09-21-2011, 05:43 PM
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First thing is that nothing eats all algae, and there are many types of algae. Some of the so-called algae-eating fish get quite large, or need groups and thus impact the bio load. They also take up space, which may or may not be desirable depending. It is usually best to limit algae by controlling the light and to some extent nutrients. In well-planted tanks algae should never be an issue, and if a particular type becomes an issue, light is almost always the culprit. In non-planted tanks, algae is natural and should be seen as a helper since it uses nutrients and releases oxygen, on a much smaller scale but similar to plants.
I like having basic algae-eating fish in my tanks just to keep the plant leaves cleaner. Here we are talking the basic common algae, such as otocinclus, farlowella (Twig Catfish), bristlenose pleco, whiptail catfish, etc will eat. Molly and some other fish also eat this, mbuna rift lake cichlids for example. So depending upon the aquarium, some of these might form the resident community and thus serve the purpose. I never acquire a fish solely to handle algae; the fish I have serve this purpose but are in the tank because i like them as fish. And I think this is very important.
Shrimp and snails will also deal with common algae. Minimally, so don't expect them to clean up any problem tanks.
Diatoms (brown algae) will also be devoured by most of the above fish but this is usually only an issue during the initial couple of months in a new tank.
Some of the afore-mentioned fish can handle quite a bit of common algae, and it is not uncommon to have them become "hungry" in short order. They will readily switch to prepared foods such as algae/kelp/spirulina based sinking foods, raw veggies, etc.
So far I've been thinking of common green (or brown) algae. The real troublemakers however are much more difficult to deal with; brush algae is likely the worst, and only two fish I know of eat this. Siamese Algae Eater (the authentic) is one, the other I can never remember. The SAE needs a large tank, and comes with its own problems.
Last edited by Byron; 09-21-2011 at 05:45 PM..