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25 Algae Eating Fish & Critters to Add to Freshwater Tank

Algae is one of the most annoying things to have in any fish tank, and dealing with it is a downright pain, something I wish I didn’t have to experience for myself. However, there are some great algae eating fish out there.

1. Cherry Shrimp: Notorious Algae Eaters

Big fire red or cherry dwarf shrimp with green background in fresh water aquarium tank

Starting off with shrimp, cherry shrimp specifically are some of the most voracious algae eaters around. If you have a few of them in your aquarium, you might not even need any other type of algae control. 

They love to eat moss and algae, and they look pretty nice too. They have a really vibrant red color that makes them stand out in most aquariums. Just don’t keep them with predatory fish, because cherry shrimp will get eaten.

2. Bristlenose Plecos

Ancistrus species longfin Bushymouth catfish on aquarium glass. Green background

Bristlenose plecos have their name due to the appendages coming out of their snout that look like whiskers or bristles. These are very docile fish that get along with most other fish in aquariums, and they absolutely love to eat algae. 

In fact, scavenging for aquarium algae is one of their favorite pastimes. Remember that algae is a staple for many fish. They do require some supplemental food as they can’t survive on algae alone, but it is a big part of their diet. Just keep in mind that these are fairly large fish and require a good deal of space.

3. Whiptail Catfish

High fin whiptail catfish Rineloricaria lanceolata aquarium tropical fish

If you need a type of fish that is very resilient, does best and relatively warm water, and does fine in varying pH levels, then the whiptail catfish is a great option to consider. 

This tan and black fish easily camouflages into the substrate, where they like to spend a lot of their time foraging for food and eating algae. Their unique appearance also adds a certain something into any aquarium, as they can look quite intimidating.

4. Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Malaysian Trumpet Snails feeding on soft algae with Betta fish quietly resting at the bottom of aquarium

Trumpet snails have some absolutely beautiful shells, and they make for a good addition to any planted tank. They absolutely love to climb up plants, burrow in substrate, and crawl all over rocks. 

Just beware that they like uprooting plants at times, so you need to keep fairly resilient plants with them. These small trumpet snails can grow up to an inch in length and are very hungry algae eaters.

5. Siamese Algae Eater

Macro of very nice aquarium fish Otocinclus affinis

As far as fish are concerned, the siamese algae eater is one of the hungriest of all algae eating fish you can put in a freshwater aquarium, as evidenced by their names. 

This type of fish can grow up to six inches long, they can eat a lot of algae, and they’ll eat virtually every type of algae as well. Just keep in mind that because of their size, they do need a good sized tank.

6. Nerite Snails: Algae Eating Snails

A spotted nerite snail Neritina natalensis eating on a rock in a fish tank

Nerite snails, with their beautiful black and yellow shells, are a total joy to look at. They are very small, so you don’t need a big tank, but even though they aren’t big, they are voracious algae eaters. 

Even better is that they can survive in varying tank conditions and temperatures (use this aquarium thermometer to keep track of water temperatures!), so they do fine in many types of freshwater tanks. Even better than that, these snails can survive on algae alone, which is beneficial for many tanks.

7. Mystery Snails

View snail Ampularia a home freshwater aquarium

Mystery snails often have sudden growth spurts where they quickly multiply in size. Some can grow up to the size of a baseball, so you do want to be careful of this. However, thanks to their large size, they also managed to consume a whole lot of algae.

8. Amano Shrimp

Shrimp in the leaves vallisneria. Caridina japonica.

Whereas cherry shrimp are bright red, the amano shrimp is more of a yellowish greenish color, and even translucent in some places. Yes, you can actually see right through them. These shrimp do best in somewhat large groups, and they shouldn’t be kept alone. However, one kept en masse, they do a fantastic job at eating all sorts of algae within aquariums.

9. Ramshorn Snails

vatar Posthornschnecke freshwater snail stock photo

As you can probably tell by the name, this type of snail has what effectively resembles the horn on a ram or mountain sheep. The good part about these snails is that they don’t grow overly large and don’t need all that much space, plus they tend to get along with most other critters in aquariums too.

Also beneficial is that they are not picky eaters and will feed on virtually any type of algae present in an aquarium. They’ll even feed on dying plant matter.

10. Rubber Lip Pleco

Yes, the rubber lip pleco has a very interesting appearance, although some would say that they look very cute. These fish can reach 7 inches in length and therefore need a large tank, and they can live for up to 12 years. These are solitary fish that don’t pay much attention to others, and they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank scavenging for food such as algae.

11. Chinese Algae Eater

A chinese Algae Eater in fish tank Gyrinocheilus aymonieri

Just like there is the siamese algae eater, there is also the Chinese algae eater. What is interesting about this type of fish is that although it is an algae eater and bottom feeder, they can grow up to 10 inches long and are known for being somewhat aggressive as they get older. 

Their large size and somewhat aggressive nature means that you can keep them with other semi-aggressive fish. Of course, as the name implies, they absolutely love snacking on algae.

12. Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo shrimp feeds by filtering the water flow

The bamboo shrimp can grow up to two or even 3 inches in length, and as their name implies, the brown shell kind of looks like light brown bamboo. The good part about these shrimp is that although they require a bit of space, they can survive in varying water conditions, and they do fine with most peaceful fish. These shrimp feed mostly on plant matter and algae, therefore making them perfect scavengers to have any freshwater aquarium.

13. Twig Catfish

A twig catfish, a popular bottom dwelling fish, tropical fish from the rivers of Mexico

Yes, catfish of all sorts are excellent bottom feeding algae eaters to have in any freshwater aquarium, and this includes the very funny looking twig catfish. The twig catfish is aptly named due to its twig-like appearance. Yes, it actually kind of looks like a stick. 

They only grow to 4 inches long, but they do need to be kept in pairs. These are some of the best scavengers to have in any fish tank, and they serve as excellent clean up crews.

14. Rabbit Snails

Rabbit snails have a very funny looking antenna that grows out of their heads, almost like rabbit ears. These things can get up to five inches wide, so they do need a good deal of space. 

What’s nice about this type of snail is that it does not reproduce very quickly, unlike other types of snails, so you don’t have to worry about them taking over your tank. However, they are more than large enough to do some damage to any algae population.

15. Flagfish

The flagfish, sometimes known as the Florida flagfish is absolutely one of the most colorful species on this list, as they often have red, purple, green, blue, pink, and other colors on their bodies. They’re only around 2.5 inches long, so they don’t need a whole lot of space, but they are extremely hungry and will eat virtually anything including algae.

16. Otocinclus Catfish

Catfish Oto Dwarf Suckermouth otocinclus vittatus algae eater aquarium fish

We then have the otocinclus catfish, which can grow to around 2 inches in length, which is therefore ideal for smaller freshwater aquariums. They’re not the most colorful fish around, but they are very peaceful, not to mention that they’ll eat virtually anything including leafy greens, algae wafers, and yes, all of that algae growing in your aquarium.

17. Doctor Fish

Garra rufa, also called doctor fish, nibble fish, kangal fish close-up

The doctor fish also known as the red garra are perhaps some of the most voracious algae eating fish that you can possibly get. They love to eat algae and various types of biofilm that grows on plants, driftwood, and rocks. 

Some people even have use these fish to eat dead skin off of feet in beauty spas. Although, algae is one of their main sources of food. They can grow up to five inches, so be aware that you’ll need a good bit of space for them.

18. Ghost Shrimp

Freshwater Ghost Shrimp or Glass Shrimp Palaemonetes paludosus isolated on black background

Ghost shrimp have their names because they are nearly translucent, which means that if you just look quickly, you might not even see them. They also only grow to around 2 inches, so they don’t need a good deal of space either. What’s nice is that these shrimp are designed to feed on algae almost exclusively, and prefer eating it over anything else.

19. Sailfin Pleco

A plecostomus in my fishtank

Yes, going back to another pleco, the sailfin pleco is one of the best clean up crews that you could possibly have. The reason for this is simply because they can reach almost 20 inches in length, and therefore require a good deal of food to maintain themselves. They can eat a heck of a lot of algae.

20. Mollies

Yet another great type of fish that will eat a ton of algae in your aquarium is the Molly fish. Mollies aren’t exclusively algae eaters, but they do like to feed on it from time to time. Just remember that you need to keep them in pairs at the very least, because they don’t like being alone.

21. Hillstream Loach

Sewelia Lineolata. Hillstream Loach from asia photographed in a white bole with some pebbles

Even though this fish might look like a catfish, it’s actually a loach. This is one of the most resilient species of loach around, which means that it does fine in most freshwater tanks. It has a modified ventral which it uses to hold on to aquarium glass, plants, driftwood, and rocks as it slowly moves around eating all sorts of algae.

22. Suckermouth Catfish

If you’re looking for a type of fish that can eat more algae than more or less anything on this list, going for the sucker mouth catfish is a good idea. This fish can grow to around 20 inches in length, which means that they have massive appetites, and they absolutely love to feed on algae. They also have a very unique appearance, kind of a love it or hate it look.

23. Golden Otocinclus

The golden otocinclus is also known as the dwarf sucking catfish. This is one of the smallest types of sucker mouth catfish out there, and they absolutely love to eat algae of all sorts. 

They only grow to a couple inches in length and they are very peaceful, therefore making for fantastic additions to most community tanks. Although they are small, they have huge appetites.

24. Reticulated Hillstream Loach

Be aware that this is a type of fish that prefers relatively shallow and fast flowing waters with plenty of oxygen. They also like having a lot of sand, gravel, and rocks, along with driftwood, although they are not huge fans of vegetation. Even though they aren’t big fans of vegetation, they do love eating algae off of driftwood, rocks, and aquarium glass.

25. Fancy Guppies

Fancy guppies are another super colorful type of fish that make for excellent algae eaters in your aquarium. If you like extremely colorful and vibrant fish, almost like little swimming rainbows, then fancy guppies are great options to consider. They don’t require much space, they’re relatively friendly, easy to care for, and yes, they like eating algae.

Best Algae Eating Fish: Conclusion

Worth noting is that the vast majority of the fish and critters I’ve talked about today are compatible with each other. Although there are some exceptions, the vast majority of these creatures should work fine in a community tank.