10 Aquarium Algae Types You Should Know About

Planted tanks can look amazingly decorative, but most keepers do not really like having algae around their tanks. Even though algae are just a simpler kind of plants, they often do not look nice and may leave the tank water dirty (or at least to seem as dirty).

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Algae feed on nutrients and light just as all other plants do, but they actually require much fewer quantities thanks to their simplicity. Therefore, as soon as your aquarium gets out of balance slightly, algae will take advantage to grow.

Some of your fish may actually like their presence and feed on them, but they may also block the view and become more of a nightmare than a pleasant tank feature. So, here comes a brief overview of the most common algae types and how to get rid of them.

1. Green Fuzz Algae

As their name itself implies, green fuzz algae are a small kind of unwanted greenery that grows on tank decorations, glass and even on other plants by creating a fuzzy look.

They are a quite common appearance in new tanks which are just going through their cycling phase, but also in mature tanks which are simply out of nutrients balance.

To confirm that, you may perform a simple water test in order to verify what your nutrients and carbon dioxide levels are. If you notice them being outside of normal values, you should, first of all, adjust them accordingly.

Next, an efficient yet fully natural way of getting rid of green fuzz algae is by placing some living creatures which are going to eat them inside your tank. If your other fish allow the presence of these creatures, good and super-helpful cleaners are:

  • Siamese algae eaters
  • Black mollies
  • Amano shrimp.

2. Brown Algae

Brown algae are actually a sort of micro-algae and they are extremely adaptable and resistant. Indeed, they are able of growing rapidly even in those tanks where there is low or no light, as long as they have access to the chemical nutrients which they require to thrive. These can be nitrates, phosphorus and silicates.

This particular type of algae does not look appealing. They start developing as dusty particles on top of the tank substrate and grow later to some sort of a brownish film surrounding the substrate and the glass.

They may also start growing on top of your precious plants. they are quite an often addition both to marine and freshwater tanks, and especially into those where the nitrogen cycle did not have enough time to be completed.  

You should begin sorting them out by first vacuuming the gravel, as this is their very starting area. The earliest, the better. You may also wipe the tank glass surfaces with simple cloths, and to then adjust to proper lightning as well as to normal oxygenation levels. If your issue is persistent, you may decide to add some helpful assistants:

  • Otocinclus catfish

3. Black Beard Algae

Even though it is officially classified as a red type of algae, this particularly is able of producing such light protein which actually makes it seem as blackish. And, on top of that, it grows in dense patches, making them in fact resemble to black beards. They can grow on driftwood, rocks, and glass.

Inconsistent light access as well as inappropriate carbon dioxide levels are what bring to great conditions for these hardy algae to diffuse. Plus, they are quite strong and can be a bit tricky to remove, even when doing it manually. Therefore, the sooner you notice black beards, the easier will it be to get rid of them.

Apart from getting your nutrients and lightning balance back into balance, you will probably also have to use either an algae scraper or to even take some of the affected objects out for a thorough cleaning. If you wish to hire some living creatures to help you out, good options are Amano shrimp and Siamese algae eaters.

4. Blue-Green Algae

Although aquarist keepers like to think of them as algae as they really do resemble to one, blue-green algae are actually a type of bacteria and they are definitely something you do not want to have across your aquarium.

Indeed, even though they grow thanks to the light, they feed on nitrogen. This can quickly lead to your fish and other tank inhabitants losing their ideal water conditions and facing health complications soon.

Blue-green algae can spread in no time and they can literally evolve everywhere. Since they are not real algae, standard cleaning solutions are no option here. Therefore, if you are facing such infestation, you should probably get ahead of the issue and resolve it by using appropriate chemicals and tools. Your fish may be removed temporarily to another tank while cleaning it.

5. Green Spot Algae

These start as tiny green spots, and may even look friendly, but they may also begin to develop quite quickly if the growing conditions are favorable. And by favorable growing conditions, we mean plenty of light as well as low carbon dioxide levels and poor water circulation.

Before even starting to treat your unwanted green spots around the tank, please ensure that you have done the necessary steps to get your nutrients balance back into normal values first. Once this is accomplished, you may simply scrap the algae away by using a scraper for glass surfaces.

Other decorative objects may have to be briefly removed from the tank in order to get cleaned. And remember, you should only allow as much light as your fish require to thrive.

Snails are amazing green spot algae cleaners.

6. Green Dust Algae

These are actually remarkably similar to green spot algae, but with one vitally important difference: if scraped away, they may literally release dust (or more precisely, spores) which can consequentially lead to them spreading even more.

Experts suggest leaving them growing to a full size before handling them. They usually only grow on glass surfaces, so wiping then during a massive water change may be enough. If not, you can always decide to adopt some helpful bristlenose plecos.

7. Staghorn Algae

Staghorn algae are another nasty type of red algae, and they literally resemble to the horns of stags when fully grown. They are very resistant and hard to remove, even by scraping them with apposite tools.

However, they usually affect decorations and plants only, meaning that you can remove the affected objects to thoroughly treat them. Bleach is often the best way to obtain that. And remember, you should carefully remove all bleach residues before placing them back among your fish.

As most algae, staghorns also grow when there is not enough water flow around the tank, as well as once the water parameters get out of normal values. Therefore, you should always get your water specifications back to their normal balance before heading to solve the algae issue.

8. Blanket Weed

Some plants are extremely popular nowadays among aquarist enthusiasts as they look simply amazing. One such example is certainly marimo balls. However, few keepers are aware of the fact that such great additions can actually enhance the growth of unwanted algae.

And if you are now facing blanket weed across your precious tank, you could have some trouble removing it completely.

Most of the time, what you will need to perform is to head to the use of appropriate chemicals combined with manual removal.

9. Water Silk (Spirogyra)

Spirogyras are one of those algae which are often an issue even in those tanks which are generally well balanced and clean. A brief ammonia spike caused by a dead fish body or by a single overfeeding may soon develop into the growth of spirogyra algae.

They are easy to distinguish as they look like bright green strands, and they feel slippery at the touch.  

Water silk is quite difficult to treat so you may need to turn to strong apposite products in order to get rid of them. However, there is a helpful cleaner that you could add to your tank in this situation: the rosy barb.

10. Floating Algae (Green Water)

Green water literally does look like green aquarium water all around, and it is caused by super-simple, single-celled algae which float around its density.  

A lot of factors can lead to green water, including inappropriate nutrients around the tank water as well as ammonia spikes, but also too much lightning. Also, it is hard to remove with partial water changes, as these algae are found everywhere and can re-produce at crazy levels.

However, an UV sterilizer can be greatly helpful here, as well as snails or shrimps which will feed on them.

Wrapping Up

Algae, although being a completely natural and normal part of the aquatic ecosystem, are often unwanted additions to modern captive tanks. Indeed, not only can they steal the nutrients from your carefully selected plants, but they can also bring to a reduced water balance.

Therefore, resolving the issue from the root before it becomes more serious is highly recommended.

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