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Fish that eat brown algae

Posted by mandyf on February 5, 2013

Fish that eat brown algae aren’t quite as voluminous as one might think, especially in regards to those you can introduce to your fish tank to keep this under control. Brown algae most commonly appears in a tank in the first month before it has stabilized and may disappear just as quickly. Even with proper cleaning, filtering, and low level light brown algae can thrive and out compete the more common green algae. As it would take a full book to detail every brown algae eating fish, or those that can adapt it to their diet, occurring in nature what will be discussed here are those that can be adapted domestically to carry out this task.

For starters if brown algae appears in an established tank it is likely the phosphate and mitrate levels are off and it is in need of a thorough substrate cleaning. Silicates allow brown algae to thrive so a phosphate absorbing resin may be necessary as well as introducing a brown algae eating fish or two into the tank. The problem with introducing some of the most effective brown algae eating fish to a tank is the have trouble acclimating to the tank so several may be needed initially as they sometimes have a short life span.

The most effective brown algae eating fish falling into that category is the otocinclus catfish. For a large tank you’ll need several as maybe only three or four will survive the transition. They clear a tank of brown algae as fast if not faster than any fish you can introduce to the tank. Once they have cleared the initial problem it is unlikely it will ever return so long as they remain in the tank. This is the first and best choice for this task.

Common plec (Hypostomus punctatus, Glyptopericthys multradiatus, and others in the family) are vigorous algae eaters feeding on not just brown algae but green and brush algae as well. That is a huge upside although they do come with a downside. The problem with common plecs is they outgrow tanks fairly easily and as they get larger they wreak havoc on planted tanks. In a very large tank with few plants they are slightly less of a problem, but they then are less effective and necessary than the otocinlus catfish which is more docile.

The Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis) which is often confused with the flying Fox eats brown, green and brush algae. While it takes on these three types of algae it isn’t as vigorous in it’s efforts and several may be required to keep a tank in check. The Chinese Algae Eater/Sucking Loach (Gyrinoceilus aymonien) will eat algae at a ferocious rate when young but isn’t a good long term solution. As they age they tend to stop eating algae, they grow too large for most tanks, and get aggressive as well which isn’t necessarily what many owners want.

The Bristlenose (Ancistrus) catfish does an excellent job controlling brown algae and grow from four to ten centimeters at the maximum. Peckolita catfish are a bit risky as they can be expensive and not all will eat algae so it is hit or miss with these sometimes. Finally Whiptail catfish can be efficient algae eaters and are a good choice in medium sized tanks although they can also be expensive and require good water quality and care.

That is a quick look at the best brown algae eating fish you can introduce to a home tank along with some of their good and bad traits. You are best advised to go with the Otocinclus catfish for most of your needs concerning brown algae as they have an excellent temperament and do the best job clearing and maintaining tank quality in regards to brown algae. Whatever you chose just be aware of the long term as well as the immediate goal.


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