The 10 Best Algae Eaters For Tropical Tanks

Got a problem with algae in your aquarium? These fish will all earn their keep by helping to keep it under control…


“As our tanks become increasingly smaller we need to find similarly sized nano algae eaters to match. Otocinclus are tiny South American algae eating catfish. They are well behaved, communal and great for grazing algae. Just don’t combine them with Amazon sword plants, which they will also eat”.

initialsSometimes, if there isn’t enough algae for them to eat, they may start nibbling on Amazon sword plants. If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your Echinodorus plants, the culprit could be the Oto. If that is the case, add some Algae tablets or try a small slice of zucchini. We recommend 3 Otos for every 10 Gallons of water.

black_mollyBlack mollies

“Don’t underestimate the power of livebearers as algae eaters with platies and guppies even doing their fair share. Of them however, Mollies are very good, and of the mollies the true black molly, Poecilia sphenops is the best of the bunch. Often available these days with a slight lyre tail”.

initialsThese fish do best in brackish water, which means the addition of a little salt. If they go from a brackish water aquarium directly into a freshwater aquarium, they are susceptible to ich and fungus. Best to buy acclimated to freshwater Mollies.


“One of the best algae eating fish you’ll ever keep, Bristlenose are hardy, easy to keep, easy to breed and they don’t get too large, topping out at about 12.5cm, depending on species. Any of the Ancistrus group make great algae eating additions to the tropical tank”.

initialsWe almost always have these fish in stock and many of our customers are breeding them successfully. We currently have some beautiful Long Fin Calico Ancistrus from a breeder in the Lower Mainland, and we usually stock both the black and albino ancistrus.


“Previously only known as drab, ugly fish, Garra can be pretty too with recent additions such as the Panda garra, Garra flavatra, and the Garra sp.”redtail”. Unlike you see in beauty salons poor old Garra rufa will prefer an algae covered rock to some stinky feet to suck on too”.

initialsThese fish were readily available not too long ago, only to mysteriously disappear from our fish lists. However, just last week I saw them on the list and placed an order. They are excellent algae eaters.

algae_shrimpAlgae eating shrimp

“Now mainstream, you still can’t beet the Japonica, Amano or algae eating shrimp, Caridina multidentata, for its sheer work rate and effectiveness on most types of algae. But with some many other, more colourful species emerging into the freshwater hobby, they can all play a part in algae clean up too”.

initialsLove these guys! They are like the Worker Ants of your aquarium, always moving, cleaning, and grazing for algae. You can never have too many of these in your tanks. Be careful with aggressive fish which could eat some of the smaller shrimp. They are vulnerable when they are molting so provide safe havens for them while their shells harden.

american_flagfishAmerican flagfish

“Jordanella floridae is a temperate, hardy killifish from Florida that we have kept in the hobby for many years. They are a bit odd, sometimes nipping fins and are best when kept in a weedy tank set up just for them. But they are known to eat hair algae, so could be added to deal with a very specific problem, just watch your other fish though…”

initialsThese guys are nippers! Maybe they are good at eating algae but watching them relentlessly pick on other fish doesn’t seem worth it. They are the Bullies that just won’t quit! I can bring these in only for special order.

Siamensis Flying fox

“There are several species sold as Flying fox including Garra cambodgiensis, Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus and the one that we are most interested in, Crossocheilus siamensis. Known as the “true” flying fox the latter species is used universally for algae control, but is also used for specific hair and brush algae control. They do grow to 15cm in length, so will need large aquariums.”

initialsThere seems to be a never ending discrepancy by which means to determine which is the true Siamensis Algae Eater. According to this article, the fish sold as the Flying Fox is actually comprised of many different species however there is only one Crossocheilus siamensis. My understanding has been that the true Crossocheilus siamensis is the best at eating hair algae. The markings of the real Siamensis is detailed in the picture below. However, recently I saw a picture in a book which describes the complete opposite! Which is it anyways?


  1. The black band goes from nose to tail and its edges are zig-zagged.
  2. All the fins are transparent or slightly milky without any yellow or reddish sheen.
  3. The whole upper body is brownish, and every scale has a dark edge, which make the top look reticular.
  4. It has a pair of thin, forward-pointing barbels but they might be pressed against the cheeks when fish is swimming or resting.

crossocheilus_reticulatusCrossocheilus reticulatus

“Another member of the Crossocheilus genus, this one is as good if not better at eating algae than the Flying fox. Their bodies are basically silver with a black blotch near the tail and a net pattern on the scales. They grow to over 15 cm in length, so again will need a large, spacious aquarium. Some of the plainer Crossocheilus species are marketed as “world’s best algae eaters”.

initialsThese fish are fabulous!  We now have a steady supply of them in the store.  I have yet to ever see one that has grown to 15 cm. The “world’s best algae eater” is a must have for Aquariums West.

labeotropheusAfrican cichlids

“Certain representatives from lakes Malawi and Tanganyika are also adapted to a life of constant algae eating. Malawi mbuna, the rock dwelling cichlids will all pick at and graze algae but members of Labeotropheus are best. From Lake Tanganyika, a group of 10 or more Tropheus are colourful, collectable and even need algae in their diets.”

initialsThese fish can be brought in for special orders.


“These small plecs are found at altitude in streams and rivers in South America and area dapted to a life in fast flowing, cool water. Known as Bulldog plecs, these streamlined dwarfs will eagerly rasp away at algae, keeping your decor and glass clean, and becoming popular additions due to their cute faces and antics too.”

initialsThese fish like to have very fast flowing water with a high oxygen content so make sure that you have good flow in your tank if you include this type of fish.”

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