleaning the sides of the tank as well as the bottom. These amazing fish live up to twelve years, making the $5-$9 investment well worth the purchase of your new underwater vacuum!
There are many Suckermouth Catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus) that are sold under the name “pleco.” The most common pleco sold in fish stores are tropical and are well suited for aquariums over 75 gallons. These these hungry fish grow up to 1-2 feet in length and can become aggressive in too small of an aquarium.
Clown planque (Panaqolus maccus) is a three-to-five inch fish with a typical dark brown base and yellow or tan ringlets along their bodies. Just like the Bristlenose Catfish, they have a life expectancy of up to twelve years. These fish are usually around $5 and available for purchase online (though, you should check your local pet stores and aquarium stores for availability first). These fish can also be fed supplemental spirulina or algae wafers if you notice a decrease in size/health.
Typically, aquarium snails live for up to one year, are amazing at algae eating and can asexually reproduce. There are many types of snail that can be used in your aquarium–let’s focus on the three most common in pet stores.
1. Pond snail
The Pond Snail (Lymnaea sp.) is usually ¾ of an inch to 1 ¼ of an inch in diameter and live for the relatively short period of one year. These snails do eat plants in your tank as well as algae. Pond snails also reproduce asexually and very quickly. These snails can overpopulate and eventually clog filters so we do not recommended them for aquaponics.
2. Nerite Snail
Nerite Snails (Neritina natalensis) are short lived much like the Pond snail at a similar lifespan of one year, however they do offer many more benefits to your tank. The Nerite snail feeds on algae alone and will not eat your plants inside the aquarium. Nerite snails can only reproduce in brackish water (water with more salinity than freshwater, but not quite as much as seawater) so you won’t have to worry about overpopulating your freshwater aquarium. These snails get to up to one inch in diameter and range between $3-$5.
3. Apple Snail
Apple snails (Ampullariidae sp.) are snails that typically reach 1-2 inches in diameter. These freshwater snails cannot asexually reproduce, so overpopulation will not happen in your aquarium. Like all bottom feeders, the ivory snail will eat algae grown in your aquarium, and they will not eat your aquatic plants. However, these snails will need supplemental feedings. Bottom feeder tablets run for about $3-$4, or you could blanch cucumbers, green beans, lettuce or carrots. The snails themselves are around $3 each and with a beautiful shell, are worth the investment.
Overall, there are many options for your cleanup crew. These fish and snails are easy to take care of and do a great job munching on your algae buildup. Adding bottom feeders to your tank will benefit your aquaponics system and help make your aquarium look great!