Some say having algae in your fresh water fish tank is a sign of a balanced ecosystem in your aquarium. However the problem is nobody knows what is the right amount of algae that should be in your fish tank.
Algae grows so fast and before you know it, it can completely take over your fish tank not only making it look ugly but also threatening the very existence of your beloved fish.
However the solution to this problem is surprisingly easy and cheap. All you have to do is add one or two algae eaters to your fish tank. Affectionately known as the “clean-up crew” among the aquarium owners, they can keep the algae growth to a minimum while not interfering with the settled order of the ecosystem inside your aquarium.
Algae eaters can be divided in to 2 main categories. Fish and invertebrate. Invertebrate can be further divided in to species of snail and species of shrimp.
There are 7 known algae variants. Only a handful of algae eaters consume all of these 7 different algae types. Majority of them eat just one or two types of algae only.
So it is of utmost importance to get the right kind of algae eater for your fresh water fish tank.
Therefore I do not wish to elaborate on all of the 20+ known algae eaters in the world but just a few of the best “clean-up crew” members out there.
1. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus Oblongus)
The first one that comes to my mind is the Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus Oblongus). They are the most effective algae eater because they eat all 7 variants of algae including the black beard algae that most of other algae eaters dislike to eat. They are also very peaceful so you wouldn’t have to worry about them fighting with your priced fish in the tank. They are also low maintenance and have high resistance to illnesses.
They usually thrive on pH levels 6.6 to 7.0 and temperature levels 75 °F to 80 °F (24 °C to 27 °C). Tank size should be at least 30 gallons. Be sure to supplement their diet with algae wafers whenever the algae level in your tank become close to extinction.
2. Twig Catfish (Rineloricaria Lanceolate)
These creatures are very shy and docile. Twig catfish coexist peacefully with other fish in your freshwater tank. But most importantly they have almost all the variants of algae in their diet just like the Siamese Algae Eater.
They can grow up to 4 inches (~100 mm). They need at least 12 gallons of water in the tank. Also you must keep the pH level constant at 6.0 to 8.0 and temperature level at around 80 °F (27 °C). Be sure to put a few curved rocks, woos and roots etc. in your tank for them to be used as hiding places.
3. Nerite Snail
My third best pick of the most effective algae eaters is Nerite Snails. They eat every variety of algae out there. They are very easy to care for and grows up to 1 inch (25 mm). Due to their smaller appearance be careful not to add them to tanks that house aggressive and carnivorous fish.
They are adaptive to changing water temperatures but prefer 65 °F to 85 °F (18 °C to 29 °C) range. Most suitable pH level for them is 6.5 to 8.5 and kH level is ideally 12 to 18.
4. The Cherry Shrimp (Neocardidina Denticulata Siriensis)
The Cherry Shrimp (Neocardidina Denticulata Siriensis) is a real beauty. They derive their name from the bright red appearance they have. Cherry Shrimp adds ornamental value to your fish tank in addition to being one of the most effective algae eaters out there.
They prefer 6.0 to 8.0 pH levels, 3 to 10 kH levels and temperatures ranging from 60 °F to 80 °F (16 °C to 27 °C). Do not put them in tanks that house predatory fish as they could become easy prey.
5. Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus Sp.)
Otocinclus catfish (dwarf sucker) is the smallest of the algae eating fishes out there, growing up to 2 inches max, these creatures get along well with other inhabitants of your fish tank. They look almost identical to the Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilos Aymonieri) but entirely different when it comes to size and the temperament.
Although they are small, they prefer big tanks of at least 30 gallons in size. They tolerate varying degrees of water chemistry although the most suitable pH level for them to thrive on is between 6.5 to 8.0. They eat almost all varieties of algae but very fond of eating Brown algae. Do not introduce them to tanks that house carnivorous fish as they could become their delicacy.
6. Ramshorn Snail (Planorbidae)
Ramshorn Snail ( Planorbidae) is too munch on almost all types of algae in addition to uneaten fish food and decaying organic matter. They got their name thanks to their shape which appears like a ram’s horn. They do not eat live plants although dead plants are part of their diet. This is why they can be a great addition to your freshwater fish tank. They get along well with peaceful fish although will become prey to larger, carnivorous ones. They grow up to one inch (2.54 cm) in size. They come in 2 distinct colors, red and black. They prefer neutral tank water with pH level around 7.0.
7. Amano Shrimp (Caridina Multidentata)
Amano Shrimp (Caridina Multidentata) feed on a large variety of algae and other detritus. They can be kept in any size of fish tanks. They are easy to care for and co-exist with other peaceful fish. However keep them away from goldfish as they are a delicacy of the goldfish.
They prefer 6.5 to 7.5 pH range and warmer, softer water ideally between 72 °F to 78 °F (22 °C to 26 °C).
8. Malaysian Trumpet Snail (Melanoides Tuberculata)
Malaysian Trumpet Snail is the most widely used algae eating snail used in aquariums world over. They are small, they come in different colors so add variety to your tank. Although they are not as effective as the 2 types of snails I’ve mentioned above, they eat several different types of algae and do not harm your live plants.
Their preferred pH level is 7.0. Sometimes they do not get along well with other types of snails. Also keep in mind they reproduce more rapidly than other snail varieties.