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Best Algae Eaters For A Balanced Freshwater Aquarium

Algae eaters have long been an integral part of the aquarium-keeping hobby for balancing the natural ecosystem we are all trying to replicate.

Due to their expertise in algae removal coupled with their quirky looks and habits, they are glorious additions to your aquatic family. From fish, to shrimp, to snails; we will cover our favorites for eating algae in your tank.

Read this article to learn how to choose a new clean-up crew for your tank. Because of how important these fish are to your aquarium, it is essential that you learn how they can naturally clean up your system so you can stay away from harsh chemicals. Let us know what we missed in the comments below.

How To Choose the Best Algae Eaters for Your Aquarium

First, we should probably discuss a basic but important question: what is an algae eater?

Most people have only a very general idea of what algae-eaters are, typically only associating the term with just one or two very popular species. Instead, “algae-eaters” should be understood to describe a rather large group of fish and invertebrates, each with their own specific needs and requirements for your tank type.

Take inventory of existing factors in your tank to select the right algae eater:

Besides looking at the water parameters that a given fish can survive and, hopefully, thrive in, it’s necessary to consider other important facets of a tank’s ecosystem and its inhabitants.

  • Activity and Aggression Levels of Tank Mates: This is a very important question to ask. Do your current fish or critters mesh well with your chosen algae eater?
  • Oxygenation Levels: What are the oxygenation levels in your tank? Pick an algae eater that matches the same requirements as your existing ecosystem.
  • Speed of Current: Some algae eaters like lots of current but, for others, it’s kind of stressful. Does your speed of current rule out any algae eating critters?
  • Density of Foliage/Hardscape: What density of foliage and hardscape do you currently have in your tank? How will that affect a potential algae eater?

Be very careful in your research of algae-eaters to make sure that you are creating a match made in aquarium heaven.In deciding which type of algae-eater to add to your tank, it’s important to consider the personalities and husbandry needs of your current tank inhabitants as well as the algae-eater you’re looking to add to your aquarium.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to algae-eating solutions for an aquarium.

Luckily, most commercially available algae-eaters can thrive within a wide range of water parameters. Assuming you keep your water quality clean and stable, you’ll mainly just have to focus on making sure that the different personalities for your aquatic citizens mesh well together. Whether you want to learn more about starting a new aquarium or just more advanced nuances to clean your system for better tank photography, this article will explain our favorite options.

What Are The Best Algae-Eating Fish?

Bristlenose Plecostomus (Bristlenose plecos)

Bristlenose plecos are a great addition to most aquariums. These weird little guys only grow to be around 4in long, allowing them to fit into most medium-sized community aquariums. This makes them a valuable alternative to the very common “Sucker Fish” (Hypostomus Plecostomus) that grows to almost two feet long. On top of their impressive algae-eating abilities, they’re capable of being quite the conversation starter. Males develop large whiskery growths on their faces, something that seems appropriate for an aquatic janitor.

They’re also commonly available in different color varieties, namely gold or albino. This means that they can be quite the dramatic addition to an aquarium. This particular pleco alge-eater will do well in aquariums that have driftwood and plenty of hiding spots.

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese algae eaters are the algae-eating powerhouses of the fishkeeping world. Their generally peaceful nature and ability to eat and control a wide range of algae (including the dreaded Black Beard algae) makes them an asset to almost any aquarium. These guys are particularly ravenous.

Not only will they eat some of the least appetizing forms of algae, they’ll also help control flatworm populations and eat leftover detritus in the aquarium. They also do extremely well in planted aquariums because they’re not known to typically damage the plants when grazing for algae.

Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese algae eaters have been around the aquarium trade for a while. Though they aren’t necessarily the best algae-eaters available, they do offer something that our previously mentioned species don’t.

Although Chinese algae eaters can be docile enough to be kept in a community tank when they’re adolescents, they become much more aggressive as they age. This obviously means that they shouldn’t be kept in community tanks, but this might actually be an advantage for some fish-keepers. These particular suckerfish get on the larger side (in terms of the fish presented here today), reaching about 10in or so. Their large size and agility make them one of the few algae-eaters that can survive with larger semi-aggressive fish or in certain African cichlid tank setups.

Otocinclus Catfish

These algae-eating catfish are one of the best species in the trade, hands-down. These are the smallest species in this article, only getting up to 1.5in or so. This and their very calm demeanor make them perfect for most community tanks. These guys do best in groups are do remarkably well in planted aquariums.

They will not harm the plants and are particularly good at removing brown algae and general new algae growth before it gets a chance to take hold in the tank.

Twig Catfish

Twig catfish are one of the best catfish algae-eaters in the hobby and are slowly becoming more and more available. They readily accept a variety of foods and quickly clear a tank of any green algae. However, out of all the algae-eating fish discussed in this article, this particular species requires the most care.

They need to be in an aquarium that has high oxygen levels and a bit of a current, not to mention pristine water-quality. And, because of their shy nature, they must be kept with accommodating species that won’t out-compete them for food. Assuming your aquarium meets these requirements, a twig catfish would make an interesting and useful addition to your tank.

Live-bearers

Mollies, platys, and guppies are readily available within the aquarium trade.

A lot of community tanks feature these fellows already because of their ability to rapidly reproduce. Fortunately, these fish are also helpful in taking care of hair algae.

What Are The Best Algae-Eating Snails?

Mystery Snail

Mystery snails, a smaller species of Apple snail, are a very popular snail that can be found at almost any local fish store. These snails are true detrivores and will helpfully eat different types of algae, decaying plant matter, and leftover fish food. Mystery snails are one of the larger snail species in this article, but they still only top out at around 2in, making them a sure bet for smaller community tanks as well as larger ones.

Nerite Snail

Nerite snails are in high-demand within the pet trade.

They come in a variety of colors and patterns and, unlike most other snails, will not breed in the aquarium. Nerites are intense algae grazers, willing to eat almost any type of algae while not harming any live plants within the aquarium.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

This particular species of snail is practically required for any planted aquarium.

These snails are prized for their tendency to scavenge for food underneath aquarium substrate. They are detrivores and will eat plant and protein matter found underneath the substrate while also coming out to eat soft algae.

Their drive to look for food underneath the substrate effectively makes them plow the soil, so to speak, aerating it for live plants. The only drawback is that this species of snail will very quickly and rapidly breed within the aquarium if food is abundant.

What Are The Best Algae-Eating Shrimp?

Cherry Shrimp

These little aquatic rubies are one of the most popular ornamental shrimp species widely available.

They’re pretty hardy if their water conditions are kept stable and will easily breed within the aquarium. Cherry shrimp are great at eating different types of hair algae and will also eat leftover fish food. They come in a variety of colors (though a bright red is the most common) and make beautiful tank mates if kept with smaller fish that won’t hunt them.

Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp are the best algae-eating shrimp species.

Their larger size (2in) makes them better able to defend themselves in community tanks, setting them apart from the Cherry shrimp. This species is great at eating various types of soft algae as well as decaying plant matter and some leftover fish food.

Choose A Balanced Ecosystem With Nualgi

Every aquarium has its own unique ecosystem and, accordingly, special care should be taken to meet the needs of an individual tank.

Nualgi Aquarium helps to fill in the gaps of your aquarium’s ecosystem by nurturing helpful Diatoms with nano silica, the building block of your tank’s food chain.

Working best in a fairly established freshwater aquarium, Nualgi sets the groundwork to promote a beautiful and healthy aquatic environment that any well-chosen algae-eater would love to complement.

Use Nualgi For A Cleaner Tank

With Nualgi working to perfect your tank, the only thing you have left to do is pick the right algae-eater. The algae-eaters listed here are popular and good at their jobs, but this is anything but a definitive list.

Which algae-eaters have given you the best success stories?

Which species are your go-to favorites?

And which did we not mention in our article?

The path to bring algae to the supermarket is paved with research that has attempted to elevate algae, and failed. The Carnegie Institution of Washington collaborated on pilot plants in the early ’50s that could grow chlorella––another form of microalgae––at optimal levels for food production. They described the taste as a “vegetable-like flavor, resembling that of raw lima beans or raw pumpkin.” The institute scrapped the idea as too involved and expensive despite a “need for additional sources of high-protein food, especially in overpopulated areas, that serious effort in tracking down every promising lead is certainly warranted.”

Even NASA couldn’t get algae to work. The space agency contracted food scientist Marcus Karel to investigate how it might include algae in its food supply. At the time, the strains available were deemed too strongly flavored and nutritionally unbalanced. In 1998, NASA tried again, but the researchers struggled with how to turn algae into food that a space crew might actually eat over a long period of time. While it’s been successful at growing lettuce in space, NASA is slowly inching its way toward using cyanobacteria to support a manned base on Mars in a project dubbed CyBLiSS. The UN also supports growing algae to feed our soaring populations and stated that spirulina should be used to fight hunger and nutrition problems and urged the world to “mainstream” the organism to supply the “daily nutritional requirements of humankind.”

A Protein For All Dietary Restrictions

Money is being poured into algae from every country and dozens of companies are betting on it to deliver. Owned since the seventies by DIC, a Japanese company, Earthrise Nutritionals recently announced plans to expand its central California plant in order to ramp up production of Linablue, a blue food-coloring extract derived from spirulina and the first of its kind to win FDA approval. (It’s what M&Ms is using.) Earthrise claims to have the largest outdoor algae farm in the world, but its giant 5,000-square-meter ponds are open to the air and thus upon weather to function. This is both good and bad: Algae need sun but they need to be protected in order for nutrients like carbon dioxide to remain high enough to promote maximum growth. They also need to be grown far from pollutants, which means far away from big cities.

Earthrise may have the lock on using algae for food coloring and supplements, but TerraVia has moved perhaps the furthest toward monetizing the ingredient from a food formulation standpoint. The company has spent years choosing the right strains of algae to grow, engineering it to remove the plant flavor and developing ways to grow it so that it’s no longer green. The algal powder now comes in two colors: yellow or beige. At its small facility in Peoria, Illinois (in a former Pabst Blue Ribbon factory), TerraVia produces its lipid and protein powders, but the bulk of its production comes from a large plant built beside a sugar mill in Brazil.

Unlike Earthrise, which uses sunlight to produce growth, TerraVia grows its algae in the dark inside large fermentation tanks. Without sunlight, the algae need nutrients to grow and TerraVia has tried several different sources of plant-based cellulose: switch grass, sorghum, wood pulp, and good old-fashioned city waste, but for now it’s using cane sugar from the mill next door. The Brazil plant isn’t at capacity yet, but when it is, it can produce 100,000 metric tons of food-grade oil annually. In South America, Unilever is already using TerraVia’s algal oil in place of palm oil in its personal-care products. Besides being bad for you, harvesting palm oil destroys large swaths of tropical forests that are home to endangered animals and so is being targeted by both nutrition advocates and environmentalists; TerraVia is hoping to be the company that replaces it.

Creating an entirely new manufacturing process is complicated, and TerraVia has yet to turn a profit, racking up tens of millions of debt annually. The stock price is hovering in the one-dollar range. It has also had legal battles, notably the sudden end to a short-lived partnership with Roquette, a French algae maker. The goal was to build a third algae plant, but the relationship ended due to “divergent” views. TerraVia was also hit with bad press this past October when Soylent meal-replacement shakes and bars, which used TerraVia aglae, caused many of its customers to get violently ill. At a loss for which of its more than 40 ingredients was the culprit for reported digestive issues, Soylent pointed the finger at TerraVia algae. In an attempt to distance itself from further damaging news, TerraVia put out a press release stating it will no longer supply ingredients to Soylent. (Soylent declined to comment for this story.)

If you’ve made the decision to start an aquarium, you are in good company. Fishkeeping is fast becoming one of the most popular hobbies in America, and for good reason. Keeping fish is a great way to entertain yourself, as well as to improve your overall health and wellness.

However, once you’ve started an aquarium, you may find that you are overwhelmed by the constant cleaning your tank seems to require. While fish are enjoyable to raise, the upkeep involved in keeping their tanks free of algae can be a daunting task on its own.

The takeaway? You need to invest in some algae eaters. Whether you opt for algae-eating fish, snails, or shrimp, algae eaters can take the stress out of fishkeeping in an aquarium – no matter the size or scale.

1 Twig Catfish

Photo by Adrián Afonso

  • Type: Fish
  • Care Level: Challenging
  • Size: Up to 6 inches
  • Temperament: Calm and non-confrontational
  • Temperature Range: 72=80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.5-7.8

Twig Catfish are not one of the most massive varieties of catfish, but they can grow up to six inches in length. This species has a brown body (yes, like a twig!) that is slim and narrow, with stripes running vertically from the head to tail. These fish make great tank mates for tetra barbs, other catfish, and many others, largely because they are peaceful and non-confrontational in nature.

These catfish have voracious appetites for most types of algae, including blue-green algae, red algae, black algae, and even brown slime algae. As scavengers, these fish also feed on leftover fish food and plant waste, helping to cut down on the amount of waste that is produced in the first place. If possible, you should supplement your twig catfish’s diet with spirulina algae tablets about two or three times a week. They appreciate plenty of spaces to hide and are, in fact, camouflaged by nature. Providing lots of structure, such as bogwood and plants, is a good idea.

Twig catfish are active breeders, meaning you will need to be careful about pairing them with other catfish. Because they reproduce quickly, you could have a massive population of catfish in your tank if you are not careful!

2 Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Photo by Peter Kemmer

  • Type: Snail
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Curious
  • Temperature Range: 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.5-8

This curious breed of snail also loves to eat algae. Also known as simply trumpet snails, this species primarily eats algae and can really help cut down on the amount of waste in your tank. Earning their name for their trumpet-shaped shells, these snails are dark brown in color (although there are some rare black trumpet snails as well).

These snails aren’t particularly active during the day, preferring to hide underneath the gravel, and you may wonder at times whether they will be able to keep up with their algae-eating duties. However, given the chances, the Malaysian Trumpet Snail can completely clear your tank of algae. They prefer to live in tanks that contain live plants and will do most of their feeding and exploration at night. At night, you can find them digging through the substrate to diligently clean up any algae and debris.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails will eat all types of algae, as well as excess food or vegetation that might be floating around your tank. They do not eat live plants, preferring instead to roam around them, so you can keep your tank fully occupied with decorations. They do, however, need a tank with a higher alkaline balance. This helps to keep their shells firm. They should not be kept with predatory fish, as they will quickly become their prey.

3 Ramshorn Snail

Photo by Daniel

  • Type: Snail
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Shy
  • Temperature Range: 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 7

Ramshorn snails thrive in tanks with lots of plants. They appreciate the multiple places to hide, and unlike many types of algae eating snails, they won’t eat your live plants. They prefer instead to leave algae and dead plant matter and will only resort to eating living plants if they are on the brink of starvation. They can also eat leftover food and fish eggs.

These snails are aptly named because their shells look somewhat like the horn of a ram. They are usually red or brown in color, growing to only an inch or so in length. Preferring alkaline waters, they cannot live in acidic waters, as it will dissolve their shells. They like warmer waters and can clean just about any type or size of tank.

If you decide to keep ramshorn snails, know that they can help clean your plants, aquarium walls, decorations, and bottom of your tank. They are good when kept in combination with other algae-eating fish, snails, or shrimp, but keep in mind that they should not be kept with predatory fish.

4 Ghost Shrimp

Photo by Ryan Paul

  • Type: Shrimp
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: No larger than two inches
  • Temperament: Shy
  • Temperature Range: 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 7.0-8.0

Ghost shrimp are popular algae-eaters because they are affordable to purchase. One of the least expensive options, Ghost shrimp don’t eat as hungrily as Cherry or Amano shrimp, but they can still put quite the dent in the algae of your aquarium. These shrimp are often sold as food for other fish, which is why they are so inexpensive.

Ghost shrimp are small and translucent and are good at getting rid of hair algae in particular. Unfortunately, they are often eaten by other fish, so you need to pay attention to the feeding habits and preferences of the fish you already have before purchasing even a single Ghost shrimp. That being said, Ghost shrimp can be fun to look at and to watch as they work, and are a good choice for a tank filled with fish that don’t eat live foods.

5 Siamese Algae Eater

Photo by Stephen Lim

  • Type: Fish
  • Care Level: Average
  • Size: 6.5 inches
  • Temperament: Moderately aggressive
  • Temperature Range: 75.79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.5-8

Siamese algae eaters are some of the most prolific algae eaters out there. Often confused with Chinese algae eaters, they are distinct species, with Siamese algae eaters never growing quite as large as their close relatives.

These fish are suitable for small tanks and can eat all types of algae, from blue to red to brown. Siamese algae eaters are most efficient at algae-eating when they are young, relying very little on supplemental food sources like pellets.

6 Mollies

Photo by DaPoPics

  • Type: Fish
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Easygoing
  • Temperature Range: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 7-8

Molly fish are common freshwater aquarium species for their appearance alone, available in a range of striking colors. However, these fun fish are also able to perform double-duty in that they are voracious algae eaters. They are independent and solitary by nature, requiring minimal care and upkeep. As a result, they are commonly recommended as a first-choice fish for newbie aquarium hobbyists.

For best results, supplement your molly’s diet of algae with a bit of flakes. This will help keep your molly feeling vibrant and strong. They eat large amounts of algae and can be great algae-eaters when left to their own devices in a tank, or when paired with other algae-eating creatures. You can also feed your mollies protein-rich food sources like bloodworms.

Because mollies are a hybridized species of fish, you can find mollies in just about every color, from golden to black to dalmation varieties. The best mollies for algae-eating purposes are black mollies, which are the most efficient at cleaning up loose particles in the tank. Most mollies are easygoing in nature, but some can be aggressive if overcrowded.

7 Otocinclus Catfish

Also known as dwarf suckers, Otocinclus catfish are classic choices for small fish tanks that are less than ten gallons in size. These small fish can eat algae even when it’s crowded in a tight spot, such as on decorations or between plants.

These fish are not aggressive and get along well with just about any other species of fish (with the exception of angelfish, who are known to attack Otocinclus catfish without warning or apparent reason). They are happy as long as they have plenty of algae to eat, enjoying brown algae in particular. That being said, they will eat any kind of algae you have to spare.

8 Mystery Apple Snail

  • Type: Snail
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Size: Up to six inches
  • Temperament: Reclusive
  • Temperature Range: 76-84 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 7.2-8.6

The Mystery Apple Snail prefers to dwell on the bottom substrate of your tank and grow to nearly six inches in diameter. Sold in a variety of colors, from brown to yellow and more, this snail is famous for its myriad hues and multiple color patterns available.

This snail is best suited for tanks of around 20 to 30 gallons (or even more if it is given other tankmates to help clean up the excess algae). It will eat any type of algae, but it prefers plant and substrate algae. It will also feed on bottom substrate vegetation, so you need to be careful when choosing the plants you decide to include in your aquarium, as they can easily become snail food!

The Mystery Apple Snail reproduces very slowly, with males and females partnering in a 1:1 ratio. Therefore, they are a good option if you want a tank population that won’t accidentally explode on you! Mystery Apple Snails are typically sold as babies, but it’s important to reember that they can grow to nearly the size of a tennis ball, requiring significantly more tank space as adults than they did as babies.

These snails make a great addition to your tank, offering entertainment as well as functionality. They are easy to spot as they brush their large antennas across the aquarium floor, and they will eat any kind of leftover food. They have a large appetite, and while they will eat any kind of algae you have to offer, it’s also recommended that you supplement their diet with some other foods, like vegetation.

Mystery Apple Snails are solitary by nature, but smaller varieties may become targets for predatory fish. If you have any of these kinds of fish in your aquarium, exercise caution before introducing Mystery Apple Snails.

9 Nerite Snails

Photo by budak

  • Type: Snail
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Adventurous
  • Temperature Range: 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: Higher than 7

Nerite snails can be one of the more challenging varieties of snails to care for, only acclimating well to certain types and sizes of tanks. Loach fish and cichlids cannot be kept with nerite snails, for example, as the snails easily and quickly become prey to the fish. These snails are also quite adventurous and will climb out of your tank if given the chance, so a covered tank is also a necessity.

These snails lay their eggs all over your tank, and while that’s not problematic in itself, it can make your tank look a bit messy, somewhat contradicting the ultimate purpose of these snails (which is to make your tank look cleaner, not dirtier). That being said, nerite snails are a good choice for cleaning up excess algae, as they will eat any type or form. Nerite snails will even eat Green Spot and Green Beard Algae, purportedly two of the hardest algaes to clean. They are also bottom feeders, helping to keep the substrate clean as they feed.

Nerite snails are one of the most popular varieties of algae-eating snails, mostly because they have such a voracious appetite for algae and are attractive to look at. They have beautiful, zebra-striped shells and can be found in multiple colors.

Besides the difficulties presented by their curious personalities and breeding habits, Nerite snails are a good option for more alkaline tanks. They need a pH of 7 or higher to help keep their shells hard, preferring slightly hard water as the calcium in it will help keep their shells strong.

10 Indian Zebra Shrimp

Photo by Abhisek Mallick

Another zebra-patterned algae-eater is the Indian Zebra Shrimp. While this creature also has stripes akin to those of a zebra, it is a shrimp instead of a snail. This type of shrimp can grow up to 1.4 inches in length, and has distinctive nasal antenna that help it sense and find its food. These shrimp can live with passive tropical fish, along with other shrimp and snails, but should not be kept with predatory fish who will view the shrimp as food.

Ideally, your Indian Zebra Shrimp should be kept in a tank of at least 20 to 30 gallons in volume, with a temperature that is moderately warm. Indian Zebras can eat any type of algae found in freshwater tanks, including soft green and golden brown algae. These types of algae are usually found naturally in Indian rivers and lakes, which is why these shrimp are so attuned to it. Indian Zebra shrimp breed rapidly, so if you are keeping more than one, you will need to be careful unless you want a breeding population on your hands.

11 Bristlenose Plecos

Photo by Amanda Cleveland

Another popular algae-eating catfish is the Bristlenose Plecos. This fish can grow up to six inches in length, and is colorful, with feather-like fins and tail. The Bristlenose can live with any other non-confrontational, peaceful fish, preferring tanks that are at least forty gallons or larger. It will eat any kind of algae, preferring green spot algae in particular, although it will also consume DIatoms, red algae, and brown algae without complaint.

Bristlenose Plecos can consume a ton of algae as they cruise along the bottom of your tank, but they should also be fed sinking algae pellets to complement their diets. They are unique in that they are one of the few algae eaters to consume Green Spot algae, which is usually ignored by other algae eaters. These fish are more active at night and are generally passive, making them a good choice for large tanks, even those with particularly aggressive fish.

12 Cherry Shrimp

Photo by Adam Okuń

  • Type: Shrimp
  • Care Level: Minimal
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Adaptable
  • Temperature Range: 57-84 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.5-8

These bright-red shrimp are easy to care for, adapting easily to most settings and possessing the unique ability to shed their exoskeletons now and then. While this means you will need to clean the tank of their shells from time to time, the benefit they offer as an algae-eater far outweighs this minor hassle.

Growing to two inches in length, Cherry Shrimp are effective algae eaters and are a good choice for tanks smaller than ten gallons. Although they usually come in a vibrant red color, they can also be purchased in other shades. They are calm and versatile, able to get along well with smaller fish. They prefer algae and biofilm as regular parts of their diet, but can also be supplied with plants, zucchini pieces, flakes, and other vegetable products.

Cherry Shrimp can be kept with any non-predatory fish and snail species, along with other shrimp. They form large colonies in a short amount of time, and will clean up algae growing on the wood, rocks, and even the substrate of your tank. Because they are so small, they are great at cleaning up algae in hard-to-reach places. They will also tidy up leftover fish foods, pellets, and flakes.

13 Rabbit Snail

  • Type: Snail
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 5 inches
  • Temperament: Shy
  • Temperature Range: 76-84 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 7.5-8.5

Rabbit Snails are shy, yet large, growing to almost five inches in diameter. Their bodies are made of two colors, usually a dark brown shell and a yellow head. The snail normally keeps its head tucked away inside the shell, surfacing only when it wants to move.

These snails can live in peace with a variety of other aquarium dwellers, including popular algae-eaters like the Otocinclus Catfish and the Amano Shrimp. It prefers large tanks of 25 gallons or more in size, but can exist peacefully in smaller tanks as well.

This algae-eater will eat any type of freshwater algae, preferring soft and green algae in particular. It will also eat leftover bits of fish foods and Java Ferns. Rabbit Snails don’t breed often, only once a year or so, so you can keep multiple snails at once without a problem.

14 Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp can grow up to 1.5 inches in length when kept in the proper freshwater conditions. Native to Japan, this shrimp likes to climb up the plants and rocks in your tank, meaning you should always keep the tank covered so it doesn’t accidentally escape.

These shrimp can be kept with any other fish, but ideally ones that are more passive. Predatory fish are definitely off-limits, but you can include guppies or other algae eaters. Amano shrimp eat all kinds of tank algae, including red, brown, blue green, and green. In particular, it loves hair algae. It will eat voraciously, so you should supplement the diet of this shrimp with algae pellets. Avoid using any kind of chemicals for the plants in the tank, as the Amano shrimp will eat those, too.

15 Tiger Shrimp

Photo by Joseph Choo

  • Type: Shrimp
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Size: Up to 13 inches
  • Temperament: Calm
  • Temperature Range: 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6-7

Right from the very moment you purchase your tiny juvenile tiger shrimp, you will be amazed at how quickly it begins to clean your tank. Tiger shrimp are born algae eaters, growing to a large size up to thirteen inches. It can live in peace with any tropical fish, shrimp, and snails, so long as it is not a natural source of prey for one of these creatures.

These shrimp require tanks of at least fifty to sixty gallons (or more, in many cases), as they grow to such extreme sizes. They will eat any species of algae, and should be supplemented with algae pellets and vegetation.

16 American Flag Fish

  • Type: Fish
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Adaptable
  • Temperature Range: 66-86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.7-8.2

One of the more colorful algae-eaters, the American Flag Fish is an adaptable species that will eat algae for hours. Traditionally keeping to itself, this fish is native to the swamps of Florida and is patterned in a manner that is reminiscent of the American flag. These fish are solitary creatures, often hiding between rocks and plants.

Growing up to two inches in size, this fish likes to school, so you should keep it within a community of fish. Other fish it can coexist with include gouramis, cherry barbs, and Endlers. Ideally, it should be kept in a tank of around thirty gallons or more. While the fish won’t disturb species of fish on higher layers of the aquarium, it will remain most often in the center and bottom layers of the aquarium, eating just about any type of algae.

17 Golden Nugget Plecos

  • Type: Fish
  • Care Level: Difficult
  • Size: Up to 12 inches
  • Temperament: Sensitive
  • Temperature Range: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 6.6-7.5

The Golden Nugget Plecos is a schooling catfish, preferring to stay with members of its community. Growing up to a foot in length, this fish is highly sensitive to stress. It can live in peace with other fish that hang near the top layers of the tank, such as tetras and Corys. Golden Nugget Plecos prefer larger tanks of fifty-five gallons or more, ideally those with lots of natural aquascaping like rocks and caves.

Golden Nuggets will eat any kind of algae, but usually gravitates toward that which is growing on the substrate level, rocks, plants, and wood. It likes to eat live foods, shrimp, and flakes as well.

18 Fancy Guppy

Guppies are some of the most popular fish in the aquarium world, frequently purchased for their calm temperaments and attractive appearances alone. However, these fish are also voracious algae eaters, which many aquarium owners discover as a pleasant surprise once they’ve brought their fish home.

The Fancy Guppy is one of the more popular varieties of guppies for this purpose, growing to an inch or two in size. Available in a wide variety of colors and skin types (including those that are translucent!) this fish coexists well with angelfish, ghost shrimp, apple snails, feeder fish, and more. It does best in large tanks of 40 to 50 gallons or more.

This fish will eat most types of algae, though it prefers blue green, ed, and brown algae. Its diet should also be supplemented with flakes, pellets, and live foods to provide proper vitamins and nutrition.

19 Orange Shrimp

Photo by Abhisek Mallick

Native to Taiwan, the Orange Shrimp is an attractive algae-eater that can be a bit more challenging to keep. It needs to be kept in a tank that has consistent temperature, pH, and quality in order to avoid damage. As a result, you will need to regularly clean and filter your tank.

These shrimp can be kept with any other passive tankmates, like rabbit snails and fancy guppies. Anything that will not eat shrimp is fair game as a companion. These shrimp need plenty of algae feeds at regular intervals, but will eat any kind of algae you have to offer. It prefers blue green, brown, and green algae, and will also eat the biofilm that forms on underwater surfaces. You might also have to supplement with algae pellets and vitamins.

Your Next Steps

Ready to take the next step? Consider raising one – or several! – of these algae-eating organisms in your aquarium. While not every tank will be designed to support each one of these creatures, adding just one type of algae-eater can drastically reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do in your tank.

In a healthy aquarium, algae build up is unavoidable. Caused by lighting, sediment buildup, nutrients, and other factors, algae is a primitive form of plant life that is found in just about every tank. While some algae isn’t necessarily a problem, too much algae can cause illness and potential death among your fish populations.

An algae eater can help get rid of your algae problem, without disrupting the delicate ecosystem within your tank. Head to your local pet store today to pick up one of these algae eaters, and you’ll be rewarded with a much cleaner – and healthier! – aquatic environment for your fish.

A Simple Guide To Eating Algae

Most nutrition buffs know that seaweed is amongst the healthiest foods humans can eat, but from nori to chlorella to wakame, it can be difficult for many Westerners to distinguish between the various types of algae available. While seaweed has been a staple of Asian cuisine for thousands of years, it’s only recently that Americans have begun to embrace seaweed as a healthy, tasty food option.

Seaweed is a common name for a wide variety of marine plants that grow in oceans, lakes, and rivers. Incredibly rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, sea vegetables are some of the most nutritious food items available to humans. While much of the farming soil where American crops are grown has been depleted of nutrients, sea vegetables are in part so mineral-rich because they are grown in nutrient-dense water.

Algae contains high levels of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. Most importantly, it is one of the best natural sources of iodine, a nutrient that is missing from most other foods, and is also essential for a healthy functioning thyroid gland. It also contains high levels of Vitamin B12, which is great news for vegetarians and vegans because it is one of the few plant sources of this essential nutrient. Seaweed is also low in fat and high in fiber, making it a great weight loss aid.

Here is our breakdown of the most common types of seaweed you may encounter at a grocery store, health food store, or sushi restaurant– and what they’re good for, and how to prepare and consume them.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone Nori is a great snack eaten on its own or added to soups and salads.

Nori

If you’ve ever eaten sushi or miso soup, chances are you’ve eaten nori. A red algae that appears dark green after it is dried and roasted, this sea vegetable is used for wrapping sushi rolls. Nori is one of the most commonly-consumed seaweeds in the United States today, and also one of the most delicious. Nori is a great snack eaten on its own or added to soups and salads.

Chlorella and Spirulina

Two similar superfood algaes with substantial health benefits, both chlorella and spirulina grow in freshwater and are jam-packed with nutrients that help support a healthy body. With powerful health benefits, chlorella and spirulina have the ability to bind with heavy metals and other harmful chemicals to remove them from the body. They both also contain high levels of protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Some studies have also shown that they may be helpful for preventing diabetes and cancer.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone With its robust umami flavor, kombu is used to make Japanese stock, also known as dashi.

Kombu

A type of kelp with a robust umami flavor, kombu is often added to soups and is used for making dashi, or Japanese stock. It is a great digestive aid, and can be added to simmering beans to lessen digestive discomfort and gas. Use it as a flavor enhancer in a variety of recipes to yeild a more complex taste and added antioxidant benefits.

Arame

A brown Japanese kelp that is often sautéed, arame is considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia. Used in Peruvian and Indonesian cuisine as well as Japanese and Chinese food, it is a great starter seaweed for those new to eating algae because of its delicate flavor. As an added bonus, arame is especially helpful for boosting immune system function.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone Wakame has been shown to reduce high blood pressure.

Wakame

A chewy, stringy seaweed with a slightly sweet taste, wakame is delicious when made into a seaweed salad. Toss it with a little sesame oil and use it to top a bed of lettuce, or add it to miso soup for added texture and flavor. Wakame is one of the healthiest snacks you can munch on because it is filling while also being extremely low in calories and fat– it has also been shown to help lower blood pressure.

Agar-agar

A plant-based alternative to gelatin, agar-agar is an extremely powerful vegan thickening agent derived from algae. A jelly-like substance with no flavor, odor, or color, agar-agar can be found at most health food stores. Try adding it to soups, fruit preserves, puddings, ice cream, and sauces.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone Dulse tastes similar to bacon when fried.

Dulse

A red seaweed that grows in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, dulse is often sold in dried and flaked form, and is said to have a taste similar to bacon when fried, making it a super-healthy meat-free breakfast option. Try rubbing with olive oil and salt and roasting it as a vitamin-rich alternative to kale chips.

Can’t get enough seaweed? Read our interview with seaweed textile artist Nienke Hoogvliet.

What is Algae and Should You Eat It?

Algae are seaweed and other chlorophyll-containing plants that lack stems, roots, and leaves — and may provide some health benefits.

When you hear the word algae, you might think of that green substance that settles at the bottom of a pool or floats on the top of a pond. You are right, that is algae, but there’s also the edible kind of algae, which is rich in micronutrients important to our health.

Because it’s so important to get necessary nutrients from nature-grown foods — and sometimes what those foods are can be confusing — let’s break down everything you need to know about this plant from what algae is, the benefits of consuming it, plus where to get it and how to use it. First off, what is algae?

What is Algae?

Microalgae, which we’re talking about today, are tiny photosynthetic plants, which contain chlorophyll—the substance that gives them their intense green color. They take the energy from the sun and convert it to sugars and proteins essential to the body (and the plant themselves), and you can find them in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

While some algae can be toxic, we’re focusing on the edible kind that you can add to foods or mix into salads. A few common forms you might have heard of before including spirulina and chlorella, both of which come in both a powder and a pill form. Another popular edible seaweed is nori, which you’ll see in Asian cuisines, particularly the seaweed wrapped around sushi rolls.

What Are the Health Benefits of Algae?

Just one tablespoon of spirulina or chlorella (blue-green algae) provides four grams of protein, along with a healthy dose of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. You’ll also get B vitamins and vitamin A (beta-carotene), along with essential fats. According to research, it’s also difficult to reach a toxic level of spirulina, making it a good choice to add to foods or take as a supplement on its own if in pill form (1). All of these vitamins and minerals help energize your body and help it run more efficiently, from protecting your immune system to fighting off diseases.

Research also shows that seaweed is high in powerful antioxidants that can provide some anti-cancer benefits (2). Furthermore, science suggests the high fiber content in a dose of seaweed could help control weight, and more specifically help fight obesity by decreasing fat digestion (3).

To round it out, microalgae contains carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) called zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which support eye health and brain health, along with disease prevention.

Nutrition In Blue-Green Algae

Take spirulina for example, in just 1 tablespoon of spirulina powder contains

  • 4 grams of protein
  • 21% of the RDA of Copper
  • 15% of the RDA of vitamin B2
  • 11% of the RDA of vitamin B1
  • 11% of the RDA of iron
  • 4% of the RDA of vitamin B3
  • Good amounts of magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, choline, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and more antioxidants and small amounts of fatty acids

When Purchasing Blue-Green Algae

Keep in mind to purchase only organic varieties that are processed at very low heat to retain the maximum nutrition and to ensure the best growing practices. Since blue-green algae are grown in and come from water, it’s surrounded by free toxins floating in the water and is more susceptible to contamination of heavy metals, industrial or agricultural runoff, etc. found in the waters.

These toxins, called microcystins, can mostly be avoided by purchasing from a trusted brand who grows it organically. Notice I say mostly – there are some that show some less than beneficial side effects of blue-green algae (4) (5).

How to Incorporate Algae into Your Diet

My favorite way to add algae to my diet is in smoothies. You can easily toss a tablespoon into your favorite recipe, as it doesn’t influence the flavor too much, though it will add a slight leafy green taste. Another way to get algae in your diet is by adding it to something like energy balls or protein bars. Here are a few of my top recipes that incorporate algae:

Blue-Green Spirulina Milk
Seabreeze Spirulina Smoothie
Spirulina Energy Globes

Bottom Line

Blue-green algae surprisingly taste great when mixed in with smoothies and some dessert recipes, can boost the minerals and protein very simply, yet need to be purchased from a great supplier and brand to make sure their farming practices are providing the best quality.

Above all, it’s always a good idea to talk to your dietitian or doctor before trying anything new like this, especially if you’re looking to add this ingredient into your diet to help reduce symptoms of a certain health condition and just to make sure it’s right for you!

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a favorite recipe featuring algae? How do you use it in your diet? Share below or with #nutritionstripped on social.

  1. Gutiérrez-Salmeán G, Fabila-Castillo L, Chamorro-Cevallos G. (2015, July.) Nutritional and Toxicological Aspects of Spirulina (Arthrospira).
  2. Koníčková R, Vaňková K, Vaníková J, Váňová K, Muchová L, Subhanová I, Zadinová M, Zelenka J, Dvořák A, Kolář M, Strnad H, Rimpelová S, Ruml T, J Wong R, Vítek L. (2014, March/April.) Anti-cancer effects of blue-green alga Spirulina platensis, a natural source of bilirubin-like tetrapyrrolic compounds.
  3. Newcastle University. (2010, March.) Seaweed to tackle rising tide of obesity.
  4. Y. Jiang, P. Xie, J. Chen, G. Liang. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2008 Jul. Detection of the hepatotoxic microcystins in 36 kinds of cyanobacteria Spirulina food products in China.
  5. Sandra Rellán, Joana Osswald, Martin Saker, Ana Gago-Martinez, Vitor Vasconcelos. Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Sep. First detection of anatoxin-a in human and animal dietary supplements containing cyanobacteria.

I doubt you have considered adding marine algae (the slimy stuff you see on the beach) to your morning beverage.

Yet if you’re looking to boost immunity, get quality protein, help your heart function better and detox the body then this may be what you are looking for.

Eating algae has a ton of health benefits.

They are very nutrient dense with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and nutrients.

For this reason, algae have become known as “superfoods”.

Throughout history, algae have long been consumed as both food and medicine.

Dive into the health benefits of this sea food and gain the health benefits of its extensive array of nutrients.

What are algae?

Algae are a group of aquatic organisms, found in both freshwater and saltwater, that produce oxygen through the process of Photosynthesis.

The algae group includes both cyanobacteria (the blue-green algae) and eukaryotes (all other algae types). Interestingly, chloroplasts (found in most land plants) are adapted forms of cyanobacteria, which give plants their health-promoting properties.

The most common type of algae that most people know of is seaweed or dulse. Other popular (very healthy) types include chlorella and spirulina.

What are the ten health benefits to consuming algae superfoods like chlorella or spirulina?

  • 1. They are a good source of protein
    Algae, like chlorella and spirulina, contain a wide array of amino acids, making them a good source of protein.They contain all 9 of the essential amino acids and are considered a complete protein.
  • 2. They boost immunity
    Research has shown that algae may have immune- stimulating effects.One study showed that chlorella1 and spirulina2 can directly or indirectly regulate immunity by increasing Natural Killer cell activity and producing regulatory immune proteins.
  • 3. They can lower inflammation
    Algae are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation and oxidative stress can damage our cells and lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease.Both spirulina and chlorella are naturally high sources of antioxidants, which fight off inflammation and oxidation. The antioxidants responsible for this protection are the ones that give them their signature green or blue-green colors.One study showed that chlorella is anti-inflammatory as it can inhibit the production of inflammatory proteins and the authors suggest it could replace pharmaceutical steroids in treating systemic inflammation3. Another study revealed that spirulina is highly anti-inflammatory, as well, and can regulate inflammatory pathways and activate key antioxidant enzymes4.
  • 4. Algae anti-cancer
    Algae have anti-cancer properties because they can slow the progression of cancer cells.Studies have shown that spirulina could reduce the size of tumor cells and could be used in the prevention of cancer5. Chlorella has also been found to have the similar effects. Research has shown that chlorella has the ability to induce cell death and is chemopreventative6.
  • 5. They lower blood pressure
    One of the main cardioprotective mechanisms of spirulina is its ability to increase nitric oxide, dilate blood vessels and boost blood flow7.Studies have shown that the consumption of algae like spirulina7 and chlorella8 can directly decrease blood pressure and promote heart health.
  • 6. Algae can reduce cholesterol and protect LDL from becoming oxidized
    Research has shown that spirulina can decrease levels of LDL7 and total triglycerides9. Additionally, chlorella has also been shown to have the same lipid lowering effects on LDL and triglycerides10.Studies have also shown that the antioxidants in algae can also protect LDL from becoming oxidized11, which is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and blockages.
  • 7. They detox heavy metals
    Both chlorella and spirulina have potent detoxification properties. They have both been shown to aid in eliminating harmful molecules and heavy metals from the body.

    Evidence has shown that both chlorella and spirulina are able to decrease the toxic levels of heavy metals like cadmium or lead in specific organs like liver, kidneys and brain12.

    Another study found that chlorella supplementation in mothers could benefit breast milk production by decreasing levels of the chemical dioxin and increasing levels of protective immunoglobulins13.

  • 8. Algae is good for liver detoxification
    CYP1 is a group of enzymes that breakdown carcinogens and toxins by activating major detoxification pathways in the liver.

    Algae have been found to be nutrient inducers of this class of enzymes, which gives them their unique liver detoxification properties14.

  • 9. They can aid in blood sugar control
    Spirulina and chlorella have been shown to hold promise in controlling blood sugar levels both by reducing blood sugar levels and by improving the action of insulin.One study showed that treatment with spirulina over two months resulted in a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar and post-meal blood sugar levels15. In rat studies, chlorella supplementation has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity16.
  • 10. They are a good source of antioxidants (beta-carotene) and other nutrients
    In general, algae are one of the most nutrient dense food sources there is. They are exceedingly high in plant antioxidants (that come from the plant pigments that make them bright green in color!).Studies have shown that algae can significantly raise levels of glutathione and prevent oxidative stress in tissues17.Spirulina is also one of the richest sources of antioxidant beta-carotene. In fact, it has even more beta-carotene than carrots! B-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body and is involved in immune regulation and eye health.

What are some good sources of algae?

Two of the best and most researched forms of algae that have major health benefits are chlorella and spirulina. Chlorella and spirulina are in the same algae family yet they each have their own unique health benefits. Both of these superfoods help to heal and detoxify the body. When used together, they create a powerful combination duo!

Chlorella is a type of freshwater green algae. Chlorella is a eukaryote plant source of algae called chloroficean. It has a tough exterior wall that is hard to digest. When sourcing it, make sure it’s cracked-cell chlorella to ensure it will be absorbed. It is a rich source of vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron, antioxidants, and trace amounts of other B vitamins, calcium and potassium. Chlorella also contains essential omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein.

Spirulina is both a freshwater and saltwater blue-green algae. Spirulina is a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that is technically considered bacteria. It is rich in vitamin B1, B2, B3 along with iron, copper and protein. It also contains trace amounts of other nutrients and minerals like potassium. Spirulina contains adequate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Additionally, spirulina is a potent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene (it has more beta carotene per serving than carrots!).

Chlorella and spirulina are two of the few plant-based sources of complete protein. They both also contain adequate levels of the plant pigment chlorophyll, which helps to lower inflammation, promote skin healing, and stimulate detoxification.

Should I supplement?

Yes.

Due to the low nutrient status of the American diet along with daily exposures to chemicals and toxins, supplementing with algae superfoods is a must for good health. In today’s world, nutritional supplementation is often needed to prevent disease and maintain health.

Additionally, due to the tough, unbreakable wall of chlorella it must be consumed in a cracked-cell supplement form like ours in order to be properly absorbed.

We developed a custom blend of 50% organic cracked-cell chlorella and 50% organic spirulina called Superfood. Our Superfood product is a very bioavailable form that can be fully absorbed. It is also free from any pesticides or chemicals.

You can mix 1 teaspoon into a glass of water daily. Or try sprinkling into salads, soups or other recipes for a daily health kick.

Our Superfood supports healthy blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, immune system function as well as prevents cancer, and provides a good source of plant-based protein and antioxidants.

What are some algae-rich recipes to try?

  • Coconut Spirulina Superfood Smoothie (Pro tip: Use our Superfood for spirulina and Daily Defense for protein here)
  • Green Dream Chlorella Cream (Pro tip: Use our Superfood to get both spirulina and chlorella in the recipe!)
  • Cashew, Kale and Chlorella Pesto (Pro tip: Use Superfood for both spirulina and chlorella benefits)
  • Organic Superfood Salad (Pro tip: Make this salad for breakfast and add in an extra serving of our Daily Greens, which has organic leafy greens, antioxidants and probiotics to give your morning the right start!)

Summary of information:

  • If you aren’t taking algae, you are missing out on the many health benefits and nutrients found in these marine SUPERfoods.
  • Algae can lower inflammation, increase immunity, stimulate detoxification, regulate blood pressure, protect cholesterol levels and even help control blood sugar.
  • Supplementation is a good idea to get the full benefits. Try out our Superfood with organic varieties of chlorella and spirulina for an easy and health-protective addition to your day!

Algae: Pond Scum or Food of the Future?

Aerial view of the algae ponds at Cyanotech, a Hawaii-based company that produces microalgae health and nutrition products. Wikimedia/CC0 1.0 Universal

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Could algae be a solution to projected food shortages in the future? Some growers are hoping so.

Despite its reputation as pond scum, algae nevertheless represents big money to some investors and a possible solution to the world hunger problem. In fact, you may already be ingesting the little green plant. Algae is found in “green smoothies,” specialty chips, protein bars, protein powders and supplements including Omega-3 capsules. One type of algae, spirulina, has long been on the market as a nutrition-packed health food. Algae is also an ingredient in animal feed.

But it could become a much more important food source, say people like Miguel Calatayud. He runs a farm in Columbus, New Mexico, where salt-water ponds stretch out across under a desert sky. Algae “is the foundation of the next generation of farming and food,” he told CNN recently. It can provide lots of protein while using relatively little in the way of scarce resources. Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health, which owns Green Stream Farms, grows an algae strain called nannochloropsis in the salt water. The algae grows very fast using sun, air and water — and most of the water is recycled. It can be harvested year round. The algae is 40 percent protein, and it isn’t slimy and smelly, according to the company.

But what would it taste like? “You’re not going to be eating an algae sandwich soon,” says Barry Cohen, executive director of the National Algae Association. Algae will most likely be used as a new protein ingredient in food products. “A lot of companies are testing it,” he says.

It’s seen as filling the role that soybeans have filled. Soy is often added to meat products, cereals and bread and used in vegetarian products as a meat substitute.

“This industry is growing,” Cohen says. “It’s small — maybe 10 to 15 companies around the world.”

Population Strains Food Resources

Urban population growth around the world — particularly in Asia and North Africa — will put a strain on food resources, according to the United Nations, which expects an increase of 2.3 billion people by 2050. Nearly 70 percent of Earth’s fresh water already goes to raising crops and livestock. And raising livestock as a protein source is an inefficient use of resources. “We can grow algae on water, recycling 75 to 80 percent of the water and do it in a much smaller footprint … and you make a high-value product,” Cohen says.

In addition to feeding a growing population, algae is seen as a way to address existing malnutrition. The Swiss Antenna Foundation cultivates spirulina in Tamil Nadu, India. The plant is given as a supplement to children to combat malnutrition and the foundation trains people in local production as a way to encourage local sustainability.

A Tamil Nadu company run by Aakas Sadasivam (India) and Mika Rautio, a Finnish partner, is also growing algae. The company, Prolgae Sprulina, produces sun-dried spirulina that is made into a crunchy snack called Spirulina Nibs and also sold as protein powder.

But algae production is not always necessarily successful. A California company, TerraVia, switched from using algae to make biofuel to making flour, protein additives and cooking oil. It also produced fatty acids used in cosmetics and fish feed. It declared bankruptcy last year, however.

Other Potential Uses

Long before the current efforts to sell algae as food, algae was considered a potential source of biofuel. $2.5 billion has been spent over 70 years to try to create biofuel from algae, Cohen says. “Algae secretes oil,” Cohen says. When oil prices were high, oil companies began researching algae as a fuel alternative. Now that oil prices are low, companies may be looking for new uses for algae. “If could construct and deploy large biofuel farms, that could be one solution to the electric car since the infrastructure is already in place.” Algae biofuel is, of course, carbon neutral.

Algae also pulls in carbon dioxide and puts out quantities of oxygen. But in some respects, algae is a bad guy. Harmful algal blooms create toxins in seawater, killing fish and other marine life. But putting algae to work — and putting it on the table — could help it redeem itself.

The next time someone asks where you get your protein, the answer could be the green stuff.

While vegans and vegetarians steer clear of fish and shellfish, there’s another kind of seafood we need to talk about – and it could be the solution to a lot of problems.

Algae, that green, slimy stuff you probably cringe at when you see it in a body of water, is being looked at by nutritionists and entrepreneurs in the food space as a potential godsend that’s been more or less untapped until lately.

Of course, the health food niche is no stranger to algae. If you have been to a smoothie shop anytime lately, you have probably seen spirulina, a strain of algae, on the menu. And those mermaid bowls or unicorn lattes you may have come across? They’re made with E3 bluemajik, another strain of algae.

As smoothie fans already know, these strains of algae boast impressive health cred. They’re packed with vitamins and antioxidants and are more protein-dense than most vegetables. They could also be another way for vegans and vegetarians to get enough of the right kinds of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.

While nuts and seeds can be a good source of omega-3s, they only contain one of three main kinds, known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The two other kinds, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are primarily linked to all the hyped-up health benefits you have probably heard about omega-3s, from positive effects on mental health to fighting inflammation. The human body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but not very effectively. Microalgae is the only known plant source of DHA and can help raise levels of EPA in the body. The reason fish tend to be so high in these two kinds of omega-3s is because they subsist on microalgae themselves. So the plant-based answer to fish oil supplements might be simply eating what the fish eat.

But the potential use of algae is much broader than simply as an occasional supplement to a vegan diet. There are a few traits that make algae unique among food sources. Algae can grow very quickly and in even the most inhospitable of environments. It doesn’t even require fresh water (hence its ability to grow in the ocean). Essentially, it’s a crop with minimal needs. All of this, combined with its remarkable nutrient density, is huge.

Some startup companies have picked up on this and are working with it eagerly. The richness of algae, combined with its minimal resource requirements, makes it a promising and sustainable nutrition solution. Triton Algae Innovations and iWi are two companies exploring what is possible with algae. Triton grows its algae in labs and iWi farms it in the deserts of Texas and New Mexico. According to its website, iWi’s algae farms produce more “essential amino acids and vital nutrients per acre and gallon of water than traditional plant- or animal-based farming”, all without disrupting marine ecosystems. Both companies have an interest in sustainable nutrition and recognize algae could be a low-input, highly effective way to feed the world.

But what they have in mind isn’t simply supplements and bitter green juices. There are hundreds of thousands of strains of algae, and only some smell and taste like the scummy green stuff you might have in mind. IWi is already selling supplements, but as its CEO, Miguel Calatayud, told CNN Business, the strain of algae that it farms is “virtually imperceptible” and could theoretically be used in a variety of foods without changing the flavor or scent.

Triton, too, is experimenting with versatile uses for algae. One of its ventures is algae-derived heme, the complex that makes the Impossible Burger “bleed”. Its heme, however, doesn’t require genetic engineering, which means it can be labeled as GMO-free, according to Forbes. In the article, Triton’s CEO, Xun Wang, asserted that the company’s algae could be used not just for techie meal replacements, but as an ingredient to make food-foods such as pasta and veggie burgers.

And some strains of algae are ready to cook right out of nature. Edible seaweed is nothing new (as sushi lovers know), but food scientists have begun to look past its traditional uses. You might recall reports from a few years back about scientists at Oregon State University breeding a new strain of red algae that’s highly nutritious and supposedly tastes like bacon. Something like that becoming commercially viable would be a great win for foodies, environmentalists and health nuts alike.

It’s exciting that food tech startups are thinking seriously about not only how to sustainably solve global hunger, but how their solutions can be integrated into real life. From smoothie bowls to bright green and yellow, nutrient-dense pasta, algae might just be the next breakthrough in innovative and sustainable nutrition.

  • Brian Kateman is president and co-founder of the Reducetarian Foundation

10 Ways to Eat Algae (That Aren’t Weird At All!)

Corbis Images

While the green stuff floating around in a lake might fall pretty low on the list of ingredients you want on your dinner plate, algae deserves a second glance. Certain types of algae (think seaweed) could be an alternative source of protein, and pack quite a nutritional punch by providing a number of vitamins and minerals like iron and vitamin A.

According to a recent presentation by the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago, certain types of algae contain 63 percent protein and 15 percent fiber, while all types are easily digested and good for your heart. And while eating algae may sound a little strange, you’re probably unknowingly tasted several types of this plant-and each comes with its own nutritional perks.

The most common form? Seaweed. Whether it’s wrapped around a sushi roll or floating in your miso soup, seaweed is a powerhouse of nutrients, including high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. “I particularly like that it has iodine, which is a mineral that’s great for healthy thyroid function,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N. Seaweed also has antibacterial properties and, according to a study from Newcastle University, can help prevent fat from being digested and therefore reduce obesity rates. It’s even great for your skin!

Algae also comes in a powerful little powder. Blue-green algae strains such as chlorella and spirulina are quick and easy to use. “What is interesting about chlorella is that it contains B12, a vitamin that is usually found only in animal-based food sources. Because of that, this is a vitamin many vegetarians and vegans are deficient in,” says Manuel Villacorta, R.D., author of Whole Body Reboot and the Peruvian Superfood Diet. Meanwhile, spirulina contains the compound zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that has been shown to reduce chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, says Villacorta.

Enough said-now you know algae is great for you. But how the heck do you eat it? Check out these 10 tasty ways to work algae into your diet. (No Top Chef skills required!)

1. Wrap sandwiches in nori sheets. Liven up your lunchbox with a different kind of wrap. Nori sheets, which you can find at your local Whole Foods Market or online, are a great swap for bread or tortillas, says Blatner. Think outside of the sushi roll, baby!

2. Add spirulina to your favorite smoothie. Just like how you sneak greens into your morning blend to score more nutrients, reap all the benefits of spirulina by adding one teaspoon of powder to your regular fruit-and-vegetable smoothie. We like Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica by Nutrex ($53; nutrex-hawaii.com). (In fact, it’s one of our 14 Super Smoothie Boosters.)

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3. Bake seaweed chips. Forget kale chips-try this recipe for homemade seaweed snacks from Nourishing Meals. They’re crunchy and, with a dash of sea salt, they’ll satisfy your salty cravings while secretly stocking your body with nutrients.

4. Add spirulina to homemade sweets. Next time you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to fall too far off the wagon, try adding spirulina to a baking recipe-like these Spirulina Power Bites from Worth Every Bite. Not only are they raw and Paleo-friendly, but they’re vegan and gluten-free!

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5. Garnish your Bloody Mary with toasted seaweed. Move over celery, Bloodys have a new best friend. With a crunchy texture and slightly salty taste, toasted seaweed (which you can buy in packs from stores like Whole Foods) is the perfect snack garnish to your favorite brunch drink, like Candice Kumai’s DIY Bloody Mary Bar. Want to get really fancy? Try this Kimchi Bloody Mary recipe from Beautiful Booze.

6. Swap kelp noodles in pasta dishes. They really don’t taste anything like traditional noodles, but kelp (a type of seaweed) noodles have the same look as pasta-without the carbs and with a lot more nutrients. Since they have a pretty neutral flavor, pair them with delicious sauces like pesto or marinara, and sprinkle with your favorite cheesy toppings (just like spaghetti!). (Other great pasta alternatives? These 12 Sensational Spiralized Veggie Recipes.)

7. Make a seaweed salad. Switch up your mundane bowl of mixed greens by using seaweed as the salad base. To prep, put dry seaweed in a bowl and pour in cold water. Depending on how much crunch you’re looking for, let it soak for five to 10 minutes (the longer it soaks, the more tender it’ll become). Drain the seaweed, squeeze out excess water, and add your regular toppings.

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8. Make miso soup. Stop leaving miso to the restaurants. This recipe by Minimalist Baker only takes 15 minutes to make and is chock full of nutrients-in addition to dried seaweed, the recipe calls for fermented miso, leafy greens, and tofu.

9. Roll your own sushi. Sushi is the healthy girl’s go-to for take out, but it’s time to set the take-out menu aside and learn to roll on your own. Makemysushi.com is a great place to start, with recipes and how-tos for a variety of different types of sushi. (Or watch our video on How to Make Homemade Sushi Maki Rolls.)

10. Top salad with wakame shreds. Goodbye croutons, hello wakame! This type of seaweed (often found in miso soup) offers a somewhat sweet and slightly salty taste, making it a great topping for any regular ol’ salad. Plus, it’s crunchy, so it’s a healthy replacement for croutons.

  • By Jami Foss

What are the benefits of seaweed?

The following are the best health benefits of seaweed:

1. It is highly nutritious

Share on PinterestSeaweed is a rich source of iron and iodine.

Each type of seaweed may contain slightly different nutrients and minerals.

In general, however, eating this marine algae is a simple way to boost a person’s intake of vitamins and minerals without adding many calories.

As a study in Marine Drugs notes, seaweed is generally a good supply of:

  • protein
  • carbohydrates
  • fiber
  • minerals
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids

A study in the Journal of Applied Phycology points out that the various types of seaweed contain helpful nutrients, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • iron
  • iodine

Seaweed also contains antioxidants, which may protect the body from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation at the cellular level.

2. It may help with thyroid function

The thyroid gland controls and releases hormones for energy production, growth, and cellular repair.

The thyroid needs iodine to function correctly, but the amount that a person requires depends on the state of the thyroid.

Iodine deficiency is one cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). It may result in the development of a goiter, a visible enlargement of the thyroid gland.

People may be able to prevent or improve hypothyroidism by ensuring that their diet contains sufficient iodine.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excessive amounts of hormones. An excessive iodine intake may worsen symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Seaweed is very rich in iodine. According to a study in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, kombu is the richest source of iodine, followed by wakame and nori. Kelp powder is also a significant source.

The type of seaweed and location in which it was grown can alter the iodine contents.

3. It may help with diabetes

Share on PinterestSeaweed may help in the management of diabetes.

Fiber-rich foods may help with diabetes. This is because high amounts of fiber help regulate blood glucose levels and insulin levels. Adding seaweed to the diet may help increase a person’s fiber intake without a large increase in calories.

A 2018 study in rats found that compounds in one type of seaweed may directly reduce markers of type 2 diabetes, such as high blood sugar.

Compounds in seaweed may also reduce diabetes risk factors, such as inflammation, high fat levels, and insulin sensitivity. Further research in humans may help provide stronger evidence for the use of these compounds.

4. It may support gut health

Bacteria in the intestines play an important role in breaking down food and supporting digestion and overall health.

Algae may be an ideal food for the gut. Authors of a study in the Journal of Applied Phycology report that algae tend to contain high amounts of fiber, which may make up 23–64 percent of the algae’s dry weight.

This fiber can help feed the gut’s bacteria. Intestinal bacteria break fiber into compounds that improve gut health and the health of the immune system.

Adding algae to the diet may be a simple way to provide the body with plenty of gut-healthy prebiotic fiber, which in turn can help with issues such as constipation or diarrhea.

5. It may help with weight loss

The fiber in seaweed may benefit people who are trying to lose weight.

Fiber helps a person feel full, but it contains very few or no calories itself.

According to the study in Marine Drugs, a high amount of dietary fiber delays stomach emptying. As a result, the stomach may not send signals of hunger to the brain for a longer time, which may help prevent overeating.

6. May protect the heart

As the same study notes, high-fiber foods such as algae may also reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. These soluble fibers bind to bile acids or salts in the body.

The body then uses cholesterol to replace these elements, which may result in a decrease of total cholesterol by up to 18 percent.

Many types of algae also have high levels of antioxidants, which may also support heart health over time.

Algae, or seaweed, is a traditional, nutrient-rich ingredient commonly used in Asian cooking, particularly in Japan. Kombu (kelp), wakame, nori (laver) and hijiki are all important ingredients in Japanese cuisine.

In Great Britain, Iceland and North America, dulse was a traditional food, either chewed on its own or cooked in soups and vegetable dishes; the British also enjoyed laver. Algae is also an important component of vegan and macrobiotic diets, because of its ocean-fresh taste and chewy texture.

Algae are rich in minerals and vitamins, too. You can eat algae in every course of your meal, if you wish.

Soups and Salads

Kombu is a kind of Japanese kelp used in dashi, the traditional soup stock. You can start your meal with soup, salad or perhaps some of each. Basic Japanese soup stock, dashi, would not be true dashi without the addition of kombu (kelp). You can enhance your salads with sea vegetables, such as dulse (a sweet algae enjoyed by Native Americans) and wakame (a leafy, mild seaweed). And what better to put in a salad than sea lettuce (ulva lactuca)?

Main Courses

Sheets of nori are used to wrap sushi rolls. You can enjoy algae in your main course, too. Try a plate of nori-wrapped pieces of sushi, or some traditional Welsh laverbread patties.

Nori (laver) is the seaweed wrapper used in Japanese sushi rolls, known as norimaki. Nori is sold in sheets that are toasted first to bring out their flavor and then wrapped around seasoned rice and fish or vegetables. In parts of Great Britain, algae is also eaten in main courses, particularly in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Laver is cooked and made into laverbread in Wales, a green puree that resembles spinach. The laverbread is sometimes mixed with oatmeal, shaped into patties and fried.

Side Dishes

Wakame, the leafy Japanese seaweed often found in salads, can also be cooked with bamboo shoots and eaten as a Japanese vegetable dish called wakatakeni.Hijiki, a chewy, black strong-flavored algae found in Japan, and arame, another kind of Japanese algae, can both be cooked as part of a side dish with carrots and onions.

Wakame is a seaweed that goes well with bamboo shoots.

Funori, called antler vegetable in China, is stir-fried and eaten as a vegetable side dish there; in Japan, funori is used as a thickening agent in sauces and main courses.

Desserts

Milk jellies, such as blancmange, are often set with agar agar. For desserts with algae, you will probably be having some kind of jelly or blancmange (jellied milk pudding). Both of these depend on algae to set in a jellied form. Agar agar is a mucillage extracted from seaweed used extensively throughout Asia for making jellied desserts. It is called kanten in Japan and is known as grass jelly or seaweed jelly elsewhere in Asia.

The gel it produces is not affected by heat and humidity, so it is ideal for desserts in warmer countries. If you don’t care for jellied sweets, you can have ice cream as part of an algae-themed menu. In Europe and North America, carrageen is a gelling agent made from several kinds of algae; it is often found in puddings, blancmanges and ice creams.

View original article at: Foods Made With Algae

Click here to see the top 10 stories of the algae industry in 2014. Post Views: 2,405

In this article market analysts Frost & Sullivan investigate the various applications for food ingredients sourced from algae, the potential health benefits of algae and what the future holds. As early as 600 BC, algae were considered a delicacy in China! Since the eighth century, six species of algae were used in household cooking in Japan. Today, over twenty varieties are a part of home menus in Japan. Two men were largely responsible for introducing edible algae to the western world — British scientist Dr Christopher Hills and Japanese scientist Dr Hiroshi Nakamura. Their books, Food from Sunlight (co-authored, 1978) and Spirulina – Food for a Hungry World: A Pioneer’s Story (by Dr Hiroshi Nakamura, 1982), outlined research efforts since 1962 and proposed edible algae as the superfood to solve the world’s hunger and nutrition problems. What are the Applications? In the West today, there is widespread interest in algae as nutrient-packed health food. That is not to say that algae have only now found applications in western diets. Carrageenan (extracted from species of red algae) has been used as a stabilising and gelling agent in foods such as chocolate, milk, instant puddings, frostings, and creamed soups. Agar, a colloidal agent derived from red algae, is used to substitute gelatin, as an anti-drying agent in breads and pastry, and also for thickening and gelling. It is used in the manufacture of frozen dairy products, processed cheese, mayonnaise, puddings, creams, and jellies. Alginates (from brown algae) thicken water-based products, also making them creamier and more stable over wide differences in temperature, pH value, and time. A typical application is in preventing ice crystals from forming in ice cream. Green algae’s pigment, Beta-Carotene, is used as a natural food colorant. Another natural colorant is Phycocyanin, derived from Spirulina (a blue-green alga). Sceptics may allow for algae proving useful as concealed food ingredient. But what, they ask, is the need for getting that ‘smelly green slime of seaweed’ into pills, drinks, meal bars, snack bites, soups, broth, brews, and right onto the dinner table? The answer lies in the health benefits algal products offer. What are the Health Benefits? Blue-green algae contain amino acids, vitamins, and trace minerals that tone up the immune system, raise energy levels, and improve general health. Their high chlorophyll and phytochemical content make them effective antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and aid detoxification in the body. Compared to other protein sources, algae are low in fat and high in fibre. Beta-Carotene is known to help fight particular types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases and phycocyanin is believed to strengthen the immune system and fight cancer. Nutrition or Delusion? Many people put the fervent testimonials of improved health (after consuming edible algae) down to the placebo effect. Improved well being could be the product of the psychological benefits of subjective delusion. You believe this pill is good for you, and it will be! It could also be the result of the body performing its own healing and revitalising functions. Many suspect that, taken in the recommended doses, an alga pill’s nutrient value may be negligible. Also, consumer complaints of nausea and diarrhoea have thrown some doubt over how digestible algal products really are. Defeating the Purpose Ironically, it is the algal product manufacturing community that has been working most against the cause of the superfood it strives to promote. Cost-cutting, unscientific and unethical practices in selecting, harvesting, and processing the seaweed have resulted in the marketing of some products with higher than allowed levels of impurity and toxicity. For instance, in 1999, Health Canada’s survey revealed that many non-Spirulina blue-green algal products, harvested from natural lakes, contained microcystins (a toxin) above acceptable levels stipulated by Health Canada and the World Health Organisation. Exaggerated therapeutic claims (that address every conceivable ailment without scientific substantiation) have also dented credibility. In truth, the surfeit of claims and counter claims from competing brands has done more to confuse than clarify. Food for the Future? Despite these limitations, there are several trends working in favour of algae. For instance, the increased emphasis on ‘all-natural’ foods is strengthening the pitch for algal products. The relatively high yield per acre, of land and water used for alga harvesting, will also add points on the ecosystem-friendly and productivity counts. The ability of algae to rapidly replenish their numbers after harvesting also puts them in the sustainable farming bracket. But if this rediscovery of algae has to prove beneficial to consumers today, then those championing the cause must spend some time in self-examination. Harvesting must be monitored with rigorous quality control. Claims on algal products must be backed by thorough scientific research. Efforts must also be made to help algae shed the archaic but prevalent image of unpalatable ‘pond scum’. Only then will this ancient food win over more converts in the new millennium, and bask in the sunlight of a global following. Ivan Fernandez, Frost & Sullivan Food Vertical Portal Manager

What Are Foods Containing Algae?

Foods that contain derivatives of algae include ice cream, milk, syrup, icing, fruit juice, salad dressing, whipped topping, milk shakes, cheese topping, flan and custard. Brown algae, or alginates, are kelp products used to thicken, suspend, stabilize and emulsify various foods. Red algae, or carrageenan, stabilize and gel foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

About half the alginates produced on Earth go towards making ice cream and dairy products. The rest goes for rubber, paint and shave cream. This type of algae thickens dye for sharper colors. Dentists use alginate to make molds of teeth.

Carrageenan thickens dairy products and gives low-fat foods a fuller taste. The essential task of carrageenan is to keep fluids fully mixed in containers. Prevention magazine states manufacturers can reduce carrageenan by adding “shake well” to labels.

Green algae is used primarily as a food coloring. This kind of kelp is rich in beta carotene due to chlorophyll in the plant. There are more than 4,000 species of green algae, most of which grow in shallow parts of the ocean.

The Cornucopia Institute and Prevention both advocate buying foods without carrageenan because this type of algae may cause gastrointestinal distress. Prevention states carrageenan may cause an immune reaction similar to salmonella poisoning.

Can you eat algae

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