The leaves of aquatic plants are ideal surfaces on which algae can grow and if such algae is not removed from large-leaved or slow-growing plants, it can hinder photosynthesis (see pages 89-91). Removing algae growth by hand is tricky and usually results in damage to the leaves, so you need to find an alternative method of dealing with it. Most types of algae have high levels of protein and are very nutritious, making them an ideal food source for fish. Not all fish will eat large amounts of algae, but over many years, specific fish have adapted and evolved into excellent algae-eaters. Most of these fish are in the catfish group, although some loaches and livebearers are also good algae-eaters.
In a planted aquarium, it is important to use only smaller fish as algae-eaters; many algae-eaters grow quite large and then the damage they cause to plants outweighs their useful role in removing algae. Small catfish, such as Otocinclus and Peckoltia species, are excellent algae-eaters that can be kept in small groups in a planted aquarium. They will constantly graze algae from plants without damaging the leaves and will not grow too big. Loaches, such as red-tailed black sharks (Epalzeorhynchus bicolor) or ruby sharks (E. frenatus), do attain about 6 in (15 cm), but are
Above: Although the popular red-tailed black shark (Epalzeorhynchus bicolor) can get quite large, it is a useful addition to a planted aquarium. This attractive, lively, and strikingly colored fish spends most of its time grazing algae from rocks and plant leaves.
normally delicate feeders. They are ideal for tanks with larger and tougher-leaved plants, such as some Echinodorus species. Siamese flying foxes (Crossocheilus siamensis) and sucking loaches (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) are particularly good at eating algae; some flying foxes even eat brush algae, which many other algae-eating fish avoid. Guppies and moines are also good algae-eaters and mollies also eat snails.
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