9 Best Algae Eaters for Freshwater Aquariums

Algae Eaters

Algae Eaters, photo by Benson Kua

Algae eaters are a must in any freshwater aquarium. There are many types of algae eaters: fish, shrimp, and snails. Pick one based on the size of your tank and the type of fish your are keeping. The last thing you want, is for your algae eater to be eaten.


A commercial food diet should still be fed, along with the available algae in the tank.

Algae Eating Fish

When choosing an algae eating fish, you should always check to see which fish you already have and which fish you want to get, to make sure they are compatible fish tank mates. Failure to do so will result in fighting, and sometimes death.

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco, photo by Beckie

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose plecos are probably one of my favorite types of fish to keep as algae eating fish. On average, they will grow about 12 – 15 centimeters in length, so they are well suited for larger aquariums. You should offer sinking algae pellets and vegetables for their diet as well. They are great for tropical fish tanks. They are quite calm and friendly so they will rarely have any problems being put into a fish tank with other fish.




Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater, photo by V.v

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese algae eaters are a must-have fish in any fish tank. They grow to be around 2 inches in length making them the perfect size for any size aquarium. They prefer an environment with lots of broad-leaved plants and rocks. They will use the leaves to rest on and eat algae off of. Along with eating algae from the plants and rocks, they will be needing a regular diet consisting of a high quality flake or pelleted food, freeze-dried bloodworms, and finely chopped fish-safe vegetables.

Molly Fish

Molly Fish, photo by h080


The black molly is a fish that a lot of people rarely think about when thinking about algae solutions. The truth is that mollies do in fact help with cleaning up the algae in your tank. They might not be as good as the previously mentioned fish, but they will add a little bit of help. All mollies will will eat algae, but out of all of them, the true black molly (Poecilia Sphenops) is the best of the group. They will usually help with the algae growing on rocks and plants.


Nerite Snail, photo by StevenG4444

Otocinclus Catfish

The otocinclus is another great small algae eating fish that will do well in fish tanks. Otocinclus reach sizes of about 4 cm in length which will do well in 30 gallon tanks or larger. Don’t let the size full you, this fish can consume more algae than you think. Their diet relies heavily on vegetation and algae. If there isn’t any algae in the tank, add some fish safe vegetation to be eaten. They do well in schools of 5 or more, so make sure to get a few.


Algae Eating Shrimp

What’s a fish tank without shrimp? Shrimp are great for fish tanks, especially ones with ornaments, caves, and other hard to reach places. Below are a few algae eating shrimp that I enjoy using in our fish tanks. Make sure to add a few ornaments and hides in the aquarium so your shrimp can hide and be safe from your shrimp eating fish.

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp, photo by Swordw

Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp are by far the best algae eating shrimp available. Unfortunately, most pet stores do not have these types of shrimp available often. If your pet store has a few, grab 3 of them, because they do thrive in numbers of 3 or bigger. They will eat most algae, dead pant matter, and any left over food in the aquarium.

Red Cherry Shrimp

Red Cherry Shrimp, photo by threefingers

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp are sold often in many pet stores and are really good at cleaning algae from places most algae eating fish can’t reach. Their bright red color adds color variety to any environment, so if your tank is dull, these may be a good fit for your aquarium.





Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp. photo by Jason Fether

Ghost Shrimp

Most people may recommend the ghost shrimp, but in my opinion, they do not do as well as cherry shrimp or amano shrimp. Ghost shrimp are great for eating hair algae though, so if you have a lot of hair algae, you may want to get a few. They also serve as snacks for bigger fish, so make sure to get a lot, because some will go missing (eaten).



Algae Eating Snails

The reason why I love snails is because of their uniqueness, size, and variety that they can add to a fish tank. Snails are quite fun to watch and own. Although snails do not do much in regards to eating algae, they will help out a little bit by grazing the aquarium glass and some live/fake plants. The amount of waste that snails produce is quite little as well, so you won’t have to worry about nitrates/nitrites/ammonia. Below are some of the algae eating snails that are available regularly in pet stores.

Apple Snail

Apple Snail, photo by Michael Radtke

Mystery (Apple) Snail

Most apple snails are sold as small babies in pet stores, but you should know that they can reach the size of a large softball, so make sure you have the room for one if you are planning to buy one. The types of algae that they attack are: aquarium glass algae, plant algae, and substrate algae. They will normally spend most of their time on the bottom of the fish tank grazing the surface of the substrate eating any left over food and algae. Although they eat algae and left over food, they should still be fed a diet consisting fish-safe vegetation. It is also possible that your apple snail may start to eat live plants.

Nerite Snail

Nerite Snail, photo by Luis Embalo

Nerite Snail

Fish-keepers have voted this snail number one as an algae eating snail, eating most types of algae in fish tanks. Nerite snails are great for small fish tanks, reaching only about an inch in size. They will usually hang out at the bottom of the fish tank (like apple snails) and help clean the substrate. You will also notice that they will hangout on plants often eating algae off of the leaves. The only downfall they might have is that they do leave unsightly little eggs everywhere. Other than that, they are an awesome algae eating snail specie.

What’s Your Favorite Algae Eater?

What do you think is the best freshwater aquarium algae eater? Do you know of another type of algae eating fish, snail, or shrimp that does well in your fish tank at home? Share with us your thoughts and recommendations below in the comments section.

81 comments to 9 Best Algae Eaters for Freshwater Aquariums

  • Hi. I’m new here and I hope I’m posting this properly. If not, advise please? Thanx.
    I have 2 axoltyls and would like to get a pleco to help with algae.
    Would the axytyls be OK with it or would they try to eat it?

    • Billy

      Welcome to the community. This is a perfectly fine place to ask questions. However, if you would like to ask questions and talk back and forth with members, I advise you to ask in the forums section. But for one question, this is fine.

      I would not recommend you to mix axolotls and plecos together. There are two reasons why. The first one is because (as you probably already know) axoltls will try to eat anything that will fit into their mouths. So if you get a pleco that is smaller than your axoltls, the odds of it being eaten are very high. Don’t forget that plecos have bones, so if the bones get stuck in your axoltl’s throat, you might have a big problem. The second reason is because some plecos have been said to suck on axoltl’s tails leaving spots (which may indicate injuries). So i would definitely advise against housing the two species together.

  • tweety

    Hello there…I was wandering out of the 9 algae eaters wld you recommend for my tank? I will be getting a 30 -40 gallon tank soon for my shubunkin and 2 goldfish. My goldfish are in average of 3 and 4 inches and my shubunkin is 2 inches.
    In the past I had 2 plecos but sadly they didn’t make it 🙁

    • Billy

      Hey Tweety,
      I was going to recommend plecos until you mentioned your bad experience with them. Could it be possible that your plecos weren’t getting fed enough? Unless you have a huge tank, the amount of algae in a regular sized tank like yours is not enough for a single pleco to survive on happily. Sure they will “survive”, but they will be hungry most of the time if not fed a vegetable diet separately. If you want, try plecos again. But this time, make sure you add a vegetable diet (romaine, spinach and other leafy green lettuces). Make sure they have been blanched first. You could also feed sliced zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato, and broccoli stems.

      Apart from plecos, I would also recommend a few nerite snails. I wouldn’t recommend any other fish algae eater, because they would most likely get eaten and are mostly warm water fish while goldfish are cold-water fish.

  • tweety

    Ok I will ft that and thank you for your feed back. It’s kind of odd too because the plecos wld have plenty of food. I had wafers and live plans also some vegetable tabs that I had for them too. But I sure will try again. Thanks again.

    • Billy

      It could also be possible that you bought sick plecos from the pet store. It happens sometimes. Don’t worry too much. I am sure it will be a better outcome this time. Keep me updated on your tank.

  • Kelsi

    I have a shubunkin and a fantail goldfish. They get along great! But i was looking for a algae eater to help out a bit. I had a chinese algae eater and he ended up attacking my shubunkins fins and i have also tried ghost shrimp but they got eaten. What do you reccomend?

    • Billy

      Hello Kelsi,

      Goldfish are very tricky fish when trying to figure out which algae eater to put with them. Most algae eaters will be eaten if they are smaller than your goldfish. Which type of fish was your ‘Chinese algae eater’. A pleco? I would highly recommend adding a pleco to your aquarium. A bristlenose pleco or a rubberlip pleco would be a very nice addition to your aquarium to help with algae.

  • jen

    I found my pleco belly up, under an ornament in the tank, not attached. I thought it was dead. I got the net and step stool, preparing to fish it out. Well I bumped the fish tank stand and the pleco moved and attached to the ornament in the tank! Oh my gosh! I have never seen that behavior from a pleco. It looked dead! Has anyone seen this before in pleco?

    • Billy

      Hey Jen,

      I have never seen that type of behavior before. Normally, my plecos will be belly up, but attached the an ornament cleaning it. He might have been resting for a little bit. But most of the time, I see my plecos attached. Hopefully he is doing good and is healthy.

  • Seth

    I have a 10 gallon planted tank with 3 planted plants and a moss ball with 2 blue gouramis 2 glofish danios a pleco and I just recently got like 10 ghost shrimp the gouramis ate like 3 of them but the remaining shrimp are bigger and don’t really think the gouramis will try to eat them cuz there a lot bigger than there mouths…. Do you think they will try to? And also do I have a good cleanup crew / algae eating crew or should I get a snail also?

    • Billy

      Hey Seth,
      If the ghost shrimp are a lot bigger, I wouldn’t worry about them getting eaten. I’m not saying there is a 100% chance that they won’t be eaten, but there is a high chance that they wont. As for your clean up crew, it seems fine. A snail will only improve your tank cleanup crew, but it is not needed. If you see algae still on the glass walls and other items in the tank, than throw a snail in there to help. They do a good job on the glass.

  • jack

    how big do golden bristlenose catfish grow any would i be able to put one in a 20l tank

    • Billy

      Hey Jack,
      They grow to be about 6 inches. The minimum requirement for one of these guys would be around 38 liters.

  • mynameisjack

    I’ve just bought a 70l tank what fish could i put in it?

    • Billy

      Hey Jack,
      I would recommend small fish. Tetras, mollies, zebra and pearl danios, tiger barbs, guppies, small corydoras, dwarf gourami, and etc…

  • mynameisjack

    could i put a crown beta with some zebra danios

    • Billy

      Hey Jack,
      It should be fine. I have seen it done in a 30 gallon tank. I am not sure about your size tank though. Keep a good eye on them at first.

  • mynameisjack

    thank you

  • karen

    What do you think would be the easiest thing for me to get which will get rid of black hairy algae in my communal tank? I’ve read up on the Internet but find all the stuff on nitrite/nitrate etc confusing. I’ve got plastic plants and scrubbed them using mild bleach solution (which hasn’t really worked) so I think it’s best that I buy all new stuff! Is there any fish that would keep the black algae down? I’ve got 2 plecs but they are lazy and don’t do anything! I would appreciate any advice you could give. Thank you.

    • Billy

      Hello Karen,
      Apple snails tend to do a good job at cleaning this type of algae. In my opinion, I would never use bleach to clean anything in my tank that is going back into my tank. If you do not rinse the bleach off 100%, the bleach will wipe out your tank. Very toxic.

      A recommended product that I use for many algae problems is API Algaefix. It will slowly kill all types of algae in your tank.

  • Randolph

    I have a 50 gallon tank with two ropefish. What would be the best algae eater to go with them? What other type fish would be good to add in there with them? Would dwarf puffers be ok? I’ve read they are peaceful unlike the saltwater puffers? Thank you very much!

    • Billy

      Hello Randolph,
      I have never had a rope fish before, but I have read that they can nip at dwarf puffers and the same goes for the puffers. They both can nip at one another. In fact, puffers tend to be fin nippers, and can be aggressive if picked on. It has worked before (the combination), but make sure to keep an eye out on the both of them. Definitely get a puffer that is a little more matured and grown so that the rope fish doesn’t try to eat the dwarf puffer. Do not put any small fish into the tank, as they will become snacks for your rope fish. Stick to larger fish like angelfish and goldfish. Algae eating snails will be snacks, so I definitely would go with the only large algae eating fish that I think could work which is a pleco.

  • Hey, I was wondering plecos and puffers will go good together , or if the puffers will nip the plecos fins.

    • Billy

      Hey Jo,
      To be honest, puffers should be kept in a tank by themselves. When they get older, they grow teeth that will hurt other fish (including plecos). There have been a few people who have kept plecos and puffers together, but I would not risk it. The odds of them getting along are low.

  • Tom

    I have a 65 Gallon Freshwater planted tank that I am not looking for my cleanup crew. I have Rainbows and a rescued Glo lite Tetra in there now and growing brown algae. I am trying to decide between ramshorn snails (which did a great job on my 10 gallon), and cherry or amano shrimp. I hear mixed stories of what is good to use with Rainbows.

  • Melissa

    Hi have about 6 guppies (there very small) in a 5 gallon tank with two moss balls…..but im not sure on what type of algae eater to get. I have had ghost shrimp and a pleco in the past and had ok luck with them but I dont know if I should try something different….

    • Billy

      Hey Melissa,
      Plecos will sometimes starve to death if it’s a small tank, because there isn’t enough algae for them to feed off of. With plecos, it is very important to drop algae discs for them to eat every now and then. With a 5 gallon tank, you can try a siamese algae eater. Great for small tanks. You can also try another ghost shrimp. This time, make sure you drop a few pieces of food directly under it so it can eat food apart from algae.

    • Melissa

      I just got a clown pleco so far hes been ok but he wont eat any of the alge disc I gave em I have tryed 3 different kinds so then I tryed spinach leads and a slice of cucumber and he still won’t eat it I have had him for about 2 weeks now amd he seams to be healthy.

  • Hendra Wijaya

    Albino Algae eater is also great. They are relatively smaller in size (and don’t grow big as fast as other algae eaters) but just as effective.

  • Bee

    Hi, I have a 70L tank with 5 golddust Mollies, an angelfish and cardinal Tetra. Could you recommend a smaller algae eater to help tidy up a little bit around the tank just enough to keep the decorations, substrate etc clean? Thanks

  • For a freshwater aquarium, how would you do the cleaning services on it? My daughter is begging me to buy her an aquarium after she saw the freshwater fishes that the dentist had in his aquarium. It’s something that got her interested and well, it seems like that will be my plan to do for today.

    • Billy

      Hey Correy,
      All you need to do is scrub the glass with a cleaner or filter floss once a week, switch out your filter media every 2 – 4 weeks with new filtering media, do a water change of approximately 10% of water every 1 – 2 weeks, and clean the substrate with a gravel cleaner if you are using gravel as substrate. It’s not that hard to maintain, you just can’t slack. If you end up slacking, you will have algae problems.

  • Mark

    Can you feed cat fish pellets to bristlenose pleco

  • Mark

    King British have seen algae discs would there be better

  • Mark

    thanks got some hikari wafers . Thanks

  • Kris

    Is it only black mollies that eat algae or can any molly do it

  • cinde

    I have a 10 inch pleco who just attacked and killed my 10 inch oscar. They have been the only fish in a 55 gal for 6 years. Any ideas why it did that? And what do I do with it now?

    • Billy

      Hey Cinde,

      Sorry to hear about your loss. It could have been that the pleco attached onto the oscar’s slime coat to consume it. This is a common problem with some plecos if they are not fed enough. Did you ever offer algae discs to pleco? What exactly do you mean “what do i do with it now”? Do you mean with the pleco or the oscar?

  • brandon2011

    I have severe algea like there is hair and everything, will a Ghost Shrimp be okay with a red male beta fish?

  • Kim

    I’d like to get one or more nerite snail for my 10 gallon tank. Can anyone recommend how many snails could happily live in a tank that size? Thanks!

    • Billy

      Hey Kim,
      2 will be enough for a 10 gallon tank. I have 2 in my 29 gallon and they do plenty of work to keep algae down.

  • Mariarosaria

    Hi Billy, I am trasfering my three goldfish (1 red cap goldfish, 1 black moor and 1 Shubunkin) to a tank of 64L. I would like to add a pleco as well to keep the aquarium clean. In the shop they had just baby plecos and my fish are 2-3 inch. Do you think they will eat the baby pleco? Do you recommend some snails instead (they are hard to find in London!). Thank you very much!

    • Billy

      Hello Maria,
      I would say if the pleco can fit in the goldfish’s mouth, don’t get the pleco. Go for the snails instead. I have had my goldfish eat a few fish before.

  • Sally

    Hi there, I have an 82 ltr tank with 2 orandas am I want to add an algae-eater or two.
    Which Plec is suitable for Orandas to live with and won’t get too big? A bristle-nose was mentioned in an ealier post. Is this ok with Orandas?
    I was also considering some Amono shrimp. Is this advisable? I have heard some goldfish eat them. Mine are only 2 inches at the moment and there are many nooks and crannies for the shrimp to hide but I don’t want to get them if it will stress them out. I also have some snails that have appeared and have read up a little bit about them. They seem to reproduce pretty fast; I now have 3, but I am removing any eggs I see. I don’t mind having a small population because they help clean the tank and are cool to watch. I’m just wondering what species they are as they look like apple snails but the eggs are in clear clumps, so doesn’t fit the description.
    Any help appreciated. Thanks 🙂

    • Billy

      Hey Sally,
      The bristlnose pleco will be fine with two orandas. I would only get one though for an 82L. The shrimp will most likely get eaten, so I would advise against getting those. If you can post a picture of the eggs and adult snails, I might be able to help you out and identify the species.

  • Jimmy

    Hey i have a 10 gallon tank, with 3 mollies, 1 balloon molly, 2 platies and 1 guppy. Which algae eater should i get, something not too big?

    • Billy

      Hey Jimmy,
      I would go with two nerite snails. Try not to add anymore fish in the 10 gallon. The amount of fish that you have in your aquarium may be a cause for your algae.

  • hello
    what can we do about leftover food?

    • Billy

      Hey Arturo,
      What exactly do you meany by that? Do you mean floating, in the rock work, in the sand bed, or just food that gets filtered?

  • Snowbell

    I have a school tank that has a lot of green tank glass algae and there is 4 small goldfish in the tank. I am wondering what kind of algae eater would I be able to put into the tank to help clear out the algae?

  • Snowbell

    Is a 7. Something octagon tank

  • heather

    I have oranda, 3 danio and two tetra all living happily, I am wanting shrimp snail or pleco to go in a 55 litre tank? Any recommendations???

    • Billy

      Hey Heather,
      With a 55 litre tank, I would suggest to get a few snails to do to the algae cleaning for you. Any shrimp you put will most likely become a snack for your oranda. And the tank is a bit too small for a pleco. Try some nerite snails. They do really good at eating algae

  • Anthony Chen

    Will algae eater survive in the los Angeles outdoor pond? If they will, what type of algae eater suits best?

    • Billy

      Hey Anthony,
      Can you tell me the temperatures there? Specifically, water temperatures if you know.

  • Christine Fanestiel

    We have a 20 gallon tank with three angelfish (medium sized I believe but they are about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long) and a dragonfish. Today we found our pleco had died. We weren’t sure if maybe the combination of fish wasn’t a great idea. Which of these algae eaters would you suggest for our tank? I want to make sure we have the best fit and didn’t know if something would be better than a pleco. Thanks!

  • candi

    My pieco has been doing ok til now. I have a 10gal tank with 2 mollies and 2 Dalmatian fish. My pieco is acting really weird. He’s not attaching to anything now but had been. He’s laying and floating everywhere. He’s still breathing but I’m afraid he’s dieing on me. What can I do for him?

    • Billy

      Hey Candi,
      Do you feed him any algae discs? The algae in a 10 gallon cant be a lot, so he may be starving. Even in a 55 gallon tank, plecos need to be fed discs. I would try feeding him some algae discs, check your water parameters, temperature, and make sure you stick to your water changes with dechlorinated water. Let me know your water parameters if you test them. If you don’t have any test kits, fish stores will normally test them for your for free or for a very low fee.

  • Helen


    I have a 110 litre tank. Can you suggest a suitable bottom feeder / algae eater. The water temp is 26 / 28c and currently have 4 platys, 4 cherry barb and 4 golden barb so not overstocked. It is well established with good water quality.

  • Hello , I have a 200 gl tank with about 25 yellow chiclids , huge algae issues I have a bristle nose , and just recently dropped in 4 snails and 3 oto include catfish , would it be wise to get a few more due the size of the tank

    • Billy

      Hey Brad,
      Adding more snails will definitely help. How often do you do water changes? Do you use filtration media like carbon?

  • Yes I do water changes about 4-6 weeks , I have a canister filter and I use carbon also mix in lava rock , to go along with 2 layers of filter pad , I have my lights set on a timer but I think the timer may be on the fritz because it seems the lighting goes on and off randomly and I’ll have turn the on / off manually which may be why I’m having heavy algae from to much light . Plus I just recently add the snails I have 10 total 6 mystery snails and 4 nerite and 3 little catfish . Prior to last week I only had the bristle nose . So im hoping to see some improvement at least with the algae on the glass

    • Billy

      Hey Brad,
      I would probably switch out the timer for a better one. Home depot has the manual ones for like 6 bucks. Anything past 8-10 hours a day will help algae thrive. With the newly added clean up crew, you should see the algae reduce. If you want, try running the tank for a week without lights. Even 3 days with the lights off will help.

  • Will any of these types of algae eaters live in a pond? I have about 15 gold fish, 7 silver fish, 2 black fish and one black and red. I just bought the house so I have no idea what kind of fish they are. I live in Alabama and the pond temperature varies from 115 to 0 degrees.

    • Billy

      Hello Rose,
      Those temperatures can kill the fish if they are in degrees F. Does this pond have a heater of some sort for the winter? Doesn’t the water freeze at anything below 32 degrees F?

  • Hi Billy and thanks for responding! I bought the house on Christmas Eve and I’ve never had a pond. Yes the degree I have is in F. The pond does not have a heater. The pond did freeze over and I thought the fished died because December I could see them but when it got cold in late Jan and Feb, I no longer saw them but when Spring came along, there they were. I may be exaggerating when I said 0 degrees, I think the coldest was 16 degrees F.

    • Billy

      Wow. I can’t believe they are still alive. That is impressive. I can’t really recommend an algae eater that will survive in that cold of water to be honest. But for ponds, plecos do well. I can’t promise they will survive when winter comes back around though.

  • Paul

    Hi. I wonder if you could help. Ive an established 130ltr aquarium (30 gallon). Recently i have had a black beard algae explosion. I have a siamese algae eater in the tank already and wonder what would the best to clear the algae and/or cobtrol it going forward. My local shops do not keep huge varieties of fish so i am looking for something relaitbely common. Would a placo do yhe job? Thanks

    • Billy

      Hey Paul,
      Can you tell me what you dose into the tank? Fertilizers, carbon dosing, etc… A few nerite snails and a bristlenose pelco will eat the black beard algae. Not saying it will take care of your problem, but they will help. You need to find the main cause for the algae growth. Do you have live plants?

  • Nualgi Aquarium

    Awesome list! These are definitely among the most popular algae eaters out there. Our favorites are shrimp, they’re just so versatile!

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