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post #1 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-27-2011, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
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What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Every day, I get a lot of questions from my customers about whether they should have an algae eater in their aquarium or not. The majority of the time, they arrive at the store having been told to 'go get one a' them allergy eaters and it'll clear your tank right up'. They come in, point at a Hypostomus plecostomus or a Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps (common Pleco and Sailfin Pleco), and say 'I want one of them for my tank, I've got a big algae problem!'.

The typical course of conversation then flows through me asking them a number of questions that have nothing to do with the fish at all, and usually ends with them leaving the store with another type of algae eater, or nothing more than knowledge about how to combat their algae problem.

I will say this right now:

With few exceptions, no aquarium needs an algae eater.

There, now that the huge text is out of the way, let me clarify. With few exceptions, a well-maintained aquarium should not experience significant enough algal growth to warrant the purchase and maintenance of an algae-eating fish. Algae eaters are simply not the solution to algae in an aquarium; fixing the root cause of the algae is. If you knew that eating hamburgers gave you a common cold, you would stop eating hamburgers instead of constantly dosing yourself with Nyquil...wouldn't you?

Without turning this into an enormous thread on why algae occurs in the first place, let me just point out a few of the more common reasons; most of these are easily rectified by the home aquarist with little to no cost (and sometimes even a cost savings!).
  • Turn your light off! If you do not have live plants in the aquarium, and you aren't at home to view your fish...your light should not be on. Your light benefits you far more than it does the fish in most cases. Turn it on for a few hours when you get home so you can view the fish and feed them, and turn it off when you go to bed. The majority of freshwaterautolinker.com autolinking image fish do absolutely fine with ambient light from the room (providing your aquarium isn't in a basement). Leaving your lights on for hours upon hours at a time is an invitation for algal growth.
  • Keep up on your aquarium maintenance. This means your water partials and your filter changes. Water that's allowed to sit and accumulate nitrates will be much more likely to grow algae than water that has regular water partials done to it. Algae needs food to grow, and what it cannot make from the light it makes from the available fertilizer (nitrates) in your water.
  • Consider changing your lightbulb. If you're using something like a SunGlo, or an equivalent light...change it out (assuming a lack of live plants in the aquarium). Light in the red spectrum is used by plants of all ilk in the production of green growth, which is all that algae is. Having a yellow/orange light over your tank is providing the perfect wavelength of light for algae to grow. Try to put something like a PowerGlo or other similar light over it; light in the blue/purple spectrum is used mainly for fruit/flower production, both of which algae lack. It will also bring out the colors in your fish.
  • Test your source water. Sometimes, source water contains things that algae really likes, such as phosphates or iron. If you find that your source water has amounts of these things in it, you may want to consider using resins in your filter to remove them (expensive in the long-run), or using filtered water. Some LFS sell RO/DI water already made up, typically by the gallon, that is free of these things. Word of the wise, however: Do not, under any circumstances, use distilled water without treating it first. Distilled water contains none of the minerals a fish's body needs to properly osmoregulate. Using it in your aquarium will cause a slow and very painful death for your fish. If you wish to use distilled water, treat it with a product called R/O Right, made by Kent Marine. It comes in both a powdered and liquid form, and works well for re-mineralizing R/O and distilled water.
If you are having algae issues, please check those things before you run out to buy an algae eater. Adding a fish to your aquarium simply for utility is never a good thing to do; if a fish is in there that you may not have wanted much in the first place, you're less likely to properly care for it. And under no circumstances should you ever use algae-killing chemicals in your aquarium. The impact such chemicals have on your water chemistry can be catastrophic in smaller aquariums, and when you think about all an algae killer does is give you a lot of dead algae decomposing in your aquarium. There are easier solutions available, so just avoid them altogether.

Now, on to the nitty gritty and species profiles!

Not Recommended

Fancy Plecos of any type!




I'm sure you've been into your LFS and seen that beautiful Gold Nugget or Royal Pleco, and drooled over how gorgeous it looks. I totally agree! One of my favorite freshwaterautolinker.com autolinking image fish is the Gold Nugget Pleco; I just think they're absolutely gorgeous. The problem lies in that the fancy varieties are only fair to middling at removing algae at best, and downright terrible at it at the worst. Clown and Royal Plecos, for example, enjoy rasping away at driftwood as the majority of their diet. They subsist on the small insects and algae growing inside it. You will very rarely find them eating algae off of your ornaments or glass.

Fancy Plecos can also be downright belligerent and territorial, even to the point of killing your fish. Leopard Plecos are especially vicious when deal with other fish in their territory, which is a shame because they're quite beautiful. In other words...leave fancy Plecos out of your aquarium unless you're keeping them as a species, and not as a living algae scraper.

Chinese Algae Eaters (Gyrinocheilus sp.)



Avoid these little monsters like the plague.
These are sold often as good algae eaters to unsuspecting aquarists, and while it's true that they do eat some algae when small and young, they very quickly give up the vegetarian lifestyle to pursue more carnivorous fare. It's not unheard of for these cretins to rasp the scales off the sides of larger fish, and they're just plain naughty regardless. Add their eventual size of almost a foot, and you have a fish that's unsuitable for a very large portion of the aquarists out there.

Common Pleco/Gibbiceps Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus/Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps)



I hesitated in adding these to the Not Recommended section, as they can do a rather good job of removing some types of algae. The problem comes from their eventual large size however, with both species reaching near two feet in length (as seen in the photo provided). These tank busters will outgrow your aquarium in short order, and there are far too many of them out there already in aquariums that are entirely too small for them. If you do not have a 75g+ aquarium...pass these giants up.

Good at Algae Removal

Flying Fox
(Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus)



The Flying Fox is a small to medium-sized Cyprinid related closely to the Rainbow and Red-Tail Sharks. Maximum size is 4" or so, and with the exception of hair and some filamentous algae, they graze readily on all types. The main issue with this species is its territoriality; once it sets up shop around a clump of driftwood or an ornament, it can act belligerent towards tankmates that come too close; never keep two of these fish together in the same aquarium, as their aggression towards each other can border on the psychotic (much like their relatives the Red Tail Sharks).

Easily distinguished from the Siamese Algae Eater by the smooth edges of the black line running down its sides.

Better At Algae Removal

Otocinclus Cats (Otocinclus vestitus)



Oto Cats do a wonderful job of cleaning up algae, and have the added benefits of being non-aggressive and small in size. They best in small groups, and really do best in planted aquariums. They particularly shine in heavily-planted aquariums, cleaning the leaves of algae.

If you do not have plants in your aquarium, I would pass on Oto Cats.

Best At Algae Removal

Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus sp.)



Bristlenose Plecos are true oddballs, but wonderful algae eaters. They eat all forms of algae with gusto, and have an added bonus of being non-aggressive and attaining easily accommodated sizes. Plus, they're just plain cool looking! With a maximum size of around 4-5", they fit in most aquariums from 20g and up. While they do not harm plants directly, their grazing activity on the leaves of plants could potentially lead to broken stems, so care should be taken when putting them into planted aquariums.

Males are easily differentiated from females by the abundance of 'bristles' on their nose; females only have a small amount of short bristles on the front edge of their nose.

Siamese Algae Eaters (
Crossocheilus siamensis)



Another cyprinid algae eater that closely resembles the aforementioned Flying Fox, the SAE is, in my opinion, the most versatile and efficient algae eater that can be put into your aquarium. They eat all types of algae, and with a maximum length of 4-5" and a slim body, it does not attain any great size. They do very well in planted aquariums, as they will not stress the stalks of plants if they alight upon them to graze. As with the Flying Fox, keep these fish singly to avoid aggression between individuals. Aggression and territoriality with other species of fish is very limited in this species, however they can certainly return it if harassed by other fish.

The SAE can be easily distinguished from the Flying Fox by the serrated edge to the black stripes running the length of its body.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'd like to conclude this article by reiterating my initial point that almost no aquarium requires an algae eater to be successful and healthy. However, if you do choose include a species of algae eater in your aquarium, keep in mind that it will require attention and care like the rest of the fish in your aquarium.

All algae eater species benefit from additional feeding of algae wafers and fresh vegetables, and should be fed these 2-3 times a week. Zucchini strips make great fare; I keep a bag of them in my freezer at all times. The formation of ice crystals in the cells of the plant cause the texture to get soft, making them easier to eat. Frozen peas are a wonderful treat that are eagerly accepted by all algae eaters as well. Simply thaw them and squeeze them out of the skins. I've heard of people having great success feeding them pieces of melon, but this is a little too messy for my tastes. Most of them also benefit from a bit of animal matter in their diet. Sinking pellets/wafers work well, as do pieces of shrimp and clam. Plecostomus and related species do require some form of driftwood in their aquarium as well; they use the fiber for proper digestive health.

So in conclusion...if you feel the need to keep an algae eater in your aquarium, choose it wisely. Pick one for your specific application, and make sure you feed it as required, and fix the cause of your algae problem instead of putting on a living band-aid!


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Last edited by Scuff; 01-29-2011 at 08:02 AM.
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post #2 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-27-2011, 10:48 PM
 
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

How do you feel about gold algae eaters?
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post #3 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-27-2011, 11:36 PM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

good post


I love my Albino Bristlenoses. I've got two of them in my planted 30 gallon, and they keep the tank sides almost spotless. About once a month, what they miss accumulates on the sides and I take a cleaner to it, but that's better than once a week like I had to before I had any Bristlenoses, LOL

These guys seem to tare up the large leaves on my Amazon Sword though, so that's something to keep in mind.


Also, don't get them and expect them to ONLY live off algae. Treat them to an algae wafer, or even certain vegetables a couple times a week.

Another note is that some sort of drift wood is a MUST for these guys to live happy and healthy. They also like to rasp on it constantly.

Last edited by automatic-hydromatic; 02-17-2011 at 09:38 PM.
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post #4 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 06:47 AM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Quote:
Originally Posted by M1ster Stanl3y View Post
How do you feel about gold algae eaters?
These are, in 99% of the cases, simply a gold-colored Chinese Algae Eater.

And good point about the driftwood, automatic; I meant to originally put that in my post, but I guess I forgot. The point about the veggies was made at the end of the article.


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post #5 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 08:30 AM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

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The point about the veggies was made at the end of the article.
ah okay, I did not see that the first time
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post #6 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 09:36 AM
 
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Great article, lots of good points. One point I'd add is that algae is usually there because of nutrient excess, and when plecos are done eating whatever amount of algae they're going to eat, they poop, and the total decrease in nutrient is small. The solution for algae is balance. But that's just quibbling, all the important information is there.

I agree with you - the only reason to have an algae eater is if you enjoy them. My 55 display tank is currently almost entirely algae eaters and bottom feeders, just 'cause I happen to love 'em.
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post #7 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 10:13 AM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

You can also use Seachem's Equalibrium or gh booster to treat filtered water. I recommend using it for not only distilled, but also RODI water. It too has had much, if not all, of the natural minerals stripped out of the water.



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post #8 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Really any filtered water, whether RO or deionized, should be 'reconstituted', so to speak. There are many products out there that do the job well; I just mentioned the Kent because it's what I use.


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post #9 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 10:49 AM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

A great post! My belief in algae eaters is not to buy a fish for algae. but to buy one because you like the fish. I love all types of plecos, they are the neatest creatures. And yes I do have a big common but I also have the tanks to maintain it.

The bigger plecos aren't really good at cleaning algae, they get more lazy over time so they must be fed other foods. Bristlenose are one of the best algae eaters out there, and I do have plenty of those.

If you feel that you need an algae eater make sure you get something to fit the size of tank that you have. Sometimes that may just mean mystery snails or just shrimp. But please don't buy one because you have algae. They don't eat every kind of algae there is and you could end up causing yourself more problems by getting one that don't fit the tank.

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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

I disagree with no aquarium needs an Algae Eater, they do need it but people need to be informed about how an Algae Eater works, they see the name Algae Eater and think it's the answer to their problem, calling them something like Fish that will also eat algae may be better, I have seen folks with Algae Eaters who do not feed it because they are under the impression algae is it's only diet.

These fish need to be fed, flakes won't do, algae wafers are fine but they need more variety, since freshwaterautolinker.com autolinking image is using tap water then the chances are Phosphate and Nitrate will get into the tank, water changes will lower Nitrates but Ive yet to see it take them away apart from a full water change with no Nitrate in it I can't see it any other way, most folks have a in-tank filter so using Phosphate Remover is harder.

When I speak to folks about them I tell them these fish eating the algae is just a bonus, it's like with Dogs, when I had my dog I was always giving it food from my plate when I was eating my dinner, I used to toss a bit down and it would eat it, that doesn't mean they eat the same as humans it just so happens they will eat it but we still need to get them dog food, I also point out that the shape of their mouths aren't designed that way to eat algae (another mis-conception loads of folks have) but are that way to hold onto rocks in fast flowing rivers.

I would also go for a Bristlenose not only because they eat algae but because they are beautiful fish.
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post #11 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

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I disagree with no aquarium needs an Algae Eater, they do need it but people need to be informed about how an Algae Eater works
I'm sorry, I know you're entitled to your opinion and everything, but there is almost no aquarium that requires an algae eater in the same way that it would need, say, a heater. Proper maintenance and upkeep will prevent 99% of the algae problems most people come into contact with. My statement of 'no aquarium needs an algae eater' does not preclude them from ever being kept in an aquarium however; I do mention in the article that they are wonderful to be kept for themselves and not for their algae cleaning abilities.


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post #12 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 11:22 PM
 
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

I love my bushynose pleco! I had horrible algae on my plants and driftwood, and she took care of the problem until I could help the plants outcompete the algae by giving them Flourish Excel.

I've noticed that she'll sometimes go after the other fishes' food that makes it to the bottom, but she really loves kale or spinach from my CSA share.

Elly
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post #13 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 12:53 AM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Along with bristlenose plecos, rubberlip plecos also do the job. As much as I agree that algae can be controlled, I don't believe it can be totally eliminated. I will make the comment, never to use chemicals when trying to remove algae. They do not work and there are more efficient, natural ways to keep algae down. Add plants, reduce the amount of light, reduce the amount of feeding which supplies the algae with nutrients (brown), and adding an algae eater are much better for controlling algae. For outdoor ponds with algae problems, UV sterilizers do an amazing job of destroying the common green water problem. I would discourage the use of products like AlgaeFix, algae destroyer, etc, because they aren't going to do any good for the tank.
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post #14 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 07:59 AM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

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Originally Posted by eaglesfan3711 View Post
Along with bristlenose plecos, rubberlip plecos also do the job. As much as I agree that algae can be controlled, I don't believe it can be totally eliminated. I will make the comment, never to use chemicals when trying to remove algae. They do not work and there are more efficient, natural ways to keep algae down. Add plants, reduce the amount of light, reduce the amount of feeding which supplies the algae with nutrients (brown), and adding an algae eater are much better for controlling algae. For outdoor ponds with algae problems, UV sterilizers do an amazing job of destroying the common green water problem. I would discourage the use of products like AlgaeFix, algae destroyer, etc, because they aren't going to do any good for the tank.
Thanks Eagle, I completely neglected to touch upon algae killing chemicals in my post. I'll add it in!


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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Thanks for taking the time to write this post, as well as the time to educate costomers. I'd add many algae problems are from cycling or overstocked tanks. I agree, any tank can work just fine with no algae eater, however as you say they can still be useful and enjoyable. Nerite snails are my favorite algae eater.
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Cory cats?:(
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post #17 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 07:30 PM
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

cory cats don't eat algae, they are carnivores

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post #18 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Wow, my second sticky! I must be doing something right! I'll add info and updates to the original post as it becomes available, and I do still encourage people to give their thoughts and musings on the subject as well.


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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Hmm, well the kale was a bust. The snails seemed to be attracted to it, though. :/ The zucchini was a hit. So is cucumber as well as spinach.

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post #20 of 77 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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Re: What Algae Eater Is Right For You? Look Inside!

Kale is a pretty hearty green, so try blanching it before adding it to the tank. I've had luck freezing it overnight as well, but keep in mind that this does break down thiamine in the plant, so it can have a negative impact over time.


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