Methods of Algae Control
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:43 PM   #1
jmhart
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Methods of Algae Control


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.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:44 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:45 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:47 PM   #4
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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.
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.

A planted tank blog has completed a case study using glutaraldehyde to eliminate BBA. You can read about it here:

http://www.tankspiration.com/tag/bba/

Their method is fairly similar to mine.

When I'm spot treating BBA with glutaraldehyde, I make a 1:4 dilution (that is, 1 ounce of glut and 4 ounces of water) and put it in a spray bottle. Then, during a water change, after I have drained the water out, I spray that dilution directly on the BBA and let it sit for about 5 minutes, then fill the tank up. Within 30 minutes the BBA turns white, and flakes off and disappears within a few days.

This method also kills GDA and GSA on the glass, hardscape, and plants.

However, be careful because not all plants respond well to this strong of a glut solution. I'm sure this list is bigger, but in my personal experience, rotalas, mosses, and vals do not like to be hit with this solution. Again, in my experience, Crypts and Anubias(two that are prone to GSA) respond positively to this solution.

For more information, that is an extensive sticky about this subject:

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/al...periences.html
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:47 PM   #5
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"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(or any shrimp easily bred in captivity): RCS/Tigers/Snowballs/etc 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, these other shrimp don't put near the hurt on algae as Amanos do, but they are DIRT CHEAP and breed like rabbits. These shrimp 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 these guys. 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 a shrimp can fit in their mouth, they'll eat it. However, in a heavily planted tank, if you introduce breeding shrimp BEFORE you introduce fish and get a population going, you'll have no problem keeping them. The other benefit of breeding shrimp 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 your local club with a wolf fish and send the fry over their way :P.

Last edited by jmhart; 08-11-2010 at 02:19 PM..
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:48 PM   #6
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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. 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.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:49 PM   #7
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Finally, If you have any questions or comments regarding the above, feel free to let me know.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:58 PM   #8
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How do you obtain the one Nerite per gallon statement?
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj2005 View Post
How do you obtain the one Nerite per gallon statement?
Years of experience/online research/talking with fellow hobbiest. Less can do a good job, but 1 per gallon is a good benchmark IF you are attempting complete algae control using only nerites.

As I mentioned, I recommend a good mix. A 45g tank with 45 nerites would really look pretty crazy, unless you just really love snails.
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmhart View Post
Years of experience/online research/talking with fellow hobbiest. Less can do a good job, but 1 per gallon is a good benchmark, IF you are attempting complete algae control using only nerites.

As I mentioned, I recommend a good mix. A 45g tank with 45 nerites would really look pretty crazy, unless you just really love snails.
I see. It's just that I have never seen someone recommend so many, even people like msjinkzd states one per five gallons.

I suppose it would depend on the amount of algae present, however.
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:44 PM   #11
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Im sure there are lots of critters that eat algae, I just want to point out one that I never see listed ; Rainbow Shark ( Epalzeorhynchos frenatum ) although-you have to be careful with tank mates.

Great job with the writeup--thanks for taking the time to do it!
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj2005 View Post
I see. It's just that I have never seen someone recommend so many, even people like msjinkzd states one per five gallons.

I suppose it would depend on the amount of algae present, however.
The descrepancy is probably that I'm used to dealing with Olive nerites, which are either a smaller species or simply sold that way. I've kept other kinds, and for complete algae control, I'm still not sure 1 per 5g would be enough. Maybe if you also have otos or something in there.
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shane3fan View Post
Im sure there are lots of critters that eat algae, I just want to point out one that I never see listed ; Rainbow Shark ( Epalzeorhynchos frenatum ) although-you have to be careful with tank mates.

Great job with the writeup--thanks for taking the time to do it!
That's true, most of the "shark" fish will eat algae, at least when they are young. In fact, they are closely related to the SAE...and actually come with all of the downsides of the SAE. They get big and need groups of at the very minimum 3, but more like 5.

I would say they are more attractive fish and slightly more fun to watch, though.
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Old 06-18-2010, 03:04 AM   #14
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Have to say well done!

Never had Amanos, are they OK in soft(low PH water) that is what we have in NYC.
Are they OK to keep with large Angels?
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Old 06-18-2010, 06:28 AM   #15
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What about using antibiotics? I've heard this mentioned before but I'm not aware of the specifics.
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