One of the indisputable joys of being a fish keeper is undoubtedly the aesthetics of keeping an aquarium – of being able to look through the glass and enjoy the sight of your fish, plants and ornaments living together harmoniously.
But, however clean you keep your tank and however healthy you keep your fish, there’s one thing likely to always be standing in your way: algae.
Algae will cover everything in your tank; from the gravel substrate to the aquarium walls, to ornaments. It can make a tank look dirty and certainly detracts from the sight of your beautifully designed aquarium.
Thankfully, algae can easily be controlled, and there are a variety of tools that have been specifically designed to help you easily and effectively remove it from your glass or acrylic tank.
In this article, we look at the 2 main tools available for cleaning the inside of your aquarium walls, for removing the dirt and algae, without damaging your tank. We discuss and make recommendations for both the best aquarium glass cleaner, and the best algae scraper.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Aquarium Glass Cleaner and Algae Scraper
- FL!PPER Flipper 2-in-1 Magnetic Aquarium Tank Algae Cleaner Scrubber Scraper
- Pet Magasin Magnetic Aquarium Glass Cleaner
- Mag-Float Glass Aquarium Cleaner
- Koller Products TOM Aquarium Algae Scraper Multi-Tool
- Kent Marine Pro-Scraper II
- API Algae Scrapers and Pads
- Aqueon Algae Cleaning Magnet
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
- 1 Best Aquarium Magnetic Cleaners
- 2 Best Algae Scrapers For Glass Aquariums
- 3 Best Algae Scraper For Acrylic Aquariums (That Work On Glass Too!)
- 4 Different types of Glass Cleaner and Algae Removers Available
- 5 Glass and Acrylic Aquariums Need Different Tools
- 6 Final Thoughts
Best Aquarium Magnetic Cleaners
Flipper Aquarium Magnet Cleaner
This Flipper product combines both magnet and scraper so is really the best of both worlds when it comes to removing algae! It’s also suitable for both glass and acrylic tanks.
- Complete cleaning power thanks to being able to flip between the scrubber and scraper sides of the magnet
- It includes two blades – one plastic and one metal – for acrylic and glass tanks respectively, ensuring no scratching
- The cleaner floats and orients itself so it’s easy to retrieve if the magnet comes apart
- It has a low profile design so can penetrate nooks and crannies easily, and isn’t too big that it’ll scare your fish
- Tough on removing algae and can clean in one swipe
- It covers a lot of area quickly
- Strong magnetic power
- You have to be careful not to allow the scraper to cut the silicone corners of the tank
- The blades wear down relatively quickly and will need replacing regularly
Pet Magasin Magnetic Aquarium Glass Cleaner
This is an easy to use magnet cleaner that’s especially effective on small to medium sized tanks. It’s suitable for glass tanks only.
- The inner cleaning magnet floats so is easy to retrieve if it comes apart
- Pet Magasin are a well-respected company; the product comes with a 2-year warranty and 100% money-back guarantee
- It has strong magnetic contact so is easy to control from the outside
- It removes most algae easily and effectively
- It’s really easy to use
- It’s not quite as effective on coralline and will need a few passes to remove completely
- The magnetic contact is not as strong at the corners of the tank as elsewhere
Mag-Float Glass Aquarium Cleaner
Mag-Float are one of the best-known manufacturers of magnetic aquarium cleaners and this is one of the most popular and readily bought cleaning tools on the market. Suitable for glass tanks only.
- The cleaning magnet floats so is easy to retrieve if it pulls apart from the outer magnet
- Its buoyancy means that it’s easier than ever to navigate around the tank; even on corners
- It’s very tough on algae, thanks to its rough scrubbing surface, and removes it quickly and effectively
- Covers a lot of ground quickly
- Although you still need to be careful, especially if you have a fine substrate, the cleaner doesn’t tend to pick up any sand or gravel at the bottom of the tank, so it shouldn’t scratch your glass
- Its light grey color means it doesn’t blend that well in most aquariums
- The magnetic contact is incredibly strong so make sure you get the right size for your tank, otherwise, you could find the magnet hard to slide around
Best Algae Scrapers For Glass Aquariums
KollerCraft TOM Algae Scraper Multi-Tool
This KollerCraft product is a true multi-tasker with three different attachments helping you to completely clean your aquarium of algae.
- It boasts 3 interchangeable attachments: a stainless steel scraper, plastic scrubber for polishing, and a shovel to turn over algae-covered substrate
- The handle is 22-inches long, corrosion resistant and made of fiberglass – it’s sturdy and super long!
- The handle also boasts an ergonomic grip for comfortable cleaning
- The attachments are easily interchangeable
- The plastic scrubber has a rotating head attachment so you can clean in hard-to-reach places
- The steel scraper isn’t too sharp so won’t scratch your tank, but it’s still very effective on coralline algae
- The fiberglass handle is flexible to the point where it can be difficult to put a lot of pressure on the cleaning attachment
- The plastic scrubber has a rounded head so it can be difficult to clean corners and any tight spots
Kent Marine Pro-Scraper II
This scraper set is super effective on algae and even stubborn coralline, equipped with a set of different blades so you can pick which one works best for your tank’s needs.
- Comes with three different blades – plastic, stainless steel and fabric – which are interchangeable and replaceable
- The handle is made of corrosion-resistant fiberglass and is angled nicely for ease of use
- It’s really tough on algae and cuts through coralline easily
- The metal blade isn’t so sharp that it will scratch the tank
- The handle comes in six different lengths, all of which are easy to adjust with a simple twist
- The scrapers aren’t that big so don’t cover as much ground as quickly as some of the other products
- The blades are very flexible and some users have commented that they can be hard to extract when it comes to replacing them
Best Algae Scraper For Acrylic Aquariums (That Work On Glass Too!)
API Algae Scraper Extra Long
Promising not to scratch your beloved acrylic aquarium, this scraper easily puts paid to all that pesky algae, even in the tightest of corners.
- The 18-inch handle is strong and long, helping you easily navigate your aquarium with however much pressure you need
- It removes all types of algae quickly and easily
- The handle is angled so as to allow you to easily delve into nooks and crannies
- It’s very easy to clean and rinse off under running water
- Some users have complained that the scrubber head tends to lose a few fibers as it works around the tank, which end up sticking to the walls
- The scraper itself manages to retain a lot of water, so you could get a little wet when removing it from the tank
Aqueon Algae Cleaning Magnet
This is another magnet cleaner that works on acrylic as well as glass, providing an easy clean with a low chance of scratching.
- The cleaning magnet is bottom-weighted, meaning that it sinks to the bottom of the tank to rest above the gravel if it breaks away from the outer magnet. It’s easy to retrieve (remember to tie some string to it!) and won’t pick up any substrate to scratch the tank walls
- The magnetic contact is very strong so the magnets break away rarely, making for a quick clean
- It removes algae easily from both glass and acrylic surfaces (comes with two different pads for the different surface types)
- The replacement cleaning pads are easy to install
- The magnet is black so blends easily with most aquarium designs
- The magnetic contact is so strong that it can occasionally make sounds on the glass that scare the fish (particularly on thinner walls)
- It’s not as tough on coralline
Different types of Glass Cleaner and Algae Removers Available
Glass cleaners can generally be divided into two different categories: the magnetic type, and the scraper (or blade) type.
Which type you prefer is ultimately down to your own preference and you may find that one type best fits your tank’s specific needs and shape over the other.
Magnetic cleaners are the trendy tool of the moment and their technology is improving all the time.
The cleaner consists of two separate magnetic parts, one of which has a rough scrubbing side, and the other has a smooth side. The scrubbing magnet is placed against the aquarium glass within the tank while the smooth magnet is placed on the outside.
As the magnets are attracted to each other, you are able to clean the inside of your aquarium walls by moving the outside magnet, which in turn moves the inside magnet, scrubbing the algae off as it goes.
- You don’t need to put your hand and arms inside the tank, making a mess and getting wet
- They can cover a lot of area quickly, depending on their size
- Good magnet cleaners will allow the inner magnet to float, so if and when the magnets pull apart, it will be easily retrievable from the top of the tank
- You can get into hard-to-reach spots easily by controlling it from the outside
- They’re not very invasive so shouldn’t scare your fish
- Generally, they’re not as effective at removing algae from corners as the magnetic contact weakens at these spots
- If the magnet is too strong, it can be hard to move around, but if it is too weak (particularly if you have very thick glass), it will keep breaking apart and will take a long time to clean
- If the inner magnet gets too close to the substrate at the bottom of the tank, it could pick up debris which will proceed to scratch your tank if you don’t remove it immediately
Scrapers and Blades
Scrapers and blades are the more traditional tools used to remove algae from your tank, and involve you manually sliding the scraper up and down the inner glass and putting enough pressure on the blade tool to effectively scrape off the algae.
These tools are often more labor-intensive than their magnetic counterparts – and you will probably get a little wet using them – but you will generally have total control on what and how much algae you’re able to remove.
- You have control over where and what you clean, and at what intensity
- Scrapers usually tough on algae
- You’re not at the mercy of magnet strength
- Scrapers won’t damage the silicone corners of your tank
- If the scraper handle isn’t long enough, cleaning can get wet and splashy
- Depending on their maneuverability, it may be difficult to clean around ornaments and tight spots
- The shape and size of a scraper might scare your fish
Glass and Acrylic Aquariums Need Different Tools
Acrylic aquariums are much easier to scratch than glass aquariums and the traditional glass scrapers could damage your tank in no time at all if you put them to work on an acrylic model.
As such, it’s really important to get a tool that is specifically designed for whatever type of tank you have, particularly acrylics.
Thankfully, acrylic tanks are so mainstream these days that there’s plenty of tools on the market to give your algae a good seeing-to without scratching up your aquarium. Some tools are even sophisticated enough to work on both glass and acrylic aquariums.
Hopefully you’re now equipped with enough knowledge and recommendations to easily remove all that pesky algae from your own tank, and will be able to look on your work with pride from now on.
Just remember to never buy a cleaning tool for glass tanks when you have an acrylic one!