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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Dealing with the algae

Find out more about different types of algae and how to deal with them
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - October 30, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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Dealing with the algae

Algae growth is a phenomenon that many aquarists have to deal with at some point in time. A moderate amount in your tank is, by and large, harmless, and is actually a positive sign that your aquarium is able to support life on its own.

Excessive growth, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. Algae proliferation is not only unsightly, but also poses a health hazard to fish and plants. When present in large quantities, algae compete with fish for oxygen. Depending on the severity of the situation and the type of algae that’s flourishing, a proliferation of “bad” algae in the tank could lead to higher levels of toxins, which in turn affect other organisms in the aquarium.

Types of algae

Knowing the type of algae that’s invading your aquarium is helpful in determining the cause and remedy. Several of the common types are as follows:
Brown algae
Also known as gravel or silica algae, this species is common in new tanks. It coats tank surfaces in sheets and is easily wiped off. Vacuuming the gravel with a siphon is an effective way to remove coatings from the substrate. It is usually harmless and will eventually disappear when plants and green algae start to compete with it for nutrients.

Blue-green algae
This type of algae is caused by excessive waste or nutrients in the water. Once it takes root, it can be quite difficult to eradicate. You can remove it by scrubbing or vacuuming, but it will soon return if the underlying causes are not addressed.

Red algae
Red algae (also known as beard algae) is the most difficult to get rid of, and usually appears on plants (though it appears on other surfaces as well). It clings quite tenaciously to plants, so you’ll have to be careful not to tear a leaf or two while trying to remove the algae.

To compound the problem, most fish do not eat this type of algae. To tackle red algae, you can bleach affected plants, get a Siamese Flying Fox, or treat the water with copper, but only as a last resort as copper compounds may have adverse effects on certain varieties of plants and fish.

Green algae
This is the normal, healthy type of algae that most tanks get to some extent. It’s all right to let some grow. When it starts to proliferate, it can be easily scraped or scrubbed off.

Controlling algae growth

While different types of algae problems can be addressed in specific ways, observing some good practices can discourage the proliferation of algae in the first place and thereby save you a lot of hassle.

Avoid direct sunlight
Like any other plant life, algae thrives on sunlight, so don’t expose your aquarium to direct sunlight. Even if you’re using artificial light, make sure it’s not stronger than necessary and not on for more than eight hours every day.

Don’t overfeed
Unconsumed food becomes nutrients for algae. Feed an amount that your fish can finish within two to three minutes, and remove uneaten food promptly.

Regular water changes
Change between 10 and 15 per cent of your water once a week. Not only will this remove free-floating algae, it will also reduce nitrates and phosphates, which contribute to algae growth.

Clean promptly
Once you see algae starting to grow, remove them from your aquarium promptly. Scrape your tank surface, scrub your rocks or decorations, or vacuum your substrate.

Keep plants
Plants will compete with algae for nutrients. Fewer nutrients mean less “fuel” for the latter.

Keep algae eating fish
Keep some algae-eating fish such as the Siamese Flying Fox.

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