SAE and Flying Fox


Active Member
Hello everyone! So, many people out there get confused between the Siamese Algae Eater, the False Siamese Algae Eater, and the Flying Fox. After all, they all eat algae when they're young, they have similar body shapes, and their coloration is relatively similar. However, when you look closely you can clearly see the distinction between all three species. But just a note, *I will not be discussing the False SAE as I haven't done enough research nor have I had personal experience with this fish. I would feel as if my information could be incorrect.* So here's how to tell the difference between the Siamese Algae Eater and Flying Fox:

Siamese Algae Eaters, or Crossocheilus oblongus, is a slim-bodied fish in the family of Cyprinidae (which consists of fish like Carp, Minnows, and some other species wrongly known as Rasboras, Danios, or Tetras). They reach up to 6" in length and are very efficient, algae-eating machines! They will feed off most surface algae including green and red varieties but will not eat algae off of the aquarium itself. Siamese Algae Eaters are peaceful fish that prefer to be in trios or large groups, though they can live alone, and will get along with peaceful fish, even other bottom dwellers. As they age they will continually feed on algae, never switching diets like some species of "algae eaters" (I'm looking at you, Plecostomus!). A large aquarium of 55 gallons or so is suitable for a trio of SAE's, or a 20 gallon Long for a loner, plus a few other community fish. This is only to provide enough room for the active fish. It's best to remember that these fish prefer an aquarium than is wider than it is tall, as they will utilize horizontal space the most. These fish live for around 10 years, so commitment is key. They are omnivorous, feeding on nearly any food placed in the aquarium, especially blanched vegetables, though, as mentioned before, they will consistently feed on algae. But unlike some species of algae-eaters, the SAE will not become predatory as they mature, nor will they usually consume live plants. They are very hardy and can live in most tanks, though heavily-planted setups with good water quality are preferred. They can live in tanks with low to high lighting (as long as their is sufficient algae growth), most substrates (though softer types like sand are best), and are generally shrimp-safe (though they may eat some of the fry). Some fish cannot live with SAE's due to their active nature, which may disturb some fish that can have buoyancy problems like Bettas. They are very active and will require a lid on the aquarium to prevent them from "exploring the outer world". As mentioned before, the SAE is a hardy fish, being able to withstand most aquariums, though the temperature of the aquarium is best if stayed between 75 and 79°F, the pH should stay between 6 and 8, and hardness should be between 5 and 20. Overall the true Siamese Algae Eaters are a great addition to most aquariums!

As for the Flying Fox, or Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus, these fish are also slim-bodied fish in the Cyprinid family. They also reach up to 6", however, they are only efficient algae-eaters when they are young. Like many species of Plecostomus, the Flying Fox will usually change its diet as it ages. They will often switch to more protein-based foods and will sometimes even stop feeding off if algae or start to feed off of other fish in the aquarium, though this is uncommon. Flying Foxes are a fairly territorial species that will get progressively "meaner" as they age, becoming extremely territorial especially towards other bottom-dwellers. Because of this, a tank of around 30 gallons for a single specimen is suggested, plus 20 more gallons for every additional Flying Fox in the aquarium. Mid-sized tankmates can be kept with the Flying Fox as long as they can hold their own. If keeping multiple Flying Foxes along with other semi-aggressive species, a large aquarium of around 100 gallons is best. They also can live for 10 years, and are quite hardy. Unlike the SAE, the Flying Fox can be kept in a wider range of temperatures, but a slimmer range everywhere else. 68-79°F, a pH of 6 and 7.5, and hardness of 5 and 12 is best. Overall, the Flying Fox is a relatively good species of fish for the experienced aquarist or for one who is capable of providing proper care. Otherwise, I would have to say that they are not very beginner-friendly, though this may just be my opinion.

Now for the most important part, the reason why most of you are probably here: how to tell the difference between both species. It's quite easy, actually, but only if you know what to look for. The Siamese Algae Eater has a tan or light grey colored body with transparent fins. Most specimens do not have any coloration on their fins, though some may have a bit of black. They have deep black stripe running down the side of their body starting at the top lip and ending at tip of the caudal fin, or tail. Flying Foxes, however, are tri-colored with a deep black body, light tan belly, and bright golden stripe running down the side of the body. The golden stripe divides the black coloration allowing for both a black and gold stripe on the side. The bright golden stripe runs from behind their eye and stopping at the caudal peduncle (the part before the tail fin). Unlike the SAE, the Flying Fox does not have fully transparent fins, typically having large patches of yellow or black on each fin. Also unlike the SAE, the black stripe does not extend past the caudal peduncle until the fish is much older. Some don't even get black on their tail.

Hopefully this helps everyone with identifying their fish! With practice training your eye to find the subtle differences, you will eventually be able to distinguish both species easily! :D

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