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The Best Bottom Feeders for Cleaning Your Aquarium Fish Tank

I find having an aquarium to be very rewarding, and I'm pleased to share advice on how to keep your tank clean and healthy.


Clean a Tank With Algae Eaters and Bottom Feeders

Having a fish tank can be a very rewarding experience, and it can be amazing to look into your aquarium and see all the wonderful inhabitants move around and go about their daily business.

As many fish aquarium enthusiasts know, owning a fish tank involves a lot of maintenance work, and most of this work is dedicated to keeping the fish tank clean so that it doesn’t become overrun by algae and dirtied by uneaten bits of food. One of the easiest ways to keep your fish tank nice, clean, and algae-free is to get the help of some algae eaters and bottom feeders.


How to Get Rid of Your Algae Problems

The most common type of problem that many aquarium enthusiasts run into is algae overgrowth. Having green algae growing all over your tank usually isn’t a bad thing, because it means that you have ample light conditions and that your water quality is pretty decent.

On the other hand, this type of algae infestation also means that it can quickly make your aquarium water look dirty and messy. There are a handful of fishes and other critters that feed on these algae and can really help you keep the algae growth in check.

Algae-Eating Shrimp

These are wonderful little crustaceans that can add movement to your water and add very little to the bioload of your fish tank. They make a great addition to a tank of any size because they stay relatively small at about 1.5 inches long.

Algae-Eating Fish

There are numerous kinds of algae-eating fish out there, and they can come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The best way to identify these types of fish is to simply look at how they move about and what they do. These fish are easy to identify because they will stick onto any surface and start to feed on the algae there. Sometimes, they might even stay in one spot for hours!


Algae-Eating Snails

Many varieties of snails will easily feed on algae, and—despite their slow speed when moving—they can quickly consume an entire garden of algae in a matter of minutes. These little critters are efficient algae-cleaning machines.

How to Manage Excess Fish Food

In addition to an infestation of algae, there are also times when you might have filled your fish tank with simply too much food, and the excess will drop to the bottom where it can foul up the water quickly. To handle this situation, you will want to get some bottom feeders into the tank. They will eat any uneaten bits of food that sink to the bottom, and they are a joy to watch.


There are many different species of aquarium catfish out there, and they can range greatly in size. As bottom feeders, they are great to have in your tank because they’ll quickly gulp up any pieces of foods that happen to float to the bottom.


These are by far the most common bottom feeders that people like to have in their tank. They are efficient at what they do, and they can get along with virtually any other type of fish.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Rainbow Shark

These are quite popular with freshwater aquariums, and they add a unique look to your tank. Rainbow sharks are quite efficient at cleaning up uneaten bits of food from your tank and adding lots of movement.


Sam on July 31, 2020:

I am planning on buying a 5 gallon tank should I have a shrimp or snail to help with algae

sweeaun from Malaysia on January 25, 2012:

Nice article there. However, one must be careful to choose the suitable algae or bottom feeder for the purpose outlined in the article. For eg. a pleco can grow to be huge (6 inches to 1ft) while shrimps and snails are often eaten by puffers. So choose wisely depending on what you have in your tank.

InvictusP37 from Durham, NC on January 25, 2012:

Great hub, I have a 55 gal freshwater aquarium I started back in June/July of 2011. I Currently have two plecos in there with my cichlids, but recently I was looking to add another type of species to help with maintenance. I'm considering that rainbow shark or the algae eating shrimp if they can be placed with cichlids... Any ways thanks for sharing the info!

skyshooter (author) from United States Of America on January 25, 2012:

hi davenmidtown,

Thanks for stopping by. Wow a 13 year old pleco? That's quite and impressive feat! I forgot to mention the molly bit, but you're absolutely right about them eating algae as well.

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on January 25, 2012:

skyshooter: Nice article that is well written and does a good job of covering the basics. Some additions you may want to add are Molly's which will also eat hair algae. Plecostomus are fairly easy to care for but you have to feed them. Most die of starvation in fish tanks because there is just not enough proper food to keep them going. At one time I had 34 fish tanks and have raised many pleco's. I currently have only four fish tanks but I do have a pleco that is about 13 years old. I could probably write a small novel here but I will try to keep it short. Not every pleco eats algae. Some only eat rotting wood and plat matter. Some eat certain species of algae and others eat very specialized diets. I would not put a pleco in a tank that is less the 1 month old and never in a tank that is smaller then 55 gallons of water (few exceptions.)

skyshooter (author) from United States Of America on January 25, 2012:

Hey thanks for the comments shesabutterfly, plecos are great fish indeed, but you're right, they seem not to live very long.

My favorite are the snails. They move very subtly and are fun to watch them eat algae when they attach themselves to your aquarium glass.

Cholee Clay from Wisconsin on January 25, 2012:

Plecostomus, never lived long in any of the tanks we had. I've come to find they are hard to keep alive although they are supposed to be one of the easiest fish to take care of.

Apple snails are great! I had one and I loved him. He was super fast and fun to watch. The other fish do like to peck at the fleshy part so it might be a good idea to keep an eye on that. Although Apple snails are not hermaphrodites most snails are and will reproduce rapidly in a fish tank. Might be a good idea to check what type of snail you are buying before you purchase.

Red Finned Shark's (Rainbow Shark) are truly a treasure in any fish tank. I have one and he definitely adds life and cleanliness to my tank. Love him!

Great hub skyshooter!

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