What Fish Keep an Aquarium Clean?

Do you need some help with cleaning your fish tank? A fish tank can get dirty due to a variety of reasons.

In most cases, the source of contamination can be attributed to accumulated food debris, dead plant material, and algae.

Luckily enough, cleaning your tank doesn’t have to be something that you need to do on your own.

If you are smart about it, you can get some help from the tank’s inhabitants as well.

This particularly applies to removing the algae from your fish tank.

Read on, as we discuss what fish keep an aquarium clean by eating algae.

What Fish Keep an Aquarium Clean by Eating Algae?

Algae are a natural part of any fish tank. Most experts agree that a small amount of algae is a healthy addition to your tank’s ecosystem.

It can produce oxygen for your fish and help control nitrogen levels in your aquarium.

However, if left unattended, the algae can grow at a rapid pace and take over your fish tank.

In the end, you’ll be left with an aquarium that is completely covered with algae.

One of the most popular methods to control the growth of algae and keep your aquarium clean is by introducing fish that consume algae as a source of food.

Let’s take a look at some of the best algae eaters in the fish community:

Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco is a frontrunner among the types of fish that can keep your aquarium clean by eating algae.

They are relatively small in size. Their maximum length is 5 inches, which makes them ideal tank mates in a medium-sized aquarium.

The Pleco is well-known for its algae-eating abilities, as well. What’s more, they are peaceful creatures and can be easy to care for.

They are nocturnal, so make sure you include plenty of hiding spots when setting up the aquarium. A Bristlenose Pleco will use these spaces to hide during the day.

The diet of a Bristlenose Pleco comprises of 85 percent plant matter and 15 percent protein.

You can feed them with sinking algae pellets, wafers, and blanched vegetables.

Another bonus of introducing a Bristlenose Pleco is that they can coexist alongside a shrimp population as well.

Shrimp are well known for eating organic matter such as algae. Together, these two species can help you keep your tank clean by controlling the growth of algae.

Crossocheilus oblongus

The Crossocheilus oblongus, better known as the Siamese Algae Eater, is another popular choice among aquarists looking for a suitable algae eater for their fish tank.

This fish is a powerhouse of sorts when it comes to eating algae. They can consume different types of algae, as well.

For instance, if your tank has been contaminated by Black beard algae, then introducing Siamese algae eaters can help control the growth of this particular type of algae.

To the uninitiated, Black Beard algae can be dangerous to your tank as it can end up blocking out sunlight.

This can cause damage to the other plants in your tank because they cannot carry out photosynthesis.

Like the Bristlenose Pleco, the Siamese Algae eater is small in size and can grow to a maximum length of 6 inches. It is a peaceful creature that can fare well in a community of unaggressive fish.

Besides helping you clean your tank by removing algae, the Siamese algae eater can also eat other types of debris.

They can help you get rid of planaria as well. All these features make the Pleco a valuable asset to an aquarium.

Gyrinocheilus aymonieri

The Gyrinocheilus aymonier, commonly referred to as the Chinese Algae Eater, is one of the few types of fish on our list that has a mildly aggressive temperament.

You can introduce this fish in a community of other fishes with a similar temperament.

The Chinese Algae Eater also requires a bigger tank. They usually grow up to a length of only 5 inches in an aquarium.

However, in the wild, they have been known to be as long as 11 inches. You must buy a tank having a capacity of at least 50+ gallons to account for this growth.

The Chinese Algae Eater usually inhabits the lower portions of the tank. They tend to attach themselves to algae-covered surfaces around the aquarium and feed on what they can find.

Besides algae, their diet includes live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. They can also eat maggots, algae wafers, and blanched vegetables.

The Chinese Algae Eater can live up to 10 years. They also get increasingly aggressive as they grow older, and you will have to be careful about which tank mates you introduce in their environment.

Otocinclus Catfish

The Otocinclus Catfish can be a great addition to your aquarium. They are incredibly small in size and reach an approximate length of 1.5 inches.

If you own a small aquarium and are looking for an algae eater that can thrive in a limited amount of space, then the Otocinclus Catfish is your best bet.

They are very calm creatures, which makes them perfect for a community tank. You can also introduce invertebrates, such as shrimp to a tank with Otocinclus Catfish.

Unlike other fish types that eat shrimp, the Otocinclus Catfish is an ideal tank mate for your shrimp population.

These catfish thrive well in groups. They inhabit the lower portions of a tank and are great at cleaning aquariums by removing unwanted algae, as well.

Brown algae are their specialty. You will not have to worry about them harming your plants, as well.

Besides algae, their diet comprises of green vegetables. You can feed them lettuce, zucchini, or spinach.

If your tank is relatively free of algae, then you can also provide them with algae wafers.

Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish are notorious algae eaters, as well. They are peaceful and sociable creatures that normally dwell at the bottom of a tank.

You can introduce them to a freshwater community tank.

Bear in mind that unlike other fish on this list, the Twig Catfish is not easy to care for. They require a highly controlled environment.

For instance, you must make sure that the oxygen levels of your tank are consistently high. They also require a small amount of current. The water quality of the tank must be immaculate, as well.

These fish are incredibly shy by nature. You must avoid housing them with aggressive fish types that compete for food. If this happens, the Twig Catfish will run the risk of starving to death.


Mollies and other livebearers can also help you get rid of algal overgrowths in your tank.

They are relatively small in size and grow to a maximum length of 2 to 4 inches.

They are highly compatible with multiple fish types, such as Swordtails, Corydoras Catfish, and Angelfish.

They can reside peacefully in small tanks. However, bear in mind that like other livebearers, mollies reproduce at an incredibly fast rate and your tank must have enough room to accommodate their babies.

Also, they prefer eating at the edge of the aquarium and can help clean algae on a regular basis.

Besides Mollies, you can also opt for other livebearers, such as the Guppy and the Platy. Almost all livebearers can consume algae.

However, they may not be as efficient as other fish species on our list.

What Other Aquatic Creatures Can Help You Keep Your Tank Clean?

Besides algae-eating fish, you can also introduce shrimp and snails in your tank for keeping it clean.

Some popular algae-eating snails include:

While adding an algae-eating snail to your tank has its advantages, you need to be careful about which type of snail you choose.

Most species of snails reproduce very quickly. As a result, they can end up being a nuisance for tank owners.

Compared to algae-eating snails, introducing a shrimp population to your tank is a much better option.

A shrimp population can be a unique addition to your tank as well. Some popular algae-eating shrimps include:

  • Amano shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Ghost shrimp

A major drawback of adding a shrimp population to your fish tank is that they may get eaten by your fish.

Baby shrimps are particularly vulnerable to attacks from omnivorous fishes.

You can try introducing adult shrimp populations that can coexist peacefully with your fish.


There are many types of fish that can keep your aquarium clean by feeding on algae.

However, make sure you provide these fish with a varied diet.

Do not count on the presence of algae in your tank to be a sufficient food source for these fish. If you do, your fish will eventually waste away and die.

Since most of these fish are herbivores, you can feed them a combination of algae pellets, algae wafers, and blanched vegetables.

If your fish also require a small portion of protein-based food, then you can provide them with frozen or live food such as brine shrimp and bloodworms.

Besides algae-eating fish, you can also introduce snails and shrimp that consume algae. However, this may require more care and maintenance.

It can also prove to be an expensive option if your fish end up eating the shrimp.

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