Quite frankly, aquarium algae is a lot like death and taxes —it’s inevitable. Here are the Top 10 things you can do to minimize how much algae is in your aquarium. As for the other two things, I have no advice.
1. Scrub It Out
This may seem obvious, but manually scrubbing algae can go along way in removing it from the aquarium. It’s best to remove the algae rather than just scrubbing it off a surface. If you knock the algae off the glass and rocks but don’t remove it, it can simply reattach to new surfaces and grow again. Try scrubbing while you siphon with a ”gravel vac” for water changes to immediately remove what you scrub off. We carry a number of “algae scrub and “algae magnets.”
2. Add Herbivores
Add plecostomus, shrimp, otocinclus, flag fish, and snails to freshwater aquariums, or add snails, crabs, blennies, tangs, limpets, and sea urchins in saltwater aquariums for algae control. These animals remove the algae for you so you don’t have to scrub as much.
3. Feed Less
Algae is photosynthetic; it uses light, CO2 and nutrients to grow. Overfeeding the tank can lead to excess nutrients and lots of algae. Only feed your fish what they will eat and stock your tank at reasonable levels to reduce the number of nutrients entering the water.
4. Reduce Light
Algae needs light to survive, but unfortunately so do plants, corals, and fish. Limiting light to only the spectrum, duration, and intensity needed can help reduce algae.
A light spectrum that is more warm or red in color can increase algae growth. Reduce this color by adjusting your LED lights (if possible) and ensuring that you replace your florescent lamps yearly because over time the color can shift towards the red end of the light spectrum.
Light duration should be limited to that which is natural, usually between 6-12 hours a day. If you experience algae problems try cutting down your photoperiod to the 6-hour mark or at least 8 hours. Keep in mind that while the sun may be up for 12 hours in nature the sun is not equally bright all day. Using LED lights that have dawn-dusk effects can allow you to run your lights longer without having them at their maximum intensity all day.
Extremely bright light can also cause algae growth. If you don’t have coral or plants then only use enough light to view the fish. If you do have coral or plants then make a sensible lighting choice that is not brighter than needed, or choose an adjustable LED light that you can turn down if it proves too intense.
5. Raise pH
Low pH can often cause algae because it is linked to high CO2 levels that help algae grow. Raise pH by properly ventilating the aquarium, adding “ATM’s Trust The Shark Alka-haul marine”, “pH buffer”, or using “calcium rector” on saltwater aquariums.
6. Increase Flow
Many types of algae like stagnant water. High water flow is usually desirable because it keeps debris suspended where it can be removed from the tank. Some of the most difficult algae to remove, like cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, can completely disappear with high flow. Use powerheads like “MP-10”, “MP-40” or “MP-60” to increase flow.
7. Add Extra Filtration
Because nutrients are the root cause of algae in most cases, boosting your filtration can help starve out nuisance algae. There are several ways to upgrade your filtration.
Adding chemical filtration media to your filter is an easy way to help get rid of algae. Carbon, resins, and phosphate removers can all help to reduce algae. Phosphate removers, in particular, are very effective at stopping algae growth. Some good choices are Seachem Phos Guard, Blue Life Phos FX, and Coral Vue GFO.”
Using a “refugium” to prevent algae blooms in saltwater tanks can help a lot. A refugium is a refuge where you grow seaweed-like algae to out-compete nuisance algae in your tank. If you have a sump you can use the refugium that came with it or add a “CPR Aquatic In-Tank Refugium.” If you have a non-drilled tank the “CPR Aquatic Hang-on Back Refugiums” can help and if you have an aquarium with a back filtration chamber then one of the chambers can be made into a refugium with the introduction of a light like the “Tunze Eco Chic LED Light.” Using a high powered light like a “Kessil H80 Tuna Flora LED Light” “need light name” or “Kessil H380” can greatly in enhance your refugium's effect.
8. Use a UV Sterilizer
A ”UV sterilizer” can help remove free floating algae and stop the spread of other algae. A UV sterilizer is a UV lamp that water is pumped around. When algae and microorganisms travel through the UV sterilizer the UV light mutates and kills them. This makes UV sterilizers extremely effective at killing free-floating algae that cause green tinted water. It can also stop algae from spreading by killing algae spores and killing algae that you scrub off of the glass and rocks before it re-attaches to a new surface. We have a very large selection of UV sterilizers. Let us know if you need a recommendation. (Note; remember to clean the bulb bi-monthly & bulb replacement once a year.)
9. Try Algaecides
We do not recommend trying an algaecide as the first step in eliminating algae, but when algae prove particularly stubborn then using algaecides can make a profound impact on the nuisance algae in your tank. “Chemi Clean and ”need a mame” are both extremely effective at eliminating the difficult to remove Cyanobacteria algae.
10. No Single Step Will Eliminate An Algae Problem
No single step will completely take care of your algae problem. You will likely have to use many of the steps on this list if your algae outbreak is particularly bad. For example, if you see a bloom of hair algae you might need to scrub the algae off with a toothbrush while siphoning out what you scrubbed, then add “ATM’s Trust The Shark Agent Green” or some” Phosguard” to your filter, then add a sea urchin and some hermit crabs to eat the leftover algae you missed. Finally readjust your led lights to a lower setting and reduce your feeding to prevent it from returning.