Types of Algae: Silk, Surface, Black Beard, Green Dust, Green Water

Different types of Nuance Algae; Silk, Surface, Black Beard, Green Dust, Green Water
Thank You to the Planted Aquarium Forum for these photos and write ups.

Back to Library Home




Spirogyra - Silk Algae, Water Silk
This non-branching green filamentous algae is called Spirogyra. This algae doesn't appear in polluted water systems but in ones that are eutrophic, rich in nutrients (liquid ferts, CO2 and light).

It grows very fast, forming long, entangled strands. I would personally call this one the "spaghetti algae" :-) , the way it looks to me. I am not sure algae eaters will eat Spirogyra. This aquarium of mine has Otocinclus and Neritina Zebra snail, and they are not showing any interest in eating it. I have removed this algae manually, very easy really. 

Since the beginning of this set-up I have used the Estimative Index fertilising regime, dosing 2-3 times a week N,P,K, traces and liquid Carbon (Easy Carbo), so I don't think any nutrients were missing. 
There is one problem I have caused (I assume). Instead of performing 50% weekly water change I did 25% every 2nd or 3rd week. I wouldn't say that irregular water change induced this algae but dirty filter (I clean filters with each water change). The filter gets dirty and reduces the water circulation. Less circulation = slower nutrient transport. Also weaker surface agitation = less Oxygen. 
I did some tests by doing water change every 3-4 weeks but cleaned the filter every week to keep good flow and moderate surface agitation and this algae never came back. 
So keep your filters clean ;-) 

Photos by Dusko Bojic.

posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 3:14 AM 6/29/2007




Surface Scum/Film
This is a protein bio-film, probably triggered by hi organic levels, poor circulation and low CO2 levels. 
Neuston organisms readily develop in it (or underneath it), like bacteria/zoo-spores/protozoans, hydras, worms even small snails. 
This scum is very compact and often green. It is impossible to break it with the finger. I have tried it, and the film just grows back together in a second. Visually it appears "oily". 
I have removed the film by using paper kitchen towels, laying them over the surface many times, until the scum was gone. After that I have performed a huge 80% water change, rinsed the filter media very well (that in fact was dirty) and have introduced one extra filter pump (extra circulation and surface agitation). 
Also, I started using Easy Carbo (like Excel) instead of the CO2. 
Everything seems to be in order now. 
One more thing, I didn't prune plants in a long time so they covered the entire surface. And because of that, the tank circulation was poor, causing probably lower O2 levels as well. All this induced the surface scum. 

There is another type of surface film caused by the Eisenbacteria (Iron bacteria). This film appears to be whitish, much thinner and breaks easily on touch. Improving surface agitation will help in combating this kind of film. 
I have fixed this surface film (white and green) in 3 different tanks by simply introducing an air pump or aplying the venturi air diffuser to the power head (without removing it the film would disapear by the next day). The air bubbles seem to be breaking the surface tension causing the surface film to break into tiny particles which sink to the bottom or get trapped in the filter (in both ways bacteria will break them down). 

Photos by Dusko Bojic.

posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 11:55 AM 6/02/2007


Cladophora algae
Cladophora is a branching, green filamentous alga, that forms a moss like structure. This algae doesn't appear to be slimy. Threads are very strong and very thin. It grows on rocks and submersed wood exposed to direct light, in very bad cases will grow on plants also. Usually it tend to stay on one spot, which makes it easy to remove. Comb it and dose more CO2 and improve water circulation for better nutrient transport. In a case where Cladophora takes over the grassy plants, mow the plants like the lawn. No algae eater is known to eat this kind of algae. 

Photos by Dusko Bojic. Posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 11:39 AM 06/18/2006


Black-Beard Algae (BBA), Red-Brush Algae
Unstable CO2 levels will induce BBA! The best way to combat Brush algae is by maintaining CO2 at 30ppm, nitrates at 15ppm and phosphates at 0.5ppm. Leaves that are badly overtaken should be discarded. Observations;When I had a problem with BBA, I dosed 1ml per 50 liters of Easy Carbo (equivalent to Flourish Excel) every other day for a week. The algae turned purplish/pinkish and disappeared. Maintaining sufficient CO2 level and is the best way in controlling this algae. Siamese Algae Eater will eat BBA.

Photo by Dusko Bojic.

posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 6:28 AM 08/18/2006


Green Dust Algae (GDA)
Green Dust Algae are actually zoo-spores and are commonly found on aquarium glass. They form a dusty looking, green patchy film and in severe cases can cover the whole aquarium glass. It's not known what actually causes this algae. Intense light is favored by GDA. Scraping it off the glass will not help remove this algae since it stays in the water and will float for 30-90 minutes before attaching it self again to the glass. For some reason those zoo-spores are avoiding plants, rocks and wood and always go for the glass. Limiting nutrients will not help fighting this algae but rather cause problems in planted tanks where plants will be exposed to nutrient deficiency and that condition will just favour other algae types. The best known solution, for how to get rid of GDA, has been discovered by Mr. Tom Barr. He claims that this algae should be left alone to grow, without wiping the glass for about 10-20 days. After this period GDA will start forming ticky patchy film that will start falling off the glass. When this starts happening it is good to remove this algae out of the tank. This method should keep this algae at bay. 

And since one photo is worth 1000 words :-) ... 
Joe Aliperti (photo credit) gives us a visual insight into this interesting (or better, annoying) algae. 

posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 6:25 AM 06/18/2006


Green water - Algae bloom
Beautifully made photo by Ron .
This is the most common problem if the cloudy situation extends beyond 10-14 days. Note that "green water" is not always green in appearance! Since green water is the most common problem and the most difficult to solve the answer needs to reflect several options. The situation that causes GW (Green Water) is usually a combination of high nitrates, phosphates, and mixed in some ammonia/ammonium. Substrate disturbance is usually the culprit. What happens is the algae (GW form) will flourish off of the ammonia/ammonium and phosphate, remembering that algae can consume phosphate easier than plants because of their thin cell walls, the algae uses up the ammonia/ammonium and phosphate, but it doesn't go away...because algae can quickly switch with nutrient it scavenges...it moves to nitrates. So you can see why water changes will not rid a tank of GW. Nutrients can be reduced very low in GW and fairly quickly by the GW algaes, but they can scavenge other nutrients...iron and trace elements. So, it's very common for the GW to solve the situation that causes it to begin with, but that won't eliminate the GW, for the reasons I've allude to. Five methods exist to eliminate GW. Blackout, Diatom Filtering, UV Sterilization, Live Daphnia, and Chemical algaecides/flocculents. The first four cause no harm to fish, the fifth one does. 

Method No. 1
 The blackout means covering the tank for 4 days, no light whatsoever is allowed into the tank during this time. Cover the tank completely with blankets or black plastic trash bags. Be prepared, killing the algae will result in dead decaying algae that will decompose and pollute the water. Water changes are needed at the beginning and end of the blackout time and ammonia should be monitored also. 
Method No. 2 Diatom filters can usually be rented from your LFS. This is my preferred method. Personally, I use my Magnum 350 w/Micron Cartridge coated with diatom powder. Diatom filtering removes the algae and doesn't allow it to decay in the tank. You do have to check the filter often, if you have a really bad case of GW the filter can clog pretty quick. Just clean it and start it up again. Crystal clear water usually takes from a few minutes to a couple of hours. 
Method No. 3 UV Sterilizers will kill free floating algaes. They also kill free floating parasites and bacteria. They also can be problematic for extended use in a planted tank, as they will cause the of some important nutrients. They are expensive and don't remove the decaying material from the tank, if you can afford to keep one they are handy to have around, though not as useful IMO as a diatom filter. 
Method No. 4 Adding live daphnia to your tank. This can be a bit tricky. First you need to insure that you are not adding other "pests" along with the daphnia. Second, unless you can separate the daphnia from the fish, the fish will likely consume the daphnia before the daphnia can consume all the green water. 
Method No. 5 I hate the last way, the flocculents stick to the gills of fish, while not killing them it does compromise their gill function for quite a while leaving them open for other maladies. 
Beautifully written article by Steve Hampton; 



I got a very bad algae bloom (Green Water) due to CO2 malfunctioning ( + 2 of my HOBs malfunctioning also). At first I wasn't sure what to do. I had very little free time and such Green Water case needed many water changes and adjustments. I decided to try something new!!! Instead of the everyday water changes and fuss I decided to introduce LOTS of floating plants, almost covering all the water surface. I got Salvinia natans floating plant. I disconnected the CO2. Since "green water algae" thrive in water with NH4 and strong lights, I planned to add floating plants to shade the tank (something like black-out) and to uptake the NH4 from the water column.
I also started dosing Easy Life FFM (fluid filter medium) in USA aka Easy Neo. This fluid product has a very good CEC (cation exchange capacity) and is able to bind NH4 very fast. I dosed Easy Life FFM every second day (recommended is once a month).

This next photo was taken approx 10 days after I had introduced the floating plants and Easy Life. Amazing!! And I didn't do any water change at all !!



Today this aquarium looks like this (following photos). I disconnected the CO2 and am running this tank as a Hi-light Low-tech covered with floating plants. The submersed plants seem not to mind these unusual conditions without CO2. I do dose Tropica+NPK 10ml every week. Instead of water change I only top up the evaporated water and re-dose with 10ml of Easy Life. Today I have no algae at all and plants which grow healthy. 

posted by Dusko Bojic aka Che Guebuddha @ 11:56 AM

Back to Library Home