Algae in Aquarium
Has your aquarium been developing a plant-like specimen? This might be another case of algae. For most aquarium owners, algae can be intensely repulsive. Knowledge is the best tool to counter this problem. There are many different types of algae, all of which behave differently. This article will equip the aquarium owner with enough knowledge to keep their algae situations in check.
What are Aquarium Algae?
Contrary to what most people think, algae are not particularly part of the plant kingdom. They have their own specific classification. Algae are cells that have special components called ‘chloroplasts.’ A chloroplast is a part of plants and even algae that is capable of carrying out photosynthesis. To save you from going back to a high school desk, I will simply define photosynthesis as the process by which food or nutrients are manufactured by the catalysis of light.
Now the difference between plants and algae is this: algae do not have the systematic components found in plants; these are leaves, stems, root systems etc.
Algae exist in different structures. Some manifest as dust that settles in the tank whilst others form thin blankets on surfaces. Other forms are thread-like, existing as filaments. Algae may also ( in their most disgusting version) exist as slime – this type will totally drain the aquatic beauty of your aquarium. Algae can also form partly transparent films in water bodies. This is why you need to do something about it before it grows wild. If your aquarium is for display in a place of business, you might repel your customers; so you need to act fast!
Causes and Impact
Algae thrive in aquatic or damp conditions. Besides these basic conditions, if you add fertilising components, algae will go wild! Such elements include phosphates, nitrates and sulphates. This means that if you put water that gets in contact with leached minerals, this will cause algae to manifest all the more.
Algae can spread because of the use of contaminated water sources. Examples of these are water from open water bodies such as rivers. These bodies will be exposed to fertiliser nutrients due to nutrient leaching. So, if one is not careful about their water source, algae will join the family. In addition to causing algae, nasty water sources may be harmful to your fish. I am talking about minerals like nitrates, these can be harmful to fish health.
Overfeeding fish is another cause of algae. If fish are overfed, the remnant food may actually lead to dense multiplication of algae. Food items may have the necessary nutrients to boost algae growth. Algae can also be caused by long-term exposure to high light intensity. Light is crucial for photosynthesis. If the light intensity is high, algae grow more rapidly.
To most fish, algae have no effect when it is available in small amounts. Species like goldfish particularly enjoy this treat. You should know, however, that in terms of the health of aquatic life, algae has no effect. In large amounts though, algae can be quite unpleasant. Aquariums are optically enticing, in fact, some people keep fish just to see them grow and admire their beauty. Algae films actually ruin this view. This means you will have sediments of repelling matter that sucks the joy out of your fish tank.
Algae grow aerobically, which means that at night, they take in oxygen. That’s kind of a bummer because your fish will also need that oxygen. The competition won’t be fair. This may lead to the premature death of aquatic life due to a lack of proper breathing.
As algae multiply, they may form blankets on the water surface. These blankets maybe just thick enough to block the proper exchange of air. The carbon dioxide given off by fish will find it hard to leave the tank. This increase in carbon dioxide increases its content in inbreathed air, reducing oxygen intake. In the long run, the fish will be starved of oxygen. You’ll probably see your fish on the surface – dead! That will be due to suffocation due to lack of oxygen. This dead animal matter also decomposes aerobically, this just means they use oxygen to decay. This will further drain the oxygen supply, causing fish to die, one after another. Deal with algae before it out-deals you!
Common types of aquarium algae
Algae come in many forms and colours. The following are a few common examples.
Ever heard of hair algae? It is also known as string algae. It is very easy to pick out due to the nomenclature. String algae exist in filaments or threads, commonly of green colour ( with various shades). The texture varies from rough species to finer ones and even the slimy kind. String algae will attach itself to organisms that move in water bodies, and these give transport and enhance the spread of this kind of algae.
Green water algae
If you have been to swampy areas, you have probably met these ‘bad boys.’ Green water algae multiply fast over water bodies. They originate from a single cell species that can easily float on water. This means that they have the ability to spread more rapidly than your usual species. This form of algae thrives in well-lit areas. Its ability to form layers means that it can drain oxygen both from within and without the tank, leaving the fish gasping for air out of lack.
This type of species is also known for its layer forming ability. It forms a brown slime which can sometimes be beneficial to aquatic life. This species helps in carbon fixation. Note, also, that not all Dinoflagellates undergo photosynthesis. This generally decreases their level of detriment to aquatic life. In fact, it has an ecological assisting nature exhibited in its symbiotic relationship with corals and sponges.
You probably know the legend of the nasty pirate – Black Beard – well there are algae that share the very same name. Black Beard algae are quite unique due to their dense collection of filaments. The filaments spike out from one source. This type of algae grows on surfaces and at times plant leaves. This type may also exist in other shades like grey and in rare occasions, off-white shades. This type is easier to deal with physically, using methods like scraping.
This is a funny group of algae and here is why; they appear in new aquariums and disappear in no time at all. This is because this species is more common in larger water bodies such as lakes. They cover the surface of the aquarium with a brownish coat. This can be repelling in public display aquariums. Mitigation measures for this kind are not that intense, you can actually afford to endure their presence till, eventually, they disappear. Most people notice the development of this type after a few days of installation of tanks.
Green dust algae
This group is particularly annoying and hard to ignore. They form green dust that settles on surfaces. This dust may actually irritate aquarium fish. When this species is available, looking at your fish becomes difficult. You can scoop this kind out but it is a quite tedious process.
This type is commonly called blanket weed. If you have rocks or any other similar surfaces, this old-timer will be the first to book accommodation. This type sprouts mostly in solid places. This species is usually green in colour.
To counteract the excessive growth of algae, one needs to work both preventing algae and eliminating already existing algae.
Dealing with algae depends on the type of algae being dealt with. However, there are general methods that can help you deal with all types of algae.
Because algae accumulate due to water sources that might be contaminated with fertiliser minerals, one needs to constantly change the water in the aquarium.
It is, however, of great benefit that you know the contents of your water source before you use it. This will actually determine the frequency of changing water. Some water sources have high levels of phosphates, nitrates and sulphates. Testing is an easy procedure that one can carry out at home. All you need is the right testing kit.
If your town’s water source is not reliable, you can try buying processed water from aquarium suppliers. One can also get water from large water bodies. Rivers are not that good of an idea due to the high possibility of finding leached nutrients.
One of the conditions that promote algae growth is light. Since algae multiply by photosynthesis, blocking light reduces the broad multiplication of algae. The chloroplasts will have no mechanism for the production of nutrients.
Some chemicals can actually help to decrease the concentration of algae in your aquarium. Such chemicals are the likes of algaecide Mizzen. You should however take caution when using chemicals. This is because, when the wrong amounts are used, they may actually affect aquatic life. This will be counteracting the success of your project. So, if you decide to use chemicals, work strictly by the book – nothing more, nothing less.
Besides algaecides, one can also use other plants to deal with algae. These plants compete with algae for resources, which in turns keeps the algae population in check. Barley straw also provides good prevention of algae. It is however risky to use Barley straw due to its intense mechanism. You will be risking your aquatic life.
Some types of algae can actually be scraped off. This means one will have to be in the habit of checking the tank for algae and physically scraping it off. This may however prove to be quite tedious to keep up, which is why I have suggested the earlier methods.
I know you might love your fish very much, but avoid the habit of constantly overfeeding the little guys. That’s because when algae are in an environment with a lot of food, it thrives. So, as much as you are trying to do something nice, the result won’t be pleasant at all.
There are organisms that can actually consume algae, such as other forms of fish. Examples are the Grass carp and Mosquitofish. You can keep these together with your target breed. Watch out though, that the algae consuming fish do not over-reproduce as compared to your fish of choice. This may increase labour and costs for food and maintenance.
You can actually gauge the number of fish that suits your tank size. I would suggest small fish like goldfish for algae control: I mean, they are small and adorable and can get the job done in no time. In addition, goldfish are easier to keep up and rear than the traditional bottom feeders.
So there you go! To keep aquaculture interesting, know how to keep your fish safe and your tank attractive. The pointers discussed can be easily implemented on your own as DIY moves. However, if you feel like you need a more intense solution or you’re in doubt about how to carry it out, you can always enlist the services of professionals in the industry. Good luck!