Fish Types

15 Best Algae Eaters for Aquarium (Fish, Snail and Shrimp)

Best Algae Eaters

Even though algae are good to have in small quantities, if they are left unchecked, they might take over the tank, causing your fish to suffocate.

The best way to deal with this problem is to recreate a natural ecosystem by introducing algae eating fish, shrimp or snails. These will keep the algae growth in check while also adding some character to your tank.

However, in order to get the best results, there are some species of these creatures that you need to consider. This article gives you a listing of the best algae eaters that you can get for your tank while also showing you other ways to control this algae overgrowth.

6 Best Fish Algae Eaters

1. Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 30 gallons, pH Range: 6.5 – 7.0
  • Maximum size: 6 inches
  • Compatible with: most community fish, tetras, plecos, barb, cory catfish etc.

Siamese algae eaters are freshwater fish that are native to the Southeast Asia region. In terms of color, you can spot them in either gold or grey color, with a black stripe cutting across their entire length.

They are very peaceful fish and prefer being kept in planted tanks so as to rest on the broad plant leaves. However, they also love spending time at the bottom of the tank where they swim around until they find a spot filled with algae.

If you have a couple of them, they will swim in groups to these spots, sit there while eating the algae and once done, look for a new location to consume more algae.  

2. Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 12 gallons per pair, pH Range: 6.0 – 8.0
  • Maximum size: 4 inches
  • Compatible with: tetras, hatchets, pencil fish

Twig Catfish are named so because they resemble twigs. They are native to Venezuela and Colombia in the heavily vegetated and flooded areas of the Amazon that have submerged tree roots.

This means that they prefer very calm planted tanks and they do not respond well to large water changes.

In action, twig catfish rarely swim. Instead, they hop from one place to another and once they find a spot filled with algae, they stay there almost motionless while eating the algae. This stillness combined with their long brown bodies make them look like real twigs in the water.

The fish can eat almost all species of algae but their diet needs to be supplemented every once in a while, with sinking herbivore pellets and some vegetables.

3. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 30 gallons, pH Range: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2 inches
  • Compatible with: peaceful community fish

Otocinclus catfish are very small algae eaters that grow up to a maximum of only 2 inches long, and this makes them one of the best algae eaters for small tanks.

Being native to the slow flowing streams and rivers east of the Andes, these fish require well-oxygenated waters and prefer swimming close to the surface, where they cling to substrates and suck all the algae that are stuck on rocks, plant roots, leaves etc.

Therefore, in the tank, a small shallow tank will be perfect for a couple of them and apart from the substrate, it should have driftwood, leaf litter, and growing plants.

If the algae become too scarce, their diet can be supplemented with algae wafers and some vegetables such as green zucchini slices.  

4. Bristlenose Plecostomus

Bristlenose Plecostomus
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 25 gallons, pH Range: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 5 inches
  • Compatible with: peaceful community fish

These fish grow bristle-like tentacles out of their noses as they mature and thus the name Bristlenose Plecostomus.

They are originally from the native streams and small rivers in South America, which means that they do best in well-oxygenated waters with a moderate water current.

In action, these plecos are nocturnal and thus, you need to have plenty of shadowy hiding spaces by including things such as plants, caves, and driftwood in the tank. These spaces will help them rest during the day so that they can come out to feed on the algae at night.

On the downside, they do produce a lot of waste and since they spend a lot of time hidden close to the bottom of the tank, an under-gravel filtration system, as well as an air pump, will be required.

5. Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater

Photo: wikimedia.org

  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 30 gallons, pH Range: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 5 inches
  • Compatible with: semi-aggressive fish such as African Mbuna Cichlids

Chinese algae eaters are originally from Southeast Asia and the Southern parts of China where they live in medium or large water bodies such as lakes, flooded fields, and rivers.

They can often be found close to the surface while feeding on algae from rocks but can also migrate into the deep waters depending on the season.  

In the tank, these fish prefer a well-filtered environment with lots of plants and hiding places so as to dive in deep and hide from the lights at times.

However, as the fish mature, they become aggressive towards other fish in the tank, especially if the others are smaller in size.   

6. Mollies

Mollies
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 20 gallons, pH Range: 7.5 – 8.5
  • Maximum size: 4 inches
  • Compatible with: Corydoras catfish, angelfish, platies, swordtails, and big tetras

Mollies are generally not considered as algae eating fish but in their natural habitat, they do consume algae from rocks and plants.

This means that you need to have some rocks as part of the tank’s substrate and some growing plants so that your mollies can suck the algae out of them.

Apart from eating algae, mollies are also very popular because of their beauty. Some are black, others golden, white, orange and the list goes on. This gives your tank additional character and makes them one of the best algae eaters for aquariums.

5 Best Snail Algae Eaters

1. Mystery

Mystery snail
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 10 gallons, pH Range: 7.0 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2-inch shell
  • Compatible with: peaceful community fish, other freshwater snails, and freshwater shrimps

Mystery snails are non-aggressive creatures that prefer living is a peaceful environment with other peaceful water creatures. However, they do have a shell for protection, just in case they encounter some aggression.

On feeding, these snails remain active whether the lights are on or off, and move around steadily on the hunt for algae or looking for a place to take some rest.

However, their activeness means that they can also climb to the tank top and even jump over and therefore, it is important to keep the tank covered at all times.

2. Nerite

Nerite snail
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 10 gallons, pH Range: 7.5 – 8.5
  • Maximum size: 1 inch
  • Compatible with: Most community fish

Nerite snails are very popular freshwater snails for controlling algae because they do the job very well.

For starters, they move a lot around the tank glass and other hard surfaces to eat the emerging soft algae. This means that they will clean up the tank walls for you by reducing the green layer that slowly builds up if the algae are left unchecked.

Other than this, nerites also dig up about an inch or so under the substrate to feed on the algae that grow down there as well. This makes them one of the best freshwater algae eaters. 

3. Malaysian Trumpet

Malaysian trumpet snail
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 10 gallons, pH Range: 7.0 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2 cm
  • Compatible with: most peaceful fish

Malaysian trumpet snails are also freshwater snail that can spend a lot of time feeding on the soft algae building up on the tank’s glass walls and other hard surfaces such as the filter intakes. They are also diggers and can make their way deep into the gravel in search of their food.

However, they reproduce very quickly and some aquarists avoid them for this reason. If you decide to keep this species, ensure to monitor their numbers closely because the more they are, the more they strain the filtration system because of the waste that they produce.

4. Ramshorn

Ramshorn snail
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 5 gallons, pH Range: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2 cm
  • Compatible with: peaceful community fish

Just like Malaysian trumpets, Ramshorn snails reproduce very quickly. To keep their population in check, you can include a few Cichlids or Loaches, which can feed on them.

On the bright side, Ramshorn snails are very thorough at cleaning out the algae as well as dead and decaying plant and fish food and uneaten food. Basically, they are like additional filters.

5. Rabbit

Rabbit snail
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 29 gallons, pH Range: 7.4 – 8.5
  • Maximum size: 12 cm
  • Compatible with: small sized, peaceful fish

Rabbit snails are very peaceful snails that move very slowly around the tank. They have the advantage of reproducing at a slow rate and thus, won’t take over your aquarium.

They also do a pretty good job in clearing out the algae as well as uneaten food and debris. Apart from this, they have a very intriguing appearance that will surely add some uniqueness to your tank.

4 Best Shrimp Algae Eaters

1. Amano

Amano shrimp
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 5 gallons, pH Range 6.5 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2 inches
  • Compatible with: small and midsize peaceful community fish

Amanos are the best algae eating shrimp because they eat almost all kinds of algae and they eat voraciously, be it algae, fish food or decaying fish.

However, it is recommended to avoid overfeeding the fish because once full, the Amano will not focus on eating algae.

2. Cherry

Cherry shrimp
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 2 gallons, pH Range 6.5 – 8.0
  • Maximum size: 1.6 inches
  • Compatible with: small non-aggressive fish such as Neon Tetra and Dwarf Rasbora

Cherry shrimp are bright red in color and thus the name cherry. Because of this, they add some color to the tank.

Onto their main purpose, cherry shrimp are very good at getting algae in the hard to reach areas where fish algae eaters cannot access in the aquarium.

3. Ghost

Ghost shrimp
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 5 gallons, pH Range 6.5 – 8.0
  • Maximum size: 2 inches
  • Compatible with: small non-aggressive fish

Ghost shrimp are as transparent as glass and inside water, they tend to disappear, hence the ghost name. In terms of food, they love eating hair algae more than the other types of algae.

To ensure that you always have some ghost shrimp, it is important to isolate some females to hatch in a different tank. Their small size makes them a target by very many kinds of fish.

4. Bamboo

Bamboo shrimp
  • Tank size and condition: Min Tank Size 5 gallons, pH Range 7.0 – 7.5
  • Maximum size: 2 inches
  • Compatible with: Small sized community fish

This is a freshwater shrimp that does well in planted tanks which have some rocks as part of the substrate.

On feeding, Bamboo shrimp like to eat algae from the water current and you will find them hanging around the filter intake so as to feed on the incoming algae in the easiest way.

Additional Tips to Rid Your Tank of Algae

Apart from using algae eaters, there are certain measures that you can take to control the rate of algae growth in your tank. These include:

1. Reduce the lighting

Just like plants, algae require light to grow. Therefore, if you limit the amount of light going into the tank, you will significantly reduce algae growth.

This can be done first by avoiding placing the aquarium under direct sunlight and second, by limiting the number of hours that artificial lighting is left on per day. Also, ensure that this lighting is not brighter than required.  

2. Feed less

Excess food in the aquarium causes an increase in phosphate and ammonia levels and this fuels algae growth.

You can always know that you are overfeeding the fish if the portion is not finished within 5 minutes of pouring it inside the tank.

If this is the case, remove the uneaten food as quickly as possible and feed in smaller portions from the next feeding time while monitoring closely for any excess.

Read More: 7 Best Automatic Fish Feeders

3. Do more water changes

This is the most effective way of avoiding algae. It is recommended to change 10 – 15% of your aquarium’s water every week so as to keep the algae-supporting nutrients low.

However, it is also important to test the water that you are adding into the tank for phosphates and nitrates so that you don’t fuel algae growth while your intention was to eliminate them.

4. Clean the tank

This is a must if you see a green layer beginning to form on the tank walls, rocks, and other hard surfaces.

For the glass/acrylic walls, you simply have to scrape and wipe them clean because they are smooth. However, for the rocks and other parts, you need to remove them and scrub the algae off.

Read More: 7 Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks

5. Keep live plants

Live plants are important in aquariums because they consume the excess nutrients that would otherwise fuel algae growth. This means that they are natural filters that complement the purification process carried out by artificial filters.

Conclusion     

When it comes to algae eaters, there is no single solution that works across the board.

Each fish, snail, and shrimp is suitable for some specific conditions inside the tank and thus, the best algae eater can only be selected after considering these conditions and matching them with what you have in your tank.

By doing this and following the tips above, you will certainly see a noticeable difference in the reduction of algae from your aquarium.

Sources

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