A happy, healthy, home aquarium will benefit from the addition of algae eating fish. Interesting to watch, algae eaters take care of the common problem of algae growth on the sides and bottom of the aquarium.
The growth of algae is a natural process since algae feeds on the same things as plants - water, nutrients and light. Green algae are often found in healthy aquarium setups, while brown or red algae may indicate unhealthy water conditions. Different types of algae fish and animals will eat different types of algae. If your tank is able to support it, it is often beneficial to have more than one algae fish in the aquarium. Be aware, however, that some algae fish will grow to a very large size for the community aquarium.
To properly care for algae fish, it is important to understand their role and individual characteristics. They swim around the bottom and sides of the tank sucking up the algae with their round sucker-shaped mouths. They live on the bottom and appreciate nooks and crannies in which to hide.
The Chinese Algae Eater is commonly sold in pet stores, but does not play well with others. While young, it is an effective algae eater. One past the juvenile stage, the Chinese algae eater tends to be very aggressive in the community tank, does not eat much algae, and may have to be removed for the well being of other fish.
The Siamese Algae Eater, on the other hand, is a much better choice. It is smaller, and can effectively remove the algae from the plants in the tank without destroying them. They are very peaceful fish and will not disturb the other occupants.
The most popular algae eater is the plecostomus. Easily found in pet departments, the plecostomus is omnivorous. This means that while they eat algae; they will also eat leftover food and sometimes small fish.
When introducing algae fish to the community aquarium, it is best to wait until the aquarium is established. A new aquarium setup will not have enough time for algae to grow, therefore not providing enough food for algae eaters. Natural foods such as lettuce, spinach and zucchini may be offered in small amounts into the tank as supplemental food, and algae wafers are offered commercially. Although supplemental feeding may be necessary for the care of algae fish, it will probably make them less likely to seek out algae for their primary food source.