Can Algae Eaters Live with Turtles? A Look at the Best Algae Eaters in Turtle Tanks

Can algae eaters live with turtles? Learn more about the best algae eaters that can live with your turtle.

What can you add to support a healthy ecosystem and keep the water clean from unwanted algae or debris?

Algae eaters such as plecos and snails can live in a turtle tank with turtles.

This article will look at the parameters algae eaters have to meet to thrive with turtles, what algae eaters make good tank mates, and how to feed an algae eater living with a turtle.

Can Algae Eaters Live With Turtles?

Algae eaters come in many shapes and sizes, but most stay pretty small—between two and six inches long. On the other hand, turtles can grow to be quite large, and some species get as big as four feet long! So clearly, you’ll need a big tank to keep algae eaters and turtles together.

Another thing to consider is that turtles are carnivores while most algae eaters are herbivores. This means that the turtles might see the smaller fish as food! Various types of plecos can grow to be quite large. Turtles will not bother an adult pleco.

With a little planning, you can keep algae eaters and turtles together in the same tank. Just be sure to research and create a safe and comfortable environment for all your pets.

Below is a list of algae eaters you can get for your turtle tank.

turtle head

What Turtle Parameters Does the Algae Eater Have to Match?

Depending on how old your turtle is, keep the water temperature at around 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit with pH levels between 7.4-7.8. Any algae eaters in the water will need to have similar parameters.

What Are Some Guidelines on if an Algae Eater Will Work with Your Turtle? 

Here are a few guidelines on how to know if an algae eater will work with your turtle:

  • Your algae eater will need enough water space in the tank of at least 10-20 gallons on its own (depending on the species), not including the turtle’s space (which is a minimum of 30 gallons), so a tank of 40 gallons and up is an excellent place to start.
  • Your Algae Eater should be a fast swimmer in a tank with lots of hiding places, so it can outrun and hide from the turtle, which may try to eat smaller fish.
  • Algae Eaters have an easier time with turtles if they are the same length or slightly larger than the turtle. This requires more tank space but can be a long-lasting arrangement.

What Algae Eater can Live with Turtles?

Here is a list of the best algae eaters that can live with turtles:

  • Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus).
  • Clown Pleco (Panaqolus maccus).
  • Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri).
  • Otocinclus (Otocinclus affinis).
  • American Flag Fish (Jordanella floridae).
  • Butterfly Goodeid (Ameca splendens).
  • Rosy Barbs (Barbus conchonius).
  • Siamese algae eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis).
  • Flying Fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus).
  • Mystery snails.
  • Nerite snails.

Austin’s Turtle PageOpens in a new tab. explores these algae eaters, their specific traits, and how they live with turtles.

How Do You Prepare a Turtle Tank for the Addition of Fish or Algae Eaters?

Ensure there is an air stone to aerate the tank, as, without this, there won’t be enough oxygen in the water for your algae eaters to survive.

This article by My Turtle CamOpens in a new tab. goes in-depth on everything a turtle and their tank mates need for an adequate, appealing, and healthy set up.

How Do You Add Algae Eaters to a Turtle Tank?

Turtles can be challenging to add tank mates with, so it is best to add one algae eater at a time and see how they get along. This will also help you keep an eye on the water’s cleanliness, as slowly introducing algae eaters shows you how the bioload is affected and how quickly the water dirties.

How Do You Feed Your Algae Eater Along With a Turtle?

Here is a list of feeding guides to help your algae eater thrive in a turtle tank:

  • Bristlenose Pleco: Being mainly herbivores with 75% of their diet plant-based, after cleaning up your tank’s algae, they can be supplemented and fed with algae wafers, plant-based sinking pellets, cabbage, peas, and other blanched vegetables.
  • Clown Pleco: Similar to Bristlenose plecos, clown plecos scavenge along the tank’s bed and eat algae and biofilm. They also need a bit of driftwood to accent their diet, along with blanched vegetables such as yam, lettuce, and peas.
  • Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri): When they are young, these fish feed almost entirely off algae and the debris in the tank. However, as they age, they prefer more protein and fewer algae and can be supplemented with bloodworms, insect larvae, and brine shrimp.
  • Otocinclus (Otocinclus affinis): Primarily eats algae and can be supplemented with algae wafers and vegetables such as zucchini slices.
  • American Flag Fish (Jordanella floridae) are mainly herbivores, occasionally eating young fry or brine shrimp. They will clean the algae tank and eat floating plants, which you can supplement with algae wafers.
  • Butterfly Goodeid (Ameca splendens): Known for eating hair algae, green spot algae, and blue-green algae, you should supplement its diet with high-quality flake food and a spirulina-based pellet.
  • Rosy Barbs (Barbus conchonius): Along with eating algae, barbs can be supplemented with small live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, good quality fish flakes, and plant-based flakes.
  • Siamese algae eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis): Known for eating beard algae, these omnivores can be supplemented with fish food, live food, and algae wafers, keeping in mind that a rich-protein diet may cause these fish to ignore algae.
  • Flying Fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus): After eating the tank’s algae, these fish can be supplemented with algae wafers, vegetables such as cucumber zucchini and lettuce, and small amounts of tubifex and white worms.
  • Mystery snails: Slowly eating algae, they are helpful as a secondary measure against algae build-up and can be supplemented with bottom feeder tablets, flakes, pellets, and vegetables such as lettuce.
  • Nerite Snail: These snails, like mystery ones, should be used as a secondary measure against algae build-up. Give your nerite snails algae wafers, blanched carrots, kale, and spinach to supplement their diet.


Turtles can get along with algae eaters and a tank clean-up crew in the right circumstances, such as choosing algae eaters that can defend themselves (like snails), are too big to eat (such as large plecos), or are fast swimmers and can outswim the turtle (such as the Chinese Algae Eater.)

As long as enough space is provided for your turtle and algae eater to swim and live in a clean habitat with ample hiding spaces, you will enjoy an algae-free tank with enriched activity for years to come.


My name is Jaap, and I am a passionate shrimp and fish enthusiast. I rediscovered my love for this hobby with my son and want to share our knowledge and tips with you on this aquarium blog. We cover topics such as setting up and maintaining an aquarium, feeding and breeding your shrimp and fish, and creating the perfect environment for them to thrive.

Recent Posts