Common Pleco

“Best cleaners for your aquarium” by Keisha Gray

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how do you deal with algae in aquariums even with a filter. The best thing I can suggest? Inhabitants that are natural aquarium cleaners. There are over 25,000 species of algae that can grow in fresh or salt waters. And even if you have a filter in your aquarium, algae can grow from the bits of food your fish miss or simply from their waste. You have several options of scavengers to choose from including fish, shrimp, and snails.


For freshwater tanks, the most common fish is the Plecostomus Catfish, or Plecos, a dedicated sucker-mouth catfish with over 70 species. But this group can grow quite large up to two feet! Cory Catfish are similar to Plecos but are smaller and do well in large groups. Chinese Algae Eater juveniles are great if you have flat surfaces, but once they hit adulthood they can get aggressive toward other fish if they aren’t getting enough food. If you have a lot of peaceful fish already in your aquarium, they will get along great with the Antenna Catfish or the Redfin Prochilodus.

For saltwater tanks, most people like Butterflyfish, Surgeons, or Tangs but these fish aren’t solely dependent on algae and would need a supplement diet. However, the Bicolor Blenny love to graze the bottom of tanks for algae. If you wanted a fish that will eat parasites from your existing fish’s scales, then some species of Wrasse or Hogfish in their juvenile stage would be perfect.


There are lots of freshwater shrimp to choose from. Bamboo Shrimp are great with community fish. Long-armed Prawns and Blue Crayfish are better with larger fish. Amano Shrimp are better with smaller fish that won’t prey on them.

As for saltwater shrimp, Coral Banded, Red, or Fire Shrimp are great with large fish but kept singly. Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimps and Pederson Shrimps are not only great for your tank but also for your fish as they will eat parasites and necrosites off any fish in their cleaning stations.


Snails are the most efficient cleaner since they eat so much, but have very little waste themselves. That being said, it is ill-advised to house snails in freshwater aquariums, although some snail eggs may hitchhike on plants anyway, which can be eaten by Skunk and Clown Loaches. There are appealing snails like the Apple Snail, Nerite Snail, or Black Mystery Snail, some like to decorate their tanks with. But do not get along with turtles, cichlids, or puffers.

Fortunately there are many different species of Turbo Snails that are aggressive cleaners and thrive in saltwater aquariums but not the more abrasive surfaces, mostly flat areas like the glass of the tank. They can run through décor and plants to change to whole aquarium setup. Turban Snails, or Trochus Snails, are slow-moving but efficient. They also tend to stress corals so they are best with a live rock aquarium. Another warning if you keep snails in your aquarium, keep a lid on it as snails try to escape.

I could literally go on and on about these scavengers, but the point is you don’t have to rely solely on your filter to keep your aquarium clean. Some fish, shrimp, and snails do a marvelous job of eating algae or the waste and parasites from fish that get left behind. If you don’t like these suggestions, there are plenty more to choose from including crabs, crayfish, and other exotic fish. Happy cleaning! Scavengers: Natural Aquarium Cleaners Most Popular Bottom Feeders For Your Aquarium 7 Best Freshwater Aquarium Algae Eaters Lowell, Whitney. Animals by Demand Media. The Best Saltwater Snails For Algae Removal