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Controlling Algae Using Algae Eating Tropical Fish in the Home Aquarium

Updated on October 20, 2018

It is very important to have a variety of algae eaters in your tank to keep the leaves of live plants and aquarium glass clean. After all, how much can you enjoy your tank if you can’t see inside or if your plants are all dying because they can get the light they need? Having good algae eaters will also cut down on the maintenance time of the tank.


Siamese Algae Eater

When talking about tropical fish that are algae eaters, why not start with the one that pronounces it’s proclivity in its name. The Siamese algae eater is a great choice for 55 gallon aquariums and larger. In captivity, the Siamese algae eater reaches sizes around six to seven inches and prefers to graze on white beard, red algae and black fuzz algae (one of the few that will). It is typically a shoaling fish, liking to stay in groups of three or more, although it will be fine on its own provided there is ample vegetation and a place for it to call home. Use caution when choosing this peaceful community fish though as Siamese algae eaters are jumpers and will most certainly leap to their death if there isn’t a tight fitting lid.


Rosy Barb

The red/gold/green sheen of a male Rosy Barb is enough reason to buy it, top that with its peaceful nature and love of stringy white algae growth and this one is a community tank all star. Rosy barbs pack together and charge across the tank in a shimmering, color changing shoal stopping periodically to graze on the algae taking hold on aquarium plants and ornaments. These fish will eat flake food too but prefer algae or fresh blanched zucchini. Keep a close watch on your barbs, if you do not keep them well fed, they will start to eat the live plants in your tank.


Black Molly

The black molly is one of the most prolific algae eaters among freshwater tropical fish. In fact, the fry of the black molly can spend their first several weeks subsisting on algae alone. Black mollies may be the best algae eaters but almost all livebearers will eat algae including platys and swordtails. The only problem with mollies is their tendency to be disease prone in tanks that don’t include salt. They are typically a brackish water fish that can acclimate to freshwater situations.


American Flag Fish

The American Flag Fish (sometimes referred to as the Florida Flag Fish) is a beautiful killifish with a distinctive red and blue striped pattern that gives it its name. It will eat string algae and some types of beard algae but tends to shy away from red and black varieties. This fish has a tendency to become nippy and will fin nip bettas and other long fin fishes. This behavior isn’t seen in all American Flag Fish but is prevalent enough to be a concern for community tanks with smaller fish like neons that are apt to be devoured by a larger aggressive fish.


Endler's Livebearers and Fancy Guppies

Endler’s Livebearers and Fancy Guppies cull algae as surface skimmers and plant cleaners. This fish reproduces at an exponential rate and just a few can become hundreds in only a couple of months. They will do a great job cleaning your tank but will soon overpopulate it if you don’t have a few larger fish around to eat the fry. These are great to keep with a few large Gouramis in a community tank with a flag fish or other tropical fish that are algae eaters.


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