12 Of The Best Algae Eating Fish For Your Aquarium!

Dealing with algae is a common challenge for many aquarium enthusiasts, but algae-eating fish can help maintain a clean tank.

Following my recent article on how to get rid of algae, I decided to publish this guide on various algae eaters to help you find the best option for your aquarium.

Quick Reference Guide

All of these algae eaters will be covered in more detail below:

  • Otocinclus Catfish: Excellent for eating soft algae in small tanks.
  • Amano Shrimp: Highly efficient and hardy, suitable for various tanks.
  • Horned Nerite Snails: Small, affordable, and effective at cleaning tank glass.
  • Zebra Otocinclus: Hardy and efficient, ideal for medium tanks.
  • Bristlenose Plecostomus: Eats various algae types, best for larger tanks.
  • Siamese Algae Eater: Consumes difficult algae, requires a large tank.
  • Hillstream Loach: Unique appearance, efficient but sensitive to water conditions.
  • Silver Flying Fox: Excellent algae eater, needs a large community tank.
  • Nerite Snails: Affordable and efficient, great for controlling glass algae.
  • Neocaridina Shrimp: Effective for soft algae, bright and easy to breed.
  • Florida Flagfish: Hardy and effective, particularly for black beard algae.
  • Ramshorn Snail: Prolific algae eater but breeds quickly.

General Tips For Choosing Algae Eaters

Always ensure that any potential algae-eating fish are compatible with the inhabitants of your aquarium.

All the algae eaters featured in this article are peaceful and typically coexist well with their tank mates.

Suitable water parameters are also crucial, but most algae eaters will thrive in a standard tropical fish setup.

One commonly overlooked aspect of keeping algae-eating fish is diet supplementation. Although these fish will consume algae in the tank, some may require additional food. High-protein fish food, such as Fluval Bug Bites, and algae wafers, can provide everything they need.

Here’s a table showing the key requirements for these algae eaters.

NameTank
(Gallons)
TemppH
Otocinclus1070-79°F5.5-7.5
Amano Shrimp565-82°F6.5-8
Horned Nerites572-79°F7.0-8.0
Zebra Oto1270-77°F6.0-7.5
Bristlenose2070-79°F5.5-7.5
Siamese Algae Eater4068-79°F6.0 – 7.5
Hillstream Loach1568-75°F6.0 – 7.5
Silver Flying Fox5561-75°F6.0 – 7.5
Nerite Snails572-79°F7.0-8.0
Neocaridina Shrimp565-80°F6.7-8.0
Florida Flagfish2065-86°F6.5-8.5
Ramshorn Snails570-78°F7.0-8.0

Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus Vittatus)

Otocinclus Catfish
Otocinclus Catfish

Pros

  • Eats Lots Of Algae
  • Cheap
  • Easy To Find
  • Look Cute

Cons

  • Can Be Frail
  • Don’t Eat Hard Algaes
  • Difficult To Breed
  • Often Wild Caught

Otocinclus Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Biofilm

The Otocinclus catfish are among the best algae-eating fish in the hobby, constantly feeding on soft algae.

It’s recommended to keep six or more in your tank to reduce stress since they are shoaling fish.

Adding driftwood is an easy way to replicate their natural habitat, as they eat algae and biofilm on wood that has fallen into rivers.

While “otocinclus” is a general term, there are three main variations:

  • Otocinclus Macrospilus
  • Otocinclus Vittatus
  • Otocinclus Vestitus

These variations have slight differences but mix well and all consume a significant amount of algae.

All three variants share the same weakness: their frail nature. Otocinclus catfish are difficult to acclimate to your tank but the video below offers some tips to get them to survive.

Otocinclus won’t eat hair algae like black beard algae or staghorn, but they will consume the soft algae in your tank.

For hair algae issues, consider one of the other algae eaters.

Water Temperature70-77°F (21–25°C)
Water FlowLow To Moderate
pH6.0 – 7.5
Ammonia0
Nitrite0
Nitrate<20
Otocinclus Water Parameters

Amano Shrimp (Caridina Multidentata)

Amano Shrimp
Amano Shrimp

Pros

  • Eat Lots Of Algae
  • Hardy
  • Low Maintenance

Cons

  • Not A Fish
  • Costs More Than Other Shrimp
  • Some Fish Eat Them

Amano Shrimp Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Black Beard Algae
  • Biofilm

Amano shrimp are top-tier algae eaters, constantly consuming different algae types.

Despite being shrimp rather than fish, they are highly effective and worth adding to your tank.

I keep Amano shrimp in all my aquariums, where they excel at managing algae.

Amano Shrimp Eating Algae

If they get hungry enough, they’ll even tackle tougher algae types like black beard algae, though they prefer softer algae.

I recommend adding one Amano shrimp per 10 liters of aquarium water to control algae buildup.

Their larger size also makes them suitable tank mates for betta fish, helping to keep algae under control in betta tanks.

The Amano Shrimp Is 7-Fold More Efficient Than The Cherry Shrimp

University of Copenhagen

Compared to cherry shrimp, Amano shrimp are much more efficient at eating algae, making them a better choice for cleanup crews.

If algae levels are low, you can supplement their diet with blanched vegetables, algae wafers, bloodworms, or high-protein fish food.

Water Temperature65-82°F (18.5-28°C)
Water FlowStill-Low
pH6.5-8
GH4-15
KH0-10
TDS80-400
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Amano Shrimp Water Parameters

Horned Nerite Snails (Clithon Corona)

Horned Nerite Snails
Horned Nerite Snails

Pros

  • Eats Lot Of Algae
  • Very Hardy
  • Cheap And Easy To Find

Cons

  • Can Lay Eggs On Hardscape
  • Eats Limited Algae Types
  • May Crawl Out The Tank

Horned Nerite Snails Eat

  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Spot Algae
  • Black Beard Algae

Horned nerite snails are my top pick for algae-eating snails because they are small, affordable, and highly efficient at consuming algae.

Although they aren’t fish, these snails offer a distinct advantage by eating algae and biofilm off your tank glass, keeping it clean and reducing the need for manual cleaning.

However, they do lay eggs that won’t hatch in freshwater but can be unsightly on hardscape and glass.

The Zebra Nerite Snail And The Horned Nerite Chlithon, Are Perfect Glass Cleaners Thanks To Their Rasping Technique.

dennerle plants

Besides tank glass algae, horned nerite snails also consume algae on hardscape and larger plants.

With a maximum size about a third of other nerite snails, they are ideal for small nano tanks but they can escape from aquariums, so using a tank lid is advisable.

Horned Nerite Snail

I recommend adding one horned nerite snail per 15 liters of water to effectively manage algae on the tank glass.

Since nerite snails can’t reproduce in freshwater, they won’t overpopulate your tank like other snails.

Water Temperature72-79°F (22-26°C)
Water FlowLow To Moderate
pH7-8
Ammonia0
Nitrite0
Nitrate<50
Nerite Snail Water Parameters

Zebra Otocinclus (Otocinclus Cocama)

Zebra Otocinclus
Zebra Otocinclus

Pros

  • Hardier Than Other Otos
  • Eat A Ton Of Algae

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slightly Larger Than Otos

Zebra Otocinclus Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Biofilm

Zebra otocinclus have recently surged in popularity, quickly becoming one of the more favored algae eaters in the hobby.

As previously mentioned, the three main variants of regular otocinclus are:

  • Otocinclus Macrospilus
  • Otocinclus Vittatus
  • Otocinclus Vestitus

The primary differences between these and the zebra otocinclus are:

  • Hardiness
  • Size
  • Price
  • Pattern

Unlike other otos, zebra otocinclus are hardy and thrive in mature tanks with minimal fatalities making them easier to keep.

They tend to be more challenging to find due to their growing popularity so their price tag is usually higher than the other types of otocinclus.

Water Temperature70-77°F (21–25°C)
Water FlowLow To Moderate
pH6.0 – 7.5
Ammonia0
Nitrite0
Nitrate<20
Otocinclus Water Parameters

Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus Sp.)

Bristlenose Plecostomus
Bristlenose Plecostomus

Pros

  • May Eat Lots Of Algae
  • Cheap
  • Easy To Find
  • Hardy

Cons

  • Large Bioload
  • Eats Limited Algae Types
  • Will Happily Over Eat
  • Unsuitable For Nano Tanks

Bristlenose Plecostomus Eat

  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Spot Algae
  • Biofilm

People have strong opinions about bristlenose plecos—they either love them or hate them. However, these fish can be effective algae eaters in the right setup.

The key is to avoid overfeeding your bristlenose pleco so it turns to the algae in the tank for sustenance. When hungry, they consume most of the soft algae in aquariums.

A common mistake is adding too much food to the tank, eliminating the need for the bristlenose to eat algae. They will wait for the next feeding session.

This is why I’m not a big fan of them; my algae eaters are typically in community tanks with other fish, and I prefer to feed my fish without worrying that the algae eaters aren’t doing their job.

Adding some driftwood is essential for keeping bristlenose plecos, as they rasp on it to aid digestion.

Bristlenose plecos come in a variety of colors, including:

  • Brown
  • Albino (Red Eyes)
  • White (Black/Blue Eyes)
  • Calico
  • Starlight
  • Super Red

These color variations offer some customization, but the rarer colors often come with a higher price tag.

Were Found To Contain 11 Species Of Ancistrus, Six Of Which Are New.

mapress.com

New varieties of bristlenose plecos are frequently discovered, each with a unique appearance, expanding the available options.

Bristlenose plecos typically grow to about 4-5 inches (10-13cm) in length, so they generally require a tank with a footprint of at least 60x30cm.

This usually means a 20-gallon (76-liter) tank, but larger tanks are always better.

Water Temperature70-79°F (21–26°C)
Water FlowStill-Moderate
pH5.5 – 7.5
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Bristlenose Pleco

Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus Oblongus)

Siamese Algae Eater
Siamese Algae Eater

Pros

  • Excellent Algae Eater
  • Peaceful Nature
  • Eats Black Beard Algae

Cons

  • Large Active Fish
  • Needs Supplementary Food
  • Can Jump Out Of Aquariums

Siamese Algae Eaters Eat

  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Spot Algae
  • Black Beard Algae
  • Staghorn Algae

One could argue that Siamese Algae Eaters are the best algae-eating fish in the hobby.

They consume a wide variety of algae, including the notoriously difficult black beard algae and staghorn algae.

While most algae eaters won’t touch black beard and staghorn algae, a hungry Siamese Algae Eater will readily consume both.

Some Fish Species May Also Help To Control Black Beard Algae Including The Siamese Algae Eater.

Swell

They have a peaceful nature, though many people mistake them for other, more aggressive fish.

This confusion often leads to social media posts claiming that Siamese Algae Eaters are aggressive when in reality, the person has a different species.

My juvenile Siamese Algae Eater happily picks at various types of algae in its tank and leaves its tank mates alone.

The main downside of Siamese Algae Eaters is their size. Adults can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm), so they typically require a 40-gallon (150-liter) tank or larger.

If you have a small tank, this is not the algae eater for you.

Water Temperature68-79°F (20–26°C)
Water FlowStill To Moderate
pH6.0 – 7.5
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm

Hillstream Loach (Sewellia Lineolate)

“Beaufortia kweichowensis by DaijuAzuma” by Daiju Azuma at http://opencage.info/pics/ is licensed under CC BY 2.5. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/?ref=openverse.

Pros

  • Efficient Algae Eaters
  • Unique Appearance
  • Peaceful
  • Low Bioload

Cons

  • Sensitive to Water Conditions
  • Limited Availability
  • Require Hiding Places
  • Don’t Eat Hard Algae

Hillstream Loaches Eat

  • Biofilm
  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae

Hillstream loaches have a distinctive appearance, resembling mini face-hugging aliens.

They consume most types of soft algae commonly found in aquariums but tend to avoid tougher hair algae.

Hillstream loaches excel at keeping tank glass and hardscape algae-free, though they may struggle with algae on other surfaces.

While Sewellia Lineolata is considered the true hillstream loach, the following variants are also commonly sold as hillstream loaches:

  • Hillstream Loach (Sewellia Lineolata)
  • Butterfly Loach (Beaufortia Kweichowensis)
  • Borneo Loach (Gastromyzon Stellatus)
  • Chinese Hillstream Loach (Pseudogastromyzon Myersi)

All four are effective algae-eating fish but have slightly different appearances that help distinguish them.

Sewellia Lineolata and Beaufortia Kweichowensis prefer slightly harder water, while Gastromyzon Stellatus and Pseudogastromyzon Myersi prefer slightly softer water.

Keeping hillstream loaches in standard aquariums is controversial because they come from high-flow rivers and streams, while most aquariums have low flow. A cheap powerhead can provide the optimal flow to keep a hillstream loach happy.

Hillstream loaches are such efficient algae eaters that they often consume algae faster than it can grow.

We Use Repashy Soilent Green Gel as A Supplement to Ensure They Always Have Access to A Well-Balanced Diet.

University Of Oxford

Repashy Soilent Green gel food is a good alternative since algae wafers can be hit or miss with hillstream loaches.

Some people follow the instructions on the Repashy label to make the gel food, while others smear it onto a rock or driftwood.

Both methods work well and ensure your hillstream loach is fed when algae levels in the tank are low.

Water Temperature68-75°F (20–24°C)
Water FlowLow-High
pH6.0 – 7.5
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Hillstream Loach

Silver Flying Fox (Crossocheilus Reticulatus)

Silver Flying Fox
Silver Flying Fox

Pros

  • Excellent Algae Eater
  • Community Friendly
  • Hardy

Cons

  • Adults Are Huge
  • Difficult To Find
  • Needs Supplementary Food

Silver Flying Fox Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Black Beard Algae
  • Staghorn Algae

The Silver Flying Fox is an excellent algae eater, particularly adept at consuming hair algae.

These peaceful fish thrive in large community tanks, but their adult size of over 7 inches (18cm) means they require a tank of at least 55 gallons (208 liters).

A Silver Flying Fox Eating Algae

Though their appearance might be plain, Silver Flying Foxes are gaining popularity due to their algae-eating ability.

Some aquarists report that their Silver Flying Foxes avoid hair algae, but this is usually due to the fish being well-fed.

When hungry, they will readily consume black beard algae and staghorn algae, as demonstrated in the video below.

These fish also enjoy softer green algae types commonly found in aquariums, making them effective algae eaters.

If not for their large size, Silver Flying Foxes would likely be considered the best algae-eating fish in the hobby.

Water Temperature61-75°F (16–24°C)
Water FlowStill To Moderate
pH6.0 – 7.5
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Silver Flying Fox Water Parameters

Nerite Snails (Neritina Natalensis)

Zebra Nerite Snails
Zebra Nerite Snails

Pros

  • Eats Lots Of Tank Glass Algae
  • Very Hardy
  • Cheap And Easy To Find

Cons

  • Can Lay Eggs On Hardscape
  • Eats Limited Algae Types
  • May Crawl Out The Tank

Zebra Nerite Snails Eat

  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Spot Algae
  • Black Beard Algae

Nerite snails are popular algae eaters due to their affordability and efficiency in consuming large amounts of algae.

Unlike the smaller horned nerite snails, other varieties of nerite snails are approximately three times larger.

This larger size requires more food, so they eat more algae. To ensure they have enough to eat, I stock one nerite snail per 30 liters of water.

The video above demonstrates nerite snails consuming black beard algae, countering the common belief that they only eat softer algae types.

As with other algae eaters, the key is hunger—avoid overfeeding your fish to encourage nerites to eat black beard algae.

Popular types of nerite snails in the hobby include:

  • Zebra Nerite Snail
  • Horned Nerite Snail
  • Red Onion Nerite Snail
  • Batik Nerite Snail
  • Ring Nerite Snail
  • Military Helmet Snail

While some claim that zebra nerite and military helmet nerite snails consume the most algae, my experience suggests that all varieties are equally effective.

Water Temperature72-79°F (22-26°C)
Water FlowLow To Moderate
pH7-8
Ammonia0
Nitrite0
Nitrate<50
Nerite Snail Water Parameters

Neocaridina Shrimp (Neocaridina)

A Cherry Shrimp
A Cherry Shrimp

Pros

  • Cheap And Easy To Find
  • Brightly Colored
  • Eat Algae

Cons

  • Don’t Eat All Algae Types
  • Sensitive To Water Parameters
  • Some Fish Eat Them

Neocaridina Shrimp Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Biofilm

Neocaridina shrimp are underrated as algae eaters and tend to be overshadowed by Amano shrimp.

While Amano shrimp consume more algae and a wider variety of algae types, Neocaridina shrimp are particularly effective at eating soft algae.

Cherry shrimp are the most popular Neocaridina shrimp, but they are available in a wide range of colors, including:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Black
  • White

I stock one Neocaridina shrimp per 10 liters of water, but they breed quickly, so I often end up with many more.

My article on common cherry shrimp breeding mistakes can help you avoid issues and ensure your cherry shrimp breed successfully in your tank.

Research from Tropica found that Neocaridina shrimp were the second-best algae eaters for soft algae.

Water Temperature65-80°F (18.5-27°C)
Water FlowStill-Low
pH6.7-8
GH6-10 dGH
KH3-10 dKH
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20ppm
Red Cherry Shrimp Water Parameters

Florida Flagfish (Jordanella Floridae)

Florida Flagfish
Florida Flagfish

Pros

  • Excellent Algae Eaters
  • Very Hardy Fish
  • Community Tank Compatible

Cons

  • Difficult To Find Outside USA
  • Specific Dietary Needs
  • Temperature Sensitivity

Florida Flagfish Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Black Beard Algae
  • Staghorn Algae

Florida flagfish are gaining popularity as reliable algae eaters, particularly for black beard algae.

They are small and can thrive in tanks of 20 gallons (75 liters) or over. Although they are hard to find in Europe, they are cheap and readily available in North America.

Supplementing the diet of Florida flagfish with high-protein foods, such as Fluval Bug Bites, is essential.

Their Mouths Are Perfectly Shaped For Ripping Off Hair Algae, Black Beard Algae, And Other Fuzzy Types Of Algae.

Aquarium Co Op

These hardy fish are beginner-friendly and effective at eating black beard algae, as demonstrated in the video below.

Hunger is a significant factor, so adjust your feeding schedule to encourage the fish to consume tougher algae types.

Unlike other algae eaters, Florida flagfish are colorful with a unique pattern, adding aesthetic value to your tank.

They have a wide water temperature range but tend to thrive better towards the lower end of their tolerance.

Water Temperature65-86°F (18–30°C)
Water FlowStill-Moderate
pH6.5 – 8.5
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Florida Flagfish Water Parameters

Ramshorn Snail (Planorbarius Corneus)

Ramshorn Snail
Ramshorn Snail

Pros

  • Effective Algae Control
  • Low Maintenance
  • Aesthetic Appeal
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Rapid Reproduction
  • Potential Plant Damage
  • Moderate Bioload
  • Difficult to Eradicate

Ramshorn Snails Eat

  • Green Spot Algae
  • Diatom Algae
  • Green Dust Algae
  • Biofilm

Ramshorn snails are prolific algae eaters and can sometimes outperform other algae-eating snails.

They are extremely cheap, and some fish-keeping clubs give them away to their members for free.

However, they breed quickly and can overpopulate your tank, which is why many people prefer nerite snails instead.

One advantage of ramshorn snails is their variety of colors, including:

  • Brown
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Pink
  • Orange
  • Black

Personally, I prefer neocaridina shrimp over ramshorn snails, but that’s because I’m biased towards shrimp.

Water Temperature70-78°F (21–26°C)
Water FlowStill-Moderate
pH7-8
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20 ppm
Ramshorn Snail Water Parameters

Conclusion

Selecting the right algae eater for your aquarium depends on the size of your tank and the types of algae you need to control.

Otocinclus and Amano shrimp are great for small tanks, while Bristlenose Plecos and Siamese Algae Eaters are better suited for medium to large tanks.

Adding these algae eaters can significantly reduce algae growth and help maintain a healthy aquarium environment.