Suckermouth fish are natural algae eaters
Suckermouth fish are natural algae eaters

 

If you’re new to the whole aquarium/fish-owning business, you may have set up a freshwater tank with all the trimmings and just the right aquatic specimens but now you’re starting to see algae growth and wondering what to do about it. No worries. Spare yourself a lot of time and work and just get yourself an algae eater or two. Problem solved — for the most part. With that said, let’s look at one of the best ways to maintain a healthy balance in your aquarium’s ecosystem through the use of algae eating fish.

 

Plecos as algae eaters
Lunch time!

Freshwater Fish

Like rust, algae growth is persistent and there’s no getting around it. While some levels of the slimy green stuff are normal and in fact good, you want to keep it manageable. Fish tank owners who keep freshwater fish will find it easy to locate species that will make welcome additions to their own tank’s environment. A lot of it, though, will have to do with your particular setup. Do you have a small or large tank? Do you keep fish that are messy or produce an inordinate amount of waste? Does your tank contain any sort of vegetation, plastic or otherwise? These are all questions to answer before choosing the right algae eater for an aquarium.

 

Algae eating fish make great tank cleaners
Add algae eaters to your fish tank to reduce slimy growth

Plecos

Among the very best algae eaters are the plecos, aka suckermouth catfish. But there’s a thing or two you need to know about them. For instance, for a smaller home setup — versus a larger, more elaborate aquarium — you will want to consider a bristlenose pleco or a bushynose pleco. Both are hearty eaters that consume all types of algae and only grow to be roughly between four and six inches in length. For a larger environment with room to grow, any of the common plecos that can grow up to two feet when adult will make a better choice.

 

Siamese algae eaters
Fish such as Siamese algae eaters are territorial

Siamese Algae Eater

Not to be confused with Chinese algae eaters, the Siamese algae eater is another heavy hitter when it comes to higher consumption levels of the green stuff. They are a member of the carp family (cyprinid) and only reach about four to five inches in size. These particular fish are not suited for living with another member of their species, as they can become extremely territorial about their environment and will try to kill each other. Essentially, just keep one of these per tank.

 

Goldfish create waste
Goldfish can necessitate the need for algae eaters

Pygmy Suckermouth

An alternate type of suckermouth to consider for your algae problem is the Otocinclus or Otos, as they are commonly referred to, which make excellent options for getting the dirty job of cleaning your fish tank done. These pygmy suckermouth fish are smaller than pleco, similar in appearance and love to eat algae attached to small leaves of vegetation. It’s in their nature to school, however, so it’s best to keep them in groups of three or more.

 

Plecos eat algae
Certain algae eaters eat more algae than others

Florida Flagfish

Another small fish, the native Florida flagfish only achieves two-and-a-half inches in size and cleans up where most other algae eaters leave off. They enjoy eating what’s called brush or beard algae, often ignored by their counterparts, making them a great addition to fish tanks with algae eaters that go after the big stuff. You may need to monitor them initially to make sure they get along with all of their tank mates.

 

freshwater algae eaters
Algae, it's what's for dinner

Facts About Keeping Algae Eaters

In the first paragraph we make mention of the fact that getting yourself an algae eater or two (or three or more) will help solve your tank’s algae problem — for the most part. While this is true, again for the most part, algae eaters are not a substitution for periodically cleaning your tank. Sorry, but there’s no getting around it. Occasionally it simply has to be done. Even with a small tank, you probably can’t depend on your fish entirely. Some algae eaters only eat certain types while others may pick out a favorite spot for dining and seldom stray far from it.

 

Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose pleco

Fish Tank Health & Nutrition

On the off chance that you do have voracious eaters that vacuum like a Hoover (in presumably a small space), make sure they don’t starve to death from lack of food. While not common, it can happen. In the unlikely event that they are just that industrious, algae eaters should be provided supplements to their diet with things like algae tabs or vegetables. If the situation occurs regularly, you may have too many fish for the job in the space allotted, which will require you to cull the school, so to speak. Eventually, you should figure out the perfect balance for the health of your tank.

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