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The Dreaded Algae Problem

By: Melissa Buchanan (aka Mollielover)
How do I get rid of the algae in my tank is one of the questions that I see most often with aquarium owners. Algae can invade your tank when you least expect it, due to too many nutrients in the water column and improper lighting.
You will not be able to get rid of algae overnight and you can never really eradicate it altogether. Algae gets into our tanks in many different ways. It can be transferred by our air, nets, plants and many other things that we stick into our tanks.
There are many ways we can try to control the algae in our tanks. One of the best ways to control the algae is to take away the things that it needs to live. The first thing you need to do is to find out which nutrients are the problem. You can do this with a water test kit. There are several nutrients that can contribute to your algae problem and they are Nitrogen, Phosphate, Light, and Fertilizers.
You can control Nitrogen and Phosphate by not overstocking your tank, not over feeding and keeping up with your weekly water changes. You can never do enough water changes in my opinion. They also make a phosphate sponge to help soak up the extra phosphates. Adding fast growing floating plants such as hornwort will also help suck up extra nutrients from your tank like a sponge.
Light can be a big factor in contributing to your algae problem. Tanks that are near windows and get direct sunlight are just waiting for algae to pop up in them. Moving tanks away from direct sunlight will help a lot. Most of us use artificial light over our tanks and I have found out that the use of a timer can greatly help out with the war on algae. You can set your timer any where from 8-12 hours of light a day which should be sufficient for most plants.
Fertilizers can also present a big problem if you are overdosing. Just because a little is good does not mean a lot is better. I always recommend going lighter on fertilizers until you find a happy balance.
After you figure out what is causing the algae problem you can start to work on it right away. Try to pull out as much of the algae as you can by hand. This may mean pruning off some of the plants that have tougher algae on them. There are a couple of fish and snails that can help out with a lot of algae problems such as Siamese Algae Eaters, Otocinclus, Plecos, and I have found that Ramshorn snails like a lot of it too.
Here is a list of some of the most common types of algae with a brief description.
Green Thread/Hair Algae
This algae looks like very fine green threads that feel something like a cobweb. This algae is very quick growing and can invade a tank in only a few days.
Staghorn Algae
This algae is thicker than hair algae and grows on stems that branch out. It is a dark blue-gray, green and likes to grow in high light were the water moves a little slower.
Black Brush (Beard) Algae
This algae grows in tufts of short black or grayish patches and can cover plants and wood like a carpet. This algae is actually part of the red algae family. In my opinion this is one of the hardest algae’s to get rid of . One of the only fish that will even attempt to eat this algae is the Siamese Algae eater. Using a bleach dip can help kill this algae. I use 1part beach to 19 parts water.
Green Spot Algae
This algae usually grows as little spots on the glass walls of your tank and on some plants. This algae won’t take over your tank it is just not very pleasing to the eye and it can be easily scraped off with a razor blade or even a plastic credit card.
Green Water Algae
This is an algae that floats in the water column. If you do not take care of it your tank will soon be green water. I have found that black outs of the tank are very useful for this type of algae but, by blacking out the tank you are usually not getting to the root of the problem. Green water can be useful in feeding some types of fry.
Blue Green Algae
This “algae” is not really an algae at all but a bacteria it is very slimy and covers everything in the tank like a growing blanket. This algae tends to grow in water that is not getting enough movement and water quality that is not up to par. I am not aware of any fish that will eat this algae.
Although most algae is not harmful to your tanks it just doesn’t look very pretty, I hope that this article will help in some way.

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