Algae eaters are a fundamental part of balancing natural ecosystems in freshwater aquariums. They play an integral role in balancing the natural ecosystem, which we try so hard to replicate. Fortunately, most algae eaters aren’t only beneficial to your aquarium; they are eccentric with quirky habits, making them fun additions to your aquatic tank.
Fish including the Bristlenose pleco, catfish species, livebearers, and the Hillstream loach are great for cleaning your tank. In addition, the Mystery, Nerite, Ramshorn, Malaysian Trumpet, and Rabbit snail, and the Cherry, Amano, and Ghost shrimp are excellent options to remove brown algae.
From freshwater fish to snail and shrimp, we will be discussing the 19 best clean-up crewmates to help you rid of brown algae. So, continue reading for more info on the perfect brown algae eaters for your aquatic tank.
Now, let’s look at the best brown algae eaters for freshwater aquariums.
Bristlenose plecos belong to the armored catfish family and are a fantastic crew to add to your freshwater tank.
Bristlenose plecos have an alien-like appearance with long drooping whiskers at the top of their heads (entirely appropriate for the aquatic janitor, don’t you think?). This specific pleco breed is sought after by many aquatic enthusiasts for its algae-eating habits. These little fellas are around 4 to 5 inches in length, making them perfect for medium-sized tanks.
In the wild, Bristlenose plecos generally feed on natural algae and aquatic plants by adhering their suckermouths to the plants and surfaces covered in algae. Therefore, Bristlenose plecos will do an excellent job feasting on the excess brown algae and leftover food in your tank.
Fortunately, Bristlenose plecos are easy to care for, tolerant to various tank conditions, and generally compatible with most peaceful species. However, Bristlenose pleco prefers slightly hard water, a pH 6.5 and 7.5, and a tank of at least 20 gallons.
Despite their tendency to eat brown algae and other algae, Bristlenose plecos require supplemental feeding.
Siamese Algae Eater
The Siamese algae eater is a true algae-eating powerhouse! The Siamese algae eater feeds on various algae types, including brown algae, making them an asset to all freshwater aquariums.
Fortunately, the Siamese algae eater is perfect for all novice owners as it controls brown algae in new tanks. It is easy to care for as long as they have enough algae to munch on; consider feeding Siamese algae eaters with additional pellets or wafers to ensure they don’t go hungry.
Not only do Siamese algae eaters eat most of the distasteful algae species, but they’ll also rid of flatworms and leftover foods in the aquarium.
Preferably provide Siamese algae eater with a tank of 30 gallons, temperatures of 75 to 79°F, and a pH of 6.5 and 7.0.
Otocinclus catfish are diligent algae eaters who are willing to help you control your brown algae infestation.
Otocinclus catfish has beautiful rows of armor plating and a calm demeanor and is generally suitable in all community tanks with the correct requirements. However, these little fellas only reach about 1.5 inches, so do not keep them with aggressive species like Cichlids.
Otocinclus catfish are native to South America; you can find them swimming in rivers and slow-flowing streams using their sucker mouth to feed on algae stuck to stones and grasses.
Otocinclus catfish prefers a pH level of 6 to 7.5, a water hardness of 6 to 15 dH, temperatures of 72 to 82°F, nitrates between 0 to 20 ppm. In addition, Otocinclus catfish thrive in 20-to-30-gallon tanks.
The Twig Catfish is another unique brown algae eater offering an attractive aesthetic to your freshwater tank. Although once uncommon, twig catfish are vastly rising in availability and popularity.
The Twig catfish have long, lengthy bodies, similar to a twig (hence the name), reaching 9 inches in length. These docile and timid fish need peaceful, accommodating tankmates to prevent bullying by aggressive species like cichlids.
Twig catfish consume various foods, algae, and leftovers, making them fantastic additions to a freshwater aquarium with the correct requirements. In addition, twig catfish perform better in pairs with adequate hiding space like caves and vegetation.
In addition, twig catfish prefer soft water with temperatures of 75 to 79°F, a slightly acidic pH of 6 to 7, and 20 gallons or larger tanks.
Guppies belong to the livebearer species due to their ability to give birth to live, free-swimming fry instead of laying eggs. Guppies range in breath-taking, vibrant colors of red, green, and blue.
Guppies originate from fresh, brackish water in South and Central America. However, today there are common worldwide and particularly popular freshwater aquarium fish.
Guppies are excellent options for novice aquarists; they are easy to care for and non-aggressive, making them wonderful tank mates. However, they prefer an aquarium with a pH of 6.8 to 7.6, temperatures ranging between 75 and 82°F.
Although guppies readily help to keep brown algae under control, they require supplemental feeding to thrive.
Mollies are the second group of livebearers readily available and helpful to take care of your brown algae infestation.
Mollies are easy to care for and perfect for new hobbyists; they showcase various shapes and colors and are generally hardy, making them exceptionally easy to care for in aquariums.
Mollies are peaceful fish that thrive in community tanks at least 20 gallons large with slightly brackish water and a hardness of 20 to 30 KH. In addition, Mollies prefer temperatures between 72 and 78°F and a pH of 7.5 to 8.5.
In addition to algae, Mollies need small vertebrae and plants as supplemental food.
Blue Gouramis are a variety of freshwater fish that range in a wide range of silvery-blue hues. Although Blue Gouramis are omnivores, they aren’t shy to help clean the aquarium by munching up all the brown algae.
Blue Gouramis can be territorial at times, but they tend to be peaceful fish, making them a beneficial enhancement to your freshwater aquarium.
Blue Gouramis are about 5 to 6 inches in length and thrive in temperatures between 72 and 82°F and a pH of 7.0 to 8.0. if you plan on keeping more than one Blue Gourami, you’ll need a tank of at least 20-gallons.
Blue Gouramis are omnivores and will require supplemental feedings like fish flakes and pellets.
Swordtails are a famous community aquarium fish. Their popularity derives from their peaceful natures, easy caring requirements, and unique color varieties.
Swordtails are another type of livebearers that give birth to live young fish, they typically grow up to 6 inches in length, and although they live in groups, they are not schooling fish.
Swordtails are generally a peaceful species, perfect for community aquariums; however, males show aggression. Therefore, maintain a ratio of one male and four males to keep the peace.
These tropical fish tolerate brackish water, temperatures between 70 and 82°F, and a pH of 7.0 to 8.4.
Swordtail love feeding on algae but ideally, provide vegetation and flake food for them to eat as well.
Platies are unique, clown-like livebearers with various colors and patterns to choose from, making them perfect colorful janitors to help clean your tank.
Platies are native to Mexico and Central America and require warm tanks with temperatures between 70 and 80°F, and a pH of 7.0 to 8.0. in addition, Platties prefer slightly hard water with a GH of 10 to 28.
In their natural habitat, Platies are omnivores that graze on algae, plant vegetation, and other small critters. These non-picky eaters will readily help to control the brown algae growing in your tank.
Lastly, keep in mind that it’s best to avoid keeping Platies with other livebearer species to prevent aggressive behavior.
The eye-catching Florida Flagfish is native to many ponds, canals, and swamps in Florida, hence the name. Even though you can only find the Florida Flagfish, they are an excellent addition to your freshwater tank to help you control the brown algae.
Although territorial, the Florida Flagfish can tolerate and thrive in communal aquariums with the right conditions.
The Florida Flagfish is tolerant of freshwater or brackish environments with cold water and temperatures of 70 to 85°F, with a pH of 6.7 to 8.2. provide a tank of 20 gallons for a pair of Florida Flagfish.
The diet of Florida Flagfish primarily consists of algae and plants, but they occasionally snack on small fry and brine shrimp.
The Hillstream Loach is a convenient species to help control algae in freshwater tanks, especially for cold water aquariums.
The Hillstream Loach only grows to 3 inches long, and it looks like a cross between a catfish and a tiny stingray with black and yellow maze-like patterns. Hillstream tends to be slightly aggressive to mates of their species, so it’s best to keep them in groups of four.
Hillstream is pretty easy to keep. Hillstream averages between 2 to 3 inches in length, prefer water with medium hardness, temperatures of 68 to 75°, and a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Hillstream is an omnivore that spends most of its time scavenging the bottom of the tank for a snack. However, it eats copious amounts of algae and enjoys occasional pellets and fish flakes.
Mystery snails are fun, smaller species of the Apple snail and one of the most famous additions to freshwater aquariums. Mystery snails are slow-moving, peaceful herbivores that will graciously clean your tank by eating decaying plant matter, leftover food, and different types of algae, including brown algae.
Mystery snails come in various colors, including black, ivory, gold, and brown. These fellas grow to about 2 inches in size, making them perfect for small or large tank sizes.
Mystery snails are generally hardy by nature; however, ensure you a tight-fitting lid to prevent escaping the tank when looking for food to graze on. In addition, the mystery snail’s water conditions include temperatures of 68 to 84°, a HH of 12 to 28, and a pH ranging between 7.6 and 8.4.
Tip: consider adding calcium supplements to ensure their shells stay solid and healthy.
Nerite snails are famous and high in demand within hobbyist aquariums. The Nerite snail is probably your best go-to if you’d like a tank cleaner for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. They will spend most of their removing algae, including brown algae, from the surface of your tank.
Nerite snails are perfect for novice tank owners; they are timid and peaceful creatures that only grow up to one inch, making them an excellent choice for small tanks.
Most Nerite snails come from a mixture of saltwater and brackish water but can thrive in freshwater conditions. Ensure you provide water conditions with an alkaline pH of 8.1 to 8.4, a kH of 12 to 18, and temperatures between 72 and 78°F.
Lastly, due to their petite sizes, avoid adding them to communal tanks with highly aggressive or sizeable, predatory fish species.
Ramshorn snails are easy to find and very affordable! These docile creatures spend their time roaming around in search of food. Ramshorn enjoys various decaying plant matter, uneaten fish food, and algae, including brown algae.
Ramshorn snails have beautiful black or red shells in the shape of a ramshorn, hence their common name. Like Nerite snail, Ramshorn snails only grow up to one inch in size, making them easy prey for aggressive and predatory fish. So, it’s best to keep them in community tanks with a calm disposition of fish species.
Ramshorn snails prefer slightly alkaline water with a pH between 7 and 8 and temperatures between 70 and 78°F.
Whether you intentionally choose to buy Ramshorn snails or if they accidentally sneak in when purchasing a new aquarium plant, you can be sure that they’ll always be keen on helping to clean your tank.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail
Malaysian Trumpet Snails are controversial additions to freshwater tanks that are a debate under many aquarium hobbyists.
Although Malaysian Trumpet Snails do an excellent cleaning job in tanks, they breed speedily and become pests in aquariums.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails are peaceful and slow-moving creatures that attach themselves to the tank’s surface to graze algae.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails need a tank of at least 10 gallons and prefer temperatures between 70 and 80°F and a pH of 7.0 to 7.5.
Try to avoid housing Malaysian Trumpet Snails with tankmates that might view them as a potential meal. Safe tankmate options are Mollies, Otocinclus, Corydoras Catfish, Neon Tetras, and Mystery Snails.
Another excellent clean-up crew to add to your freshwater tank is Rabbit snails. Rabbit snails will not only help to control the brown algae in the aquarium, but they will also add a beautiful, exotic flare!
Rabbit snails are of the larger algae-eating snail species; they grow 3 to 5 inches. They have yellow or brown shells that look pretty similar to the Malaysian Trumpet Snail. Rabbit snails are generally calm, so they need to be kept with less aggressive tank mates.
Unlike most slow-moving cousins, Rabbit snails are active creatures that roam around all day in search of food.
Rabbit snails need a tank of at least 30 gallons and prefer temperatures between 68 and 86°F, water hardness from 2 to 15 KH, and a pH of 7.3 to 8.5.
Native to Taiwan, the Cherry shrimp is a perfect addition for novice owners struggling to control brown algae growth in their freshwater aquariums.
Cherry shrimp are gorgeous ruby red ornamental shrimp that help clean freshwater tanks by feasting on leftover foods and different types of algae.
Cherry shrimp are relatively easy to care for and only grow to two inches. They generally prefer soft to slightly hard water. In addition, try to ensure temperatures of 65 to 85°F and a pH between 6.5 and 8.
Cherry shrimp do best in groups of three or more. However, beware of predatory and aggressive fish; therefore, consider housing them with calm tankmates.
To this day, Amano Shrimp captivate many freshwater aquarium hobbyists due to their phenomenal algae-cleaning abilities. These tiny, 2-inch critters will devour brown algae and pretty much all other types of algae and decaying plant matter.
Amano shrimp have beautiful grey or silver bodies with tiny red spots running down the length of their bodies.
Amano shrimp can thrive in small tanks due to their small size. However, they generally prefer temperatures between 72 and 78°F, soft to slightly hard water, and a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Like Cherry shrimp, Amano’s do best in groups of three or more. However, beware of predatory and aggressive fish. Instead, try to house them with calm and small to medium-sized tankmates.
Ghost shrimp are unfortunately not as effective at removing brown algae, but they are still helpful crew cleaners if you’re struggling with an algae problem. They do pick at it, but they’re not going to remove all of the algae in your tank.
As their name hints, Ghosts shrimp have unique, see-through bodies with orange or yellow spots showcasing their mid-tails. These peaceful shrimps are excellent scavengers for community tanks if you keep them non-aggressive tank-mates.
Ghost shrimp are perfect for 10-gallon tanks with temperatures ranging between 68 and 85°F, a water hardness of 3 to 10 KH, and a pH of 6.5 to 8.
Tips for Choosing Algae Eaters
To have algae in your fish tank is both natural and normal − it indicates that your aquarium is healthy. Brown algae (diatoms) is a single-celled organism that starts as a fine dusting over the surface of your tanks, and later, as in several days, it turns into a thick mat.
However, while it’s tolerable to have small amounts of algae in the tank, it generally multiplies quickly, and excess amounts can cause problems.
When choosing the suitable organism, whether fish, snail, or shrimp, it’s essential to choose the right type of algae eater that makes meals for the specific algae you’re struggling with within your tank.
- To ensure that you’re choosing the optimal algae eater for your tank, consider the following:
- The type of algae you’re trying to control− in this case, it’s brown algae.
- An algae eater that is compatible with your other tank mates to prevent aggression.
- Consider the size of your tank, ensure that you get a few algae eaters for larger tanks.
- Ensure the tank has appropriate conditions, including temperatures, water hardness, and pH level.
Lastly, but most importantly, avoid purchasing algae eaters before you have enough algae supply for them to survive.
When choosing the best brown algae eater for your personalized tank, there isn’t one that outshines the other.
You’ll have to choose an algae eater based on the size and conditions of your tank and other tank dwellers.