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…

15 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

  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

  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.

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