Aquarium cleaners

Aquarium cleaners / 15 species

The main purpose of the aquarium is the aesthetic pleasure of observing the underwater life of its inhabitants. But any reservoir sooner or later becomes polluted with waste products of its inhabitants and unicellular algae. Aquarium cleaners will help to clean the contents of a home reservoir without catching all the inhabitants along with the decorations.

Why do we need aquarium cleaners

Cleaning up dirt that has accumulated in the aquarium is not only necessary for aesthetic purposes. The accumulated waste and excreta serve as a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes and cause disease and death for your fish.

In order to prevent this from happening, you need to get cleaners in the indoor tank. This is a wide enough range of fish, molluscs and crustaceans that will help cleanse the internal ecosystem and keep it in good condition.

Viviparous fish

Viviparous species are fish that give birth to fry, and do not lay eggs. Representatives of these families will help clean the aquarium of unicellular algae. In terms of efficiency, they are incomparable with other orderlies of transparent tanks, but in combination with snails and shrimps, they can quite easily keep clean.

Viviparous fish

Popular representatives of cleaners among viviparous fish are:

  • Guppy. The size is 1.5–3 cm. Life expectancy is 1–5 years. Color – from white to black. A distinctive feature is a large fan-shaped caudal fin. There are over 100 varieties.
  • Xiphophorus. Length 4–6 cm. Lives 3–6 years. There are a lot of options for colors and patterns. The peculiarity of the structure is an elongated tail fin in the shape of a sword.
  • Black mollies – 6–10 cm. Lifetime 3–5 years. The body is in the form of a compressed ellipse. Color – matte black.
  • Poecilia – 4-6 cm. They live in captivity for 3-5 years. The color is pale yellow, on the sides there are several large spots.

All representatives of viviparous fish are hardy and unpretentious to keeping conditions. Omnivorous.

Common molly

Fish are aquarium cleaners of the Poeciliidae family, ovoviviparous. The body is oblong, narrowed laterally. The fins are generally short, the tail is rounded. They are not picky about the conditions of detention, they are resistant to diseases. Viviparity has made mollies very competitive.

Common molly

Sizes 4-10 cm. Live in aquariums up to 4-5 years. The character is not aggressive. Active behavior. Food type – omnivores. They can multiply both in a separate tank and in a common tank.

Selection processing has led to the emergence of a fairly wide variety of these fish. Differences:

  • By body shape.
  • Color.
  • The shape and size of the fins.

4 main types of mollies:

  • Poecilia sphenops. Small fins.
  • Sailfin molly. Developed dorsal fin and forked tail.
  • Poecilia velifera. Large dorsal fin.
  • Poecilia salvatoris. Brightly colored fins.

In its pure form in aquariums, only a species of sphenops is found – black mollies. Due to their structural features, breeding varieties are not so popular, because they require special conditions of detention.


Popular representatives of aquarium cleaners from the family of Cyprinidae are Gyrinocheilidae species and the Siamese algae eater (Crossocheilus). Labio and tomato clownfish are less popular.

All fish are aggressive in nature. It is necessary with special attention to select neighbors for carp fish, otherwise they will arrange fights among themselves. Undemanding to food and habitat.


Gyrinocheilidae come from the carp family. Fish of this species eat vegetation both from the bottom surfaces and from the walls of the container. Considered one of the best algae fighters. Special conditions of detention are not required. In captivity, they grow no more than 15 cm. The body is elongated. Reproduction is possible only in specialized nurseries. For maintenance, they require additional feeding with plant foods.

gyrinocheilus fish that clean the aquarium have the following characteristics:


  • Life expectancy in captivity is at least 10 years.
  • The behavior is closer to the aggressive territorial type.
  • Daytime lifestyle.
  • The peculiarity of the structure is the lips in the form of a suction cup.

Varieties of Gyrinocheilidae ( Gyrinocheilus ):

  • Common. Yellow, olive with black specks.
  • Siamese. Spotted color of orange, yellow shades.
  • Gold. The body is golden shades with dark spots.
  • Yellow. The main difference from the golden is a uniform yellow color, without spots and overflows.
  • Albino. The body color is pale pink.
  • Marble. Pale brown with black blotches.

The species differ only in color, the conditions of detention and behavior are basically similar.


  • They do not destroy red algae – black beard, Audeuinella.
  • If the main food has run out, higher plants can be eat up.
  • Possibly aggressive behavior towards other swimming inhabitants.


  • Obesity. The reason is the excess of additional food.
  • Fish of this family are susceptible to infectious diseases. Can be infested with parasites from other inhabitants of the aquarium.
  • Poisoning and oxygen starvation are possible. The reasons are the contamination of the added water with compounds of nitrates and ammonia.

Siamese algae eater

Siamese catfish algae has a gray-brown color with a black longitudinal line along the body. It is one of the few fish that eat red algae (Audouinella and black beard).

Siamese algae eater

The body is elongated, 8–10 cm long. In captivity, the Crossocheilus can live up to 10 years. They are omnivorous, actively eating unicellular algae, including red varieties. They do not pose any danger to other inhabitants, but they actively defend their territory. Reproduction requires special equipment.

The main differences from a real Siamese:

  • Do not destroy algae in large quantities, switch to aquarium mosses.
  • The dark stripe is poorly visible on the head part and is absent on the caudal fin.
  • They have 2 pairs of mustaches.

Share your experience using Siamese algae eaters to clean your aquarium.


Catfish otocinclus do an excellent job with algae bloom on the walls and decorations of the aquarium. They grow 3–6 cm long. Live in captivity for 3–6 years. The differences between species are only in size and color options.


General characteristics:

  • On the side there is a solid or intermittent wide line of dark shades.
  • Large dark spot on caudal fin closer to body.
  • Flocking behavior.


  • Undemanding to living conditions.
  • Omnivorous.
  • Non-aggressive behavior.
  • Small size.
  • They quickly eat unicellular algae.

Popular aquarium types of otocinclus:

  • Ordinary.
  • Otocinclus flexilis.
  • Otocinclus mariae.
  • Macrurus.



Catfish ancistrus ordinary perfectly cleans the surfaces of the aquarium from green plaque. The droplet-shaped body is covered with keratinized plates. On the front of the body there are horn-shaped bony growths. The structure of the mouth includes hard plates that are natural scrapers. Various colors are possible – yellow, olive, gray, white.

Fish grow up to 10 cm. They live in aquariums for 5–8 years. The character is peaceful, conflicts are possible only between representatives of the same species. Ancistrus feed only on plants. Care is straightforward, easy. They reproduce in aquariums on their own.



Pterygoplichthys belongs to the genus Loricaria catfish. Beautiful fish of dark, brown color, destroys grassy bloom and algae in large quantities. Not suitable for every aquarist, as it grows up to 50 cm. The body is oblong, expanding towards the head, the upper part is covered with horny plates.

Distinctive features:

  • The nostrils protrude upward.
  • High dorsal fin.
  • On the top of the head there is a bone growth in the form of a ridge.

2 Pterygoplichthys catfish are capable of keeping 1-2 cubes of containers clean. The lifespan in captivity is 8-15 years. Reproduction in aquariums is not possible. Moderately aggressive behavior.


These fish for cleaning the aquarium belong to the family of chain mail catfish. The body is oblong, flattened. Caudal fin 1.5 times longer than body length.



  • The dorsal fin is crescent-shaped.
  • The caudal fin has the shape of a two-pronged fork.
  • Dark brown lateral stripe from tail to eye level.

Sturisoma grows up to 20–30 cm. Lifetime in aquariums is 6–9 years. Absolutely not aggressive. The complexity of the content is initial. The volume of the dilution tank is from 120–150 liters. Activity manifests itself at night. Omnivorous.

Varieties of Sturisoma:

  • Golden.
  • Yellow.
  • Festivum.
  • Frenatum.
  • Lyra.
  • nigrirostrum.

Do you like catfish of the chain mail family?



Family – loricaria catfish. A distinctive feature is the head growths in the form of tree roots. The habits and features of the content are similar to Pterygoplichthys and ancistrus. Size 20–25 cm. Life expectancy in captivity is 7–11 years. By the way of feeding they are referred to phytophages (vegetarians). The volume of the aquarium is from 110 liters.

There are more than 30 varieties of loricaria catfish. The most popular are:

  • Ordinary.
  • Peruvian.
  • Royal.



Panaque nigrolineatus (black-line) catfish belongs to the Loricaria family. The body is grayish-brown, covered with longitudinal stripes of dark colors. It grows up to 35 cm. Lives in captivity for 9-16 years. The complexity of the care is easy. Omnivorous. The character is moderately aggressive, especially in relation to related species. For habitation of 1 individual, a reservoir of 180-200 liters is required.

There are 5 varieties of royal catfish, differing mainly in body colors, shades, direction of stripes:

  • Panaque nigrolineatus Tapajós. is golden linear.
  • Tocantins – lines are located at an angle of 40-50 degrees from the head to the fins.
  • Watermelon – red eyes, black lines.
  • Shingu – pink-green lines.
  • Olive – olive body, black lines.

Armored catfishes

Loricaria Armored catfishes are considered one of the best destroyers of harmful algae. The sizes of representatives of the chain mail family depend on the variety of an individual and can vary from 6 to 60 cm.Choosing one of the representatives of the Loricaria as an assistant, you need to take into account what size the adult will be.

Armored catfishes

Chain catfish are omnivorous. They live 7-18 years. Aggressiveness towards representatives of other species is rarely shown, but intraspecific conflicts and competition are often present. Reproduction of these representatives in home aquariums is impossible, as it requires the creation of certain conditions.

It is recommended to select the volume of the aquarium based on the size of one adult. If you decide to start a loricaria chain mail catfish, for one fish you will need a tank with a capacity of 80–250 liters with enhanced oxygen saturation.

Sewellia lineolata

Sewellia belongs to the hillstream loach family, the genus is flat-finned. A very interesting fish in shape, in appearance it remotely resembles stingrays. The body is flattened; the caudal fin is turned parallel to the bottom surface.

Sewellia lineolata

Adults reach 5–6.5 cm. They live in captivity for 4–6 years. The character is absolutely not aggressive. Sewellias are demanding on the purity of the water; their maintenance requires enhanced filtration and oxygen saturation. One individual requires a tank volume of 60-70 liters. Omnivorous. Higher plants do not eat up. Reproduction does not require special conditions from the owner.


Catfish belong to the chain mail family, genus of suckermouth catfish. There are 48 known species. In punlic, 2 types of cleaner fish are most common:


  • Formosa, or striped bulldog. The difference is a diamond-shaped pattern, reminiscent of chain mail. Due to the flat end of the head, it received the nickname “Bulldog”. The length is 7–10 cm. The life span is 4–7 years. Mixed meals. Non-aggressive. The conditions of detention are similar to the Chaetostoma milesi. The volume of the aquarium is 80 l minimum.
  • Milesi is a spotted Chaetostoma. The main difference is the dark spotted color. Size 10-15 cm. Lives 6-8 years. Food type – omnivorous. The character is peaceful. The necessary conditions for keeping are water saturation with oxygen and active filtration. Tank volume from 100 liters.

Algae-fighting shrimp

Shrimp cleans the entire water area and surface of the tank from algae best. But there are a few things to consider when choosing how to clean your tank:

  • You cannot use shrimp in aquariums with predatory fish or you will have to constantly replenish their population.
  • Depending on the size, a fairly large flock is required for cleaning at the rate of 1–2 individuals per 1 liter of volume.

Algae-fighting shrimp


  • Small individuals will be able to clean the most inaccessible corners and crevices of the tank.
  • They not only clean the surfaces, but also filter the water.
  • Medium and large individuals loosen small soils, removing dead remains and food particles from them.
  • They well clean the leaves and stems of aquarium plants from filamentous algae.
  • The most preferred sizes of arthropods are 2-3 cm. One specimen filters 8-10 liters.

The most popular varieties:

  • Neocaridina – 1–2 cm. The lifespan is 1.5–3 years. The progenitor of cherry shrimp. The small size does not allow this species to pass large volumes of liquid. One individual – for 0.5 liters. Neocaridina multiply quickly and without much effort on the part of the owner.
  • Amano – 3-6 cm. They live up to 1-3 years. Capable of filtering large volumes of water. 1-2 individuals – 80-10 liters. Poorly tolerate changing aquarium habitats. Do not breed in fresh water.
  • Cherry – 1.5-3 cm. Life expectancy up to 1.5 years. Easy to fit in a new tank. They clean a large enough volume. One arthropod – 8–10 yr. They multiply without creating special conditions.

What do you think is more effective – one or two large shrimps or several dozen small ones?

Algae-fighting snails

Gastropods, excellent aquarium cleaners. The main advantage of snails is the ability to process absolutely any pollution that may appear in the aquarium:

  • Remains of food.
  • Waste products of other inhabitants.
  • Dying off parts of vegetation.
  • Plaque from the walls of the aquarium, decorative elements and equipment.
  • Film from the water surface.
  • The dead remains of the inhabitants.

The behavior of some varieties serves as an index of the cleanliness in the container.

Cons of using snails:

  • Low rate of destruction of unicellular algal colonies.
  • Rapid, uncontrolled population growth.
  • During reproduction, eggs are left on the surfaces to be cleaned.
  • Allocation of a large number of their own waste products.

Algae-fighting snails

Types of snails suitable for cleaning freshwater aquariums:

  • Theodoxus – 2 cm. The shell is round in shape with various patterns. It begins to eat up aquarium plants only if there is no grassy deposit on the stones and walls of the container.
  • Septaria (turtle) – up to 3 cm. Flat shell. It feeds only on unicellular algal growths. Does not eat cultured flora.
  • Ampularia – grows up to 10 cm. The shape of the shell is spiral, the colors are bright. With a lack of food, it eats plants. Predatory fish pose a threat to this species of snails.
  • Javanese corbicula (golden bivalve) is a mollusk up to 2 cm in size. Quickly filters the water in the aquarium. 1-2 individuals are enough to clean 50-80 liters. Breeds 2 times a year. Burrowing into the ground can damage the root system of plants.
  • Helena – grows no more than 2 cm. The shell has the shape of a cone. Likes to dig into the ground. It is used to control populations of other snails, as it feeds on living and deceased individuals. Predator.

And also nerite snails:

  • Tiger – 2.5 cm. Round shell with zigzag lines of orange and brown color.
  • Zebra – 3.5 cm. The color of the shell is light brown dirty green with dark stripes. The body is gray or brick-colored.
  • Horned – 1.4–2 cm. On the rounded carapace there are 1–2 pairs of horny processes. Colors are light yellow, dirty yellow.
  • Red-dotted – up to 2 cm. The shell is orange in color with black specks in a row.
  • Olive – 1.5–2 cm. Dark olive color with often spaced longitudinal dark lines.
  • Spiked – 1.5–1.8 cm. The shape of the shell is flattened with rows of growths similar to thorns.


When choosing cleaners for your aquarium, it is advisable to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Temperature conditions should be similar for the chosen cleaners and your aquarium.
  • Be sure to pay attention to the nature of the individuals who will become the cleaners of your aquariums and compatibility with existing inhabitants.
  • Shrimps and some species of snails are especially susceptible to attacks from predators and omnivorous fish.
  • Always consider the size of your tank with the requirements of the selected nurses.
  • For more efficient cleaning, you can combine different types of cleaners. The main thing is that they have similar living conditions.

What else do you think you can give to better clean your aquarium?