Are algae in fish tank good or bad? How to get rid of algae in fish tank naturally?
Little algae in the tank wouldn’t hurt, but getting rid of algae in aquariums is the only fix!
How to get rid of Algae in a fish tank naturally? This process is a multistep one that requires time. Avoid using algaecides as they only cover up the symptoms of eliminating the conditions that cause algae growth.
Plus, we only want to remove algae from the aquarium via natural methods.
As soon as algae become a huge problem in the aquarium, a water test will not always be conclusive in determining the cause of the outbreak or algae bloom.
For instance, algae take up phosphates and nitrates. If either or both are at high levels in the fish tank, this is certainly a cause for algae problems.
But, a low reading of phosphate or nitrate in an algae-infested aquarium can be misleading. Because algae is constantly eating away these nutrients as a food source and fuel for growth, getting an accurate reading can be hard. Nitrate, more often than phosphate, is often plentiful in a problem tank.
How to Get Rid of Algae in Fish Tank Naturally?
Follow these simple steps to get rid of algae in the aquarium:
- Clean the gravel with a siphon to remove debris and waste
- Clean the aquarium filters. Just rinse under cool water. NEVER USE SOAP!
- Increase water flow with a higher rated filter or supplemental powerheads
- Reduce feeding of fish to as little as once every other day
- Replace light bulbs if older than six months (their light spectrum changes as they age) and often favors algae growth as they age.
- Remove phosphates
- Discontinue any fertilizers and supplements
- Use a nitrate remover. Nitrate are a primary food source for algae and a leading cause of algae outbreaks in aquariums.
The best way to prevent algae is to be pro-active
- Use an aquarium nitrate remover even if the nitrates are at low levels
- Perform regular and consistent aquarium maintenance
In the end, every aquarium will face off with some level of algae growth. However, acting on the steps outlined above can avert larger problems.
Algae Run Amok!
How can you get rid of algae growth when it runs amok in your freshwater tank, or at least control it before the fish begins to suffer?
That green gunky stuff climbs the tank glass, covers aquarium decorations, and sometimes even gets on the aquarium inhabitant themselves.
In freshwater tank, algae growth is a natural occurrence, but it can quickly become a nightmare if left unchecked. The good news is that if your fish tank is permeated with algae, there are solutions.
You can immediately limit the level of growth in your tank by practicing the correct tank management habits.
A little algae building on driftwood and rocks isn’t a bad thing. It makes your tank look more natural. However, when you wake up one morning and the glass has turned green, it’s probably time for you to take action.
You’ve got some work ahead of you, but the good news is that controlling algae gets easy once you take a few steps in the right direction.
Don’t resort to chemicals to deal with algae in your tank. There are better, natural ways to tackle the problem.
What Is Algae Anyway?
Algae is a broad term used to classify a wide range of plant-like organisms. There are a small number of types of algae you may encounter in your freshwater aquarium, but brown and green algae are the most common.
Both are a result of normal processes in your tank and no cause for alarm. Brown algae are easily separated from surfaces with a fast wipe, but green algae are a little tougher to get rid of and need to be scraped away.
Like plants, algae contain chlorophyll and create their food via photosynthesis. Therefore, the same circumstances that help a plant to grow help algae to grow.
This is important to know when trying to get rid of algae in a fish tank.
It should be, however, noted that the word algae is a plural term. The single form would be an alga. But if you have only one alga in your tank, you probably don’t have much of a problem, and you wouldn’t be reading this!
The little oto is a great option for helping to clean up algae in your fish tank.
Types of Algae
Once you notice an algae build-up in your aquarium, it is time for you to get rid of it. To do that effectively, you need to know the type of algae you have.
Knowing the algae will aid you in determining the cause and cure. Look at some common algae types and deal with them if you need info on how to get rid of Algae in fish tank naturally.
Also known as silica or gravel algae, this algae is common in new tank and will coat the tank in sheets easily wiped off. However, it is often harmless and will finally go away as the tank matures.
Known as smear or slime algae, excess phosphates and nitrates cause this. In most cases, this is not algae at all.
Instead, it is a cyanobacterium. It can spread rapidly and can cause considerable damage. Good water care will help, but if your water source has phosphates, you may have to use special treatments to remove the excess nutrients.
Erythromycin is effective against blue-green algae but use it wisely, as too much will likely harm the beneficial bacteria colony, too.
Red or beard algae:
The beard algae is the toughest algae to eliminate, and it often appears on plants. However, a dip in a weak (5 to 10 percent) bleach solution for a few minutes will often kill this type of algae.
This is also known as thread, hair, or spot algae. It is a healthy type of algae that every tank will most likely experience to some degree. As long as the tank is well cared for, it will not overgrow.
Also known as an algae bloom, this is caused by the growth of microscopic algae suspended in the water.
It is one of the most frustrating forms of algae to eradicate as it cannot be wiped or scraped off like other algae.
Generally, water changes are not effective, as the remaining algae will quickly grow back. Use of a diatomic filter or completely blocking all light for several days is usually necessary to conquer green water.
How to Remove Algae from Fish Tank Glass
- Algae-Eating Fish and Critters
The first step some aquarium owners take when they realize they have an algae issue is to go out and buy an algae-eating fish.
They toss the fish in the tank and wait for them to clean it all up. Then, lastly, they realize the fish aren’t getting the job done, but it’s not because they are lazy or on a diet.
Critters and fishes can only do so much when it comes to green algae on aquarium glass and brown algae in fish tank control.
They don’t hurt anything, and in tanks where there is minimal algae growth, they may stop it from getting worse, but if your situation is out of control, they might not be able to save you.
Note that most species of plecostomus (the fish) most people turn to for eliminating algae can grow a couple of feet long and are way too big for most aquariums. Consider a rubber-nose pleco instead, as they only grow to a few inches. Also, all plecos can be tough on live plants.
The Chinese Algae Eater is another fish you may consider, but they can quickly become aggressive as they get older.
For most aquariums, the little otocinclus is a good choice. They’re tiny, schooling catfish about an inch in length that will savage your algae like a little army. They should be kept in schools of at least six.
Other critters like Apple Snails will consume some algae too, but may also unleash hell on your live plants in your tank.
If you have many tiny snails in your tank that you can’t get rid of, these guys are thriving on your algae problem. These are pest snails, and they can be a big problem in their own right. But, if you can take steps to decrease your algae growth drastically you’ll also be limiting their food source.
Be aware that algae-eating fish and critters can only do so much. You may need to remove algae yourself. Magnetic algae scrubbers are an easy way to keep your tank clean without getting your hands wet. I prefer the Mag-Float. It does a great job of scraping the green stuff, and if you accidentally drop it, it floats!
- Don’t Overfeed Your Fish.
Speaking of food sources, over-feeding your fish can lead to a big cause of excessive algae growth. How? Why? Because, to put it simply, what goes into a fish must come out!
If you’re letting your fish feed themselves to the gills and watching a lot of excess food fall to the bottom of the tank or get sucked by the filter, you are creating two great food sources for algae: waste from decaying fish food and fish waste.
Like plants, algae will thrive on these things.
Learn to gauge how much your fish will eat in a few minutes, and don’t give them so much food that it’s floating to the bottom of the tank. Consider putting them on a feed/fast schedule where they do not eat one or more days a week. Don’t think of this as cruel: It’s very hard to starve a fish, and by limiting waste in their tank you are creating a healthier environment for them.
- Frequent Water Changes and Tank Maintenance
Besides limiting feeding, you should take care by performing the necessary tank maintenance to keep algae under control.
A good routine to get into is performing a weekly water change of about 30% and a more thorough cleaning.
DON’T CRINGE! There are simple ways to change the water tank that will take you only a couple of minutes, and it’s time well spent.
All tanks accumulate waste chemicals, and by replacing a percentage of the water once a week, you are diluting the amount of pollution.
This means healthier water for the fish and less “alga food” in the water.
Monthly, you need to roll up your sleeves and vacuum the substrate, clean off the decorations, clean the filter and scrape the algae off the glass. There is no substitute for this work, and it is important to make sure you have a clean, healthy tank that is as algae-free as possible.
If you have a planted aquarium, you need to make sure you have your lights on a good 12 hours a day. However, if you have plastic plants, controlling the amount of time you have the lights on is a great way to control algae growth.
Remember that algae create their food via photosynthesis. This means they need light to thrive, just like a plant. If you limit the light, they can’t be as breeding prolifically.
Of course, fish need a day/night cycle to be healthy, just like people do. But in the wild, most tropical fish don’t have a massive light blaring down on them as they do in your tank. The dim light of daytime is a rough approximation of what they would experience in their rivers and lakes back home.
The aquarium light is for you, not them. It lets you see your pretty fish, and that’s nice, but when nobody is home, keep the light off in the tank, and algae won’t have a chance to thrive.
- Avoid Natural Sunlight
If you have a large tank and already made the mistake of placing it in direct sunlight, there is probably nothing you can do at this point.
However, if your tank is moveable, or if you’re yet to set it up fully, consider placing it somewhere that the sun won’t be hitting it during part of the day.
It is simple to see why this is vital. When given a good amount of sunlight, algae will grow crazy like plants. Following the steps above and not providing the necessary food helps cut down the chances of this, but why help the algae?
Direct sunlight isn’t the best thing for your fish, either. The bright light and the increased temperatures in the tank can cause them undue stress, which may erode their health. So fish, tank, and the owner should avoid the sun if possible.
Common aquarium plants will out-compete algae for food sources. | Source
- Consider a Planted Aquarium
Still, searching for how to get rid of algae in fish tank naturally?
Growing natural plants in your tank can go a long way when it comes to limiting algae growth. The reason is obvious, algae and plants are competing for the same food sources.
Where fish waste is bad if you want to stop algae growth, it’s good (to a certain level) if you want to grow live plants. Healthy plants will perform a much better job of nutrient uptake, and the algae will struggle.
Some say certain plants give off natural substances that stop algae growth. This makes sense, as algae can accumulate on plants too, which is not good for the plant.
Planted aquariums still need maintenance, but when done right, they can be perfect little ecosystems that meet the needs of fish and plants alike. When the balance is right, algae growth will be minimal.
Algae in Fish Tank, Good or Bad?
- Algae Bloom!
If your tank water is green and cloudy all of a sudden, you are in an algae bloom! Algae live in the water, not just on surfaces, so a sudden change in any of the parameters that allow them to thrive can cut down a quick burst of algae growth,
This sounds a lot worse than it is, and generally, the solution is simple.
First off, if you’ve had algae bloom, something has gone awry with the control methods listed above. Usually, it’s because of a sudden spike of waste chemicals in the water. You need to figure out why that happened. Did you over-feed? Did you introduce new fish? Have you missed a few water changes?
The remedy is to perform a water change and introduce fresh, clean water, thus taking away some of the nutrients the algae is feeding off. You may wish to perform an extra water change for the week, spaced a couple of days apart. Then, get back to your usual algae maintenance routine.
How to Remove Algae from Fish Tank Decorations?
You must remove decorations and clean them by hand.
Additionally, waste and uneaten food can get trapped in decorations where scavenger fish can’t reach it. Therefore, it is important to get rid of this junk so it does not pollute the water.
But, never make use of detergent or any other household cleaners to clean decorations or anything else that will go inside your aquarium. Residue from these cleaners can be harmful to your fish and may even kill them.
Instead, use hot water and old-fashioned elbow grease. If you need an abrasive substance, you can use aquarium salt, but be sure to rinse the decorations thoroughly before adding them back to the tank.
It should go without saying that this advice does not apply to live plants. Once rooted, they should not be moved. You can vacuum around them, but do your best not to disturb them while cleaning.
No, algae are not all bad. Algae play several crucial roles in your fish tank, pond or aquarium and just like plants, algae generate oxygen. They increase dissolved oxygen in the water which good for higher organisms like fish.
Algae are caused by too much light and dissolved waste. They make your aquarium water look like pea soup. These algae can be beneficial as a natural food source, so you can allow a small amount to remain on decorations and rocks. Too much, however, is unsightly.
- Keep live plants: Live plants will use many of the nutrients that algae thrive upon
- Vacuum the gravel when you perform water changes.
- Keep algae-eating fish: Keeping Siamese flying fox, otocinclus, or even the common plecostomus, will help reduce some of the algae in the tank.
Green water are caused by excessive light and phosphate. If a fish tank receives direct sunlight, or the lights are left on for too long, it can encourage the growth of free-living algae. Fish waste and fish food can be very high in phosphates.
- Keep water changes at about 15 – 20% every other week
- Remove waste from the tank with an aquarium siphon
- Remove nitrates, as this is the primary food source for algae
- Reduce feeding to once every other day
- Decrease the lighting period to no more than 6 hours per day
A few species of algae produce toxins, but most fish die due to algae bloom are a result of decreased oxygen levels. When the algae die, decomposition uses oxygen in the water that would be available to fish. The dinoflagellates then eat the blood and flakes of tissue while the affected fish die.
Yes, fishes like Mollies eat algae. But, not all fishes enjoy algae.
Like all animals, fish may carry germs that make people sick. The most common diseases associated with aquarium fish that can cause human illness are: ExternalAeromonas spp. Aeromonas is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in fresh water ponds and aquariums.
Living With Algae
This article aims to help teach how to get rid of algae in fish tank naturally. But, anyone who is serious about aquarium care should consider investing in a water-testing kit and discovering more about the nitrogen cycle and chemicals in their tank.
It would help if you learned how to monitor the level of ammonia, nutritious, and nitrates in your aquarium. You have a better chance of keeping your water parameters under control.
Many people are probably happy with keeping their tank looking clean and getting rid of the b=greenish, brownish gunky stuff as they can.
Sadly, algae are never going to go away completely as long as your fish still breathes. New spores will come every time you introduce a new plant or fish into your tank, and they can even float in on the air.
It’s best to think of the algae as just another organism in your fish tank.
But, as we’ve seen, even though you won’t get rid of algae completely, you can control it following our how to get rid of algae in fish tank naturally guide. So get up and get yourself into the right aquarium care habits.