Top 16 Best Algae Eaters That Clean your Freshwater Aquarium

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Nothing is more frustrating than sinking hours into creating the perfect aquascape, only to realize you are missing a piece of the puzzle.

Your chemicals could be off, or some bacteria and algae got into the system, starting a complete takeover of your aquarium.

Before you dump a bunch of chemicals into the water, change out your aquascape, or quarantine fish, take a few minutes to learn about the best algae eaters.

For freshwater aquariums, algae eaters ease your algae bloom woes.

They are the cleanup crew for even the busiest of tanks and can turn your algae problem into a long-lost memory. They take care of your tank while helping you avoid adding harsh chemicals to the water.

The key to getting rid of algae is understanding the type that has begun to develop in your tank.

Figuring out which algae eaters you want to include in your tank while ensuring sure you are giving them the right environment to thrive is critical.

Non-Aggressive - Beginner Friendly
  • Best Fish You Can Add To Your Tank
  • Non-Aggressive Towards Other Species
  • Excellent Choice For Beginners
Fairly Peaceful - Recommended
  • Tends To Outgrow Its Smaller Siamese
  • Reaching Up To 10 Inches In Length In The Right Conditions
Safe For Plants - Best Value
  • Docile And Easy To Care For
  • Do Well In Larger Tanks, Over 30 Gallons In Size
Standard For Aquariums - Recommended
  • Manageable Size Throughout Their Lives
  • Peaceful Fish That Grows Around 5 Inches
  • Hardiest Species Of Algae Eaters
Tough And Rugged - Best Value
  • Fantastic Algae Eaters That Will Not Reproduce In Fresh Water
  • Beautiful And Great Additives To Your Aquarium
  • Best Snails To Control Algae
Beautiful Colors - Best Choice
  • Very Good At Cleaning Algae Off The Glass Or Left Over Food
  • Such A Big Help For A Clean Tank
  • Easy Population Control
Attractive And Unique - Recommended
  • Popular And Attractive Addition To Any Aquarium
  • Great For Adding Some Color And Decoration To Your Aquarium
  • Each Snail's Shells And Color Are Diverse And Totally Unique!
Hardy And Harmless - Best Value
  • Great For Aerating The Substrate
  • Hard To Kill And Hard-Working
  • Adorable And Great Cleaners
Active And Adorable - Best Quality
  • Their Beautiful Orange Bodies Added Some Much Needed Color
  • Amazing And Beautiful Color
  • Alive And Healthy
Healthy And Happy - Best Choice
  • The Best Algae Eating Shrimp In The Hobby
  • Prevent An Overrun Of Algae
  • The Ultimate In Cleanup Crews
Beautiful Species - Highly Recommended
  • Very Effective Cleaning Crew For Your Tanks, Cleaning Up Algae And Waste
  • Beautiful Species To Sit And Admire
  •  They Are Very Active And Breed Very Quickly
Hardy Species - Best Choice
  • Help Pull Their Weight Under The Right Conditions
  • A Great, Cheap Shrimp To Try Your Hands At Raising Shrimp
  • Easy To Take Care Of
Peaceful Species - High Value
  • Truly Fascinating Species Due To Their Lively Personalities
  • Quickly Change Color Based On Their Mood And/Or Environment
  • Peaceful And Will Get Along Great With Any Other Critters In Your Aquarium

Top 16 Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Aquariums

Just because the algae eaters are the cleanup crew does not mean they cannot be a part of a thriving (and soothing) aquascape that you enjoy daily.

Below are 16 of the best algae eating snails, shrimp, and fish that make great tank mates with most other species and do a great job of keeping the algae blooms at bay.

Highlights

  • Best Fish You Can Add To Your Tank
  • Non-Aggressive Towards Other Species
  • Excellent Choice For Beginners

Siamese algae eaters are some of the best fish you can add to your tank because they are known for being great schoolmates.

They are non-aggressive towards other species and will feast on just about every type of algae you can encounter.

Pro Tip


If you have a larger tank (30-gallons or larger), the Crossocheilus oblongus makes an excellent choice for beginners.

Highlights

  • Tends To Outgrow Its Smaller Siamese
  • Reaching Up To 10 Inches In Length In The Right Conditions

Coming in at the larger end of the spectrum, the Chinese Algae Eater tends to outgrow its smaller Siamese cousin, reaching up to 10 inches in length in the right conditions. That means you will need a larger tank to keep them happy.

Pro Tip


You will also want to note their aggression.


As they get larger, they get more aggressive, so you must think about their tank mates before you buy one. Cichlids make a great schoolmate for them!

Highlights

  • Tends To Outgrow Its Smaller Siamese
  • Reaching Up To 10 Inches In Length In The Right Conditions

Coming in at the larger end of the spectrum, the Chinese Algae Eater tends to outgrow its smaller Siamese cousin, reaching up to 10 inches in length in the right conditions. That means you will need a larger tank to keep them happy.

Pro Tip


You will also want to note their aggression.


As they get larger, they get more aggressive, so you must think about their tank mates before you buy one. Cichlids make a great schoolmate for them!

Highlights

  • Maintain A Relatively Non-Aggressive Stature In Your Tank
  • Peaceful With Other Docile Species

The Twig Catfish is a smaller species, growing to around 4 inches in length when they are fully developed, and maintain a relatively non-aggressive stature in your tank.

They are peaceful with other docile species, such as Tetras, but will get stressed around more aggressive species like Cichlids or the Chinese Algae Eater.

Pro Tip


You will want to make sure they have at least 12 gallons to grow, and not crowd them out with a large school of tank mates.

Highlights

  • Docile And Easy To Care For
  • Do Well In Larger Tanks, Over 30 Gallons In Size

The Otocinclus Catfish is a smaller algae eater and one that prefers living with others from the same species. They do well in larger tanks, over 30 gallons in size, and away from more aggressive species that might eat them.

Pro Tip


They are docile and easy to care for, but they eat a lot -- even for their smaller size. That means you might need to supplement their live algae with algae flakes to keep them fed and happy.

Highlights

  • Armored Catfish To Hold Up Against Some Aggressive Species
  • Feed On Both Uneaten Fish Food And Algae

Whiptail Catfish are one of the few algae eaters here that will feed on both uneaten fish food and algae, by itself. They grow upwards of 6 inches, so you will want to keep them in tanks over 50 gallons in size to keep them docile.

Pro Tip


They are an armored catfish, so they hold up against some aggressive species. However, you want to keep the catfish away from larger, more aggressive fish that could see them as dinner.

Highlights

  • Manageable Size Throughout Their Lives
  • Peaceful Fish That Grows Around 5 Inches
  • Hardiest Species Of Algae Eaters

The Bristlenose Pleco, or Bristlenose Catfish (depending on who you are talking to), is a peaceful fish that grows around 5 inches. They are also one of the hardiest species of algae eaters, able to sustain a wide range of tank conditions and tank mates.

Pro Tip


They prefer feeding on green spot algae and hair algae and, because they are larger, you may need to supplement their live algae diet with algae wafers or flakes.

7. Mollies (Poecilia Sphenops) - add color and vibrance

Highlights

  • Keep Your Tank Clean And Free Of Algae Blooms
  • Add Color And Vibrancy To A Tank

Even though most people do not consider Mollies an algae eater, they do still feed on algae among other types of foods. Swordtails are in the same group, being livebearers that will happily keep your tank clean and free of algae blooms.

Pro Tip


For adding color and vibrancy to a tank, Mollies grow to 4 inches and are one of the best ways to liven up your aquascape.

8. Nerite Snail (Neritina Sp.) - Tough And Rugged

Highlights

  • Fantastic Algae Eaters That Will Not Reproduce In Fresh Water
  • Beautiful And Great Additives To Your Aquarium
  • Best Snails To Control Algae

Outside of adding fish to your tank, Nerite Snails are another type that is tough and rugged. They can feast on every type of algae that you can encounter in a freshwater system.

Pro Tip


They stay small, at less than an inch full grown, so you need to make sure they have plenty of structure and areas to hide if you have aggressive species in the school with them.

9. Ramshorn Snail (Planorbidae) - Beautiful Colors

Highlights

  • Very Good At Cleaning Algae Off The Glass Or Left Over Food
  • Such A Big Help For A Clean Tank
  • Easy Population Control

The Ramshorn Snail is a powerhouse in your tank, feeding on everything from algae to uneaten fish food, and even dying plant matter that might muck up your filter. As with most snails, though, they become a target with more aggressive species like Cichlids.

Pro Tip


Growing up to an inch when they are full-grown, they do not have a preference over being kept with other types of snails and shrimp. They also do not mind being held as the only snail in the tank.

10. Mystery Apple Snail (Pomacea Bridgesii) - Attractive And Unique

Highlights

  • Popular And Attractive Addition To Any Aquarium
  • Great For Adding Some Color And Decoration To Your Aquarium
  • Each Snail's Shells And Color Are Diverse And Totally Unique!

The Mystery Apple Snail is one that shocks people when they have had them in their tank for long periods. What starts as a micro-sized baby can quickly outgrow the tank, reaching sizes upwards of 3 to 4 inches.

Pro Tip


As they grow, they stop becoming a target for more aggressive species, but you must monitor them. If you add the snails to the tank while they are still babies, they could become prey for more aggressive fish.

Highlights

  • Great For Aerating The Substrate
  • Hard To Kill And Hard-Working
  • Adorable And Great Cleaners

Malaysian Trumpet Snails are some of the coolest looking snails you can add to your tank. They stay relatively small compared to the Mystery Apple Snails. They feed on several species of algae and will not damage your plants, making them great for plant-based aquascapes.

Pro Tip


Malaysian Trumpet Snails spend their time foraging through your substrate. They might damage the root systems of plants, so it is something you must keep in mind while you are getting them acclimated to your tank.

12. Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania App.) - Active And Adorable

Highlights

  • Their Beautiful Orange Bodies Added Some Much Needed Color
  • Amazing And Beautiful Color
  • Alive And Healthy

Large, and in charge, the Rabbit Snail grows upwards of 5 inches in the right conditions, and will happily keep your tank clean by themselves. They are a more active species that need a 30-gallon tank, or larger to be happy.

Pro Tip


If you have Java Ferns inside of your tank, you need to know that Rabbit Snails will feed on it to supplement their diet.

13. Amano Shrimp (Cardina Multidentata) - Healthy And Happy

Highlights

  • The Best Algae Eating Shrimp In The Hobby
  • Prevent An Overrun Of Algae
  • The Ultimate In Cleanup Crews

The ultimate in cleanup crews are Amano Shrimp.

If you know that the fish in your tank will not actively target shrimp, adding a few Amano can help you diversify.

Pro Tip


These colorful shrimp also helps prevent an overrun of algae or other problem nutrients.


The Amano Shrimp prefer living in schools of their own so if you add one, think about adding in more to keep them company.

Highlights

  • Very Effective Cleaning Crew For Your Tanks, Cleaning Up Algae And Waste
  • Beautiful Species To Sit And Admire
  • They Are Very Active And Breed Very Quickly

Cherry Shrimp are not just good at helping keep your tank clean. They are also a beautiful species to sit and admire.

Pro Tip


They are best kept in smaller groups and larger tanks, giving them the ability to grow up to 1 inch.


If you add Cherry Shrimp to your tank, you want to make sure they have plenty of structure and plant life to take cover.

15. Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes Sp.) - Hardy Species

Highlights

  • Help Pull Their Weight Under The Right Conditions
  • A Great, Cheap Shrimp To Try Your Hands At Raising Shrimp
  • Easy To Take Care Of

Ghost Shrimp are more massive than both Cherry and Amano Shrimp.

They do not do quite as well at keeping algae to a minimum, but they will help pull their weight under the right conditions.

Pro Tip


They grow up to 2 inches in size and are one of the more hardy species of shrimp, making them easy to take care of.


You want to make sure you are keeping them away from more aggressive species. The Ghost Shrimp become easy prey, especially when they are smaller.

16. Bamboo Shrimp (Atyopsis Moluccensis) - Peaceful Species

Highlights

  • Truly Fascinating Species Due To Their Lively Personalities
  • Quickly Change Color Based On Their Mood And/Or Environment
  • Peaceful And Will Get Along Great With Any Other Critters In Your Aquarium

Bamboo Shrimp is the largest species of shrimp we have featured, growing upwards of 3 inches in total length by the time they reach adulthood. That means they eat a lot, with algae being one of their preferred foods.

Pro Tip


They have a peaceful nature but will quickly become prey for larger species of predatory fish. That said, they are great with smaller fish like Mollies.

Types Of Algae Eaters & Freshwater Tank Cleaning Fish

When most people think of “algae eater”, they think of one or two species of fish that eat algae.

Freshwater algae eaters are one of the first additions to a tank in most cases. Tank owners do not realize how critical they are until it is too late.

It's not until those green, brown, and black slimes start making their way onto the glass and decorations that they realize it is too late.

An aquarium algae eater can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Ranging from the most common type that nearly everybody recognizes, to smaller snails, and even different varieties of shrimp are all capable of doing the same job.

Different Freshwater Aquarium Algae

  1. Green Algae

  2. Many enthusiasts overlook small numbers of green algae and refuse to consider it a pest until it is too late. Mostly, having a green algae “bloom” is good for business and shows that you have a healthy environment for your school.

     Unless it is turning your entire ecosystem green, adding a few algae eaters will be more than enough to keep it under control

  3. Green Spot Algae

  4. Green spot algae, like green algae, itself, can frustrate to deal with when it grows out of control but shows a healthy ecosystem.

    Green spot algae will grow on stationary objects like rocks and plastic plants or other decorations.

    If you notice more and more circular, bright green spots making their way onto the glass, the chances are high that you have too much light and nutrients in the water. A healthy algae eater may contain it but, if not, you might need to use chemicals or think about changing the water.

  5. Black Beard Algae

  6. Black beard algae is another common type that is not necessarily dangerous to your fish. Many species will hide in and around it for protection. However, if it becomes out of control, there are a few different ways you can deal with it.

     The most significant cause of beard algae in freshwater tanks is when CO2 levels become unstable, and plants can't correctly use the fertilizers in the water. Supplementing CO2 in the water is a requirement if the level gets out of hand.

  7. Blue-Green Algae

  8. Blooms when your nutrient levels get out of normal ranges such as highly elevated phosphate levels or a nitrogen/nitrate deficiency.

    Blue-Green Alga is a species that has toxic forms known to harm humans and pets.

    The best way to reduce blue-green algae blooms is to determine which nutrients are actively feeding the algae bloom. High levels of phosphorus are the most common cause of a new algae bloom.

  9. Brown Algae

  10. Brown algae, or gravel algae and silica algae, building up in the gravel and the grass of your tank. It is a rapidly developing type and can quickly line your entire aquascape in a thin, dark brown coating. This coating, however, is usually a lot easier to remove than many other types of algae are.

    It typically occurs in low-light conditions and can be addressed by regular water changes. Using reverse osmosis water and increasing the light in areas where it prefers growing can also reduce a bloom.

  11. Brown Slime Algae

  12. Another form of brown algae but forms in soft, clumpy patches, attaching itself to harder surfaces in your tank.

    Grasses, substrates, and decorations are favorite homes for brown slime -- but it is easier to remove than brown algae that will hide under objects.

    If you have excess silica in your tank, brown slime will thrive. It is not necessarily harmful, but you should control it before the bloom grows too large.

  13. Hair Algae

  14. Having hair algae in your tank, believe it or not, is another sign of a very healthy, very active ecosystem. It makes an excellent filter for excess food supplies but, when left unchecked, it can grow to be a huge problem.

     Water that is high in nitrates and phosphates, or when you are feeding a large amount of flaked food, is the perfect environment for hair algae to take over

So, What Is The Best Algae Eater For Your Tank?

Choosing the right mix of algae eaters is a personal decision.

One that you have to make after weighing the size of your tank, the species you have in your school, and the type of algae you deal with most commonly.

We have listed 16 of the best algae eaters for you to help finally decide, but that final decision is yours, and yours alone.

 If you have any questions about your specific situation, leave a comment below, and we can help you find the perfect algae eater for you.

Affiliate links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2019-11-15.

Top Editor's Choice on Algae Eaters

SaleBestseller No. 1
Hikari Usa Inc AHK21328 tropical Algae Wafer 8.8-Ounce
Hikari tropical Algae Wafer 8.8oz
Bestseller No. 2
Bestseller No. 3
Golden Mystery Snail - 1/2"-2" - Algae Eater for Aquariums
DO NOT ORDER IF TEMPERATURES GO BELOW 32 F DURING WINTER OR ABOVE 100 F IN YOUR REGION, SNAILS WILL NOT SURVIVE. WE DO NOT GUARANTEE LIVE ARRIVAL IF TEMPERATURES ARE EXTREME. PLEASE NOTE WE SHIP ONLY FROM MONDAY-WEDNESDAY. ORDERS PLACED ON WEDNESDAY SHIP THE FOLLOWING MONDAY. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CHECK TRACKING FOR ARRIVAL DATE, SNAILS WILL DIE IF LEFT IN THE BOX FOR TOO LONG. CAN NOT SHIP TO HI OR PR
Bestseller No. 4
API ALGAE EATER WAFERS Algae Wafer Fish Food 6.4-Ounce Container
Contains one (1) API algae eater WAFERS algae wafer fish food 6.4-Ounce container
Bestseller No. 5
Aquatic Discounts 20+ Malaysian Trumpet Snails, 1/4-3/4 inch - excellent...
Malaysian Trumpet Snails are excellent and natural freshwater tanks CLEANERS / ALGAE EATERS!
Bestseller No. 6
10+ Malaysian Trumpet Snails, 1/4-3/4 inch - excellent freshwater tank...
Malaysian Trumpet Snails are excellent and natural freshwater tanks CLEANERS / ALGAE EATERS!
Bestseller No. 8
Bestseller No. 9
Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 4.2 oz Container
NUTRITION: Veggie Rounds are loaded with fresh ocean kelp hand harvested in Alaska! They are rich in Omega 3 & 6 HUFA's to support strong immune systems, and contain Spirulina, a powerful cyanobacterium that eliminates internal bacteria and pathogens
Bestseller No. 10
White Mystery Snail - 1/2-2 inches - Algae Eater for Aquariums
DO NOT ORDER IF TEMPERATURES GO BELOW 32 F DURING WINTER OR ABOVE 100 F IN YOUR REGION, SNAILS WILL NOT SURVIVE. WE DO NOT GUARANTEE LIVE ARRIVAL IF TEMPERATURES ARE EXTREME. PLEASE NOTE WE SHIP ONLY FROM MONDAY-WEDNESDAY. ORDERS PLACED ON WEDNESDAY SHIP THE FOLLOWING MONDAY. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CHECK TRACKING FOR ARRIVAL DATE, SNAILS WILL DIE IF LEFT IN THE BOX FOR TOO LONG.

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