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Algae in Fish Tank

Algae growth in fish tank is a normal occurrence, but excess growth can be detrimental to the fish and plants in the tank. Scroll down to learn more about the same.
A fish tank at home can be a wonderful sight, which can get unsightly with the growth of algae. Algae growth in fish tank is a normal phenomenon, as algae is like any other plant, which needs sunlight, water and nutrition for growth. Small amounts of algae in an aquarium is considered to be beneficial, as it becomes a feed for the fish. But, in large amounts, it can be detrimental to the life of the fish and aquatic plants in the tank. Excess algae growth in a fish tank is like overgrowth of weeds in a garden. Both algae and weeds ruin the appearance of the otherwise beautiful fish tank and garden respectively. Apart from that, weeds can lead to the stalled growth of the garden plants, whereas, in fish tank, algae is not good for the health of the fish.

Types of Algae in Fish Tank

Even though, there are various types of algae, as far as a fish tank is concerned, we can classify them into brown algae, green algae, red algae and blue green algae. Knowing the type of algae, which has inhabited your aquarium helps you in choosing the right way to check its growth.

Brown algae: Otherwise known as gravel or silica algae, brown algae is commonly seen in newly set up fish tanks and disappears, once the fish tank matures. It is said that brown algae growth in new fish tanks is due to the high levels of silicates, nitrates and phosphates. But brown algae is mainly linked to presence of high levels of silicates, which may be from the new glass of the tank or the new sand or gravel. Once the amount of silicates is reduced with water changes, the growth of brown algae slows down and it disappears eventually.

Green algae: As mentioned earlier, with a decline in the level of silicates, brown algae disappears, but, it may be replaced with green algae in fish tank. Green algae is normally found in almost all fish tanks in small amounts. It can be in the form of spots or hairy. It is consumed by algae eating fish and can also be removed manually. Green algae is not a cause of worry, in case of aquariums with routine maintenance, but care must be taken to prevent its overgrowth.

Red Algae: Red algae, which is otherwise known as brush or beard algae is considered to be the toughest type to be removed manually. It is typically seen in fish tanks with high carbonate hardness and high pH. Tackling this problem can curb the growth of red algae. Otherwise you can also go for Siamese algae eaters, which feed on red algae.

Blue Green Algae: Though, known as algae, blue green algae is a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria, which is capable of photosynthesis. This bacteria flourishes in fish tanks with low nitrates, but high levels of other nutrients, like, phosphates. Seen as a slimy coat of different colors, cyanobacteria is harmful for the fish and plants in the fish tank, as it releases harmful toxins. This is not eaten by fish, but can be manually removed, as it occurs in the form of sheets. Care must be taken to prevent its regrowth, by improving the aeration of the tank. It can also be prevented by using erythromycin.

Causes of Algae Growth in Fish Tank

Small amounts of algae can be seen in most fish tanks, algae growth is inevitable, due to the favorable conditions, a fish tank can offer. Algae growth in fish tank can be controlled with sufficient measures. It is only when it becomes out of control, that algae can pose serious threat to the ecosystem of a fish tank. So, it is very necessary for a person, who sets up a fish tank, to understand the causes of algae growth and the measures to control it. One of the key component for algae growth is water, which is abundant in a fish tank. Others are nutrients, light and absence of predators.

Light: Direct sunlight can offer a favorable condition for algae growth in fish tank. Other sources of light can also lead to algae growth, if the fish tank is exposed to this light for very long hours. Too little light is also not advisable, as it is can promote the growth of brown algae. Even those bulbs, which are deadened may also lead to algae in aquarium.

Nutrients: Like any other plants, algae too need nutrients for growth. They need nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in a fish tank. Excessive nutrient level in a fish tank can be due to the high levels of nitrates and phosphates in your tap water, which is used in the fish tank. If your tap water does not show high levels of nitrates and phosphates, then the possibility is that you are overfeeding your fish or the fish tank is overcrowded. The reason why this happens is, left over food and fish wastes can also lead to high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water.

Algae Eating Fish and Aquatic Plants: Absence of algae-eating fish and aquatic plants in a fish tank is also a favorable condition for algae growth. While algae eating fish feeds on algae, aquatic plants use up the nutrients in the water and starve the algae.

How to Get Rid of Algae in Fish Tank

There is no need to remove algae from the fish tank, if it is in very small amounts. If it is growing at an alarming rate, adopt relevant measures to curb its growth, by understanding the exact cause and the type of algae. The following are some of the methods to get rid of the algae growth in your fish tank.
  • Never place your fish tank in direct sunlight. Exposure to other sources of light should also be reduced to eight to ten hours a day and a maximum of twelve hours, if you have live plants in the tank. Too little light can also cause trouble, as it can be a reason for growth of brown algae.
  • Another cause for algae in aquarium is the high levels of nutrients, like nitrates and phosphates. In such cases, care must be taken to avoid overfeeding and remove the left over food and fish wastes regularly.
  • In case of badly affected fish tanks, you can use a gentle scrubbing pad (acrylic tanks) or a razor blade (glass tanks) for cleaning.
  • Aquatic plants are a good in curbing the overgrowth of algae, as the former consume the nutrients in the water, leaving very meager amounts, which will not be sufficient for the algae to survive.
  • Aquarium care must include regular water change, at a rate of 10% per week.
  • Add algae-eating fish to the fish tank. There are many types of such fish, which feed on algae and prevent its overgrowth.
  • Clean fish tank accessories, like, filter on a regular basis.
Most cases of algae overgrowth can be tackled or prevented with the above said methods. The most important thing is to avoid the favorable conditions of algae growth by adjusting the key components like nutrients and light.

Algae growth is not a cause of worry, unless it is in very large amounts, so as to harm the aquarium fish and plants. Minor algae growth is normal and inevitable and often enhances the natural looks of the fish tank to some extent. However, take care that the algae in fish tank do not overgrow and control measures should be adopted.
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Published: October 15, 2009
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i got a 55 gallon tank cant what this is its like a white dust spray on my glass on inside - mark [November 16, 2013]
thank you i believe this is the answer to my promblem with green algae in my tank glad was able to find this - Ricky Bobby [April 2, 2013]