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Page 2 about
Algae in Aquariums


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This page contains Customer Comments and our Replies about how to get rid of algae growing in an aquarium.

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Customer Comments


what exactly is brown algae? I can't tell what is growing on the inside wall of the tank as for now it is just a film that i can see when looking from the side diagonally out the front.

Reply. There are many species of algae with various colors such as green, red, brown, and black.

The stuff growing on the glass inside your aquarium is probably mostly bacteria, but here are usually many types of algae growing among the bacteria.

The combination of the bacteria and the algae may appear to be brown especially when viewed from the side.

At least once a month you should take a scrubber, that is labeled for use in aquariums, and scrub the glass inside your aquarium until the glass is squeaky clean.

Click here to see a scrubber and read more about cleaning your aquarium.

The stuff growing on the glass usually does not cause problems but is unsightly, and most conscientious aquarists clean it off the glass at least once a month.

The stuff growing on the glass feeds on the waste in your aquarium water.

You can minimize the rate at which this stuff grows on your class by removing 20% of the water from your aquarium and replacing it with fresh water at least twice a week.

Click here to read more about aquarium water.


Customer Comments

Hi, I've already written to you before Tom, so you know how excellent I find your site. This time I have a question for you: In my 20-gallon, I'm starting to see small spots of brown. It clings to the glass, to the plants.
At first I thought it was too much food, so I made really sure they don't get extra and they don't. All the food is gone within 2 minutes, it doesn't even sink to the bottom. It scrapes easily with the sponge you recommended for algea (thanks!) but my problem is that is coming faster and faster all the time.
I do change the water twice a week (like you recommend again, very good advice by the way) and it's really clear and smells good. But it's not pretty. I never had this in my other aquariums, what could it be?
Reply. Hello again Sylvie. The brown stuff you see growing is bacteria and algae. They are feeding and growing rapidly on something in your aquarium water.

In this way they are a sign that there is probably too much dissolved waste in your water. Here are some recommendations.

Change 20% of the water once each day and see if this helps, by that I mean do the "brown spots" grow more slowly or even disappear.

Click here for more about changing water.

A filter with a BIO-Wheel will help, because the beneficial bacteria living on the BIO-Wheel will digest most of the waste from the water and improve the water quality.

Click here for more about BIO-Wheels.

I am also wondering how much gravel you have. If you have a layer of gravel more than 1/4" thick, then you should be washing your gravel and removing it, until you get down to 1/4" or less.

Click here for more about aquarium gravel.

I also wonder if you have any suspicious rocks in your aquarium.

Some rocks contain minerals, like various forms of iron, that will often cause various types of bacteria and algae to grow more rapidly.

Click here for more about avoiding contamination.

Be sure you have the light on in your aquarium at most a couple of hours each day, unless you have live plants, and they need more light.


Customer Comments

Hi Tom, Just a quick follow up about my problem of "brown spots". I removed some of the gravel (I have about 1/4-inch now) and also the bubble wand (which kept covering with the stuff even though I washed it twice a week). It's now practically gone! My fishies and me thank you for the advice!
Reply. Hello again Sylvie, thank you for your email reply. I enjoyed reading that your aquarium has improved and the brown stuff is almost gone.

Keep changing 20% of the water each day, and when the brown algae is gone, you can taper off to changing 20% twice a week.


Customer Comments

Hello, I have seen products at pet stores that claim to prevent algae growth. Do you recommend such products? Would using an algae reducing chemical hurt the balance of my tank?
Reply. Hello Steve. We do not recommend chemical products to prevent algae.

Click here and follow the advice about how to harmlessly get rid of algae, and you will not need any other chemical products.

Remember that algae is harmless, but the presence of algae indicates that your water contains too much fish waste.

So you will need to make partial water changes more frequently in the future.


Customer Comments

I have a 20-gallon tank that I have had for about 7 years. It has both an underground filter as well as a powered tank filter. Currently, I have two angels and one plecostomus. While all the readings for Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, PH are all within acceptable limits I cannot get rid of the black algae that grows on my plastic plants.
I change the water regularly. My local fish guy, whom I trust dearly (when I first got the tank, he wouldn't sell me a fish until my water was right) has sold me several products to eliminate the black algae, but to no avail. Other then removing and replacing the plants, do you have any solutions ...
Philip G.
Reply. Hello Philip. You can reduce the amount of algae that grows by reducing the amount of light in your aquarium and by reducing the amount of nutrients in the water.

Most fish prefer dim lighting. Your fish will do fine with just the lighting in the room, so turn off the aquarium light as much as possible.

You might also change the bulb in the lighting fixture in your aquarium, because most types of algae seem to prefer the light from one type of bulb.

The best way to reduce algae is to reduce the concentration of nutrients in the water. Do this by doing a 20% water change each day.

This will reduce the amount of fish waste dissolved in the water and starve the algae, unless your gravel contains lots of waste.

If your gravel is very dirty, the waste in your gravel will continuously dissolve into your aquarium water, and dissolved fish waste is the nutrient that will make the algae grow faster.

So you should be sure to clean your gravel each time you remove water from your aquarium. But do not remove and replace more than 20% of the water from your aquarium in one day.

Click here for more information about cleaning gravel.

Click here for more about aquarium gravel.

Your problem is probably an example of the problems caused by undergravel filters, and this is the reason that we strongly recommend that you get rid of your undergravel filter and replace it with a filter with a BIO-Wheel.

Click here for more information about BIO-Wheels.

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