If you have an algae eater, you may have been told to get a sucker fish, or algae eater. These fish have specially designed mouths that allow them to latch on to surfaces and suck off the algae. Some people call catfish sucker fish as well. Catfish usually clean waste off the bottom of the fish tank. These types of fish are a great addition to your tank, as they help to keep it clean.
There are many different fish on the market that are commonly labeled algae eaters. Some are better at eating algae than others. Here are some of the most common fish that are labeled as algae eaters. First, the Siamese Algae Eater, which is a fish with a jagged black horizontal stripe down its back. The False Siamese Algae Eater looks very similar, but the black stripe ends at this fish’s tail. The Flying Fox has a smooth black stripe down its body. Finally, the Chinese algae eater is mostly solid black. These algae eaters have a little bit of a deceiving name. They will eat algae, but they will eat leftover food first. They are preferred by aquarists that have trouble with hair algae, as they will eat this type readily.
Siamese Algae Eaters and False Siamese Algae Eaters are great at eating hair algae, but they are omnivores, so they will not often totally clear your tank of algae. As these fish age, they can get territorial and aggressive. The Chinese Algae Eater does well at eating algae when young, but looses this ability as they age. They also become aggressive as they age, and can grow up to ten inches.
Other common fish that are sold as algae eaters are not actually commonly called algae eaters at all, while they do eat algae. The Plecostomus is the most common, and one of the most aggressive algae feeders. The Plecostomus is very adept at removing algae. They can grow up to twenty inches, however, and once they have cleaned all the algae, they need to have supplemental algae tabs. They will starve to death easily.
Otocinclus catfish work well in controlling algae in small to medium tanks, because they are peaceful and only grow to a size of about an inch and a half. They can be fragile, so do not buy one for a newer tank. Do not be surprised if they are more active at night. Keep these fish in small groups.
The final type of algae eater is the Bristle-Nosed Catfish. These fish look a lot like the Plecostomus, but with spots. They are not aggressive, and only grow to about five inches. They are great at eating algae, and may starve to death without supplemental algae disks. These fish are probably the best overall sucker fish on the market today.
When choosing an algae eating fish, keep in mind the level of algae you have, they other tank mates they will be with, and the size of your tank. Do not get an algae fish that will grow too large for your tank! Also, if you do not have a large algae problem, do not get a large algae eating fish, unless you are willing to supplement. Getting an algae eater will help you to keep your tank sparkling clean. Bling! Bling!