How I got rid of problem algae (without using chemicals)March 15, 2009 by: Katie
When I first noticed a strange algae on one of my plants, my heart sank! I spent some time trying to work out what type of algae was growing in my tank: fuzz, hair, beard, brush…. The long, fine strands which moved with the water current seemed most likely to be beard algae. Beard algae is an ugly and virulent algae which I really didn’t want in my tank. It had to go! By the time that I’d decided on a plan of action to rid the tank of this unwelcome intruder, it had taken hold of a number of plants and rocks, almost the entire of the back wall of my tank (and to a lesser extent on the sides and front) and had started growing on the substrate too. At it’s worst, it was maybe 3 inches long.
Here’s what I did:
I took all of the plants out of my tank and removed all affected leaves and discarded all affected plant matter. Bizarrely, some plants were severly compromised by the algae but others were not affected at all. Then, I selected additional fast growing plants which consume large amounts of nutrients. This prevents the algae from using the nutrients itself to promote it’s own growth. I also added some floating plants to control the amount of light entering the tank.
With the plants out of the tank, I removed as much algae as possible from the sides of aquarium. I used an algae scraper and an algae cloth. This was tough work as I found the algae to be particularly stubborn. It took some time to remove all the beard algae from the sides. Although it was never going to be possible to remove 100% of the algae with the scraper, I settled for the fact that vast amounts had gone.
I used an automatic gravel cleaner to clean the entire base of the tank. As I still had the plants in a bucket, I was able to do a thorough job. Once I had cleaned the substrate, I returned the plants to the tank.
I assumed that, by this stage, the filter was probably harbouring some amount of the algae. So I cleaned the filter and replaced media as appropriate.
Once I had got rid of the majority of the algae, I wanted to keep it away. I enlisted the help of a clean-up crew. I decided on amano shrimps and siamese algae eaters (these grow big so require a large aquarium) to keep algae regrowth at bay. As well as being fantastic to watch, this dynamic duo of species make a formidable team. Algae beware!
I carried out these five steps within a fairly short space of time as I was desperate to get rid of the algae. It may be that it can be successfully eradicated by trying just one or two of these methods. However, I have never had algae this bad – I wanted it gone and to stay gone! Now I am careful not to overfeed fish, minimize natural light entering the tank and use my aquarium lights for no more than 11 hours per day (usually 8 hours per day). Anyway, so far it’s working. The algae hasn’t returned with a vengeance and I’m hopeful for the future!