How can fixing aquarium algae problems as your own
I think most aquarium keepers go through some sort of algae problems at least once when keeping a fish tank. There are some things that you can do to fix these algae blooms and you can even prevent them from happening in the first place.
The first thing you should do is get aquarium test kits that will test your water for nitrates and phosphates. Test not only your tank water, but your tap water too. Many people have nitrates in their tap water and they don’t know it until they test for nitrates. Phosphates can be a problem too and you can introduce phosphates from the foods that enter the aquarium and some activated carbon will leech phosphates.
Allow me to reminisce a moment. For my first saltwater aquarium I went out and bought a Reverse Osmosis kit for my tap water to help reduce the amount of dissolved solids entering the water, including nitrates and phosphates. Things were going great the first few months and then I kept reading how hobbyists were using activated carbon in between water changes to remove dissolved organics. I tried this too, but wouldn’t you know it, every time I used activated carbon Id start getting minor algae blooms a day or two after using it. Id run it for a week in the filter and then remove it and the algae problems would slowly go away. Then a couple of weeks would go by and Id try again with the same results.
This happened about 3 or 4 times before I got wise and tested the brand of carbon I was using and bam! The stinkin carbon was leeching phosphates into the tank! I’ve tested various brands and many have tested positive for phosphates. So, test your carbon before using it in your tank and if it leeches phosphates, don’t use it. I use two little fishies brand of activated carbon and have had good results – you can get it for about $30 plus shipping.
Things to control to limit algae problems in your saltwater aquarium or reef tank:
- Limit nitrates – try to keep them less than 5 ppm or lower. I use lots of live rock in my saltwater aquariums and I rarely can detect nitrates with my Salifert test kit.
- Limit phosphates – you want phosphates kept at 0 or undetectable by your test kit. Remember that phosphates can enter the water from activated carbon (some brands) and from the foods we feed our fish. If you use frozen foods, dont just dump the frozen cubes in the water. Thaw them out first and slowly spoon feed the fish just the solid pieces – limit the amount of juice that gets into the tank.
- Dose with Kalkwasser – using kalkwasser for your top-offs is a good way to keep your alkalinity and calcium levels where they need to be. You have to make sure that these levels are good to begin with and I recommend testing frequently when using kalkwasser. This means that youll need to invest in a calcium and alkalinity test kit. Always SLOW drip kalkwasser when the tank lights are off to prevent rapid pH swings that could stress the fish and invertebrates in the tank. Kalkwasser is reported to precipitate phosphates out of solution.
- Use Reverse Osmosis and/or Deionized water. These water purification systems can be add-ons to your faucet and they do an excellent job at removing dissolved solids from the tap water. If youre running a reef tank with extremely high lighting levels, it is highly recommended that you get at least a RO filter for your aquarium water.
- Keep the water surface agitated to prevent carbon dioxide from building up in the tank. I always keep the surface agitated and I use small fans that constantly blow across the top of the water to keep temperatures within acceptable levels. This has the side benefit of (or drawback depending on your setup) of letting me dose kalk more frequently.
- Keep up with those water changes. Try to change out a small percentage of saltwater (say 10%) at least once a month, or even better, every two weeks. This helps limit the amount of dissolved organics not pulled out by the protein skimmer and it reintroduces minor trace elements that get used up and need to be replenished.
- Stay away from those saltwater supplements unless you know exactly what youre adding to your tank.
- Limit the amount of nutrients (i.e. food) that enters that aquarium. Take your time when feeding and only put in tiny amounts that the fish eat quickly. If any of it is getting past them and hitting the substrate you may be feeding too quickly or too much.
- Stock lightly. Keep your tank understocked. Resisting the temptation to get just one more fish will help your tank in many ways, including the control of algae. The amount of dissolved organics should stay within controllable levels and you dont need to do water changes as often in aquariums that are stocked lightly.
- Get a UV sterilizer. Pond owners know about the benefits of using these devices to control algae in their outdoor ponds. They also may help with disease control at very, very slow flows. Some folks swear by them and some swear at them calling them a waste of money. Ive currently have a sterilizer on one of my tanks and it gives me peace of mind. Now, I dont know if its really helping or not, but I hope so.
- Turn the aquarium lights off! If you still have an algae problem, try running the tank with lights off for 2 days. We know that algae doesn’t grow by lights alone, but running a tank with lights off every once in a while may not be a bad idea. Think about the coral reefs for a second. These places don’t have full blast sunshine all the time. They too have cloudy, overcast days from time to time.
Also, I would never use those algaecides that claim to kill algae problems only. I think that by using these products you’re only treating the symptoms and not fixing the underlying problems. You may also be killing other beneficial organisms too.
Let me know if you have any other good ideas on controlling algae problems.