PDA

View Full Version : Methods of Algae Control



jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:09 PM
Algae is the number one problem anyone with a planted tank faces. More people shut down their planted tanks because of algae than any other reason. I hate to see someone scrub the idea of a planted tank because of algae, where there are a few basic concepts and a few techniques that could easily eliminate most of their algae. In this thread, I'll highlight most of the better approaches to algae control.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:10 PM
First off, it's important to digest the fact that algae exists as a part of nature. It's in ponds, lakes, creeks, and rivers. There is no way you will eliminate all of your algae, and if you are attempting to create a natural environment, there's really no reason to even try. Go ahead and settle into the idea that a healthy planted tank will have algae. I think for most people, simply accepting this fact will make them 100% happier with the state of their planted tank.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:10 PM
However, algae can become a real pest, and usually there are two culprits for it's cause: light and co2. No matter what anecdotes may be out there, most algae blooms(of any kind) are caused not by an exess of nutrients, but because of too much light and/or co2. The easiest way to control algae in a planted tank is to max out your co2(to that point just before your fish begin to suffocate) and then simply use the light like a gas pedal. If your co2 is maxed, and you have a steady supply of nutrients, all you need to do is worry about light. There's no easy answer about light. Light can be manipulated by adding/removing bulbs, raising/lowering the fixture, and increasing/decreasing the photoperiod. You'll simply have to experiment with this to find out what works best for you.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:10 PM
So you've got your lights, co2, and nutrients dialed in. CO2 is maxed out, you're dosing EI(or whatever), and you've gotten to the point that BBA and string algae aren't constantly covering your tank, but there's just that last bit of algae that you can't get rid of, but you consider it unsightly. Well, there are a few ways to deal with that. For starters, glutaraldehyde/Metracide/Excel (Glut from here on out) are excellent method of algae control. Instead of rehasing another thread, I'll simply direct you here:

http://www.atlantaaquarium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=2479

Glut can be a great way to help speed up the destruction of algae AFTER you've slowed and/or halted it's growth by dialing in your lights/co2/ferts.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:11 PM
"But Jeffrey, I still have some GSA/BDA/diatoms on my rocks/wood/glass/plants and I can't use Glut to get to it and I consider it the most unsightly thing"

Never fear my good friends, there is yet one LAST resort.

Animals!

First and foremost, you should really try every other method first. Animals cannot control an unbalanced tank...they simply can't eat that much. On top of that, there's a limited number of fish you can put in any one tank, so you should think long and hard about if a particular fish is worth the space/water chemistry simply to eat algae IF there are other things you can do instead.

However, once you've thought about the ramifications of adding another animal to your tank, there are several options and they all have their ups, and many of them have some BIG downs.

Otos: These are your go-to. Otos primarily eat GSA, GDA, and diatoms, but I've even seen them munch on wee bits of BBA and string algae. They are small and don't contribute significantly to your bioload. Generally, they are fairly cheap. The downside is that they tend to be sensitive fish. Large pH/TDS swings will wipe them out so you need to acclimate carefully. Also, if you accidentally adjust your co2 too high, these will be the first to go. The other downside is that, if you have a considerable amount of GSA/GDA/diatoms you'll need a lot of otos to handle. Otos are nice at controlling that last 2% of algae that your co2 and glut just can't wipe out. Otos need supplemental food as well. Algae wafers, veggies, and spirulina flake are good treats every few days. Otos rarely successfully breed in a community tank, so therefore you'll need to repurchase them every few years.

Amano shrimp: Amano shrimp are algae destroyers. They eat everything: String Algae, Clado,BBA,GSA,GDA....the list goes on and on. On top of that, they munch on detritus as well. Amanos are some of the largest FW shrimp. No matter how many Amanos you have, their contribution to your bioload is insignificant. Generally, for algae control (if there is nothing else in your tank working on the algae) you'll need 1 per gallon. The downside of Amano shrimp is that they are fairly pricey, especially considering the whole 1 per gallon thing for total algae control. The other big downside is that they don't breed in FW, and even in a brackish environment, captive successful breeding is incredibly rare. You'll have to replace these guys fairly regularly. They don't really require supplemental feeding as long as some of your food from regular feeding makes it down to the substrate for them to clean up later. If you want to give them a treat, foods like those for Otos are nice.

Red Cherry Shrimp: RCS are a great form of algae control. Most people don't think of them this way, but let me explain. When it comes to algae eating shrimp, you really can't beat the Amano shrimp....but dang if they aren't expensive to keep a population. Well, individually, RCS don't put near the hurt on algae as Amanos do, but they are DIRT CHEAP and breed like rabbits. RCS primarily munch on detritus, diatoms, and left over food, but once a healthy population gets going, they'll eat string, clado, bba...pretty much anything. It's hard to list a downside to RCS. I suppose the major downside is that they aren't a cure-all for algae and that keeping them can limit what fish you have, because if an RCS can fit in their mouth, they'll eat it. However, in a heavily planted tank, if you introduce RCS BEFORE you introduce fish and get a population going, you'll have no problem keeping them. The other benefit of RCS is that they can be a healthy snack for fish. I suppose I'm a little too over eager about them, but they are just great additions to the planed tank.

Nerite Snails: Of all the algae eaters on this list, Nerites almost take the cake. They are real work horses. Anybody that thinks snails move slowly has never watched a Nerite....ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but these guys chug along compared to other snails. They eat EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING. Diatoms, detritus, BBA, GDA,GSA, Clado, String...I mean EVERYTHING. They'll work on the easier to get stuff first, but once that's gone, they'll start in on the BBA, clado, string and have that gone before you know it. These things love to eat. However, there are downsides. For starters, Nerites typically start at $1.50 each for Olive Nerites and work their way up for larger/more decorative species. Like Amanos, for complete algae control, 1 per gallon is a good number. Also like Amanos, they can't successfully breed in FW and, while I've seen efforts, I've never read about any successful captive breeding even in brackish environments. Another thing, and this is the real kicker: They don't live long in soft acidic environments. For most of us living in Atlanta and for anybody that injects CO2...this means your tank. Their shells slowly get eaten away by acidic water. You can help them out by giving them food intended for snails/inverts with calcium, and you can make sure you're water doesn't get too soft...but their's no stopping fate.



These are your miracle workers. You can go with any of these, but I personally "use" and recommend a good mix. A good mix of the above will control that last bit of algae down to the point that you don't even notice it. For example, in my 120g, I've got 35 olive nerites, 30 otos, and 60+ RCS. I had a 45g tank with 8 Otos, 12 nerites, and 20 Amanos. A 75g with 30 Amanos, 50+ RCS, 15 otos....you get the idea.


Honorable Mentions: Believe it or not, Mollies and Platies are pretty good algae eaters. They munch on GSA, GDA, String, BBA, and Clado. The upside is that they are dirt cheap. The down side is that they breed a lot (so that they are dirt cheap). They'll eat algae, but they'll also take over your tank if you'll let them. If you decide to go this route, just find someone in the club with wolf fish and send the fry over their way :P.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:11 PM
The following are a list of fish that are often suggested for algae control, but personally I believe they should be avoided for this reason. I strongly recommend you do not purchase these fish for the intent of algae control, but for the sake of being thorough I will describe them.

SAE: The true Siamese Algae Eater, C. Siamensis. When SAEs are young (6 months or less) they eat the hard stuff and work their way down, which is cool. They start out with string algae, BBA, and clado, and then start working on GSA and GDA once the other stuff disappears. SAEs are social fish and should be in groups no less than 3, but 5 is really a much better number. SAEs have SEVERAL large downsides. First off, they get big, really big, like 6+ inches...digest the last two sentences: they should be in groups of 5+ and grow to 6+ inches. In case you can't put it together, these fish need AT LEAST a 55g tank but really belong in a 75g+. On top of all that, after about 6 months, they stop eating algae, and instead turn to anything and everything else: shrimp, small fish, hairgrass, moss....anything and everything but algae. So now you've got a bunch of huge fish that don't eat algae, great. But wait, there's more! SAEs also become more and more territorial as they get older and they'll quickly turn on your other fish. In short, these are not the miracle fish you've been led to believe.

Florida Flag Fish: Florida Flag Fish(or the American Flag Fish) are also often touted as being great algae eaters. Like the SAE, they tend to work on the hard stuff first and work their way down. They are killies, so they'll breed pretty easily. However, like SAEs, if the algae supply gets low (and as they age) they start to munch on stringy plants (like hairgrass) and moss. Also like the SAE, they tend to become more and more aggressive/territorial as they get older/start breeding. People still mention this one from time to time as being a "good" algae eater, but I think most of the hobby has moved on from suggesting this one.

Plecos, of any kind: Plecos of any kind just aren't the best algae eaters (as we all learned at this months meeting). Most Plecos will eat your plants. Generally, the hobby knows this, but still suggest BN Plecos and Rubberlips. These fish do eat algae(and tend to leave plants alone), but it's really not their preferred source of food, so simply throwing them in your tank with only DW and algae to munch on isn't very nice of you. These fish are great, but should be kept because they are great, not because they are algae eaters(because, compared to the other fish on this list, they just aren't). There isn't really a big downside to BN and Rubberlips except, as stated, they aren't really great algae eaters. The other downside, and this is strictly a personal opinion, is that, even at 4", they are a bit too big and bulky for the planted tank, often disturbing plants. I don't have a lot of negatives for the fish, except, as I said, they just aren't "algae eaters".

Dishonorable Mentions: Chinese Algae Eaters are Not Algae Eaters, and they are majorly aggressive.

I feel like I'm leaving some off, so if I think of them, I'll add them.

jmhart
06-17-2010, 02:21 PM
Finally, If you have any questions or comments regarding the above, feel free to let me know.

DiscusChris
06-17-2010, 02:30 PM
1 question



can we make this a sticky?

HN1
06-17-2010, 08:38 PM
Love it. Great write up! :)

Maybe add some goodeids (a. splendens, etc.) to honorable mention? I've seen them graze like platies.

Garfieldnfish
06-17-2010, 09:24 PM
Amano shrimp can be bred, I have done it before but it is very difficult and requires a salt/brackish tank to raise the young. One of these days I will give it another try.

What about a set up without CO2? Would it have the same algae problems? None of my tanks have CO2.

I prefer a rubberlip to most other fish recommended for algae control. I like the nerite snails too but they leave little white eggs on everything that stay for weeks until they either hatch and die or the calcium gets reabsorbed in the water. I have bought some tiger and zebra nerites to go with the olives and put one of each in 2 of my tanks. So far no eggs. So maybe if you get a mix of different ones, you can avoid the white dots (eggs).
Red Cherry shrimp are great. They may eliminate the algae but I don't know. I bought 6 2F/4M in January and have been selling them on AB since April. I do not know what they do for algae control as that tank never had a problem, I bought the shrimp as live food source. They reproduce at an enormous rate. If you do not have fish in the tank that will eat them, don't get them. I was told zebra plecos would, but either mine are just not very hungry or they just can't keep up with the RCS. I vote for the latter.

For algae control I would get otos, rubberlips, limit the tank lights to less then 10 hours, don't overfeed, and use a scrubber or credit card for the rest.
Another great option is the Singapore wood shrimp, aka bamboo shrimp. They do not eat algae but filter the water and remove the stuff algae needs to grow, A very effective shrimp that is good natured, small, does not add to the bioload, can live for many years (I have had mine for 6 years so far) but unfortunately does not reproduce in captivity either. That is also a very good shrimp to keep in a fry tanks as it will not bother fry not even the smallest.

BNs and rubberlips will not eat your plants. I have had both types for many years in my planted tanks and they have not done so.

mike from philly
06-18-2010, 06:17 AM
I'd second GarfieldnFish's question, for a low tech aquarium (noCO2, Less Than 2.5watt/gallon light) are there different or better algae control options?

Is there an easy to find alternative that contains Glut that is less expensive than Excel?

jmhart
06-18-2010, 07:43 AM
I'd second GarfieldnFish's question, for a low tech aquarium (noCO2, Less Than 2.5watt/gallon light) are there different or better algae control options?

Is there an easy to find alternative that contains Glut that is less expensive than Excel?
For no-co2 aquariums, the same methods apply: get your nutrients in order. I won't go into the differences in nutrient needs between co2 and non co2 tanks in this thread, it would derail it too much. Suffice to say they are significantly different. Anyway, get your nutrients in order, and then simply throttle your lights. Raise/lower, add/remove watts, and adjust your photoperiod.

Almost all algae issues are caused by excessive light. People like to grow plants fast, which requires a lot of light...and algae loves a lot of light.

swimmingly
06-18-2010, 11:05 AM
Glad to see the SAE problem addressed. The problem being that they get too big quickly. Amazing how many people have told me they only get to 3 inches; mine were all 5-6 and they're quite boiserous, although not aggressive. Fun to watch but not the best mix with a planted amazonian type tank with mostly small fishes. The only algae I find annoying in even small quantities (cause it doens't stay small) is the BBA. If RCS will take care of that I'd be thrilled, but the only ones I've seen were at Petco for 9.95. Not my idea of cheap. Especially for a 75 gal. tank. Does anyone know where to get them short of mail order. Shipping prices are ridiculous.

jmhart
06-18-2010, 02:39 PM
Glad to see the SAE problem addressed. The problem being that they get too big quickly. Amazing how many people have told me they only get to 3 inches; mine were all 5-6 and they're quite boiserous, although not aggressive. Fun to watch but not the best mix with a planted amazonian type tank with mostly small fishes. The only algae I find annoying in even small quantities (cause it doens't stay small) is the BBA. If RCS will take care of that I'd be thrilled, but the only ones I've seen were at Petco for 9.95. Not my idea of cheap. Especially for a 75 gal. tank. Does anyone know where to get them short of mail order. Shipping prices are ridiculous.
Plenty of club members have them. There are always at least a few bags for sale at the monthly auctions. I think $1-2 each is usually the going rate. Just show up to a meeting and wait for the auction.

Demonfish
06-18-2010, 03:40 PM
They'll be a bunch in the Fall auction, but you might get them cheaper if you "pre-order" from a club member like garfieldnfish or Dino. I think about $20/dozen is common.

jmhart
02-05-2011, 05:40 PM
Thought I'd bring this up to the top. Seen a lot of questions that would be addressed by this thread.

TheFishTank
06-09-2011, 08:30 AM
I manage 3000 gallons of water in my fish room so the simple approach is the best approach for me. My favorite "no maintenance" method to algae control is "no lights and no substrate". It feeds off nutrients and lighting so keep the tank away from bright areas of the house and use aquarium lighting only when feeding or observing. Also don't use any substrate in the tank because it harbors too many places for nutrients to get trapped thereby feeding the algae growth. Fish still breed like dogs, and I never have to clean algae. Obviously if corals or planted tanks are your thing then you're out of luck with this method.

jmhart
12-12-2012, 11:57 AM
I manage 3000 gallons of water in my fish room so the simple approach is the best approach for me. My favorite "no maintenance" method to algae control is "no lights and no substrate". It feeds off nutrients and lighting so keep the tank away from bright areas of the house and use aquarium lighting only when feeding or observing. Also don't use any substrate in the tank because it harbors too many places for nutrients to get trapped thereby feeding the algae growth. Fish still breed like dogs, and I never have to clean algae. Obviously if corals or planted tanks are your thing then you're out of luck with this method.

This is definitely a good way to prevent algae...but "no lights and no substrate" is somewhat limiting in a planted tank ;).

planted_one
01-14-2013, 07:26 AM
This is definitely a good way to prevent algae...but "no lights and no substrate" is somewhat limiting in a planted tank ;).

I have found that if you go the CO2 route, that you need to slowly increase each part (fertilizers, CO2, light) in order to see
which part needs the most focus. From my experience it is usually slowly increasing the CO2 and adding Excel (Glutaraldehyde)
then balancing that with the small adjustments in ferts and light.

jmhart
07-07-2013, 08:08 PM
I have found that if you go the CO2 route, that you need to slowly increase each part (fertilizers, CO2, light) in order to see
which part needs the most focus. From my experience it is usually slowly increasing the CO2 and adding Excel (Glutaraldehyde)
then balancing that with the small adjustments in ferts and light.

Changing one variable at a time: the scientific approach. Good advice. For me, I like to dial in CO2 as high as my fish will allow, and then just leave it there. Your plants will always appreciate as much CO2 as possible. After that, it's just about balancing your light with how much tank maintenance you want to do/how much time you have. A lot of light and a lot of fertilizers means a tank that needs a lot of attention (growth rate extreme, weekly water changes). You can customize to your time availability.

ahabion
08-07-2013, 01:02 PM
I think one of the key things I've found with my planted tank is to have a lot of plants. While I do get some green algae in small patches, it's okay. I have 5 Otos and 3 Amano shrimps with some RCS stragglers around that haven't been eaten by my GBR in my 55. I've found that having a very nutrient hungry plant in the system somewhere has cut down my algae significantly. I know that Ken hates them but duckweed is a nutrient hog and so is water lettuce.

If you don't want these 'parasitic' types, get water sprite and let it float in the water. Water sprite grows very fast and loves the excess nutrients in the water column (and they don't look too bad). I've since taken all of them out of the main tank, so we'll see how algae goes but I'm confident that I have enough plants in there that will out-compete algae. As Jeff said, get your nutrients in order

-yee

Hilde
08-18-2013, 09:58 AM
When I started my tank in 2009 I had chronic problems with BBA. I got it under control by addding a 3hr siesta period in the light period and dosing with KNO3 (Spectricide Stump Remover). According to Diana Walstad a siesta period helps build up Co2.

Found that my tap water ph is high yet the water is soft. This is due to the city treating the water with phosphates. For a while I had a phosphate remover in my filter. Noticed the nitrates got low but didn't have BBA. Thus my hypothisis is that KN03 and phoshates must be balanced.

After I added a plant that had a hint of BBA the Crypt Sprial started have algae at the end of the leaves which were at the top of the water in 29G tank. Now they are in a 20G tank in which I don't dose with excel. I have the same light that was over the 29G tank over and no algae is on it. For now it is in front of the filter output.

It is all a balancing act. The plants tell you when there is an imbalance. Also ahabion, Tom Barr etc have said having a lot of plants, especially stem plants helps. My favorite is Wisteria, which is a nitrate hog.

For nitrates I use Spectricide Stump Remover. A few years ago I read someone used it. Found the tox sheet on it which said that it is 100% KNO3. I make a solution of it according to Rex Griggs info.http://www.rexgrigg.com/dosing.htm