Best Algae Eaters For A Balanced Aquarium in 2022

The term “algae” refers to a diverse group of organisms that can produce oxygen through photosynthesis. It’s the process of harvesting light energy from the sun to generate carbohydrates. These creatures aren’t always connected to each other. Certain characteristics link them together while separating them from the other main group of photosynthetic creatures, terrestrial plants.

Nothing is more aggravating than waking up to see your fish tank completely coated in a coating of green. Algae is a prevalent problem in freshwater aquariums, but it is a very straightforward issue to resolve. You might be startled to hear that most tap water contains significant phosphorus. If you have an abundance of these nutrients in your tank, you’re more likely to see fast algae development. Having real plants in the tank can sometimes assist with this since they fight for the same nutrients as the algae.

Many aquarium enthusiasts believe that the presence of algae in their tank indicates that the tank is unclean. While algae might make your tank appear unclean, it is more likely to grow in a clean environment. The more thoroughly you clean your tank, the more potential algae growth will appear.

It’s an algae eater, also known as an algivore. This term is used to describe a variety of bottom-dwelling or algae-eating organisms that consume algae. Algae eaters have long been a staple of the aquarium hobby, helping maintain the natural ecology we attempt to recreate.

They are wonderful additions to your aquatic family. It’s because of their algae-removal abilities and unique appearance and behaviors.

Types of algae 

  • Blue-Green Algae

These are often known as cyanobacteria. They grow in unclean substrates, filters, and tanks with inadequate circulation. It can also thrive in environments with low nitrate levels and high amounts of other nutrients.

  • Green Spot Algae 

This alga leaves spots on your tank’s glass and plant foliage. It thrives in tanks with low CO2 and phosphate levels and tanks with lights left on for too long throughout the day.

  • Staghorn Algae

This alga produces antler-like filaments that range in color from dark green to grey to black. Staghorn algae prefer filthy substrates and low C02 levels.

  • Brown Algae

Brown algae flourish in low light and nitrate- and phosphate-rich water and are more likely to form in new tanks. It usually appears as fluffy patches on the substrate and rocks. You can also find it on the glass and aquarium ornaments.

  • Green Hair Algae  

This species of algae produce wispy, hair-like growths that can grow to be a foot long or more. Hair develops best in high-light environments with low CO2 and nitrate levels.

  • Brush Algae  

Brush algae is a type of algae that grows on the leaves of slow-growing plants and inside tank filters due to high kH or low CO2 levels.

  • Green Water

This is an indication of too much light or too much ammonia. Still, it might also signify too many other nutrients or overfeeding. 

Types of Algae eaters 

  • Freshwater 
  • Saltwater 

13 algae eaters for freshwater tanks

  • Amano Shrimp 

As long as the common laws of the fish count are maintained, Amano Shrimp may be kept in tanks of practically any size. Like any other living entity in a tank, Amano Shrimp creates waste and taxes the ecosystem. Amano Shrimp is like a setting with many live aquarium plants because it gives them exciting places to climb. They also like swimming from plant to plant, searching for new areas to investigate or hide.

  • Reticulated Hillstream Loach

The Hillstream Loach is a fascinating little fish that thrives on minute crustaceans and larvae (aufwuchs) found in algae. This loach is timid and won’t show up in your home aquarium very often. They are incredible tiny fish in that they require a lot of oxygen in their aquarium to thrive. Because Hillstream Loaches consume algae, the tank in which they should be placed should be well established. A fresh tank does not appear to have any algae immediately away. They should be fed algal wafers, Mysis shrimp, or blood worms of high grade.

  • Nerite snails 

Nerita species can be found in tropical seas in the intermediate and higher intertidal zones worldwide. They are herbivores who live in groups.

The thick shell is low-spired and widely oval or globular. It has a silky smooth finish. Spiral ribs or axial sculpturing can be found on the shells. Small pustules might be seen on the callus. The columella’s opening and margin are frequently dentate, with tiny or strong teeth. The calcareous operculum is a thick, granular structure that can be smooth or granular. Thick spiral threads encircle the whorls.

  • Cherry shrimp 

These tiny aquatic rubies are one of the most extensively marketed decorative shrimp species.

They’re tough if the water conditions are kept consistent, and they’ll quickly reproduce in the aquarium. Cherry shrimp are excellent at devouring several varieties of hair algae and leftover fish food. They come in various hues, but the most popular is a bright red. They are friendly with the smaller fish as they don’t eat them. 

  • Octocinulus catfish 

Otocinclus is a freshwater catfish genus belonging to the Loricariidae family. Otocinclus is a genus with 19 species in various sizes and colors. They’re also known as “Otos” or “dwarf suckers.” Most fish are brought to a tank for aesthetic reasons. Still, Otos offer an additional benefit: they are excellent at cleaning algae.

If your tank’s algae are out of control, these fish will perform wonders and graze the algae down rapidly.

  • Siamese algae eater 

For years, siamese algae eater fish have been a go-to option for freshwater aquarists of all skill levels. That trend isn’t going away anytime soon. They’re gregarious and entertaining communal fish that get along with almost any other species in your aquarium.

They’re also low-maintenance and don’t require much attention to thrive. For many tank owners, this is a big selling point.

  • Florida flag fish 

The Florida Flagfish is a beautiful and tranquil fish found across Florida. This small, mostly tranquil species has a wide range of bright colors. They’re full of color while reproducing. Males are the most colorful, although females are frequently colorful as well. The American Flagfish is a powerful algae eater. It’s one of the few species that will eat bothersome black beard/brush algae. It is a superb show fish in the community and planted aquarium. It may be used to manage algae and consume bug larvae in an outdoor pond.

  • Bristlenose plecostomos

Bristlenose Plecos are herbivores who consume mostly algae. It’s ideal for feeding them algae or spirulina wafers once or twice a day. Granules, flakes, and bloodworms are very tasty.  Just be careful not to overfeed. Whether plecos are well-fed, their coloring is bright. It makes it easy to identify when their nutritional demands are fulfilled. The Bristlenose Pleco will spend part of its time searching for algae and other debris in the substrate, like any catfish. It is a huge benefit because it means a much cleaner tank.

  • Molly fish 

Mollies are one of the most popular aquarium fish and one of the most effective algae eaters. Most people have had one or more of the gentle fish-eating intriguing algae livebearers in their aquarium. Many people mistakenly assume that there is just one variety of molly available in fish stores. Three distinct species are available in the aquarium trade. Only at that moment will all of the mollies available be so hybridized that it will be impossible to tell which species they came from.

  • Rosy Barb & Cherry barb

The pink and cherry barbs are reported to feed mostly on hair-type algae (staghorn or other). These two fish are among the greatest possibilities for treatment if your freshwater aquarium has a major hair algae problem. Both are stunning communal tank fish, but cherries are the nicer of the two.

The cherry barbs will not transcend 2 inches, whereas the rosy barbs can grow up to 6 inches. The cherry barb fish’s small maximum size makes it an ideal algae eater for a 10-gallon freshwater aquarium. This fish will seldom grow to be more than 2 inches (5 cm) long, making it ideal for tiny aquariums.

  • Scribbled Rabbitfish 

The Scribbled Rabbitfish is a popular saltwater fish due to its colorful appearance and algae-eating habits. It eats filamentous brown, green, blue-green, and red microalgae. Rabbitfishes are excellent algae eaters, preferring meaty macroalgae over microalgae. If options are limited, they will likely be useful in suppressing hair algae. It’s particularly bryopsis.

  • Tuxedo Urchin 

Tuxedo urchins are little sea urchins with wide color stripes running between their spine rows. Tuxedo urchins are usually blue or black, although they can also be red.

Like other urchins, tuxedos feed on algae. They are greedy feeders who will scour your tank for whatever algae they may locate regularly. They’ll also climb on your glass and clean up after themselves. Unlike other urchins, Tuxedos will not bulldoze your coral or rock work. However, little frags or empty hermit crab shells may become hitchhikers on the urchin’s back. Tuxedos use these objects to disguise themselves from predators.

  • Sea hare 

Only a few medical researchers and marine aquarium hobbyists may be familiar with sea hares, which are marine gastropod mollusks. They acquire their name from the two rabbit-ear-like tentacles on the top of their heads, known as rhinophores. They are utilized for scent. Instead, sea hares employ toxic secretions from their skin to ward off predators. They may also squirt or blast a cloud of purple ink. Lobsters and crabs feast on them. Humans who try to eat sea hares can become sick, even if sea hare eggs are eaten raw and fried as a delicacy.

7 best for Saltwater tank, algae eater

  • Lemon peel angelfish 

A Lemon Peel Angel is another large but not enormous alternative. However, most dwarf angels have been observed picking at liverock and are classified as algae eaters. When it comes to angels, Lemon Peels are often considered the best. Many hobbyists who have possessed a Lemon Peel claim that hair algae and bryopsis immediately established themselves in their tank after their angel died. They are not fussy eaters and will eat anything put in front of them.

  • Coral banded shrimp 

The Coral Banded Shrimp is a common saltwater invertebrate that may be found in various marine aquariums. In the aquarium, they are generally found in narrow cracks or hanging upside down on living rock.

They spend most of their time in concealment and are rarely seen roaming about. They must get their fair share of food when it’s time to eat. This may need a feeding stick and the food placement immediately in front of them for them to grip. They tend to pinch corals and anemones in search of food. It’s probably not a suitable option for reef aquariums.

  • Quoyi parrotfish 

Parrotfish (Scaridae) are good algae eaters for the reef, but certain species may also consume rock corals. Although there are rare exceptions, most of these fish will grow beyond large for most residential aquaria. The fact that parrotfish consume a lot and frequently must be considered.

It’s beneficial to have a lot of algae in the aquarium for them to feed on. Between the stones, these fish will slumber in a mucus cocoon. Scarus quoyi is appropriate for coral aquaria and is the most commonly found species in tanks. It has a voracious appetite. Thus thorough filtration is required in the tank.

  • Mexcian turbo snail 

Turbo Snails are another voracious snail that can clean glass and rocks. They originate in Mexico’s Gulf of California, as their name implies. These snails are noted for eating hair algae, although they may consume various algae. While these snails are excellent workers, they do have some drawbacks. They’ll clean the tank from top to bottom, including the rock formations. It means that they may accidentally knock down fragile rocks or coral frags with their shell when moving around. It isn’t a big deal. For others, it might not be worth it. The most vexing problem is that they cannot turn themselves over.

  • Coral beauty dwarf angel 

This saltwater dwarf angelfish can be found munching on algae in shallow reef regions and lagoons. This fish also exists as a deep water species that may be found in deeper open seas. On the other hand, this tiny 3-4′′ species will rarely travel out into open water or leave the reef and lagoons’ shallow food-rich zones.

These fish will repeatedly pick at a sessile invertebrate, causing harm or death. Like most other Centropyge species, the Coral Beauty does not grow to be particularly large. It still requires a medium-sized aquarium with lots of open water to swim around and hiding spots and rocks to collect algae from.

  • Peppermint shrimp 

Peppermint shrimp are omnivores who eat leftovers and occasionally pick at algae. They will also devour nuisance Aiptasia anemones, making them a great alternative for treating this problem. When dealing with an established aiptasia condition, they work best in groups. They’ll make good pets in your tank because they’re colorful and have intriguing behavior. Most hobbyists can be trained to feed them when they approach the tank by conducting a dance on the front glass in a short amount of time. This hermaphroditic species gets along well with other Lysmata species in groups. 

  • Kole tang 

The Eye of the Yellow Kole Tangs is a calm and reasonably priced saltwater aquarium fish. The body is oval, with a strong spine at the base of the caudal fin. This spine is a distinguishing feature of all Tangs and Surgeonfish. It is utilized as a slicing weapon when demonstrating hostility against other fish or in self-defense. The Kole tang is perfect for a communal tank. This fish won’t bother your crabs or shrimp, and it won’t nip at your corals. Therefore it’s deemed reef safe.

How to pick a suitable algae eater for a tank?

Algae eaters are species that live on algae as a food source. However, not all organisms consume all forms of algae. Therefore it’s vital to find an algae eater who will eat the particular algae inside your tank. Snails, shrimp, clams, and some fish, such as some varieties of catfish, are popular algae feeders.

It’s important to remember that algae eaters might not even be able to exist only on live algae growth. In many situations, sinking wafers or pellets and fresh vegetables may be required to complement your algae-eating pet’s diet. Do your homework before purchasing an algae eater to verify that you can meet its tank requirements. As you would any other fish species, you must be cautious about overfeeding your algae eaters. This may increase your algae problem. The best general rule is to feed your fish two or three tiny meals. Only give them as much of it as they can take in around two minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. What is the best algae eater for an aquarium?

  • Amano Shrimp 
  • Peppermint shrimp
  • Coral beauty dwarf
  • Kole tang 

Q2. Does placo eat algae?

Yes, Plecos are known as “janitor fish” since they are scavengers who consume and clean up after themselves. They are ideal for aquarists who are just starting.

Q3. How many algae eaters are sufficient for my tank?

Not more than 3. It depends on the type of algae you want to clean. 

Q4. How many gallons does placo need?

75 gallons

Q5. What do suckerfish eat?

Algae, insects, zooplankton 

By Stefani Igaz

Stefani Igaz is 26 years old writer and editor from Brussels, Belgium. She is writing about maritime business, shipbuilding and offshore for Europe and Asia regions.