Algea Eating Fish
Algea Eating Fish

Algea Eating Fish

By: krisco

Algae Eating Freshwater Fish

Algae can become a problem in both marine and freshwater aquariums. In this article, we will focus on a few algae eating fishes that can be kept in freshwater aquariums to help keep algae under control. The causes of algae in an aquarium can be widespread, e.g. too much light, too many plant nutrients, or certain deficiencies in water quality. Many enthusiasts have turned to freshwater algae eating fish to be a natural “cleaning crew” in helping keep algae from overtaking an otherwise beautiful tank.

There are several species of fish to choose from when shopping for a “cleaning crew”. Each species is known for eating a certain type or types of algae, but few are known for eating more than one type. Careful research pertaining to the type of algae one has plays an important role in determining whether an herbivorous fish can help in ridding of nuisance algae.

Black Molly
Black mollies are excellent for the community tank, as they get along with most fish. They are excellent scavengers of fuzz algae, often considered a strain of beard algae, and will swim around the tank cleaning plants and decorations. If bred, the baby mollies are known to survive on a diet of nearly one hundred percent fuzz algae. The black molly, or balloon molly, is also known to be an excellent surface skimmer. Because they are omnivores, the black molly also benefits from a diet that includes a good flake food. The molly is an excellent “janitor” for brackish water, as they prefer a little salt.

Otocinclus Cats (Otocinclus affinis)
Known as otos, the Otocinclus Cats are gaining popularity in the hobby. They are excellent clean up crew, although they mostly eat algae that are in the beginning stages. They will quickly devour any algae and diatoms, including that which is hard to find between foliage. Otos prefer schools of at least 6 fish, and can be skittish and hide if kept isolated. They are an excellent community fish, and only chase other life if hungry. They have a tendency to die quickly if the algae run out, but a dietary supplement of blanched cucumber can prevent starvation.

Siamese Algae Eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis)
Otherwise known as SAE’s, many consider these to be the best algae eaters of them all. They are commonly mistaken for Chinese algae eaters, and many pet stores label species of fish as SAE when in fact they are not. The SAE is diligent when it comes to eating red algae, which most algae eating fish will not touch. They are a peaceful fish, although when older may become aggressive towards their own kind. They are also known to eat hair and beard algae.

Plecos (Hypostomus punctatusare)
Plecos are commonly advertised by pet stores as the definitive algae eater, although they are not near as valuable as made out to be. They are the most commonly owned of the algae eating fish, although few know they can grow up to two feet in length. They do an excellent job of keeping the glass clean, as well as love any driftwood that can be provided. The pleco can be an aggressive fish, and has been known to eat small fish when hungry. They love algae tablets, and their diet can be supplemented with blanched romaine or spinach. If not properly fed, they will destroy the planted tank.

Butterfly Goodeid (Ameca Splendens)
The butterfly goodeid is known to devour algae such as red, green, and beard algae. A beautiful golden fish, this species is nearing extinction in the wild due to habitat destruction. Although they generally only grow to four to five inches, they are extremely aggressive and should not be housed in a peaceful community tank. They are known to nip at the fins of black skirt tetras, and bully other fish at feeding times.

The Florida Flag Fish (Jordanella floridae)
The FFF enjoys feasting on hair algae, and is sometimes known to eat beard algae. Although the temperament varies to each fish, they are often classified as aggressive, and will eat amano shrimp and even small neon tetras. They are considered dangerous to the peaceful community tanks.

Rosie Barbs (Puntius conchonius)
Considered an excellent substitute for the Florida flag fish, the rosie barb will make full meals out of hair algae and are described as “eating it up like spaghetti”. Rosie barbs are typically peaceful fish and grow up to six inches. They enjoy planted tanks; however, they will eat fine leafed plants so caution should be taken. If not enough algae are present, blanched peas or zucchini are an excellent substitute. They are not recommended for tanks less than 30 gallons.

Algae “clean up crews” are an excellent way to combat algae, but they cannot rid a hobbyist of algae. Proper water changes, proper lighting, and proper doses of plant nutrients are the only real ways to keep algae under control.