by Abhishek P November 10, 2018

When it comes to aquascaping, one specific word spells the difference between beauty and horror: algae. Aquarium Algae is perhaps one of the most crucial things in your aquarium and is one of the most important things you would have to understand if you want to keep your aquarium sane and healthy.

As we have mentioned, learning and understanding algae is nothing short of a duty when having an aquarium and that’s what we are doing today. In the coming paragraphs, we will learn everything that needs learning when it comes to Algae.

We will start by defining what algae are and then proceed to how algae can overpopulate. After that, we will dwell on the types of Algae and finally end by discussing prevention techniques.

Knowing about algae, more specifically the factors of algae growth, will really help you keep a healthy and well-balanced aquarium. Furthermore, algae can be persistent so learning the ins and outs of algae can help you treat the problem itself and not just its symptoms.

1. What is Algae? 

Algae refers to a large group of simple and nonflowering plants. Algae is an umbrella term for a unique and diverse group of autotrophic aquatic organism who can feed themselves through photosynthesis.

Algae are nonflowering and are usually clustered together in large groups which is why they appear to be some sort of bush in your aquarium, particularly attached on your rocks, leaves, bonsai driftwood and other aquarium decoration pieces. They are simple and contain chlorophyll which means that they are not complex living things and can thrive on their own by making their own food.

Basically, those green things you are seeing around your aquarium, those are algae.

In all honesty, a little algae in your aquarium is not bad at all. In fact, you could go on and say that it is beneficial for the ecosystem of your aquarium. The presence of algae is a good indication of life in your aquarium, however, too much of one is not good anymore and the same principle applies with Algae.

Appearance-wise, having algae is great. It gives your aquarium a natural and authentic look while giving it color. But algae can reproduce rapidly and before you know it, your aquarium is looking like an algae slush already rather than a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

2. How Do Algae Thrive? 

Algae infestation is a common problem among aquarium owners. More often than not, inexperienced owners or those who are not very familiar with algae experience this problem only to realize that they could have prevented it through simple good habits.

Algae occur due to many factors. These non flowering aquatic plants can really thrive really quickly so just one mistake can actually render really great effects.

A. Not Regular Water Changes

First and foremost, algae can thrive in an aquarium where water is not regularly changed. It is a known fact that whatever your do, algae will really thrive because it is an aquatic environment.

With that said, not regularly changing your aquarium water also means that the same algae you have one month ago, are still the same ones plus more this week.

B. Not Enough Water Circulation

Apart from insufficient water changes, another thing that can propagate algae life is insufficient water circulation. Stagnant water will result to more colonies of algae as compared to an aquarium with great circulation displacing colonies and not allowing them to settle. 

C. Direct Sunlight

Another reason how algae can thrive is through an aquarium receiving direct sunlight. This reason is perhaps one of the most common mistakes resulting to algae infestation and is committed simply because owners who are just starting are prioritizing aesthetics over health.

Yes having an aquarium outside and illuminated by natural sunlight is a sight to see. However, do not forget that algae have chlorophyll and can make a lot more food to propagate themselves with the help of natural sunlight.

D. Too much Light

A lot of owners who have done their preliminary research on algae are aware that these simple plants can thrive with direct sunlight. As a response to that, they place their aquariums inside their house and simply illuminate it with indoor lights.

Indoor lights may not be as strong as direct sunlight but it is still light - it will still propagate algae life. Lights are great but leaving them on too long can contribute to algae growth.

E. Overfeeding

Some people have aquariums for the sake of having pet fishes. That is not an entirely bad thing because a lot of veteran owners are driven by this fact as well.

A common mistake in beginners is overfeeding because, well, they just love feeding their fishes. Overfeeding can produce a lot of waste in your aquarium and one way or another, it will lead to algae infestation.

F. Overstocking

Apart from overfeeding, another mistake is overstocking. For those owners who just love fishes, they tend to add more and more fish thinking that the more, the merrier. Same principle with overfeeding, overstocking can also result to faster and more waste deposits leading to algae growth. 

I. Insufficient Nutrient Control 

Everything in this world needs nutrients, including algae. Although nutrients are great for your aquarium, without proper regulation, things can go south for you and north for the algae in your aquarium. 

These are the major mistakes or reasons why algae can thrive in an aquarium. Always keep these things in mind because we will go back to them once we discuss prevention. 

3. Types of Algae

Much like any specie of plant, there are also different types of algae. Knowing the types of algae that you have can be very important in solving your problem. Each type of algae occur for a different combination of reasons and they are also solved with different solutions.

A. Black-Brush Algae

Black-brush algae are clumps or patches of black tufts reaching around 0.5cm. They usually appear on slow growing plants and can thrive where there is not enough water circulation or aquariums with low levels of CO2.

Removing affected leaves and introducing a Siamese Algae Eater should do the trick. Scrubbing should remove them also.

B. Hair, Thread, Fuzz, etc. 

They are filamentous algae which vary in length but are generally green in color. They thrive in aquariums with low nutrient levels, low CO2 levels, and where ammonia is high.

Introducing Amano Shrimps, Rosy Barbs, and Mollies should prevent them from thriving. You may also try twisting a toothbrush around them to get them out.

C. Diatoms, Brown Algae

Diatoms or brown algae appear to be brown patches on grass, substrate, or plants. They can thrive in newly setup aquariums where silicates and ammonia are still high.

Introducing Otocinclus should be able to speed up the process of getting them out but as your aquarium matures, these algae will just disappear.

D. Cladophora, Blanket Weed

Cladophora or blanket weed can thrive in aquariums with low nutrient levels and low CO2 levels. They appear to be green filamentous algae branching out and a bit gritty in texture.

Tedious as it may sound, removing them requires you to manually pull them out until they stop growing. Amano Shrimps eat them sometimes but is not that reliable as a cure.

E. Green Spot Algae

This one is perhaps the easiest algae to spot with its green circular spotting appearance. They can usually be seen on the glass or on slow growing plants. They can thrive in tanks where there is not enough circulation and where there is too much light. 

F. Staghorn

As the name suggests, staghorn grow in strand and branch out to look like deer antlers. They are black in color and thrive in generally ill-maintained tanks. Fortunately, they can be easily removed by vacuum.

I. Blue-Green Algae

Blue-Green Algae is known as the algae of all algaes due to their superior ability to reproduce and cover everything in their path. They thrive in tanks with a lot of waste and generally ill ones. 

Do every preventive measure we will discuss below to get them out. 

4. How to Prevent Algae

As mentioned, algae can be persistent and hard to get out if you do not know what to do. Sometimes, our preventive measures can even aggravate the situation so be sure to take every step of the way with a grain of salt.

To prevent algae build-up, do water changes at least once a week and don’t you dare be lazy to clean your aquarium when doing so. Avoid direct sunlight also and make sure that your indoor lighting is kept to around 8-10 hours per day.

Keep live plants as a way of putting in competition while algae eaters should be of great help also as a preventive measure. Keep your fish population to an optimal level as well and avoid overfeeding them.

Lastly, remember that algae control is all about nutrient control so do your homework and invest on products that can control algae population.

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Abhishek P
Abhishek P

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