17 Best Small Algae Eaters for a 10 Gallon Aquarium

Few things kill the mood in an aquarium more than looking in and seeing algae taking everything over.

Luckily, there are a number of fish, snails, and shrimp we can add – even to a small aquarium – that will help us keep algae under control.

The best algae eaters for a 10 gallon aquarium are otocinclus catfish, amano shrimp, honey gourami, nerite snails, and mystery snails.  Red Cherry Shrimp are another good option.  Avoid getting larger algae eaters such as siamese algae eaters that will quickly outgrow a 10 gallon tank.

Let’s take a look at a few more algae eaters for 10 gallon tanks.

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Eating a Cucumber | Source: Deposit Photos

One of the best algae eaters for a 10 gallon aquarium has to be the otocinclus catfish.

They stay small, don’t move around alot, and get along with even the more aggressive fish you might want to add into your aquarium.

They may not look fancy, but that’s a fair tradeoff for the benefit they provide your aquarium.

Otos will eat:

  • Soft Green Algae
  • Brown Algae (Diatoms)

If you’re looking for something to eat more difficult types of algae (think hair or black beard algae), this is probably not the fish for you.

Otocinclus Catfish Resting on Leaf | Souce: Deposit Photos

One other thing you need to know is that otos can be hard to feed.  Once they run out of algae, they often starve themselves to death.

In my aquarium, my otos wouldn’t eat algae wafers I provided them.  I could get my clown pleco (in my 29) to eat cucumbers and algae wafers both, but not my otos.

Some fishkeepers have had luck getting otocinclus catfish to eat blanched cucumbers and zucchini, though, and for an aquarium as small as a 10 gallon, you should try to get them to eat something other than algae from the beginning, even if your aquarium is overrun with algae.

Mystery Snail

Mystery Snail | (C) Tiny Underwater | License: CC-BY-4.0

The next item on the list is the mystery snail, and – in my opinion – this is the best looking of all of the snails you can put in an aquarium.

Mystery snails are some of the hardest workers in the fishkeeping world.  They spend their entire lives doing nothing but looking for algae and food waste to clean up out of your aquarium.

They also eat dead plant matter but – contrary to some beliefs – won’t harm living plants.

They don’t really have any downsides other than not being a fish.  You can feed them algae wafers, but you don’t have to feed them much of anything.

Mystery snails will eat most common types of algae.  They are even reported to eat hair algae, though I’ve never seen it myself, and if they do it’s just the soft, young bits of hair algae.  They will not eat black beard algae or staghorn algae.

Guppies

Swimming blue guppy | Source: Deposit Photos

You wouldn’t think of guppies when you think of algae eaters, but guppies are one of the sleeper algae eaters of the fishkeeping world.

What’s even better, they look great.  Just about any color or pattern you can think of you can find a guppy that comes in.

The downside, of course, is that they breed prodigiously.  You may want to get exclusively male guppies, because otherwise you will quickly find yourself overrun with guppies.

Male Guppies | Source: Deposit Photos

If you can get past that, you get a fish that can eat even more difficult types of algae, such as hair algae.

Overall, I think they make a good addition to your aquarium if you want them.

Rudolph Shrimp

Rudolph shrimp might not be the first thing you think of when you’re looking for algae eaters, but they will definitely eat algae.

I’ve heard from people who say rudolph shrimp have decimated bad algae infestations in a relatively short period of time.

They also look pretty interesting as well – somewhat clear like a ghost shrimp, but with a splash of color.

The downside is that they can be kind of expensive, so you should get them because you want shrimp, not because you want an algae eater.

They will also eat tough types of algae like hair algae, so they have that extra benefit.

American Flagfish

If you’re into rare or unusual fish, you might want to look into getting an American Flagfish for your aquarium.

Like the rudolph shrimp, this means it’s not something you necessarily want to get just because you want an algae eater.  If you want a killifish, though, the Flagfish is a great option.

And boy do they eat algae.

They will eat hair algae, which most algae eaters won’t touch, and they are one of the few fish in the entire hobby that will eat black beard algae.

Overall, they’re an excellent little fish, and they’re a bit showy to boot.  Just be prepared to get 3 of them at a time, as you don’t want to keep them alone.

Red Cherry Shrimp

Red Cherry Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

Another invert that you can get to help keep algae at bay is the red cherry shrimp.  

They look great, come in several different colors, and you can keep a bunch in a 10 gallon aquarium without significantly reducing the number often  fish you can have.

I think it’s safe to say that RCS are the most popular shrimp in the hobby, and it’s no wonder why.  Plus, they can survive in a wide range of water conditions.

Getting down to business – they can eat a wide variety of algae, including hair algae.  Not that they’re going to completely remove it for you, but they can be a good part of your overall algae reduction strategy.

Honey Gourami

Honey Gourami | Source: Deposit Photos

If you’re looking for an algae eater than can also be the centerpiece of your 10 gallon aquarium, look no further than the honey gourami.

This beautiful gold fish will spend the day scouring your aquarium for algae and other food to graze on.

You might not think of honey gourami when you think of algae eaters, but they can actually be quite good at eating algae.

Honey Gourami | Source: Deposit Photos

Another positive is that they aren’t pissy like some other species of gourami are.  They are entirely peaceful.  Plus, they’re immune to dwarf gourami disease – which is a huge problem with buying some other species of gourami.

Nerite Snail

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis) eating on a rock in a fish tank

Next on our list is the nerite snail.  This snail is such a good algae eater that it’s basically a requirement to put it on any list of algae eaters anywhere.

It will eat basically every type of algae except black beard algae, blue green algae (which isn’t algae), and staghorn algae.  All of the most common types of algae it will happily eat, even things like green spot algae which gives other algae eaters problems.

If you’re having problems with algae, it’s definitely worth at least looking into nerites.  They also come in a few different colors and patterns.

Tiger snail, Neritina natalensis | Source: Deposit Photos

Now, onto the downsides.  The first is that they leave eggs everywhere.  The eggs won’t hatch, they’ll just stay there forever looking like tiny sesame seeds.  Nothing will eat them, you just have to scrape them off or live with them.

The other downside is that if they don’t like conditions in your aquarium, they’ll leave.  Especially the ones with horns.  

Nerite snails are natural escape artists, and they’re used to having to go from water source to water source, so if your water quality is bad or you don’t have enough food, they’ll climb out of your tank and go looking for a more hospitable body of water.

Platies

Wagtail Platy | Source: Deposit Photos

Platies are another great little fish that you can put into a 10 gallon aquarium to eat algae.  They kinda have a goldfish vibe to them, so they will also provide a nice splash of color into your aquarium.

I’d recommend keeping 3-5 of them and getting all males if you can, because they breed quite quickly otherwise.  If you get females, I think the ratio you should have is 1:2 or 1:3 male:females.

Still, I have platies in my own aquarium, and I can vouch for the fact that they will spend the entire day hunting around and picking at algae.

Another benefit of them is that they’re an extremely hardy fish that is easy to take care of.  They don’t much care what water conditions you have. 

Crystal Red Shrimp

Cardinia Red Bee Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

If you’ve got the right water parameters for them, the crystal red shrimp is a shrimp you have to look into getting.

With their beautiful red and white stripes, these shrimp don’t just eat algae – they look fabulous doing it.

They can live in tanks as small as 5 gallons, so they should have no problem living in a 10 gallon aquarium like yours.  (As long as you have soft, slightly acidic water.)

Crystal red shrimp (Cardinia cantonensis) | Source: Deposit Photos

Now they are a bit more expensive than some other varieties of shrimp, but not unreasonably so.  Expect to pay anywhere between $4-7 for a CRS with decent coloration.

Gold Spot Dwarf Pleco

The gold spot dwarf pleco is one of the few plecos that can actually live in a 10 gallon aquarium – if you can find one, that is.

This is one of the more rare breeds of pleco, meaning it’s going to be hard to find.  Still, if you’re set on a pleco and can find one, this may be the fish for your aquarium.

These guys are reported to stay under 2″ long as adults, meaning they should be right at home in a 10 gallon tank.

They will eat the softer types of algae that grow on plants and aquarium walls, and – like some other species of pleco – need driftwood in their aquarium.

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp | (C) Tiny Underwater CC-BY-4.0

Unlike the previous item on this list, ghost shrimp are probably the cheapest type of shrimp you can get your hands on.  Usually 10 for $2-3.

Because they’re treated badly in shipping – and because so many different types of shrimp are called ghost shrimp – they will often die within a few weeks of purchasing them.

If you get a batch that doesn’t die, and if you get a batch that’s of the right species, ghost shrimp will definitely eat some of the algae in your aquarium.

Ghost Shrimp | (C) Tiny Underwater CC-BY-4.0

In my own aquarium, I’ve seen them eat several types of algae, including the soft green algae and hair algae both.

They’re more grazers of algae than destroyers of algae, but you’re really getting what you pay for in this respect.

Blue Neon Dwarf Goby

 Most of the really good looking species of goby require you to get a saltwater aquarium.  The blue neon dwarf goby is one of the exceptions.

What’s even better is that it will live in a 10 gallon aquarium and will eat algae.

It’s not going to eat the difficult types of algae, mind you, but it will eat biofilm and the soft types of algae that grow on things.

In fact, this species depends on it, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough algae in your tank for this goby to eat before you get one.

You can also feed it some dry foods, but it needs to have some algae in its diet.

You can keep 1-2 of these in a 10 gallon tank, and you’ll want to have a strong current to truly keep them happy.

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

Amano shrimp are another hard working species of shrimp.  In fact, if you had to pick one shrimp that was most known for being a good algae eater, it would be this one.

I’ve heard some stories from fishkeepers who have had amano shrimp completely fix an algae problem in their tank.  Even with tough types of algae like hair algae.

And what’s better – they’re not that expensive, and they’re widely available.

Amano shrimp. Caridina multidentata | Source: Deposit Photos

If you don’t have anything in your aquarium that eats shrimp, and you’ve got algae, you should look into getting an amano shrimp.

An added benefit of them is that you won’t have to worry about them breeding out of control.  They only breed in brackish water, so the number you put in is the number you have.

Pond Snails & Bladder Snails

These two snails look almost the same, so I’m lumping them into the same item on this list.

Pond Snail | Source: Deposit Photos

These snails are basically the black sheep of the fishkeeping world because they typically show up uninvited and breed on their own.  Still, they are probably my favorite species of snail because of their usefulness as a cleanup crew and the fact that they’re the hardest to kill thing you can put in an aquarium.

Based on personal experience I can guarantee these things will survive things that kill every other snail in your aquarium.

This is, of course, one of the reasons why so many people hate them.

Still, they’re great algae eaters and they will multiply to fit the level of algae in your aquarium to eat.  When there is less stuff for them to eat, their population will reduce again.

Best of all, you can get them for free on plants you buy or for other fishkeepers that are trying to get rid of them.

I recommend them highly.

Ramshorn Snails

Ramshorn Snail | Source: Deposit Photos

Ramshorn snails are another species of snail commonly considered a pest snail, but these come in a variety of designer colors.

Reds, blues, browns, with and without spots – there is bound to be a type of ramshorn snail you think looks good.

They have many of the same pros and cons as pond snails, except they aren’t quite as hardy as pond snails.

Great Ramshorn Snail | Source: Deposit Photos

They’ll also eat a variety of types of algae – just not the difficult ones like hair algae or black beard algae.

One tip if you get a designer ramshorn snail is to remove any browns from your aquarium as soon as possible.  Browns are the wild variety, and if you let them breed all of your snails will eventually revert back to being brown.

 Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Malaysian Trumpet Snail Macro Shot | Source: Deposit Photos

Another “pest” snail on the list is the malaysian trumpet snail.  This snail isn’t much to look at, but they are supposed to be quite hardy.

(Meaning they are perfect for even beginner aquarists.)

The other benefit of trumpet snails is that – since they are nocturnal and live in your substrate – you can have an entire population of these guys and hardly ever see them.  (Until you turn the lights off.)

They’ll eat soft algae of your glass and decorations and will keep the bottom of your aquarium clean as they burrow through it.

They don’t have any real requirements, and are said to have once survived years in buckets of substrate pulled out of an old aquarium that was taken down.  (So pretty much any aquarium with water will be fine to keep them in.)

Conclusion

Just because you have a small aquarium doesn’t mean that you can’t have your pick of a bunch of algae eaters to put in it.

Whether you want an algae eating fish, snail, or even shrimp, there are plenty to choose from for your 10 gallon aquarium.

Keep in mind that algae eaters by themselves aren’t a silver bullet for getting rid of algae.  Regular water changes and reducing how long your aquarium lights are on should be done as well.

Good luck with your battle against algae!