13 Must Have Algae Eaters for Your Aquarium

To have some algae in your tank is completely normal and natural, and is actually a sign of a healthy aquarium.

Whilst some aquarists advocate that your tank should be pristine, and have no algae growth at all, this is not natural or healthy. You only have to look at any natural environment in which fish inhabit to see this.

While algae is OK to have in small quantities, it can grow quickly and it is important not to let the algae in your tank take over.

There are a number of ways you can control algae growth in your tank.

Some are simpler than others, and prevention is often better than cure.

The best solution to algae problems is to manage your nitrate levels and light exposure to the tank. The most effective way to do this is to maintain good water conditions by regular water changes, keeping the tank out of sunlight, and only lighting your tank around 6 hours per day.

Whilst no one, single fish will not solve an algae problem; there are a number of species that feed on algae and will therefore reduce some of the algae in your tank.

In this article we’ll take a look at some of the best algae eaters that you can keep. There isn’t any one best algae eater that I can recommend, as it depends entirely on your tank size and conditions.

Because of that, we’ll keep the suggestions as concise as possible, giving you tank conditions, species compatibility and stats for each algae eating specie.

Best Fish Algae Eaters

1. Twig Catfish

Name: Twig Catfish/Whiptail Catfish (Rineloricaria lanceolate)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min tank size of 12 gallons per pair. pH 6.0-8.0 Moderately soft water. They don’t respond well to large water changes.

Care Level: Easy – Intermediate

Maximum Size: 4 inches (10cm)

Compatible With: Docile species such as Tetras, Pencil fish and Hatchets. They are vulnerable to attacks from Bards and Cichlids.

Extra Information: This fish will eat most species of algae but its diet will need to be supplemented.

2. Bristlenose Plecos

Golden Ancistrus pleco catfish Bristle-nose aquarium fish
Bristlenose Pleco

Name: Bristlenose Pleco, Bristle Nosed Pleco, Bristlenose Catfish, Bushynose Catfish (Ancistrus temminckii, Ancistrus sp.)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size- 25 gallons. pH 6.5-7.5 Slightly Soft – Slightly Hard Water

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size:  5 inches (12cm)

Compatible With: Can be housed with most fish in a community tank.

Extra Information: This is just the general species name; they come in a wide variety of colours. They do tend to darken with age.

3. Siamese Flying Fox

Crossocheilus siamensis Sae algae eater fish, freshwater tank landscape, close-up photo, selective focus
Siamese Flying Fox

Name: Siamese Flying Fox

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size – 20 gallons. pH 5.5-7.5 Soft to Slightly Hard water

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size:  6.3 inches (16cm)

Compatible With: Most fish. Should not be kept with red tailed shark and can be aggressive towards own species, so limit to 1-5 in a 20 gallon tank.

Extra Information: Will eat algae from plants, glass and decorations as well as left over flake food, vegetables and live food.

4. Siamese Algae Eater

Name: Siamese Algae Eater

Tank Size and Conditions:  Min tank size of 30 gallons. pH 6.5-7.0. Temperature 75-79F

Care Level: Moderate

Maximum Size: 6 inches

Compatible With: Great for community aquariums, and have be housed with a wide range of fish including tetras, other barbs, plecos and corydoras etc.

Extra Information: Prefers a planted aquarium with lots of broad-leaved plants it can rest on. The Siamese Algae Eater is not a fussy eater; it will eat algae of live plant leaves and should also be fed a mixture of protein and vegetable-based food.

5. Mollies (And other Live Bearers)

black molly
Black Mollies

Name: Mollies (Poecilia sphenops)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size – 20 gallons. Water – pH 7.5 – 8.5.

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size: 2 – 4 inches (5-10cm)

Compatible With: Swordtails, Angelfish, Corydoras Catfish, Platies and Bigger Tetras.

Extra Information: Whilst Mollies are not generally thought as of an ‘algae eating fish’ they will eat algae from rocks and plants. They certainly won’t get rid of as much algae as the other species mentioned here, but they are an attractive fish.

6. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus
Otocinclus Catfish

Name: Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus sp.)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size – 30 gallons. pH 6.5-7.5. Tank should also have driftwood and plenty of leaf litter.

Care Level: Med-Difficult

Maximum Size: 2 inches (5cm)

Compatible With: Any peaceful community fish. Not suitable with large cichlids.

Extra Information: One of the smallest algae eating fish and suitable for a smaller aquarium. Best kept in small groups.

Best Snail Algae Eaters

7. Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Name: Malaysian Trumpet Snail (Melanoides tuberculata)

Tank Size and Conditions: 10 gallons. Water – pH 7.0-7.5.

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size: 2cm

Compatible With: Peaceful community fish.

Extra Information: They are quick to reproduce so some aquarists will avoid them.

8. Ramshorn Snail

Name: Ramshorn Snail (Planorbidae)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size – 5 gallons. Water – pH 6.5-7.5

Care Level:  Easy

Maximum Size: 2cm

Compatible With: Other peaceful community fish. If your tank becomes overpopulated with these snails, some fish such as Cichlids and Loaches will eat them.

Extra Information: Great for heavily planted aquariums, as most other snails would attack the plants. Ramshorn Snails tend to leave plants alone if there is enough algae and dead plant matter. They can breed quickly.

9. Nerite Snails

Name: Nerite Snails (Neritina sp.)

Tank Conditions: pH 7.5 – 8.5 Soft to Slightly Hard water

Care Level:  Easy

Maximum Size:  1 inch (2.5 cm)

Compatible With: Most community fish. Avoid loaches, cichlids, crayfish and goldfish.

Extra Information: Proven algae eaters, they come in many different shapes and sizes. Nerites don’t grow too big and breed slowly. Usually stay at the bottom of the tank and are good for cleaning substrate.

10. Rabbit Snail

Name: Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania app.)

Tank Size and Conditions: Water – ph7.4-8.5 Soft water

Care Level: Intermediate

Maximum Size: 4.7 inches (12cm)

Compatible With: Any small non-aggressive tank mates.

Extra Information: They breed very slowly and so won’t take over your tank.

Best Shrimp Algae Eaters

11. Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp
Amano Shrimp

Name: Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)

Tank Size and Conditions: Min Tank Size – 5 gallons. Water – pH 6.5 – 7.5 Soft to Slightly Hard Water

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size: 2 inches (5cm)

Compatible With: small to midsize non-aggressive community tank mates. Avoid aggressive fish such as goldfish and cichlids.

Extra Information: In my opinion, this is the best algae eating shrimp available. They thrive in groups of 3 or more.

12. Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp tank
Cherry Shrimp

Name: Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda var)

Tank Size and Conditions:  Min 2 gallons for 2-4 shrimps. Water – pH 6.5 – 8.0.

Care Level:  Easy

Maximum Size:  1.6 inches (4cm)

Compatible With: Non-aggressive fish such as Neon Tetra, Otocinclus Catfish, Dwarf Rasbora and some Killies. Avoid keeping them with large fish such as Angelfish and Cichlids.

Extra Information: They are bright red and add a splash of colour to your aquarium. Good for cleaning the algae in tricky places which algae eating fish can’t reach.

13. Ghost Shrimp

Name: Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.)

Tank Size and Conditions:  Min Tank Size – 5 gallons. Water – pH 6.5 – 8.0.

Care Level: Easy

Maximum Size:  2 inches (3-5cm)

Compatible With: Small less aggressive fish. Avoid keeping them with large fish; they are likely to eat them.

Extra Information: Arguably not as great as the Cherry or Amano Shrimp, but they are good for eating hair algae.

Which Algae Eater Would You Choose?

As you can see, there is no one size fits all, best algae eater.

It is very much dependant on what fish you keep, the size of your tank, and the type of algae you are looking to eliminate.

If you have a peaceful community tank, you have quite a wide range of options for algae eaters.

If you have larger aggressive fish, you may be more limited, but there are still options.

Do you know which species you’ll choose for your tank? Are there any other species which you’d recommend keeping to help reduce the amount of algae in your aquarium? We’d love to hear from you, let us know in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

91 Comments

  1. I have a 20 gal.tank with 2 med sized fancitail gold fish and 2 lg ordinary gold fish,and added 1sm. pleco and 1 sm.succerfish.I cant get my PH down no matter what I do.Water change,Easy Balance,Ph tabs,drift wood,aquarium salt, none help.its always the same high 7.8 to 8.0,the fish all look healthy,but thier actions in the way they swim tell me something is still amiss.Can you help me figure this out please.?

    • Hi Ann,

      Your tank sounds much too small for the amount and type of fish you have in there. If you have too many fish in too smaller space it’s hard to keep the conditions of the tank stable. I would recommend a 20 gallon tank for one goldfish, and add an extra 10 gallons for each goldfish thereafter. Also make sure you have an efficient filter.

      Thanks, Robert

      • Hi. I am just starting to get into keeping fish. My husband and I are cycling a 5 gal tank.
        He said when it’s ready he will add a betta, 2 Otis, and a nerite snail. From what I’m reading here, will that be too much?

        • Hi Jody, do you mean two oto catfish? If so, these fish don’t do very well in newly established tanks, and they require much larger tanks, a minimum of 20 gallons. Thanks, Robert

    • Do you have any shells in your tank?
      These will also raise the ph.
      Also, your tank is over stocked. The “rule” for freshwater fish is 1 gallon water per 1 inch fully grown fish.

    • That’s way too much for that size tank to handle. Goldfish and plecos alike are pooping machines and will overload a filter. Goldfish should not be kept in anything less than a 75 gallon, and that’s just for one normal. Those four would do best in a large pond with many filtration systems. They’re swimming funny because the ph is WAY too high. I suggest rehoming the goldfish into a pond with someone you trust or getting a 150 gallon tank. Another problem is the plecos. What kind? What do you mean by suckerfish? Common plecos get 2 feet long and if stunted will die prematurely.

    • I have a cichlids tank with about 20 peacock cichlids. I also have 2 Bristlenose Pleco and 10 snails, they work great. Medium size plecos at least nothing smaller.. Hope that helps..

  2. Looking for a algae eater that can go in a 3.5 gallon tank with one male betta. If that is even possible to do..

    • You’re going to struggle to find something that can go in a tank that small. Most snails require at least 5 gallons, shrimps will most definitely be eaten. Any other fish which are good for eating algae generally require a larger tank size.
      Robert

    • Shrimp and Bettas are fine together we have a breeding population of shrimp in a 15 gallon community with a male Betta. The baby shrimp have to hide in the filter until large enough to brave the main tank though.

  3. I have a 3.5 gallon with a single snail. We’ve had him almost 2 years. In the past few weeks the algae has gotten crazy – even showing up in the snail’s shell. Water parameters are same as always and in the good zones across the board. Thoughts?

    • Hi Jaynee,
      Thanks for you message. Can you clarify which species of snail it is and have you managed to identify the algae too?
      Thanks,
      Robert

        • Is it growing in blue-green slimy type sheets? If so, this could be an indication that you have poor water quality. Check your checked your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. Robert

  4. No, not in sheets, and not blue. I took out one of the decorations that was the most covered in algae and it was not slimy at all. Cleaned off pretty easily. I checked the water and it tested fine, but I did a 50% water change just in case. We’ll see what happens.

  5. I have a new 22 gal planted aquarium..4 weeks old…I have 2 red swordtail(male and female), 1 white molly, 1 black molly, 2 cory catfish, 10 red platy, 10 zebra danio, 10 red danio…is my tank overstocked??and what i should do??

    • Did you cycle your aquarium first? I’m presuming at four weeks old with that amount of stock you didn’t.
      You should really let your tank go through the cycling process for at least 3-4 weeks before adding fish, then add the fish slowly.
      There are plenty of stocking calculators that you can use online to check stocking levels. If you’re overstocked, I advice getting another tank and splitting the fish, keeping the schools together.
      Robert

  6. I have Malawi/mbuna cichlids. I have had bad luck keeping my bristlenose plecos alive. I have had bought 4 of them and they have had all been killed.

  7. Hi, I have a 190 litre tank with some plants, a few guppies and a few tetras. I have what looks like black beard algae growing within and I would like to get some shrimp but not sure if they would be enough to keep on top of the algae. What algae eating fish will co exist with shrimp? Thanks

    • What shrimp are you thinking of getting. Most fish will be fine as long as your shrimp have plenty of space to hide among plants. Thanks, Robert

    • I had black beard algae growing on the filter and on the edges of my plant leaves. A true siamese algae eater ate every bit of it. It will get about 6 inches long and will need plenty of space. It’s diet can be suplemented with algae wafers. It did begin to eat some of the other plants before I had to get rid of it.

  8. I have a 35 gal. un-heated tank with a large (3 1/2 in.) size goldfish and a medium size goldfish. I’m looking for some kind of algae eating fish that can live in an un-heated tank. I had thought of a plecostom but I understand they require warmer water, got any ideas? Our home is usually around 68-70°F.

  9. 10 gal tank housing a betta and live plants. I’m battling hair algae near the surface of the tank that is latching onto my Westeria. Suggestions for an algae eater or should I forgo and just clean manually?

  10. I have a 10 gallon tank with one Glo-Fish and one female sword tail. My children want more fish and an algae eater. What can we add?

  11. I have a 10 gallon heated tank with 4 tetras and 4 guppies and am looking for an algae eater that won’t grow big and is not aggressive. Any suggestions?

    • Snails are a great addition, most of them don’t grow very big at all and are useful algae eaters, as are snails. Thanks, Robert

  12. Hi! I was hoping that someone could fill me in on a little fish/snail/shrimp that would make a nice friend for my Marimo Ball. It is little, maybe 2 inches in diameter. It lives in a small plastic fish bowl. About 1 gallon in size. There is some sand at the bottom of the bowl so that Moby (my Marimo) can have a nice surface to sit on. I am very new to taking care of aquatic things. I have terrible luck with animals. And I can’t bring myself to own another mammal. I found Moby, and he’s great! But he makes his water kind of dirty… Is there any little aquatic creature that can live in the same bowl with him? Something would eat up Moby’s little floaty algae bits? I know most fish need larger tanks, but you all seem very helpful!

    • Most snails and shrimps require at least a 5 gallon tank. I would suggest moving it into a 5 gallon and you can either house it with shrimps or snails, or even a Betta if you’d like a fish. Thanks, Robert

  13. I have a 10 gallon tank with two male, two female, and 3 tiny baby guppies. I was thinking about getting shrimp to clean my tank. How many should I get, and do other shrimp beside the 3 listed above work as well? I found a set of 5, which include Painted Fire Red, Blue Dream, Sunkist Orange, Velvet Light Blue and Neon Yellow Shrimp. Is that too many and if not, will those clean as well?

  14. Hi! I have two tetras, three platies, and three danios. What algae eating fish should I look for? I also have a 20-gallon tank. Thanks!

    • Hi Mohammad, Twig Catfish, Siamese Flying Fox or any of the snails or shrimps listed here will all make a good addition to a 20 gallon tank with the combination of fish you have already. Thanks, Robert

  15. So, this is my last resort. I have a 30-gallon tank with 1 Red Cap Oranda Goldfish and the algae is crazy. I’ve been keeping the lights off and have done countless water changes in hopes of it calming down, but it will remain clear for a day or two then suddenly strike back. I had this problem when I first got him and blamed the temporary 10-gallon he was in, but the new tank only helped for a few days. So, I’ve been looking for a tankmate that may solve this issue. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Claire, did you set your tank up and allow it to cycle for 4-6 weeks before adding your goldfish? That would be my first step of advice. Better to solve the route of the cause of algae than find a way to keep it at bay. Thanks, Robert

  16. I have a 75 gal aquarium with 2 Angel’s, 7 BAT’s, 1 rainbow shark, and 1 blue gourami. Should I add plants, or a snail or something besides the shark to help with algae?

    • Hi Emily, yes if you keep live plants there will be less nutrients for algae to use to grow so it may reduce it. Snails would also be a good option. Thanks Robert

  17. I noticed that you didn’t even rate Panda Garras or River mountain loach among your list. I keep both in my tanks, and have found them to be extremely voracious in their appetite when faced with algae

  18. Hello,

    I have a clown algae eater and 2 guppies. I want to add another algae eater but not sure if that will be okay with having a clown algae eater in the tank already. what do you think?

    • Hi Amber, given its peaceful nature you can house it with other algae eaters as long as they aren’t aggressive. Thanks, Robert

  19. I have a ten gallon tank with 10 golden white clouds. I keep it at about 70 deg and last week I started to notice algae growing on the walls and gravel. I have been thinking of adding a tank mate to take care of the algae but don’t want to overstock. What would you recommend for this situation?

    • Hi Emma, I would include shrimps or snails. Most algae-eating fish need more space than 10 gallons. Thanks, Robert

  20. Hi
    You said that shrimps can’t be together with cichlids, but does this include South American dwarf cichlids like Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid as well???

    • Hi Scott, I wouldn’t keep any Cichlids with shrimps. They’re all most likely to make a meal out of them. Thanks, Robert

  21. Hello, I have a 54l (~14gal) moderately planted aquarium with 9 guppies. I recently noticed an increase in algae growth and decided to look into algae eaters. I would really like to add cherry shrimps but would they get bullied by the guppies?

  22. We are getting a 20 gallon tank, I want a pleco, some type of tetra and my son wants a shark of some sort. I’ve never owned fish so I don’t really know what to get and how many we can have in there. What would be best for algae eaters with what I want to get.

    • Hi Alicia, I’d choose your shark carefully because many of them can be quite aggressive. Let me know what you decide on then I can help you choose the right Algae Eater. Thanks, Robert

      • Well I know I want a pleco so do you have a recommendation for a shark and other fish that would do well in a 20 gal tank. Also what live plants do you recommend, minimal to no maintenance

        • There actually aren’t any sharks that I would recommend keeping in a 20 gallon tank. Most sharks need a minimum tank size of 75 gallons. Thanks, Robert

  23. I have a 60 gallon tank with 1 black Moore(?) and 3 feeder goldfish. I am in despite need of an algae eater. Any suggestions? I have had placos before but never with goldfish. Would you recommend a placo?
    Thank you

  24. I have a 55 gallon tank with about 25 fish, ( mollies, neons, swordtails, guppies, gourmais, glofish ) I would say i have about 20 live plants as well. As far as algae, i really only get it on a few pieces of rock decorations that are in the tank. I use to have 1- pleco fish but in no time he became so big 6-7″ I had to give him back to the LFS. Can you recommend a algae fish that will not get bigger then say 2-3″ and do a good job. A few people said snails, but i hear they multiply quick. Thanks

  25. Can you just have one Siamese Algae Eater or should they be bought in pairs? Same sex or opposite?

    I kept an almost pristine tank for years until my daughter dropped 2 goldfish in it when she left for college. They have gotten quite large as well. They were 2 tiny feeder fish & now 4-5” goldfish. The algae problem has become unmanageable and I just don’t trust the chemicals since I have a well established tank. My mollies & swordfish have become unhappy too. I can’t send the goldfish to college & hate to stick them in the lake out back & our pet store won’t take them back, any suggestions for an ethical way to handle them? I will keep them if I can get the algae under control but really don’t want them.

    • Hi Paige, you can keep them singularly, in pairs or in a school. You can read more about Siamese Algae Eaters here: https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/siamese-algae-eater/
      As for the Goldfish, two full grown fish will require a least 40 gallons of water, given that you already have other fish I’d recommend a minimum of a 50 gallon tank depending on the variety of Goldfish. If you tank is smaller than this, I’d imagine that is why you’re seeing so many problems. Goldfish produce a lot of waste and a high bio-load on the tank so you might want to consider putting them in a separate tank.
      Another thought is, what temperature is your water at? Goldfish need coldwater tanks, Swordtails need tropical water, Mollies can live in either.
      Thanks, Robert

  26. Thanks Robert. Yes, tank is too small again. It is a column tank so it is pretty cold in the lower half. Have a heater on one side close to the top. Going to get another tank for the Goldfish then.
    Thank you very much!

  27. Hi, I have 7 platies in a 10 gallon tank (already worried it’s too populated) but lately I’ve notice an increase in algae growth… Would a snail or shrimp be too much for this small community? If so how many of either? Please!

  28. I have a 10 gallon set up that had 2 catfish and 4 guppies but all 4 of the guppies died recently because I didn’t realize the nitrite levels were too high. My tank is finally safe enough to get new fish but algae are growing everywhere! I need an algae eater that won’t get any bigger than 3 inches. What should I get? Note: the catfish survived in the environment just fine.

    • Hi Ian, most snails or shrimps will be fine in your set up. One of my favorites is the Nerite Snail. Thanks, Robert

  29. Hi, I have a 10-gallon community freshwater setup with no live plants. I had 2 catfish and 4 guppies but all the guppies died because I didn’t know I had high nitrate levels. Now my tank is finally safe for fish again but there are algae everywhere. I need something not too big for my tank that eats algae because the catfish that are still alive in my tank don’t eat algae. What should I get?

    • Hi Ian, snails and shrimps are great options for tanks with algae. Neither of them take up much space and there are plenty of species available for 10 gallon tanks. Thanks, Robert

    • Hi Ian, what type of filter do you have? You can use a sponge as a pre filter which will prevent them getting caught in it too. Thanks, Robert

  30. I have an 80 litre tank with 1 male beta, guppies ,ottos , danios and snails. Would shrimp survive ? Betta is young

  31. My wife and I have a 20 gallon tank with 5 glofish tetras and 2 albino cory catfish. We wanted to get an albino Planco algea eater they had at the store but the young lady at the register said she learned “the hard way” Plancos & Corys dont mix. So now we don’t know what to do. What kind of Algea eater can we add to the tank with the corys?

  32. I am starting a small scale Aquaponics setup for my biology classroom. I have a 35 gallon tank that will have a PVC rigging with basil and mint as my plants for harvesting. Are there any particular algae eaters that would do especially well with few decorations and a decent stock of ornamental fish in this kind of setup?

    • Hello, many catfish are ideal algae eaters for a tank this size. A Cory Catfish, or a Bristlenose Pleco would be great. Ideas for fish include a group of Mollies or Guppies. Good luck with your setup. Thanks, Robert

  33. I have gotten a tank in December I have 4 glofish and two snail(dont know species) to help w the algae. I use bottle water to fill it up due to city water that has to much chlorine. I’m having trouble with the tank staying cloudy. It’s not in much sun light. I only feed the fish once a day. I have the filter that has the white sponge like one black and while ricks in their own individual bags. I rinse them off weekly so they don’t get slimy. Any suggestions on how to get the tank clear. I’ve cleaned it out an let it filter out for several days that seemed to help then it came back in a couple of days.

    • Hi Jen, Did you allow your tank to cycle for 6-8 weeks before adding fish? This is important to establish the nitrogen cycle. If you did, you might want to consider a diatom filter and covering the tank for a few days to stop any light getting in. Thanks, Robert

  34. I have 23 gallon Heavily Planted tank. Livestock are 3Female,1Male platy, 3female 1male guppy,2 Siamese Algae Eater,2otto, 5danios and 2 Assassin Snails. They seems to be happy but i often see a lots of waste on my gravel and it’s quite difficult to clean because of carpeting plants. How do you suggest and is it because of Overfeeding and Overstocking ?

    • Hello, your tank is overstocked so that is probably causing the extra waste on the gravel. Have you tried using a gravel cleaner? You can choose a manual one which will allow you to hover very gently around the planted areas. Thanks, Robert

  35. I currently have a veil tail betta and two cory catfish, one albino and one panda. Unfortunately there’s a bit too much algae in the tank for my liking/care level so I think i’m going to invest in a snail or two for cleaning purposes!

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