Otocinclus cleaning plant leaf by Ron Lutz II

Natural Algae Control

by Bing Sheng (December 2004)

The conditions that enable vigorous, lush grown in our planted aquariums also increase the potential for unwanted algae. Therefore, we must strike a balance between just enough light, fertilzer, CO2, livestock and water conditions to maximize plant growth but stop short of providing too much.

More Plants!

Seriously, I wouldn't add plants in the midst of a terrible invasion but plants are the best way to keep algae at bay in the first place. Plants are a higher order organism than algae and bacteria so they are more efficient at converting available resources. Healthy plant growth is a superb sump for ammonia, nitrates and potassium -- major contributors to unwanted algae. In fact, plants are so good at removing these nutrients, many aquarists need to add more (fertilizing)! We can help you pick some fast growers to help reduce excess nutrient levels quickly.

Algae Eating Fish and Shrimp

Siamensis: Albany Aquarium is known all over the United States as the original importer of Crossocheilus siamensis or SAE (Siamese algae eaters). They're still one of the most voracious algae eaters and will eat tough staghorn algae. Sometimes we will toss an algae covered Anubias into our siamensis tank and it will be cleaned overnight! Beware of fish masquerading as the famous algae destroyer--many, many stores out there will sell a fish that looks very similar but will not make much of a dent in your algae. There is an excellent article that explains the differences in greater depth and much better than I could.

Otocinclus: These guys remind me of hummingbirds the way they frenetically feed. That's a good thing for those of us seeking algae control. They will "rasp" plant leaves, rock and wood to get rid of soft algae/ slimes. Very good at removing particular types of algae, they can starve after they do their job *too well* in the home aquarium and are left without a food source. Incidentally, we know that these fish are notorious from dying after people bring them home from their local aquarium store- this is because they are starving and so extra suceptible to transport stresses. NOT from Albany Aquarium! As an aquatic plant haven, we also have plenty of algae to keep them fed properly (can't really say if I should be happy about this or not;).

Amano Shrimp (Caridina japonica): Popularized by Takashi Amano, these critters do an excellent job of eating fine algae without harming plants. These guys eat constantly but they are little guys! You need a lot of them for them to do their job properly. We also carry beautiful cherry red shrimp and many others that eat algae.

The Lowly Snail: These guys get such a rap. A few snails are an integral part of a balanced biotope. In a healthy aquarium, plant growth far outstrips what the snails might accidentally chew through. The snails actually tend to eat the rotting plant parts before it dissolves into the water column. As a added bonus, they will also help eat the "green film algae" on your aquarium glass. There are snails that are not suitable for planted aquaria like Apple snails or large pond snails because they will eat a head of lettuce if they could. Albany Aquarium only has *plant safe* snails.

Misc: There are many fish like the Florida flagfish, Mollies, clown loaches and Rosy barbs among others that will eat certain types of algae. Come in and we will help you with some ammo in the Algae Wars.


Truth be known, no algae eater or number of plants is going to solve a full- blown algae invasion overnight. Employ these natural algae control techniques as an on going preventative. The only sure-fire path to success (in this endeavor as well as others) is patience and persistence.

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