12 Best Algae Eaters For Tropical Tanks

One of the best algae eaters is a shrimp

When trying to find the best algae eaters for tropical tanks there are several options open to you.

The 3 main ways of keeping your algae down are algae-eating fish, snails such as Nerite snails, and shrimp. For me, chemicals are not really a good idea and I would personally try all the other options first. If chemicals are not used correctly they will certainly cause more harm than good and could result in killing fish, shrimp, and plants.

Algae thrives in almost all water types and can be a real pain. It tends to grow on literally all surfaces including the aquarium itself. First up let’s take a look at the top 5 fish that will help to keep your algae levels down in your tropical tank.

5 Best Algae Eating Fish

One of the most popular ways of tackling an algae problem is to get some algae-eating fish. Here are what I believe to be 5 of the best algae eaters money can buy.

The Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose is probably one of the best algae eaters for a tropical tank you can purchase. They don’t tend to get too large in size, and in general, are a good tank mate for most other species of fish. Not only that, they absolutely love munching on algae. The Bristlenose is quite popular nowadays and is quite readily available from most aquatic shops.

The Siamese Algae Eater

With a name like ‘Siamese Algae Eater’, you know these fish just have to have a mention in the top 5 algae-eating fish. Fully grown they can grow to around 6″ in length. Even though that is quite a good size, in general, they are a peaceful and placid type of fish. They will generally get on with other non-aggressive species and keep your algae levels down quite nicely. Due to their size, you probably will be needing a tank no smaller than 30 gallons. Temperature-wise, the water needs to ideally be 75 – 80F with a PH of 6.5 – 7.0.

The Chinese Algae Eater

Very similar in looks to the Siamese algae eater, the Chinese algae eater is also a pretty large fish. This species can grow up to about 10″ in length. For this reason, a small tank is not recommended. Certainly, 30 gallons upwards will be needed. Due to their size, they are quite good at sticking up for themselves. This makes them a good algae eater to put in with any semi-aggressive fish. The water temperature wants to be 74 – 80F with a PH of 6.5 – 7.5. The Chinese algae eater is particularly good at hoovering up the algae off the bottom of the tank.

The Twig Catfish

As you can imagine, the twig catfish gets its name from resembling a twig. Despite its weird appearance, this fish certainly likes to chomp on algae. In general, if ‘the twig’ has plenty of hiding places it will remain quite a peaceful chap in most aquariums. The twig catfish are at their happiest when they are kept in pairs. They can grow to about 4″ in size and will need a tank of about 35 gallons to live happily. They will need a PH of 6.5 – 7.0 and a temperature of 73 – 79F.

The Otocinclus

The Otocinclus Catfish is another species that looks rather like the Chinese algae eater. These placid little fish will only grow to about 2″ in length though, making them perfect tank mates in most aquariums. The Otocinclus is a fairly hardy species making them popular amongst aquarists. The PH will want to be 6.8 – 7.5 and water temperature 72 – 79F.

3 Best Algae Eating Snails

Next up in our list of best algae eaters is the trusty snail. These trusty molluscs may not be the fastest moving creature in your tank, but believe me, they know how to munch on your algae. Let’s have a look at what algae-eating snails you can get for your aquarium.

The Nerite Snail

There are many types of Nerite snails available to aquarists today. Whether you have a freshwater tank or a saltwater tank there is a Nerite snail that will suit your setup. These little snails will literally spend most of their days just eating algae and cleaning your tank. They will grow to about an inch long and should live for 2 – 3 years if kept healthy.

The Apple Snail

The Apple snail is also known as the Mystery snail. These can grow to between 1″ and 2″. If you have a planted tank these algae eaters may not be for you. You will probably find they will cause mass devastation to your much-loved plants. They also have a tendency to breed rather quickly, so it is worth keeping an eye on them. Apple snails are not too fussy when it comes to their conditions. PH can be anything between 6.5 and 8.0. The temperatures can be anything between 70 and 80F.

The Rabbit Snail

Rabbit snails are another algae-eating snail that will live nicely in most freshwater setups. These placid creatures will happily munch on any algae and leftover food that is in your tank. Whilst they have algae and leftovers to keep them busy they will also leave any living plants well alone. Making them a perfect asset to any planted tank. Rabbit snails aren’t too fussy when it comes to conditions. Temperature can range from 76 to 84F and PH from 7.8 to 8.4. These strange-looking snails are quite easy to look after and will certainly help in reducing algae.

Popular Algae Eating Shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are just super cool little dudes, that to me are a must-have addition to have in most freshwater tropical setups. They really do always seem to be busy cleaning up your tank. Shrimp alone won’t keep your tank spotless, but they will do a good job at lending a helping hand to keep the algae down. The most popular shrimp available are, the Cherry shrimp, the Amano Shrimp, Ghost shrimp, and Bamboo shrimp.

What Causes Algae In The First Place?

All the best algae eaters will help in keeping your algae levels down. But what causes algae to grow in the first place?


If your aquarium is placed anywhere sunlight can get to it, then it is a good idea to move it as soon as you can. One of the main ways in which algae will bloom is through sunlight. The sun really can cause you some problems when it comes to controlling algae growth.

High Phosphate Levels

Over feeding in an aquarium can easily lead to high phosphate levels. Algae loves phosphates and will tend to bloom in these conditions. Be sure to monitor your feeding and make sure no surplus food gets left in the water. Over feeding can lead to devastating water conditions in any aquarium.

Artificial Lighting

Artificial lighting can also cause problems when it comes to algae growth. Excessive use will almost certainly entice algae to bloom. On an average setup around eight hours of light will suffice. If you leave them on any longer algae will be sure to bloom. Getting yourself a timer to combat this problem would be a good idea.

Conclusion On The Best Algae Eaters.

Let’s face it, you could have the best algae eaters in the world, yet you will still get algae in your tank. You can have the best balanced tank going, but things are always growing and changing in your underwater world. Because of this, algae will always find a way of creeping in when it’s least expected. By following the guide lines above you should be able to keep the algae at bay. Just be sure to add some of the algae eaters into the equation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Algae Eaters Eat Just Algae?

No, not at all. Being an algae eater doesn’t mean that they will just eat algae. All the fish that are mentioned and most of the other algae eaters will also eat flakes and other food available.

Do Algae Eaters Really Help?

100% algae eaters really will help to keep your tank clean. They certainly won’t cure the problem, but they will definitely help in keeping your algae at bay.

Do Algae Eaters Eat Poop?

Contrary to popular belief, algae eaters will not eat poop. Your clean-up crew will eat algae and other types of food, but definitely not poop.

Can I Keep Snails And Shrimp Together?

Snails and shrimp make great tankmates. So the answer is yes, snails and shrimp, in general will live happily together.

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