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FAQs on Avoiding Algae Problems

Related Articles: Avoiding Algae Problems in Marine Systems, Algae Control, Marine Maintenance, Marine Scavengers, Snails, Hermit Crabs, Mithrax/Emerald Green Crabs, Sea Urchins, Blennies, Algae Filters, Ctenochaetus/Bristle Mouth Tangs, Zebrasoma/Sailfin Tangs, Skimmers, Skimmer Selection, Marine Algae, Coralline Algae, Green Algae, Brown Algae, Blue-Green "Algae"/(Cyanobacteria)Diatoms, Brown Algae

Related FAQs: Algae and Their Control in Marine System, Marine Algicide Use, Nutrient Limitation, Marine Algae Eaters, Culturing Macro-Algae; Controlling: BGA/Cyano, Red/Encrusting Algae, Green Algae, Brown/Diatom Algae

Mespila globulus, one of the better Urchins for aquarium scavenging.

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Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

algae and live rock quarantine    7/13/12
Hello there,
I have a 120 gallon tank with aragonite sand and about 100 pounds of base rock...no life...set up about 3 weeks ago. I bought a nice 10 pound piece of Pukani live rock
<Know the young gal it's named after>
 and placed it in a 10 gallon quarantine tank with the intention of using it to seed my future reef, after 4 weeks of observation. In the past, when my base rock was live and in a prior tank (years ago), it was infested with every type of Caulerpa and bubble algae known to man and so my intention this time is to avoid these algaes in particular...hence the quarantine. I know it’s impossible to avoid every pest every time, but these I really don’t want in my tank because they can turn a relaxing hobby into a frustrating laborious affair!  Well, 3 weeks into my quarantine, my rock has sprouted both Valonia and feather Caulerpa...hahaha!
 Just have to laugh! It also has some type of algae that looks like  individual flat top stools (the type you sit on) with tiny thorns, which may be a form of Racemosa but it’s still too tiny for me to accurately identify. So what to do? Is it basically futile to keep these things out?
<Mmm, at this juncture, you could go the biocide route... I'd use chlorine bleach if so. Read here re SOP: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm
and the linked FAQs file>
I mean, I will definitely pick and scrub this stuff off and leave in quarantine an extra month but what if it sprouts again?
<"Only takes one spore">
Where does it end? Do I throw out a 90$ piece of rock with a ton of life...worms, pods, feather dusters, brittle stars etc?
<I'd isolate the live part... see if you can find, scrub off (outside the holding system) and rinse any pest part away>
The next piece will likely be the same! Should I clean it up and just place in my tank and accept that I will likely have some algae issues I will have to deal with? I thought this was suppose to be fun...a big sarcastic “ha”!
<Is one approach...>
Thanks much,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Bubble Algae Prevention 9/21/08 Thank you for your phenomenal efforts! I greatly appreciate all that you guys and gals do for the hobby! <Thank you for your kind words Joe.> My question today is about macro-algae of the Valonia sp. <A pretty pest.> I have been a marine hobbyist for 6 years and have had 1 FOWLR system as well as 2 reef systems, all with good success. <Congrats!> In each system, I have had/am having problems with bubble algae. This is a remarkable organism in the fact that it can flourish in a HUGE variety of water conditions. Even with near perfect water conditions and diligent extraction, it is still a problem in my systems. <Can be very problematic.> I have found that the often cited cures have limited results: protein skimming, carbon, and Mithrax Crabs have helped but IMO, do not offer a substantial solution. Manual extraction is the best method of control and this can be a real headache due to the organism's swift reproduction! <I would agree.> Finally, my question. I am in the planning stages of a 75 gallon reef tank and would like to do everything that I can to prevent bubble algae from entering the system. I will be careful not to use specimens, live rock, or substrate from any tanks containing Valonia sp. and will use only freshly made synthetic water. I will be quarantining everything added to the tank for at least 6 weeks. <All wise.> Do you have any other suggestions on how to prevent this species from invading my system? I have noticed that even quarantined live rock can eventually appear with these green spawns of Satan! <Well, though I am generally a huge fan of live rock, you might be interested in something like Marco Rocks, which is dried and has significantly less likelihood of bringing pests into your system. They just might be "Good for you!" More here: http://www.marcorocks.com > Thanks for all that you do! God bless! <On behalf of Bob and the rest of the WWM crew, you're welcome.> Joe W. <Mich L.>

Cloudy green water... SW, algal world, die-off...    7/31/08 I searched your site but didn't find anything that really relates to my problem. I have a 55 gallon FOWLR tank (hoping to covert to a reef tank) that has been running for about 2 months. I cycled it with some new live rock and some from my old established tank. Ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and phosphate are all at zero. <Wow!> PH is 8.4, salinity is 1.025 and calcium is 250. <Mmm... a bit low... and your alkalinity?> Two nights ago I did a 10% water change, cleaned the power heads and replaced the carbon filter. The next morning the water was a cloudy green color. It appears to be some sort of dissolved algae which, by the way I have a lot of in my tank. <Mmm... see below> Red slime, hair, and lots of green. You name it I've got it. I also add strontium, calcium and PhytoPlex for my future corals. <... I would not add the latter... for future anything> I've done tests twice since then with excellent results but it keeps getting worse. Now I can barely see my fish <?!> (1 pink spotted goby and pistol shrimp pair, 2 false percula, 1 orange tailed damsel, 1 royal Gramma, various hermit crabs and snails and a peppermint shrimp, which don't seem to mind it. But the day after the water change I tried to add a green chromis and it was dead the next morning. <Trouble, you betcha> I'm totally stumped about this green water situation. Any suggestions on what to do or what is happening would be great. Thanks. Jamie <I suspect... as a good guess... that the listed lack of available (by your measure) of basic chemical nutrients (e.g. Nitrate, Phosphate), show these to have been limiting factors in the growth of the stated algae (they were "scarfing it all up")... along with calcium as a needed co-biomineral... With the addition/change out of the carbon, the "scales were tipped" with a massive die-off event of some of the algae occurring, this resulting in a good deal of their death, dissolution... and consequent coloring, poisoning of your system... For now, you need to do damage control with restoring present water quality (likely through some massive water changes)... going forward, you need to formulate a plan to control algal proliferation... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm and the linked files in-text and above... till you understand what you're up to, against. Do write back re specifics if you have questions, doubts, suggestions. Bob Fenner>

Green Film on Glass - 02/13/2006 Bob- <Hi Cecilia! You've got Josh today.> I have a 120 gal salt water tank which is developing a very light green film on interior glass. <Sounds like some algae or Cyano starting to take hold.> Tank has been running for four years plus. Please advise what might be causing this and how I might correct it. <Still the same LR/substrate this tank was started with? May simply need to add some new (or swap out some old). If you've ruled out all other points of algae/BGA origin, then this is probably your situation.> Thank you for your time.   <Glad to share it.> Cecilia <Josh>

Algae Has Him Seeing Red!    1/25/06 Hi guys, I was curious, is red algae bad for my tank? I have it all over my rocks, apparently I don't have enough light. I have a 90 gallon with 110 watts of compact fluorescent twin tubes. I thought maybe I should scrape it off, I wanted to know what you guys thought first. Thanks for the help. Sam <Well, Sam- algae, in and of themselves are not harmful. Certain forms of algae can overgrow desired animals in your tank, and generally look unattractive. Excessive algae growth (particularly some of the red varieties) are often indicative of nutrient excesses somewhere in the system. You didn't provide information on your water parameters, so I'll just make some general suggestions. First, try to keep phosphate and silicate at undetectable levels (using quality source water, such as RO/DI, and chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon or Poly Filter). These substances are major contributors to nuisance algae blooms in aquaria. In addition, try to keep a steady, high pH and good alkalinity areas. Overall water motion should be brisk, and good husbandry habits (like careful feeding and regular water changes) should be utilized. These are just a few basic thoughts. Do read up under "algae" on the WWM site to find out exactly what algae you are dealing with, and to develop a plan of attack to deal with it if it is causing problems for your system. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> <<Excess algae growth, presence can indeed be real trouble... toxic. Particularly some species, groups... e.g. Cyanobacteria you likely have here. You want to keep this material limited... as Scott states... through various means. RMF>>

Phosphates + Nitrates = Cyano  12/24/05 Gentlemen- <Actually we have some lovely ladies here as well, 2 of which are in charge while Bob is out hehe. But tonight you do have a "dude," Adam Jackson here with you tonight.> Happy Holidays first of all! <And to you as well my friend.> I have a 58 gallon Oceanic Show Tank.  The contents are as follows: 1 Green Mandarin <I hope you researched the needs of this animal prior to purchase, most starve in smaller aquariums, especially those that lack dedicated large fishless refugiums for a food source.> 1 Potters Angel <Notoriously difficult Centropyge to keep, though it is a beautiful fish. Make sure to feed a variety of foods and consider a nutritional supplement such as Selcon.> 1 Small Yellow Tang <Monitor size, will eventually need larger quarters.> 1 Cleaner Shrimp <Good choice.> 1 Maroon Clown <Watch for aggression, some maroons are downright psychotic.> 1 Green bulb/long tentacle anemone Couple pieces of live rock with various mushrooms Couple pieces of live rock with assorted polyps 1 Flower pot coral <This is also a specimen that usually perishes in captivity, at present time its needs are not a "set-in-stone" fact and until then it should be left in the ocean.> 1 Hammer Coral 100 pounds of live rock Filtration/equipment: Remora Aqua C hang on skimmer <Good piece of equipment.> Fluval 404 - Only packed with Chemi-pure and Purigen (A Seachem product) Wet Dry Filter with live rock in trickle chamber, no bio-balls Coralife UV Sterilizer 1 Rio 600 Water pump <Careful these are known to fail resulting in some unpleasing events to say the least. I'm not a fan of this product.> 1 Seio 820 Water Pump 2-2x96 Power compact lights - (384 watts in total) 150 Watt Ego-Jager Heater <All sounds good.> Questions/Advise Needed: <Sure.> 1) Outbreak of Red Cyanobacteria. On substrate (Sand) and on some rock.  Last night I installed this Seio water pump in some rock to increase water flow to area. I also added Phosban in mesh bag to sump area of wet.dry filter - Any other thoughts here? <How old are the membranes on your RODI unit, they need to be placed every year or you'll start to see nitrates, phosphates, etc.. in your source water.> 2) All coral and inverts are thriving, but nitrates are high, 20-40ppm. <This is the problem along with some trace phosphates I'm willing to bet.> I use RODI water for all water changes and I always change 7 gallons every Sunday.  Thoughts here? <Increase the water change amount, at least 10 gallons, 15 would be even better.> 3) Will the supplement of Kent Marine Zoe to the water increase the dissolved nutrients in the water and perhaps adding to my Cyano issue?   <If it is overused yes, liquid supplements like bottled phytoplankton can cause nutrient pollution.> I should mention that the phosphates tested on the low range scale of around .4 <Oh, I was right.> 4) When adding top off RODI water what type of buffering should be done to it to get the right ph?  Is just adding some Marine Buffer enough? <Yes that's fine, any marine pH buffer will do, personally I use Salifert and SeaChem.> Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate your input. <No trouble Bryan, I would do a few things, replace RODI cartridges/membranes, bigger water changes and look into a refugium (search WWM re: refugium).> Bryan <Adam J.>

When is Soylent Green not People? When it's Coating my Tank  Hi guys - <Hi Jeff. You got crewmember Lorenzo today.> First, thanks again to Bob for answering my questions. He's helped me out a couple of times now. <He's definitely da MAN. And out in the tropics somewhere right now.> Next, I'm hoping that you guys can help me out again. I have a layer of goo all over my tank. It's more than a little frustrating. I'll specify what goo is because I'm sure you're rolling your eyes at how vague I'm being. I can get a bit verbose, so apologies for the length of the email.  I'll try and include as much information about my system as I can. At the bottom of the email I'll write out a summary of my tank. I'll try and hit the major points, but please let me know if I'm missing anything.  I know that I'm missing something with my tank and it's causing me some major headaches (not to mention a fortune in salt for all the water changes I've been doing) I've been fighting Cyano off since I set up my 70 gallon about 5 months ago. At the time I had no corals and just a few fish, crabs, snails and 2 green serpent stars. At the time I only had a 110W PC fixture and a 40W NO actinic. I upgraded my lighting to 2 x 175W 10,000K metal halide fixtures with Ushio bulbs. I built a hood to store the lights. The metal halide bulbs are about 6" from the water. I also kept the PC fixture which is about 2" from the water. I made sure I built in two ledges in my hood so that I could have lights at different levels. <Sounds like a great setup.> I did buy the lights used (got a great deal on them), and the guy told me that the bulbs were about 8 months old. I've been using them for about 2 months now, so it's just about time to replace them.  <Yes. Though generally MH bulbs are good for 12-14 months...> Upgrading the lights seems to have taken care of the Cyano. It receded quite quickly and soon there was only a little on the back wall and the sides. I had to scrape my front about once a week, but it was not a big deal. I had a bit of dinoflagellate, but it was relatively minor compared to what's coming.  <Lighting can help, but usually algae troubles are more about nutrients.> Fast forward about 6 weeks. I went away for the weekend and when I came back, my return pump from my sump was grinding away and my return hose was spitting air back into the tank. There was a bit of water on the ground too. It looks like the filter I have on my overflow was clogged and slowed the flow down to the sump. <You're very lucky the sump did not empty out completely onto your floor!> Everything was clogged. My rocks were covered in hair algae and dinoflagellate complete with air bubbles everywhere. The Cyano was back with a vengeance and my tank looked terrible. <This was a lack of circulation, filtration/skimming, and probably some related die-off.> At the time there was a very light bio-load going on. I had no fish in there (they were in the QT, my tank was laying fallow after a crypt breakout). I only had my corals (listed below) 2 cleaner shrimp and my cleanup crew. Despite this light load, my skimmer has been pulling tons of crap out. <Nice to know it's working!> Since the incident, I've been cleaning the skimmer every other day and I've been pulling out this very dry sticky foam out. My skimmer collection cup has an drain on it, but the skimmate isn't even getting to it. It's backing up to the top of the skimmer, then overflowing at the top of the skimmer cup. It's quite gross.  I've also tried scrubbing the rocks to get rid of the worst of the hair algae. That's helped quite a bit, but it's still coming back. <Unless you remove it physically from the system, all its constituents are still there, waiting to be 'reborn' as new algae. Scrub all you want, just make sure the algae goes in the trash.> My corals have taken a hit. My Kenya tree looks terrible and has gotten worse over the last 2 weeks. It's shrunk to about 1/2 its size. My Xenia elongata is doing terribly. The polyps don't even open up any more. I moved them up in the water column to see if more lighting and more water flow would help. I only did that about 1/2 an hour ago, but it's not looking so good. The only good thing is that the base hasn't shrunk. It's still quite thick.  My hammer coral isn't doing so well. It's on the bottom of the tank, but doesn't seem to be expanding as well as it was. My button polyps aren't opening all the way either. They're only about 1/2 open. <These things may simply be responding to the glut of algae and all its related chemicals in the water column.> The only things doing well are my mushrooms. My Ricordea is still getting quite large during the day and doesn't seem to be suffering for the porcelain crab that's living under it. My green mushrooms (not sure of the exact name, but they look like pictures from your Corallimorpharian page. They were sold to me as electric green mushrooms) have continued to do well and have gotten even greener than before.  My Acro is also doing pretty well. I rescued it from a friend and when I first put it in my tank it was mostly brown and the polyps weren't coming out. I've had it about a month and now it's starting to turn blue at the tips closest to the light. It's about 2" under the waterline. After typing that last bit, could it be the mushrooms having a war with my other corals?  <Doubtful this is a primary problem, but some high-quality activated carbon isn't a bad idea.> I've thought of a couple of things that could be responsible for the algae. About a week before the weekend of doom (I keep trying to think of a good name for it), my green star polyps melted almost overnight. I had had them about 2 weeks at that point. I did a 20% water change after that and I hoped that would clear out any badness they might have released. Also, I had a small yellow tang that went missing around the time I moved everyone to the QT due to Ich. I searched the tank, ripped down the rock, but never found him. I suspect that the various creepy crawlies munched him up. I think that now I'm dealing with the excess nutrients. <Almost certainly.> I'm planning on building a refugium. For now, I have a half baked one in my sump. Water flows over the middle section of my sump. There's some live rock and Chaetomorpha under some 65W PC lights (about 6" from the water. A bit high, I know, but it'll be fixed once I have the proper refugium set up). I'm sure having a proper refugium will help things, but I'm not so sure it's my solution.  <It'll help, but you're right, it's not a cure-all.> I've been trying to fix the problem by doing large and frequent water changes. Last weekend I switched my salt to Instant Ocean and I've done 50 gallons of water changes since then. It's a good thing I bought the 200 gallon box :) My water is from an RO system. I'm changing about 10 gallons every 2-3 days. I'm siphoning 1/2 the tank each time I do a change and it doesn't seem to get all the various goos (technical term) that are in my substrate. <If the water is well-aged and carefully matched to pH and salinity, there's no reason you can't do a 50% water change. And it might help a LOT.> Here's the chemistry section of the problem. I haven't been buffering my make up water or my new water at all. Perhaps this is my problem, but here's the thing. When I started my tank, I was using well water and Red Sea salt.  <DOUBLE OUCH.>  I was getting some weird readings from my test kits. I would get a daytime PH reading of 8.6 or higher and my KH was 160-180mg/L. I tested my RO water. The PH was 5.5 and the KH was <10mg/L (it's the best my test kit can do). I've still been getting high PH and KH. My understanding is that KH should be about 100-120 mg/L. I believe that it's that high from the initial water. I stupidly used well water that's very hard. It is put through a water softener  <TRIPLE OUCH!> but I understand that just messes things up for a marine tank. I bought my RO about 2 months ago and I've been trying to fight the high PH by doing 10% weekly water changes. As so far, I've been unsuccessful as it hasn't gone down at all.  <Like I said, a couple of BIG water changes will reset things a LOT faster than several small ones, which are great for maintenance and stability, but won't do much to massively reduce nutrients, pollutants, or reset chemistry.> I had been dosing a couple of things, but since the algae explosion, I've stopped. Here's what I was doing: Tropic Marin Calcium about 2 tablespoons every three days. Kent Marine Essential Elements - one cap per week. Kent Marine Iodine - 8 drops/day. Kent Marine Strontium - one cap every 4 days. I'm wondering if these are even necessary with the frequent water changes I've been doing. I read that xenia needs Iodine, but I also read that it can cause unwanted algae growth. <Right. With sufficient water changes and good salt mix, most additives are completely unnecessary. Doesn't mean they don't have their place, but yes, your salt mix is quite complete.> I also just noticed that one of my serpent stars was out during the day (weird...) and was missing all but one of his arms. My cleaner shrimp was happily munching on one of his arms. I rescued him and put him into the refugium. What the heck? <Falling rock, or deterioration due to malnutrition, hard to say.> Here's everything you'd ever need to know about my tank  Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 20ppm Calcium: 340ppm Daytime PH: 8.6 KH: 160mg/L PO4 is a bit high at .25, but I don't understand where it's coming from. <BINGO. This needs to be taken care of for sure.> My RO water tests like this: KH: 0 PO4: 0 Ca: 0 PH: 5.5 I have a garbage can I use to collect the RO water as I make it. There's also an air stone in it. It usually sits for 2 days before I use it.  To make water, I heat the water to 80, then add the salt, wait a day, test and adjust, wait, then do water changes. When I do the water changes, I siphon from the substrate trying to pull as much gunk as possible. The water I remove is usually quite brown. I remove the large pieces of Cyano by hand. <All good.> Tank inhabitants: 2 Percs and 2 green Chromis 2 skunk cleaners 2 green serpent stars ~60ish blue legs  <WHOA, that's a lot! Count them again in a couple months... expect less than half> ~12 Nassarius snails ~2 or 3 Turbos 1 porcelain crab 1 emerald crab In my refugium I have some live rock (~5 lbs) and a pencil urchin. I have 6" of sugar sized aragonite and some Chaeto algae. There were at one point 5 hermits, but I haven't seen them in a while. There's about 4-5" of crushed coral in my display tank. I also have about 60lbs of live rock. I've also noticed that my coralline algae growth has never taken off. There are lots on my live rock, but not on the glass. It seems to be alive and doing well, but there's no new growth. <Not with metal halides. Give up on coralline except in the shade, and when things are settled, get color from some stony corals! :-) > Corals: 1 Kenya Tree (near the surface - about 6" from surface) 20-30ish heads of green mushrooms (left corner in some shade) 1 Acro (3-4" from surface) 3 heads of Xenia Elongata (was near the bottom, now about 1/2 way up my tank) I Ricordea (at bottom in the middle of the tank) 4-5 smallish heads of hammer coral 2 colonies of small button polyps - polyps not opening all the way. I have bits and pieces of (desirable) macro-algae. In my sump, I have Chaeto. In the display I have bits of Caulerpa. The pieces are very tiny since I rip them out as soon as they grow too big. I also have a couple of small patches of turtle grass.  Oh, yes - and a whole lotta Cyano, hair algae and dinoflagellate ;) Lighting: My MH are on 10 hours a day. My PC lighting is on 12 hours a day (starting one hour before the MH lights come on and after they're off) and are new (2 months old) 50/50 bulbs. <Sounds fine.> My temperature is set to 80, but goes up to 82 during the day. I'd like to drop this and I'm working on this by fiddling with the number of vent holes on the top of my hood. I'd like to keep my temperature at 78 with a max of 80. When I first put the hood on, my tank soared to about 84. At least now the swing is only a couple of degrees.  <80-82 is not really a problem, as long as your thermometer is accurate.> My water flow is has a 600GPH return pump from the sump and a Maxi-jet 900 inside the tank. I can add another maxi-jet if you think it will help.  <Would certainly benefit from additional circulation. Consider another 900, or a 1200 on a timer.> I also have a new magenta Dottyback in QT. He's about 1/4 of the way through his sentence. He'll be released into the display tank a week this Wednesday. <A pretty and hardy choice. Rather territorial and combative though.> Lastly, I'd love to help you guys out with your site. I was looking at your FAQs on FAQs page and there are some good suggestions there. I can help you out implement these ideas as I'm a web developer. I can think of a few things that would help you organize the site a little better and make it easier for you guys to post new emails. Let me know if you're interested and we can set something up. <We have a handful of developers and software engineers on the crew. Suggestions are always welcome. Large-scale change however, is practically a pipe-dream. (I speak from experience)> Thanks again for the fantastic site you're running and help with my continued problems. <Always welcome.> This email has taken me about an hour to compose and research...off to a Christmas dinner party. Sorry for the length of the email, I was trying to be complete. Please let me know if there's more info I can provide. <You haven't mentioned any chemical or physical filtration. A phosphate adsorbent is in order for your tank, in my opinion, Rowaphos or Phosban are the current faves, Poly-filter will work too. Stay away from an aluminum-based adsorbent (Kent and Seachem, for example) as your soft coral selection will not appreciate it. A filter sock at the entrance to your sump is a good idea during and immediately after your fussing about in the tank, pulling Cyano, etc, but not to be left in long-term.> Have a great weekend! <I did, thanks!> Jeff <Happy Holidays, Zo>

Avoiding Tank Disasters!  Deuce Bigalow Revisited 11/3/05 Hello guys, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I just had a disaster with my 4'x2'x2', it exploded!! <Yikes! Sorry to hear that!> But I'm grateful enough to be alive still. Now I am getting a new tank which is 4'x2'x1', can you help me to get the right thickness for tank of this size, or maybe you can provide me with formula to calculate thickness in proportion to volume in cubic inches. <To be honest, this type of calculation is best done by the manufacturer of the tank. They should know the correct thickness, based on the size of the tank and the materials used. My best advice is to utilize a well-regarded, professional tank manufacturer. Ask to see pictures of their work, or ask for references. You don't want to skimp on the tank!> One more thing is that my aquarium is located in the porch which is exposed to lots of sunlight, which in turn caused an algae bloom. I can't relocate into the house as there's no space sufficient enough. It is beyond control. I already tried to cut lighting hours but to no avail. Can UV light help to solve the problem. Any suggestions other than UV light? Please help. Thank you. Sam Malaysia <Well, Sam- light in conjunction with nutrients is a definite recipe for algae problems! UV may not be an effective algae control mechanism. Rather, I'd consider some sort of tinting on the windows, or a sun shade of some sort, to help cut down the influx of sunlight, if possible. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.> 

Cyano encroachment on coral growth (Correct the problem not the symptoms) 10/9/05 Good morning <Hello Lucas Adam J with you. It's Late at night now.> I received a colony of these polyps from a friend. When I received them they were all ready in decline. The colony only opens up about 5-10 polyps a day but there is Cyano and green hair algae building on them. <Algae encroachment on coral is usually a sign of a few things: Not enough water flow, to many dissolved organics (nutrients), or perhaps inappropriate lighting (not intense enough, wrong spectrum, or old bulbs even).> If I clean them gently with a soft tooth brush the purple coating comes off, I would really like to save these if I can. Will cleaning the algae off removing the purple colored coating kill them off? <This is a common practice and if done carefully is fairly easy. Employing the use of a turkey baster to gently blow off the algae is a good alternative if the toothbrush scares you. The algae should be fairly easy to remove without damage to the infrastructure of the colony (the purple "stuff" they are residing in). Having said that if you do not correct the problem that is feeding the algae growth it will return.> Thanks again...Lucas in Denver <Adam J in SoCal.> 

Question re: algae  9/5/05 Hi there, thanks for the willingness to assist. <Welcome> I started my first salt water tank about 9 months ago (49g), primarily because I was given about 60 pounds of free live rock by a friend who was helping to dismantle a pet store that had closed.  When this friend brought the rock back, it was in the bed of a truck and exposed to below freezing temperatures for 2 days, so at least some elements of the rock have died.   <Oh yes> (At least I presume so)  The rock is taking longer than I like to "re-seed".   Is there anything I can do to help? <Mmm, maintain optimized, stable conditions, water quality... particularly pH, alkalinity, biomineral concentration> All my pH tests, calcium, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite have been at acceptable levels since the first 2 months.   The first 6 months involved a heavy fight with slime algae, and while that has significantly gone down recently, it is still around.  Since my slime algae started to diminish, a new variety of algae has sprouted all over the rock and substrate (2 inches of live sand).  This is very grass like.  It is green, grows about 2 inches tall,  and is also very invasive.  (no exposure to direct sunlight.  Indirect for about 2 hours per day)  I'm hoping that as I continue to go this will also diminish as the proper algae get going. <You are correct here> I purchased 2 more large rocks from a fish store 4 months ago to help re-seed the old rock, as well as to add variety. <Good>   One of these rocks turned white over approximately a 5th of the rock.  I have a sterilizer on the tank, a protein skimmer, filtration, and 2 65 watt lights covering the spectrum through 10k.  I'm adding coral vitae monthly (more often for the first month per instructions) and FORM for nutrients. <Delete the use of the "vital" material... it's more a source of pollution than help> Also adding calcium.  I started doing the water changes with distilled water when I realized that I always had a bloom of slime algae after water changes with my well water.  Is there anything else I can do to boost the beneficial algae growth? <Mmm, "all sorts"... and all posted on WWM> It seems like 9 months is a long time for this. <... you started with "dead" rock... a source of nutrients, added to it with your well-water... it's been (re)cycling the nutrient ever since... Question of the moment: what can, will you do to remove this nutrient?>   I do have snails and hermit crabs in the tank, as well as a clown fish with bonded anemone, Mandarin Goby, 2 cardinals, and a bunch of Caulerpa. (sp?)  I had turtle weed in there as well, but it died 5 months ago.  That reminds me, my plant life isn't doing as well as I would like which makes me nervous about adding coral eventually.  Any tips for that based on this info?  Is my lighting enough? <... please, keep reading. Your answers, and there's a bunch of "miscellaneous" tied together issues... that cannot be easily elucidated in this question/answer fashion... are gone over there. Do you have a good "complete" marine aquarium book? A complete understanding is easier to gain through such use. Bob Fenner>

Temperature Swings and Algae Things (New Tank Breaking In> Hiya Bob or whoever is sitting in today, <Howzit? Scott F. here today!> My tank has been circulating and in operation for about 5 months, the lights were only switched on for the first time about 4 weeks ago, only a number of Chromis in the tank when they got switched on. The tank is 9'x2'x2', about 320g including sump and refugium (which isn't populated yet), with what can only be described as an abundance of lights, 4x400w MH and 4x60w actinics. <Sounds great!> Originally I was going for an SPS setup but my tastes have changed and primarily I will be going for stonies, mushrooms and zoanthids. <I am a big fan of some of the LPS corals, myself, such as Faviids. Maybe not as "trendy" as the SPS corals, but every bit as pretty and interesting, IMO!> So my lighting needs have definitely reduced, although I would like to keep clams. <An interesting mix.> The problem I had is soon after switching on the lights, I had to go away for 2.5 weeks with work. My girlfriend kept an eye on the tank, and I had a man from the LFS who helped set it up come round once a week. <Good!> When I returned, I had a serious algae problem. The front of the glass had been cleaned by the LFS guy, but there were filamentous algae growth in nice bunches over various parts of the tank, and the back screen had almost a total cover of it that looked like it could be peeled away. <Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence in new systems, which are rich in nutrients and short on mature nutrient export systems.> I went to the LFS and bought a load of snails and hermit crabs (I did have a small number of both of these already), and also got myself the first of my real fish, 4x Yellow Tangs. These were preplanned and not an impulse buy and it seemed like a good time to get the algae eaters in. <It is. However, I'd like to think that you'll embrace a quarantine procedure in the future with all new fish, particularly Tangs, which are notoriously susceptible to parasitic infections.> Upon return I discovered my second problem, the temperature  outside was about as hot as it gets in England, about 31C, and my tank temperature was up to 29C. This I found out as I was letting my Yellow Tangs acclimate in their bags. (As the tank was empty bar the Chromis and cleanup crew I didn't quarantine) <Still a good idea, as you don't want new fish to bring potentially infectious diseases into this new tank...> Immediately turned off the lights and went outside to check if the chiller was working, it was, but I guess the poor thing was struggling with it being so hot outside. <Understandable!> Next day, the Tangs seemed to be fine, the cleanup crew were getting around and nothing seemed the worse for wear. <Good to hear.> I changed the lighting period to switch on later than usual, bringing the lighting period to start as the sun is setting, and hence colder outside to give the chiller a better chance. This didn't seem to make much of a difference, as for the last hour or so of the 12 hour main lights lighting period my temperature had once again hit 29C. Fortunately, there is little in the tank to get stressed over this, and the Tangs are coping far better than I thought they would. I have read from Eric Borneman's book that temperatures on the reefs can exceed this. <Yes, but it's not a good idea for extended periods of time, of course.> But I bet the swings were not so high overnight. <Correct, in most cases, although some lagoons and reef flats affected by tidal changes do have such fluctuations.> I have read on your site that swings of over 4F are to be avoided. <Ideally, yes.> Is this definitely a big problem that I need to sort out or can I allow the tank to take a nearly 5F swing almost everyday? <Well, it's not an ideal situation on a daily basis, so you will most likely want to make some hardware changes to cope with this fluctuation in temperature.> I assume not and see 3 potential solutions to the heating issue: 1> Change the lights, as stated, it is a lot of lights for the system and probably should be reduced. <Certainly will save on energy costs, but you have to make sure that your future plans for this system will not require such high intensity lighting, or you'll be in for frustration!> 2> Add a second chiller outside inline with the first to maybe kick in at about 0.5C higher than the first. <A functional idea, but it may be better to simply invest in a more powerful chiller and just have one.> 3> Redrill the lighting fitting to have the lights sit another few inches above their current location. <Again, another potentially viable idea.> Any thoughts on which I should use or definitely shouldn't use? <Personally, I like the idea of cutting back on the lighting (if that works for you), and perhaps a more powerful chiller. Additionally, you may want to blow a fan or two directly into the sump, for evaporative cooling to occur.> Also my algae problem is real bad, I am going to trim back as much of it as I can for now, and I have no idea where the nutrients for its growth have come from. <Lots of possibilities: Source water, material in the rocks and substrate, even salt mix or carbon! Do investigate.> Once it is pretty close to the rocks I am going to see how well my Tangs can handle the situation. <Hopefully, they can make a measurable impact.> Any ideas on algae control or do you think I should be ok with what my current course of action is? <I would look into the possibilities outlined above. As stated previously, such algae outbreaks are common in new systems, so don't be discouraged. Continue to manage nutrient export processes (i.e.; aggressive protein skimming, water changes with good-quality source water (RO/DI), careful feeding, general good husbandry habits, and a healthy dose of patience! You can and will get through this phase if you think along those lines.> Sorry for the lengthy email but I wanted to set the scene a little first. <No apology needed; you did a great job!> Thanks in advance, Gary <Best of luck to you, Gary! Hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

Algae problems - enough filtration? 5/6/05 Hi Crew, your site is very informative. I have a 72gal FOWLR tank with a SeaLife Systems Model 60 W/D using the Bioballs with a Rio 2100 for return. Inside the sump, I have a Aqua C Urchin Skimmer powered by a MaxiJet 1200 295gph powerhead. I have maybe 25-30lbs (maybe more) of live rock on top of crushed coral substrate. While I have only a blue Damsel, a black and white Damsel, few peppermint shrimp and a hermit crab, I feel my filtration is adequate. Should I have a more powerful return pump in my W/D, since at about 4ft it pumps only at 375gph? Everything seems to be fine when I test the water. All the inhabitants are healthy, having them all a good three years.  <I strongly suggest water movement of at least 10x the tank volume. This can come from a larger return pump or in-tank powerheads, etc. Increased water movement improves gas exchange and helps keep wastes suspended so they can be skimmed/filtered out. Please always include numeric values for all of the parameters you test for. Here are my suggestions: Salinity 1.024-1.027, Alkalinity 3-4 mEq/L, pH 8.0-8.4, Calcium 350+ (even for fish only). Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and Phosphate should all be zero, if possible. Wet/dries notoriously produce a lot of nitrate, and crushed coral substrate notoriously traps detritus and fish wastes. I would recommend removing 25% of the bio-balls per week until they are gone. Your live rock should handle the biological filtration just fine (but do watch ammonia!). Also, if your crushed coral is not teeming with life, it should be aggressively vacuumed during water changes.> But the algae seems to flourish all over. I'm sure the light plays a good effect on that. It's just a standard FW/SW fluorescent F40 aquarium light that came with the tank. Should I have a twin bulb light with different bulbs? Thanks again, Frank  <Some aquarists believe that bluer lamps will help control algae, but in my experience, changing lamps will have little effect on the algae growth. Strong water movement along with ideal alkalinity, pH and calcium will help coralline algae out compete nuisance algae. Water changes of 20% or so per month will help control nutrients. Algae can consume nitrate and phosphate as fast as it is produced, so even if your tests read zero, there may be a large supply of these nutrients. During water changes, use a bucket of waste water as a wash tub and scrub as much algae off as possible. Rinse well in the waste water and return it to the tank. Even with ideal water quality, water changes and scrubbing, it will probably take a couple of months to get ahead of the problem, but you will! Best Regards. AdamC. >  

Mystery "Algae" Hi Crew, <Greg> I have written about this previously but I am hoping that some close-up photos might help to better diagnose this problem.  My acrylic tank is gradually being taken-over by what I will call a "mystery algae". There is a light brown dusting (diatoms, I assume)... <Likely> ...that begins to lightly coat the acrylic a few days after cleaning but it brushes away easily. This "mystery algae" begins to appear as small brownish (possibly slightly orange) dots, approximately 5-7 days after scraping the acrylic. I have attached two close-up photos and one view of the coated tank side.  <Good pix>

Removing these dots requires significant pressure and repeated scrubbing with an acrylic-safe pad. A magnetic cleaner will eventually remove the dots, but only after hours of scrubbing (180g tank). A credit card requires the least effort but I must be extremely careful to not scratch the acrylic.  <Yes> Using a scraper, this "mystery algae" comes off in a sheet - much like a thin piece of brown Nori. It does not flake or scratch off like coralline algae. I tried to take a picture of this floating mystery algae but I was not successful as it either dissipated or was eaten by my tangs. <Good clue... BGA would likely be ignored... unpalatable> I have approximately 200 snails (Trochus, Astrea, Nerites, Ceriths) and a few conchs but none of these remove this mystery algae. I also have a Kole tang that appears to be cleaning the acrylic, but it does not remove this mystery algae either.  <Oh...> The tank has been established for nearly two years. Silicate measures zero and PO4 measures 0.02 ppm. Water parameters: Temp=77F, Salinity=1.0235, pH=8.1, Alk=5 dKH, Ca=420 ppm, NH3=0, Nitrite=0, Nitrate<5 ppm.  Do you have any idea what this mystery algae is (if it is even an algae) and what I can do to eliminate it? <Could be most any Division... Green, Red, Brown... Cyano even... others... you could tell if you had a decent microscope... or did a bit of culture work... If it were me, my system I'd look into adding, switching out some live rock (maybe 20-25%)... for reasons of re-establishing micro predator/prey dynamics... solubility of macro, micro-nutrients.... And maybe the addition of a lit sump/refugium...> Thank you, in advance, for the help! (I would really like to begin enjoying watching my reef rather than spending all my time cleaning it) --Greg <I hear you... perhaps a cursory read over the Refugium areas: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm  Bob Fenner> 
Re: Mystery "Algae" Bob, <Greg> Thank you for your prompt reply and advice! I see I forgot to mention that I already have a 50g refugium attached to my tank. The refugium uses a 6" DSB with LR rubble. It is also full of feather Caulerpa and red Gracilaria. <Ah, I see... good> Adding the refugium finally helped to get my PO4 level under control but it has had no effect on this "mystery algae". One other possible clue: I used water from my display tank to fill my QT for my last fish additions. I developed the same "mystery algae" coating on my QT after it had been setup for approximately 3 weeks. <Yes... spore movement> When I previously used freshly-mixed salt water in the QT, I did not have this "algae" problem. Unfortunately, I am also using different lighting on my QT now so I cannot isolate the problem.  It sounds like I might have to buy a good microscope to finally get to the bottom of this. I have already eliminated silicates, significantly reduced phosphates, added snails... all with no impact. <... there are... times... when one must make peace with these sorts of algae woes/challenges... Have been giving a kind of tongue in cheek presentation in recent years: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeasfriend.htm  that you may get a chuckle from> Hopefully I can solve this and post what I find on WWM to help other aquarists who might face similar problems. ...be chatting. --Greg <Hope to. Bob Fenner>

Avoiding algae problems while upgrading tanks. 4/14/04 Hi Crew, Thanks for the site and the invaluable resource you all provide those of us in need. <It is our pleasure!> I am starting up my 2nd Reef tank and need a little advice as to the best way to proceed. New tank: 110 All Glass - drilled with (3) 1" overflow return lines (2) 1" pump feed lines (2) 250 Watt Double ended HQI 10,000K Metal Halide lights 40 gallon sump/refugium (similar to an Eco-system) but 25% water bypass to slow water flow in refugium Turboflotor Classic Skimmer 100 Lbs Live Rock (moving form old tank) Mag 24 Return Pump 2400 GPH 39" X 3.5" X3.5" internal glass overflow box at the top rear of the tank. <All sounds very nice!> The dilemma: I currently have a 65 Gal with sump and 100 Lbs of live rock and plan on moving all of the content to the new tank along with additional Southdown. I have always had a nagging Green Hair Algae problem in the 65. It's getting better but never goes away. I would like not to introduce the problem to the new tank. Do you have any advice as to how I should reduce the chances of inoculation of the new tank with this scrounge? <I would strongly suggest aggressive manual removal before transferring the rock to the new tank.  Get a brand new plastic scrub brush and scrub the hair algae from the rock and rinse well in a bucket of tank water  before adding to the new tank.> I was going to pump the water out of the 65 with a Magnum 350 with a polishing filter in place to try and clean the water as best I can unless you have better ideas. <This is a great idea, particularly because of the amount of detritus that will get kicked up in the process.> What would you advise for the live rock?  I can scrub and rinse but don't know if that will really help. I have done that to or three times in the 65 but it just comes right back in about 3 weeks. <As you have learned, scrubbing doesn't solve the problem, but it will prevent the nutrients bound up in the algae from being transferred to the new tank.> Should I tank the rock for a few days in the dark with pumps and heater or will it just go dormant and roar back when relit? <I would not suggest this.  I will likely just slow the algae down a bit, and will have as much or more effect on desirable coralline algaes.> Only fish are 2" Tomato Clown and 2" Black Sailfin Blenny.  I use only RO/DI and feed VERY lightly and do 10% water changes (RO/DI) every 2 to 3 weeks in the 65.  I did not have a skimmer on the 65 (LFS Advice "you don't need no stinking skimmer!") and I think that may have added to the original problem.  Todd A Harris <Proper skimming will definitely help, as will the addition of some grazers.  For your 110, I would suggest no more than 2-3 turbo snails or 6-4 Astreas.  Also, maintenance of proper calcium and alkalinity will help more attractive coralline algaes outcompete the nuisance varieties.  Best Regards.  Adam>

HUGE Algae growth problem I maintain several tanks and I have one that is a 58 saltwater "algae" farm (haha). I have been battling this problem almost a year now and I cannot figure out why the algae is so prolific. I have pulled clumps out every week, put phos guard in bought an tang but he caused an avalanche. I do change the water weekly (5 gal) and if I don't watch it the algae growth takes over. In the filters and in the protein skimmer everywhere. Any suggestions? <You seem to have an excess of nutrients. Either overfeeding, poor source water, inadequate protein skimming, overstocking, etc. Please archive the WWM site for more specifics and the appropriate remedies. -Steven Pro>

New tank ready Hi Bob, this is Sascha again (the hairstylist) from Los Angeles. <Ah, yes.> Finally after weeks of putting things together My new corner tank, L-shape, 190g is ready. I set it up last week, 130punds of live sand, 150pounds of live rock, one Tidepool 2, one CPR wet dry filter(2 overflow outlets) connected together, then connected to a sump with an AquaC200 skimmer, a Sander ozonizer 200 and a CSL return pump with 800gph. This pump runs through the chiller first, then back to the tank through 2 returns split by a Y connector. I thing I could use some more circulation and so I installed another Rio pump 1700 to spice things up a bit, so everything is running smooth. My lighting consists of 2 CSL retrofits with 2x96W and 2 CSL retros with 2x65W on timers. I have read everything on your website regarding lighting hours but I can't get a clear answer on how many hours are correct. <Correct? Depends to extents on what sorts of life kept, your goals/desires, work/living habits, other sources of light (room, natural)... but about 12-14 per day is about right... more important that the lighting regimen be regular (on timers is best)> I have developed a lot of brownish hair algae in the tank which I tried to avoid with 6!!!powerheads in the tank, pointed at almost every angle possible so the water is moving. Enough I think, since I don't want my fishes to feel like in a blender. I turned everything on, including my ozonizer and my 25W U.V light , all values are great ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate about 10 pH 8,3 temp 79 F alk 10 phosphate very low to none, but I also bought a RO/DI unit which will supply the water very soon. calcium 300-400 magnesium 1100 or so spg 1.021 <The gear, set-up, maintenance, testing all seem fine... just time needs to go by to "cycle" your algae blues away> I had water testing night last night and can even tell you how it tastes yummy) but I can't figure out what is going on with the algae. right now I can't grow macroalgae in one of my sumps otherwise my wife will choke me if I spend another dollar on stuff, she is pointing the gun at me as we speak and says she want furniture and other things for the house. I don't agree but oh well. <"To have love is to share it"... ask her to buy you just a little bunch of macrophytes...> please help me with my algae, I don't want to brush my rock with a toothbrush every day. I keep the lights on as follows. 2 65W blue lights from 4pm to 2am 2 96W blue lights from 6pm to 1.30am 2 65W white lights from 7pm to 1am 2 96W white lights from 8pm to 12.30 am. They run on 6!!! digital timers Sorry for this long mail but I really wanted to give you the big picture. I even closed all the blinds to avoid sunlight. <All sounds good... time and patience my friend> I did dose some Kent Tech M, Tech CB part A&B and a bit buffer to get the pH up, nothing else. Please help me to get rid of the algae, kinda looks like someone lost a hairpiece in my tank, and I have a full head of hair. thank you so much for being out there for us SASCHA <Ah, you know where to look: http://wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm Bob Fenner>

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Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

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