Everyone can use a helping hand time to time, especially when it comes to aquarium maintenance! We all want our weekly freshwater aquarium maintenance to be as easy and fast as possible so we can get back to enjoying our day. Luckily, as a freshwater aquarium owner, there are critters you can keep in your tank that are dying to help you clean up all that algae and waste! These handy helpers can include fish, invertebrates and mollusks. Listed below are some of our favorite aquarium custodians you can choose from to help assemble your team of cleaners.
#1: Nerite Snails
Nerite snails are small (grow to 1" max) algae-devouring snails that in my opinion, should be in every freshwater aquarium. Nerite snails stay a manageable size, are non-aggressive towards all tank mates and are very hardy. They will scour the aquarium feeding on algae and organic debris, leaving your aquatic plants unharmed. Unlike some other types of snails, these little guys cannot breed in freshwater, so you don't have to worry about them taking over your aquarium! As long as you have an aquarium that is at least 5 gallon, we highly recommend you grab a couple Nerite snails to give you a hand. Our top pick for your cleaning crew!
#2: Bristlenose Pleco
A flash from the past! Plecos have a prehistoric aesthetic to them that I absolutely love. Unlike other plecos that generally grow too large to manage in any standard household aquarium, the bristlenose peaks at about 5-6 inches in length. They will scavenge the tank with their large sucker mouth, eating the algae of glass and driftwood and any uneaten food that has sunk to the floor. They are a popular addition among aquarium hobbiests due to the different color morphs they are available in. Be sure to have at least a 30 gallon aquarium with enough room for grazing to keep a bristlenose pleco happy!
Corys are an excellent bottom-feeding fish for most any planted or freshwater aquarium. There are many different species of cory catfish, this means they can range in sized from as small as 1" in int he "dwarf species, to up to 4"+ larger species. They are a peaceful scavenger that will use thir finger-like bristles to clean out tiny crustaceans and debris between the small nooks between gravel, wood and decorations. Corys are a social species and should be kept in at least groups of three. It is important to note that they cannot survive on debris alone, and will need to be fed sinking algae wafers as a regular diet!
#4: Amano Shrimp
Amano shrimp are a larger-sized dwarf shrimp that are infamous for feeding on algae. Commonly known as one of the best tank cleaners in the hobby, these guys are a great addition to most peaceful aquariums. These shrimps should be kept at least a group of 6 in a tank no smaller than 20 gallons. Their tiny little hands can reach into small cracks and crevasses that most fish or snails cannot reach. They have even been reported to eat dead fish. Even though these little janitors will munch on all your algae, they should still be fed shrimp pellets as a balanced diet, as they are omnivores.
#5. Farlowella Catfish
A lesser known cleaner on this list, but is deserving to be recognized as one of the top algae-destroyers available in the hobby. Farlowella catfish have long, slender bodies with an elongated nose used to navigate and eat any algae they find in their path. These are the largest maintenance fish on this least, clocking in at 6" and should be kept in no smaller than a 50 gallon aquarium. Lots of decoration and hiding places will help reduce stress in this algae grazer. Luckily this catfish is not a picky eater and will live off of tank algae and almost any leftover foods in the aquarium.