Having the right kind of African Cichlid algae eaters could be the difference between life and death. And I mean that for both fish and algae. Most of us African Cichlid keepers know that the choices of tank mates for our guys are pretty slim. Usually, African Cichlids are kept with other African Cichlids and not much else.
Yes, there are awesome algae eaters that you can keep with your African Cichlids, but in this article, I’m also going to tell you about a few easy changes to make in your tank to reduce those algae as well!
When it comes to algae eaters that can handle their own against aggressive African Cichlids and can also do well in African Cichlid water parameters, a Pleco is your best bet…but not just any Pleco.
The Common Pleco
The common pleco is very easy to find in your local fish store (LFS) but I don’t suggest you go that route. The common pleco has a few more cons then pros.
They can get massive, like over a foot long. You don’t want something that big taking up all the space in your 40 or 55 gallon tank.
When they get that big they actually get pretty lazy and stop doing what there intended purpose was, eating algae. And the funny thing is, while they stop eating as much algae as they used to, somehow they end up creating more waste….totally defeating the purpose.
Instead you want to go for the Bristlenose Pleco, aka Bushynose Pleco…same thing. These guys are not only always on the hunt for algae, they only grow to about 5” which is a perfect size to be kept with adult sized African Cichlids. Not only that but they seem to stick up for themselves more if a Peacock or an Mbuna decides to mess with them. They use their bristles to let it be known they aren’t a push over.
With time the other fish tend to just ignore them and the Pleco does the same. These guys have no problem sharing a tank in piece.
A few things about Bristlenose Plecos, no matter what size tank you have, 1 is probably enough. If you’ve got a pretty bad algae problem in your tank, give 1 mid to adult sized pleco a few days and you’ll be amazed at how much algae he can clean off.
They’ll get rid of diatoms, brown algae, green algae and even that white bio film that seems to always be on your glass. But they don’t just stick to glass they’ll eat it off your décor, your equipment, your substrate…everything!
Honestly I keep only my one Bristlenose Pleco in my 210 overstocked African Cichlid tank and I never have to clean any of the décor, never have to scrub the inside of the glass, I’m telling you, this one guy is a work horse!
Feeding Your Algae Eaters
Now with that being said, after all the algae is gone from your tank they’re still going to need a food source because like I said they are heavy algae eaters.
Plecos love to munch on some wood, it helps with their digestive systems and gives them more of the nutrients they need that they wont get from just eating the algae.
Now even though most of us don’t keep any real wood in African Cichlid tanks because of what real wood does to our PH. (It lowers it) It’s a good Idea to drop a small piece of real wood and hide it behind piece of décor or something just so they can munch on it when they want to.
Dropping in some fresh veggies like zucchini or cucumber is also a nice treat for all your fish plus your pleco. Bristlenose Plecos will also eat flakes and pellets and pretty much anything that sinks to the substrate. You wont have a problem with choices of food.
It’s also a good idea to drop in some food or some veggie wafers right around lights out. Plecos are nocturnal and do most of their working and eating at night.
So to make sure they’re getting some food feed your tank at your normal time so all the other fish eat…then drop in some wafers or some other form of food at lights out and hopefully some of it makes it to the bottom where the pleco can get some…I know my guys are pigs and attack any food at anytime of the day, but its worth a shot.
How To Stop Algae Growth In Fish Tank
Speaking of lights out that’s one of the best ways of reducing algae in your tank before getting a Bristlenose Pleco. Leaving your lights on for too long is going to feed algae growth. Reduce your lights to 8 hours or less daily and if you’ve already got a heavy algae growth going on reduce to 6 hours or less.
Next issue would be your feeding process. Over feeding is going to increase the nutrients in your tank that algae thrives on. The excess food itself and the nitrates that that food will eventually create.
By reducing your feedings it’ll help in reducing your algae growth as well…and like I always say, if you’re a beginner in the hobby you’re most likely over feeding…cut it in half! HALF! Lol That’s an inside joke, sorry if you don’t get it. 🤷♂️🤣
Now if you’re new to African Cichlids or you’ve been considering keeping your very own I have a Webinar Training with the Top 3 Secrets to Successfully Keeping African Cichlids…and it’s Free!
Click the link above to register now or watch a quick intro video below!