Are you a fish lover and have a freshwater aquarium at your home? If yes, then do you face the problem of excessive algae proliferation in your tank? Well, then you are here at the right place. In this article, we will provide you with the top 20 algae eaters that will help in curbing algae growth in your freshwater aquarium.
However, before we begin, let’s put some light on what is a freshwater aquarium. It is a receptacle that contains one or more freshwater aquatic organisms for pet-keeping, decorative, and even research purposes. But the most common problem that a freshwater aquarium owner has to face is algae formation in the tank.
Albeit a minute amount of algae may look good sometimes, but if it starts to increase, it will ruin the beauty of your aquarium and affect your tiny pets. And to stop the algae from spreading, you can welcome some algae eaters in your freshwater aquarium. These algae eaters will make sure that the filtration of your aquarium is up to scratch.
What is an algae eater for a freshwater aquarium?
People having freshwater aquariums in their homes are pretty much aware of the algae problem. And of course, you must have tried different things to get rid of those algae permanently. Nevertheless, while talking about the remedies, a type of clean-up crew is always ready at your service, which is commonly known as an algae eater or algivorous.
There are different species of fish, shrimps, and snails that feed on algae either as a part of their diet or exclusively. They keep your tank clean and help in increasing the diversification of wildlife in your aquarium. These algae eaters are pretty cheap, and in turn, enhance the beauty of your freshwater aquarium along with other species.
Some species of algae eaters feed on a particular type of algae, while others graze openly on different algae types. Now, it’s up to you what kind of algae eater you want to choose for your freshwater aquarium. If you have a large-sized freshwater tank, you can keep 2-4 eaters together based on their temperament and compatibility with other clean-up crew members.
Best Algae Eater Fishes for Freshwater Aquarium:
So, now let’s move on to the 20 best algae eaters that you can opt for in your freshwater aquarium. Here, we go.
The Twig Catfish have been named so because they resemble twigs. They are from the family Loricariidae and are also known as whiptail catfish. They have specialized spoon-shaped teeth to feed on algae as well as wood, which form their primary diet.
The Twig catfishes can grow up to a size of 7-inches. They are oviparous and lay eggs having a single layer over rock or vegetation. They openly lay their eggs without attempting to hide them, and the males of these species protect the fertilized eggs.
Twig fishes can be kept in fish tanks of a maximum size of 20 gallons. The water pH must be maintained from 6-7, with a soft to moderate hardness level of 3-10 dGH. The average water temperature of the fish tank must be around 20-24°C.
These fishes are peace-loving and extremely shy. Hence, it’s difficult for them to survive in community tanks, where they can easily become victims of aggression and may be unable to compete for food. Thus, Twig fishes are happy only when they share aquariums with their own species. Generally, Twig catfishes can survive up to 15 years.
Bristlenose Pleco belongs to the Loricariidae group. This algae-eater is a great attraction for any aquarium keeper due to its tiny size, large appetite, and robust nature. As a freshwater fish, it can withstand a water temperature range of 23-27˚C and requires water having a pH value of 6.5-7.5.
The most common Plecos has drab hues. But, the Bristlenose Plecos have spotted texture. The gaudy bristles are nothing but modified whiskers like a real catfish. The male Bristlenose Plecos have much larger whiskers marking their easy identification. They can have a maximum length of around 5-inches.
These species of fish are generally peaceful and not territorial. They do not even become aggressive towards other Bristlenose Plecos. Neon Tetras, Platys, Guppies, Bettas, and African Cichlids can be included in the same aquarium as Pleco’s tank mates. A Bristlenose Pleco can live in a fish tank of 25 gallons. The approximate lifespan of these fishes is 12 years.
Their diet must include nutritious biofilms, algae, and rotting wood. It is necessary to keep driftwood in their fish tank as timber is essential for Pleco’s digestion and health. Also, driftwood allows the growth of algae it, which the Bristlenose Plecos can eat. Since these fishes have a huge appetite, sometimes, feed them with algae wafers.
The Otocinclus Catfish is a small-sized freshwater algae eater fish that perform brilliantly as an underwater scavenger. These fishes can enlarge up to a size of 2-inches. Owing to this tiny size, these fishes can move in the water extremely fast.
These fishes stay happy in densely planted aquariums and are particularly inclined towards soft filmy and spongy green varieties of algae. They also eat up the algae build-ups on the aquarium walls. Otocinclus Catfishes can withstand a water temperature of 72-79°F and require a pH range of 6.8-7.5. Also, the water hardness must be maintained between 5-15 dGH.
These fishes are known for their calm demeanor and expert cleaning skills. Being peaceful, these fishes can survive well with other non-violent fishes like Cory Catfish, Guppies, etc. They also do well with freshwater shrimps and snails.
However, avoid making Otocinclus Catfish share tanks with roughens like Oscars, or Goldfishes. These might harm or kill the little catfishes. With proper care, an Otocinclus Catfish can survive for 3-5 years.
It is suggested that these fishes must be kept in a tank of 10 gallons capacity. They breed in the usual fashion in the water tank. The females lay 3-6 eggs in groups.
Epalzeorhynchoskalopterus known to the world as Flying fox is a species of freshwater fish that can be a glory to aquariums. These are beautiful fishes with unique personalities. These aquatic creatures can grow up to a maximum of 6-inches.
Though these are omnivorous yet as long as there are traces of algae in your fish tank, the Flying fox will hunt it and consume it. They also can have meat-based food. But if you continuously feed them with such meat-based fodder, they might completely stop algae consumption, which might hinder their health too.
The recommended tank size for these fishes is 20-40 gallons. The optimum water temperature suitable for this fish type must range between 73-81°F, and it can tolerate water hardness within a range of 2-12 dGH. The pH level should be kept between 6-7.5.
These peaceful fishes can co-exist with a bunch of other fishes like Angelfishes, Acaras, Tetras, Barbs, Gouramis, etc. But with aging, they tend to grow territorial and may attack similar-looking species. In aquariums and fish tanks, the Flying foxes may survive for up to 8-10 years.
The American Flagfish has been named so because the stripes on their body closely resemble the American flag. These puffy little fishes are found in slow-moving, heavily vegetated waters that act as a dense algae source.
They are voracious algae eaters and can help you get rid of excess algae that may cover your aquarium. They also eat up insects that fall inside the aquariums accidentally. If your tank is not populated enough with algae, you might have to supplement these fishes with algae wafers.
Being a native to the state of Florida, these fishes are also known as Florida Flagfish. However, the maximum size that these fishes can grow up to is 2.5-inches.
They can prosper well in tanks of at least 20 gallons, with the water temperature being maintained between 64-85°F. They have a water pH tolerance range of 6.5-8.5. Also, make sure the tank water has a hardness of 2-19 dKH.
The American Flagfish can co-exist with other fishes of the same or larger sizes. Being an energetic species, these fishes must share their tanks with fast-moving water animals like Danios and Tetras. Most American Flagfish possess a lifespan of about 2-3 years, but with care, they might even survive up to 5 years.
Siamese Algae Eater:
Crossocheilus oblongus, commonly known as Siamese algae eater, is an active algae eater of its kind. Having a gentle temperament and constant craving for algae, many fish-keepers prefer these fishes. They can be kept in a group of 4-5.
However, apart from their community, one can keep Red Tail Sharks, Cichlids, Tetras, Danios, Guppies, shrimps, and snails as their tank mates. This species requires a tank capacity of 30 gallons to live in. In general, the Siamese algae eaters can survive for a maximum of 10 years.
The temperature of the tank water in which Siamese algae eaters would be kept should range between 24-26˚C, and the pH should be about 6.5-8. Also, the water must have a hardness of around 5-20 dGH.
The Siamese algae eaters are scavengers, and they will eat whatever they find, including dead fishes and insects. They can feed on vegetation and meaty food, but algae and parasites on the body of other species of fish are their first choices.
They can grow up to a maximum size of 6-inches. But the female Siamese algae eaters are 30% larger than the males. Though they mate in a usual way, they breed in farms under the influence of artificial hormones.
GarraRufa, known as the Doctor fish or Pedicure fish, is a descendant of the Cyprinidae family. They are one of the capable algae eaters and cleaners of the algae-filled fish tanks. The Doctor fishes when young can have a length of 1.5-2.7 inches, and an adult one may have a maximum length of about 5.5-inches.
They are omnivorous and do not have teeth. They mostly feed on algae, loose organic matters along with dead skins and bottom detritus, blood worms, algae flakes, and wafers, etc. Due to their aggressive nature, they should be kept in groups with a minimum member of 4. But it is preferable to keep them aloof from other fishes because they may fight with them.
These fishes may even fight amongst themselves if kept in smaller tanks. Thus, for a Garra, a fish tank of 30 gallons is the best-fitted place for its inhabitation.
The temperature of its aquarium water must be 20-32˚C with a maximum of 36˚C. And the pH value of water should be around 6.8-7.2. Also, make sure the hardness of the fish tank water is about 10-19 dGH. They can live up to 3-4 years in tanks and 5-years in the wild.
Rubber Lipped Pleco:
Rubber-lipped Plecos are one of the species of Plecos that has a sucker-like mouth, from which the name of the species is derived. They belong to the Loricariidae family and can be 4-7 inches long. Though they are catfish by origin, they genuinely look like a Pleco.
They can survive up to 10-12 years with proper care and a good diet. The diet of this fish includes plant-based foods and a variety of algae. They use their sucker mouth for sucking the algae from the tank walls.
The species can inhabit in freshwater tanks having a temperature of around 20-25˚C. The pH value of the water must be 6.5-8, along with a hardness level of 10-15dGH. The Rubber-lipped Plecos can survive well in a tank of a maximum size of 25-30 gallons.
The breeding system is not that fruitful in freshwater for the Rubber-lipped Plecos. There are no such records of their breeding in aquariums. These species of Plecos are incredibly peaceful and do not intend to create any menaces in the tank. They can live with Neon Tetras, Green Tetras, Gouramis, Cory Catfishes, Ember Tetras, etc. together in the same fish tank.
Chinese Algae Eater:
Chinese algae eater is not a very large tank fish, but it will help you greatly to deal with the algae present in your aquarium. These species can be seen in two different colors, i.e., pale-clay color and golden yellow color. These fishes are quite complicated to breed in home aquariums, and hence, they are mostly bred in hatcheries using some hormonal agents.
These fishes feed not only on algae and fouling on plants and stones, but also on small larvae, bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and dry flakes. The mouth of the Chinese algae eaters acts like a sucker using which it sticks onto stones and chafes off the algae.
The fish is a large one, hence, it can grow up to 11-inches in the wild and 5-inches in a tank. And to keep this fish, you require an aquarium of 26–52 gallons, depending on its growth and age. For these aggressive temperament fishes, the water pH must be maintained from 5.8-8 and 75-80oF water temperature. It prefers aquarium water with strong water circulation and more oxygen.
Also, these hardy fishes are mostly compatible with medium-sized tank mates like Cichlids, Swordtails, Clown Loaches, Platys, and Tiger Barbs. The Chinese algae eaters may live up to 10 years at most.
Sailfin Plecostomus are freshwater fishes with territorial nature. They have been named so because of their fins, which look like the sails of a yacht. They are bottom feeders and are omnivorous creatures, with algae as their primary diet.
This species of fish requires ample space for breeding; hence it’s not possible to breed them in fish tanks. They are pretty big fishes and can grow up to 19.7-inches. The suggested tank size to contain Sailfin Plecos is 100 gallons or more, so that they can easily swim around in it.
These fishes can thrive in any water temperature of about 77-79°F, and the pH level must be kept in between 6.5-8. Also, they require a sufficient amount of water hardness between 4-20 dGH. Being cheery and peaceful, Plecos get along with all kinds of fish.
But, as they can develop a taste for slime coating, they can attack fishes like Discuses and Angelfish. Hence it is recommended to keep these fishes away from Sailfin Plecos. The plecos can live up to 20 years in the wild, but their lifespan reduces in aquariums to 15 years.
If anyone is bored with the common varieties of Plecos and snails, then he/ she can go for the black mollies. An adult black molly may range from 2-4 inches in size and have an approximate lifespan of 5 years.
They might not look like an algae eater, but they play a marvelous role in cleaning up a messy tank. The black mollies are excellent at feeding on hair algae that proliferate on the leaves of plants.
It is favorable for a black molly to inhabit a tank of a maximum size of 30 gallons, where they mostly occupy the middle and upper portions of the water column. These aquatic animals can survive in both freshwater and brackish water, having a hardness of 20 dGH.
However, the freshwater of the aquarium should have some specifications so that these fishes can survive in it. The temperature of the water should lie between 20-26˚C, and the pH must range from 7.5-8.2. For reproduction purposes, they need brackish water, as they can’t breed in freshwater.
Black mollies are quite active and peaceful species of fishes. According to their transparency, Guppies, Danios, Tetras, Swordtails, Gouralis, Platies, Betta fishes, and other types of mollies are suitable tank mates for the black mollies.
Best Algae Eater Snails for Freshwater Aquarium:
Nerite Snails, scientifically called Neritina natalensis, belong to the Neritidae family. Their shells are beautiful as they have black-colored zigzag stripes, and hence they are also called tiger snails or zebra snails.
Their attractive outlook, large appetite, hardy nature, and algae-eating trait make the Nerite snails one of the most preferred choices for every aquarium owner. Apart from being a great algae eater, these snails are entirely safe for plants. Hence, they can be kept in any densely vegetative aquarium.
Generally, they are considered freshwater snails, but they can also survive in saltwater tanks. They thrive best in water with a temperature of 22-26˚C and a pH value of 8-8.5. But they require brackish or salty water as their breeding ground because they can’t reproduce in freshwater.
The Nerite snails must be kept in a tank of 10-20 gallons capacity. The aquarium mates with whom they can inhabit are Trumpet Snails, Cherry Shrimp, Mystery Snails, Otocinclus Catfish, Cory Catfish, Ramshorn Snails, and Bamboo Shrimps.
An adult Nerite snail may extend up to an average of 1-inch in length. The size and growth rate of the snails depend on its type. However, these snails can live for only a year.
Ramshorn snail is one of the famous algae-eating species of freshwater snails and belongs to the Planorbidae family. Their shell looks like a rolled-up horn of a ram. These snails can grow up to 1-inch in diameter. They feed on the biofilms of blue-green algae, hair algae, BBA, etc.
Since they are scavengers by nature, they mainly live on algae, dead plants, and plant cells, rotting plants. Their rasp-like tongue is pulled out to retract the food, and after that, it is chewed by their teeth. As they are herbivorous, they can thrive best in a wide range of vegetation. They use their radula-like organ to scratch off the algae on tank glasses.
The breeding process of the Ramshorn snails is similar to the of other snails. In a maximum tank size of 10 gallons, the females lay their eggs on or above the water surface. Within 1-week, the eggs hatch, and the little snails start their lives in the water. These snails live for 1-year.
The Ramshorn snails have a calm temperament. So, they can live with various tank mates like Tetras, Gourami, Rasboras, Danios, Catfish, small shrimps, etc. The tank water should have a pH value of 7-8, hardness 6-12 dGH, and a temperature of 20-25˚C.
Rabbit snail, also known as Tylomelania, is a freshwater snail that is available in almost 50 varieties. These snails are fond of consuming soft algae, which grow on hard surfaces along with decaying plant matter. They do not feed on any plant of the aquarium except for java ferns.
The size of the rabbit snails depends on their age, but on average, they can grow up to 3-5 inches with a long proboscis. They have a lifespan of 1-3 years but can live more if they are lucky enough.
Due to their large size as compared to other snails, they require a tank of at least 30 gallons to fulfill their needs. Also, they prefer 6.5-7.5 pH level water with a temperature range from 68-740F. Besides, they require 2-15 dKH carbonate hardness levels in the tank water for their survival. These snails can become stressed and inactive if the water parameters are too hard to be tolerated.
Since they are calm and non-aggressive, they can be kept with Otocinclus Catfish and different types of snails and freshwater shrimps. However, aquatic creatures like Crayfishes, Goldfishes, Cichlids, and Loaches must be kept away from these snails, as these fishes can attack the Rabbit snails and kill them in no time.
Mystery Apple Snail:
Mystery apple snails belong to the Ampullariidae family and have a maximum diameter of 2-inches. The species possess compound eyes at the tip of the cephalic eyestalk. The mystery apple snails are one of the efficient freshwater algae eaters.
Since they are herbivores, they feed on a variety of algae, dead and rotting plants. They have a pair of tentacles beneath their mouth used for finding food and eating. These tiny cleaners stick onto the glass of the fish tank and scrape off algae from it.
Usually, they can withstand a water temperature of 20-25˚C. These snails can live in the water of hardness 12-18 dKH and pH value of 7.5-8. In a maximum size of 5-10 gallons tank, the mystery apple snail can live with species like Nerite snails, Otocinclus Catfish, Ivory snails, Cherry shrimp, Tetras, etc.
The snails are usually found in the bottom levels of the tank while looking for the food. They breed in the tank waters very rapidly. The females of this species can lay a lot of eggs and hang them in cocoons above the surface of the water. These snails can, however, survive for 1-year.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail:
Hailing from the Thiaridae family, Malaysian trumpet snails belong to the Mollusca phylum. They act as great algae eaters and feed on several varieties of algae like green algae, diatoms, brown algae, and other soft algae. The average lifespan of these snails is 1-year.
Since they are omnivorous, they can live on foods like plant substrates, aquarium plant flakes, and meat foods like fish pellets, shrimp pellets, etc. They can eat debris both on and below the surface of the water.
These snails can dig under the substrate and reach to the uneaten part of the left-over food. They seem to be a good choice for dense vegetative aquariums because they don’t harm any aquatic plant.
The Malaysian trumpet snails can be a maximum of 1-inch long in size. In an aquarium of 10 gallons, they can survive with other tank mates, including Nerite snails, Ivory snails, Mystery snails, Catfishes, Tetras, Guppies, etc.
The temperature of the aquarium water must lie between 70-82˚F, and the pH value should be around 6.5-8. The water should have an average hardness of 6-12 dKH. They breed quickly like the other snails, and thus, can create a group of dozen juveniles in a couple of weeks.
Best Algae Eater Shrimps for Freshwater Aquarium:
Cherry Shrimps are freshwater shrimps, which hail from the invertebrate family of Atyidae. Usually, 5 gallons tank size is preferable for the habitation of the Cherry shrimps. The aquarium water temperature for this species should be kept around 14-29˚C with a pH value of 6.5-8 and hardness level of 6-8 dKH.
These aquatic shrimps are non-aggressive. So they can be left out reliably with other tank mates. Some of the suitable tank mates of Cherry shrimps are Harlequin Rasbora, Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Dwarf Corydoras, Otocinclus Catfish, Dwarf Gouramis, Killifish, Cichlids, Angel Fish, etc.
A fully grown Cherry shrimp can be about 1.5-inches long, and it can live for 1-2 years. The female shrimps carry eggs and breed in dark places so that they can keep their eggs hidden. They can hatch 20-30 eggs in 2-3 weeks.
They are mainly found grazing on the biofilms and sides of the tank hunting down detritus among the gravels. Besides consuming the growing algae in the tank, these organisms also help in preventing the growth of new algae. Holding themselves in a stable position, they use their front legs to grab the pellets or algae flakes and put them in their mouth. Their way of hunting and eating is quite impressive.
The Amano shrimp belongs to the Atyidae family, and they are excellent algae eaters. These shrimps can elongate up to 2-inches in length. They have a translucent body covered with broken lines or reddish-brown colored spots on its two sides.
The Amano shrimps are well-habituated in both saltwater and freshwater. However, they prefer saltwater for laying eggs. The temperature of the freshwater tank must be between 21-26˚C, and the pH value should be approximately 6-7. Keep the carbonate hardness of the water around 7-8 dKH. Usually, they require a tank of a maximum size of 10 gallons.
These species of shrimps feed on a wide variety of algae such as brush algae, string algae, GSA, Clado, etc. They keep searching and foraging in the substrate and plants for debris and algae. These shrimps perform well when kept in a group of 4-5.
Due to their peaceful nature, Amano Shrimps can live with other non-aggressive tank mates like Pearl Gouramis, Bolivian Rams, Blue Rams, Dwarf Neon Rainbows, Black Neons, and Lemon Tetras. These shrimps can survive for 2-3 years if kept in optimal conditions.
The Bamboo shrimp is a freshwater shrimp and like to consume algae and organic detritus like the uneaten fish food. Besides these, almond or oak leaves are also great for feeding the bamboo shrimps. However, sometimes it’s good to provide them with supplements like crushed wafers of algae.
They tend to grow up to 2-4 inches in length. These shrimps possess 4-pairs of fans, instead of claws. While capturing algae flakes and organic debris, they use their fans to scrape off small bits of food. Then with the help of these fans, they transfer food particles in their mouth.
These Bamboo shrimps require a fish tank of at least 20 gallons. Despite their large size, they are very quiet and calm by nature and prefer to stay in groups of 3-4. Thus, they are pretty compatible with cherry shrimp, ghost shrimp, nerite snail, ramshorn snail, and non-aggressive small fishes.
They mostly choose to stay in 7-15 inches water depth with a high water velocity yet avoiding stream margins. Also, these shrimps prefer tank water temperature to be maintained between 75-770F and have a pH range of 7-7.5. Their average lifespan is of 6 years.
Ghost shrimps are freshwater algae-eating crustaceans that are very easy to be cared for. These omnivores are very famous for keeping aquariums clean by eating up uneaten food and balancing the algae level in their habitat. They are always engaged in this cleaning process throughout the day.
These shrimps are transparent, and thus they can easily deceive predators. They can grow up to a maximum size of 1.5-inches. The ghost shrimps shed their shells as they grow, and during this process, they might be vulnerable to attacks.
The Ghost shrimps can survive in water, having a temperature range of 62-85°F and a pH range of 7-8. Warmer water might turn these shrimps aggressive, and they might attack the smaller fishes. Owing to their small size, a 5-gallon fish tank, can be considered as a bare minimum requirement, but preferably larger.
Ghost shrimps are generally peaceful, and this nature makes them prone to be eaten by the larger tank mates. So, for these shrimps, some good tank mates are Characins, Barbs, peaceful Loaches, and small catfishes. Unfortunately, Ghost shrimps can survive only for a year.
So, coming to the end of the article, you must have learned about the top 20 algae eaters that may be suitable for your freshwater aquarium. However, make sure to consider certain factors like tank size, tank mates, and water requirements before buying an algae eater. With a wide range of varieties of algae eaters, you can choose whichever suits your needs and desires. After that, let us know which algae eater you selected for your fish tank in the comment box below.