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The rapid growth of nuisance algae in reef tanks has always been a real nightmare for many aquarists. Naturally, we are always looking for a solution in finding the best saltwater algae eaters, whether they are fish, snails or crabs.
However, finding the source of the problem and what is causing it, has always been the best practice. Algae come in many forms and is a natural occurrence in every reef tank.
Algae is desirable if it comes in balance with other inhabitants in the tank such as herbivores. Generally speaking, keeping algae under control is the best way to prevent future problems that may cause you headaches.
Regular maintenance, frequent water changes and less overfeeding will help in preventing algae outbreak. On the other hand, it’s always wise to have a good clean up crew in your reef tank.
I’ve made a list of the best and most popular saltwater algae eaters in the hobby.
Let’s dive right into it.
Best Saltwater Algae Eating Fish
Finding good saltwater algae eating fish is the first thing we do when we have problems with nuisance algae. There are many types of saltwater algae eaters, all with different abilities.
Here are some of the best saltwater algae eating fish.
1. Foxface Rabbitfish
This list of saltwater algae eaters is not listed in any particular order. However, if we must choose one fish with a sheer appetite for algae, then surely, the Foxface Rabbitfish will be on top of our list.
Growing to around 10 inches, the Foxface Rabbitfish requires at least 125-gallon tank.
They are active fish and prefer longer tanks with more swimming area. To make them feel more comfortable, add lots of live rock and plenty of hiding places in your aquarium.
They have peaceful character but be aware, can be aggressive towards fish from the same kind.
In terms of care level, the Foxface Rabbitfish is considered easy to care for. However, they have venomous dorsal spines, so you’ll need to be careful with these species.
According to many aquarists, Rabbitfish are reef safe fish. I will take that with a grain of salt because when they are not well fed, can nip at corals.
The Foxface Rabbitfish loves to eat algae.
Maybe the best saltwater algae eating fish out there, if you ask me. They will usually consume all types of algae, but if you want to keep your fish healthy and happy you should supplement their diet with other foods. They will accept live foods and frozen too.
2. Lawnmower Blenny
One of the best saltwater algae eaters in the hobby is the Lawnmower Blenny.
Native to the Indo Pacific Ocean these types of Blennies are also known as the Jewelled Blenny or Rock Skipper. You can find them by the names of Sailfin/Algae Blennies too.
Growing to 5 inches in length, the Lawnmower Blenny is perfect saltwater algae eating fish for smaller tanks. It requires at least a 30-gallon tank with plenty of rock to graze on microalgae.
In terms of temperament, they have a peaceful character. However, as they grow older might get intolerant towards similar species.
One of the biggest reasons why saltwater aquarists chose the Lawnmower Blenny is their ability to eat green hair algae.
What these fish don’t have in looks, they make up for with their personality. These little fascinating creatures are always pleasant to watch. The Sailfin/Algae is considered reef safe but sometimes wants to nip at small polyped stony corals.
Despite their tendency to eat algae, the Lawnmower Blenny will thrive with a varied diet.
They are herbivores and do great in well-established aquariums. However, it’s necessary to supplement their diet with vegetables and spirulina.
3. Tomini Tang
Another algae eating fish on this list is the Tomini Tang (Ctenochaetus tominiensis), also known as the Bristletooth Tomini Tang or Tomini Surgeonfish.
The Tomini Tang is one of the smallest tangs in the aquarium hobby. Growing to around 6 inches in length, these beautiful fish are perfect tangs for smaller tanks. Don’t get me wrong, by smaller tank I don’t mean nano tanks.
Smaller compared with other tangs requirements.
The Tomini tang requires at least 75-gallon aquarium with plenty of swimming room. They are well known as great saltwater algae eater and cleaner fish among aquarists. You can usually spot them constantly picking up the rocks looking for algae to eat.
In general, they are peaceful saltwater fish, however, they can become aggressive towards similar species.
In terms of care level, they are hardy and easy to care for. They will eat the algae in your reef tank, but if you want to see them thrive, be sure to include meaty foods in their diet.
4. Kole Tang
Another popular saltwater algae-eating tang is the Kole Tang. Native to Hawaii, these tangs are also known as Striped Bristletooth or Kole Yellow Eye Tang.
Growing to around 7 inches in length, they should be kept in at least 75 gallons tanks. The Kole Tang prefers a lot of swimming room, with plenty of live rock to graze on algae.
In terms of tankmates, it’s preferable to keep them as single specimens. They will show aggression towards fish from the same type.
For food, even though they’ll eat meaty foods with the other fish, a good practice is to supplement their diet with marine based seaweed.
5. Sailfin Tang
The Sailfin Tang is another great saltwater algae eater. Commonly known as the Pacific Sailfin Tang, these types of tangs are one of the most beautiful saltwater fish.
They can be a wonderful addition to every reef tank. Growing to around 15 inches, these guys are arguably one of the largest tangs, commonly available in the aquarium hobby.
They require at least a 180-gallon aquarium, with lots of swimming room. Sailfin Tang is a great algae eating fish than will tremendously help you in your battle with nuisance algae.
In terms of tankmates, they will not do well with other saltwater tangs. If you want to keep together with other tangs, make sure that your tank is big enough.
They will frequently graze on live rocks looking to eat algae. However, feed them with different types of food to keep them healthy.
Saltwater Snails for Algae Control
Saltwater snails are also a great choice as clean up crew if you want to get rid of algae in your reef tank. There are many types of algae eating snails, in different sizes, all with different abilities for cleaning algae.
These are my recommendations for algae eating snails.
1. Astraea Turbo Snails
One of the most popular types of saltwater snails are the Turbo Snails. If you are looking for a great algae grazer than you might include several snails in your clean up crew.
Additionally, they will keep the glass clean too.
Like any other saltwater algae eaters, turbo snails will thrive in well-established aquariums.
They will eat different types of algae such as green hair algae, red slime algae, and diatoms as well.
In order to keep Turbo Snails alive, you will need sufficient calcium levels in your water. Calcium helps their shells to be hard and healthy.
They are a great choice for every aquarist.
2. Turban Snails
Another popular choice for the clean up crew is the Turban Snails. They are known for their ability to keep your live rock and glass algae free.
These little guys with peaceful character will thrive in well-established tanks with plenty of algae to eat. If your tank is not mature enough, you should include seaweed in their diet too.
Like the Astraea Turbos Snails, they need sufficient calcium levels in the tank to keep their shells hard and healthy.
They can be a nice addition to every reef tank.
Best Algae Eating Crabs
Algae eating crabs are also a popular choice as clean up crew for many aquarists. These little scavengers are excellent algae eaters for a reef tank.
There are a lot of different types of algae eating crabs. Whichever you choose, they’ll do a good job more or less.
My personal favorites are the Scarlet Hermit Crab and the Emerald Crab. Find out why.
1. Scarlet Hermit Crab
One of the most popular algae eaters is the Scarlet Hermit Crab. They are also known as the Red-Legged Hermit Crab, named for their red legs.
These little guys can be a nice addition to every reef tank. Despite their big appetite, they stay fairly small in size, growing to around 1 inch.
In terms of requirements, Hermit Crabs are fairly easy to care for. They are even suitable for beginners. However, they will thrive in well-established aquariums with plenty of algae to eat.
These guys are never getting tired. You can usually see them moving everywhere in the tank looking for algae and detritus. They will eat different types of algae such as green hair algae and red slime algae.
If you introduce them in a new tank, be sure that you supplement their diet with dried seaweed.
2. Emerald Crab
Another popular choice of algae eater is the Emerald Crab ( Mithraculus sculptus). They are a must-have specimen in almost every clean up crew.
The biggest benefit of adding Emerald Crab in your aquarium is their ability to eat bubble algae. There are not many animals in the hobby that will do that, making them such a popular choice among saltwater aquarium hobbyists.
Additionally, they will eat all kinds of different types of algae, or uneaten food and leftovers.
Emerald Crabs are quite hardy, which makes them easy to care for. Growing to around 2 inches in adult size, the Emerald Crab should be kept at least 20 gallons.
They are opportunistic feeders and if they don’t have enough food in the tank might get into corals. It’s always good to feed them supplementary food to avoid such problems.
What are the best saltwater algae eaters?
There isn’t a definite answer to this question.
All of the specimens on this list of algae eaters can serve different purposes. Every hobbyist has his favorite.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
What’s your opinion?
Let’s discuss it in the comment section!
3 thoughts on “9 Best Saltwater Algae Eaters For Reef Tank (Complete Guide)”
Can lawnmower Bennie get too old to eat algae? We have one and it just cleans the glass every now and then
How about sea urchins . Mine eats algae pretty well in 10 gallon nano.
Yes, sea urchins are also good algae eaters.