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Best Aquarium Algae Eater

The Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Aquariums 2020

Algae eaters fish have been an important area of aquarium keeping hobbyists for keeping a healthy and natural environment that we are all trying to create for our inhabitants.

Because of their effectiveness at removing algae, along with their exotic attributes, they can make excellent inhabitants to your aquarium. In this article we will cover the best algae eaters for freshwater tanks in different categories such as snails, shrimps and finally fish.

In this article, we go into detail on how to select the most suitable cleaning crew inhabitants for your aquarium.  Due to the importance of your aquatic creatures in your tank, its vital to understand how they complete the process of cleaning your aquariums environment, so that it can remain more organic and natural(also by staying away from chemicals).

How to find the Best Algae Eaters for your Fish Aquarium

An algae eater is either a large group of fish or invertebrates that tend to be a bottom-dwelling or algae-eating fish species that feed on algae. Each algae-eater has their own different needs and habitat types.

Factors in your aquarium to select the most suitable algae eaters

Other than analysing water parameters that a inhabitant may thrive in, it is important to evaluate different facets of a tanks environment and it habitants.

  • Behaviour of other members of the tank: This is important, as the present fish may not integrate well with the algae eater that you’ve chosen.
  • Speed of current: Algae eaters tend to prefer currents, where as some do not at all.
  • Oxygenation levels: Some algae eaters need to match the oxygenation levels in the tanks of their natural environment.
  • Density of foliage: The density of the hardscape and foliage in your tank can affect the algae eater if it’s not similar to its natural habitat.

Ultimately, you need to be very considerate when looking out for the perfect algae eater, as you want it to comfortable in its surroundings. When deciding if you’ve found the ideal algae eater, its essential you factor in the husbandry needs of your aquarium fishes as well as the algae-eater that you will be putting into your aquarium habitat.

Aquarium Algae Build Up

More common than not, most algae-eaters from a pet store will happily thrive in a wide spectrum of water environments and conditions. As long as you keep your water quality clean and at an adequate temperature, you’ll only need to factor in the variable personalities of the other creatures in your aquarium in hope they get along with each other

What to factor in before choosing an algae eaters for your aquarium

Another area you need to consider is the type of algae that you have in your aquarium habitat and if you’re new algae-eater will feed on it. For those of you who may be fortunate to have a large aquarium, there may be a chance that you have different types of algae’s, so you may benefit from having a few different species of algae eater.

Aquarium Algae

To help you, we’ve created an overview of the types of algae you may expect to find in your tank:

  • Brown slime algae: This type can be known as dinoflagellates and is symbiotic. This means its perfect at provide nutrients for invertebrates such as snails.
  • Brown algae: Also called diatoms, which is a single cell algae. Very common as its starts off as brown dusting, this quickly becomes a thick mat in a few days.
  • Hair algae: Can also be called filamentous and is a thread type algae. Light green and grows in wispy filaments and attaches to tank surface.
  • Green algae: This is known as algae bloom. This will happen if your tank does not cycle properly or if they get too much lighting!
  • Green spot algae: This is common with aquariums that get too much lighting and will grow against the tank walls.
  • Blue green algae: This is also called cyanobacteria that are pink and red in appearance. Most cases it starts with a singular spots and quickly develops.
  • Black beard algae: This commonly grows around tank plants and is dark purple in color.

What Are The Best Algae Eaters fish species?


1. Siamese Algae Eaters

The most common algae eating fish that you will find in freshwater aquariums is the Siamese fish species. This because they’re absolute power houses in the world of aquarium hobbyists. Typically they are very friendly and peaceful nature fish that can eat a wide variety of algae. This makes them a very desirable algae eater for any aquarium.

Siamese Algae Eater

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.0
  • Size tank suitability: up to 30 gallons
  • Maximum Size: 4 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Furthermore, they are known for eating the more difficult to control algae such as the Black Beard algae. They have also been known to control flatworm populations and detritus remains in your tank.

If you have a particularly leafy and planted aquarium, then the Siamese algae eater is particularly suited towards this environment. Thankfully they are regarded for not damaging or feeding off the plants in your tank whilst grazing on algae.

2. Bristlenose Plecos

A fantastic addition in your aquarium is the Bristlenose plecos. This is down to its small body of around four inches that allow them to integrate within most average sized fish communities.

A funny fact that you may discover about them is that the males over time will develop large whiskers on their faces. Also they’re available in a wide variety of colors such as albino or gold.

Bristlenose Plecos

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: up to 30 gallons
  • Maximum Size: 5 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

The Bristlenose plecos tends to like hiding spots as well for cover, so it may be in your interest to have hiding spots like driftwood in the aquarium.

3. Chinese Algae Eaters

The Chinese Algae Eater is a top contender when it comes to algae eaters for your aquarium. This is because they’re extremely robust and easy to care for. One difference with them when compared to other algae eaters is they come to grow at around 10 inches long.

One factor to look out for is that they tend to become more aggressive when they grow. Although this can be seen as a benefit as they can be kept with larger and mildly aggressive species such as Cichlids.

Chinese Algae Eater

  • Preferred pH level: 6.8 – 7.4
  • Size tank suitability: 30 gallons or more.
  • Maximum Size: 10 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Overall they prefer warmer water temperatures and require a part herbivorous diet in order to have a balanced diet. Moreover they also prefer to have hiding places in objects such as rock caves or drift wood.

4. Otocinclus Catfish Algae Eaters

Another Catfish species that has a very calm demeanour is the Otocinclus Catfish. These are great, especially in community tanks as they get along well with many other bottom-feeders. However unlike the Chinese Algae Eater as previously mentioned, they do not do well with larger and aggressive neighbours in the same aquarium.

Otocinclus Catfish

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: 30 gallons or more.
  • Maximum Size: 2 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

The Otocinclus Catfish is an ideal algae eater if you have problems with brown algae as Otocinclus Catfish particulary prefers this type. Moreover they need a large tank of at least 30 gallons and they prefer to be kept in schools of fish to remain happy.

They’re also great at not harming the surrounding plants in the environment and are specifically good at removing brown algae from your tank.

5. Twig Catfish

The most highly regarded catfish algae-eaters among aquarium hobbyists is the Twig Catfish. This is because they’re becoming more readily available and consumes most types of algae or food.

Despite them being robust species of algae eater that’ll clear any algae from any aquarium, they are one of the most difficult to look after. This is because they require a slight current with high oxygen and immaculate water quality.

Twig Catfish

  • Preferred pH level: 6.0 – 8.0
  • Size tank suitability: at least 12 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: 4 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Furthermore, due to their very shy nature, they are happier to be kept in aquariums with other inhabitants that won’t rival them for food. Despite these points of keeping them happy, Twig Catfish are excellent algae-eaters to keep in your aquarium.

6. Mollies

Mollies aren’t known to be huge algae eaters; however they do tend to feed on algae intermittently. Many people have them as attractive fish that come in many different colors with males also coming in long sword-like projection at the base of their tail.

Mollies tend to be very calm and peaceful natured algae eaters that are extremely happy in groups.

Mollies Algae Eater

  • Preferred pH level: 7.5 – 8.5
  • Size tank suitability: 20 gallons at least.
  • Maximum Size: 2-4 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Overall the Mollie algae eater is an excellent choice for your aquarium. You will not be disappointed with its ability to merge with your other inhabitants to create a happy and colourful community! The one thing to keep in mind is that they tend to reproduce very quickly, so you’ll have to ensure there is plenty of space for them!

7. Whiptail Catfish

A great species of algae eater that do not tend to be difficult to take care of is the Whiptail Catfish. This is down to their peaceful nature and armored body type that should be in a neutral color.

Whiptail Catfish

  • Preferred pH level: 6.0 – 8.0
  • Size tank suitability: 50 gallons at least.
  • Maximum Size: 4 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Typically in the wild they’re found in South America and are becoming increasingly more popular for aquarium hobbyists. They are best kept in groups of at least three to keep happy and tend to be more of a forager as they do not have a sucker mouth.

Moreover they are known to be an Omnivorous, so may find live food such as brine shrimp beneficial to their health. They’re very effective as they can be found to eat, uneaten food and filtering your floor of your aquarium so that makes them effective as preventing algae build up.

8. Common Pleco Algae Eater

A great species of algae eaters that definitely should not be forgotten is the Common Pleco, which is known for being one of the most effective algae eaters out there!

Common Pelco Algae Eater

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: 50 gallons at least.
  • Maximum Size: 4 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

The Common Pleco is a cheap option for anyone, as they’re found in most pet shops. Also due to their share defence spines, they’ll be fine with larger and more aggressive fish in your aquarium.

9. Golden Nugget Pleco

If you’re looking for larger algae eater fish species for your aquarium, then the Golden Nugget Pleco is 100% your type of fish. This is because they’re pretty large at a growth of up to 12 inches and are very capable algae eaters.

Golden Nugget Pleco

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.0
  • Size tank suitability: 55 gallons at least.
  • Maximum Size: 12 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Overall these are great larger algae eaters to keep in your tank, although they can be sensitive to bullying from other fish in the aquarium. This means you should be careful whilst choosing their neighbours and you should provide them with plenty of hiding spots!

Moreover types of objects such as driftwood and large rocks are ideal for the Golden Nugget Plecos. But also consider that it is a omnivorous fish, which means that they do need vegetables as well as meats integrated into their diet.

What Are The Best Algae-Eating Snails?

10. Nerite Snail

One of the best looking and popular species of algae-eating snails is the Nerite Snail, which has a well-known zebra-like pattern on its shell.

The great thing about the Nerite Snail is that they eat every type of algae, even the tougher green spots algae types! – plus they’re very effective at doing so.

Nerite Snail

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 8.5
  • Size tank suitability: 10/20 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: 1.5 Inches
  • Care level difficulty:

Typically they grow just over a 1 inch in length, so are relatively small. But this does mean that you should avoid keeping them in an aquarium with predatory fish.

On situation you definitely need to take care with is if they fall on their back. This is because they struggle to turn over, so you need to be considerate whilst turning them over as they are delicate.

11. Malaysian Trumpet Snail Algae Eaters

The smallest algae eater in this article is the Malaysian trumpet snail. These little beings grow only to just under 1 inch in length!

They can be found to have a variety of different colors for their shells. Similar to the Nerite Snail as previously mention, they will feed on all types of algae. But more importantly, they do not feed on plants, which makes them a safe inhabitant to have in your aquarium!

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

  • Preferred pH level: 7.0 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: At least 10 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: Under 1.0 Inch.
  • Care level difficulty:

The Malaysian trumpet snail is very easy to look after and especially do well in a community aquarium as they have a calm and peaceful nature. Some people tend to have them in large tanks as they reproduce a lot and effectively plow through substrates with no issue in search of food.

12. Mystery Snail

The Mystery Snail is the opposite of the other two mentioned, they tend to grow up to the size of a tennis ball. But this isn’t known typically by the owners as they’re bought as babies.

Mystery Snail

  • Preferred pH level: 7.0 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: At least 10 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: Under 2.0 Inch.
  • Care level difficulty:

The Mystery Snail comes in a multitude of color variants for their shell with yellow being the most popular. They are very common and are found at most pet stores and have their favourite types of algae which include substrate and plant algae.

The Mystery snail is able to look after themselves very well, although can be a target for the more predatory fish when they’re younger, so be cautious on the type of neighbours they keep.

They definitely prefer to be kept in a warmer/tropical tank and will tend to feed on plants, so be sure that they have supplemental feeding to ensure they avoid doing so.

13. Ramshorn Snail

The Ramshorn Snail is a great addition to your aquarium too, as they eat a different variety of algae as well as decaying plants or uneaten food which makes them perfect!  The ideal part about them is that they do not eat live plants either and do particularly well with other small fish species as neighbours.

Ramshorn Snail

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: At least 5 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: Under 1.5 Inch.
  • Care level difficulty:

Although they get along well with smaller and peaceful fishes, they can become a target for cichlids and loaches. They can become great friends with other species such as with other Ramshorn or Nerite snail. They additionally come in two main colors which are either black or red.

What Are The Best Algae-Eating Shrimp?

14. Cherry Shrimp

The Cherry Shrimp is a widely known species of algae eating shrimp for aquariums. They have a bright red tinge color to them and are effective algae cleaner. They tend to be best in groups of to 4, in order to be efficient cleaners.

Cherry Shrimp

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 8.0
  • Size tank suitability: At least 5 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: Under 1.5 Inch.
  • Care level difficulty:

Cherry Shrimp tend to be very easy to care for as long as there are plenty of algae to feed off. The Cherry Shrimp tend to do best whilst in planted aquariums as they can get along with other calm natured creatures, as they potentially may be seen as prey with larger and more carnivorous fishes such as loaches.

Ultimately these are one of the best species of algae eaters and should be useful at consuming algae in trick places that other species of algae eaters cannot reach!

15. Amano Shrimp Algae Eaters

A final great mention of an effective algae eater species is the Amano Shrimp. This is because they’re perfect for small aquariums as they only grow up to only 2 inches. They definitely do better by being in groups of four or more in order to be effective.

Cherry Shrimp

  • Preferred pH level: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Size tank suitability: At least 5 gallons.
  • Maximum Size: 2.0 Inches.
  • Care level difficulty:

Furthermore they are a slightly larger species of shrimp, which enables them to better to defend themselves, meaning they can be kept in larger community tanks. They have a great ability of tackling any type of soft algae such as decaying plant matter or uneaten fish food.

Similar to other shrimp species they can become a target of larger species such as cichlids or goldfishes. Overall they are a great species for eating various types of algaes and decaying plant matter.

Conclusion: Which is the best algae eater?

When it comes to your aquarium well-being, there is no one-algae eater is perfect for all aquariums. Different aquariums have different types of algae, as discussed there are many different types of factors that can affect the type of algae you have.

This means you have to research options of the best type of algae eater is suitable for your tank, which could be dependent on the types of inhabitants you have in your aquarium and the size or type of environment it has.

About The Author

the aqua guru author

Jon is an aquarium keeper of over 15 years and the owner of Guppy's, Betta's and other marine life. He always likes to make changes to his aquarium for the benefit of his marine life's well-being and health using the best aquatic products on the market. You can read more about us here.