Top 5 Ways to Clean Algae from Your Fish Tank
Algae is a natural part of the aquarium ecosystem because it helps to purify the water from toxic waste chemicals and serves as a food source for algae-eating fish and invertebrates. It is considered an undesirable guest because too much algae can block your view of the tank and slow down plant growth. Let’s look at 5 easy ways to clean algae from your aquarium decorations and walls.
1. Use Tools to Manually Remove Algae
Physically removing algae with your own two hands is the first approach on our list because it produces immediate results without a lot of waiting, so let’s talk about the most efficient tools to have in your arsenal. If algae is coating your aquarium walls and making it hard to see your fish, an algae scrubber is the simplest way to wipe off the algae. The gentle sponge is made from non-toxic melamine foam, and will not scratch acrylic and glass. Mag-Float Glass Cleaner can be used to remove tough algae, such as green spot. It also comes with matching scraper knives. These glass-safe blades easily cut through green spot algae like a hot knife through butter, saving you lots of time and effort when it comes to tank maintenance. For acrylic fish tanks, please use Mag-Float Acrylic Cleaner and the appropriate acrylic scraper knives.
An algae scrubber can be used to wipe away algae from aquarium walls so that you have a clear view of your fish and plants.
A simple toothbrush is great for scrubbing hard-to-reach areas, aquarium decorations, hardscape, and even plant leaves. Certain hair algae types can be removed by grabbing the algae strands with the toothbrush bristles and twisting the toothbrush so that the algae winds up like spaghetti on a fork. If you notice blue-green algae, brown diatom, or other algae covering the substrate, an aquarium siphon can be used to vacuum it.
Twirl the toothbrush through a mass of hair alga to release it from hardscapes, plants, and fish tank decor.
2. Algae-Eating Animals can help you
Many people search for an algae eater when their fish tank is overgrown by algae. We placed them second because they can only eat certain algae types and may not be able clean the entire tank. But they can be a great second line of defence that can assist in fighting algae. For nano tanks, our favorites include nerite snails, amano shrimp, or a school of otocinclus catfish. For larger tanks, get some bristlenose plecos or Siamese algae eaters to cover more area. You can also read more about the top 10 algae eaters in freshwater aquariums.
The Siamese algae eater is an excellent clean-up crew member for bigger fish tanks, but make sure not to accidentally get its more aggressive lookalike, the Chinese algae eater.
3. Reduce excess organic material in the tank
Algae are adaptable and will eat any nitrogen compounds found in fish poop, fish waste, uncooked fish food or unhealthy leaves. It is a good idea to remove any nutrients from an aquarium that is new or not established. You can use a pair or scissors to trim any dead or alginate-covered leaves in a planted tank. Use a siphon to suck out rotting gunk from the ground, and feed the fish less if you find that they aren’t eating everything you give them within a few minutes.
Blue-green algae loves to grow in areas where there is debris or “dead zone” (i.e., a slow current or a lot of ornaments or hardscape). Improve the water flow by moving the decorations around, filling in gaps between the hardscape with substrate, or getting a stronger filter or circulation pump.
4. Balance lighting and nutrients
Ultimately, the most effective way to get rid of algae is addressing the root problem that is causing the algae to outcompete your plants. Algae use the same resources that plants use to photosynthesize or grow. It can also take advantage of excess nutrients and lighting at an uncontrollable speed.
An outlet timer can be used to balance your planted tank. It will turn on your light for about 6-8 hours per day. Next, you can increase or decrease your nutrient level as necessary. If the nitrate level is above 50 ppm, do a water change to dilute the amount of nitrogen waste. If the nitrate level is below 20 ppm, dose the tank with Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer until the water reaches 20 ppm nitrate. Allow 2-3 weeks to wait between any modifications in lighting or nutrients so you can assess the impact on your plants. Algae can never be completely removed. The goal is to reduce it to a minimum level.
5. Algae Inhibitors can be used to treat the problem
When it comes to chemical treatments, there’s a delicate balance between finding a remedy that is strong enough to affect the algae without harming the animals and plants in the fish tank. While liquid carbon is sometimes sold as fertilizer for aquarium plants it is really an algae inhibitor. It is well-known to reduce algae growth. Easy Carbon is our brand of liquid carbon that is safe for fish and invertebrates, and it has an easy-to-use pump head dispenser for quickly dosing your fish tanks. A pipette can be used to spray Easy Carbon directly on difficult-to-remove black beard algae patches (BBA), which is one of the most difficult types to eradicate. For more details on how to use liquid carbon, read the full article here.
Easy Carbon is effective against persistent algae outbreaks like BBA. Turn off the filter temporarily before applying the chemical to the skin. This will allow the chemical to “soak” the algae for a few moments.
The reason why chemical treatments are the last on our list is that we believe they are most helpful after you balance the lighting and nutrients in your planted aquarium. You can’t use algicides in your tank if you don’t do the above four steps. Your algae growth will continue and the chemical will have minimal to no effect. You can read our article about the 6 most common types and how to stop algae growth.