Top 5 Ways to Clean Algae from Your Fish Tank

Top 5 Ways to Clean Algae from Your Fish Tank

Algae is a natural part of the aquarium ecosystem because it helps to purify the water from toxic waste chemicals and serves as a food source for algae-eating fish and invertebrates. Most people view algae as an unwanted guest. Too much algae can block your view and slow down the growth of healthy plants. Let’s talk about 5 easy methods for cleaning algae off your aquarium walls and decorations.


1. Use Tools to Manually Remove Algae

Because it is quick and easy, you can remove algae using your hands. Let’s now talk about the best tools that you should have. If algae is coating your aquarium walls and making it hard to see your fish, an algae scrubber is the simplest way to wipe off the algae. The gentle sponge is made from non-toxic melamine foam, and will not scratch acrylic and glass. Mag-Float Glass Cleaner and the matching scraper blades are great for scraping tough algae such as green spot algae. These glass-safe cutting blades are able to cut through green spot algae much like a butter knife. It will also save you time and effort in tank maintenance. (Mag-Float Acrylic Cleaner is required for acrylic fish tanks.

An algae scrubber can be used to wipe away algae from aquarium walls so that you have a clear view of your fish and plants.

A simple toothbrush is great for scrubbing hard-to-reach areas, aquarium decorations, hardscape, and even plant leaves. You can get rid of certain types of hair alga by picking up the algae strands using the toothbrush bristles. The toothbrush bristles will then be used to twist the toothbrush until the algae is shaped like spaghetti. If you notice blue-green algae, brown diatom, or other algae covering the substrate, an aquarium siphon can be used to vacuum it.

Twirl a toothbrush in a mass of hair algae to easily detach it from plants, hardscape, or fish tank decor.

2. Algae-Eating Animals are here to help

When algae growth starts overtaking a fish tank, many people automatically look for an algae eater to solve all their problems. The reason why we place them in second place on this list is because a) each algae-eating species only eats certain kinds of algae and b) they may not be able to completely clean your entire aquarium. However, they are a good second line of defense that can assist you in the fight against algae. We love nerite shrimps, amanoshrimp, and schools of otocinclus catsfish for nano tanks. If you have larger tanks, consider getting Siamese and bristlenose pistols. You can also read more about the top 10 algae eaters in freshwater aquariums.

The Siamese algae eater is an excellent clean-up crew member for bigger fish tanks, but make sure not to accidentally get its more aggressive lookalike, the Chinese algae eater.

3. Remove Excess Organics in the Tank

Algae is very adaptable and can readily consume the nitrogen compounds that come from fish poop, unhealthy leaves, uneaten fish food, and other organic materials. It is a good idea to remove any nutrients from an aquarium that is new or not established. If you have a planted tank, get a pair of scissors to trim off any dead or algae-covered leaves whenever you do a water change. Use a siphon to suck out rotting gunk from the ground, and feed the fish less if you find that they aren’t eating everything you give them within a few minutes.

Also, blue-green algae likes to grow where there are pockets of debris or “dead zones” in the aquarium, which can form if the current is too slow or there are a lot of large ornaments and hardscape blocking the way. Make the water flow more efficient by moving ornaments around and filling the gaps between hardscape with substrate.

4. Balance lighting and nutrients

Algae can be eliminated by addressing the root issue that is causing it to outcompete your plants. Algae uses the same resources (e.g., lighting and nutrients) as plants do to photosynthesize and grow, and if there is too much or too little of any of these building blocks, algae can take advantage of it at an uncontrollable rate.

To balance your planted tank, we recommend using an outlet timer to turn on your light for approximately 6-8 hours per day (as a starting point), and then gradually increase or decrease your nutrient levels as needed. If the nitrate level is above 50 ppm, do a water change to dilute the amount of nitrogen waste. The tank should be drained with Easy Green all-in one fertilizer until the nitrate level reaches 20ppm. Allow 2-3 weeks to wait between any modifications in lighting or nutrients so you can assess the impact on your plants. You will never be able to completely remove all traces of algae, so the goal is to minimize it until it’s barely noticeable.

5. Use an Algae Inhibitor to treat your problem

There is a fine line between using chemical treatments that are strong enough to kill algae and not causing harm to fish tanks. While liquid carbon is sometimes sold as fertilizer for aquarium plants it is really an algae inhibitor. It is well-known to reduce algae growth. Easy Carbon is our brand name of liquid carbon. It is safe to use on fish and invertebrates and comes with an easy-to-use pump-head dispenser to quickly dose your fish tanks. To directly spray Easy Carbon on black beard alga (BBA), you can use a pipette. This is the most difficult type of algae to eliminate. For more details on how to use liquid carbon, read the full article here.

Easy Carbon is effective against persistent algae outbreaks like BBA. When directly applying the chemical, temporarily turn off the filter to allow the treatment to “soak” on the algae for a few minutes.

We believe chemical treatments should be last on the list. This is because they are most effective after you have balanced the light and nutrients in your plant aquarium. You can’t use algicides in your tank if you don’t do the above four steps. Your algae growth will continue and the chemical will have minimal to no effect. Our article on the 6 most common forms of algae provides more information about how to combat algae growth.