What Eats Fish Poop? Let’s Talk About Clean-Up Crews

Because I consider myself an avid fish keeper, you can find many colorful fishes floating around in my aquarium. While this is a beautiful sight to enjoy, seeing fish poop float around is not that exciting. 

So while I was doing my research to see what eats fish poop, I found that there are no particular fish varieties that will eat the poop inside their aquarium. Sure, you can occasionally see a few fish chewing on tiny poop particles, but that is only because they misinterpret it as food.

Even shrimp, catfish, ghost shrimp, algae eaters, plecos are not big fans of poop. The only way you can properly clean poop from a tank is through manual cleaning or by using a gravel vacuum.

Cleaning the tank every day can be quite the hassle! In this article, I will explain how you can reduce the maintenance needed for the tank and how to clean fish poop without overworking yourself.

So, let’s get started!

Do Fish Eat Poop?

what eats fish poop?

Generally, no, fish do not eat poop. There may be occasions where you spot a few fish eating the poop of other fish, but this is simply because they believe it to be food and don’t know any better.

What are these “Cleanup Crew” Types of Fish That Supposedly Eat Poop?

For a long time, I have heard about a certain “clean-up crew” – a type of cleaner fish that can filter out the poop. But is it a myth or a fact?

While adding a clean-up crew will indeed help reduce the maintenance needed, these fish do not necessarily feed on poop.

Whether it is pond water, saltwater or freshwater, fish do not eat poop. But what’s true is that they help add more poop! 

You can consider adding the following as a clean-up crew in your tank:

  • Snails
  • Shrimps
  • Plecos
  • Corydoras 

However, at the end of the day, the best clean-up crew I have had is myself.

When these fish/creatures are added to your tank, they generally tend to scout around looking for uneaten pieces of food or plant. Worst-case scenarios include them biting away bits of dead fish as well. 

If you would like to add these fishies to your tank, make sure the other fish members are okay with it. If they are, you’re in luck! Because these fish will be able to get all the nooks and crannies that you cannot manually reach. 

The only downside of this is that when your cleaners don’t find all the leftovers from organic food, the ammonia can start accumulating– but this happens only if you are overfeeding your fishes.

And of course, you need to remember that the clean-up crew will poop too!

When Should You Add a Clean-Up Crew?

After a lot of research, I have found that the best time to send a clean-up crew to the aquarium is when:

  1. You want to add creatures like shrimp, catfish, or snails to your tank AND they can be good tankmates
  2. Excess food is accumulating at the bottom of the tank
  3. You’d like a helping hand to get rid of small amounts of algae growing at not so easy to reach corners

When Should You NOT Add a Clean-Up Crew?

It’s important to know when not to do things too.

People often think of their clean-up crew members as some kind of all-purpose cleaning robot, but this is far from true. They can’t do the whole clean up job for you & it will actually kill your other fish if they’re not taken care of properly.

So let me take a moment to break two myths and enlighten you with the facts quickly.

A clean-up crew eats fish poopNo, clean-up crew fishes do not eat poop; they only produce poop
There is no need to clean a tank with a clean-up crewWhile clean-up crew fishes keep a tank visibly clean, there will still be dirt under the gravel that calls for manual cleaning

So make sure to think twice before you decide to add clean-up crew fish to tackle a fish-related problem!

Do I Need To Feed The Clean-Up Crew?

One common question that gets asked is if you need to feed your clean-up crew at all? After all, they can thrive on other fish’s waste and algae, right?


It is a common misconception that there is no need to feed a clean-up crew. I cannot stress this enough, but please make sure to give your clean-up crew a few specialized treats like sinking algae wafers that keep up with their nutritional requirements!

How Can You Clean Out Fish Poop?

As much as I want it to be true, there is no magical poop-eating fish. I recommend getting your hands dirty by using a gravel vacuum or manual cleaning to get rid of any dirt or moss in your aquarium. Choosing a gravel based substrate over sand can really make things easy for you.

Method #1: Manual Cleaning

Manual cleaning can be done in both conventional and unconventional ways. 

The conventional way is to manually take out each fish and place them into another container, dispose of the water, take out the gravel and give the tank a good scrub. 

The other method is less conventional and involves using tools like powerheads.

A powerhead is a tool that you attach to the side of the tank. Once you switch on this device, it will generate a flow in one particular direction. 

This is a great way to clean your tank. But since powerheads generate such a powerful flow, they are not ideal for smaller tanks.

For smaller tanks, I recommend using a scrub or a sponge to clean.

Method #2: Using a Gravel Vacuum

Cleaning a fish tank by hand is challenging and difficult. The best thing you can do is to use a gravel vacuum for this cleaning process, as it will make the job much less strenuous and significantly improve your experience overall.

My first experience with a gravel vac was extremely amusing as I assumed the vac would suck up the gravel as well. However, that is not the case at all! Instead, it rinses the sand and gravel by lifting just the top layer of dirt to extract out the poop bits.

However, a lot of these models can come with a heavy price tag, so do your research before buying them. I have been using a cheap gravel vac for as long as I can remember, and it works just fine.

As long as you have a trusty gravel vacuum by your side, you can clean your took and keep it poop-free at all times!

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Frequently Asked Questions About What Eats Fish Poop

  1. Do Catfish Eat Poop?

    No, Catfish does not eat fish poop.

  2. Do Otocinclus Eat Fish Poop?

    No, but otos themselves are considered poop machines.

  3. Do Shrimp Eat Fish Poop?

    No, shrimp do not eat fish waste. They may try to nibble on it, but they’ll soon spit it out once they realize their mistake.

  4. Do Plants Consume Fish Poop?

    While fish poop may be a good fertilizer for your aquarium plants, it must be noted that plants do not consume fish waste quickly. This means you risk your water quality by having poop stay in it longer than what is considered safe.

  5. Do Algae Eaters Eat Fish Poop?

    No, algae eaters, as the name implies, only eat algae that grows in your tank. They won’t eat fish poop.

  6. Do Mystery Snails Eat Fish Poop?

    No, snails do not eat fish poop. They may eat leftover food inside your tank, but fish poop is a no-no.

Wrapping Up

It is no doubt that floating poop can be super annoying and sometimes even a massive eyesore. In a setting where beautiful colorful fish are floating about, the sight of fish poop can be gross and disgusting. 

Keep in mind that while there is no permanent solution to this (other than manual cleaning or using a gravel vac), a clean-up crew is not the answer either. These fishes keep the tank considerably clean, but that does not mean that they eat poop. 

So, if you are an avid fishkeeper like me, make sure you properly evaluate your choices before you decide to get a clean-up crew for your tank.