7 Smallest Algae Eaters for 10 Gallon Tank

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No community tank is complete without a cleaning crew. Let’s face it; aquariums aren’t always easy to maintain. There are many hygiene problems to worry about, and algae are the most annoying!

Nothing good comes out of having algae in the tank. They starve your aquarium plants, spread everywhere like weeds, and look plain ugly.

Getting rid of pesky algae by yourself is an uphill battle, though. You may scrape all you want, but they always come back somehow.

Thus, most aquarists opt for algae-eating fish instead. Algae chompers are always on the lookout for the next green fix, so they provide a long-term, low-effort solution to the problem.

Do you need some aquarium cleaners but don’t have much room left? Keep reading to find seven great options that won’t overcrowd your tank!

All these algae-eating fish can comfortably live in just 10 gallons’ worth of space!

1. Apple Snail

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 2-3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Water Parameters: 68-85°F, 7.0-8.4 pH, 7-14 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 4 snails

Apple snails are the most common snails in freshwater aquariums. Multiple different species exist, each with slightly different coloration. One of the most popular Apple snails is the Mystery snail or the Spike-topped Apple snail.

You can find Apple snails in shades of brown, black, white, gold, blue, and purple! All species have large, smooth, and round spiral shells.

Their small size and low space demands make them an excellent colorful addition, even in nano tanks.

Apple snails are peaceful and unassuming. They keep to themselves and get along well with most other peaceful aquatic species.

These snails spend most of their time gliding across the substrate, looking for food. They’ll also climb up the aquarium walls to explore and play.

Like most snails, this species is primarily herbivorous, so it’s got a big appetite for algae. Algae trouble? More like algae-no-problem!

Get ready to say goodbye to disgusting mushy algae growths ‘cuz the little Apple snail got your back! But that’s not all! These snails also eat dead plant matter, detritus, and leftover foods from fish.

Good tankmates for Apple snails include small, peaceful fish and other aquatic animals.

You can house them with Nerite Snails, small Shrimps, Guppies, Platies, Mollies, Tetras, Danios, and Gouramis.

2. Nerite Snails

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Water Parameters: 72–78°F, 8.0–8.4 pH, 6–12 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 2 snails

Nerite snails originated in Eastern Africa but are now a popular addition to freshwater aquariums. These tiny snails have smooth globular shells and come in various colors and exotic patterns.

Nerites can be tan, olive-green, brown, golden, orange, black, or red, depending on the species. Most species, like the Zebra, Tiger, and Horned Nerite snails also have striped shells.

Typical to most small freshwater snails, Nerites are peaceful, slow, and don’t seek interaction with other tankmates. These snails know how to mind their business.

However, while Nerites are goody-two-shoes around other tankmates, they will cause you some trouble. These snails are good climbers and can easily escape the tank if you don’t have a lid in place.

Nerite snails are fully herbivorous. Thus, they need a lot of room to roam for algae, compared to other snails. It’s a matter of time before these snails eradicate the algae in the tank.

Once the pesky waterweeds are gone, you can feed these snails algae wafers and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and lettuce.

Nerite snails are very small. Ideal tankmates for them include other small and peaceful species like Apple Snails, Ghost Shrimps, Cherry Shrimps, Guppies, Pygmy Corys, Pearl Danios, Otocinclus, Killifish, Chili Rasboras, Neon Tetras and Bumblebee Gobies.

3. Otocinclus Catfish

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water Parameters: 72–79°F, 6.8–7.5 pH, 7–15 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 4-6 Ottos

The Otto catfish is a small herbivorous fish native to South American waters. This fish has a narrow, semi-flattened body, short fins, and a strong suckermouth that points downwards.

There are over 20 Otto species, each with a slightly different look. Most of them have earthy-toned bodies and a dark horizontal stripe.

Ottos are peaceful and timid nocturnal fish. They’re most active at night and spend all day lying around.

They get scared easily and have rapid reflexes. When threatened, Ottos dart across the aquarium to flee danger asap.

Because of their skittish temperament, these fishies feel safest in small groups alongside other Ottos. Ideally, you should keep at least 4-6 of them together.

These fish are herbivorous grazers with mouths specially designed to suck up algae off all surfaces.

A small group of Ottos will eat up the algae in the tank faster than they can spread.

Once the algae are gone, supplement their diet with green wafers, pellets, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, and other green veggies.

Due to their size and non-confrontational nature, Ottos are easy targets for bullies and large predatory fish. To keep them safe and happy, choose equal-sized and friendly tankmates.

Good options include Corys, Guppies, small Loaches, Cherry Barbs, Danios, Tetras, Mollies, small shrimps, and small freshwater snails.

4. Amano Shrimp

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Water Parameters: 70-80°F, 6.0-7.0 pH, 6-12 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 5 shrimps

Amanos are a popular species of freshwater dwarf shrimps. These small crustaceans are easily-recognized (or not) thanks to their signature camouflage colors.

Amano shrimps have semi-translucent light grey bodies that blend seamlessly with the aquarium décor.

They also have brown or grey vertical dotted lines across their bodies. Good luck finding these guys if you have an ashy gravel substrate!

Amanos are shy and peaceful. They make good community pets, as they get along with most tankmates.

These crustaceans shed once per month, which is when they’re most skittish and need plenty of hiding spaces to feel safe.

Otherwise, Amanos spend most of their time in the open, searching for food through the substrate and plants.

Unlike other species on this list so far, Amanos aren’t herbivorous. This is good because they don’t shy away from any food. They’re the quintessential army knife of the cleaning crew.

They munch on algae like there’s no tomorrow but also devour other plant debris, biofilm, leftover flakes, and even dead fish.

Amano shrimps are peaceful and defenseless. If you want to include them in a community tank, keep them away from large, aggressive, or opportunistic fish.

Some suitable tankmates are Cherry shrimps, Vampire shrimps, Ottos, Corys, Apple and Nerite snails, small Plecos, Guppies, and Neon Tetras.

5. Platy Fish

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Water Parameters: 70–77°F, 6.7–8.0 pH, 10–28 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 5-6 Platys

Snails, shrimps, and catfish aren’t the most conventional choices for stocking a tank. If you’re looking for a more “usual” pet, you can’t go wrong with Platys.

These small, colorful fish are both beginner-friendly and suitable for nano tanks. Platys have short bodies with small fins and come in an array of bright colors. Some common ones include yellow, orange, red, blue, and green.

Platys are middle-layer swimmers. They aren’t a shoaling species but will still swim together, making for vivid color displays in the tank.

Platys are active, peaceful, and assertive. Their balanced temperament makes them good community fish. They can get along with shy species and energetic fish alike.

These fish are omnivorous, so they’ll eat a variety of foods. They have a taste for algae and other plant matter, so they’ll help keep the aquarium clean.

But you’ll also have to feed them protein-rich foods like tropical flakes, brine shrimp, tubifex, and bloodworms.

Since Platys are bold and peaceful fish, they can get along with any non-violent tankmates. Just mind the size difference and choose similar-sized species.

Platys pair well with Corys, Guppies, Danios, Mollies, Swordtails, Tetras, snails, and shrimps.

6. Black Molly Fish

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water Parameters: 70–78°F, 7.0–8.5 pH, 15–30 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 4 Mollies

Mollies are among the most resilient and adaptable fish in the freshwater aquarium hobby. Unsurprisingly, this makes them a popular choice for beginners and advanced aquarists alike.

Appearance-wise, Mollies have long bodies with short, rounded fins. Black Mollies are the most common species, and they’re, well, black. Other popular Mollies come in grey, white, orange, and yellow.

Mollies are generally peaceful and shy. They prefer swimming close to the water’s surface and require plenty of tall plants to feel safe.

They’re sociable shoaling fish and must live in groups of four or more.

Mollies may become aggressive when threatened by other tankmates, but they avoid conflict for the most part.

Although omnivorous, Mollies need to consume plenty of plants to stay healthy. Algae is a natural staple in their diet, which is good news for you.

These fish will be naturally drawn to the algae growth in the tank and will eat a considerable amount each day. You should also supplement their diet with fish flakes, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

Mollies are mostly peaceful but can also stand their ground around feistier tankmates. Black Mollies also reach up to 5 inches. Keeping all this in mind, you can buy quite a few interesting tankmates.

You can opt for small Guppies, Gouramis, Danios, Platys, and Tetras. Mollies can also live alongside Angelfish, Swordtails, Ram and Dwarf Cichlids, algae-eating crabs, snails, and shrimps.

7. American Flagfish

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Water Parameters: 64–78°F, 6.5–8.0 pH, 6-20 dGH
  • How Many Per 10 Gallons: 1-2 Flagfish

The American Flagfish, also known as the Florida Flagfish, is a freshwater fish that naturally inhabits the waters of the St. John and Ochlockonee rivers in Florida.

Apart from its all-American origins, this fish also sports red iridescent horizontal stripes on its body, hence its patriotic moniker.

American Flagfish are a good addition to community tanks. These fish are energetic, active, assertive, and friendly. They are mostly peaceful, especially around other mild-tempered fish.

However, male American Flagfish can become semi-aggressive toward each other and other territorial fish in the aquarium. That’s why you must provide at least 10 gallons for one male fish or a male and female pair.

This fish wouldn’t be on the list if it didn’t fancy algae. So, expect this Flagfish to seek and consume aquarium weeds every chance they get.

Apart from that, this omnivorous fish also needs common staples like protein-rich flakes, bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

If you’re low on algae, remember to feed the Flagfish green wafers and leafy veggies at least twice a week.

American Flagfish are tiny, so they need similarly-sized tankmates. Apart from that, you should opt for peaceful and assertive fish.

Shy fish would get stressed out easily around the stormy Flagfish. Danios, Neon Tetras, Mollies, Swordtails, and Corydoras are among the best options.

Conclusion

Algae eaters come in handy when you have an algae infestation in the tank. And there are plenty of options out there, even for the smallest aquariums.

Whether you have a 10-gallon nano tank or just 10 spare gallons in your community tank, the species I’ve outlined today are all suitable for your setup.

If you prefer bottom-dwelling species, you could choose between Apple snails, Nerite snails, Amano shrimps, or Otto Catfish. If you’re more into middle and top-layer swimmers, you can’t go wrong with Platys, Mollies, or American Flagfish.

Not to mention, these fish are also colorful and attention-grabbing, perfect for your aquarium display! Let me know which one caught your eye!

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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