Every aquarium owner eventually discovers algae.
Different types of algae mean different things, but generally, it is considered a problem. While some algae, like red algae, can be toxic, other types of algae such as brown algae are generally considered harmless.
But it’s still unpleasant to the eye.
The various algae types often point to different weak points in an aquarium’s ecosystem. Oftentimes, insufficient lighting periods, bacterial breakdown due to uneaten food and fish waste, and/or poor oxygen levels/circulation are culprits.
Eventually, every tank owner develops a unique approach in their effort to combat algae. Sometimes, the solution is simple and only requires a minor adjustment, such as more frequent water changes or a regular maintenance schedule. Other times, algae problems can be multi-layered, and tank owners have to experiment with a variety of solutions before the problem is solved.
One of the greatest ways to combat algae problems in your aquarium is by purchasing a few algae eating fish.
There are a number of different algae eating fish species, which will feed on algae as their primary source of nourishment. Different types of snails and shrimp are also known for eating algae, which we will cover.
It is not uncommon for aquarium owners to include a number of algae eaters in their tanks, solely for their ability to keep algae growth at bay.
Here, we list 12 of the hungriest Algae Eaters For Small Tanks 10 Gallons & Under.
- Fish That Eat Algae
- Small Snails That Eat Algae
- Shrimp That Eat Algae
Fish That Eat Algae
1. Siamese Algae Eaters
Care Level: Medium. Although they can sometimes show aggression, they do so far less often especially when compared to Chinese algae eaters.
Max Size: 6.5 inches
Temperature Range: 75-79F
PH Range: 6.5-8
Siamese algae eaters are known for being some of the most effective algae-eating fish available. They’re often confused with Chinese algae eaters, but at the end of the day, they’re very different. For the most part, they never grow to be as large as Chinese algae eaters, making them better for smaller tanks.
These fish are so productive at algae-eating, that it’s even in their name. The great thing about the Siamese algae eater is that it takes care of all types of algae. While some fish only prefer green algae, Siamese algae eaters enjoy it all. Everything from red algae to brown algae is considered a food source to the Siamese algae eater.
They are also at their algae-eating best while still young. As they age, they have a tendency to lean more heavily on other food sources such as pellets. But make no mistake, algae will always remain a primary food source during the lifespan of a Siamese algae eater.
2. Otocinclus Catfish
Care Level: Minimal. Generally, as long as these catfish have enough algae to eat, they’re happy. But depending on how many bigger fish are contained in your tank, you may want to double check just to ensure that the environment is fit for Otocinclus catfish. Angelfish, for example, will attack Otocinclus catfish.
Max Size Of Fish: 1.5 Inches
Temperature Range: 70-80F
PH Range: 6-7.5
Otocinclus catfish, or dwarf suckers, are ideal algae eaters for tanks under 10 gallons. Otos are small fish, giving them the ability to eat algae in tight spaces.
Although they aren’t the most aggressive or toughest species of fish, make no mistake, algae, in particular, doesn’t stand a chance against them. To the Otocinclus catfish, brown algae is a delicacy, although these fish will eat all sorts of algae.
3. Molly Fish
Care Level: Minimal. Mollies are great independent fish that require minimal care. As long as a good brand of flakes is added to their regular diet in addition to algae, they are easy to keep happy. In fact, it is not uncommon for mollies to be recommended to new tank owners.
Max Size Of Fish: 2 Inches
Temperature Range: 75-80F
PH Range: 7-8
Molly fish are another great algae eating option for smaller tanks. Black mollies, in particular, are known for being the most effective. Although they will eat large amounts of algae, they can also be used as algae-eating sidekicks. This is because algae serves as only one food source. They also enjoy protein-filled food sources such as bloodworms, as well as high-quality flakes.
Molly fish come in all sorts of varieties, from golden mollies to black mollies. There are even dalmatian mollies, which are known for their unique speckled design.
There are so many types of mollies available because over the years they’ve been one of the most hybridized types of fish. Although some mollies can be aggressive, generally they are friendly fish that get along well with others.
Care Level: Minimal. Although Guppies will eat algae, this should not be considered their only source of food. A variety of flakes and other nutritious fish foods should be given to Guppies. Algae alone is not enough.
Max Size Of Fish: 2.4 inches
Temperature Range: 74-82F
PH Range: 6.8-7.8
Guppies are among the most popular fish in the aquarium world. Although they are more often purchased for their looks and temperament, they are also great algae eaters.
In fact, most guppy owners have no idea that they are algae eaters, upon purchasing them. Gradually, they will come to learn this, and even appreciate the Guppies ability to keep algae from overrunning the tank.
Keep in mind that Guppies are also prolific breeders. Tank keepers that do not want to deal with guppy offspring, often purchase only one gender of the fish. Otherwise, guppy fry can be quite overwhelming, especially while being consumed by other fish and the guppy parents themselves.
5. Endlers Livebearers
Care Level: Minimal. Endlers livebearers are hardy fish that can get by in a wide range of aquatic environments. With that said, their growth is often assisted by warmer conditions. Like Guppies, owners should never rely on algae as a primary food source. Although they will nibble on algae throughout the day, they prefer flakes, shrimp, and other powdered foods.
Max Size Of Fish: 1.8 inches
Temperature Range: 64-84F
PH Range: 5.5-8
Endler’s livebearers are colorful little algae eaters that have been seen to breed with Guppies. They are a Venezuelan fish, commonly seen in pet shops and frequently recommended to new aquarium owners.
Endler’s livebearers range in color, although the males are known for displaying more appealing patterns. The algae they prefer grows on live plants. Although they’re not known for cleaning the algae contained within the substrate, they will keep live plants fairly algae-free.
6. American Flagfish
Care Level: Minimal. Flag fish are known for being adaptable, and can go on eating algae while keeping to themselves for hours.
Max Size Of Fish: 2 inches
Temperature Range: 66-86F
PH Range: 6.7-8.2
The American flagfish has no problem-consuming algae. They are uniquely colored and frequently used as algae eaters. Originally, they were native to swampy Florida settings. Their color patterns are similar to the American flag.
Although flagfish do enjoy the company of fellow fish, they are also known to frequently remain solitary, hiding between rocks and within live plants.
7. African Cichlids (Neolamprologus Multifasciatus)
Care Level: Minimal. Most types of African cichlids prefer the company of groups. The algae they prefer generally grows on rocks and glass.
Max Size Of Fish: 2 inches
Temperature Range: 63-74F
PH Range: 7.8-8.5
Although there are tons of African cichlid types, generally they will always graze upon algae whether they are male or female. It’s best to research which African Cichlids are recommended for 10-gallon tanks, as some types can reach up to 3 feet in length.
Neolamprologus Multifasciatus cichlids, however, are much smaller. These fish, although beautiful, are often unseen due to their tendency to take refuge in shells.
Small Snails That Eat Algae
8. Nerite Snails
Care Level: Medium. Nerite snails do have to be looked after, and can only be placed in certain tanks. Tanks containing loach fish, for example, present a problem as they like to feed on nerite snails. Tanks must also be covered, due to their adventurousness. They also have a tendency to scatter eggs throughout tanks, which doesn’t exactly make a tank more presentable.
Max Size Of Fish: 1 inches
Temperature Range: 71-78.8F
PH Range: 7+
That’s right, snails too can be great for algae eating! In addition to being incredibly useful, nerite snails also feature highly appealing shell designs with creative patterns. They are often described as having shells similar to the stripes of a zebra.
There’s no type of algae that is off-limits to the nerite snail, they love it all. Being the bottom feeders that they are, they will also keep your substrate clean.
9. Trumpet Snails
Care Level: Minimal. Although they are productive algae eaters, in some circles their reputations as a pest species precedes them.
Max Size Of Fish: 1-2 inches on average, although they can in rarer cases grow up to 4 inches
Temperature Range: 50-90F
PH Range: 6.5-8
Trumpet snails are also interesting looking, algae eating machines. Their primary food source is algae, so they can be great tools for keeping algae levels to a minimum. They get their name from their unique shell design, which is cone shaped. They’re usually a rusty-brown, although black trumpet snails are rare and can be found.
Trumpet snails are somewhat non-active during the day, and do the majority of their feeding and exploring at night. Tanks containing live plants will benefit greatly from the help of trumpet snails.
Shrimp That Eat Algae
10. Cherry Shrimp
Care Level: Minimal. These shrimp are highly adaptable and easy to take care of. They prefer aquariums that contain plants, where they can shield their young and themselves. These shrimp will shed an exoskeleton every so often. This doesn’t have to be fished out of the tank, as they will eventually consume it for healthy minerals.
Max Size Of Fish: 2 inches
Temperature Range: 57-84F
PH Range: 6.5-8
Shrimp too can be effective algae eaters. They prefer the company of smaller fish, so chances are that the residents of a 10 gallon or under tank should be fine.
Cherry shrimp are widely known for their looks, and although they come in a variety of colors, red is the most popular. Because of how small and versatile they are, they can easily get by in desktop aquariums as well.
As a food source, they prefer algae and all types of biofilm. Plants, which frequently provide biofilm, are great for cherry shrimp. They also enjoy fish flakes including zucchini and other veggie products.
11. Amano Shrimp
Care Level: Minimal. Amano shrimp are great at adapting to a variety of tank environments, making them a good species for beginners. They prefer to be in groups, and in tanks with smaller fish and live plants. They should be given extra food in tanks containing low algae levels. It’s recommended to treat your Amano shrimp to vegetable flakes every so often, zucchini in particular.
Max Size Of Fish: 1.5 inches
Temperature Range: 68-86F
PH Range: 6.5-7.5
Amano shrimp are considered to be the most productive algae eaters in the shrimp category. One of the great benefits of having an Amano shrimp is that it will also eat unconsumed food in your tank. Uneaten food has a tendency to break down into harmful bacteria, which can promote the growth of algae. That being said, this shrimp is capable of eliminating the source of a tank’s algae problem.
Like cherry shrimp, they’re no slouches in the looks department. Their translucent spotted bodies make for a great addition to an aquarium. Like cherry shrimp, they will periodically shed. It’s important to double check that they’re receiving healthy diets and remaining strong. When the time comes to shed, they must have the strength to do so.
12. Bamboo Shrimp
Care Level: Minimal. Bamboo shrimp will resort to eating algae, especially while other food sources are low.
Max Size Of Fish: 3 inches
Temperature Range: 68-77F
PH Range: 6.5-7.5
Although not quite as productive as cherry shrimp or Amano shrimp, bamboo shrimp can serve as effective algae eaters. They are native to Southeast Asia and enjoy water flow within aquariums.
Final Thoughts on Algae Eaters for Small Tanks
By now, hopefully, you have a good idea of some easy ways you can take care of the algae levels in your tank. When looking for natural solutions, it is important to remember that fish, shrimp, and snails can potentially eliminate algae.
Although some are smaller than others, generally the appetites of each of these algae eaters will remain strong!
Here are a few more great Algae eating fish.