Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: Algae Eaters
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Algae Eaters

for the week of 1/6/00

Part three of three on the green/brown/red slime/crud/hair that aquarists are forever battling.

Do algae eaters work? Yes, although they are far better at preventing a major algae outbreak than in cleaning up a tank that is already covered. Algae eating animals also work best if algae growth is already minimized by live plants, careful feeding and good maintenance.

Glass cleaners for freshwater include snails, many species of Plecostomus, Otocinclus cats, Chinese Algae Eaters, and Siamese Stone Lappers. Each has it's own limitations and side effects (for example, many Plecostomus also damage leaves on broad leaf plants like Amazon Swords).

Hair algae eaters for freshwater include the Siamese Algae Eater (a hard-to-find favorite for enthusiasts of planted "natural" aquariums), Malaysian Shrimp, Japanese Shrimp, Ghost Shrimp, American Flag Fish, Mollies, and Platies. Again, each has it's own requirements and limitations, and compatibility can also be a concern. The shrimp, for example, are rather vulnerable to being gulped or disassembled by predators, while the flag fish are rather assertive.

Salt water algae eaters include Red Lip and a few other Blennies, several species of small hermit crab, Turbo and Astrea snails, and many of the tangs and angelfish. Care must again be given to selecting the right animal for the other tank inhabitants.

How many algae eaters are needed? That depends greatly on how well balanced the tank already is. A fair starting point would be one algae eater per 10 gallons of water, but that can be adjusted up or down depending on how rapidly algae growth occurs.


"Tip of the week" appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.

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