Purple Tang  Zebrasoma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Algae Eating Reef Tank Fish

 

In a reef tank, many of the conditions that we create as we grow our corals also promote the growth of an unwanted neighbor, algae.  The balancing act of providing a nice habitat for corals to grow and keeping algae at bay plays out every day both in the wild as well as in our tanks. As we build and tweak our mini ecosystems, making sure we have an ample number and variety of algae eating fish is vital to maintaining a balance.  In the 15 years we have been keeping reef tanks, these have come in as our top 5 algae eating fish.

 

Vlamingii Tang

5-Nipping Tangs

Nipping tangs?  What the heck is that?  Ok, bear with me for a second here.  After thousands of hours staring at reef tanks, you start to see just how each creature really is niche specific in its feeding and behavior.  The term nipping in this case is both a description of how these tangs prefer eat, but it is also probably the ONLY way they can eat given their body shape.  I am talking about tangs like the Powder Brown, White Cheek, Pacific Blue, Vlamingii and Naso which have an overall oval shape and a mouth somewhere between a long nose and a bristletooth.  What they lack in a long nose, or rock scraping capability, they seem to make up for in the shear volume and variety of algae they can consume.  We have had our pacific blue for about 2 years now, getting her as a half dollar sized juvenille and growing to now be about 5″ long.  One thing is for certain, this fish can EAT!  Whether its spinach, nori, or even the nasty bryopsis this fish will have no trouble eating it.

 

Eating action: Scrape algae

Algae Eating Ability: 4

Social Nature: 4

Ease of Keeping: 4

 

4-Bristletooth Tangs

Bristletooth of the genus Ctenochaetus make up about an eighth of all Surgeonfish species.  A few examples of this group include the Cole Tang, Tomini, Chevron among others.  They have a mouth that double-hinges when it opens, which allows them to scrape a wider area of algae from rock.  Depending on the species of Bristletooth tang, we have observed that can be quite the jerk in the community tank, chasing other fish and nipping to asert their dominance over a certain patch.  Our experience with the Cole tang, in particular, have shown this to be true.  Usually this behavior comes from their wild habitat, where they need to defend a certain area that they feed from.  Bristletooth Tangs are great at scraping and seem to spend what seems like every waking moment cleaning off patches of rock and glass.  They will also usually accept meaty and flake foods, but algae covered rocks seem to be their favorites!

 

Eating action: Pick, scrape, and rip any algae they see

Algae Eating Ability: 5

Social Nature: 2

Ease of Keeping: 3

 

English: Algae Blenny (Salarias fasciatus) in ...

English: Algae Blenny Photo wikipedia

3-Sailfin/Lawnmower/Algae Blenny (Salarias fasciatus)

One of my personal favorite fish is the Sailfin/Algae/Lawnmower Blenny.  What these fish don’t have in looks, they make up for in character!  There are also few fish that will give your fish tank the mani/pedi that this guy will.  They have an accentuated “blenny”  mouth which, when opened, hinges to three or four times its original size.  This allows the blenny to almost reach out with its mouth and use the leverage of its body in a scraping motion.  Its a very interesting and satisfying thing to see on your reef.  The inside of their mouths also appear to have rows of bristle like rakes that it uses to clean anything and everything off the rock.  Heck, we have seen ours take down cyano as well as planaria that happened to be in the wake of our munching blenny.  This fish will make short work of small tufts of hair algae, bryopsis, and they love to leave their bristle tooth marks on the sides of your tank where any algae builds up.

Eating action: Scrape algae

Algae Eating Ability: 4

Social Nature: 4

Ease of Keeping: 4

Yellow Tang2-Long Nose Tangs- Yellow, Scopas, Purple (Zebrasomas )

I think most people would agree that some of the most iconic fish kept in captivity are the yellow  tangs.  This fish and its cousins, the Purple and Scopas Tangs have been kept in aquariums, both singly and in schools of more than two, successfully for decades now.  In addition to their beauty, they are quite amazing grazers that can rid many a reef aquarium of unwanted algae growth.  Their extended nose makes them particularly good at getting that hair algae or bubble algae (valonia species)  out of rock crevices where most other tangs simply can’t reach.  Here at ReefNation, we keep about six yellow tangs in our main display and frag tanks which helps keep our live rock and glass as clean as possible.

One important thing to note with this group of fish is the rule of ‘two or more.’  If introduced in pairs or not at the same time, these fish become very territorial.  To understand this, just think about how much space in the wild each of them would get as grazing territory compared to the relatively confined perimeters of your fish tank.  If you introduce many tangs at once, make sure they are all about the same size and that your tank can support ample room for your new grazers to do their thing

 

Eating action: Algae Pickers

Algae Eating Ability: 4

Social Nature: 4

Ease of Keeping: 4

Foxface Rabbitfish

1-Rabbitfish

When it comes to shear appetite for algae, few fish can compete with a Rabbitfish and that earns them the top spot among algae eating fish in our book.  It have been our experience that they have a seemingly endless appetite for any type of algae that you throw at them, even the dreaded Bryopsis and Derbesia which few others eat.  Depending on the species you get, some have a longer attenuated mouth probably for picking, while others have a more blunt rounded mouth built for shear ripping and eating.  All Rabbitfish have the characteristic sharp dorsal spines which are mildly poisonous.  We hand feed our Gold Spot Rabbitfish here at ReefNation, but I can tell you that more than once I have closed my eyes, thinking “please don’t get scared and stick me”!

The disposition of most Rabbitfish I’ve ever seen has been fairly calm and well behaved with just a hint of crazy.  They sometimes seem like they have the confidence knowing they carry a potent sting on their backs, while at other times they seem skittish and will hide and camouflage under a tabling coral.  Another no-no with Rabbitfish is that you can only keep one of a species in a tank as they are very territorial. If you were to add two, you will soon be trying to fish one out of your tank as they chase each other around with their spines out.  You will almost certainly see what their sting feels like if you do this!

Eating action: Pick, bite, and rip any algae they see

Algae Eating Ability: 5

Social Nature: 0

Ease of Keeping: 4

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