One of the most common problems new aquarium owners experience is unwanted algae growth. Algae growth is natural in the home aquarium and a small amount of it provides a healthy food source for fish and invertebrates. If algae growth is allowed to go uncontrolled, however, it can take over your tank and cause a number of problems. In addition to being unsightly, excess algae can decrease water quality which may in turn cause your fish to become stressed or to fall ill. One of the simplest ways to control algae growth in your tank is to introduce an algae eater.
Choosing an Algae Eater
When it comes to selecting an algae eater for your tank there are several options to choose from. Before you visit the pet store, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind. An algae eater is different from a bottom feeder – these two types of fish are both useful in the home aquarium but they serve different purposes. Bottom feeders primarily feed on uneaten fish food and sinking pellets. While some algae eaters perform this function as well, many are known for their suction cup-like mouths that enable them to clean algae off the glass and decorations in your tank.
Types of Algae Eaters
One of the most well-known types of algae eater is the plecostomus, often called the pleco. These fish are a species of semi-aggressive catfish and, provided enough space and food, they can grow to two feet in length. This type of algae eater is recommended for large tanks where they can be kept individually or with a small number of community fish. Another type of catfish, the Otocinclus affinis (Oto cat), is another popular algae eater. These fish generally stay under two inches in size which makes them the perfect algae eater for small aquariums. Oto cats are typically not aggressive so they do well in community tanks.
Another popular species of algae eater is the Siamese algae eater, or Crossocheilus oblongus. These fish are typically friendly, though as they age they may become aggressive toward others of their own species. Siamese algae eaters are unique among algae eaters because they feed on the red algae that many other algae eaters tend to avoid. Gyrinocheilus, or Chinese algae eaters, have large suction-cup mouths and can grow up to ten inches long. Though generally friendly in their youth, older fish of this species can become territorial and aggressive.
Tips for Keeping Algae at Bay
While introducing an algae eater into your tank is one of the easiest ways to control algae growth there are several other things you can do. Keep your tank out of direct sunlight and perform regular water changes to keep the water quality in the tank high. You can also install an EcoBio-Stone in your tank which will maintain good water quality and help to keep your tank clean and algae-free. EcoBio-Stones are made from porous volcanic stones and cement and are infused with special beneficial bacteria that multiply in your tank, working to break down wastes and speed up the nitrogen cycle. Combined with an algae eater and routine maintenance, an EcoBio-Stone is an easy way to keep your tank free of unwanted algae.