You check your aquarium one day, and notice the dreaded green algae have started to appear on the glass or a piece of driftwood. Can it be eliminated entirely? Will it harm the fish and plants you’ve worked so hard to establish?
Algae are microscopic plants that gather together in sheets or clumps. They can quickly build up in the right conditions and turn your aquarium into a murky green mess. At high levels, the algae compete for the nutrients that your aquarium plants and fish need. This can harm your good residents. The best way to deal with algae problems is to prevent overgrowth in the first place.
Prevention is Key
The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies to algae. Here are some easy ways to keep algae from overgrowing.
- Place your tank out of direct sunlight. Algae, like other plants, grow well in sunlight.
- Put your aquarium lights on a timer. You don’t need the lights on all the time. Eight hours is a good average time for ornamental aquariums, while 12 hours works well for reef aquariums and planted fish tanks.
- Use broad-spectrum aquarium lights and change the bulbs regularly. This gives you the best spectrum for your aquarium plants without over-stimulating algae.
- Test your aquarium water regularly for phosphates and nitrates and remove these nutrients if they are too high. Algae especially adore phosphates.
There are products such as aquarium phosphate absorbent media that can help remove excess phosphates and nitrates.
- Add some live aquatic plants. They’ll beat out the algae for the same nitrate and phosphate nutrients. The algae will "starve" as a result.
- Don't overfeed your fish. Algae use the phosphates and nitrates in the rotted food to grow. Feed your fish just once a day. Remove any leftover food after the fish are done eating, or about five minutes.
- Add algae eating and bottom feeder species of fish. For freshwater this may include a dwarf Pleco or Cory Catfish. Plecos love eating algae, and the Cory’s will eat up leftover food from the bottom of the aquarium that contribute to algae overgrowth. For saltwater aquariums this may include a Blenny or Goby Fish. Don't overpopulate your tank to do this, however.
- Do a small water change weekly. Ten percent is the recommended amount. Frequent smaller water changes are often recommended versus less frequent larger water changes.
- Check your tap water for excess phosphates and nitrates before adding it to your aquarium. For saltwater aquarium it's recommended to use Reverse Osmosis Deionized water.
- Regularly clean the tank! Scrape the algae off the glass, remove rocks and decorations to scrub them, and vacuum the gravel.
If you have a severe algae problem that causes your aquarium water to turn a murky green, you might need to take more aggressive steps to conquer the problem. A diatomic filter may help.
An Aquarium UV Ultraviolet Sterilizer will immediately help clear the water and kill the algae blooms.
If you are having problems with aquarium algae or need to find items to keep the algae under control, OCReef.com Aquarium Supplies can help you. We can be reached at 949.429.8034 or after hours using our online help form. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff can help you find the best items to keep your aquarium in tip top condition. Call us today with your questions or concerns.