25 Best Algae Eaters Perfect For Your Freshwater Aquarium

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

If there’s one battle many aquarists dread, it is against aquarium algae. One looks for ways to find algae eaters.

Unfortunately, it is one we all must face at some point in the course of the fish-keeping journey. And the earlier you prepare for it, the better your chances of winning.

So, this guide will focus on a natural way of controlling algal growth using suitable freshwater aquarium fish. The next paragraphs will review 25 of the best algae eaters that can help you maintain a clean aquarium.

1. Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater is a typical algae lover, and their name confirms just as much.

Siamese Algae Eaters swimming in tank.

Hailing from Southeast Asia, this distinct-looking Cyprinidae fish is a little obsessed with eating algae, constantly darting around the tank searching for any available food.

They are the typical hard workers at maintaining tank cleanliness, always eating large amounts of algae in just one session. With a medium-sized 6 inch length in full maturity, this beautiful ornamental fish also adds to the tank’s general appearance.

As for the typical appearance, Siamese Algae Eaters have a noticeable gold or gray color with a horizontal band running the length of their bodies.

When setting up the tank, be sure to factor in the average size, usually 25-30 gallons with slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5-7.0) and suitable warmer temperatures (75°F-79°F).

2. Bristlenose Pleco

Rightfully getting their names from the beautiful bristles all over their bodies, the Bristlenose Pleco is one of our favorite algae eaters in the aquatic scene.

Bristlenose Pleco swimming at the bottom of a fish tank.

They are peaceful freshwater fish that will always demonstrate their love for algae by constantly scavenging and snacking on any available types inside the aquarium.

Even though Bristlenose Plecos have a strong preference for natural algae, they need other foods to supplement their diet and maintain them in perfect health inside the tank.

That means you should prioritize other supplementary foods like bloodworms, sinking pellets, and flakes to retain their beautiful coloring.

Like most Pleco fish, the Bristlenose species are hardy enough to survive off low-high water temperatures (60°F-80°F), with slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5-7.5).

3. Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber Lip Pleco is another exciting peaceful bottom-dweller with a natural liking for algae. They have distinct body appearances built around their facial spots and gray or tan-colored bodies.

Rubber lip pleco swimming in aquarium

But what really stands out with these fascinating freshwater critters is their penchant for eating vast amounts of algae.

An investment in Rubber Lip Plecos has to be long-term, given a typical species can live for as long as 12 years with the best possible tank water conditions.

Like most fish of the broader Pleco family, the rubber Lip varieties have noticeable sucker mouths, ideal for sucking on algae when feeding.

They are natural bottom feeders, meaning you will have nothing to worry about general tank cleanliness if you keep the Rubber Lip Plecos at home.

When it comes to general temperament, you can count on the lovely Rubber Lip Plecos to cohabitate with other gentle fish occupying the same tank.

Of course, they would prefer other fish inhabiting the upper and middle sections of the tank to let them enjoy their favorite meal with little to no interruption.

Every time you are setting up a Rubber Lip Pleco’s habitat, be sure to match them to suitable conditions starting with ideal tank size (25-30 gallons), temperature range (72°F-80°F), and slightly acidic to alkaline pH (6.5-8.0).

4. Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater is so-called because of its penchant for eating algae. A typical species is strikingly similar to the above-mentioned Siamese Algae Eater, with a natural ability to scarf vast amounts of aquarium algae down their throats.

Chinese Algae Eater.

They are a semi-aggressive algae lover that can be matched with other semi-aggressive freshwater fish like the Tiger Barbs, Dwarf Gouramis, and Emperor Tetras.

Growing up to 10 inches in maturity, the Chinese Algae Eaters are known to protect their territories inside the tank, always willing to go to greater lengths to ensure they are safe from the wrath of aggressive fish.

Chinese Algae Eaters will be happy inside a sizable aquarium, usually 30 gallons, with warm water conditions (74°F-80°F), and slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5-7.5).

Of course, they are natural bottom dwellers, preferring a soft sandy substrate with enough vegetation and other tank decorations.

5. Sailfin Pleco

How about a large freshwater fish to wipe out unwanted algae from the tank without an extra effort?

Sailfin Pleco swimming in tank.

We are talking about Sailfin Pleco, a unique freshwater Catfish that happens to be so prolific at cleaning the tank.

They dwell in the slow-moving, murky waters of South America and, as 19-inch long freshwater fish, can be intimidatingly beautiful textured bodies.

Sailfin Plecos have attractive spots all over their bodies, and their large sizes mean they will need nothing less than 100 gallons from the get-go.

Sailfin Plecos are a resilient species, always willing to adapt to any conditions inside the tank.

They are happier in groups, and their easygoing temperament should allow you to introduce other tank mates to the same habitat like the Clown Loach, Bloodfin Tetra, and Sparkling Gourami, among the rest.

6. Red Garra

Red Garra or Doctor Fish is a naturally born algae love that tends to go under the radar.

Garra Rufa fish

They embody what natural algae-eating fish looks like, constantly snacking on any available type growing on the plants, rocks, and driftwood.

They are the rare fish species that have been used in pedicures to eat dead human skin. But such dietary plans are impossible to replicate in captivity, which is why they will always thrive with a constant supply of high-quality meals.

While algae will form an important part of the fish’s diet, never forget the key principles for maintaining a healthy fish.

Usually, it entails the right tank setup, suitable water parameters, and a balanced diet. And speaking of a balanced diet, the Red Garras will be happy with supplementary meals of high-quality proteins like the brine shrimp in addition to dry and frozen foods.

7. Mollies

If you’ve been in the aquarium hobby long enough, surely you might have heard about the Molly fish.

molly fish

They are highly sought after southern, North American livebearers that can help reduce the algal growth inside the tank.

Well, we will be honest with you here. While they can often snack on your aquarium algae from time to time, the Molly fish don’t depend on algae as their typical meal.

Don’t count on them to help reduce the algal growth inside the tank, but you can bet on them to snack on smaller particles from time to time. That means you must satisfy their dietary needs by providing pellets and flakes as a standard meal.

Molly fish exist in plenty of color variations. And whether you opt for the ever-popular Black Mollies or the outstanding Balloon Belly varieties, you can be certain to be getting an ideal pet fish that truly is a game-changer.

At only 4.5 inches, a bonded pair of Moly fish needs a minimum of 10 gallons. Of course, you will increase the tank size if it’s multiple species. Besides, Mollies appreciate moderate to high water temperatures (72°F-78°F), with pH staying on the neutral to alkaline side (6.8-8.5).

8. Ghost Shrimp

Glass Shrimp or Ghost Shrimp is an avid algae lover that quickly comes to mind when we talk about variety.

ghost shrimp in an aquarium

They are perfect for planted aquariums and will do enough to control the algal growth inside such tanks.

Many aquarists have used Ghost Shrimps as feeders, but their beautiful transparent bodies will always make them a tempting option for community tanks.

What’s more, these little invertebrates are excellent scavengers, frantically searching for any leftover fish food inside the tank, a trait that also makes them perfect for general tank cleanliness.

Apart from the natural algae, the Ghost Shrimps are happy to survive off an omnivorous diet, relying on larvae, flakes, and pellet foods to get all the essential nutrients.

It’s tempting to keep them together with other peaceful fish, but be sure the chosen species doesn’t view your Ghost Shrimp as an ordinary snack.

9. Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish are certain to turn a few heads when introduced to planted aquariums, and that’s down to their twig-like appearance.

twig catfish swimming in tank.

They aren’t one of the easiest species to manage, requiring specialized care that you may never give to other freshwater aquarium fish. Their timid nature leads to a more passive lifestyle in captivity.

However, these little creatures excel at one role, cleaning unwanted algae.

They have several types of algae on their meal plan while also enjoying plenty of hiding spots inside the tank and will only be comfortable with a minimum tank size of 40 gallons.

Also, Twig Catfish are more skittish when kept alone, and you should only consider a pair to maintain them in perfect shape.

What’s more, the Twig Catfishes can be susceptible to fluctuating water conditions, making it all the more imperative to maintain the water temperature (73°F-79°F) and pH (6.5-7.5) within the acceptable levels.

10. American Flagfish

Sometimes called the Florida Flagfish, the Flagfish gets its cute name from the colorful markings on the male fish’s body.

 Florida Flagfish

They are well known as voracious algae eaters that can be trusted to eliminate the unappealing sight of hair algae inside the aquarium.

They are natural omnivores, happy to supplement their algae-based meals with crustaceans, brine shrimp, and insects.

Furthermore, American Flagfish is a smaller species, typically reaching just about 2.4 inches in full maturity, but can easily take over your aquarium with their priceless beauty. They have flat bodies sporting shimmery green, blue, and red stripes.

Generally speaking, the American Flagfish is a peaceful species, making for a wonderful addition to community tanks.

But be wary of slight aggression when dealing with the male fish as they can sometimes demand territorial control.

11. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish looks like the perfect fish designed to eat algae.

Otocinclus Catfish swimming in tank.

You will sometimes mistake them with the above-mentioned Chinese Algae Eaters, but if you are keen enough, you won’t fail to spot the colorful splotches of brown and beige coloring on the Otos’ bodies.

They are small, peaceful fish, measuring about 2 inches long, but can be a shrewd addition to the right environment.

Typically, an Otocinclus Catfish will strongly like the brown algae. But just like most omnivorous species, it’s important to supplement the Oto Catfishes’ males with occasional healthy vegetables and algae wafers.

As for the perfect tank setup, be sure to maintain the water temperatures within the standard range of 72°F-79°F and the pH at 6.8-7.5. Of course, everything will only make sense with the right tank size, usually 30 gallons at minimum.

12. Rabbit Snail

Rabbit Snail is a cute-looking invertebrate that doubles as a voracious algae eater. Originating from Indonesia, these peaceful aquatic invertebrates grow up to 5 inches and are best for home aquariums, given their slow reproduction rate.

Rabbit Snail swimming in tank.

They are fond of algae, detritus, and decomposing plant matter. And that can be supplemented with algae wafers, vegetables, and other calcium-rich snail food.

What’s more, these peaceful bottom dwellers have an impressive list of potential tank mates, happily cohabitating with several types of snails like Nerite Snails, Trumpet Snails, Ramshorn Snails, and Mystery Snails.

That being said, a typical Rabbit Snail needs warmer temperatures in the range of 76°F-84°F inside a 30-gallon tank at a minimum. Their long shells can take any color form from brown to white or black.

13. Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo Shrimp is another popular algae-eating invertebrate that appears underrated for its impressive traits.

bamboo shrimp swimming in tank.

They enjoy healthy lives inside 20-gallon tanks and develop tactful mechanisms to help them obtain any available food inside the aquarium. 

Like most Shrimps in the aquarium hobby, Bamboo Shrimps have a standard 1-2 year lifespan, choosing an omnivorous diet every time they are introduced to home aquariums.

Aside from natural algae, Bamboo Shrimps also get their nutrients from other fish food, plant debris, and micro-algae.

They rarely attack other tank mates and can’t even protect their territories in case of a potential aggressor. That means you should only consider keeping them with other gentle species like similar shrimps or suitable snails favoring the same tank water conditions.

14. Ramshorn Snail

Ramshorn Snail gets its name from the iconic shell that’s always likened to a ram’s horns. They are small, peaceful invertebrates, measuring about 1 inch long in maturity, and can happily munch different types of algae growing inside the tank.

Ramshorn Snail swimming in tank.

A typical routine in the Ramshorn Snails’ lives can get busy, fervently sifting through the substrate to find decaying matter, leftover food, and natural algae to satisfy their dietary needs.

However, be sure to supplement their dietary needs with flakes, pellets, fresh vegetables, and other calcium-rich foods.

A poorly fed Ramshorn Snail will quickly turn to aquarium plants to satisfy their dietary needs. Accordingly, ensure you provide a constant food supply that matches their dietary requirements at any given time.  

15. Nerite Snail

Nerite Snail is probably the most popular name in the invertebrate community and one of the first species that comes to mind when we mention freshwater aquarium snails.

Nerite Snail swimming in tank.

It turns out these fascinating little critters are just as mesmerizing as natural algae eaters. They have conspicuously striped shells, and their small body sizes readily support their growth inside small tanks containing as little as 10 gallons.

Nerite Snails are not just beautiful, but also easy to care for, always craving ideal tank setup, with a suitable temperature range (72°F-79°F) and pH of 7.0-8.5.

If you want a peaceful community member that feeds on almost all kinds of aquarium algae, the Nerite Snail fits the bill.

16. Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimps are another invaluable freshwater invertebrate if you want to control algal growth inside the tank.

amano shrimp in an aquarium.

If it’s all about adding variety inside a well-planted aquarium using a voracious algae eater, Amano Shrimp perfectly fits the bill.

Usually, Amano Shrimps sport beautiful light brown or gray translucent coloring even though some specimens have light reddish-brown or green coloring. Also, they have multiple dashes and dots on their bodies, highlighted in red-brown or gray-blue color.

Amano Shrimps excel in groups, happy to live in colonies of up to 3 or 4 species at a time. They can occupy the same tank together with other peaceful smaller species like the Vampire Shrimp, Ember Tetras, and Bamboo Shrimp among the rest.

As a general guideline, never keep your Amano Shrimps together with common predatory fish like Cichlids and some Goldfish species.

And besides feeding them on the standard, soft algae, these shrimps can also benefit from algae wafers, green veggies, food flakes, and shrimp pellets.

17. Mystery Snail

Like most snails, Mystery Snail is a natural algae eater originating from East Asia.

Mystery Snail swimming in tank.

They have an enormous appetite for any form of algae growing on the tank glass, substrate, and plants. Mystery snails exist in multiple color forms, even if the aquarium hobby is synonymous with the bright yellow varieties.

Usually, we discourage aquarists from introducing Mystery Snails to planted aquariums, given their penchant for eating aquarium plants. Aside from the aquarium algae, these little critters will also be happy with vegetables, pellets, and insects.

It’s important to save your little mystery Snail from the wrath of large, predatory fish that could turn them into an ordinary snack.

18. Whiptail Catfish

Whiptail Catfishes are just as distinct-looking as their names. They are a resilient species with unique black and tan coloring that helps them hide from potential aggressors.

Whiptail Catfish

They thrive with warmer conditions, starting with ideal water temperatures (72°F-79°F) and slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.5). Like the armored catfishes, the Whiptail varieties have thick scales that guarantee adequate protection from potential bodily injuries.

As much as these Catfishes readily survive off different types of aquarium algae, they prefer an omnivorous diet, readily accepting supplementary foods in captivity.

An ideal algae-eating routine can be supplemented with occasional frozen foods, leftover fish food, and high-quality proteins.

19. Trumpet Snail

Trumpet Snails are tiny aquatic creatures from Northern Africa and Southern Asia.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail swimming in tank.

They have a standard one-year lifespan, meaning you should make the most of their short stay in captivity by providing a spotless environment.

But even with their short lifespan, you can count on Trumpet Snails to help with proper tank maintenance, given their love for naturally growing aquarium algae.

Their diminutive bodies give them a rare advantage over larger species, effortlessly sneaking into complex areas within the aquarium without much to worry about.

At one time, they will be climbing your rocks, searching for any edible food. But in the next minute, they will be sifting through the substrate, searching for their favorite algae type inside the tank.

Trumpet Snails are likable for their ease of care but less lovable for faster reproduction. These species can easily take over your tank when least expected, meaning you must be constantly on the lookout if you don’t want them to overcrowd the aquarium.

20. Cherry Shrimp

Does it get better than this? If you thought the Ghost Shrimps were the most exceptional invertebrates in the aquarium hobby, perhaps you haven’t seen them. They are gorgeous-looking invertebrates and a worthy introduction to community tanks.

Cherry Shrimp in aquarium.

When kept in groups, Cherry Shrimps will do a lot more than just beautifying the tank. They will guarantee effortless tank cleaning with their love for algae.

That aside, their beautiful coloration makes them a point of reference inside the tank, creating a striking appeal when kept together with the right tank mates.

Cherry Shrimps enjoy other peaceful species’ company, and no matter the actual number you introduce to captivity, they will always be a low-maintenance algae lover.  

Try to make their captivity life as natural as possible by adjusting the water temperatures to about 85°F with a pH of 6.5-8.0.

21. Platies

Platy fish are more popular for their beautiful body patterns but less so for their impressive feeding habits. While algae are never their primary diet, Platies can often eat small amounts of algae growing on the tank plants, rocks, and other surfaces.

platy fish swimming in the tank

You certainly can’t trust them to eliminate all algae growing inside the tank, but there’s nothing wrong with entrusting them with some responsibility.

In general, Platy fish is another small-sized fish that will be more comfortable inside a 10-gallon tank at a minimum. They are easy to care for and will be compatible with a variety of species like Swordtail fish, Corydoras Catfishes, and Mollies, among the rest.

22. Rosy Barb

Rosy Barb isn’t as popular as most Barb fish but can be an exciting option as natural algae eaters. Their modified mouths resemble the American Flagfish and help clear huge amounts of algae inside the aquarium.

Rosy barb swimming in tank.

Typically, Rosy Barbs are fond of specific algae types like staghorn algae, hair, and thread types. They tolerate cooler conditions and can be kept in unheated tanks with other species that survive in similar environments.

Rosy Barbs are suitable for schooling communities to limit aggressive behavior and would be great inside a 25-gallon tank or more.

23. Reticulated Hillstream Loach

The Reticulated Hillstream Loach is a unique aquarium fish with flat, attractive bodies. Thanks to their admirable feeding abilities, they grow up to 3 inches in maturity and are natural algae eaters.

Hillstream loach on a rock.

Usually, they will attach to the tank glass and other surfaces, casually nipping on different types of algae spotted inside the aquarium.

Like most Loaches, the Reticulated Hillstream varieties can get slightly territorial, prompting you to limit the number of fish you keep inside the aquarium at a time.

And as long the pH and water temperature stay within the recommended range, they will easily reach their optimal sizes in captivity. Remember that you can supplement these Loaches’ diet with the right fish food to help maintain their beautiful appearance.

24. Swordtail Fish

Swordtail is an exciting freshwater fish, well suited to peaceful communities as long as the tank size is fitting. They can thrive inside small tanks of up to 15 gallons and will happily survive off an omnivorous diet at all times.

swordtail fish swimming.

They can feed on algae from time to time, even though they need other supplements to stay in the best shape. It’s important to control the Swordtail population inside the aquarium to control the potential aggression commonly seen in the male species.

25. Flying Fox

And now, to conclude, we have the Flying Fox, that’s just as unique as its name alludes to. They are a South American Cyprinid fish known as a voracious eater of green algae.

Flying Fox

Its typical appearance sometimes resembles another algae lover, the Siamese Algae Eater. However, the Flying Fox has a long body with a distinct olive-dark brown dorsal area.

They are fond of sandy and rocky environments, making it all the more imperative to create a river-style aquarium if you keep them at home. They can reach around 6 inches with quality care, and a typical fish is best kept inside a 40-gallon tank.

As much as the Flying Foxes will want to snack on algae from time to time, never forget to provide supplementary fish food to complete a balanced diet.

Final Thoughts

You can never underrate the role of the right pet fish in eliminating unwanted algal growth from a home aquarium. And when it comes to the best critters, these 25 amazing species are simply unbeatable.

There’s a unique thing about typical algae eaters that make them such a charming addition to many aquariums. And now that you have the full list of the best species, the sight of unwanted algae should never be terrifying again.