32 Best & Worst Hair Algae Eaters (Fish, Shrimp & Snails)

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Being one of the most common algae types, hair algae are a prevalent nuisance in fish tanks. And while there are many different ways to get rid of them, most fish owners seek natural solutions.

I have personally tried to fight this type of algae for years. Fortunately, after tons of trial and error, I finally came up with a list of fish, shrimp, and snails that eat hair algae effectively.

As we go along, I’ll show you what species you can choose, and what would be the right way to add them to your tank. I will also help you choose the specific creature that is right for your aquarium.

Let’s dive into it.

What Fish Eat Hair Algae?

Jayashree Rout, S.K. Swain, Banasree Sharma, and S. Mishra (Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University) revealed in a study that a fifth of the 5 million kg of algae harvested annually went to the nourishment of fish.[1]

This proves that fish are potent weapons against algae infestations. 

If you’re looking for species that eat hair algae in aquariums, the following options will serve your needs:

1. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature75-79°F (23-26°C)

Siamese algae eaters are popular among aquarists because they control algae. 

They eat a little bit of everything, including green hair and black beard algae. Although, their voracious appetite dwindles with age. 

The creatures are peaceful. They can also tolerate wide-ranging temperatures, which makes the fish fitting additions to most tanks.

2. Tang Fish (Acanthuridae)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size100 gallons
Temperature72-82° F (22-28° C)

Tang fish are saltwater creatures that love green and brown algae. 

Kole Tangs appreciate hair and macroalgae. They have a peaceful temperament. Although, they have been known to display territorial behavior. 

Chevron Tangs are probably the most attractive of the bunch, boasting bright orange colors and violet markings. They favor hair and microalgae.

Red Sea Sailfins are problematic because they can grow to 16 inches, which complicates matters in small tanks. 

Yellow tangs cannot live with one another. Their aggressive tendencies make them a menace to friendly species. All in all, you have plenty of tang fish to choose from.

3. Florida Flagfish (Jordanella floridae)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelHard
Minimum Tank Size15 gallons
Temperature64-86° F (18-30° C)

No one buys Florida Flagfish to fight algae. They are too rare and demanding. 

However, if you have three or more in an aquarium, they will keep your infestation under control. Florida Flagfish are excellent algae eaters.

4. Blennies (Blenniiformes)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature78-82° F (25-28° C)

You have hundreds of blennies to choose from, and most of them have teeth that resemble combs, hence their impressive ability to eat hair algae. 

They are small, which makes the creatures perfect for small tanks. However, they may attack smaller algae eaters.

5. Dwarf Suckers (Otocinclus Catfish)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature72-79°F (22–26°C)

Otocinclus catfish usually attack diatoms, scraping the organisms off flat surfaces. 

They may obliterate your hair algae before the fuzzy strands morph into a long, flowing mane.

You should supplement their diets with vegetables like zucchini. They can’t survive on algae alone. 

6. Rabbitfish (Siganidae)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size90 gallons
Temperature72-78° F (22-26° C)

Don’t let their omnivorous habits fool you. Rabbitfish eat plenty of green vegetation. The colorful creatures will graze on hair algae. 

But you don’t want their spines to sting you. The fish are venomous.

7. Rosy Barbs (Pethia conchonius)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
Temperature64-72° F (18-22° C)

Rosy barbs have attractive colors. They are also inexpensive and easy to care for. Algae are not their first choice where food is concerned. 

But if you restrict their food, the creatures will eat algae. If hair algae attach themselves to the plants, rosy barbs will also eat the plants.

8. Angelfish (Pterophyllum)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature75-86° F (24-30° C)

Angelfish are omnivores. However, they have been known to snack on algae and detritus. Their vibrant colors make these creatures an appealing addition to the tank.

Angelfish are somewhat aggressive, so you shouldn’t keep them in overcrowded tanks. They require plenty of hiding spaces and vegetation.

9. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus dolichopterus)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature74-80° F (23-26.5° C)

Bristlenose plecos have suckermouths that allow the creatures to vacuum food off every surface in the aquarium, including plants and walls. 

Even though their diet includes bloodworms and wafers, they are famous algae eaters.

10. Gourami (Osphronemidae)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature72-82° F (22-27° C)
pH6.0 – 7.5

Gouramis are some of the best algae eaters around because they are attractive and peaceful. They will graze on hair algae without antagonizing their neighbors.

What Fish Won’t Eat Hair Algae?

Some fish are better algae eaters than others. The following would do a poor job of keeping your hair algae infestation under control:

1. Chinese Algae Eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

Chinese algae eaters are fascinating. First of all, they hail from Thailand, not China. 

Additionally, despite their name, the fish are not efficient algae eaters, especially when they enter adulthood. The species favors protein.[2]

2. Betta Fish (Siamese fighting fish)

You can find betta fish in a variety of colors. They are attractive enough for people to ignore their aggressive behavior and territorial tendencies. 

However, they won’t eat hair algae. The creatures can eat algae wafers if push comes to shove. But they won’t seek out algae.

3. Zebra Danios (Danio rerio)

Zebra danios are a fascinating case. Technically speaking, they can eat hair algae, but only in small amounts.

Large amounts of algae can attract adverse side effects, including weight gain. Therefore, you can’t rely on this species to keep your hair algae population under control. 

4. Hillstream Loaches (Balitoridae)

Hillstream loaches require a large tank because they thrive in environments with a strong current. While they like brown algae, hair and black beard algae do not appeal to them.

5. Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Harlequin rasboras appear in many tanks because they have an incredible metallic color that stands out.

However, that is not a good reason to add them to a tank infested with hair algae. The omnivores don’t eat algae.

What Snails Eat Hair Algae?

Snails are efficient algae eaters. 

Consider this study in Ecology and Evolution (Tian Lv, Chen Han, Chunhua Liu, Zhongyao Gao, Shufeng Fan), which explores the vital role snails play in maintaining the stability of shallow water ecosystems by grazing on algae.[3]

In aquariums, these snails will keep hair algae in check:

1. Turbo Snails (Turbo petholatus)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size15 gallons
Temperature70-73° F (21-23° C)

Turbo snails are saltwater creatures. They are strong enough to rearrange your aquarium by moving loose rocks.

If you don’t have aggressive fish in the tank (that can flip them over), the turbo snails will fight green hair algae.

2. Nerite Snails (​​Vittina natalensis)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature72–78°F (22–25°C)

Nerite snails are popular because they eat most algae types. Some people rear the creatures because of their attractive shell colors and patterns. 

They will co-exist with friendly fish, preferably those with small mouths that will find it difficult to eat them. That includes tetras, rasboras, and corydoras.

3. Ramshorn Snails (Planorbarius corneus) 

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature64–86°F (23–28°C)

It doesn’t take much to rear Ramshorn snails. In fact, many aquarists are trying to eliminate them. The creatures multiply rapidly. 

This is good if you have a lot of hair algae because they will control it. Once the algae have been reduced, you can limit the snail’s food sources to control the population.

That can be done easily by vacuuming the aquarium substrate, as these snails typically feed on fish leftovers.

4. Mystery Snails (Pomacea bridgesii)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature68-82°F (20–28°C)

Mystery snails are even more popular than nerite snails. They are sturdy enough to tolerate wide-ranging parameters. 

They can become a nuisance if you permit them to multiply. However, they can also eradicate hair algae.

5. Astraea Snails (Heliotropium)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature76-78° F (24-26° C)

These snails are tiny. But their small size won’t stop them from scouring the aquarium for algae. They eat various algae types, including brown film algae and hair algae.

However, these snails are tiny and docile, and therefore shouldn’t be mixed with aggressive tankmates. You can keep them with shrimp, other types of snails, and non-carnivorous fish.

6. Turban Snails (Tegula funebralis)

Tank SetupSaltwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature73-81° F (23-27° C)

These slow-moving creatures are the perfect solution to algae in your saltwater tank. They eat everything, not just filamentous algae but slime, diatoms, and cyanobacteria.[4]

7. Malaysian Trumpet Snails (Melanoides tuberculata)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature71-77° F (22-25° C)

Malaysian trumpet snails are not the most efficient algae eaters. 

However, they like soft algae and can work in tandem with other algae removal methods to keep hair algae under control if other algae eaters are unavailable. 

What Snails Won’t Eat Hair Algae?

Snails have a reputation for eating algae, but that is not true for every snail. You cannot rely on the following snails to consume the hair algae in your tank:

1. Bumblebee Snails (Engina mendicaria)

Bumblebee snails are appealing because they have yellow stripes. Many aquarists use them to enhance their tank’s look. 

But they don’t care about algae. Although, you can use them to eat detritus. 

2. Cowrie Snails (Cypraeidae)

Technically speaking, cowrie snails are algae eaters. But that is only true for the young ones. 

Adult Cowries prefer sponges and anemones. They will ignore the hair algae in your aquarium.[5]

3. Nassarius Snails (Fossatus) 

Nassarius snails are attracted to carrion.[6] That includes dead fish and fish waste. You can keep them in tanks infested with hair algae if you want, but they won’t eat them.

4. Assassin Snails (Clea helena)

Assassin snails are carnivores. Unlike common freshwater species, they don’t care for dead plants and leftovers. Therefore, hair alga doesn’t interest them. 

5. Trochus Snails (Maculatus)

Trochus snails are algae eaters. But they prefer film algae and diatoms. In large numbers, they will decimate your tank’s film and diatom algae population. But hair algae doesn’t appeal to them.

What Shrimp Eat Hair Algae?

If you can’t find snails in your local fish store, shrimp are the next best thing. You can use the following to fight hair algae infestations:

1. Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature60-80° F (15.5-27° C)

Amano shrimp are the most popular algae eaters among shrimp. They are small and transparent, and they have a voracious appetite for algae and detritus.

If you wish to use shrimp to clean hair algae from your tank, Amano shrimp should be your first choice. They also eat algae that grew on aquarium plants.

Besides algae, Amano shrimp will eat leftovers found within your aquarium substrate, preventing ammonia and nitrite spikes.

2. Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature65-80° F (18°-27° C)

Cherry shrimp are just as popular as Amano shrimp, if not more so, because of their unique colors. 

They will forage for the hair algae wherever it has chosen to sprout: on rocks, the substrate, the plants, etc.

3. Red Nose Shrimp (Caridina gracilirostris)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature68-82° F (20-28° C)

Rudolph shrimp are hardy creatures that can survive unsavory water parameters. They will make short work of your tank’s hair algae. But the shrimp are somewhat expensive.

4. Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis var)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelMedium
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature70-74° F (21-23° C)

Crystal red shrimp are beautiful, which is why people rear them. They also eat hair algae. 

In the absence of crystal red shrimp, feel free to use bee shrimp. These two shrimp types have a lot in common.

5. Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus)

Tank SetupFreshwater
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature65-85°F (18-29° C)

Ghost shrimp are tricky because some of them are aggressive. Also, if yours came from the wild, they might introduce diseases to your tank. 

But they are cheap, so you can just replace them if the need arises. 

What Shrimp Won’t Eat Hair Algae?

You will be hard-pressed to find a shrimp that doesn’t eat algae. The creatures are scavengers that eat anything and everything.[7]

Some are less efficient than others. 

For instance, whisker shrimp cannot eat enough algae to control your infestation unless you starve them. However, they still eat algae. 

How To Choose The Best Hair Algae Eater For Your Tank

As you can see, the list of species that can eat hair algae is pretty broad, which makes the decision a bit difficult. 

To make things easier, try asking yourself the following question:

  • Do I have aggressive, large fish in my tank?

As for freshwater tanks, common aggressive species usually include Cichlids, Tiger Barbs, Red Tail sharks, Bucktooth Tetras, Severums, and so on.

In saltwater tanks, you can find Clown Triggerfish, Hawkfish, Damselfish, Maroon Clownfish, Lionfish, etc.

If your tank inhabits aggressive and large fish, I would suggest sticking to snails, as they have a shell that can protect them from harassment.

For example, cichlids rarely eat snails, but they will gladly attack smaller fish and shrimp.

  • Do I have plenty of vegetation and hiding spots?

If your tank features a decent amount of hiding spots and dense foliage, you can basically pick any fish, snail, or shrimp to combat hair algae.

The more hiding spots they have, the more you can mix aggressive species with gentle ones like shrimp and snails.

However, I wouldn’t exaggerate that. Even in a well-planted tank, shrimp can find themselves eaten by cichlids, for example.

  • Do I already have shrimp or snails in my tank?

As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t add a new species of snails to a tank that already has snails, and the same goes for shrimp.

As these creatures tend to multiply rapidly, it is best to stick to one kind. You will also avoid unnecessary conflicts this way.

  • What is my tank setup?

Obviously, you shouldn’t add freshwater species to a saltwater tank and vice versa. 

But besides that, you shouldn’t mix species thriving in cold water with those that live in relatively warm water.

You should also measure the pH in your tank and see if it is suitable for the species you think of adding.

Pro tip: If you’re not sure what aquatic creatures are capable of living with others, here is an excellent tool that I’ve built just for that.

How To Introduce Hair Algae Eaters Properly

Even after you choose the specific fish, shrimp, or snail to fight hair algae, there are a few rules you should follow:

  • Shrimp

When adding shrimp to your fish tank, make sure you add a few at a time. You can add them in groups, but don’t go over ten in a single week.

Adding a large population of shrimp can overwhelm your tank in terms of waste. It may also create conflicts between the species that already live in your tank.

Adding a few shrimp at a time will allow the creatures to get used to each other. As time passes, you can add more shrimp gradually.

  • Snails

You don’t want to add snails to your tank right away. What I usually do is get a bucket filled with five inches of dechlorinated water.

You can then place something for the snails to eat, such as lettuce or cooked peas. Measure the water parameters in the bucket and ensure they are similar to those found in your tank.

You can also use the water from the tank in the bucket, which is even better. Then, tear the plastic bag and gently move the snails to the bucket.

After one to two hours, you can safely move the snails from the bucket to your tank. Pour the water gently, and try aiming for areas with plenty of hiding spots.

  • Fish

Fish are usually the easiest to accommodate. Start by floating the plastic bag in your tank. This will allow the temperatures to equalize.

It will also make the fish in your tank get used to their new neighbors without being able to attack them. After two to three hours, it is safe to add the fish to their new home.

How Do I Encourage Fish, Snails & Shrimp To Eat Hair Algae?

Fortunately, after adding your hair algae eaters, you don’t really have to do anything. If algae are present in your tank, those creatures will find them and start eating.

However, there is one thing you can do to expedite this process, which is to limit the food they eat besides algae.

When they are starved, fish, shrimp, and snails will eat algae more vigorously, as this is their only food source.

Start by vacuuming the substrate. This area usually contains a lot of debris and leftovers that aquatic creatures dig and eat.

Doing that on a weekly basis will also prevent ammonia spikes, as these substances usually rot and contaminate your tank.

Bear in mind that most creatures can’t rely on algae alone. Even if you limit their meals, you still need to provide them with additional food.

Vacuuming the substrate removes leftovers and encourages algae eaters to nibble on hair algae.

If you found this article helpful, these may also interest you:


Relying on algae eaters to fight hair algae is a common practice and a pretty smart solution in home aquariums.

There are different types of hair algae eats, including fish, shrimp, and snails, both in freshwater and saltwater tanks.

Picking the right one mainly depends on the water parameters in your tank and the creatures it already occupies.

Once you choose the right one for you, it is essential not to rely solely on algae as a food source. All algae eaters require additional food, like any other species.


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309647394_Algae_in_nutrition_and_colouration_of_ornamental_fish_A_review
  2. https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/chinese-algae-eaters.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8843764/
  4. https://animals.mom.com/saltwater-snails-algae-removal-6125.html
  5. https://www.aquariumcreationsonline.net/snails_page4.html
  6. https://www.saltwateraquariumblog.com/nassarius-snail/
  7. https://www.petmd.com/fish/care/6-things-you-didnt-know-about-aquarium-shrimp