Cleaning algae is no fun, even on a good day.

But good news:

You can get some algae eating assistants on your side to do the dirty work!

Which are best for goldfish?

I’ve got a list for you right here!

OUR TOP PICK

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Why We Love them:

  • Removes algae from tank walls, decorations and broad leaves

  • No risk of overpopulation or aggression

  • Doesn’t require supplemental feeding in most cases

Summary:

The nerite snail is the most powerful of all algae eating snails – especially when it comes to keeping the walls of your aquarium clean and sparkly! Nerites double as both algae and brown diatom obliterators. They can’t have babies in fresh water, and the eggs they do disperse (which won’t hatch) are easy to remove. I think it’s a pretty good exchange for all the cleanup they do!

My rule of thumb?

I like around 1 nerite snail per 3 gallons.

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Why We Love it:

  • Cleans fine leaves
  • Maintain your own self-replenishing colony
  • Available in a variety of beautiful colors

Summary:

Ramshorn snails have been applauded for centuries for being both an extraordinarily beautiful and useful part of your aquarium’s ecosystem. These snails act as both a preventative and treatment for algae problems. They are very useful at breaking down uneaten food and fish waste which can contribute to nutrient imbalances (which can result in algae). They also eat biofilm on surfaces of the water and interior of the tank and most algae, including diatoms, but hair algae. Their population is regulated by the availability of food and presence of predators. Many aquarium experts believe that if you do have an abundance of Ramshorn snails proliferating, it is because your tank needs it, and their numbers will die back naturally when food becomes scarce. Of course, with goldfish or other snail-eaters like loaches, overpopulation is hardly an issue.

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Why We Love it:

  • Cleans glass, broad & fine plant leaves, decor
  • Eats brown and green algae
  • Small and fast

Summary:

The Otocinclus catfish is a schooling fish and a nemesis to most varieties of algae, and will happily clean plants (their specialty), glass and décor. Very peaceful fish, these guys don’t have a mean bone in their body. They grow between 1.5-2”. Healthy ones should have a slightly rounded, pearl-like belly. They generally need supplemental feeding after the algae is gone and like a primarily vegetable-based diet, such as Repashy Soilent Green and blanched or canned veggies.

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Why We Love it:

  • Great at eating algae

  • Inconspicuous yet fun to watch

  • Will not harm fish or plants

Summary:

Amano shrimp make great algae eaters. In fact, another name for them is “algae eating shrimp” and are heralded as spineless heroes! They are known to eat biofilms and many kinds of algae including brown algae. They use their tiny appendages to get algae off of fine leaves and delicate surfaces. In goldfish tanks, you may not see these guys very much as they are very good hiders and don’t come out when big lumbering fish like goldfish are around, but like faithful janitors they can make a dent at night. Besides being fascinating to watch, these little guys can keep your tank plants and decorations sparkling.

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Why We Love it:

  • Adorable and beautiful little fish

  • Enjoy scrubbing around the clock

  • Shrimp and snail safe

Summary:

The Hillstream loach is a fun algae eater to have as a part of your goldfish tank. Besides these little fluffy finned beauties being super active and fun to look at, these little guys do a pretty good job of scrubbing the walls, broad leafy plants and decor of your tank. Easy to care for, they do best when kept in groups of 3 or more. Each one gets to be about 2-3” long, making them very convenient for most aquariums. While not the most voracious of algae eaters, they can help make a dent, and add additional layer of interest to your tank. Both shrimp and snail safe, they excel at scraping off flatter algae varieties (including non-tufting Black Beard Algae) on broad surfaces. They do require supplemental feeding, and while they aren’t picky, foods such as Repashy are a great choice.

(Contrary to one line of thinking, Hillstream loaches can do very well without high flow and very cold water so long as there is enough dissolved oxygen in the water.)

Sometimes they can be hard to find locally, but they occasionally pop up online at places like eBay.

How to Control Algae Naturally

Harnessing natural algae predators is a fun and easy way to get that problem under control.

The two main critter kind of solutions?

Fish and inverts.

You can even do a combo of both.

Now:

For this method to work, it’s CRITICAL that you follow this one step.

Think of your tank like a hotel.

Your cleanup crew are the maids.

For your cleanup crew to work, you can’t put all the load on one janitor.

Otherwise the “mess” comes back faster than it can be removed.

Bigger tanks require more “maids.”

You might be unsatisfied with their ability to keep back the algae without a well-staffed aquarium cleanup crew.

Plecos for the Goldfish Tank

Fish such as the Bristlenose or Rubberlip pleco can definitely be very good at eating algae.

These may or may not work out with your goldfish.

Just because they can be a bit aggressive occasionally, depending on the personality of the individual fish and the dynamics between the goldfish.

I am wary to use these in my own tank, though I’ve been tempted, so I won’t go out and recommend you try it.

But you can if you want – it’s your tank!

Other fish

Some other fish eat certain types of algae, such as guppies and Corydoras.

These generally aren’t the greatest but can help a bit.

Of course:

It is VERY important to quarantine all new fish you add to your tank.

I even recommend quarantining invertebrates and plants if you can.

You don’t want to blow up your tank with disease while trying to win the algae battle.

Other Factors to Consider

Most tanks experience some level of algae regardless of what you do to stop it.

So algae eaters can play an important role, no doubt.

That said:

Algae eaters are sometimes just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to curing your tank of algae.

In fact:

Some find they get rid of one kind of algae just to have an even more stubborn variety come to live in its place.

This can happen if you don’t address underlying causes.

What are some of these?

  • Too much light
  • Too little light
  • Too little CO2
  • Too much nutrients (organic load)
  • Too little nutrients for aquatic plants
  • Not enough plants

So there are other things you can look at to try to help curb the algae issue in the long term.

Most of the time algae is an unwanted visitor.

Algae can be very harmful to plants.

In some cases it can lead to oxygen deprivation, especially in ponds.

That said:

Some people cultivate certain types of algae, especially green water (free floating algae) or carpeting green algae for bare bottom tanks for their fish.

So not all people hate algae, but most of us fishkeepers want to actually see our fish and watch our plants thrive.

Conclusion

Algae eaters can be a chemical-free, easy way to control algae in your goldfish tank.

I hope this article helped you find some that are a good fit for you.

What do you think?

What’s your favorite algae eater?

Leave a comment to let me know!