Best Bottom Feeders Fish List [Aquarium, Fresh and Saltwater]

Bottom feeders fish list

Bottom feeders are quite interesting and usefull fish species. But there is often a lot of misconceptions and false information related to them.

They are a vital part of any aquarium or other water ecosystem, as they help clean up leftover debris and maintain a healthy balance in the water.

Some mistakenly say they are dirty, while others think that bottom feeders are poisonous. Besides that, a lot of people don't know which species are actually real bottom feeders, and often associate just the catfish species with this term. Numerous fish are considered bottom feeders, including clown loach, corydoras, carp, sturgeon, halibut, flounder, and many more. 

Whether you have a freshwater or saltwater aquarium / water, there are plenty of bottom feeders fish species to choose from.

So, let's dive into our top picks ...



Get our FREE fishing e-book where you will find my PRO Tips!


Explore Bottom Feeders and How Do These Fish Look Like?

Bottom feeders are fish that eat from the bottom of water bodies.

You can find them in both freshwater, like catfish and bass, and saltwater, such as halibut and flounder. Some fish, like catfish, aren't just bottom feeders; they eat at different water levels too.

Many bottom feeders consume dead stuff on the bottom, like leaves, dead fish and other materials. This makes them important for keeping the water clean.

These fish come in various shapes, but many lie flat against the bottom. They might be herbivores (plant-eaters), carnivores (meat-eaters), or omnivores (eat both plants and meat).

In aquariums, some popular bottom feeders include plecos and loaches. They help clean up by eating leftover food and algae.

Bottom feeders are great for the ecosystem, keeping things balanced and the water healthy for all living things there.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Look-Like

Types of Bottom Feeders Fish Species

Now when you know a bit more about them, here is a bottom feeders fish list that covers different types of species.

The list is divided into three groups of fish:

  • aquarium,
  • freshwater,
  • saltwater.

Best Bottom Feeder Fish List for Freshwater Aquarium

Bottom feeders are very popular for freshwater aquariums because they are useful cleaners and look very nice.

Here are 7 of the most popular aquarium bottom feeders:

Bristlenose Pleco

Some may say these fish are ugly, however I find their facial features very unique and interesting. They are very easy to take care of, and any beginner can have them without worrying about complicated maintenance.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Bristlenose-Pleco

Khuli Loach

This fish looks awesome, and it is very calm and peaceful. They don't cause any trouble and are very low energy. If you like to have very slow fish in your tank, look no more!

Bottom Feeders Fish - Khuli-Loach

Clown Loach

The Clown Loach is a popular bottom-feeder fish that is fun to watch in a home aquarium. These colorful and active fish are best kept with peaceful tank mates and plenty of hiding spots.

Consider adding a small group of clown loaches to your tank for an entertaining display of their playful antics and fascinating behaviors.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Clown-Loach

Bumblebee Goby

Colour of this species is spectacular! Besides looking like a cartoon character, they have great personalities. Very playful and energetic, Bumblebee goby will make you look at your fish tank more than you look at your Tv!

Bottom Feeders Fish - Bumblebee-Goby

Cory catfish

These small bottom feeders are also great for beginners and are easy to take care of. The only thing to be careful about is change in new fish tank conditions. When you buy them, you will have to slowly introduce them into your tank.

Besides that, they are social so make sure you get a few of them, and they thrive around aquatic plants!

Bottom Feeders Fish - Cory catfish


Corydoras are great bottom feeder fish for your aquarium, as they help maintain the water quality by eating leftover food and debris at the bottom of the tank. They are peaceful and social fish that can also be kept in a community tank.

Corydoras are a popular choice for aquarists looking for a hardy and active species to add to their tank. 

Bottom Feeders Fish - Corydoras

Synodontis Catfish

This is one of those species that have a very specific look, ad will amaze anyone. Besides being beautiful, these fish are a fun addition into any fish tank due to their energy outbursts. They may seem calm but occasionally will swim like crazy. And as every bottom feeder, these fish will maintain good quality of water.

Of course, there are many more bottom feeders for aquariums, and you can choose the one that will perfectly blend into your fish tank environment.

Some other species to consider are Zebra Loach, Twing catfish, Yoyo Loach, Tiger Shovelnose catfish, and Siamese Algae eater.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Aquarium

Great Bottom Feeder Fish List for Ponds, Lakes and Rivers

Freshwater bottom feeders are frequent residents of ponds, lakes and rivers.

However, the majority of them are not exclusive bottom feeders, which means that they will consume various food in other layers too. One of the best examples of this is a catfish, the first one on the bottom feeder fish freshwater list.


There are a few catfish species interesting to anglers, the most popular ones are flathead, wels, channel and blue.

All of them are omnivores and opportunistic feeders. They will eat almost anything, from aquatic animals to plants, and even small mammals.

Catfish often feed on the bottom, where they search for anything that can fit into their mouth. There are some catfish species, among hundreds of existing ones, that are exclusive bottom feeders, but those are not even similar to species which anglers like to catch.

Except for the bottom, where catfish like to spend time during the day, you can often find the feeding on the surface, or in middle layers of water.

If you are catfish angler, don't forget to check my article about the best catfish baits.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Catfish


Carp is probably one of the most popular fish species among anglers, and it can be found in numerous places across all continents. Same as previously mentioned catfish, carp is not an exclusive bottom feeder ...

There are different carp species like silver, common, grass, bighead, crucian and black carp.

All of them get a part of their food from the bottom and they are a frequent bottom feeder fish for ponds.

Common carp will eat a variety of food including crustaceans, insects, larvae and fish eggs that can frequently be found on the bottom. Unlike catfish, people don’t think of carp as being a bottom feeder, but it partially is.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Carp


To some it can seem surprising, but bass is also a partial bottom feeder, although it is a predatory fish. There are different species of bass, including striped, largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted.

Bass will eat smaller fish species, frogs, crayfish, minnows, perch and similar. Some of the small fish species can spend their time on the bottom, and bass will hunt them there.

Every bass angler knows that bottom fishing for bass can be very productive. This bottom feeder lake fish likes to bite a lure near the bottom.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Bass


Sturgeon are also the bottom feeders. They are one of the largest freshwater fish in North America and they can live up to 50 years.

They have a long, rounded body with a wide mouth that is lined with rows of small, sharp teeth. Sturgeon are not picky eaters. These fish will eat boilies, pellets and some other fishing foods just as easily as smaller fish.

The sturgeon is also called "the king of the herring" because it feeds on smaller fish and crustaceans that it sucks up from the bottom of lakes and rivers with its large mouth and swallows whole.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Sturgeon

Big Bottom Feeders Fish List for Saltwater

In saltwater across the world you can find numerous fish species that feed on the bottom.

Here is bottom feeder fish saltwater list that includes those species interesting to anglers.

Halibut (Atlantic and Pacific)

The main difference between Atlantic Halibut and Pacific Halibut is the ocean they live in and their size.

Among these two flatfish species, Atlantic one is bigger, and also the biggest flatfish specie in the world. These fish species are exclusive bottom feeders.

They feed on other fish species and basically any other aquatic animal that fits into their mouth. Although they hide and feed on the bottom, sometimes you can see them higher up in the water. They have almost no natural enemies, except sharks, humans and sea lions.

Atlantic Halibut can weight over 200 kilograms and their physical characteristics include white belly and dark brown upper side and their eyes are located on one side of the head in adult specimens.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Halibut


Flounders are also in a group of flatfish species and they live on ocean bottom across the world. European, Gulf, Southern, and Olive flounder are the most famous ones among these exclusive bottom feeders.

Same as Halibut, Flounder is born with one eye on each side of the head and when it grows bigger, one eye will migrate and both eyes will be on the same, upper, side of the body.

Flounders vary in colour, but their upper side is darker (brownish shades) than the belly, and they can easily hide in sandy or muddy bottom. Their size varies according to the species and it is usually between 25 and 95 centimetres.

They will eat small fish, shrimp and similar prey when they reach adulthood, but as juvenile fish they feed on spawn and crustaceans.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Flounder


Among bottom feeders fish we can find numerous species of eels and one of the most popular ones among anglers is European Conger. That one is also the heaviest among them.

Eels can significantly vary in size but their lifestyle is quite similar. Most of the species interesting to anglers live in shallow seas, near the coast, and spend their time in the sand, mud, or beneath the rocks.

Their body is long and sleek, and the longest species are not the heaviest. Some, rare, eels can be found in extreme depths too, such as Gulper Eel.

These nocturnal fish species feed mostly on smaller fish species, but they will also eat an occasional crustacean or cephalopod.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Eel

Cod (Atlantic and Pacific)

Two most popular species are Atlantic Cod and Pacific Cod. Atlantic cod can be considered as cold water bottom feeder fish because it mostly lives in north Atlantic.

Atlantic cod is also known for its colour changing ability. Depending on a depth where the fish lives, colour can vary between grey-green and red-brown. They usually weight around 8-10 kilograms and are very tasty to eat. Their body is not flat and on the first sight they don’t look like a classic bottom feeder.

Atlantic cod spawn at very low water temperatures, between 4 and 6°C. Pacific Cod lives in warmer regions, such as eastern and western part of the northern pacific.

Both species feed on smaller fish species, lobsters and different invertebrates.


Snappers are a group of fish found in tropical regions of oceans across the world.

There are numerous species of snappers, but one of the most popular snapper fish species among anglers is Northern Red Snapper, native to Gulf of Mexico. Among other species, we can find mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, and lane snapper.

They all have similar body shape which includes sharp, thin teeth and strong body. Red snapper has red skin colour and reaches the length up to 60 centimetres. Some specimens can be quite larger but that is not very common.

Snappers, depending on a size and specie, will eat shrimp, octopus, squid, crustaceans, small fish, mollusks and similar marine organisms.


Groupers have strong bodies and very large mouth. Some species, like Atlantic Goliath Grouper can grow huge, weighing almost 400 kilograms.

There are various species of groupers and their habits and appearance can vary, but most of them have no teeth and need to swallow their pray because they can’t bite it.

Groupers mostly eat fish, octopus, crustaceans and other smaller marine creatures. Some species actively hunt while others wait and ambush.

Their large mouth enables them to suck the pray from a distance and also to dig into the sand to build a shelter. They suck the sand in and let it out through their large gills.


We can find a lot of species of rays across the world, from small ones to enormous. From Manta Ray and Sting Ray, to Spotted or Bluespotted Ray, they vary in size, colour and habitat.

All of them have flattened bodies, gills that are placed on their ventral parts and large pectoral fins that are connected to their heads.

Their mouth is located on the front or bottom side of their head and some species have strong teeth to be able to eat bottom feeding creatures like snails, oysters, clams, and similar. Other species feed on fish or plankton, and are not exclusive bottom feeders.

Rays usually have pale belly and the darker upper side. Some species dig into the sand and hide from both predators and prey, so that they can surprise it.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Rays

FAQs about Bottom Feeder Fish:

Here are the answers to some very common questions about bottom feeders and their features and habits.

Why do People Buy Bottom Feeder Fish for Aquarium?

As already mentioned, bottom feeders are important for the ecosystem.

Aquariums can be seen as small enclosed ecosystems that function in the same ways as ponds or lakes.

Aquarium bottom feeder fish are necessary to eat food leftovers that end up on the bottom after feeding other fish. Bottom feeders in aquariums will also eat algae and dead organic matter. In that way, the aquarium will stay clean and there will be a good biological balance.

If there are no bottom feeders, the food leftovers will rot and pollute the aquarium. It will need frequent cleaning or you will have to add chemicals to keep it in a good condition.

Bottom feeders are actually natural cleaners. Algae eaters will increase the amount of oxygen in the aquarium and it will also look nicer and cleaner.

Which Bottom Feeder Fish is Best for Aquarium Care?

When it comes to selecting a bottom feeder fish for aquarium care, the best option is the Corydoras catfish.

These hardy and easy-to-care-for fish are perfect for keeping your tank clean. They are small in size, making them suitable for even smaller tanks, and they are peaceful enough to be housed with other community fish.

Corydoras catfish are excellent tank cleaners, as they feed on leftover food and algae, helping to maintain a healthy and balanced aquarium environment.

They also prefer to live in groups, so it's best to add at least three to your tank. It's important to consider the tank size before adding any bottom feeder, as they need ample space to move around and scavenge for food.

By adding Corydoras catfish to your tank, you'll not only enhance its aesthetic appeal but also ensure better overall aquarium care

Are Bottom Feeder Fish Safe to Eat?

Some people see bottom feeders as scavengers who eat unhealthily, rotting material and mud.

That is far away from truth!

Catfish is usually considered to be one of those, but the majority of the catfish diet is live prey. And the same goes for most of other bottom feeding species caught by anglers.

Every fish mentioned in this bottom feeders fish list is safe to eat, and quite tasty too.

Some people think that bottom feeders consume food that is harmful for human health, and by eating those bottom feeders we are going to digest those harmful compounds.

Some say it about shellfish, while others say the same thing about bottom feeding fish species.

However, there is no scientific evidence that would support that theory. Eating too much of anything is not healthy, so you shouldn’t eat the same fish every day, but enjoying an occasional lunch will have absolutely no effect on your health.

If interested check what fish I think are the healthiest fish to eat.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Eating

How Long Do Bottom Feeder Fish Live?

Lifespan of bottom feeders greatly depends on many factors. Those factors are location (wild or in captivity), living conditions (food availability, cleanliness of the water) and natural occurrences (droughts, diseases, and similar).

In good conditions, species like Welsh catfish can live around 60 years! That is almost like humans. Channel catfish can live up to 15 years, and Blue catfish live approximately 10 years in the wild, but some specimens in excellent conditions lived up to 25.

Expected lifespan of a carp is around 20 years in the wild, but up to 45 in captivity. As you can see, those numbers are quite high.

When it comes to aquarium species, popular ones like Bristlenose Pleco live around 12 years. Khuli Loach lives around 10 years if taken care of in the right way. Cory catfish has a lifespan of "only" 5 years, or a bit more if you are lucky.

What Does Bottom Feeder Fish Eat? (Worms, Snails, etc.?)

Again, this greatly depends on a species. While feeding on the bottom, these fish will eat everything that is located there. Of course, the size of this food depends on size of the fish.

For example, catfish can't bite off pieces of food, so they eat what can fit into their mouth. As they grow, so does the prey.

Most common food on the bottom feeder menu is algae and other plan material. Some of the bottom feeders are scavengers and will gladly eat any decomposing material from bot plants and dead fish.

Among other things, they eat invertebrates, snails, worms, small fish, fish eggs, crayfish, clams, and anything else that can be found on the bottom.

Bottom feeders are quite useful, as you can see, because they clean bodies of water from dead materials.

In the ocean, bottom feeders have similar diet that consist of crustaceans, molluscs, invertebrates, and other fish.

Are Sardines, Salmon and Tuna Bottom Feeders?

Some fish don't look like bottom feeders due to their body shape, however, that doesn't mean that they will never find their food on the bottom.

Sardines are a great example of this, as they can sometimes feed on the bottom. They are not classified as bottom feeders, but in some rare occasions they can consume dead organisms and waste product. However, most of their diet consists of phytoplankton and zooplankton, and most often, they will feed in higher layers of the water column.

Salmon is most definitely not a bottom feeder, and this species does not consume anything from the bottom. They feed higher up in the water column, both in saltwater and freshwater (here you can check my article about the most expensive salmon in the world ...).

And lastly, we have a mighty predator, the tuna. It is a pelagic fish that feeds higher up in the water column, and never consumes anything near the bottom.

Bottom Feeders Fish - Sardines

Are Smelt Bottom Feeders?

Smelt fish are a popular species among anglers and marine enthusiasts, but a common question often arises - are smelt bottom feeders? The short answer is NO, smelt are not typically classified as bottom feeders.

Smelt fish are predominantly pelagic, meaning they inhabit open water, away from the bottom and the shore. Smelt are known for their migratory behavior, traveling in large schools and feeding on plankton, small fish, and insects, thus making them mid-water feeders rather than bottom feeders.

However, there can be slight variations in feeding habits depending on the specific type of smelt. Some species might occasionally venture towards the bottom in search of food, but this does not categorize them as genuine bottom feeders.

So, while smelt are versatile and adaptable creatures, they are not typically smelt bottom feeders. They spend most of their lives in the open water, far from the seabed, making them a fascinating species to observe and study.


There are a lot of misconceptions about bottom feeders fish species around the world and I hope, after reading this article, you know more about them.

You can find them in almost any aquarium, lake, river or ocean, and hundreds of species exist, but I decided to explain the most wanted types.

Bottom feeders are exciting to look at, catch, tasty to eat and they have an important role in the ecosystem.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

Affiliate Disclaimer:

Slo-fishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. We also participates in eBay Partner Network, FishingBooker, ClickBank and Teespring affiliate programs. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.