White Algae In An Aquarium – Tips For Effective Removal

It is not a rare experience for fishkeeping enthusiasts to see white algae growing on rocks and even on plants. Though they are named after their white, cottony appearance, these filamentous growths are often caused by other types of microalgae such as brown algae, yellow-green algae, or even blue-green algae.

These stubborn organisms have a bad reputation because they are unsightly to look at and can also be quite difficult to get rid of. But the truth is that there are many things you can do about the problem if your fish tank happens to have a major outbreak. This article will provide tips on how to deal with this situation

What Are White Algae?

white algae on hot Springs.

Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, chlorophyll-containing organisms that use photosynthesis to produce energy. White algae are types of green hair algae, which means they are long and stringy. They can be quite tough to remove from rocks and other surfaces in the tank because they have a stiff structure that resists being torn apart.

The most common scientific term used for these species of algae is Leptomitus lacteus. It is part of the order Cladophorales, which is closely related to the order Dasycladales. They are known for being very hardy, which explains why it is very easy for this type of stubborn algae to invade an aquarium that routinely has to contend with outbreaks of algae.

How Do You Get Rid Of Them?

Stubborn and unsightly as they may be, these organisms actually have no direct negative impact on aquarium inhabitants. They are completely harmless to fish, plants, and invertebrates. However, some species may have growth patterns that can cause more serious water quality problems in the long run by blocking up your aquarium filter.

If you are looking to nip the growth of algae in the bud, here are some tips that will help:

Siphon Them Out

The first, simplest, and most common method to remove these stringy growths is via manual removal. All you have to do is siphon out the affected rocks and plants, making sure not to stir up too much of a mess as you do so. You should use some kind of nozzle with your siphon to ensure that the stuff you suck up does not get back into the aquarium.

After a period of time, they will grow back. You will need to repeat the process until you get rid of them entirely. Remember, some species are particularly stubborn and may be difficult to clear completely with this method alone

Use An Aquarium Scrub Brush

Another option you can use to get rid of the problem is to use an aquarium scrub brush. This should be a stiff-bristled brush that will not damage the plants and rocks in your tank as you remove them. Make sure that your aquarium brush has no harmful chemical components before bringing it into the aquarium.

Pro Tip 

Some glass aquariums are prone to scratching when you use scrub brushes on them. If you are not sure if your tank is made of glass, do a spot check on it using some toothpaste. If the toothpaste scratches the glass, consider opting for gentler methods, such as the siphoning method described previously.

Use A Magnetic Removal Tool

Another great yet simple method to use when removing green fish tank algae or brown algae from your aquarium is the magnetic remover. This useful tool may be a bit pricey, but it has many advantages that more than makeup for its cost. It is made of three or four powerful magnets that you attach to the outside of your tank and connects with a handle on the inside.

When you pull back on the handle, the magnets create a strong force that sticks to stubborn algae within their reach and makes it easy for you to slide them out of your aquarium. The only problem with this tool is that it might tend to catch on snags or sharp rocks in your tank, so be sure to anchor aquarium plants and ornaments before using it.

Use The Proper Lighting And Filtration

These organisms love it when there is a lot of lighting in your aquarium. This is because the light helps them produce more nutrients to feed on. If you want to get rid of them, one thing you should do is decrease the amount of light in your tank by installing some shading materials or simply keeping your lights off for a few hours.

Keep in mind that too much filtration is also not good because it may release even more nutrients into the water. To help reduce its numbers, you should lessen or completely cut back on aeration if possible.

See also: Aquarium Lights vs. Grow Lights

Use Chemicals Only As A Last Resort

If you are looking for a safe yet effective solution, one option you may want to consider is the use of algicides. These chemicals are specifically designed to target and destroy these cells. However, many fishkeepers prefer not to use them because there are other means that will work just as well if not better.

Many fishkeepers also report that algicides can affect fish health, so if you are thinking of using them, make sure you keep the fish out of the water. You should also follow all manufacturer instructions very carefully and avoid using too much – this is a major cause of failure when it comes to medications.

FAQs

Can Other Species Cause This Problem?  

You may be wondering if other algae types can cause problems similar to those caused by green hair algae. The answer is yes! Several other species can cause patches of fluffy algae to appear in your tank:

  • Brown Algae – Brown algae, also known simply as ‘brown’ algae, has a dull color that ranges from yellow-green to brown. It is thick and bushy, which means it can easily break off into clumps that are difficult to get rid of.
  • Black Beard Algae – Black algae has a black color, usually complemented with some green spots here and there. True to its name, it resembles patches of dense fur that catch anything they touch, be it gravel, rocks, glass walls of tanks.

Can Other Species Cause This Problem?

You may be wondering if other algae types can cause problems similar to those caused by green hair algae. The answer is yes! Several other species can cause patches of fluffy algae to appear in your tank:

  • Brown Algae – Brown algae, also known simply as ‘brown’ algae, has a dull color that ranges from yellow-green to brown. It is thick and bushy, which means it can easily break off into clumps that are difficult to get rid of.
  • Black Beard Algae – Black algae has a black color, usually complemented with some green spots here and there. True to its name, it resembles patches of dense fur that catch anything they touch, be it gravel, rocks, glass walls of tanks.

Is This A Problem In A Saltwater Aquarium?

Only brown algae and the green spot algae have been known to call saltwater tanks home. Brown algae is not very common in saltwater tanks since they usually lack the nutrients that cause it to thrive.

Green spot algae, on the other hand, tends to be more common in saltwater tanks because the condition for its growth is almost always met. These micro algae tend to stay in small patches that can easily be removed by hand or siphon, but if it spreads out rather quickly, you might need to use chemicals to remove them.

Parasitic non-photosynthetic algae are also not very common in saltwater aquariums. They usually take the form of thin, stringy strands that cling to rocks or driftwood, but they can also be found as blobs on the glass walls of tanks.

How Do We Control Their Growth?

Algae Eaters in printed blue background

One of the most effective ways to keep them from growing in your tank is to limit the amount of nutrients that promote their growth. Nitrates, phosphates and silicates are what most species need to thrive, so lowering their levels would go a long way in solving this problem – especially if you have a problem with green water algae.

Natural predators such as Chinese Algae Eaters and assassin snails can also keep the problem in check if you own a freshwater aquarium. Just be sure to select tankmates that are compatible!

Conclusion

We hope this article gave you a comprehensive overview of what to do if you have problems with white algae in your aquarium. As you have seen, this is a common problem that is usually caused by excess nutrients or poor water conditions.

Thankfully, there are many ways to solve this problem through natural and chemical means. If you follow the guidelines we have given here and stay patient, chances are you will be able to get your tank back to tip-top shape in no time!

Did you enjoy this article? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below if you have anymore questions or advice to share! And remember… share this article online! You never know who might benefit from this information.

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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