5 Best Invertebrates For Getting Rid Of Hair Algae

Hair algae in a saltwater tank is a huge nuisance and if you ignore it, your entire tank can easily be overrun with the stuff.

Hair algae is just one of many types of algae that can form in your saltwater tank. 

One of the most important tips for getting rid of hair algae is to act quickly when you notice it. 

Don’t procrastinate and allow it to grow and spread as removing it later will become more difficult and a nightmare to deal with.

Fortunately, if you are dealing with hair algae issues, there are things you can do to get rid of it.

One of those ways to combat hair algae is to use invertebrates or clean up crew that will consume it. 

In this article, I will show you 5 of the best invertebrates that will help you get rid of hair algae.

  1. Emerald crab
  2. Tuxedo Urchin
  3. Hermit crabs
  4. Margarita snails
  5. Tiger Cowrie snail 

1. Emerald crab

The Emerald crab is one of the best scavengers you can have in a saltwater tank. They are very effective in eating many types of nuisance algae, including green hair algae. 

These crabs are nocturnal and will hide in caves throughout the day. Once comfortable in your tank, they will venture out into the open space. 

The Emerald crab is a very common crab to see in saltwater tanks. They have a shiny green body with hairy legs.

They are very beneficial to have and are easy to find in most stores. 

Most Emerald crabs are peaceful and will get along with other invertebrates and fish in the tank. 

They won’t bother your corals unless they are not fed properly and lack nutrition.

You can supplement their diet with frozen meaty foods, dried seaweed, and flake or pellet food. 

2. Tuxedo Urchin

Urchins are an important part of a cleanup crew that will consume hair algae and other forms of algae. It is common for them to eat coralline algae, so if that is something you desire in your tank, keep that in mind.

They are an easy-to-care for invertebrate and won’t bother others in the tank. Including corals as they are safe for reef tanks.

The Tuxedo Urchin is available in a variety of colors, including red, blue, and black. They will have up to 10 colored bands with spines, giving them a very neat appearance. 

Urchins in general are slow-moving and like to hide under rocks. It is common for them to pick up rocks and shells in their spines and I have even seen corals growing on them. 

Their spines are sharp, so they will inadvertently have things stick to them from time to time.

 3. Hermit crabs

Hermit crab

These little creatures do an amazing job of cleaning up hair algae. There are many different types of hermit crabs for saltwater tanks. Most of them will eat hair algae.

These crabs are known for swapping shells as they don’t grow a shell of their own. As they grow, they will move on to a bigger shell. 

Hermit crabs are very small, so you can have several in your tank. If your purpose is to eliminate hair algae, add at least 1 per gallon tank size. 

They are very affordable to buy so if you are having a hair algae outbreak in your 100-gallon tank, buy 100 hermit crabs and watch how effective they can be.

You will see a big difference in a short amount of time.

4. Margarita snails

Many different types of saltwater snails will eat hair algae. But none of them compare to the margarita snail. This snail is a small but powerful hair-eating algae machine.

One of the reasons they are so popular is due to the amount of hair algae that they will consume.

If you have a tank with multiple margarita snails, you have a good chance of ridding them from your tank easily. 

Margarita snails are dark and can grow up to 1”. They are peaceful and will not bother other invertebrates or corals in your tank. 

They require a constant supply of algae in the tank to feed on. They will consume uneaten foods and detritus in the tank as well.

They can also do a great job of keeping your equipment in the tank clean. They will devour any algae that grows on it. 

5. Tiger Cowrie snail

Tiger Cowrie snail

The Tiger Cowie is one of the larger and unique snails to keep in a saltwater tank. They can grow up to 4” and require a 30-gallon tank, especially if you are keeping multiples.

These snails have a unique shell that is shaped like an egg and is glossy with spots. These snails prefer to have plenty of rock formations in the tank for them to hide in.

They will do a better job of eating algae and uneaten foods when young. As they get older, they will require supplemental feedings of frozen fish and mussels. 

The Tiger Cowie will eat some corals if they are hungry. Mostly soft corals are the concern. But if there is plenty of food for them to eat, they will most likely not bother corals. 

They can also eat some anemones and sponges. They are best kept with urchins and starfish. 

Check out: 5 Amazing algae eaters for saltwater tanks

What causes hair algae?

There are a few main reasons why hair algae forms and grows in your tank. The biggest being water parameters. Hair algae is fuelled by high phosphates and high nitrates.

If both of these are not within the proper limits, hair algae will thrive and be difficult to control. Phosphate should be below 0.03 ppm and nitrate should be below 10 ppm. 

One of the best ways to prevent this is by using RODI water. Tap water should never be used and is a huge cause of hair algae.

Check out: Affordable way to make RODI water here

Hair algae is more common in newer tanks that are not well established yet. Over time, the hair algae will die off as your tank matures. 

Lighting is another concern for hair algae growth. Algae loves light and if you leave your tank lights on for too long or have too much white lighting, hair algae will grow.

Also, check to ensure your bulbs don’t need to be changed. If using T5 lighting, the bulbs will need to be changed out every so often.

What are the best methods for getting rid of green hair algae?

Although invertebrates and members of a cleanup crew are very effective at removing hair algae, there are other methods you can use. 

The most time-consuming and difficult way is to manually remove it from the tank.

Pulling it out of the tank using your fingers or prongs can sometimes be your best option if the hair algae is getting out of control. 

Ensure that you are rinsing your hands every time you pull out a clump of hair algae as you don’t want small pieces of it floating around your tank where it can reattach and grow more.

Performing regular water changes can also be helpful in removing hair algae. Anytime you can remove excess nutrients is a huge help. 

Increasing the water flow in your tank can also be effective. If you have areas of the tank that are not getting much flow and algae is growing, consider increasing the water flow from your wavemakers. 


Dealing with hair algae can be very frustrating. It can take a long time to battle an outbreak, and it can make a saltwater tank look ugly. You will need a lot of patience to deal with it.

It’s crucial to address any hair algae as soon as you notice it. Using a cleanup crew is a great way to combat it. Not all members of a cleanup crew are effective.

Any of the invertebrates mentioned here are great choices and can really help your hair algae battle.