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Best Algae Eating Fish for Freshwater and Planted Aquarium       

Are you also obsessed with life underwater? Do you feel like keeping a part of the ocean close to you? Or maybe you just want the perfect leisure activity? Well, good news! Freshwater planted aquariums are the best option for you.

To begin let us introduce you to what it is. Freshwater planted aquariums are also known as natural aquariums, they are like a part of the ocean. You can create a unique ecosystem by selecting fish and plants of your choice, to replicate perfect habitats found in nature.

They are easier to maintain due to the close resemblance to a natural aquatic environment where plants and aquatic animals exist together; both benefiting each other.

Unfortunately, like all tanks, a freshwater planted aquarium also means algae bloom. Algae growth is inevitable in any tank. Although a minute amount of it is not much of a hassle, once it starts to bloom rapidly, it must be controlled.

It is unsightly and may even harm your plants and animals in the tank. The ‘Blackout’ method and bleach or different medications are easily available to control algae growth but are usually opted for once the situation gets out of hand.

Below is an introduction to some commonly found algae:

  • Hair Algae also known as Thread Algae is light green and grows quickly in thin strands or filaments, attaching itself to surfaces.
  • Brown Algae are also known as diatoms. They are single-celled algae that dust tank surfaces. Growing into a very thick mat overtime.
  • Blue-Green Algae is also known as cyanobacteria which starts as few spots but spreads quickly.
  • Black Beard Algae is purple-black and hard to get rid of.
  • Green Algae also typically known as algae bloom is very common if the lighting is too bright.
  • Green Spot Algae grows as tough spots and layers on making it hard to remove.
  • Green Dust Algae is like loose dust covering tank surfaces.

List of Best Algae Eaters

  • Bristlenose Plecostomus
  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Chinese Algae Eater
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Twig Catfish
  • Mollies and other Livebearers

The easiest method to get rid of much of the algae, simultaneously, without any other methods is keeping algae eater animals. Algae eaters have always been an integral part of aquarium-keeping.

Their algae-eating skills paired with their eccentric appearance makes them an amazing addition to your aquarium. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. What are algae eaters? To answer that, they are all animals that have algae as a significant part of their diets.

They are usually herbivores and thus, may eat your plants so be careful about what species you will be adding to your tank.

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Do you want to get rid of the green slime in your tank? Are you looking to hire a cleanup team for your aquarium?

Do not fret because we have you covered. Keep reading because below is the list of some of the best algae eating fish additions to your tank which will make your cleaning job so much easier.

Bristlenose Plecostomus

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Commonly available in colors like gold, brown, and albino, etc makes this fish quite a dramatic addition to any tank. They are the smallest catfish, growing to be around almost 4 inches long. This makes it the perfect size for most medium-sized aquariums.

Its cousin catfish, Hypostomus Plecostomus also commonly known as the “suckerfish” grows to about two feet long thus, making this species a valuable alternative to it. On top of their algae-eating skills, they are quite the eyecatcher. Males develop long fleshy tentacles on their heads and females on their snouts. They are herbivores and easy to care for.

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They also get along with most of the commonly found tankmates.

Family – Loricariidae

Lifespan – 5+ Years

Size – Up to 5 inches

Diet – Herbivore

Nature – Peaceful

Care Level – Easy


Siamese Algae Eater

If you are looking for one solution to most of your algae troubles, this is your answer. This species is referred to as the “algae eating powerhouse” of the aquarium keeping world.

In addition to eating the most unappetizing types of algae, even the tough black beard algae, they also eat leftover debris in the tanks. Despite their ravenous nature, they get along peacefully with their tankmates and are especially perfect for planted aquariums because they are known to not damage any plants.

Siamese fish grow up to almost 6 inches are omnivores and can survive in large fish communities as well as small ones. The only thing you have to worry about for this species is confusing it with Siamese Flying Fox, which has an uncanny resemblance to it.

Family – Cyprinidae

Lifespan – Up to 10 Years

Size – 6 inches - For all your creative needs!

Diet – Omnivore

Nature – Peaceful

Care Level – Easy

Chinese Algae Eater

Not the most amazing algae eaters but they still provide some benefits that the rest of the algae eaters do not, keeping them popular in the fishkeeping community.

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When young, they are docile enough to be kept in a community tank but as they age, they become more aggressive and are not suitable for community tanks anymore.

But their hostile nature may come as an advantage to some fish keepers, in addition to their almost 10 inches growth. These factors make it one of the few algae-eater fish that can survive in large tanks with semi-aggressive fish.

Family – Gyrinocheilus

Lifespan – 10 Years

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Size – 5 inches

Diet – Herbivore

Nature – Semi-Aggressive

Care Level – Easy


Otocinclus Catfish

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Another popular purchase for cleaning tanks. This type of algae-eating catfish grows to a length of something between 1 to 2 inches. It is social and survives particularly amazing in community tanks.

Also suitable for planted tanks due to it not causing any harm to the plants. catfish are usually calm and get along with all their tankmates. It is especially a great purchase for beginners and taking care of them is simple and time-saving.

They are good at removing brown and green algae and other newer algae before they have a chance to bloom in your tank. But this particular species needs to be bought in groups of 5 or 6.

Family – Loricariidae

Lifespan – 3-5 years

Size – 1-2 inches

Diet – Herbivore

Nature – Peaceful

Care Level – Easy

Twig Catfish

Another algae eater from the catfish family, this one has a unique appearance. They are thin and long, growing up to a length of 9 inches.

Brown in color with a rostrum at front; they look like a twig that keeps them camouflaged. They are herbivores and clear your tank of any green algae.

On the downside, they are high maintenance, requiring high oxygen levels and a bit of current to live healthily.

In addition to this, their reserved nature means that it should have tank mates who are slow swimming as to not scare it and accommodating so they do not outcompete it for food.

Family – Loricariidae

Lifespan – 5-15 years

Size – Up to 9 inches

Diet – Herbivore

Nature – Peaceful

Care Level – Intermediate

Mollies and other Livebearers

Although not specifically algae eating fish, mollies and livebearers may feed on algae from time to time. They are especially good at clearing hair algae.

Some common livebearers include platies and swordtails. Both are available in many colors. Other than bringing color to any tank mollies and livebearers are peaceful and do well in community tanks.

One downside might be their reproduction rate which is high and quick thus, it is important to accommodate a large amount of fish in your tank.

Family – Poeciliidae

Lifespan – Up to 5 years

Size – Up to 4.5 inches

Diet – Omnivores

Nature – Peaceful

Care Level – Easy

Finding the Algae Issue

Now that you know the best algae eating fish additions, it is compulsory to know all factors you should consider before splurging cash on any species. The first being, what kind of algae are you dealing with.

It is important to buy fish which can specifically deal with the problems you are facing. If you recognize more than one type of algae, you may have to buy more than one type of algae-eating fish even if most usually feed on more than one algae species. For this, make sure the fish can coexist peacefully. Next comes, the tank conditions.

Each fish species has its specific demands ranging from water temperature, pH, current or flow strength, and even tank size depending on their growth. It is also important to note whether the fish get along or not. In a community tank, where several species exist together, it is a compulsion to make sure none shows violent behavior to any other fish species.

Planted Aquariums with Algae

Since we are talking specifically about planted aquariums, the algae eaters should not harm any plant you have either. Lastly, you need to consider how easy or hard it is to take care of the specific type of algae-eating fish you want.

Some species demand higher maintenance compared to others. Especially in terms of nutritional needs. Unless you are unfortunate and have a lot of algae in your tank, you will probably need to supplement their diet with some kind of vegetable or algae wafers. In short, you need to make sure that the algae eater suits your tank and your tank suits the algae eater fish you choose.

Even after this article, you might be wondering what fish to buy. What is the best algae eating fish? Truth is, none will fit every tank. It is like looking for one solution to all your problems in life; impossible to find.

Keep in mind all the factors like tank size and the fish and plants you already own. After careful research, choose the fish that suit your requirements and conditions best. Also, know that algae eating fish are not the only option. Other aquatic animals like shrimps and snails also eat algae. Consider all your options.

And remember, it is important to treat the main cause of algae and sort it out. Algae eaters might not always be the solution. Enjoy the help but do not depend entirely on them. Furthermore, they also can be very messy and add to the biowaste of the tank.


To conclude, fishkeeping can be the perfect hobby if you are ready to invest some time and money. When you set up any tank, algae blooming is very natural. And if you are lucky, it may easily be cleaned by methods like bleaching or available medications.

For further precautions, people usually buy algae eaters which usually include fish, shrimps, and snails. These may only act as precautions or solution to a specific quantity of algae. When the situation gets worse, the algae eaters will not be able to help.

Hence, while we should take benefit from nature’s gifted algae eater, it is foolish to depend on them completely. Try to find out the root cause of the algae blooms and deal with them appropriately, as required. You must not forget to clean your tank regularly, like before.

Other than that, while shopping for algae eaters make sure they are easy for you to manage and they can adjust to your tank. They must not harm your already set ecological system in the tank. Another important thing people forget is to feed the algae eaters.

It is a common misconception that is false because they don’t need to eat all types of algae available and it is necessary to fill their nutritional needs. They need to be taken care of like any normal fish.