Top 5 Ways to Clean Algae from Your Fish Tank

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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. This gentle sponge is made of non-toxic melamine foam and won’t scratch your glass and acrylic tanks. Mag-Float Glass Cleaner and the matching scraper blades are great for scraping tough algae such as green spot algae. These glass-safe blades can easily cut through green spots algae like a hot knife through butter. This will save you a lot of time and effort when it is about tank maintenance. (For acrylic fish tanks, please use the Mag-Float Acrylic Cleaner with the appropriate acrylic scraper blades.)

An algae scrubber can be used to wipe away algae from aquarium walls so that you have a clear view of your fish and plants.

For cleaning hard-to reach areas, aquarium decorations, hardscape, or plant leaves, a simple toothbrush can be a great tool. Certain hair algae types can be removed by grabbing the algae strands with the toothbrush bristles and twisting the toothbrush so that the algae winds up like spaghetti on a fork. Finally, if you see blue-green algae or brown diatom algae starting to coat the substrate, use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the gravel or sand.

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. They are second on the list because they only eat certain types of algae, and may not be capable of cleaning your entire aquarium. But they can be a great second line of defence that can help you fight the algae. Our top picks for nano tanks are nerite snails and amano shrimp. If you have larger tanks, consider getting Siamese and bristlenose pistols. You can also read more about the top 10 algae eaters in freshwater aquariums.

The Siamese Algae Eater is a good member of the fish tank clean-up crew. But, be careful not to get its more aggressive sibling, the Chinese Algae Eater.

3. Remove Excess Organics in the Tank

Algae can easily eat nitrogen compounds from fish poop and unhealthy leaves. It is a good idea to remove any nutrients from an aquarium that is new or not established. Use a pair scissors to trim any algae-covered leaves in a planted tank. To remove any rotting ground material, use a siphon and reduce the amount of food you give fish if they stop eating within a couple minutes.

Blue-green algae loves to grow in areas where there is debris or “dead zone” (i.e., a slow current or a lot of ornaments or hardscape). You can improve water flow by moving decorations, filling gaps with substrate or installing a stronger filter.

4. Balance Lighting and Nutrients

The best way to eliminate algae is to address the root cause. Algae has the same resources (e.g. lighting and nutrients) that plants use to photosynthesize. If there are too many or too few of these building block, they can grow at an uncontrollable pace.

An outlet timer can be used to balance your planted tank. It will turn on your light for about 6-8 hours per day. Next, you can increase or decrease the nutrient levels. To reduce the amount of nitrate in your tank, you can do a water change if it is higher than 50 ppm. If the nitrate level is below 20 ppm, dose the tank with Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer until the water reaches 20 ppm nitrate. Wait 2-3 weeks between each modification you make in lighting or nutrients levels so that you can see what impact it has on your plants and adjust accordingly. 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

There is a fine line between using chemical treatments that are strong enough to kill algae and not causing harm to fish tanks. Liquid carbon is commonly sold as a fertilizer for aquarium plants, but it is more accurately an algae inhibitor that is known to reduce algae growth. Easy Carbon is our brand of liquid carbon that is safe for fish and invertebrates, and it has an easy-to-use pump head dispenser for quickly dosing 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. For more details on how to use liquid carbon, read the full article here.

Easy Carbon is effective against persistent algae outbreaks like BBA. To allow the chemical’s “soaking” to take effect, turn off the filter for a few seconds before you apply it directly.

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. Algaecides will not work if you do not follow the four previous steps. The algae will grow back, and the chemicals will have very little or no effect. You can read our article about the 6 most common types and how to stop algae growth.