Here’s The Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Tanks To Keep em Squeaky Clean

Here’s The Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Tanks To Keep em Squeaky Clean

While algae may look good in small quantities, it can spread out of control if not checked. One effective way of managing algae and preventing its production from becoming a pain is introducing algae eaters. There are many options that you can opt for ranging from algae-consuming fish to snails and shrimps. They are also pocket friendly, keep your aquarium clean and help increase the wildlife diversification in your fish tank. What more could you ask for?

The main issue that comes up when choosing algae eaters is their compatibility with other fish already living in your aquarium. Understanding which algae eaters live harmoniously with which fish species can go a long way in ensuring the survival of your pets. If you don’t have much knowledge about this, you can purchase a separate aquarium for keeping your algae eaters until there comes a time when you need them in the main fish tank.

If you want to prevent an algae outbreak or are wondering how to deal with the one in your aquarium, here are common algae eaters that you should consider.

Ghost Shrimp

ghost shrimp

While not the most effective option compared to its Amano or Cherry brothers, it is one of the cheapest and does a great job of removing hair algae. They are very small and grow to only 2 centimeters in length, making them good prey for larger fish.

They are often sold as fish food and if opting for them, you should consider building a place for them to hide within the aquarium. Otherwise, they will get eaten before doing any damage control. And while they aren’t the most algae eaters; their almost see-through bodies are nice to look at, making them great additions to any fish tank.

Malaysian Trump Snail

Malaysian Trump Snail

They never grow any larger than 2 centimeters and eat almost any organic debris including algae. They prefer a subterranean life under the gravel or substrate during the day but don’t cause any harm to plants while feeding at night on the surface of the water.

You may have to monitor their movements closely as they spend plenty of time digging in the gravel. Like most crustaceans, they require slightly alkaline water for their crusts to grow. They are susceptible to harm by dirty and contaminated water and often retrieve to the sides of the tank as a survival tactic.

Cherry Shrimp

Another common algae eater that you will find in many pet stores is the cherry shrimp.

This small crustacean is good at cleaning algae in places that algae-eating fish cannot reach. They are easy to breed and their small size allows them to hide from predatory fish.

Cherry shrimp eat dead plant matter, leftover food as well as most types of algae.

Their bright colors allow for decorative use and the brighter they are, the more expensive they cost.

Siamese Algae Eater

The Siamese algae eater is for many, a must-have fish in the aquarium and understandably so. They grow to a length of 2 inches, making them the perfect size for any fish tank. They thrive in an environment with a lot of rocks and plants with broad leaves.

They are strong swimmers and jumpers. In addition to algae, SAE also eat live food, flake food, parboiled vegetables, leftover pellets and even flatworms. They don’t mind feasting on thread and bread algae, which are often ignored by other algae eaters.

You should limit SAE to 1-5 of them in an aquarium that holds at least 100 liters as they tend to be territorial. They are sensitive to PH levels that fall below 7 and plenty of oxygen and average temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius.

Bristlenose Plecos

Image Link: Pinterest

If you own a larger aquarium, the Bristlenose Pleco will prove a good algae eater. It grows to 15 centimeters in length, allowing it to cover plenty of ground and consume a lot of algae. It is also recommended that you use sinking food pellets due to their size to ensure that they are fed enough.

The ability to eat Green Spot Algae, a type of algae that a majority of algae eaters don’t eat, as well as their huge appetite are two of the reasons why the Bristlenose Plecos made it to #5 on this list. They bode well with other fish species and are most active at night. It is the perfect solution for someone with a big fish tank that houses large, aggressive species.

Nerite Snails

nerite snails

Image Link: Aquatic Arts

With their zebra-like shell and huge appetite, Nerite Snails are one of the most popular algae-eating snails. They are known for feeding on all algae types that grow in freshwater fish tanks including ones that are harder to get rid of such as Green beard Algae and Green Spot Algae.

They spent most of their time at the bottom cleaning the substrate. When fully grown, this snail measures 3 centimeters and are easy targets for predatory fish like Loaches as well as Cichlids. To thrive and keep their shells hard, Nerite Snails require hard water as the calcium helps and a PH level of 7 or above. Keep your tank covered as they tend to climb out.

Mystery Apple Snail

Image Link: Pinterest

While they are usually sold as babies, Mystery Apple Snails grow to the size of a baseball hence the need to ensure that your aquarium has enough space to accommodate them. Their shells are usually bright yellow, but they can also be seen in other colors including shades of purple and red, as well as brown.

Their large size and gigantic antennas that are always sweeping the floor of the fish tank make them easy to spot. They consume most types of algae especially aquarium glass algae, substrate algae and plant algae. Despite their appetite for algae, it’s advisable to provide them with an assortment of aquarium safe vegetation as alternative food sources.

Twig Catfish

Image Link: Photo Bucket

Otherwise known as Whiptail Catfish, the Twig Catfish is a delicate, sucker mouth, algae-eating catfish that grow to an average length of 20 centimeters and whose bodies are brown and slender. While they eat most types of algae, it’s important that you supplement their diet with algae tablets at least twice a week.

They live harmoniously with docile fish like Tetras, Hatchets, Pencil fish and Rashoras. Refrain from keeping them in the same environment with Barbs and Cichlids as they become targets. They thrive in 70-liter aquariums with bogwood and lots of plants. They don’t respond well to heavy water changes.


While black mollies are not classified as algae eating fish, their willingness and ability to eat any type of freshwater aquarium algae qualifies them for this list. They are not as effective as others on this list but they eat their fair share algae from live plants and rocks.

Mollies should not be your main solution for eradicating all algae. However, if you are looking for beautiful fish with the added benefit of scraping away the unwanted algae, they are a sure bet.

Otocinclus Catfish

Image Link: Pinterest

Otherwise known as dwarf suckers and otos, this is another type of catfish that does a great job of managing algae production. Its small size allows it to squeeze through the tightest spaces to destroy algae. Otos hardly grow any longer than 2 inches but can more algae than you think. Dwarf suckers eat all kinds of vegetation and algae but prefer soft green algae and brown algae.

They have a large appetite and it’s therefore advisable to add aquarium-friendly vegetables like zucchini occasionally to keep them happy. They don’t require a lot of space and thrive in the company of many fish species. However, they are susceptible to attacks from angelfish and cichlids.

Amano Shrimp

Image Link: Fotolia

Named after Takashi Amano, a Japanese hobbyist, this is probably the most popular algae eating shrimp. It is always hungry, consuming just about any type of algae. It grows to 4 centimeters, making it ideal for small fish tanks. As they prefer being kept in higher numbers, make sure to have at least 3 in your aquarium. Their small size means that they work best with docile fish and not aggressive ones that see them as food. If interested in keeping Amano Shrimp, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. For starters, these shrimps are sensitive to excess amounts of copper and as such, aggressive water changes of 30-50 may be required to balance out the toxicity if your tank has lots of plants. In addition, large quantities of commercial foods reduce their appetite, thus compromising their ability to eradicate algae.

What is your preferred algae eater?

There you have it folks. The above 11 are what we think are the best algae eaters from which you can choose. These are just a few of the thousands of species that come to your rescue. Did we miss your favorite? Do you know of another algae eating shrimp, fish or snail? Share what you think we missed in the comment section with us and other aquarium enthusiasts.

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