Algae eaters have long been an integral part of the aquarium-keeping hobby for balancing the natural ecosystem we are all trying to replicate.
Due to their expertise in algae removal coupled with their quirky looks and habits, they are glorious additions to your aquatic family. From fish, to shrimp, to snails; we will cover our favorites for eating algae in your tank.
Read this article to learn how to choose a new clean-up crew for your tank. Because of how important these fish are to your aquarium, it is essential that you learn how they can naturally clean up your system so you can stay away from harsh chemicals. Let us know what we missed in the comments below.
How To Choose the Best Algae Eaters for Your Aquarium
First, we should probably discuss a basic but important question: what is an algae eater?
Most people have only a very general idea of what algae-eaters are, typically only associating the term with just one or two very popular species. Instead, “algae-eaters” should be understood to describe a rather large group of fish and invertebrates, each with their own specific needs and requirements for your tank type.
Take inventory of existing factors in your tank to select the right algae eater:
Besides looking at the water parameters that a given fish can survive and, hopefully, thrive in, it’s necessary to consider other important facets of a tank’s ecosystem and its inhabitants.
- Activity and Aggression Levels of Tank Mates: This is a very important question to ask. Do your current fish or critters mesh well with your chosen algae eater?
- Oxygenation Levels: What are the oxygenation levels in your tank? Pick an algae eater that matches the same requirements as your existing ecosystem.
- Speed of Current: Some algae eaters like lots of current but, for others, it’s kind of stressful. Does your speed of current rule out any algae eating critters?
- Density of Foliage/Hardscape: What density of foliage and hardscape do you currently have in your tank? How will that affect a potential algae eater?
Be very careful in your research of algae-eaters to make sure that you are creating a match made in aquarium heaven.In deciding which type of algae-eater to add to your tank, it’s important to consider the personalities and husbandry needs of your current tank inhabitants as well as the algae-eater you’re looking to add to your aquarium.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to algae-eating solutions for an aquarium.
Luckily, most commercially available algae-eaters can thrive within a wide range of water parameters. Assuming you keep your water quality clean and stable, you’ll mainly just have to focus on making sure that the different personalities for your aquatic citizens mesh well together. Whether you want to learn more about starting a new aquarium or just more advanced nuances to clean your system for better tank photography, this article will explain our favorite options.
What Are The Best Algae-Eating Fish?
Bristlenose Plecostomus (Bristlenose plecos)
Bristlenose plecos are a great addition to most aquariums. These weird little guys only grow to be around 4in long, allowing them to fit into most medium-sized community aquariums. This makes them a valuable alternative to the very common “Sucker Fish” (Hypostomus Plecostomus) that grows to almost two feet long. On top of their impressive algae-eating abilities, they’re capable of being quite the conversation starter. Males develop large whiskery growths on their faces, something that seems appropriate for an aquatic janitor.
They’re also commonly available in different color varieties, namely gold or albino. This means that they can be quite the dramatic addition to an aquarium. This particular pleco alge-eater will do well in aquariums that have driftwood and plenty of hiding spots.
Siamese Algae Eater
Siamese algae eaters are the algae-eating powerhouses of the fishkeeping world. Their generally peaceful nature and ability to eat and control a wide range of algae (including the dreaded Black Beard algae) makes them an asset to almost any aquarium. These guys are particularly ravenous.
Not only will they eat some of the least appetizing forms of algae, they’ll also help control flatworm populations and eat leftover detritus in the aquarium. They also do extremely well in planted aquariums because they’re not known to typically damage the plants when grazing for algae.
Chinese Algae Eater
Chinese algae eaters have been around the aquarium trade for a while. Though they aren’t necessarily the best algae-eaters available, they do offer something that our previously mentioned species don’t.
Although Chinese algae eaters can be docile enough to be kept in a community tank when they’re adolescents, they become much more aggressive as they age. This obviously means that they shouldn’t be kept in community tanks, but this might actually be an advantage for some fish-keepers. These particular suckerfish get on the larger side (in terms of the fish presented here today), reaching about 10in or so. Their large size and agility make them one of the few algae-eaters that can survive with larger semi-aggressive fish or in certain African cichlid tank setups.
These algae-eating catfish are one of the best species in the trade, hands-down. These are the smallest species in this article, only getting up to 1.5in or so. This and their very calm demeanor make them perfect for most community tanks. These guys do best in groups are do remarkably well in planted aquariums.
They will not harm the plants and are particularly good at removing brown algae and general new algae growth before it gets a chance to take hold in the tank.
Twig catfish are one of the best catfish algae-eaters in the hobby and are slowly becoming more and more available. They readily accept a variety of foods and quickly clear a tank of any green algae. However, out of all the algae-eating fish discussed in this article, this particular species requires the most care.
They need to be in an aquarium that has high oxygen levels and a bit of a current, not to mention pristine water-quality. And, because of their shy nature, they must be kept with accommodating species that won’t out-compete them for food. Assuming your aquarium meets these requirements, a twig catfish would make an interesting and useful addition to your tank.
Mollies, platys, and guppies are readily available within the aquarium trade.
A lot of community tanks feature these fellows already because of their ability to rapidly reproduce. Fortunately, these fish are also helpful in taking care of hair algae.
What Are The Best Algae-Eating Snails?
Mystery snails, a smaller species of Apple snail, are a very popular snail that can be found at almost any local fish store. These snails are true detrivores and will helpfully eat different types of algae, decaying plant matter, and leftover fish food. Mystery snails are one of the larger snail species in this article, but they still only top out at around 2in, making them a sure bet for smaller community tanks as well as larger ones.
Nerite snails are in high-demand within the pet trade.
They come in a variety of colors and patterns and, unlike most other snails, will not breed in the aquarium. Nerites are intense algae grazers, willing to eat almost any type of algae while not harming any live plants within the aquarium.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail
This particular species of snail is practically required for any planted aquarium.
These snails are prized for their tendency to scavenge for food underneath aquarium substrate. They are detrivores and will eat plant and protein matter found underneath the substrate while also coming out to eat soft algae.
Their drive to look for food underneath the substrate effectively makes them plow the soil, so to speak, aerating it for live plants. The only drawback is that this species of snail will very quickly and rapidly breed within the aquarium if food is abundant.
What Are The Best Algae-Eating Shrimp?
These little aquatic rubies are one of the most popular ornamental shrimp species widely available.
They’re pretty hardy if their water conditions are kept stable and will easily breed within the aquarium. Cherry shrimp are great at eating different types of hair algae and will also eat leftover fish food. They come in a variety of colors (though a bright red is the most common) and make beautiful tank mates if kept with smaller fish that won’t hunt them.
Amano shrimp are the best algae-eating shrimp species.
Their larger size (2in) makes them better able to defend themselves in community tanks, setting them apart from the Cherry shrimp. This species is great at eating various types of soft algae as well as decaying plant matter and some leftover fish food.
Choose A Balanced Ecosystem With Nualgi
Nualgi Aquarium helps to fill in the gaps of your aquarium’s ecosystem by nurturing helpful Diatoms with nano silica, the building block of your tank’s food chain.
Working best in a fairly established freshwater aquarium, Nualgi sets the groundwork to promote a beautiful and healthy aquatic environment that any well-chosen algae-eater would love to complement.
With Nualgi working to perfect your tank, the only thing you have left to do is pick the right algae-eater. The algae-eaters listed here are popular and good at their jobs, but this is anything but a definitive list.
Which algae-eaters have given you the best success stories?
Which species are your go-to favorites?
And which did we not mention in our article?