12 Best Small Algae Eaters

As an aquarium owner, you will one day have to fight algae. This is almost guaranteed. The reason why is that aquariums have the perfect conditions for breeding algae. 

Algae are generally unpleasant to look at. Some algae species are toxic. However, the number one reason why you should prevent algae from blooming in your fish tank is that they consume dissolved oxygen. This means that as they continue growing out of control, they make your aquarium water less and less healthy for your fish and other critters you may have in there. 

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Moreover, algae also consume nutrients in the water and this can spell doom for your aquarium plants if you have any. 

While there are many commercial products that you can use to kill algae in your fish tank, you should not use them. This is because they will probably kill all algae and fill your water with chemicals that may not be very pleasant for your fish. Furthermore, algae can be eaten as food by many aquarium fish species. Therefore, killing them all with a chemical product is not right and kind of restricts the diet of your fish to what you are giving them. 

The best way to get rid of algae is to introduce an algae eater or a bunch of algae eaters into your aquarium. An algae eater is a fish or a critter that is capable of effectively eating and removing algae from a fish tank. There are many types of algae eaters out there. In this article, I will share with you the best small algae eaters. These are algae eaters that are small enough to effectively clean nano aquariums without taking too much space or territory.  

Without any further delays, let’s begin. 

The 12 best small algae eaters

  1. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus catfish aka Oto catfish is one of the best small algae eaters. This is because it grows to a maximum length of 1.5 inches and can, therefore, clear algae for tanks smaller than 10 gallons in size. Because the Oto catfish is a small fish, it is capable of seeking and finding algae in places that bigger algae eaters cannot reach. This means that you can also have Oto catfish in a bigger tank to clean the areas where your bigger algae eater cannot reach. 

This fish species is not very aggressive. It is also not very territorial either. However, it does not spare any algae. It likes eating all types of algae. However, it considers brown algae (one of the most commons aquarium algae) a delicacy. 

Perhaps the best thing about Otocinclus catfish is the fact that they require very little maintenance. If there is plenty of algae in it, the catfish can even exclusively feed on them. However, after some time, you will have to drop enough pieces of food in your tank for both your fish and your Oto catfish. This is because it will definitely need good food to thrive and be happy. 

Before you buy an Otocinclus Catfish to add to your aquarium, you should check to confirm if it is compatible with the fish already in the aquarium. Otherwise, your algae eater could be eaten or killed on arrival.

  1. Siamese Algae Eaters

Siamese algae eaters are fish species that are regarded by many experienced aquarists to be the best algae eaters around. They do not grow much and, therefore, they are considered to be perfect for small tanks. 

Siamese algae eaters are so effective at eating algae. This is what they love to do all day, every day. And it is the reason why they are called Siamese Algae eaters. 

The best thing about this fish is that fact that it eaters every type of algae it finds. Most algae eaters prefer just the green and brown types of algae. In contrast, this algae eater does not have a preference; it does not discriminate. It considers all algae types to be food. 

The only issue with Siamese Algae eaters is that as they age, they reduce their algae scavenging habits and start relying more on the food they are being fed. This makes them less effective later on. However, as they start becoming old, you can always buy new ones to continue their algae-eating work. 

Like the Oto catfish, the Siamese Algae Eaters do not need a lot of care and maintenance. They are hardy fish. Nevertheless, by taking good care of your Siamese algae eater or eaters, you will keep them happy and stress-free.

  1. Molly fish

Molly fish are a brilliant algae eating fish species. The best algae eating molly fish are black mollies. This is because they are known to eat relatively large quantities of algae every day. So if you have a large algae infestation and you want to clear it quickly, you should strongly consider getting black mollies.

In addition to algae, molly fish also eat flakes and bloodworms. You will probably need to keep a supply of flakes close by to feed them regularly especially after they have reduced the algae population in your tank to negligible levels.

There are several types of molly fish species including black mollies, dalmatian mollies, and golden mollies. Although some of them are semi-aggressive, most of them are generally friendly and make good tank mates for most types of aquarium fish. 

It is easy to take care of mollies because they are a very independent fish species. They only need minimal care. If your tank has enough algae, you won’t even need to give them food. However, if you get mollies for your tank, you should take good care of them to ensure they are healthy and happy so that they can serve you for a long time.

  1. Endler’s Livebearers

Endler’s livebearers are native to Venezuela. They are excellent algae eaters. They are found in many pet shops across the country and are usually recommended by experienced pet shop attendants to beginning aquarists. This is because they are easy to take care of. 

I think the most unique thing about Endler’s livebearers is their color. They are both brightly colored. However, the male Endler’s livebearers are more brightly colored than the female ones. They also have more elaborate color patterns. 

Endler’s livebearers like algae growing on plants. Therefore, they are perfect for removing algae from planted aquariums. 

I like Endler’s livebearers because they are a low-maintenance and hardy fish. This means they do not need a lot of attention and work. It also means that they do not need very specific water parameters as they can survive in a variety of aquarium water conditions. However, as is the case with molly fish, guppies, and Siamese algae eaters, you need to feed them well and maintain your tank properly for them to live long and healthy lives.

  1. American Flagfish

The American Flagfish aka Florida Flagfish is native to Florida. It is an interesting and beautiful fish that is usually added to tanks to add character and enhance beauty and liveliness. Many people do not know that this fish is also an algae eater. It is one of the few fish that can truly be considered the best small algae eaters because it does not grow beyond two inches and it is, therefore, perfect for small tanks. 

If you opt for this fish as your small algae eater, you should either plant your aquarium or add decorations such as caves, rocks and so on. This is because the American Flagfish is a solitary and timid fish, hence it likes hiding in caves, behind rocks, and between live plants. So make it happy and it will surely make you happy by clearing algae for you.

  1. Guppies

Almost every serious aquarium shop across the world has carries guppies. They are perhaps the most popular fish species in the fish-keeping world. And even though guppies are usually bought because of their good looks and their playfulness, they are also known to be very good algae eaters. They will prevent algae from growing out of control in your tank if you include them.

And they are particularly great for small tanks because they grow to a maximum size of 2.4 inches. In other words, they remain pretty much small enough to thoroughly clean the small spaces, corners, and decorations of small tanks. 

While guppies are very good small algae eaters, you have to keep in mind that they also reproduce quickly. So while they will certainly prevent your tank from being overrun by algae, their breeding can result in them overrunning your small tank. 

If you do not want guppies to overrun your tank, you should buy a bunch of them in the same gender. 

If you decide to buy guppies to use as algae eaters for your tank, you should not just expect them to survive on algae alone. You should buy them fish foods such as flakes to regularly give them so that they are healthy and strong enough to scavenge for algae.

  1. African Cichlids

While there are many species of African cichlids available on the market, they all have an appetite for algae. However, even though all African Cichlids species like eating algae, some of them are not suitable for small tanks. This is because they grow as long as 3 feet tall. 

The best species of African Cichlids for small tanks is Neolamprologus Multifasciatus. This is because it is much smaller and has an average maximum length of two inches. Two or three African Cichlids of this species will clean your small tank to a fault. Even one is enough for 10-gallon and under tanks.

If you decide to stock an African Cichlid or two in your tank, you should add shells, caves, rocks, and plants. This is because African Cichlids like hiding so you need to give them places to hide.

African Cichlids, especially of the Neolamprologus Multifasciatus variety, only require minimal care. Many aquarists like this about them.

  1. Trumpet snails

Not many people like snails in their fish tanks but some do. If you are among the few that do, then I am sure you will be happy to know that you can use certain snails including Trumpet snails and Nerite snails as algae eaters. 

Trumpet snails look interesting. The best thing about them is that they almost exclusively feed on algae. So if you add two of them to your tank, all the algae will be in trouble. They will munch them and keep their level low.

Trumpet snails (and all other aquarium snails for that matter) also have the additional benefit of having a hard protective shell. This means that they can be added to just about any tank including those housing aggressive and territorial fish such as the rainbow shark. This is because such fish will not be able to harm them or injure them. 

  1. Nerite snails

Nerite snails are algae eaters just like Trumpet snails. Nerite snails have the additional benefit of having very attractive shells. So while they are going about their job feeding on algae, you will have plenty of time to admire their beauty. 

Unlike other algae eaters, Nerite snails eat all types of algae; nothing is off-limits. Nerite snails also scavenge for food in the substrate and usually end up cleaning it of all algae and detritus.

The best thing about Nerite snails is that they have a maximum size of about 1-inch. This is what makes them one of the best small algae eaters because it means they can fit small spaces and corners in small tanks.

The biggest problem with Nerite snails (and all other aquarium snails) is that they can leave the tank if it is not closed. So you always have to be careful with snails otherwise you could one day come from work and find that they have crisscrossed your living room several times or somehow caused extensive damage.

  1. Amano shrimp

This shrimp is one of the most effective algae eaters around. One of the advantages of purchasing and adding Amano shrimps to your tank is that they will not only eat algae but also find and consume leftover feedings in your aquarium. In short, purchasing Amano shrimps is like hiring thorough cleaners.

Most aquarium fish species have no problem with the Amano shrimp or any other shrimp. Most shrimps also have no problem with small fish or any other type of fish. So if you have been trying to find an algae cleaner for your aggressive fish species or small fish species, you should strongly consider getting Amano shrimps. 

The best thing about Amano shrimps is that they require only minimal care. This makes them great small algae eaters for beginners.

  1. Cherry shrimp

This shrimp is even more popular than the Amano shrimp. Like the Amano shrimp, it is also an effective algae eater. 

The best thing about this shrimp is that it comes in bright and exciting colors. So if you purchase it, you will also get to enjoy its beauty as it patrols your tank looking for algae. 

Cherry shrimps have a maximum size of 2 inches so they are pretty tiny and that is why they are considered best small algae eaters. 

Cherry shrimps feed on both algae and biofilm. So there is plenty of food for them in any fish tank. You do not really need to spend extra money to get supplemental food for them. 

  1. Bamboo shrimp

Bamboo shrimp is not very common. It is also not easy to find in pet shops. However, it is also a good algae eater. It will eat algae whenever it has no other food option. 

It is particularly great for small tanks because it grows to a maximum size of three inches. 


As you can see from the information above, there are many algae eaters perfect for small fish tanks. They are perfect for small tanks because they have small sizes that enable them to patrol, swim, or scavenge all the surfaces, corners, and crevices of small tanks to find and eat algae. Get yourself a fish, shrimp, or snail algae eater today to prevent keep algae in your tank at a minimum.