Aquarium algae control is an important task in the maintenance of any aquarium, freshwater or saltwater. Algae can grow and invade an aquarium for many reasons. Usually poor water quality or poor maintenance practices are to blame for algae growth that is out of control.
Any aquarium owner knows that algae growing in their aquarium is a natural thing. It is hard to have an aquarium that is completely free of algae, but it’s not hard to keep algae growth to a minimum.
It is not uncommon to have to clean up some algae growth every couple of weeks. If you find that you are needing to clean algae out of your aquarium on a more frequent basis, such as every couple days, you should probably take a look at a few things to prevent the growth of the algae over time.
Powerful and Effective Water Filtration
First things first. Make sure your main aquarium filtration system is powerful enough to effectively filter the water in your aquarium. If your aquarium filtration is not powerful enough to effectively clean the water in your aquarium continually, you might need to step it up a notch or two. Check the specifications on the filtration system that you are using to make sure that it is rated to filter the amount of water that is in your aquarium.
In addition to the power of the filtration system, how you maintain your filtration system will also have an effect on algae growth. If your filtration is not fully removing impurities from the water your aquarium will be susceptible to algae growth, since algae feeds on impurities in the water. Clean your filtration system regularly and be sure to replace filter media as often as needed. Don’t let your filtration system just sit for weeks without checking it and cleaning it when necessary.
Use a Protein Skimmer
An effective protein skimmer will remove organic compounds from the water, further lessening the amount of stuff in the aquarium for algae to feed on. When there is less nutrients and organics in the water to feed algae, it won’t be able to grow as easily.
A protein skimmer should always be used in conjunction with a power filter to help remove wastes from the aquarium water, especially in larger aquariums. Saltwater aquariums will mainly benefit from a protein skimmer. The reason is that saltwater creates enough surface tension for a protein skimmer to actually be able to remove the organic wastes.
Remove Phosphates From Aquarium Water
If your aquarium water contains phosphates and silicates, you are providing the algae with a great nutrition source. Use reverse osmosis water purification to remove phosphates from the water before you add it to your aquarium.
In addition to purifying the water that you are putting in your aquarium, use a phosphate sponge media to remove any phosphates that are already in your aquarium. Phosphate sponge is a media similar in appearance to activated carbon, but it can be white, brown or even black in color. Adding this media to your filtration system will promote removal of the phosphates from the water that are feeding the algae in your aquarium.
High Fish Load Promotes Algae
If your aquarium has a larger than average number of fish living in it, you will need to implement more powerful filtration and protein skimming. Test the nitrate and ammonia levels of your water to see if they are registering any higher than normal levels. If so, your filtration is not good enough for your fish load in the aquarium.
Too many fish pretty much creates extra waste, which in turn feeds and promotes algae growth. This is why it is important to not overstock an aquarium unless you know that your aquarium and filtration can handle the extra biological load. Find a comfortable amount of fish to keep in your aquarium and stick with it. Don’t put too many fish in your aquarium.
Control Your Lighting
The amount of light that your aquarium receives has a large impact on algae growth. Excessive light will almost always result in more algae than you’d like to have in your aquarium.
The first step in controlling the aquarium lighting is to make sure that your aquarium hood and lighting is running on a timer. This will automate the lighting cycle and ensure that the light is not left on longer than it needs to be. Run the main aquarium lights for about 6-10 hrs a day. You should be able to get a good feel for how often you can run your lights by observing the algae growth over a period of a couple weeks as you adjust the amount of lighting.
The next step in controlling aquarium lighting is to make sure that your aquarium is not receiving abnormal amounts of natural light through windows. It is best to keep your aquarium in a place where sunlight will not directly shine upon it.
The quality of lighting will also affect algae growth. Fluorescent lamps will lose quality over time and should be replaced every few months. Buy lamps and bulbs that are designed for aquariums and make sure that they are rated appropriately for your aquarium.
The movement of water in your aquarium will affect the amounts of algae growth. If you have good aquarium water circulation, it will be hard for algae to take hold onto surfaces and multiply. An aquarium that doesn’t have good water circulation will have dead spots that allow algae to take hold and flourish.
Add some power heads to your aquarium to create more water circulation. Power heads are relatively cheap and can be easily moved and pointed in your aquarium. Play around with placement of the power heads until you achieve balanced water circulation throughout your aquarium.
All of these techniques will help you to prevent algae growth in your aquarium. If you already have a problem with algae, you will need to really stick to your guns and be patient to get past the problems. Stick with it and you will be happy with the results.
Update: Read my latest post about aquarium algae control to learn how I specifically got the nuisance algae out of my 75 gallon saltwater aquarium.