Image credits: Anthony Corda (Creative Commons license)
Adding any other species to a cichlid tank is like walking on eggshells. Cichlids are aggressive, territorial, and won’t mind bullying anyone to the point of death. So, if you’re still on the lookout for an efficient algae eater, your choices are indeed slim.
You need someone who’s able to hold their ground against fierce cichlids and thrive in the same water parameters.
Luckily for you, one such creatures exist. Yes, they do. And I’m here to tell you all about it.
Who Is The Best Algae Eater For African Cichlid Tank?
The best algae eater for a cichlid tank is a bristlenose pleco. These creatures devour algae – be it green, black, brown – and are feisty enough to survive in a cichlid tank. Don’t go for common plecos. They get lazier as they grow bigger.
Now, let’s have a thorough look at the worthy but unsung hero.
Bristlenose plecos originally hail from South America but will do pretty well in an African cichlid tank too. These bottom-feeders have an insatiable appetite for algae. They will constantly forage as long as there’s algae present in the tank. And no matter how big your tank is, one bristlenose pleco would be enough to get rid of the algae.
They won’t just nibble on algae stuck on the glass and substrate but also plant leaves, decorations, and practically anything that’s harboring that nasty green stuff.
What I love the best about these plecos is that they only grow around 5 inches long at max – unlike the common pleco that can quickly get over a foot long.
And unlike common plecos, bristlenose plecos get even more efficient as they age.
In my experience, these bottom-feeders can stand firm even against nosy peacocks and mbunas. Plus, the bristles help to deter potential dangers.
I have kept one bristlenose pleco each in my two 125-gallon tanks, and honestly, I seldom have to clean the decorations or use too much elbow grease to clean the inside of the glass. These plecos are undoubtedly the true epitome of a workhorse!
Below, I will share some tips on how to care for your bristlenose plecos. These fish are incredibly hardy and ridiculously easy to keep. But for all the work they do for you, they deserve some TLC, don’t they?
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What Should You Feed Your Bristlenose Plecos?
Besides all the algae in the tank, your bristlenose plecos need to eat some other food to fulfill their nutrition needs. These fish are primarily herbivores, and at least 75% of their diet should be plant-based.
They primarily sustain on aufwuch in the wild – an advanced mix of algae and other bacteria that adhere to aquatic surfaces. It’s basically algae on steroids.
In the tank, if you’re not too careful about their diet, they might die of starvation once the algae is cleared.
They would love to nibble on algae wafers and blanched veggies like cabbage, cucumber, and zucchini.
Since they live at the bottom, plant-based sinking food would be the best choice for your plecos. The one I use and recommend is Tetra Pro Pleco Wafers.
As predominantly vegetarian fish, bristlenose plecos need a good amount of fiber in their diet to stay healthy. And if you are giving a generous amount of vegetables routinely, this shouldn’t be a problem.
If not, your plecos will need to fulfill their fibrous need from somewhere else. So, what you can do is add small driftwood to the tank. They love munching on the wood.
Make sure the driftwood is small because they lower the water’s pH level. You can place a small piece of wood behind a decor or something so they can munch on it readily whenever they want.
By the way, bristlenose plecos are nocturnal creatures. So, you can offer some food at night once the lights are out.
You don’t need to give live or frozen food to your plecos. Just some quality algae wafers, pellets/flakes, and occasional veggies will do.
How To Acclimatize Bristlenose Plecos To An African Cichlid Tank?
In the wild, plecos live in water with low pH and dGH values. On the other hand, African cichlids need a 7-9 pH range and 160-200ppm dGH range. So, you need to acclimatize your pet gradually.
Use the drip method for a couple of hours to get them used to the higher parameters. Often, fish stores keep some plecos with African cichlids from the beginning – so, always ask first.
And remember, even though they thrive in a wide pH and dGH range, they are supersensitive to nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. Therefore, you always need to ensure the parameters are to the T.
Tip: Always put the pleco last in the tank – when your filter is fully cycled and stable. Even the slightest trace of ammonia will burn your pleco’s skin and leave a scar if not kill it.
And if your tank has a nitrate problem, your pleco will be the first one to succumb.
Long story short: conduct routine water changes and test the parameters often.
Here’s a link to API freshwater master kit we love:
Snails For Cichlid Tank?
I know a few people that swear by snails to tackle the algae bloom in their cichlid tank. But personally, I am not fond of snails because they reproduce like crazy, and I don’t like culling.
But if you are keen about adding snails to your cichlid tank, try nerite snails. These creatures can’t reproduce unless they’re in brackish water. So, you don’t have to deal with hundreds of baby snails afterward.
5 Ways To Get Rid Of Algae In An Aquarium
- Stock live plants
- Moderate the tank’s lighting settings
- Switch to RO water from tap water
- Upgrade your filtration system
- Don’t overfeed your fish
If you are interested in knowing some more tips, head over here!
Final Words: Best Algae Eater For Cichlid Tank
So, here’s a TL;DR version for you!
Bristlenose pleco is undoubtedly the top contender. It’s the best algae eater you can find for a cichlid tank.
Unlike common plecos, bristlenose variants don’t grow to become giants. They clock in at around 5 inches. And once again, unlike common plecos, they don’t lose their efficiency as they grow.
Bristlenose plecos are hardy enough to hold their ground in a cichlid tank and thrive in the same water parameters. Even the meanest peacocks and mbunas will leave them alone – courtesy of the sharp-looking bristles!
Happy Reading! 🙂