Physical removal, good aquarium maintenance,
and healthy plant growth help keep hair algae
New growth should be noticeable and
should continue indefinitely.
Speaking of healthy plants, another
method used to keep aquarium algae down
relies on optimal plant growth. Planted-tank expert Tom Barr came up with a
method known as “The Estimative Index”
in which he states that fertilizers and CO
combined with good lighting can maximize
plant growth, thereby inhibiting the growth
of algae. Doses are added daily to several
times weekly, and large water changes
are carried out weekly to ensure there
are no excessive buildups. Results can be
impressive, but this is a labor-intensive way
Graphic courtesy of Paul Lennon, Queensland, Australia;
Source from the Queensland State Department of Primary
Industries and Fisheries, Australia
to grow plants. You have to stay on top of it
to keep the tank levels consistent, and you
will need to trim regularly to keep up with
excess plant growth.
Another way to use desirable plants to
curb algae is by letting your plants grow
across some of the top of the tank or even
out of the tank. More plant growth means
less for your algae, and plants growing
across the top and out of the tank have the
added benefit of being able to use the CO
in the air. Plants at the top of your tank can
also provide shade, which can hurt some
algae. Just be sure to leave enough light so
your plants don’t suffer.
Make sure you have adequate lighting
for your aquarium, and replace bulbs
frequently. Most sources cite six months
to a year as a good time to change bulbs.
Ensure that your aquarium isn’t getting
sunlight from a window. Often a patch of
hair algae can be linked to a passing period
of daylight that streams in to a tank from an
open window across the room.
Good aquarium practices are key to fighting
hair algae, but you also may wish to employ
a small clean-up crew to aid in your battle.
Several fish and invertebrates will eat at least
some species of hair algae. Some of the ones
that I’ve found to be successful are Florida
flagfish Jordanella floridae, Ameca splendens,
and some mollies. Though most shrimp
don’t seem to eat the hair algae, I’ve found
that ghost shrimp often will. And if you want
to try something really unusual, the tiny
Gammarus crustaceans will also eat it.
Mollies are often available at local fish
stores, but the other fish may be hard
to find. Look for people interested in
livebearers or native fish; the ALA and
NANFA are good places to start looking.
You can also check online for auctions or
shops, or ask your local stores if they can
order them for you.
Ghost shrimp can often be purchased
at many aquarium shops. They are often
sold as feeder shrimp. They usually do very
well in the planted aquarium with smaller
fish. They even breed in the aquarium,
readily carrying their eggs and young under
their bodies, and eventually releasing tiny
replicas of themselves.
Gammarus and the very similar-looking
Hyella are tiny freshwater shrimp. They
are easiest to find in a local body of water.
They are often in ponds (both natural and
manmade), plants purchased at nurseries
that sell pond plants, and in many if not
most natural bodies of water. Some fish
will eat them, but I’ve found that with small
fish in the tank enough Gammarus survive.
Unfortunately you won’t be able to grow
mosses in a tank with these shrimp, as they
see it as an appetizing meal.
A Slow and
You may notice that there are several
different methods for dealing with the
growth of unwanted hair algae in the
aquarium. Often I find that it’s a slow
process of making slight changes in different
areas with small successes until finally
a stable and satisfactory environment is
achieved. Be aware that the advice you
find is just that, advice, based on personal
observations. Because our water is different
to start with, we use different plants
and animals and have different lighting,
schedules, and species of algae, so our
experiences can vary considerably. Using
your own personal observations, knowing
the options available, and being willing to
experiment are key factors in controlling
hair algae in the aquarium.