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Which Aquatic Species Help Keep the Tank Clean from Algae?


Hate cleaning your aquarium? You’re not alone.

Probably the least enjoyed aspect of having any exotic pet is cleanup duty, alas it’s a necessity. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can make maintenance easier, and one of those is to include tropical fish and other aquatic species that help clear away tank algae for you.

Here are our recommendations for aquatic pets that keep the freshwater aquarium clean:


Plecos are a type of fish that eats algae, and they come in several different species. Some of the species get a bit big and may not be a good fit if you have a standard-size aquarium with multiple inhabitants.

Bristlenose pleco

But other species, like the bristlenose pleco, are smaller (around 4 inches), making them a good choice for many aquariums. They are sometimes known as the bristlenose catfish, and they use their sucker mouth to clean the walls of the tank.

Otocinclus catfish

This type of catfish is one of the best choices for keeping the tank clean. They are quite small, coming in at about 1.5 inches long. They’re also calm and integrate well in community tanks, and they won’t be aggressive with your plants if you have a planted aquarium.

Otocinclus catfish

They’re all-around winners for eating algae. And they look pretty cool with their sucker mouths.


Ah, the versatile guppy. These fish are terrific for a variety of reasons. They bear young and reproduce quickly. They’re mild-tempered and get along well in community tanks. They have relatively easy care requirements. And yes, they also happen to eat algae.


Guppies don’t have a sucker mouth, but they will pick off algae from tubes and filters in the tank.


Platys are quite similar to guppies, but with a different appearance. In fact, they come in many bright colors that are beautiful in the tank. They also bear live young, have simple care requirements, and possess good tempers that work well in community tanks.


And like guppies, they will pick algae off aquarium surfaces and décor.


Mollies fall into the same category of small, mild-tempered, live bearers as the platys and guppies mentioned above. They have a unique shape that makes them stand out from the more streamlined platys and guppies.


They are also a species that does not have a sucker mouth and will pick off algae from surfaces.


Many species of snails like to eat algae. They’re also fun to have in the tank because they will suck to the aquarium walls and clean along the glass.

Snail on aquarium glass

Another benefit of adding snails to your aquarium is that they are detrivores, meaning that in addition to eating algae, they will also eat decaying plant matter and leftover fish food in the tank.

Snail in aquarium gravel

Snails tend to be small and integrate well with community tanks.


Let’s not forget about shrimp. They’re a pretty cool addition to freshwater aquariums. You can get shrimps in different colors and sizes, depending on the space you have and the aesthetic you want.

Red shrimp

One problem you may come across with keeping shrimp is that they can be preyed on by other tank members. However, if you go with a larger species, this is less of a problem. If you select small shrimp, add them to a tank with small, less aggressive fish.

Close-up of a shrimp

Like snails, shrimp often eat remaining food and decaying plant matter, as well.

Come into The Tye-Dyed Iguana in Fairview Heights to check out the species and varieties we carry, and to get ideas about which aquatic species make good tank mates.