About Algae With Descriptions
The dreaded algae.. Or is it? Not all forms of
algae are bad. Some types of fish such as Mollie's (mainly Black and Sailfin)
and Otocinclus, I call them Oto Cats require some of the nutrients that they
can only get from algae as a supplement in their diets. My favorite
algae consumer is what I call a Rubbernose Pleco. They are also known as
Rubberlipped. Some noted algae "eaters" only spend short periods of their
lifetime actually consuming algae. To date our Rubbernose Pleco's have always
worked the nightshift doing all they can to munch on whatever algae they can
find. They are great.
I guess it's important to remember that algae is a
normal part of aquaria, and if maintained properly, your tanks need not be
overwhelmed with algae and your fish can benefit.
Eventually though, some if not most home aquarists
will have times where they may end up having to deal with the potential
problems that algae can cause in their aquariums. There are several factors
that can account for algae blooms in aquariums. The trick is to be able
to control the algae blooms through limiting what causes the blooms so that it
can't overtake the tank and ruin the beauty of your set-up. When this happens,
the source of the problem needs to be identified and rectified or even if you
do manually remove the algae, it will return.
As is true in so many things, prevention is the key.
Listed below you will find some preventative measures that can be taken to
help insure that algae doesn't become a constant frustration.
Types of Algae: as written by Mr George Booth
- Direct Sunlight-
It's best to never set a tank up where it will get direct sunlight. The Sun's
rays of light are ideal for promoting algae growth. Because we have so many
tanks, and it is virtually impossible for us not to have a tank where it will
receive *some* direct sunlight depending on the time of year and the angle of
the sun. We have purchased shades for the windows to help keep the direct
sunlight off the tanks.
- Adequate Filtration-
Not having enough filtration to clear all the impurities out of your water
will certainly lead to the conditions being right for algae growth. If you can
constantly see little suspended particles in your water, your filtration may
not be adequate or your system may be malfunctioning. We also have two Vortexs
(Diatom XL) that we rotate between our tanks to help "polish" the water.
- Partial Water Changes-
Nitrates, Nitrates, Nitrates.. High concentrations of nitrates in your water
will promote algae growth. As will high levels of phosphates.
If you find yourself having cloudy or green water (which is actually a form of
algae) test your water for phosphates.
- Too Much Of A Good Thing(s)-
Uneaten food left on the bottom of your tank will also promote algae growth.
Also, limit the amount of time you have your strip lights lit on your tanks.
If their is algae present, unless you have plants in the tank which need the
light to grow, keep the lighting off for a few days. This may help to stymie
the growth of algae.
- In Fish Only Tanks-(No Plants)-
The proper use of a ultraviolet sterilizer should kill any algae present in
the water, not allowing it to thrive and grow.
- Converting to a Planted Aquarium-
Plants will usually out-compete algae for the available nutrients. However,
if there is an imbalance of nutrients, algae will opportunistically use
whatever is not used by the higher order plants. Different algae will utilize
different nutrients, causing sporadic outbreaks of new algae types in
apparently stable tanks when a temporary imbalance occurs.
- Blue-green, Slime or Smear Algae-
Grows rapidly in blue-green, slimy sheets. Spreads rapidly over almost
everything and usually indicates poor water quality. However,
blue-green algae can fix nitrogen and may be seen in aquariums with
extremely low nitrates. Sometimes seen in small quantities between the
substrate and aquarium sides. Will smother and kill plants.
This is actually cyanobacteria. It can be physically removed, but this
is not a viable long term solution as the aquarium conditions are
still favorable for it and it will return quickly. Treatment with 200
mg of erythromycin phosphate per 10 gallons of water will usually
eliminate blue-green algae but some experts feel it may also have
adverse effects on the biological filter bed. If erythromycin is used
for treatment, ammonia and nitrite levels should be carefully
- Brown Algae-
Forms in soft brown clumpy patches. In the freshwater aquarium, these
are usually diatoms. Usually indicates a lack of light or an excess of
silicates. Increased light levels will usually make it disappear.
Easily removed by wiping the glass or siphon vacuuming the affected
- Green Water-
Green unicellular algae will sometimes reproduce so rapidly that the
water will turn green. This is commonly called an "algae bloom" and can
be caused by too much direct sunlight shining on the tank or excessive
nutrients being either nitrates and or phosphates.
An algae bloom can be removed by filtering with micron cartridges or
diatom filters. UV sterilizers can prevent the bloom in the first
place. Green water is very useful in the raising of daphnia and brine
- Film Algae-
Grows on the aquarium glass and forms a thin haze. Easily removed by
wiping the glass. Considered normal with the higher light levels
needed for good plant growth.
- Spot Algae-
Grows in thin, hard, circular, bright green spots, usually on the
aquarium glass but also on plants under high light conditions.
Considered normal for planted tanks. Must be mechanically removed. On
acrylic aquariums, use a cloth pad or a gentle scouring pad like a
cosmetic "Buff-Puff" and a lot of elbow grease. On glass tanks,
scraping with a razor blade is most effective.
- Fuzz Algae-
Grows mostly on plant leaves as separate, short (2-3mm) strands.
Considered normal. It might be a less "virulent" form of "beard"
algae. Easily controlled with algae eaters such as black mollies,
Otocinclus, Peckoltia and siamese algae eaters.
- Beard Algae-
Grows on plant leaves and is bright green. Individual strands have a
very fine texture but it grows in thick patches and looks just like a
green beard. It grows up to 4 cm. It cannot be removed mechanically.
This does not indicate bad water quality but grows very fast and
overtakes the tank, making it a "bad" alga. Can be eliminated with
Simazine (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals "Algae-Destroyer").
- Hair Algae-
Grows in bright green clumps in the gravel, around the base of plants
like Echinodorus and around mechanical objects. It has a coarser
texture than "beard algae". Beard algae will ripple in the water
current, hair algae tends to form matted clumps. Individual strands
can get to 5 cm or more. This is easy to remove mechanically by
twirling a toothbrush in it. Can be troublesome if left unchecked.
This is a popular food supplement for fish among European aquarists.
- Thread Algae-
Grows in long, thin strands up to 30 cm or more. Tends toward a dull
green color (hard to tell because it is so thin). Usually indicates an
excess of iron (> 0.15 ppm). Easily removed with a toothbrush like
- Staghorn Algae-
Looks like individual strands of hair algae but tends to grow in
single branching strands like a deer antler and is grey-green. Seems
to grow mostly on tank equipment near the surface. Difficult to remove
mechanically. Soak affected equipment in a 25% solution of household
bleach and water to remove it.
- Brush Algae-
This grows in feathery black tufts 2-3 mm long and tends to collect on
slower growing leaves like Anubias, some Echinodorus and other wide
leaf plants. Also tends to collect on mechanical equipment. This is
actually a red alga in the genus Audouinella (other names:
Acrochaetium, Rhodochorton, Chantransia).
It cannot easily be removed mechanically. Remove and discard the
affected leaves. Equipment can be soaked in a 25% bleach solution,
then scrubbed to remove the dead algae. Siamese Algae Eaters
(Crossocheilus siamensis) are known to eat this algae and can keep it
in check. A more drastic measure is treatment with copper.
All of the algae type descriptions and a portion of the other information
are copyrighted to a gentleman named Mr George Booth. His descriptions of the
different types of algae were just to informative to pass up.
Mr George Booth