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. Algae can be a nuisance and cause problems for fish tanks. Let’s talk about 5 easy methods for cleaning algae off your aquarium walls and decorations.
1. Use tools to manually eliminate 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. An algae scrubber can be used to remove algae from aquarium walls. The gentle sponge is made from non-toxic melamine foam, and will not scratch acrylic and glass. Mag-Float Glass Cleaner and the matching scraper blades are great for scraping tough algae such as green spot algae. These glass-safe blades can easily cut through green spots algae like a hot knife through butter. This will save you a lot of time and effort when it is about 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. You can get rid of certain types of hair alga by picking up the algae strands using the toothbrush bristles. The toothbrush bristles will then be used to twist the toothbrush until the algae is shaped like spaghetti. Finally, if you see blue-green algae or brown diatom algae starting to coat the substrate, use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the gravel or sand.
Swirl your toothbrush through a massed of hair algae to quickly remove it from plants, hardscape or fish tank decor.
2. Algae-Eating Animals are here to help
People often look for an algicide to help them when algae starts growing in their fish tanks. They are second on the list because they only eat certain types of algae, and may not be capable of cleaning your entire aquarium. They are an excellent second line of defense and can help you fight algae. For nano tanks, our favorites include nerite snails, amano shrimp, or a school of otocinclus catfish. To cover larger tanks, you can get Siamese or bristlenose algae eaters and/or bristlenose plecos. Check out these top 10 algae eaters for freshwater tanks.
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. Take out excess organics in the tank
Algae is very adaptable and can readily consume the nitrogen compounds that come from fish poop, unhealthy leaves, uneaten fish food, and other organic materials. If your aquarium is fairly new and not well-established yet, it helps to eliminate any sources of nutrients that algae can take advantage of. A pair of scissors can be used to remove any algae-covered or dead leaves from a tank that is planted. To remove any rotting ground material, use a siphon and reduce the amount of food you give fish if they stop eating within a couple 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). You can improve water flow by moving decorations, filling gaps with substrate or installing a stronger filter.
4. Balance the Lighting and Nutrients
The best way to eliminate algae is to address the root cause. Algae uses the same resources (e.g., lighting and nutrients) as plants do to photosynthesize and grow, and if there is too much or too little of any of these building blocks, algae can take advantage of it at an uncontrollable rate.
We recommend that you use an outlet timer to balance your tank. This will turn on the light for 6-8 hours each day. Then, increase or decrease your nutrients as necessary. To reduce the amount of nitrate in your tank, you can do a water change if it is higher than 50 ppm. The tank should be drained with Easy Green all-in one fertilizer until the nitrate level reaches 20ppm. Allow 2-3 weeks to wait between any modifications in lighting or nutrients so you can assess the impact on your plants. It is impossible to eliminate all algae from your plants. Therefore, you should try to minimize the amount of it that you can.
5. Take an Algae Inhibitor
Chemical treatments are a delicate matter. You need to find a solution that will kill the algae but not harm the fish and animals. 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 name of liquid carbon. It is safe to use on fish and invertebrates and comes with an easy-to-use pump-head dispenser to quickly dose your fish tanks. To directly spray Easy Carbon on black beard alga (BBA), you can use a pipette. This is the most difficult type of algae to eliminate. Read the complete article for more information on liquid carbon.
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.
Chemical treatments are last on our list because we believe that they can be most beneficial after you have balanced the nutrients and lighting in your aquarium. If you try to use algaecides in your tank without doing any of the previous four steps, the algae will keep growing back and the chemicals will have little to no impact. Our article on the 6 most common forms of algae provides more information about how to combat algae growth.