Tips on battling nuisance algae in the marine aquarium

16 Things you can do to eliminate Nuisance Algae in the Saltwater Aquarium

1.Use only Ro/Di water. Water from a reverse osmosis unit is striped of nitrate, phosphates, silicates and other possible algae food. This water should be used for top offs and water changes. It should also be your first step in battling algae, and it will remedy a whole host of nitrate problems.

2. Increase water movement. This is a two-fold solution, first it keeps detritus suspended in the water column and allows it to either be filtered or eaten. It also makes it harder for algae to attach itself onto your substrate or rocks. This is generally a good solution for diatoms.  Make sure your reef tank does not have any “dead spots” or areas where there is no flow. Increasing water movement is a must for battling hair algae, as hair algae prefers to grow over spots with a lot of detritus.

3.Run a phosphate remover such as Phosban in a phosphate reactor. Simply enough phosphates are generally the leading cause of nuisance algae and chances are if your testing for phosphates you probably are not getting a reading for them. This is mainly do to the algae using up phosphates at such a quick rate that they are almost not detectable in the marine aquarium.

4. Run a phosphate remover in your top off water and/or your water change if your test kits test for phosphate. This will eliminate the phosphate before you feed it to your algae.

5.Change your light bulbs if they are more than 6-9months old. My suggestion is 6months for pc’s and 9months to a year for your metal halides. Your lighting looses its spectrum and intensity as the bulbs grow older…i will not go into further detail as to how or why because its a 20 page blog in itself.

6. Reduce your reef’s photo-period. Cut your lights back if you don’t have light loving inverts in your reef aquarium.

7. Cut back on your feeding. We all love our fish and corals but lets face it this isn’t a Big Bertha’s all you can eat buffet. I feed my tank’s inhabitants a maximum of four times a week, however I make sure everyone in the tank gets fed properly. The more you feed your tank the more pollutants become available to feed your algae.

8.Raise your magnesium levels to 1600ppm. This will help control the hair algae bryopsis.  Bryopsis is an algae you do not want in your reef aquarium, once it gets a foothold it is very tough to exterminate.

9.Clean up crew. Make sure you keep a good efficient clean up crew. Astrea turbo snails, emerald mithrax crabs, diadema urchins and blue legged hermit crabs are what I would suggest for hair algae and general detritus clean up. There are plenty more but that’s for another blog in the near future.  Here is a link to my list of snails that may help you decide which ones to choose when creating a cleanup crew.

10.Water changes. Your aquarium is a closed unit, there is not a constant supply of fresh saltwater to wash out all the pollutants. The only way to get new water is water changes. The general thought on this is 10% of your tanks total water volume (include the water in the sump, skimmer and refugium if applicable). While you are changing your water take a turkey baster and blast off the detritus on your live rocks and suck it out!

11.Get an efficient skimmer. Foam fractioners as they are sometimes referred to, remove organic waste from our systems.  Make sure yours is producing a nice dark colored stinky mess and clean it frequently even if you dont pull a lot of skimmate.

12.Add a refugium. Add controlled algae such as cheatomorphato compete with your nuisance algae. This is also a great place for copepods and amphipods to breed and live.

13. Check your carbon. Believe it or not some carbon will leach out phosphate! Check the brand your using to see if it will leach it or not, it will usually say “will not leach phosphate” on the container.

14. Pull it out. Get a jump start on hair algae by manually pulling it out. Make sure that when you are pulling it out you don’t loose any strands.

15. Test your water chemistry often.  Once your aquarium is established test your water for possible ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates once or twice a week.  Also keep an eye on your reef’s PH and alkalinity. Paying attention to your reef’s water chemistry will more than likely prevent possible algae outbreaks.

16.  Know your opponents weakness.  Researching and finding out what type of species of marine algae you are having a problem with will benefit you and your reef tank.   For instance there are a ton of different kinds of red algae, but some may strive in different tank conditions.

Feel free to post your tips on battling nuisance algae in the comment section below.

  Bad algae outbreak!

5 thoughts on “Tips on battling nuisance algae in the marine aquarium

  1. we struggled with algae tried so many different things….read about sea hares..found one by chance after looking for months and my word he may be ugly beyond belief, but he has ploughed through our huge thich algae problem with ease in two weeks…luckily he likes dried seaweed cos he is doing such a great little hero he is and has been renamed from ugly fat boy to shrek as there is a slight resemblence and he has done such a good job i have to be kind

  2. Sea hares can be a reefers best friend when it comes to algae, however dont dismiss the long term possitive effects of proper water chemistry and husbandry.
    Sea hares are certainly a strangely cute creature, truely facinating. Im glad to hear that yours will eat dried seaweed. Goodluck with him

  3. i had hair algae for a year, and what worked best for me was lots of cleaners, manually removing the algae with your fingers, and then taking the head of a toothbrush to the areas of rock with algae, and scrubbing it off. be sure to do a water change after you scrub off the algae, it makes the water very cloudy.

  4. Hi sohail,
    Even if you brush off all the algae on your live rock, it will grow back if you dont keep your water parameters in check. Phosphates are one key ingredient for marine algae growth, if you can control them buy using a phosphate removing media then you can beat out nuisance algae.
    Scrubbing your live rock will help the process and will make your saltwater aquarium look good, but only for a short time.

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