Nuisance Algae FAQ
Ridding yourself of Nuisance Algae
By: Gregory S. Taylor
Nuisance Algae is well, a nuisance
Nuisance algae can be caused by several factors. It's widely accepted that every
tank will have a bout with algae at some point in it's history. It's a normal
occurance that shouldn't cause panic. In fact, some amount of algae is a sign
of a healthy, thriving tank. Unless your algae problem is growing with no signs
of slowing, my advice is not to worry about it.
What are the contributing factors of hair algae?
High Phosphates / Nitrates. These nutrients fuel the growth of hair algae.
Lighting. Flourescent and MH bulbs slowly shift spectrum while improper bulb selection
can fuel algae growth from day one.
What can you do to control and eliminate hair algae? (in no particular order)
Harvest as much of the algae as you can by hand. If you pull the algae
out of the water you are removing all the nutrients that algae consumed. If you
leave the algae in the tank it will eventually release the nutrients when it dies
and decomposes, fueling the cycle even further. It will help your frustration
level if you think about how nice it was for the algae to convert the nitrate
and phosphate into a form that you can actually grab ahold of and remove from
your tank manually. It's a lot cheaper than a water change.
Don't scrub or brush the rock when you remove the algae. Scrubbing or brushing
the rock will more likely spread the scourge rather than stop it. Scrubbing also
will prepare the rock surface for attachment of new algae. It's much better to
simply "pull" the algae off and remove it from the tank in one motion,
attempting to not let any of the algae float free in the water. If there is still
some on the rock, that's ok, you don't have to remove every last trace, it will
eventually die off.
Run a skimmer. A good protein skimmer will help pull nutrients out of the
water that bad algae feeds on. Reduce your light period. Depending on what other
organisms you have in your tank, you can reduce your light period anywhere from
a few hours a day less than normal to none at all. Use your own judgement based
on your tank. I wouldn't do this until I had harvested as much of the algae from
the tank as possible, otherwise you will have a lot of dead algae polluting your
Use a pure water source for all water additions. Using RO, RO/DI, or some
other water purification that removes phosphates and Nitrates will prevent you
from feeding the problem right from the start.
Water Changes. Water changes can reduce Phosphates and Nitrates but it
probably won't fix the problem long-term. You need to find the source of nutrients
and resolve the problem at that point.
Replace old bulbs. Always replace your bulbs at the recommended time periods.
Don't use "grow" or plain old bulbs. Grow bulbs tend to have more light
from the "red" portion of the spectrum which helps algaes grow but does nothing
else for your tank. Get rid of them and spend a little money on good marine bulbs
that are the proper spectrum.
Don't let natural sunlight into your tank. Some people have been very successfull
at using natural sunlight to light their tanks. However, if you are having an
algae problem, then I would stop using sunlight until you get it under control.
Get a good cleanup crew. The formula that worked for me was (roughly) 1
snail per gallon and 1 hermit for every 2 gallons. (In my 55 I put 40 snails and
Don't over feed. In fact, you should decrease or (some suggest) stop feeding
completely. Over feeding can create a surplus of nutrients. Uneaten food decomposes
into the perfect fuel for hair algae. A large cleanup crew will help you with
this situation also, as they will eat "overfeedings". Feeding less reduces the
nutrient "input" into your system, giving the algae less "food". Additionally,
not feeding will theoretically induce the critters in your tank to eat the nuisance
algae. It's kind of like when Mom said "No dessert before you finish your brussel
Grow competing 'good' algae like calerpa, etc. These algae can also become
annoying as they can grow very quickly as well. Also, you may have trouble keeping
them in your tank if you have fish that eat them. (Tangs for example). A refugium
is a good way to grow macro-algae's without letting your fish eat it all.
Another competing 'good' algae is coralline. Be sure your pH, Ca and Alk
levels are appropriate for good coralline growth and eventually it will take over
any vacant spot in your tank.
Adequate water circulation. Good water circulation is also attributed in
ridding a tank of hair algae. Try adding more powerheads to your tank
Clean filters regularly. Be sure to clean any physical filters at LEAST
once a week, more often is better. Any pre-filters should be rinsed throughly
and any algae removed from them.
Lower water temperature. If you have the capability, lower your water temperature
to about 74 degrees. The concept here is that this temperature shouldn't effect
inverts or fish, but will stunt the growth of the algae.
Most importantly, be patient. The algae will not go away overnight. It
can grow faster than you can pull it, but it recedes very slowly. Don't get discouraged
and keep harvesting as often as you can. You will beat it eventually!
This page last
June 8, 2003
2001 by Gregory S. Taylor. All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means,
without permission in writing from Gregory