How to Remove Algae from your Aquarium

Algae is a natural phenomenon that forms in aquariums. It’s that green stuff that builds up on your tank’s walls. Although algae is an important part of your fish tank’s ecosystem, too much of it can be detrimental to the rest of the aquatic life. It also can heavily reduce levels of visibility. Luckily, it’s easy to remove.

Aquarium Algae

Algae is always going to be a prominent issue that will happen if an aquarium is not properly maintained. There are different types of algae:

Blue-green algae

This type of algae develops due to poor water conditions. It can also be caused by moving plants or decorations from one aquarium to another. That could introduce new bacteria to the ecosystem, which is not equipped to handle it. Blue-green algae forms a layer over the little decorations in the fish tank. Fish will suddenly stop swimming due to that algae for a few seconds, meaning that the fish pretends to act as if it is not alive.

Brown algae

This type of algae is caused by not having a consistent light source. This leads to a brown layer forming. Light that is too bright but also light that is too weak can lead to brown algae. There are certain types of brown algae that are very common in new tanks, but usually go away after a while. It only becomes a problem if the algae persists. Brown algae can also be somewhat difficult to remove once it has developed significantly, based on its’ dusty appearance that can’t be easily cleaned away. It thrives in environments that are high in silicon and/or nitrates.

Green algae

This type of algae is a result of the aquarium being exposed to too much light and/or containing high levels of dissolved waste. This makes the tank’s water look dirty and have floating particles. However, green algae can be beneficial for the fish because it can be a source of nutrients/food for them. So it’s ok to have a few green algae residues on the rocks or little ornaments. As long as you properly maintain your tank, the green algae will not overgrow and cause problems.

Red Algae

This type of algae is caused by low levels of carbon dioxide in the water, and it looks like fur. It’s a burden because it sticks and hangs all over the aquarium – on plants, rocks, even filtration systems. To be able to get rid of red algae, you can try to pump oxygen into the tank. But the best removal method is to simply empty and clean the whole tank. This is because red algae attaches itself very strongly to surfaces. Attempts to scrape red algae off plants can often result in damage to the plants.

Common aquarium algae

Brown and green algae are most commonly found in aquariums, but it’s possible to experience the others. It’s also possible to experience an overgrowth of more than one form of algae at a time, depending on your tank’s water environment.

Ways to get rid of algae

Although it’s unlikely your aquarium will ever be totally free of algae, there are steps you can take to prevent harmful blooms. Some ways to get rid of algae from an aquarium could be:

Have fish that eat algae

There are certain types of fish (e.g. ancistrus) that help keep the tank clean from algae. Also known as bottom feeders, these fish feed specifically on green algae. This is a natural and easy way to keep the levels of algae in your tank healthy. It also adds more fish to your tank, which is always a bonus. Even with these types of fish in the tank, it’s still important to clean your tank to get rid of any excess algae. If you choose to combat overgrown algae with these specific types of fish, always do your research to ensure that they are compatible with the existing fish you already have in your aquarium, to avoid harming your current ecosystem.

Scrape the algae

Different types of scrapers are available, from long sticks, sponges, scrubs, and brushes. They’re easy to use on the aquarium’s glass, as well as on decorations that might be covered too. You could also just use your hands with gloves to remove stubborn algae that’s not removable with a scraper. Although this will not work for all of the different types of algae (for example, it won’t work with brown algae), the range of tools available should be able to cater to most other types. Make sure that if you remove all algae pieces. If left, these algae pieces will just decay and reduce the quality of the water, negatively affecting other organisms. Although this method of getting rid of algae won’t affect the root cause of your problem, it can help to slow the growth down, and will increase the visibility into your tank.

Daily water changes

Everyday, drain a little bit of the tank’s water until there is no more algae in the water. This is the fastest and cheapest way to remove algae. It gets rid of excessive levels of nitrogen in the water, which is one of the main components of algae growth. Ideally, you should be removing and replacing 10% of the water level on a weekly basis, so as not to disrupt the rest of your aquarium. It’s important to also check the quality of the water that you’re putting into your aquarium. If your new water is high in nitrate or phosphates, it’s not going to have the intended effect you are looking for. You can test your tank’s nitrate and phosphate levels all-together with this kit. This method only really works well if you have minimal amounts of unwanted algae in your aquarium. It won’t help if the algae is already too overgrown.

Regularly clean your tank

Your tank needs to be cleaned regularly. If you’ve been slacking on this, it may be the cause of your excessive algae problem. Keeping your tank clean is good for all of the living organisms in it. It can help to reduce the level of nutrients in the water that algae thrives on. If algae is growing on a particular decoration or rocks, remove them, so they can be cleaned separately and thoroughly. Scraping down the glass of your aquarium can also displace a lot of it, as well as making your tank much nicer to look at.

Add plants in the water, any removes algae!

This method allows competition to take place in the tank. Plants and algae both require sunlight to live, as well as various nutrients such as nitrates. Adding plants also helps reduce carbon dioxide levels in the water. That further aids in limiting the algae’s growth rate. Because aquatic plants also create oxygen, they make a great addition to tanks, and can help improve oxygen levels for your fish.

Products to remove algae

You can also buy algae remover that you add to your tank’s water to prevent or reduce algae from forming. Algae remover blocks the entry of sunlight into the aquarium. Sunlight is a necessary component for green algae’s growth and survival. There are also solutions that can be added to the water. In tiny doses, they should not harm your fish or other plants, but will kill off algae. If you intend to add a chemical solution to your tank water, first make sure that it’s safe for your specific aquatic life. Read the directions carefully, as too much of a chemical solution can be detrimental to your aquatic life.

Invest in a good filter

Filters reduce the growth of algae by removing excessive amounts of nutrients like nitrate and iron from the water. They also get rid of any food that hasn’t been eaten and ammonia. Some filters can also get rid of small particles of dead plant matter, before they have the chance to degrade into nitrogen.

Reduce the light cycle of your tank


Because algae photosynthesis, the more light there is – the more algae can grow. If you’re turning the lights of your aquarium on as soon as you wake up, and turning them off just before you go to sleep (or keeping them on constantly), this can be what is fast-tracking algae takeover. If possible, try to reduce the number of hours that your tank is experiencing light, without negatively affecting the other aquatic life in your tank. Remove the tank from direct sunlight, and don’t use artificial light that is unnecessarily strong. If you’re concerned about your tank not getting enough light, it’s a good idea to invest in a timed system. This way you can program when the lights go on and off, and you have direct control of how much light your tank receives, without having to be there at the right time to manage it.

Overfeeding your fish


Overfeeding your fish can be a reason why there’s an excess amount of algae. When you overfeed fish, not all food will get consumed. This leaves flakes to decompose, which turns into nitrogen compounds. An increase in nitrogen means an increase in algae. Fish feces are also a source of nutrients for algae, and the more you feed the fish, the more it is going to expel. One of the best ways to reduce excess algae in your aquarium is to stop feeding your fish so much. When you feed your fish, they’re likely to eat everything swiftly. It may seem as though they are still hungry, and it can seem tempting to give them just a little more.

In order to stop overfeeding your fish, there are a couple of different tactics for you to consider employing. Firstly, only feed your fish once a day. Almost all fish will be able to survive on a single meal, provided you’re still feeding them enough. Each time you feed your fish, there’ll be food that becomes waste, and facilitates the growth of algae. So if you reduce the number of times you feed your fish, you’ll reduce the amount of waste. If you do have to feed your fish multiple times a day, make sure you’re using appropriate amounts of food. Fish eat incredibly fast and it may seem as though they’re still hungry after feeding, but often that’s not the case. Reducing the amount of food that enters the tank at each feeding will also reduce the potential waste, limiting algae growth.

Can you remove all the algae in your aquarium?

It’s important to remember that your tank will never be totally free of algae, and that should never be your goal. Algae has an important part to play in your aquarium’s ecosystem. As long as it doesn’t begin to grow out of control, it can be super beneficial. When it comes to algae overgrowth, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. No matter what method or methods you choose to employ to get algae growth back under control, it’s always better to work on it sooner rather than later. As long as you are cleaning your tank regularly, and you make some minor adjustments to your aquarium, algae growth should get back under control, leaving you with a tank that is healthy, and visually stunning.

Importance of Algae:


Algae is very important for the environment because it’s a huge oxygen producer and also recycles the carbon dioxide from the air.  However, having an excess amount of algae in your tank can be harmful to your fish.

Since it’s a plant, algae converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. Algae also helps remove the excessive amounts of nitrogen in your aquarium, coming from excess fish food that wasn’t eaten, as well as dead aquatic plants that are decomposing. While a small amount of nitrogen is natural and perfectly safe for all life in your tank, too much can be incredibly harmful. Algae helps to regulate this, and maintains healthy levels so that aquatic life can continue to grow.

But the purpose of algae actually extends far beyond your aquarium. Over 70% of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean, and algae is a contributor to that stat. Although algae is clearly a necessary component of the global food chain, too much of it can have harmful consequences. Too much algae in your tank can create issues for your fish, and if left untreated, can often lead to deaths.