Algae eaters are often thought about the solution to algae in the aquarium. Algae is a widespread problem to many world, especially in recently set up aquariums. A regular “answer” to this is to go to the aquarium shop and ask for “a fish that cleans up the algae” or an “algae eater”. This is something that requires a fair bit even more consideration than it may seem as tright here are a couple of problems through this. This article will take you with some of the points you must take into consideration prior to deciding whether or not an algae eater is the best addition to your aquarium.

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Why is there algae in the tank in the first place?

It’s essential to understand why your tank is influenced by algae. This will certainly assist you treat the reason and the symptom. Adding an algae eater doesn’t actually settle the problem of why tright here is algae in the tank. Algae is normally led to by a combination of a lot of nutrients and also the majority of light in the tank or an additional imbalance in the little ecomechanism. If tbelow are as well many nutrients in the tank then adding another fish isn’t really going to aid as the fish will certainly create even more waste, which is nutrition for algae. Certain species of fish frequently offered as algae eaters are renowned for producing expensive amounts of waste because of the nature of their diets. Below is a photo of one night’s worth of ‘output’ from Hermione, the widespread pleco! That’s her tail in the background.

Many fish believed of as algae eaters are incredibly messy and also deserve to actually make the problem worse by including to the bioload of the tank. Shown below is one night’s worth of ‘output’ from a ‘common pleco’

Algae in the tank is not necessarily a reason for panic. For example, one of the the majority of common creates of algae is diatom algae, or brown algae. This is widespread in newly erected aquariums and frequently goes ameans of its very own accord as the aquarium matures. It is straightforward to clean off yourself with a brush or sponge. This is often much more efficient than acquiring a fish to execute the task, it’s not easy to explain your requirements to a fish so you don’t always obtain the task you wanted done.

This overview will help you through some of the common reasons of algae and also just how to rectify them.

Will I should feed my algae eater? If so, what?

Assuming the fish is successful in removing the algae, it will certainly should be fed. A lot of civilization believe that bereason these fish eat algae, they don’t have to be fed anything else and will ssuggest endure on the algae in the tank. Nothing can be even more from the fact. Because algae is extremely low in nutrition, the fish demands to eat the majority of it. Once the tank is relatively totally free from algae, the fish will should be fed many added food to supplement its diet. It’s likewise worth noting that exceptionally few species of fish eat all forms of algae. So tbelow will certainly probably still be some algae growing somewbelow in the tank. This is not a reason to say “Well, there’s still algae in the tank, I don’t should feed my algae eater”, or to say “let’s gain yet one more fish to eat the various other kind of algae”!

There is some evidence to imply that poorly fed algae eaters are even more likely to try to feed on the sides of various other fish. Evidence says that they strike the slime coat as they are searching for nutrients and will certainly connect to the sides of various other fish to try to feed on this.

Some civilization think that “Due to the fact that it’s got a suckermouth, it will certainly eat algae”. There are many kind of kinds of suckermouth fish that will certainly not live on algae, not even make it through on it. A suckermouth is much more a sign of the kind of water they live in – quick flowing water, wbelow the suckermouth is a way to keep their position in the flow without having to swim – not a authorize of their diet. Sure, many kind of types of these fish carry out indeed feed at leastern partly on algae, but many others are not at all algae eaters. For example, Panaque nigrolineatus eats lumber, and will certainly not clean algae from glass or rock. Leporacanthicus triactis is a carnivore, which will certainly feed on mussels, crustaceans and freshwater sponges, and also not touch algae at all.

This implies it’s crucial to be certain what diet your algae eater actually needs. As pointed out over, the suckermouth alone is not an indicator that the fish feeds solely on algae. We recommfinish you check the requirements for your fish versus the species detailed in my write-up on planetcatfish: Shane’s World Catfishology Feeding Plecos, Part 2 • Who eats what? If you are not completely sure what species you have please feel totally free to post on the planetcatfish forums for even more information and we will try to identify your fish for you.

Once you are confident that you recognize what your fish is, and what it prefers to eat, you might like to take a look at my various other article which gives even more details on what you have the right to feed your algae eater: Shane’s World Catfishology Feeding Plecos, Part 1 • Types of food

It’s worth bearing in mind that the foods items suitable for supplementing the diet of suckermouth algae eaters are additionally suitable for supplementing the diets of various other types of algae eater.

Algae eaters require supplementary food and also algae, this ‘Chinese algae eater’ is enjoying some courgette

Is the algae eater suitable for your aquarium and is your aquarium suitable for the algae eater?

Many so dubbed algae eaters live in water that is fairly rapid flowing. This indicates they require sensibly high flow in the aquarium that we make their residence. Low oxygen levels and also dirty water are incredibly likely to kill these fish.

Hillstream loach species are commonly marketed as algae eaters for coldwater or temperate tanks. They are also known as Hong Kong plecs, butterfly plecs and also Borneo suckerfish among other prevalent names. These fish have incredibly specific demands and also are best suited to set ups via incredibly high flow. Tright here is a great short article on which offers some great information on the requirements of these fish – Hillstream loaches – the professionals at life in the rapid lane.

Several species of fish marketed as algae eaters are not really good fish for the average aquarium. One of the prevalent fish sold as a “good algae eater” is Pterygoplichthys pardalis, aka the “Typical Pleco”. It will certainly eat algae nicely, but it will certainly also grow to around 45cm/18″, not counting the tailfin. The one in the photograph listed below is Hermione. To acquire a sense of scale, that item of cucumber she’s eating is 2 inches lengthy, and if you look closely you have the right to watch a teaspoon stuck with it to weight it dvery own.

A ‘widespread pleco’ aka Pterygoplichthys pardalis – these are regularly bought as algae eaters but grow up to 18 inches lengthy. The item of cucumber Hermione is eating is 2 inches lengthy which gives an concept of her size

Other catfish, such as Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps “Sailfin pleco”, are additionally typically accessible as algae eaters. However, the Sailfin Pleco grows a tiny bigger still than the widespread pleco. The one pictured below is called Sin, he’s just in this tank to pose for the cam, his actual house is 5’/150cm lengthy. He was rescued from a 2’/60cm tank wbelow he was living as an ‘algae eater’ and also was in exceptionally negative wellness as a result. The tank he’s posing in is 18″/45cm long so you have the right to view that he’s not got to full size yet, although he’s well on his means.

Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps aka ‘gibbi’ or sailfin plec are frequently sold as algae eaters. They have the right to thrive as much as 18 inches though and are very unsuitable for the majority of tanks
The gibbiceps is regularly marketed as an algae eater however their eventual dimension makes them a negative idea for most domestic aquariums

Gyrinocheilus aymonieri “Chinese Algae Eater” and also associated species are regularly offered as algae eaters as well. These not only grow to 27cm/11″ or so, but are additionally aggressive, territorial fish that carry out not mix well via other fish once they start to mature. Also as they mature, they look for more and more of a “meaty” diet, so will certainly frequently choose flake or tablet food rather than algae. There are also reports of big specimens attacking and eating other fish. Ivor, displayed in the photo listed below, is still young yet is not at all reliable at algae eating. He does eat a little but if anyone was expecting him to actually clean a tank they’d be sodepend disappointed!

A young Gyrinocheilus aymonieri aka Chinese Algae Eater – these have the right to flourish big and also become aggressive

There are even more valuable solutions and alternative algae eaters

As pointed out above, it is often even more reliable to clean algae off yourself, or treat the cause rather of the symptom. Tbelow are some fish that are reasonable options, but they have to just really be preserved because the owner is keen on keeping the fish, and also the owner must understand the requirements and demands of the fish. They are not a “single payment labourer that cleans the tank”.

Two of the much better options are:Ancistrus – “Bristlenose”. The prevalent selection of this fish grows to about 12-15cm/5-6″, and also is extremely hardy and simple to keep. As lengthy as the tank is large enough, and also they are fed well, they are very nice aquarium fish. Males have bigger bristles than females, and also they will certainly happily breed if conditions are appropriate.

The Common Pleco displayed below is a 40cm/16″ adult, and also the Bristlenose is virtually totally grvery own – you have the right to view exactly how much more of a controlled size the Bristlenose is for the average aquarium.
Hermione and also Barney demonstrating why Bristlenoses are a lot more suitable for the average aquarium.
Baby bristlenose catfish – these are great neighborhood fish and also algae eaters

Otocinclus – “Otos”. These are little fish that live in big teams in nature. They are considered delicate in the hobby, mainly because once they are retained in the shops they do not obtain enough of the right type of food, and wholesalers/exporters frequently don’t feed them at all. These fish are good for tanks with many plants, but they have to be maintained in a group of 5-6 fish, preferably more, so not, as some world seem to think, suitable for “nano-tanks”. And they require feeding!

Otocinclus macrospilus – aka ‘oto’ – is an excellent algae eater yet as with all algae eaters it needs conditions suitable for its species, it’s not an indiscriminate housekeeper
Otocinclus macrospilus – aka ‘oto’ – these are small algae eaters which like to live in teams in well planted aquaria

If you are looking for an alternate to fish, then Caridina multidentata “Amano shrimp” (sometimes known as Yamato shrimp) are good algae eaters in small tanks, yet deserve to be sensitive to water quality. They should just be retained with fish that won’t see them as a tasty snack! Practical Fishkeepng have a good post on amano shrimp through a lot even more indevelopment around them so inspect it out if you’re considering keeping them.

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Caridina multidentata – aka Amano shrimp are entertaining and also reasonably great algae eaters

Nerite snails, Neritina natalensis “Zebra nerite” (sometimes known as Tiger nerite) are one more tiny algae eater. Whereas many type of snails deserve to become pests in an aquarium, nerite eggs will certainly not reproduce in a residence aquarium, as they require brackish water for remanufacturing.

In summary

Treating the cause of algae is even more reliable than dealing with the symptomEnsure that any type of algae eater is compatible through your existing fishEnsure that your aquarium is suitable for the algae eaterEnsure that the nutritional needs of the algae eater are catered forEnjoy your algae eater for what it is, don’t mean it to carry out all your housework-related for you

Author: Mats PeterssonPhotographs: courtesy of Fishlady at, Fluttermoth, and also