Algae Eating Fish

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Jul 27, 2003
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I figured that this is a highly referenced subject and deserves a thread of its own. Though there is no better way to control algae through precisely maintaining and monitoring your water quality, algae eaters will help. I for one will be purchasing some algae eaters for my 150 shortly and have scoured the web looking for info regarding these creatures and deciding which one's I should aquire. First off, here is a list of potential algae eaters and the type of algae they eat according to what I have read. I am still a beginner at this whole planted tank thing and an extreme novice when it comes to battling algae...but I'm learning. Please anyone who has any experience with these fish or any others, please add to this thread. This knowledge is invaluable and will answer many newbie (like me) questions.

The Florida Flag Fish, Black Mollies, Gold Barbs and Rosie Barbs will all eat hair/thread algae. They have been referenced as "eating it up like spaghetti."

Siamese Algae Eaters, otherwise known as SAE's, also eat hair algae but have been noted as also eating forms of beard algae. Apparently, if you can get your hands on these guys, they are the best bang for the buck.

Ottocinclus Cats are also talked about frequently. It is my understanding that these little critters are good algae eaters though they mainly deal with algae in its beginning stages when it is very short.

Pleco's are also widely known as "the" algae eater at the LFS. Though it is eldom that they tell you that they grow to be a foot long and will destroy your plants as they get bigger. I have also known them to get a bit more aggressive as the get older. From my experience with non-planted tanks, they do eat algae and do a decent job of cleaning the glass and such. From what I have read, bristle nose and rubber mouth plecos seem to be the one's of choice for a planted tank. I don't know much about the rubber mouth, but the bristle nose stays a bit smaller than its cousins and is a nice addition to any planted tank, eating many forms of algae.

Ameca Splendens, otherwise known as the Butterfly Goodeid. Though I have never physically seen this fish and have only read about it recently, it seems to be the "cat's meow" concerning algae eating. Apparently it simply devours hair/thread/beard algaes. Some have claimed that it will even eat blue green algae, but I have my doubts about that. Again, from what I've read, the fish grows to be about 4-5 inches as an adult. It is a platty looking/type of fish and is a live bearer that gives birth to very large offspring. The babies are about 1/2 in long and are attached to the mother with an umbilical cord for 1 or 2 days before they venture on their own in search of algae. I called the "better" LFS around here and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about when I asked them if they had any in stock. Maybe they go by another, more common name. Word to the wise...I have read that these guys can be a bit rambunctious, stressing out other fish in the tranquil community plant tank. Given their size, I don't think they'd have much of a problem bossing any other fish around.

Shrimp have also become a part of many people's "cleaning crews". The most common and desired shrimp is the Amano Shrimp, made famous by the Takashi Amano. I guess these guys do a decent job of cleaning rocks and gravel and will help over power the algae. I have seen many different types of shrimp that have been labeled as algae eating shrimp; cherry shrimp/chameleon shrimp/ghost shrimp. I have no experience with them because I have a small school of loaches that I fear would eat them.

Snails are also recommeded to have as a part of the "crew". I guess that just about all types snails can be a good thing when added to a planted tank and kept under control. Some common types of snails are Malaysian Trumpet Snails (MTS), Ramshorn, Golen Apple, Mystery Snails. A couple of loaches will keep these guys in check. Clowns or Zebras work well. They will eat the small ones preventing overpopulation. As soon as I added some small snails from the LFS, the loaches greedly came around the corner pecking at them.


AC Members
Feb 12, 2002
Salt Lake, Utah
Florida Flag Fish, Black Mollies, Gold Barbs and Rosie Barbs all of which I have tried in my tanks at on time or another, and none of which will I have in my tanks again. All of them are superb hair/thread algae eaters and (except for the black mollies, which really wasn't that great of an algae eater anyway) when they run out of algae they will eat all your fine leaved plants to the stems, They love rotala willichi and also combomba sp. Also they are very busy fish and tend to destroy the serenity or peacefulness of the aquascape.

Siamese Algae Eaters, I adore mine they are good algae eaters and very mild mannered I have had them in my tanks for over five years.

Ottocinclus Cats, are also my one of my favorites I don"t have a planted tanks without them. they eat mainly diatoms.

Pleco's I have tried them don't really like them much I have had the ones they say don't bother plants but it seems in the end they always end up rasping the leaves on my swords done to skeletons.

Ameca Splendens I have no experience with these fish I have read that they can be rather boisterous, Who needs that.

Amano Shrimp, are a very good algae eater and very entertaining to watch. You have be careful about your water quality, don't dose too much iron and make sure you dint have copper pipes in your house. I've read that the newer cherry shrimp that is around is much hardier than the Amanos and will even breed in the aquarium. Now if I could only find some.

Snails I dont mind at all as long as I keep my tanks in a good balance and dont overfeed I never have a population explosion. I have ramshorns and MTS in my tanks never worried about getting rid of them, but then again I never felt my tanks were overun with them either.

This is from my experience only.
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The Gipper

AC Members
Jan 6, 2002
Dublin, Ohio
Had 3 SAE's in my 120. When smaller they were fine. At about 4 inches and growing, they preferred to eat the frozen bloodworms and pellets meant for the other fish in the tank. They also tended to dash around the tank at times, tearing up the java moss I was trying to grow attached to some driftwood. I ended up taking them out.

IMO none of the algae eating fish reduce tank algae to any significant levels. I might try Otos though, most seem to regard these fairly high.

Plecs seem to always rasp on my broadleaf plants.


AC Members
Aug 7, 2002
Edmonton, AB
Algae eating fish are used to help control algae, they are not meant to help fix a outbreak that has already occurred. Prevention is key when it comes to controlling algae. Regulating things such as lighting, CO2 concentration, and nutrient levels are key to preventing algae outbreaks, algae eaters are only there to clean up the little bits and pieces of algae that are unavoidable.
Just something to keep in mind if you ever experience a large algae outbreak. Its not the algae eaters that aren't doing their job, its the fact that there's an inbalance somewhere in your tank.

That said, I've tried the following in my plant tanks:

1.) SAEs - currently have 3 in my 70 gallon tank. Seem to work quite well when they're younger, but now that they've grown up somewhat, they prefer normal fishfood. Don't feed your tank too heavily, or these guys will ignore algae all together.
2.) Otos - cute little suckers (pun intended). Seem to work quite well in larger groups. I have about (haven't had an accurate count in months) a dozen in my 70 gallon tank. Quite a few people seem to have a problem keeping these little guys alive. Assimilate these critters to your tank extremely slowly to increase chances of survival.
3.) Clown Pleco - also quite an interesting little bugger. I haven't seen it chew on my plants (broad leaf plants among others). I like the look of it too... prefers to eat the cucumbers I toss into the tank once a week. I have 1 in my 70 gallon tank.
4.) Florida Flagfish - I've heard that these guys eat thread algae like noodles. Saw them at action at a LFS, never seen them in action in my tanks, as I've haven't had a thread algae outbreak in ages. I have a pair in my 70 gallon.
5.) Amano shrimp (aka. C. japonica shrimp) - Quite effective as an all around cleanup crew. They clean up just about any kind of algae that I've ever had. I've heard that every now and then that some of them may graze on riccia. They also tend to prefer fish food as to algae... so feed your tank lightly to get them to graze on algae. They don't live as long as most other algae eaters, are hard to get in some places, and can fall quickly to predation. I used to have 2 dozen in my 70 gallon... but now their all gone. I have about a dozen in my 15 gallon tank (nothing in there, but driftwood, and javamoss). Since they're so small, you'll need large numbers of them.



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Apr 2, 2003
Tulsa, OK
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I have a bristlenose in my 55 gallon and will never buy an ordinary plecos again. This gus is great and "cute".

I got a small, about 1-inch rubberlip pleco for a 30 gal angel spawning tank. Initially he didn't do a lot of visible algae cleaning. But recently, we went to town on the algae covering the back and sides. Doing a GREAT job.

I always have a handful of ottos in my planted tanks. Bellies always seem to be full.

I love the way SAEs school together. Haven't had them to adulthood (catastrophe last year) but will add them again when I can find some. I bought a dozen small ones from Arizona Aquatic Gardens and they did real well (till I killed them).

I hate snails.



AC Members
Mar 25, 2003
in defense of my flag fish.
I have a few scattered here and there and they love hair algae and hornwort. Lately they have been getting regular duckweed too. Great for existing hair algae, but hell on thin leafy plants.

Otocinclus work well for the starting stages of green algae but they avoid the cyanobacteria (Blue Green Algae) like the plague.

Shrimp have always caused more trouble for me than they are worth. Trumpet and Ramshorn snails are welcome but populations are reduced from time to time.

And if you hate snails, get some Clown Loaches. They love sashimi stlye (raw) escargot.


AC Members
Nov 15, 2003
Vancouver, Canada
I have a Siamese algae eater in my 20 gal community tank. (Orange, quite pretty). I have never had a algae bloom however that really doesnt have anything to do with him. He's always cleaning but doesnt do a good job on the 'beard' algae. Although, I'm one of those people who like the look of beard algae as long as it stays away from the plants. He keeps the glass really clean I rarely have to sponge it. Kind of agressive, though. Still quite young so I havent had a problem with him ignoring the algae, however I dont mind him helping out my catfish with the bottom cleaning. So I would have to give the SAE a thumbs up, a good basic (and fairly easy to find) algae eater.


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Oct 24, 2003
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ive got bristle noses and they do a great job on the glass walls there great and there cute too!

since on this topic does anyone know of a fish that will eat the algae that grows on plants? i have no idea what it is called but its really tough and grows round the edges of the leaf, and its really hard to scrape off with out damaging the leaves.


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Dec 4, 2003
College Station, Texas
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O-cats are my favorite, they do a great job when algae is beginning.

Algae eating shrimp are great specimens and they do a good job. Ghost shrimp do not, but they're still cool.

Plecos are not good for plants and barbs are not good for community fish. (in my experience).

The best way to fight excessive algae is to have some type of fish to control it along with: excellent light, great water quality and overall, really healthy plants. This will choke out most algae.
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