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9 Best Algae Eaters For Your Aquarium | 2022 Reviews

Algae is always a concern for both veteran and newbie fishkeepers. A certain level of algae is good for your fish tank because it helps filter out things like nitrates and ammonia, but too much of it can be a major problem. 

Keeping algae at bay can be a pain. But did you know that there is a natural way to do just that without having to lift a finger yourself?

Algae cleaning may be a dirty job for you, but it is a piece of cake for algae eaters. Algae eaters, also known as algivores, keep fish tanks clean by eating the algae. This makes them a perfect addition to almost any aquarium. 

Algae eaters can keep your tank from getting cloudy, keep your other fish healthier, and save you a lot of time and money. In this article, we tell you how to choose the best algae eaters for your fish tank.

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What to Consider When Choosing an Algae Eater

It is not enough to know that algae eaters can help keep your tank looking and smelling nice. There are many things to consider when choosing the best fish for cleaning the bottom of your tank. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Density of foliage and hardscape in tank

Things like hardscape and foliage can greatly affect which type (if any) algae eating fish you should get for your aquarium. First of all, you should make sure that the algivore you choose is compatible with the type of plants you have in your tank. If not, it could become ill or even die.

Algae grow on rocks and other hard surfaces in the aquarium. Spores often introduce it on plants. The more plants and hardscape you have, the more algae will grow and the more algae eaters you may need.

Another thing to consider is whether or not the algae eater you choose may also eat the foliage itself, which could be a bit of a disaster. But there are some aquarium fish that eat dead plants, which could be helpful.

Activity and aggression levels of species in the tank

The most important question you should ask before bringing home an algae eater is this: will it fit in with the rest of my fish?

Algae eaters are typically the kind of creatures that stay near the bottom of the tank and do not bother anyone. But if you have aggressive or very active fish, they may make life very stressful for the algivore. Or they may even eat him!

Always check for compatibility with the current residents in your tank before introducing a new species.

Speed of current

Like other fish, algae eaters all have different preferences regarding the water current in the tank. Many prefer calmer waters and get stressed if there is too much current. Others, though, prefer a very fast current.

Make sure you know which camp your prospective algae eater fits into before introducing it to your tank. This is something that you might not be able to alter later.

Oxygenation levels

Even though they live underwater, fish still need oxygen in their water to survive. It is important to do some research to find out what oxygenation level your algae eater needs to stay healthy and happy. When it comes to algae itself, oxygen usually inhibits growth, but the opposite may be true for fish and snails.

Best Algae-Eating Fish  

There are three main types of algae eaters: fish, snails, and shrimp. Now that you know more about how to make a safe home for them, we will start with our top three picks for algae-eating fish.

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese algae eaters are not just useful; they are pretty to boot. They are usually gold or gray with a black stripe. The typical Siamese algae eater is around six inches.

These fish have a calm, docile personality and are equally content in a busy tank or a solitary one. They move quickly and can clean the algae at top-speed. They eat practically anything from algae to flatworms to leftover fish food. These fish do not harm plants and are rarely aggressive. 

Bushymouth Catfish

Catfish are some of the best fish for cleaning the bottom of your tank, and the bushymouth catfish is no exception. This armored, spotted catfish hails from the Amazon basin of Brazil and is terrific at cleaning up algae and other debris. It is a pleco algae eater, meaning that it has a sucking mouth to help it vacuum up its food.

When it comes to bushymouth catfish size, you may be surprised. While most catfish are on the larger side, this one is typically between four and five inches long, making it a good pleco even for a small tank.

Zebra Loach

It does not get more interesting than a zebra algae eater! The zebra loach is a bottom-feeding fish decorated with beautiful brown stripes. They typically grow to around 3 to 5 inches long and snack on almost anything you put in the tank. 

Aside from algae, they also eat fish food and vegetables. They are a peaceful species and usually get along pretty well with other fish. The only catch is that if you want zebra loaches, you have to have a school of at least five; otherwise, they get stressed and act out.

Best Algae-Eating Snails 

When most aquarium enthusiasts think of algae eaters, they think of snails. Snails are some of the most well-loved algivores out there. Here are three of the best.

Mystery Snail

Mystery snails are as fascinating as they are good at eating algae. With some unique features, they are the preferred algae eater among most serious fishkeepers.

Their eyes are located on special stalks that can be regrown if they are ever injured or cut off. Mystery snails also have a wide variety of colorations.

These two-inch snails are happiest in a tank with fish like guppies and tetras, who will not disturb or try to eat them.

Ramshorn Snail

The ramshorn snails are terrific at eating algae and at breeding. You can start with just a couple of these little guys (and gals) and quickly find you have a whole colony of them! This is great if you need a lot of algae cleaning done, but if your tank gets too crowded with these snails, your other fish may eat them. 

These ram horn-shaped snails typically stay under one inch in size and are the best bet for fishkeepers with a lot of plants in their tank. Some snails will eat the plants as well as the algae, but not these.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Malaysian trumpet snails are another snail named for the unique form of their shell. With their long, slender, trumpet shape, these snails are an attractive addition to any aquarium with calm, peaceful community fish.

Like the ramshorn snail, Malaysian trumpet snails tend to reproduce very quickly, which can cause a bit of hassle if you are not expecting it. It may be worth the trouble, though, when you realize that they have a unique way of not just eating algae, waste, and other debris but also aerating the substrate in the bottom of the tank as they search for it.

Best Algae-Eating Shrimp

Shrimp are another great choice for algae eaters. These three are the most preferred choices (and choose wisely, so your fish do not eat them!).

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp are a bright, colorful addition to aquariums full of docile fish. At just 1.6 inches long on average, they can get into all of the nooks and crannies of your tank, taking care of all the grime growing there. They will even eat your fish’s leftovers, which keeps things even cleaner.

Just be careful not to add these shrimp to a tank containing bigger fish like cichlids or angelfish. These fish will eat them for lunch.

Ghost Shrimp

If you are growing hair algae in your tank, the ghost shrimp is the shrimp for you. These teeny, tiny, translucent shrimp multiply quickly, which helps them to clean even more algae. However, be careful as this type of shrimp is also often a tempting snack for fish.

To avoid losing your ghostly little buddies to a dinner rush, give them a place to hide where the other tank residents can not get to them.

Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp are ravenous, and this is great news for your aquarium. They never stop being hungry, so they never stop eating up all the algae.

This type of shrimp gets along with small and medium-sized fish if they are calm, but larger fish may try to eat them.

At just around two inches or less in size, you can easily house several Amano shrimp in your tank, and it is recommended to keep at least three at all times to keep them happy.  

Tips to Get Rid of Algae and Keep it at Bay

Algae eaters aren’t the only way to keep algae levels down (or eliminate it) in your fish tank. If you find that none of these algivores are for you or you want to help yours out, here are some other suggestions for keeping algae from growing in your aquarium.

Change water regularly

This is a good rule of thumb regardless of whether you have algae in your tank or not. Regular 30 percent water changes and optimal filtration are necessary to keep all the dirt, grime, and other gunk from building up. These things help algae (and other things) to grow, so cleaning them out of your tank should keep the water much clearer.

Reduce feedings

If you have owned a fish tank for any amount of time, you will know that uneaten fish food tends to accumulate and cause a dirty tank. This uneaten food can also lead to excessive amounts of nutrients in the water, leading to excess growth of algae and toxic substances. 

If your fish are leaving behind too many bits of food, consider reducing feedings to keep algae (and other grimy things) at bay.

Increase filtration

More filtration equals fewer algae growth. A good three-stage filter helps to clear out toxins and other debris that can build up over time. 

Water pumps and other aeration devices can also be used along with the filter to help keep up the water’s oxygenation levels. This keeps your fish healthier and keeps algae from growing.

Manage artificial light

Light is the key ingredient in algae growth. The more artificial light (or even natural light) your tank gets, the more fuel the algae will get. Using dimmer artificial lights and using them for only a limited amount of time each day can help keep it from overtaking the tank. 

Best Algae Eaters Frequently Asked Questions

What is an algae eater?

An algae eater, or algivore, is a fish, snail, or shrimp that survives by eating the algae that grow in a fish tank, pond, or other body of water. 

How long does an algae eater live?

The lifespan varies from species to species, but most algae eaters live from 5 to 10 years on average. Plecos can live for up to 15 years, however, and some snails only live one.

How do you save a dying algae eater?

This depends on the reason the algae eater is sick. First, check the water parameters (temperature, levels of nitrites and nitrates, ammonia, etc.) to see if anything is off. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eNext, make sure that it is compatible with the other fish and plants in the aquarium. You want to make sure that nothing is attacking it) and that it is getting enough food.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThese checks will usually give you something to go on, and you can try to correct the problem from there.

What do algae eaters eat when there is no algae?

Algae eaters can also eat commercial fish food in the form of algae wafers. As an occasional treat, they can also eat vegetables like zucchini, cucumbers, and kale.

How often should you feed an algae eater?

Algae eaters should be fed daily, but be careful not to overfeed, as they also eat the algae in the tank.

Will vinegar kill algae in a fish tank?

It can, but you should take some serious precautions if you want to use vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is the most recommended. You can use it to clean aquarium glass, decorations, rocks, and plants. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eIf you use it in your aquarium filter, it will lower the pH of your tank. It is important to make sure this will not harm your fish.  

Final Thoughts

There will always be algae issues in fish tanks, ponds, or bodies of water. But a good algae eater can easily take care of those problems for you! It is just a matter of finding the right fit for your tank.

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