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. However, most people see it as an unwelcome guest since too much algae can obstruct your view of the fish tank and slow down healthy plant growth. Let’s look at 5 easy ways to clean algae off aquarium decorations and walls.
1. Use tools to manually remove algae
The first method is to physically remove algae with your hands. It produces instant results and doesn’t take too much time. So let’s discuss the best tools you need in your arsenal. An algae scrubber is a great tool to clean algae off aquarium walls. The gentle sponge is made from non-toxic melamine foam, and will not scratch acrylic and glass. Mag-Float Glass cleaner with matching blades is a good choice if you have trouble scraping away tough algae like green spots. These glass-safe cutting blades are able to cut through green spot algae much like a butter knife. It will also save you time and effort in tank maintenance. (Mag-Float Acrylic Cleaner is required for acrylic fish tanks.
An algae scrubber is a tool that can be used to clean algae off aquarium walls. This will allow you to see the fish and plants clearly.
For cleaning hard-to reach areas, aquarium decorations, hardscape, or plant leaves, a simple toothbrush can be a great tool. You can remove certain types of hair algae by grasping the bristles of the toothbrush and twisting it so the algae looks like spaghetti. You can also use an aquarium siphon if the substrate is covered in blue-green algae and brown diatom algae.
Swirl your toothbrush through a massed of hair algae to quickly remove it from plants, hardscape or fish tank decor.
2. Get Help from Algae-Eating Animals
When algae growth starts overtaking a fish tank, many people automatically look for an algae eater to solve all their problems. 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 help you fight the 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. For additional suggestions, read about the top 10 algae eaters for freshwater aquariums.
The Siamese alga eater is a great member of the clean-up crew for larger fish tanks. However, it’s important to not accidentally get its aggressive cousin, the Chinese algae eater.
3. Get rid of excess organics from the tank
Algae are adaptable and will eat any nitrogen compounds found in fish poop, fish waste, uncooked fish food or unhealthy leaves. 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. You can use a siphon to remove rotting gunk and give the fish less food if they don’t eat everything within a few minutes.
Also, blue-green algae likes to grow where there are pockets of debris or “dead zones” in the aquarium, which can form if the current is too slow or there are a lot of large ornaments and hardscape blocking the way. Make the water flow more efficient by moving ornaments around and filling the gaps between hardscape with substrate.
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 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.
To balance your planted tank, we recommend using an outlet timer to turn on your light for approximately 6-8 hours per day (as a starting point), and then gradually increase or decrease your nutrient levels as needed. 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. You will never be able to completely remove all traces of algae, so the goal is to minimize it until it’s barely noticeable.
5. Take an Algae Inhibitor
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. Although liquid carbon is often sold as a fertilizer to aquarium plants, it is actually an algae inhibitor which is known for reducing algae growth. Our brand of liquid carbon, Easy Carbon, is safe for fishes and invertebrates. It has an easy to use pump head dispenser that can 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. You can read the entire article to learn more about liquid carbon.
Easy Carbon is effective against persistent algae outbreaks like BBA. When directly applying the chemical, temporarily turn off the filter to allow the treatment to “soak” on the algae for a few minutes.
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. You can read our article about the 6 most common types and how to stop algae growth.