New Contributor

Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

I began my tank with a 29 gallon salt water. Before I invested too much time and money, I wanted to see if I could manage salt water aquarium so I started out small. I have maintained perfect water perimeters, religiously change 15%-20% water changes every Tuesday with RO Primo water from Walmart. The salesman at my local Petco helped me with all the equipment, set up, clean-up crew, live rock, sand and my 4 little guys (1 tiny clown, and one inch basslet, a blennie and a wrasse)  Everything is going great, all my little guys are healthy and happy. The problem is the foul, horrid, ugly ALGAE monster has never left my tank. It started with big brown patches on my sand bed. Since we thought it to be diatoms, I moved it out of any sunlight and I left it alone. Then it grew hair, and I’m talking massive fur…then my snails grew green hair, my rock grew green hair, my emerald crabs too. My tank looks like I am growing balls of penicillin with Oscar the Grouch climbing around. Fortunately my fish are not suffering at all. But it has killed my feather duster, anemone, and two soft corals, 3 snails, and 2 emerald crabs, a shrimp and its working on my last two leather corals. The lady at Petco suggested that I change out my sand bed with crushed coral. I did that and that was just fresh meat for the little buggars. Darn algae came back and brought more with it. This algae has been red, it’s been green with a full blown green algae bloom, and now it’s some type of long stringy, gunky brown crap. I even bought a UV sterilizer, some “chemiclean” tank treatment, and “Kent Marine Superbuffer dKH Buffer and KH Builder” along with a battery powered “sucker outer” gravel cleaner all suggestions of the salesman at Petco. Although I hated to do it, I even left the light off for 48 hours and didn’t feed the little guys for 3 days, with no luck. I clean it out, it comes back…next day..no joke. I’m looking to upgrade to a 65 gallon but GEEZ I can’t imagine fighting with twice as much algae as I have now Woman Sad

1 ACCEPTED SOLUTION

Accepted Solutions
Community Representative

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

Hi GeorgeandWheezy. Please see below answer from our animal expert: 

There are a number of contributing factors to the algae woes you have been experiencing in your tank.  Please see my recommendations and a few questions for you to consider below.

 

  • Did you set your tank up with regular sand or live sand?  When you set up a saltwater tank with aragonite or sand (not live sand) it must be thoroughly rinsed as it can leach silicates into the tank resulting in brown diatom algae.   This algae uses light to create its own food, so it is important to physically remove it from the tank and limit the amount of light.  Kole Tangs have proven to make a meal of diatom algae, however based on the number of aquatic life you mentioned having in your tank, I would not recommend adding more as the general rule for saltwater aquariums is 1” of aquatic life per gallon of water.
    • You mentioned that you lost coral and other aquatic life- if the brown diatom algae is left unaddressed, it can actually smother corals as well as deplete oxygen from the tank.

 

  • You mentioned moving your tank out of the sunlight, but also make sure it is not getting indirect sunlight as aquatic tanks should never be in direct or indirect sunlight.

 

  • How long are you leaving the light on? Aquarium lights should never be left on for more than 8-10 hours/day as that will contribute to algae growth. Also, what type of bulb are you using? Regular fluorescent bulbs promote algae while specialty bulbs with higher kelvins tend not to contribute to algae growth.  Also, regardless of the bulb, it is important to change them every 6 months (12 at the most) because although your eye will not be able to detect changes, they will lose output and will start to contribute to algae growth.

 

  • The main remedy for addressing algae outbreaks is to identify their food source and remove it to starve off the algae.  Different algae feed off of different things to include nitrates, phosphates, an excessive amount of nutrients, too much light, etc.  Make sure you are not over feeding your aquatic life, you are cleaning areas where excess detritus builds up- to include around/under live rock and other décor, and you are regularly testing your water and addressing algae issues before they take over your tank.

 

  • Have you tested your water?  If so, what were the results?  High phosphate and nitrate levels contribute to significant algae growth. If your phosphate is high a phosphate remover supplement can be added to your tank. If high nitrates are a concern, increasing the frequency of water changes should help or nitrate removers are available as well.          

 

  • The “red algae” you mention is most likely Cyanobacteria which typically comes from a build-up of detritus and nutrients in the water with poor water flow and lighting adding to the problem.

 

  1. Do not stir the tank or substrate when you see cyanobacteria as it will only cause the bacteria to spread.
    • Take the gravel vacuum/siphon and systematically clean your substrate, siphoning out the cyanobacteria.
  2. Poor water circulation can also contribute as areas with little to no water movement allow the bacteria to accumulate.
    • A submersible powerhead can be hidden/positioned behind live rock or other décor to increase circulation while maintaining a more natural looking tank.
  3. You may need to increase water changes to 2-3 times per week until you can get rid of the bacteria.
  4. Be careful not to over use Chemi-Clean as it can cause antibiotic resistance.  

 

  • If your water quality is good, Scarlet Reef and Blue Leg Hermit Crabs can help with cyanobacteria and green hair algae.   Again, it is recommended that you test your phosphates and nitrates and address as needed.   Some people choose to replace the substrate and décor that contain this algae.

 

While it sounds like this has been a frustrating process for you, hopefully this information will help you better understand algae control and this experience has not dismayed you from setting up your 65 gallon underwater world!

5 REPLIES
Community Manager

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

Hi GeorgeandWheezy

 

Thank you for your question and welcome to the community! I've sent this to one of Petco's animal care specialists to see if they have additional advice. I'll check back in as soon as I hear back. 

 

Alex

Community Representative

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

Hi GeorgeandWheezy. Please see below answer from our animal expert: 

There are a number of contributing factors to the algae woes you have been experiencing in your tank.  Please see my recommendations and a few questions for you to consider below.

 

  • Did you set your tank up with regular sand or live sand?  When you set up a saltwater tank with aragonite or sand (not live sand) it must be thoroughly rinsed as it can leach silicates into the tank resulting in brown diatom algae.   This algae uses light to create its own food, so it is important to physically remove it from the tank and limit the amount of light.  Kole Tangs have proven to make a meal of diatom algae, however based on the number of aquatic life you mentioned having in your tank, I would not recommend adding more as the general rule for saltwater aquariums is 1” of aquatic life per gallon of water.
    • You mentioned that you lost coral and other aquatic life- if the brown diatom algae is left unaddressed, it can actually smother corals as well as deplete oxygen from the tank.

 

  • You mentioned moving your tank out of the sunlight, but also make sure it is not getting indirect sunlight as aquatic tanks should never be in direct or indirect sunlight.

 

  • How long are you leaving the light on? Aquarium lights should never be left on for more than 8-10 hours/day as that will contribute to algae growth. Also, what type of bulb are you using? Regular fluorescent bulbs promote algae while specialty bulbs with higher kelvins tend not to contribute to algae growth.  Also, regardless of the bulb, it is important to change them every 6 months (12 at the most) because although your eye will not be able to detect changes, they will lose output and will start to contribute to algae growth.

 

  • The main remedy for addressing algae outbreaks is to identify their food source and remove it to starve off the algae.  Different algae feed off of different things to include nitrates, phosphates, an excessive amount of nutrients, too much light, etc.  Make sure you are not over feeding your aquatic life, you are cleaning areas where excess detritus builds up- to include around/under live rock and other décor, and you are regularly testing your water and addressing algae issues before they take over your tank.

 

  • Have you tested your water?  If so, what were the results?  High phosphate and nitrate levels contribute to significant algae growth. If your phosphate is high a phosphate remover supplement can be added to your tank. If high nitrates are a concern, increasing the frequency of water changes should help or nitrate removers are available as well.          

 

  • The “red algae” you mention is most likely Cyanobacteria which typically comes from a build-up of detritus and nutrients in the water with poor water flow and lighting adding to the problem.

 

  1. Do not stir the tank or substrate when you see cyanobacteria as it will only cause the bacteria to spread.
    • Take the gravel vacuum/siphon and systematically clean your substrate, siphoning out the cyanobacteria.
  2. Poor water circulation can also contribute as areas with little to no water movement allow the bacteria to accumulate.
    • A submersible powerhead can be hidden/positioned behind live rock or other décor to increase circulation while maintaining a more natural looking tank.
  3. You may need to increase water changes to 2-3 times per week until you can get rid of the bacteria.
  4. Be careful not to over use Chemi-Clean as it can cause antibiotic resistance.  

 

  • If your water quality is good, Scarlet Reef and Blue Leg Hermit Crabs can help with cyanobacteria and green hair algae.   Again, it is recommended that you test your phosphates and nitrates and address as needed.   Some people choose to replace the substrate and décor that contain this algae.

 

While it sounds like this has been a frustrating process for you, hopefully this information will help you better understand algae control and this experience has not dismayed you from setting up your 65 gallon underwater world!

New Contributor

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

Thank you for so much information!  I began the tank one year ago with live sand, then the diatoms broke out and never left. About 8 months later, I changed the substrate to crushed coral hoping this would be a solution-it got worse. For lighting, I have a Coralife High Output T5 and it stays on about 8 hours a day. I have two small leather frags that are my only survivors out of 6 corals; the fuzz has smothered them out. I have to blow the algae off these guys with a turkey baster but I feel like even when the light is off for days and the tank is in the dark, the algae is thriving. The live rock looks like 3 big balls of green fuzz. Could the rock be put in a bucket and scrubbed off, then put back in the tank? And would a change from coral to live sand be a solution? My little guys love the freeze dried brine shrimp that's gone in a minute, should this be changed to something else?

I have had my water tested and the parameters were perfect, phosphates were a little bit low, which I tried to remedy with some Kent Marine Superbuffer.  I have one powerhead that works well although it clogs with algae as well along with the filter and skimmer. 

I feel like my last line of defense would possibly be to replace the contaminated substrate, do a 30% water change and give the rock and equipment a good scrubbing if that's possible? 

Thank you for all the helpful information. Petco sales associates at the Carbondale, IL store have been wonderful with helping me with the set up, unfortunately the algae problem is over my head.  On a good note, the fish are thriving these days.

Thank you again!

 

 

 

Highlighted
Esteemed Contributor

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

How long has this been going on? 

My experience with marine algaes is that most of them are natural phases in the maturation of your tank. Diatoms are a virtual certainty with the hairy green bryopsis coming in as close second. Slime algaes apprear now and then and are easily remedied with ChemiClean.  But once purple coralline algae establishes itself, you're well on your way to a mature system, and it's only at that point that I'd start placing corals and other sessile inverts-- not before.  The fast growing nuisance algaes will easily overtake corals, and the Purple Corralline, when present in quantity, will outcompete the nuiusance algaes for nutrients before they can become a problem.eible.jpg

Regarding algae and fish, providing that the water parameters are decent,I don't know of any alge that will have a negative effect on fish, so don't let that worry you.  Most of them are just annoying or ugly, some are beautiful and beneficial,

The main thing I've learned about Marine tanks since I set them up eight years ago is the advice I was given by a trusted employee one of my favorite local fish stores who said, "good things happen stowly in marine tanks and disasters can happen overnight. Be patient."

Good luck to you



 

 

 

“The oceans are the planet's last great living wilderness, man's only remaining frontier on Earth, and perhaps his last chance to prove himself a rational species.”
― John L. Culliney
New Contributor

Re: Algae attacks and the little buggars won't go away

 Thank you very much for taking time to help me with the useful tips you provided. 

I have had the tank set up for exactly one year, the algae problem started almost within 6 weeks after I added my 1st fish. Later I added 6 corals, while the algae was still only on the sand bed. I moved the tank across the room to a darker space and out of sunlight. Two days after scooted the tank accross the floor, there was a huge, bright green bloom so thick the poor fish were not even visible. The poor guys were bumping into each other. I think that I rocked the boat too much and stirred up a green globby storm. First some chemiclear, then a new UV sterilizer, along with two weeks of  30% water changes finally broke it up. When the green "smoke" cleared, the algae had settled on the corals, the snails, the crabs, in the sand bed and on the rock. It looked like a war zone. This happened about 4 months ago and still going strong.

Is the Purple Corralline an alga that covers the rock in purple spots? If so, I can see small purple patches on my rock beginning to form. In these patches, there is no green or brown slime growing. That's hopeful because the purple spots are the only place in the entire tank that isn't collecting fur Smiley Very Happy 

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