If you have live plants in your betta tank, you will most likely see algae growing in there too. Algae can provide a valuable food source for omnivorous fish, but you can have too much of a good thing. Fortunately, there are a number of algae-eating species that also make suitable companions for bettas.
In this article, we give you all the information that you’ll need to choose the ideal algae eater that will help keep your betta’s environment clean and tidy.
But first of all, what is algae, and how does it finish up in your tank in the first place?
Is Algae a Bad Thing for Your Tank?
Algae are simple aquatic plants, which won’t harm your fish or pollute the aquarium water. However, if it’s growing on the viewing glass in your aquarium, it might pose a slight problem. Removing algae from your tank is simply an aesthetic exercise.
Like all the live plants in your aquarium, algae remove a small amount of the nitrates from your aquarium water, although it should never be viewed as a standalone method of nitrate reduction.
What Causes Algae to Grow in Your Tank?
There are several reasons why algae may begin to pop up in your tank. Algae will often vigorously grow if you leave your aquarium light on for too long. Ideally, the lights in your fish tank should be off for at least eight to ten hours out of 24. Your betta fish will benefit from some light in his tank, and your live plants will need light to grow too. One way to regulate this is through a socket timer. These timers will allow you to turn the lights on and off at preset times.
When you set up your tank, always site it well away from a window where direct sunlight could strike it directly. Exposure to sunlight on a daily basis may encourage algae growth.
Algae blooms often happen when the tank water is very rich in nitrates, which is a bad thing for your fish. Be sure to carry out a 25% water change once a week, and ensure that your filter system is powerful enough to cope with the number of fish in your tank.
Best Algae Eaters – Shrimp
Shrimp enjoy similar water conditions to betta fish. Also, they make peaceful tankmates for a community tank setup, as well as gobbling up algae. Shrimp don’t need much space to be happy, so they’re the ideal choice for a betta tank of modest size.
Bamboo shrimp are an unusual algae eater that would make a useful addition to your community betta tank.
Bamboo shrimp don’t eat algae from the glass, ornaments, plants, or substrate in your tank. Instead, these shrimp filter-feed from the water currents in the tank, so you’ll need a filter system that generates a reasonable current for these guys to be happy.
You’ll need to have a large tank, ideally up to 55 gallons, to keep a small group of three of these shrimp.
Cherry shrimp are tiny, brightly colored shrimp that make an attractive addition to a display tank, as well as removing algae from the tank glass, plants, and ornaments.
Cherry shrimp live for one to two years, growing up to just two inches long. Due to their small size, make sure to provide plenty of hiding places for your cherry shrimp. If you have a mixture of males and females, the shrimp will readily breed, and your betta may view the tiniest ones as a meal!
They only require a small amount of food – algae wafers are perfect. As well as that, the shrimp will happily live on the algae and debris in your betta tank.
Amano shrimp make great tankmates for betta fish! They live for about three years and eat more than enough algae to keep your tank clean. In addition to this, they’re also larger than other shrimp species, which means they’re too large to be eaten by your betta.
Amanos will happily live on the algae in the tank, as well as eating detritus and uneaten food that falls onto the substrate. Make sure the tank is well-planted with plenty of hiding places. That’s important for Amanos, as they molt periodically and will seek shelter until their new shells harden.
Ghost shrimp are also known as feeder shrimp. These cute crustaceans are peaceful creatures that eat algae, especially hair algae, although they will eat most other species too.
The water conditions in your betta tank will suit ghost shrimp just fine, and they will breed, provided that there’s plenty of plant cover and hiding places. Ghost shrimp grow to about one and a half inches in length and live for up to one year.
When you add ghost shrimp to your betta set up, be sure to add small groups of at least two to four. These are social critters who will not thrive if kept alone.
Best Algae Eaters – Snails
Snails can also make suitable algae-eating tankmates for your betta, especially in smaller aquariums. Snails are slow-moving, non-aggressive, and peaceable residents in a community set up that love grazing on algae. Some species are tiny, whereas others grow larger and have beautiful colors too.
Ramshorn snails can grow up to 2cm in length and are voracious algae eaters. Also, unlike some other snail species, Ramshorn snails do not generally eat healthy, live plants, although they will munch on dying vegetation, helping to tidy the tank.
Ramshorn snails breed at quite a rate, so, although they only live for a year or so, you won’t need to worry about buying more. A starting colony of five snails should be plenty.
Snails enjoy the same tank conditions as betta fish, and they only produce a tiny bio-load, which will have minimal impact on your water quality.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail
Malaysian trumpet snails eat mostly algae and plant matter that has dropped onto the substrate. One plus point of this species of snails is that they don’t tend to eat live plants unless there is no other food source in the tank.
Of the snail species that make good algae eaters to keep with bettas, Malaysian trumpet snails are one of the most attractive aquarium snail species, coming with a variety of different colored and patterned shells.
These snails are mainly nocturnal, carrying out much of their valuable tank cleaning duties at night.
Rabbit snails are good algae eaters that won’t bother your betta fish, happily grazing peacefully around the tank on the algae growing on surfaces and in the substrate.
These snails are very slow-growing, ultimately reaching around five inches long, so you’ll need a large tank to accommodate a few of these peaceful creatures. Also, rabbit snails breed slowly, so you won’t be overrun with them, which can happen with other snail species.
Best Algae Eaters – Bottom-Dwelling Fish
There are many bottom-dwelling fish species that get along fine with bettas, and they eat algae too, so adding a few of these guys to your community setup is a win-win! All the fish we’ve featured in this guide enjoy the same tank and water conditions as betta fish and are peaceful, non-aggressive species too.
Corydoras catfish are excellent betta companions, living at the bottom of the tank, grazing on algae, and vacuuming up fragments of uneaten food that drifts down from above. That said, you will need to supplement the cory’s diet with a flake or pellet food to be sure that they receive all the nutrition that they need to thrive.
Corydoras grow to around two to three inches and are happiest when kept in small schools of at least four. These fascinating little catfish come in a range of different varieties, all of which are suitable for keeping with a betta fish.
You can expect your Corydoras catfish to live for around five years.
Whiptail catfish do require dietary supplementation, but they do extract most of their nutrients from algae, and a small school of these guys will make light work of keeping your tank algae-free.
These are quite large fish, growing up to four inches in length, so you’ll need a tank of at least 20 gallons to accommodate a pair of these catfish. Whiptail catfish are peaceful community fish that will not hassle your betta fish.
Whiptail catfish can live for up to 15 years.
Bristlenose plecos (Ancistrus) are excellent algae eaters that will be happy living on the bottom of a large tank (ideally 25 gallons or more).
Although plecos mostly eat algae, you will need to supplement their diet with a small amount of protein to keep them healthy, ideally by feeding them freeze-dried or frozen brine shrimp or daphnia.
Bristlenose plecos are large fish, growing up to five inches in length and have an average lifespan of five years.
Siamese Algae Eater
The Siamese algae eater is an exceptionally good fish to choose for your betta tank if you want something that will keep the environment clear of algae. Siamese algae eaters will eat any algae that are growing on your plants without eating the plants, unlike some species of snails. However, you will need to supplement their diet to help them thrive.
Siamese algae eaters need to be kept alone or in groups of at least five, ideally in a tank of more than 30 or 40 gallons. These guys can grow to around six inches in size, and they live for up to 10 years, which is why you need a big tank if you want to keep them.
Be careful that you don’t confuse Siamese algae eaters for Chinese algae eaters. Although the two species look similar, the Chinese algae eater is a much more aggressive fish that may not be a good tankmate for a betta.
Otocinclus catfish are relatively small fish, growing to just two inches in length. These bottom dwellers like to live in a small school and prefer a large environment in which to roam.
These catfish are confirmed algae eaters, spending much of their time swimming around, foraging in the substrate on the hunt for algae. However, these energetic tank cleaners do need an aged tank that has plenty of algae for them to be happy.
Otocinclus catfish are peaceable fish that can live for up to five years.
Plecos are incredible algae eaters, and they will happily consume all kinds of plant waste too. There are many different species of plecos, but it’s best to keep to pit-bull, clown, and rubber lip plecos, as these fish are relatively small in comparison to other varieties.
Plecos are not aggressive, and they’re armored with tiny spines that will deter your betta if he decides to attack one.
You can help to keep your betta tank free from algae, or at least control its growth, by introducing one or more algae eaters to the community.
You can choose from snails, shrimp, or one of the species of bottom-dwelling fish that we’ve mentioned in this article, any of which will help to keep algae levels down. However, you should still keep your tank environment tidy and healthy by removing debris, maintaining the filters correctly, and carrying out weekly water changes.