If you have an aquarium, you’re probably wondering: do fish eat algae? The short answer here is yes, fish do eat algae. However, with that said, not all fish eat all types of algae. Certain fish enjoy eating certain types of algae and some don’t eat it all, so you do have to find the right fish.
Keep in mind that fish that eat algae should not be the only part of your aquarium’s cleanup crew.
There are many other algae eaters out there, such as algae-eating shrimp and algae-eating snails, all of which we are going to cover in today’s article.
Something to note here is that although fish may be able to eat more algae in terms of quantity, snails and shrimp tend to be far less picky algae eaters, and will usually eat most types.
Table of contents
- Types Of Algae Found In Aquariums
- 10 Helpful Algae Eater Fish:
- What Is The Best Algae Eating Fish?
Types Of Algae Found In Aquariums
There are various different types of algae which you may find growing in your fish tank. You may think that the type of algae is irrelevant, but when it comes to getting the right fish for eating and getting rid of the algae it is quite important to know the differences.
Not all fish will eat all types of algae, so depending on what kind of algae you have you will want to get different algae-eating fish.
Let’s quickly go over the different kinds of algae that could be in your fish tank.
Green Water: This is the first kind of algae you may find and it is actually the rarest of them all, not to mention that it’s the worst too, which is why we’re getting it out of the way.
Algae eating fish won’t eat this stuff and it’s very hard to get rid of, often warranting a complete overhaul of your fish tank and the changing of water.
Gold Slime: This stuff looks like slime and can appear in dots on the glass of your aquarium as well as on the fixtures.
This algae is quite common and most often appears in aquariums that have a low light level or are new. This type of algae is readily eaten by fish and is also fairly easy to wipe away.
Green Slime: This is perhaps the most common type of aquarium algae, but it’s also the kind that is seen the least by enthusiasts because it is eaten by almost all fish.
Thread Algae: There are various types of hair or thread algae and they all take on the appearance of thin strands that wave about in the current.
Brush Algae: This kind of algae most often appears on plants, especially those with rough edges and it has the appearance of thick tufts of hair. This stuff is hard to wipe away and therefore it’s useful to have some algae eating fish.
Green Dot Algae: This is a very common type of algae that forms in green dots along the glass of your aquarium as well as the fixtures.
It isn’t too bad when there is only a little of it, but it can quickly multiply to create a thick layer on the glass. Unfortunately most fish will not eat this algae, and the ones that do won’t have a big effect on it.
Blue/Green Algae: This is also a common type of algae found in fish tanks and is of course blue or green in color.
It doesn’t attach well to the surfaces in the aquarium and tends to float around. The real problem with this type of algae is that it is not edible for most kinds of fish due to its toxicity.
Red Algae: is covered separately here.
10 Helpful Algae Eater Fish:
1. Bristlenose Pleco
The Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most voracious algae eaters out there and it absolutely loves eating green algae. but may also eat other types as well.
In terms of the amount it can it, the bristlenose pleco is hands down one of the best algae eaters out there. This is a great addition to any community tank, as it’s not a huge fish, growing to only about 4 inches long, so it won’t take up too much space in the tank.
Moreover, this is a very peaceful bottom-feeding suckerfish that really doesn’t bother other fish at all. Just make sure not to house the with large fish that may bully the pleco, because these guys won’t really be able to defend themselves.
Thanks to the fact that this is technically a type of catfish, you will notice that the males develop really long and thick whiskers, just like other catfish.
Something else that makes the bristlenose pleco stand out among other fish is that it comes in a wide variety of color combinations, so you can find one that creates some nice color contrast with the rest of your tank.
2. Siamese Algae Eater
When it comes to the best algae eaters out there, the Siamese Algae Eater is by far one of the most effective weapons in your arsenal.
The reason for this is because the Siamese Algae Eater will eat virtually every and any variety of algae out there. These fish will eat hair algae, and of course, not many other fish eat hair algae and beard algae, so this is a really big bonus.
Simply put, whatever kind is in your tank, the Siamese Algae Eater will most likely eat it. They even eat certain types of worms and all sorts of detritus too.
The Siamese Algae eating fish will grow to 6 inches in length, making it a good option for small to medium size tanks. Moreover, this algae eater is also a very peaceful fish, making it an ideal addition to any community tank of peaceful inhabitants.
In terms of their appearance, they feature a pale grey or gold body, complete with a black stripe down the center, making for some great contrast if you have some brighter fish in the aquarium along with them.
3. Chinese Algae Eater
Although the Chinese Algae Eater is technically not the best algae eating fish out there, it is still an algae eater, and it particularly enjoys eating green algae. That said, it’s not the most voracious eater of algae in the world, but that said, this fish does come with a big bonus.
This fish can grow up to 10 inches in length, making it quite the sizable aquarium inhabitant. Moreover, although it can be quite peaceful as a juvenile, it can become fairly aggressive and territorial as an adult. They have no problems defending themselves against other fish.
So, although it’s technically not one of the best algae eaters out there, it does come with the advantage of being able to survive in a tank setup where some of the other tank mates may be large and aggressive, such as a cichlid tank setup. Keep in mind that unlike the Siamese variety, this fish is not a part of the catfish family.
While it may also not be the most beautiful fish that you could put in a tank, or the hungriest, it will still help control algae growth.
Something else to note about this particular species of fish is that while it is generally hardy and resilient, it does need a clean tank, as an unclean tank can quickly lead to disease.
4. Otocinclus Catfish
As you may have noticed by now, when it comes to eating algae, many species of fish which belong to the catfish family tend to be some of the best algae eaters out there, and yes, this goes for the Otocinclus Catfish as well.
Although they may not eat hair algae or beard algae, they do enjoy eating the more common types, such as the green variety and brown algae too, among others.
In general, these fish make for great tank cleaners, as they are bottom feeders that will also eat uneaten fish food and all sorts of detritus too.
What you should know about the Otocinclus catfish, is that besides being one of the best algae eaters out there, is that it is also an extremely peaceful community fish.
These fish won’t ever start problems with their tank mates. With that being said, you do want to keep these little fish in small schools, as they are schooling fish and do not like to be kept alone.
Seeing as this fish grows to about 1.5 inches in length at the most, keeping a small school of them should not be a problem, and this is the case even if your tank is not all that big.
People also just really like this fish due to its gold and white marbled pattern, or in other words, it does look pretty cool.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail
Ok, so let’s take a break from fish, because, besides various species of fish, there are also many snails which make for great algae eaters, with the Malaysian Trumpet Snail being one of the best algae eating snails out there.
This type of snail will eat virtually any and every form of algae that can be found in a fish tank. Moreover, they just make for great tank cleaners in general.
The reason for this is because they are detrivores, a fancy way of saying that they eat rotting plant matter and food, or detritus in other words. In fact, the Malaysian Trumpet snail will go so far as to dig under the substrate in search of food.
So, when it comes to the best algae eaters and tank cleaners out there, particularly in terms of snails, it does not get much better than the Malaysian Trumpet.
Now, something that you should be aware of here is that the Malaysian Trumpet can quickly become problematic in fish tanks, especially if there is a lot of algae and food present. These snails multiply very quickly.
You can go from a tank with a couple of trumpets to dozens of them in just a month. Therefore, you need to make sure that you keep the trumpet population under control, because if you don’t these snails will quickly take a tank over.
Also, they can grow to around 2 inches long, and 2 inches is not very small, so when you have a lot of them in your tank, they will definitely be noticeable.
Something that we do want to mention is that this snail has a really cool shape, with a shell that looks like a spiraled trumpet, making it a beautiful addition to any community tank.
6. Nerite Snails
Yes, we are still on snails here, and when it comes to algae eating aquarium creatures that are not picky about what they eat, Nerite snails are at the top of the list.
Right off the bat, the biggest bonus about these particular snails is that they do not multiply inside of aquariums.
Exactly why they do not multiply inside of fish tanks is a bit of a mystery, but the bottom line is that they don’t, so unlike with trumpet snails, you don’t have to worry about an explosion of nerites taking over your tank.
Many people really like adding these particular snails to their fish tanks, not only because they won’t breed, but also because they just look really nice too.
They usually have a dark black shell with bright yellow stripes, making for some great contrast in any tank. They really stand out and are super easy to see, not to mention the fact that these snails won’t bother your fish either.
Besides that, when it comes to algae eaters, nerite snails are some of the best out there. Although it might not be a fish, it’s still a very hungry creature and it also is not particularly picky about the type of species it eats.
This species of aquarium snail will eat mostly any species of algae, thus making it an integral part of your aquarium’s cleanup crew.
7. Mystery Snail
When it comes to algae eating snails, this one, the mystery snail, is another great option to keep in mind. Although the mystery snail is quite small, it is still a very voracious algae eater and if you have a few of them in the tank, they can definitely put quite a dent in an algae bloom.
This is a species of snail that is extremely common and popular to have in fish tanks, and opposed to what the name of this algae eater may imply, it’s actually not much of a mystery at all.
This species of snail is another great algae eater, mainly because just like with other snails, it’s definitely not picky in terms of the species of algae it eats. It will eat virtually any and every species of algae that could be present in your tank.
Moreover, these snails are detrivores, which means that they will eat rotting flesh, dying plant matter, rotting food, and more, making them a valuable part of any cleanup crew to keep your aquarium clean.
Mystery snails are one of the larger species that you might put in your aquarium, as they can grow to around 2 inches in length, and moreover, thanks to their dark and light shells that feature spots, they make for some really cool looking tank inhabitants too.
8. Amano Shrimp
Ok, so now that we have looked at a few great algae eaters in terms of snails and fish, let’s now take a look at one of the most prolific algae eaters in the world of shrimp, the Amano shrimp.
When it comes to various shrimp species, the Amano shrimp is by far one of the hungriest algae eaters out there. What is important to note about these shrimp is that they can grow to about 2″ in length and they can actually be quite aggressive.
It’s not uncommon to see an Amano shrimp in the middle of eating algae, to all of a sudden stop what it’s doing to ward off a fish or invader that gets too close.
Due to its fairly aggressive and defensive nature, this is one of the few species of shrimp that stands a decent chance of survival in a community tank that has various species of aggressive fish that may try to eat it.
Eating an Amano shrimp is quite a challenge, and most sane fish will back off from this small yet fierce creature. Not only that, but people also really tend to like this species of shrimp due to its cool look.
It features a transparent body with small dots on it, and yes, if you look closely, you can actually see what is behind this shrimp by looking through it. Transparent creatures are always really neat.
9. Cherry Shrimp
When it comes to the most popular species of aquarium shrimp out there, one which also happens to be one of the most voracious algae eaters, is the cherry shrimp.
Cherry shrimp will eat all sorts of algae, and yes, even the much dreaded hair algae which can infiltrate tanks and take them over. If you see a cherry shrimp eating algae, you can rest assured that your tank is in good hands.
Cherry shrimp will also eat a variety of other foods. It’s a voracious eater of dead plant matter, uneaten fish food, and even rotting fish too.
These are very hardy scavengers that will eat mostly anything and everything. One reason why this species of shrimp is so popular is due to its red and partially transparent speckled appearance. Due to their bright coloration, they really stand out.
Something that does need to be said here is that this type of shrimp, if the water conditions are stable, will breed and multiply fairly quickly. So, if you need a constant supply of algae eaters in your tank, these prolific breeders are a great way to go.
10. Whiptail Catfish
Rounding off the list, if you are looking for an algae eater of the fish variety, the whiptail catfish is a great way to go. In terms of being an algae eater, this is a very hungry fish.
Now, some people say that these are not good algae eaters, but it really seems to depend on the exact fish.
Just like humans, these catfish can be a bit picky, with some being great algae eaters and others not going near the stuff, so in this sense, the whiptail catfish can be a hit or miss kind of fish.
Many people do enjoy adding this particular algae eater to the tank, mainly because of their really cool look.
While the front end may look like a regular catfish, this specific type features a long and thin tail, much like a whip, something it may use to stir up the sand so it can bury itself under the substrate.
What people also love about the whiptail catfish is that it is a voracious eater of anything that it can get its mouth on.
It’s not only a decent algae eater, but will also consume dead plant matter, uneaten fish food, and more or less anything in between.
What Is The Best Algae Eating Fish?
The Twig Catfish is most likely the best algae-eating fish out there, mainly because it has a ravenous appetite and will consume virtually any type of algae that may appear in your fish tank.
This fish is so hungry that if you don’t have enough algae in your fish tank you will have to supplement its diet with algae tablets; that’s how good this fish is! When it comes to the best algae eaters out there to control algae growth in the aquarium, the twig catfish is hands down the number one choice to go with.
Something that needs to be noted is that this fish does quite well with other peaceful fish such as Rashoras, Pencil Fish, Hatchets, and Tetra Fish. On the other hand, twig catfish don’t do so well with more aggressive fish such as Barbs and Cichlids.
These fish also don’t do well when there are big changes in the consistency of the water so be careful to keep the water at the same parameters when housing the Twig Catfish. As a baseline, the Twig Catfish should be in a tank that is at least 70 liters in size.
Do Platys Eat Algae?
The platy, while it is not the most prolific algae eater out there, it will eat some a bit of it, mainly the generic green variety which many people will find growing in a thin layer on their tank walls. Platys also make for good community fish, as they tend to be pretty peaceful.
Can Fish Live off Algae?
Even fish that are known to be great algae eaters may not be able to survive on algae alone. The reason for this is because algae is very low in nutrition, so a fish would have to eat insane amounts of it to survive.
So, unless you have a tank that is more algae than anything else, you will have to supplement the diets of these fish with some decent fish food.
We hope that we have been able to provide you with enough info about fish that eat algae, as well as the other algae eaters out there, that you can now keep your tank clean and clear of this icky stuff!
Featured Image Credit: To Be Determined, Shutterstock