Aquarium Algae Eaters

Aquarium algae eaters are the best edition to a planted tank. They do keep algae at bay and are very interesting to watch. They play a big roll in the Eco system and will lead to a perfectly balanced nature aquarium.


Introduction to algae-eaters

Algae eaters are a great addition to any aquarium really, but it is important to regard them with the same status you give to all your other watery pets, making sure that you choose compatible species for your aquarium, and that you're providing them with what they need to live well in the long term. An exception is the case where you have several tanks and then you can move algae eaters temporarily into one tank to help with algae combat, and then bring them back to their home tank when you're satisfied with the results. Always keep in mind though, that they are helpers - algae combat is a daily concern that will always be your responsibility. Avoid making the very common mistake of thinking that just by adding an algae eater to your tank you can now forget about the issue!

The most effective way of using algae eaters to help you keep algae low in your tank is to add different types of algae eaters, because not all eat the same algae, nor from the same type of surface. A combination of snails, shrimps and algae-eating fish is a good way to go. But again, always check for compatibility and fish/invertebrate requirements, please. It is much better to keep them in planted aquariums, since the food sources are wider. NOTE: in general algae-eaters will eat less algae if overfed with commercial food, so try to find just the right amount of feeding so they will be healthy while still scavenging for algae and leftover food.

Siamese Algae Eater

Crossocheilus siamensis
This fish is a useful algae eater, eating thread algae and the brush algae ignored by other fish. They also eat planarians ( flatworms ) which can become a nuisance in the aquarium.
SAE can be slightly territorial with their own species so they are probably best kept either single or as a group of 5 or more in large tanks.
Unlike the Chinese Algae Eaters the Siamese Algae Eaters will eat lots of algae. The more common Chinese Algae Eater stops eating algae as it grows larger, becomes aggressive, and annoys other fish.
Minimum tank size for a pair of adult Siamese Algae Eaters is 100 liters (25 gallons). The aquarium should be long and have lots of living plants.
As they are not aggressive, they can be kept in any community tank big enough. Their active behavior might stress some sensitive species like dwarf cichlids and prevent them from spawning. They should not be kept with Red-tailed Sharks (Epalzeorhynchus bicolor) unless the aquarium is large and well planted, because that species is very aggressive towards all its relatives.
A very hardy fish, it is easy to keep and feed, eating both algae and just about anything else put into the tank, such as flake food, pellets, live foods, parboiled vegetables, etc. It does a diligent job of removing algae from plants without harming them, as well as from decorations and aquarium glass. Considered by many aquarists as a necessity in any well-planted aquarium. Cover the tank carefully however, as these fish are strong jumpers.
SAE grows up to 14cm needs a well filtered oxygenated water with a pH around 7 and temperature 25'C. To see SAE video click here.

Photo by Dusko Bojic

Caridina multidentata (the new name)

Caridina japonica (new name Caridina multidentata) also known as Amano Shrimp and Yamato numa-ebi, is one of the best algae eater shrimps available these days. Except eating algae it consumes also dead plant detritus and cleans the left-over food. They are very busy eaters. Their size doesn't go over 5 cm (males are a bit smaller 3.5cm) which makes it suitable for smaller aquariums. Appetite for algae will decrease if commercial food is given on regular bases. It is good to keep this shrimp in groups of 3 and up. Note: If not given something to cling onto in side the bag (a plant branch), during the transport, Caridina japonica will suffer ectodermic shock. In planted tanks, one should be careful with dosing fertilisers. Low light tanks do not need as much as the high light tanks. All fertilisers contain a small amount of copper that is very dangerous for shrimps. To ensure that this element doesn't accumulate over time, it is essential to do weekly water change 30-50%. Aquarium water should be treated with dechlorinators, because chlorine and chloramine are dangerous for shrimps. Bigger fish and most Cichlid spp. will eat these shrimps, it is advised to house them with smaller placid fish species. To see Caridina japonica video click here. More info about Caridina japonica.

Otocinclus sp.

OTO, Midget Sucker-mouth Catfish. Part of a large family of Loricariidae, the Otocinclus is one of the smallest. It is usually tan with a black peppered body. Found in rapidly moving rivers.
Oto catfish grows up to 5cm, which makes it suitable for smaller aquariums. Otos should be kept in planted tanks only! They do much better if kept as a smaller shoal. Oto is the best plant leaf cleaner and will remove almost all algae from it without damaging the leaf. It will ignore the grown algae but will eat young algal growth and by doing that will keep the algae very low. Like all catfish, even this one likes the presence of bog-wood, so adding one piece to the aquarium would be a good idea. If there is no sufficient algae in aquarium Otos should be fed with blanched zucchini once a week. Boiled for 2 minutes and cooled down before feeding. Place the zucchini on the bottom or even better on the piece of bog-wood where the Oto will come readily and notice the vegetable. Do not leave the zucchini for longer then two days inside the tank and not shorter then a day. Its been known that Otos will ignore sinking catfish tablets and algae wafers, and will ignore most of other vegetables like lettuce, spinach, cucumber, etc. Zucchini is the best proven feeding choice. Some aquarists farm algae and than introduce them as Oto food. Its been known that Otos relish Brown algae (diatoms). One of the best ways to insure that Otos will have sufficient algae is to keep one Oto per approximately 60-70 liters. After observing the algae in your tank for a week you will get the answer for, do you need to add more Otos? How to know does my Oto have sufficient algae? Keep close eye on their stomachs. Round bellies are a good sign of algae sufficiency. It is good not to clean all your aquarium glass at once since they will eat the algae off the glass. Otos should be kept with smaller/calmer fish. They like to rest on broad plant leaves and bog-wood rather than gravel.

The Otos can be difficult to acclimate to the home aquarium, but if provided with correct water conditions and there is some green food they will be fine. The set up should be well established with a sand or gravel substrate. Densely planted with live plants. An established algal growth is essential. While they will take flake food and sinking pellets the natural greens are needed to provide proper health. If no algae is available they will eat the softer bodied plants. Provide good water circulation and filtering. Best keep in groups. The actual number will vary upon the tank size. Compatible with most fish except the larger predatory species. Otos live up to 5 years. They need a pH around 7. Water temperature should be around 25 'C.


American Flag-fish

Jordanella floridae coming soon...
Photo by Dusko Bojic


Malaysian Trumpet snail

Melanoides tuberculata
This, not longer than 3 cm, snail is the best snail edition to a planted tank especially! They will eat algae, dead plant material, leftover food and will not eat your plants. The main reason they are kept in planted tanks is for their ability to aerate the gravel since they spend most of their time digging through the substrate. They will come out of the gravel at night. If you are concerned that your snails are gone or dead, please try to focus on the gravel surface for a while and you will see at certain places that your gravel is moving. That's the snail digging its way through. All snails need alkaline waters to rebuild their shells. Loaches and Cichlids will eat snails. This snail is a good indicator for bad water quality. If something is wrong they will all head up towards the surface over the aquarium glass.

Photo by Dusko Bojic

Ramshorn snail

Planorbis corneus/rubrum
This snail is a good edition to planted tanks since it will not attack plants. It's been known though that in situations where no other food is available, it will munch on Hygrophila spp. This snail grows to 2cm. Ramshorn can be red or brown. Their main diet is based on algae that coats the plants, aquarium glass and decorations. They will also eat dead plant material, food leftovers and fish eggs. The bigger Columbian Ramshorn is a good idea for a non-planted tank overrun with algae but in planted tanks will feed on plants. All snails will do better in alkaline waters since their shells tend to dissolve in acidic waters that lack calcium. Snails will be eaten by most Loaches and Cichlids.

Photo by Dusko Bojic

Neritina sp. zebra snail

Neritina natalensis
This snail is one of the most beautiful snails available in aquarium trade these days. It is not just the beauty of its zebra patterns that makes it so desirable but its appetite for algae. It is known that Zebra Neritina eats the, hard to clean, Green Spot algae and the carpet like forming, Green Beard algae. This snail will not do well in pH lower then 7 since it needs alkaline (lime) conditions to keep its shell healthy. Loaches and Cichlidae will eat this snail. It grows to approx. 3 cm. Cover the tank, since Neritina is known for their ability to leave the tank :-) (documented by several German aquarists).

Photo by Dusko Bojic

Ancistrus - Bristlenose pleco

One of the most popular algae eaters, Ancistrus is widely available. It needs constant supply of green foods. It is good to feed it with blanched vegetables and sinking algae tablets. Live plants are not beneficial. Even though, in general, it will not harm plants, its been known that in case of insufficient green foods it will eat the Sword plant and probably other softer leaved plants. This fish is nocturnal and needs shelters and dark substrate to feel safe. It will grow up to 16 cm. Bristlenose is known to be peaceful and is compatible with many fish but the predatory ones. The water should be highly oxygenated with a moderate current.
Photo by Dusko Bojic


Whiptail catfish

Farlowella acus, Twig catfish.
Algae is the preferred diet and therefore a well established tank is required and/or algae wafers should be supplied. Twig catfish can be kept in most freshwater community tanks without problems. This is a very peaceful species and must be kept with other peaceful fish. Small characins or rasboras should be fine but avoid aggressive fish such as barbs or cichlids as this is quite a fragile fish. This catfish can be kept both singly or in groups. This catfish does not handle shock very well and so large water changes must be avoided, a solution to this is several small water changes throughout the week rather than one large sudden water change.
Their size is up to 16 cm, pH 6.5 and temperature around 25'C. This fish needs to have a drift wood as a resting and hiding place. Plants are essential.
Photo by Dusko Bojic

Black Molly

Poecilia species.
Molly is an algae eating fish, but not the best in my experience. It will eat the soft Hair algae, but that is it, as far as I know. Since most fish will eat this type of algae I don't find necessary keeping this fish as an algae eater. For example, my Scalare did eat Hair algae also, and it would be funny me suggesting an Angel fish for an algae eating crew :-)
However Molly males have a large dorsal fin and a gonopodium. They grow up to 7 cm, need 7.5 pH and temperature around 27'C.
Photo by Dusko Bojic

Pleco - Suckermouth catfish

Hypostomus plecostomus.
Plecos are ideal in a very large tank ( 300 liters and up ), with other large feature fish. Include some drift wood for them to use as a resting place and retreat. They are nocturnal so it is usually best to feed them at night time.
Omnivorous. They do eat algae. As well green foods such as lettuce and peas, cucumbers, plus vegetable-based flake foods. Will also accept small live or frozen foods.
They will eat any fish that can fit into their mouth. Also, they have been know to latch onto the side of larger fish. They can be quite destructive when moving around the tank, lashing plants and dislodging rocks with a swipe of their powerful tails.
Plecos will often eat the plants in the aquarium.
They grow up to 60 cm, need a pH around 7 and temperature 25'C.

Photo by Dusko Bojic