7 Best Hair Algae Eaters for Freshwater Tank

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Nobody wants hair algae in their tank unless they’re housing algae eaters that need feeding. Hair algae aren’t harmful at first when kept under control, but they can become deadly with time.

While they don’t alter the water’s chemistry necessarily, they will produce other harmful effects over time, some of which you might not expect.

Adult hair algae will entangle fish by accident, causing them to drown, covering plants and restricting their access to light, and lowering oxygen levels in the tank, which is bad for everybody.

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage hair algae to prevent all these problems. The first and most effective one is resorting to algae eaters to control this plant-like organism in the first place.

So, let’s get into that!

Best Hair Algae Eaters

A variety of aquatic animals consume algae, some being more proficient at it than others.

Today, we will look into the best of them all, although you have other options as well if these ones aren’t fit for your tank for some reason.

1. Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimps are peaceful, and hardy and keep themselves busy in any algae-infested aquarium. These 2-inch invertebrates are great algae grazers that don’t need much space to thrive.

You can get away with 10 gallons per shrimp group, but I would recommend more, especially if you want to breed your shrimps.

These animals live by a strict pecking order, so it’s common to see them fight over food, even if plentiful. This combative behavior is strictly food-related and won’t escalate past that.

Water Requirements and Layout

Amano shrimps need temperatures around 70-80 F and a pH of 6.0-7.0. They also require clean water, a decent amount of space, and plenty of hiding areas. The latter is of particular interest, as they keep the shrimp safe and comfortable.

Your shrimps will molt pretty much every week, during which they will be vulnerable for a while until their exoskeleton hardens.

They require hiding during this time, so provide them with plenty of plants, rocks, and caves to use in this sense.

Also, give your shrimps a well-rounded diet since algae aren’t enough for their nutritional needs.

2. Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimps are smaller than Amanos, only reaching 1.5 inches in size. They are also shy and frightful and like to live in groups for greater security and comfort.

A minimum of 10 gallons is necessary for a group of 5-6, so long as you can decorate their habitat properly.

These shrimps showcase a cave-dwelling behavior, as they rely on their environment to hide when stressed or rattled.

They also require open space for scavenging purposes and a variety of hard areas that support algae growth.

Water Requirements and Layout

Cherry shrimp are more adaptable than Amanos, as they allow for a temperature range of 65-85 F and a pH level of 6.5-8.0. A pebble substrate, preferably gravel, is necessary for ease of movement and scavenging purposes.

This being said, cherry shrimps are considerably sensitive to ammonia and nitrites, so they need a clean and healthy habitat to thrive.

Stable water parameters are also necessary to keep the shrimps healthy and increase their lifespan as much as possible. Even so, your cherry shrimps are unlikely to go past the 2-year mark.

Fortunately, cherry shrimps are easy breeders, so you’ll never run out of algae eaters.

3. Black Mollies

Black mollies may seem like a peculiar entry. Like, why black mollies specifically, why not mollies in general?

That’s because black mollies are slightly different than your typical molly, and the main difference is in their diet. In short, black mollies consume considerably more algae than other molly breeds.

These fish are generally pure black, but some may showcase yellow spots or stripes occasionally.

These mollies are smaller than normal ones, only reaching up to 3 inches, compared to 4-5 inches, as is the case with other breeds.

Mollies are peaceful, easy to breed, and great for community tanks, so long as you pair them with peaceful and easy-going species.

Water Requirements and Layout

The ideal temperature is 70-80 F with an alkaline pH of 7.5-8.2. Stable water parameters and a clean environment are necessary to keep your molly in good health. These fish can live 5 years in captivity with good care and pristine aquarium hygiene.

You need a planted aquarium for this species, as such an environment will mimic the fish’s natural habitat. Mollies feel safer in heavily planted aquariums that also have sufficient swimming space.

Consider at least 20 gallons for a small group, although I recommend 40 gallons+ if you plan on breeding your mollies.

These fish can get notoriously aggressive and irritable during their breeding season, so the extra space will defuse some of the tensions.

4. Platies

Not much can be said about platies that hasn’t been said already. These fish are robust, can grow up to 3 inches, and showcase a peaceful demeanor, making them perfect for community setups.

Platies are easy to care for and won’t need much space to remain comfortable and happy.

These fish also come with a lot of color and pattern variety, second only to guppies in this aspect.

Water Requirements and Layout

Go for a temperature range of 70-80 F and ensure temperature stability above all else. These fish are notoriously sensitive to temperature shifts which stresses them out almost as much as ammonia and nitrites.

Good water quality is also necessary to prevent health problems or overall stress, which can lower the fish’s immune system.

These fish don’t need too many caves or hiding areas, but they do love their plants. The more plants, the better, so long as you keep an eye on oxygen levels and overall tank cleanliness.

Platies are omnivorous and will eat anything, algae included.

5. Swordtails

Swordtails are easily recognizable by their lower tail lobe, that’s more prevalent in males.

These fish can reach 6 inches in ideal conditions and live up to 5 years in optimal environmental conditions. They are hardy, peaceful, and easy to maintain, making them great as beginner fish.

They also eat algae and require a lot of space due to their more active swimming behavior.

Swordtails also enjoy group living, although you need a considerable investment due to the extra space necessary.

Water Requirements and Layout

Consider at least 20 gallons for one swordtail due to the fish’s size and active swimming.

The ideal temperature sits between 72 and 79 F, while the pH should remain stable between 7.0 and 8.4. Water hardness is best between 12 and 35 dGH.

A heavily-planted setup is necessary to provide the fish with the hiding areas it needs for peace of mind.

Food-wise, swordtails are equally as adaptable and easy to satisfy. These omnivorous fish eat anything, including algae, if available.

6. Florida Flagfish

These small, hardy, and colorful fish are great for community habitats. Your typical flagfish will only grow up to 2.5 inches and showcase an impressive adaptability to various tank conditions.

These hardy fish don’t receive nearly as much recognition as they should.

Florida flagfish prefer to eat live foods, but they won’t pass on veggies either, including algae, if they can find them.

These fish can be more active and territorial than other peaceful species, so you shouldn’t pair them with shy, slow swimmers like guppies.

Water Requirements and Layout

Aim for a temperature range of 64-85 F and a pH of 6.5-8.5. Due to the fish’s territorial nature, I recommend a heavily planted aquarium and sufficient space to mitigate those tendencies.

Aim for at least 20 gallons for a pair and at least 30 gallons+ for a group of fish, depending on your goals.

Also, add a variety of live plants, rocks, decorations, driftwood, and whatever aquatic elements you have for a plus of safety.

These will break the line of sight between fish and calm flagfish, providing them with more areas to explore during their active hours.

7. Siamese Algae Eaters

We close today’s list with one of the proficient, if not the most proficient, algae eaters in the aquarium trade. After all, they have their algae-eating ability immortalized in their name.

These fish can reach 6 inches in the ideal habitat with good food and optimal care and are easily recognizable by their body-long horizontal black stripe.

These are very active fish and even more active eaters, capable of grazing for algae throughout the day. These fish lack a bladder, so they need to swim constantly to prevent sinking to the bottom.

Water Requirements and Layout

One fish requires at least 20 gallons to thrive. This is due to the fish’s size and activity level.

The ideal temperature is 75-80 F with as few fluctuations as possible so as not to stress the fish out. Moderate water movement is also necessary to mimic the fish’s natural habitat.

Consider having at least 5 of them, as these fish prefer social interactions and are calmer and more peaceful in larger groups.

Also, provide your algae eaters with a varied and well-rounded diet, as algae alone aren’t sufficient for them.

Conclusion

Hair algae are only damaging in severe cases when they have already spread through the entire tank.

But why wait that long? Get a handful of algae eaters in your community tank, and you won’t have to face that situation, to begin with.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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