Maintaining a reef aquarium allows an aquarist to create a mini ecosystem in their tank. The fish and corals are of course the highlights, but reef critters can perform useful clean-up jobs and are fun to watch. Algae eaters have long been an integral part of the aquarium-keeping hobby for balancing the natural ecosystem we are all trying to replicate. So if you have a pretty messy aquarium and thinking of adding some algae eaters, consider these top 10 most sold reef critters.

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese algae eaters are the algae-eating powerhouses of the fishkeeping world. Their generally peaceful nature and ability to eat and control a wide range of algae (including the dreaded Black Beard algae) makes them an asset to almost any aquarium. These guys are particularly ravenous.

Not only will they eat some of the least appetizing forms of algae, they’ll also help control flatworm populations and eat leftover detritus in the aquarium. They also do extremely well in planted aquariums because they’re not known to typically damage the plants when grazing for algae.

Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese algae eaters have been around the aquarium trade for a while. Though they aren’t necessarily the best algae-eaters available, they do offer something that our previously mentioned species don’t.

Although Chinese algae eaters can be docile enough to be kept in a community tank when they’re adolescents, they become much more aggressive as they age. This obviously means that they shouldn’t be kept in community tanks, but this might actually be an advantage for some fish-keepers. These particular suckerfish get on the larger side (in terms of the fish presented here today), reaching about 10in or so. Their large size and agility make them one of the few algae-eaters that can survive with larger semi-aggressive fish or in certain African cichlid tank setups.

Otocinclus Catfish

These algae-eating catfish are one of the best species in the trade, hands-down. These are the smallest species in this article, only getting up to 1.5in or so. This and their very calm demeanor make them perfect for most community tanks. These guys do best in groups are do remarkably well in planted aquariums.

They will not harm the plants and are particularly good at removing brown algae and general new algae growth before it gets a chance to take hold in the tank.

Peppermint Shrimp:

While there are several varieties of shrimps available for your clean up crew, we choose the Peppermint shrimp because of it’s appetite for Aiptasia!

A couple of these red and white striped janitors in your reef can help keep the dreaded glass anemones under control without the use of harsh chemicals and repeated injections. As a bonus, they will eat left over food, and they are very entertaining to watch as they move around your reef!

Twig Catfish

Twig catfish are one of the best catfish algae-eaters in the hobby and are slowly becoming more and more available. They readily accept a variety of foods and quickly clear a tank of any green algae. However, out of all the algae-eating fish discussed in this article, this particular species requires the most care.

They need to be in an aquarium that has high oxygen levels and a bit of a current, not to mention pristine water-quality. And, because of their shy nature, they must be kept with accommodating species that won’t out-compete them for food. Assuming your aquarium meets these requirements, a twig catfish would make an interesting and useful addition to your tank.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

These snails are prized for their tendency to scavenge for food underneath aquarium substrate. They are detrivores and will eat plant and protein matter found underneath the substrate while also coming out to eat soft algae.

Their drive to look for food underneath the substrate effectively makes them plow the soil, so to speak, aerating it for live plants. The only drawback is that this species of snail will very quickly and rapidly breed within the aquarium if food is abundant.

Cherry Shrimp

These little aquatic rubies are one of the most popular ornamental shrimp species widely available.

They’re pretty hardy if their water conditions are kept stable and will easily breed within the aquarium. Cherry shrimp are great at eating different types of hair algae and will also eat leftover fish food. They come in a variety of colors (though a bright red is the most common) and make beautiful tank mates if kept with smaller fish that won’t hunt them.

Bristlenose Plecostomus

Bristlenose plecos are a great addition to most aquariums. These weird little guys only grow to be around 4in long, allowing them to fit into most medium-sized community aquariums. On top of their impressive algae-eating abilities, they’re capable of being quite the conversation starter. Males develop large whiskery growths on their faces, something that seems appropriate for an aquatic janitor.

This particular pleco alge-eater will do well in aquariums that have driftwood and plenty of hiding spots.

Emerald Crabs:

These green reef janitors specialize in eating valonia (bubble algae) and some are known to also graze on green hair algae.

Several of these in your reef will help control both types of undesirable algae, and as a bonus, they also like to eat detritus and left over meaty food chunks. They can exhibit aggression towards smaller and slower fish in the reef, so keep an eye on them in your reef.This particular pleco alge-eater will do well in aquariums that have driftwood and plenty of hiding spots.