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5 Wonderful Algae Eaters for Freshwater Aquariums

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cleaning up

Finding the right algae removing crew can be hard, especially for aquariums that are smaller. This guide will focus on a broad spectrum of algae eaters. There will be information on fish, snails, and invertebrates. In my opinion these critters are some of the best at removing algae. Before continuing reading through this guide, check out common causes for algae growth in freshwater aquariums here.

1. Bristlenose Pleco

There are many different plecos that can be purchased for a freshwater aquarium but I feel the bristlenose pleco is one that is an excellent algae eater and it also doesn’t get incredibly large.

The bristlenose pleco, also known as the bushy nose pleco, is a fantastic algae eater for aquariums that are 30 gallons or larger. They should not get any larger than 5″ in length unlike the common pleco that can reach sizes over a foot in length. Providing places to hide is important for this pleco to give it some privacy. A piece of driftwood is a good choice in decor that will provide cover for this fish.

This fish is omnivorous and not a picky eater at all. The bristlenose pleco should easily sniff out food that falls onto the substrate and slurp it up quickly. Otherwise, they will most likely be clinging onto decor and plants eating algae that may be growing on them.

They are quite easy to breed in captivity. Males when grown will have large bristles between its eyes and tip of its mouth. On the other hand, females will have small whiskers near her mouth. When mating the female will dispense her eggs on driftwood or other flat surfaces and the male will guard the eggs. It will take roughly 10 days for the fish to emerge from the eggs. Once the babies begin to swim it is highly recommended to move them into a separate aquarium so they can mature.

The bushy nose pleco does best in aquarium temperatures ranging from 75 – 79 degrees Farenheit, KH levels between 6 and 10, and pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5. They’re a fantastic fish to have that works hard to keep algae at bay!

2. Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp, for freshwater shrimp standards, are the tanks of algae eating. They do an excellent job rummaging through different areas of the aquarium eating algae that is growing and also consuming leftover food that fish may not catch during feeding times. They’re not the most colorful of animals but they’re great to look for and observe in the aquarium. They’re gaining more and more popularity in the freshwater hobby due to their size and ability to eat algae in smaller aquariums where plecos may be too large.

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Amanos are beasts! They grow to be about 2″ in size when they’re fully grown. Regardless for their size, they are recommended for aquariums 10 gallons or larger. Like stated above, they’re great for aquariums that are just too small for larger plecos. Providing plenty of hiding spaces is great for Amano Shrimp. and be sure to have a well established aquarium because invertebrates are far more intolerant of unstable water conditions compared to fish.

This species of shrimp is omnivorous. They will happily nibble on algae, flakes or any other food that comes their way. They’re not picky at all when it comes to eating.

Amano shrimp are incredibly hard to breed in captivity. It is not common at all for it to happen. It is quite a challenge to bring up young amano shrimp from egg to adulthood so we will not get into that in this article.

These beautiful shrimp are fantastic for freshwater aquariums and they are also tolerant of aquariums with a little bit of salt in them. They should do perfectly fine in brackish water aquariums. Please only house them with peaceful fish that will not bother or try to eat amano shrimp. These fish are very versatile and do well in water temperatures ranging between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, KH levels between 3 and 10, as well as pH levels ranging from 6.0 – 7.5. They’re quite hardy for a species of shrimp and live a long life of 2 – 3 years!

3. Nerite Snail

Nerite snails are a remarkable species of snail to add into a freshwater aquarium. For the amount of algae removal a snail can achieve, the nerite snail probably does it the best. They will help remove algae from glass, substrate, plants, and everything in between. They come in very nice tiger striped or dotted patterns so they’re a nice looking snail to add into a fish tank.

This species of snail will not be seen larger than 1 inch in size. They stay very small and are very easy to care for. An established aquarium is a good idea to have and remember copper is lethal to them and all other invertebrates. Most snails are great for aquariums as small as one gallon or larger. This species of snail like to wander so there is a chance that they will make their way out of the aquarium if the opportunity arises.

Nerite snails are herbivorous and if on the rare occasion your fish tank does not have any algae in it, providing algae based food to keep your snail fed should be considered. Feeding nerite snails is not a very common occurrence but keep in mind they may need some food if your fish tank is spotless!

The nice things about nerite snails is that they will not infest your aquarium with millions upon millions of spawns. They only successfully produce offspring in brackish water. They are perfectly fine being kept in freshwater as adults. The young benefit from having higher pH levels and more calcium in the water levels to promote shell growth.

Nerite snails are pretty hardy for invertebrates. They do great in water temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees, KH levels that float between 12 and 18, and pH levels between 6.5 and 8.3. They will not tolerate high levels of nitrates and as stated above, copper is lethal to them. Overall, they are fantastic for freshwater aquariums, brackish water fish tanks, and planted tanks.

4. Siamese Algae Eater (Flying Fox)

The Siamese Algae Eater sometimes known as the flying fox is an excellent algae eater for many different planted tanks. What they lack in vibrant color is definitely made up by its ability to eat large amounts of algae in an aquarium. This fish species is primarily gray/silver with a long black strip that runs the length of its body. The flying fox are recommended to be kept in small groups. They do much better together than alone.

It is rare to find a flying fox that reaches its full length of 6″. It is more commonly found at a max length of 4.5 inches. Because of their size and desire for algae the siamese algae eater should be kept in aquariums that are 30 gallons or larger. This will give them more space for forage for algae and once grown provide plenty of space for them to explore and swim. Driftwood, rocks and broad leaf plants are recommended to have in the aquarium because this fish will perch on top of them and also graze on the algae growing there.

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This fish is omnivorous so it will take in just about any food offered but it does an excellent job removing algae from aquariums. It should be fed bloodworms, flakes food, and pellet food.

There is very little to no information on breeding habits of the flying fox.

This fish is a little more sensitive to higher nitrate levels so a well established and stable fish tank should be available before introducing this fish. They do great in water temperatures ranging from 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, KH levels between 5 and 10, and pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0. They’re an excellent fish to have and are very interesting to observe.

5. Otocinclus

Otocinclus is a very small algae eater that is sometimes overlooked when on the hunt for something that can help maintain an aquarium. These little fish are small, but in large numbers are great at helping maintain smaller aquariums. They will cling onto many different surfaces with their black and white bodies and go about their day munching on algae.

Ottos are incredibly small and they will not normally grow larger than 2 inches in length. They’re an excellent little fish for nano aquariums. They do perfectly well in aquariums 10 gallons or larger. Keeping a little school of 6 or more ottos is highly recommended. Providing rock work and driftwood will create surfaces for algae to grow to give this fish something to graze on. It will also create places for this fish to hide in times of stress.

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It can be easily concluded that this fish is herbivorous. It will primarily feed on the algae that is growing in the aquarium but if none is available it is recommended to throw algae wafers or algae flakes into the fish tank for this fish to nibble on.

Otocinclus does not normally breed in captivity. A varied and diet full of nutrients will be required to even consider having these fish breed. Rising water temperatures are a common occurrence to influence fish to begin mating. You can consider very slowly raising the water temperature to around 79 degrees Fahrenheit to help motivate this fish to mate. After providing this fish with nutrient rich foods, raising water temperatures, and having perfect water parameters the fish may breed!

Ottos are very peaceful fish and should not bother any other fish in an aquarium. They will thrive in aquariums with water temperatures ranging from 74 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, KH levels between 6 and 10, and pH levels between 6.8 and 7.5. They’re a fun fish to observe and great when kept in schools!

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best algae eaters for your aquarium could be a challenge and hopefully this guide will give you a little insight on 5 fantastic critters that are great for cleaning up algae in freshwater aquariums. I would even recommend having a mixture of some of these if your aquarium has the space. There are definitely other fish that will destroy algae but I believe these are some of the best!

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