Best Algae Eaters: Fin-tastic Facts On Algae Eating Fish For Kids

Height, Age, Net Worth, Biography & More

Tanya Parkhi
Feb 04, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
a rocky seabed with algae
Age: 3-18
Read time: 12.2 Min

Tired of trying to combat algae growth in your fish tank, but to no avail?

You may be introducing the wrong type of algae eater into your tank, or may not be taking care of them properly. Different algae eaters get along with different species of fish, so it is important to pair them up correctly.

Algae eater is a blanket term for different types of fish, shrimp, snails or crabs which eat algae. These are a very useful addition to any tank, as they naturally help to eliminate algae growth and decrease the need to manually clean tanks. Depending on your needs, you can buy groups of these creatures so that they can reproduce (reproduction and the number of offspring depends on the type of algae eater), or you can buy them in limited numbers to prevent overpopulation.

If you enjoyed this article, do check out our pages on Amano shrimp facts and best pet lizards.

What are algae eaters and why are they called so?

Algae eaters, or algivores, refer to a type of bottom feeding fish which consider algae and other decaying organic matter as their primary source of food. They are actually an integral part of the aquarium ecosystem, and help to keep the tank naturally clean by polishing off and algae or waste material present in the tank, and preventing any overgrowth.

Most algae eating snails, fish and shrimp are kept in freshwater aquariums. The efficiency of these creatures depends on their number, surroundings, tank conditions and tank mates. They must be kept with peaceful tankmates who do not view them as prey. Do be careful while adding algae eaters to a planted aquarium, as some of them may feed on the plants as well as the algae present on them. Different algae eaters will prefer different types of algae, so it is important to do your research before buying these for your tank. Some shrimps and snails make great ornamentals as well as functional additions to the tank, making them brighter and more interesting! Decorating your tank to fit the algae eaters needs is also important, providing clean substrate, plenty of decorations for shrimp and smaller fish to hide in, and good water conditions.

What is the best hair algae eater?

Hair algae is a common type of green algae which is known to plague many aquarium owners. They grow as a dense, fluffy coat of filaments, which can cover tank walls if not contained in time. They can appear due to an imbalance of nutrients in a tank, during a cycling phase, and can be quite difficult to get rid of if the balance remains skewed.

They mostly appear where a number of live plants are present, and can cause overgrowth due to an excess of light and imbalance of CO2. Once a number of algae eaters are introduced into the tank, this problem can be easily solved. however, not many species of algae eaters are open to feeding on this stubborn type of algae. The right algae eater species to combat hair algae are those who are open to eating all types of algae. These include the Siamese algae eater fish, Otocinclus catfish, cherry shrimp, and nerite and mystery snails. Most snails and shrimps are open to eating hair algae, however make sure to do your research before introducing any type of algae eater into your tank, to make sure that it will eat algae of the desired type.

Giant kelp grows in a thick underwater forest

What are the best algae-eating fish?

There are a large number of algae eaters. We have compiled a list of the most popular and easily available ones. The best freshwater algae eaters are listed below.

Siamese algae eaters: these freshwater fish are quite efficient at eating algae in your tank, and their small size makes them suitable for aquariums with lesser capacity. They are known to make quick work of any type of algae, ranging from red algae to brown algae, even including bubble and black beard algae varieties! Though algae is their primary source of food, Siamese algae eaters will learn to eat other food such as opellets as well as they grow, meaning that they are at their most efficient while young. It is one of the few fish species that will eat black beard algae or hair algae, which can prove quite difficult to combat. It can be quite difficult to find genuine Siamese algae eaters, as they are often mislabeled or confused with Siamese flying foxes, a similar variety that will not help to defend your tank against growing algae. They are also often confused with Chinese algae eaters. However, the latter are more aggressive and much bigger in size.

Otocinclus catfish: also known as dwarf suckers, these peaceful catfish adjust well in tanks under 10 gal (37.9 l). Their small size helps them to fit in tiny spaces, and finish off any algae growing there, and due to this they are considered by many as the best algae eater! Their maximum growth size is only 2 in (5 cm), which makes them great for nano tanks as well! These fish are shy and must be kept in groups of five or more, in order for them to remain happy and healthy. Though Otocinclus catfish will polish off any type of algae, they are particularly fond of brown algae. Along with this, they must also be provided with quality algae wafers to keep them in the best of health.

Molly fish: though these small fish feed on bloodworms and fish flakes as well, algae still remains their number one source of food. There are many varieties of molly fish, ranging from yellow to black mollies. They are generally peaceful fish, and get along well with other compatible fish in their tanks. They have seemingly endless stomachs, meaning they can always be seen picking at any growing algae, and they reproduce quite easily as well. They may however require aquarium salts to thrive, as most Molly fish are raised in brackish farms.

Hillstream loach: these unique looking fish have flat, squishy bodies which give them quite an eerie appearance. Their flat bodies help them to easily attach themselves to rocks and tank walls. They thrive well in aquariums with high flow, with their activity levels being observed to decrease greatly in stagnant or low flowing environments. They are also quite the escape artists, so providing a lid is necessary to prevent them from flopping onto the floor! Though they are primarily algae eaters, it is very important to supplement their diets with spinach leaves and algae wafers in order to keep them healthy.

Guppies: considered as a very popular choice of fish in the aquarium trade, these fish are secretly algae eaters as well. Though most owners will purchase them for their peaceful and cooperative temperament and colorful looks, these fish also play a role in keeping the tank clean and algae free. One drawback of Guppies however is that they tend to reproduce very quickly, and not keeping a check on them can lead to overproduction of fry, which may be consumed by other fish and often the guppy parents themselves! To prevent this, you can buy a few guppies of the same sex to ensure that they don't procreate.

Common pleco: these prolific algae eating fish, often bought by unsuspecting owners as babies, can grow up to 15-24 in (38-61 cm) and outgrow smaller tanks quite swiftly! They are stunning in appearance, with their long, slender bodies and jet black bodies, beautifully patterned with white. They also have armor plating and huge soulful eyes. It is not advised to house these fish with smaller varieties, as they may feed on shrimp and tiny fish is they find the opportunity. The ideal tank size for these Plecos is a 100 gal (378.5 l) tank.

Bristlenose catfish: also known as the bristlenose pleco, this fish is named after its snout, which is covered in fleshy bristles or tentacles. The bristles of males are much longer than those of females, and often extend pat their head. They are very proficient at eating algae, and can polish off algae from glass, wood and rocks quite easily. Unlike their larger relatives, the beautiful common pleco, these fish are more commonplace and reasonably sized. Juvenile bristlenose plecos are perfect for a tank size between 15-20 gal (56.8-75.7 l), however they may need to be moved to a bigger tank once they reach their full size of 6 in (15 cm).

Other than fish, there are a number of varieties of shrimp and snails which are also great algae eaters, and help to keep the tank clean.

Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi): these freshwater algae eating shrimp are named after the vivid red color of their shells. Though they are also available in green, blue, yellow and orange, the name 'cherry shrimp' has stuck as a common name for this species. A large group of these shrimp can help to remove algae in no time. Though they do not get rid of the more annoying varieties of algae such as hair algae, they are still one of the most visually appealing algae eaters on the list, and watching them polish off your tank can be quite entertaining! The only problem is finding co-operative tank mates, as many larger fish may view them as prey and finish them off.

Amano shrimp: named after renowned aquascaper Takashi Amano, these fantastic algae eaters are quite interesting to watch, as they scurry among the tank looking for food. They are on the larger side as far as shrimps go, measuring around 2 in (5.1 cm), meaning that they can be housed with larger fish. They have a beautifully patterned shell, and can provide a certain natural aesthetic to the tank. They also help to get rid of the pesky black beard and hair algae, though only in small quantities at a time. To see a noticeable difference in the status of algae in your tank, it is recommended to buy them in groups of four or more.

Nerite snail: a species of snail which sports beautifully patterned shells, these ornamental creatures are great at clearing out algae. Nerite snails are quite adept at clearing out difficult to reach green spot algae on glass, decorations, driftwood and tank corners. When kept in freshwater, their eggs will also refrain from hatching, which will prevent an out of control population as seen with other snails. Along with algae, they must be provided with a source of calcium in order to keep their shells healthy. There is a variety of Nerite snails to choose from, with choices such as olive, tiger, zebra, horned, and red racer. They are not picky, and are fond of every type of algae which can grow in your tank. Be sure to keep your sandy substrate clean, for these bottom feeders to stay hygienic and healthy.

Bamboo shrimp: these freshwater shrimp are quite convenient, as they only reproduce in saltwater. Also known as Singapore flower shrimp, these critters can help toi polish off any type of dead and decaying matter- including algae- and are very co-operative as long as all other species in the tank are peaceful, and no aggressive fish are present. They range in color from tan to dark brown, but once they become comfortable in their surroundings, they tend to turn a vibrant red or a beautiful cerulean blue. They are one of the largest freshwater shrimp, ranging in length from 1.5-3.5 in (3.8-8.9 cm).

Trumpet snails: these snails have unique cone shaped snails, which make them a great ornamental addition to your tank. They can be found in rusty brown and more rarely, in black. They are nocturnal in nature, and do their scavenging and feeding at night time. These snails are useful in tanks which contain live plants.

Mystery snail: the mystery snail, also known as the apple snail, is a detrivore, it eats up all types of decaying organic matter. Besides algae, they also feed on leftover fish food and dying plant material. They get along well with many shrimp species, peacefully coexisting along with smaller fish. They are very shy and rarely interact with other members of the tank, instead feeding peacefully on their own. They are nocturnal in nature, and will be seen doing nothing during the day.

Ghost shrimp: referring to a variety of freshwater shrimp, these scavengers can help to keep your tank clean and healthy by feeding on any unwanted material. They can be kept single or in groups, and an overpopulation of these small shrimp can be used to feed larger fish. They are always active, and can be seen scuttling along the tank, using their tiny limbs to scrape off any growing algae. As inferred from their name, these shrimp are either transparent or translucent, and can have colorful dots on their bodies depending on the species. This transparency helps them to evade predators.

What are the best algae eaters for a goldfish tank?

The best Algae eaters for goldfish tanks consists of small algae eaters, as goldfish themselves are pretty small.

Nerite snails, trumpet snails, rubber-lipped plecos and longfin bristlenose plecos are recommended to house in the goldfish community tank, as these species get along well together and will keep the tank clean. Goldfish themselves do feed on algae themselves, however they require the help of true algae eaters like snails and shrimp in order to make a sizable dent in the growth.

How do you save a dying algae eater?

Algae eaters may take time to adapt to the water quality. Make sure that you buy them from a reputable breeder, and ask that they have survived in similar water conditions for at least two weeks beforehand to ensure that they will thrive in your tank.

Do not house smaller algae eaters such as shrimps and snails with larger fish, as they may see them as prey and hunt them down. It is also important to supplement their diet with algae wafers, as many species cannot survive on algae alone. Make sure to keep the substrate clean and healthy, as many algae eaters are bottom feeders, and unhygienic substrate can impact their health negatively. For a few species such as schooling fish and shrimp, make sure to house them in a group so that they do not feel stressed or die of loneliness.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Best Algae Eaters: Fin-tastic Facts On Algae Eating Fish For Kids then why not take a look at Are Sharks Afraid Of Dolphins? Unveiling Sharks Vs Dolphins Attack!, or Are Skunks Nocturnal? Must Know Facts On Smelly Skunks For Kids?

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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