Algaes Overview

Algaes Overview:

In almost every case with algaes, there's an issue of low nutrients or low CO². We will give a brief overview of algae types and discuss prevention.

Green Spot Algae (Coleochaete) which can be identified as a stubborn spot algae that usually presents on glass and the leaves of slow growing plants. GSA is caused by low phosphate levels a vast majority of the time. GSA is one of the simplest algaes to stop, just add PO⁴.

Red algaes like BBA (Audouinella, and occasionally Rhodochorton) and Staghorn (Compsopogon and Batrachospermaceae) are caused by carbon issues. This can be poorly optimized CO², chaotic surface agitation and flow, or high DOCs (Dissolved Organic Compounds). Dial in CO² injection, ensure surface agitation isn't too chaotic (breaking the surface/splashing), and clean the filter and substrate. Driftwood can be a continuous source of DOCs as well, particularly if it's very soft or if it's not fully dried (and therefore leaking sugars and carbohydrates).

Hair Algae types: Non-mucilagenous (aka non-slimy) green filamentous algaes (Cladophora, Pithophora, Rhizoclonium, and many others) usually hitchhiked in as these are not usually present in tap water. They tend to thrive on dissolved organics and in particular, they tend to thrive in dirty moss. Clean your moss, remove what you can, spot dose the rest with an extremely diluted algaecide. This is the only group of algaes that really isn't associated with a nutrient imbalance, they tend to thrive in the same nutrient environments as higher order plants. Frequent manual removal, water changes, “black out” (lights off) periods of days and finally algae eaters are the best methods to remedy.

Green Dust Algaes (Chlorococcum, Tetraselmis, etc.), mucilagenous (slimy) green filamentous algaes (Oedogonium, Mougeotia, Spirogyra, Klebsormidium, etc) or brown filamentous algaes (diatoms, most frequently Oscillatoria): can be a sign of high ammonia (particularly GDA), but mostly a sign of unhappy plants. The exact cause doesn't matter much, it can be any nutrient and/or CO²
deficiency, high organics, or general lack of husbandry.

So this is where the idea of "balancing" light, nutrients (of which there are 16), and CO² comes in, which gives you roughly 28 levers to try and balance. Now, most of the micronutrients are provided adequately by most any fertilizer, so the actual number of nutrients that make a significant difference is about 6. Additionally, proper husbandry (trimming, water changes, substrate and filter maintenance) is an additional lever that's extremely crucial and people don't talk about enough. That's still about 9 factors that we're trying to balance.

The grand secret is that you don't actually *need* to balance them at all. If you provide all nutrients and carbon in excess of plant needs, then you only have two levers: light and husbandry.

Now, if you don't have CO² injection, then that creates a ceiling on the amount of light you can use without algae issues. Light is the big determining factor of how "forgiving" a tank is. More light=less forgiving, and carbon deficiencies with lots of light will result in algae very quickly. In my opinion quality CO² and moderate lightly make the most enjoyable aquarium environments.

With nutrients, the issue is almost always *too little*, not *too much*. Experts have run tests where they overdosed individual nutrients by 10-100x and as long as CO² and husbandry were maintained, there were no issues. Now, if we're dosing nutrients very heavily into the water column, then it's a good idea to have lots of water changes to prevent crazy accumulation that might harm fish over time, and that's the whole idea behind Estimative Index fertilization.

But the point is that excess CO² and (within reason) excess nutrients don't cause algae. A lack of sufficiently happy plants, excessive light and a poor maintenance routine are the main causes of algae.