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Green Hair Algae Solutions

Anything that goes into your tank that has been in another aquarium or natural body of water could potentially have algae on it. This would include plants, fish, snails, or any other living thing in your aquarium—including the water they came in with. Fish, shrimp, and most animals will be your least likely culprits. The shells of snails often have algae growing on them. Plants, as well as any decorations and equipment that have been in another aquarium, will most likely have some types of algae growing on them.

Where Does It Come From?

Algae can come into your tank from many sources. Anything that goes into your tank that has been in another aquarium or natural body of water could potentially have algae on it. This would include plants, fish, snails, or any other living thing in your aquarium—including the water they came in with. Fish, shrimp, and most animals will be your least likely culprits.  The shells of snails often have algae growing on them. Plants, as well as any decorations and equipment that have been in another aquarium, will most likely have some types of algae growing on them. 

Light is one of the more perplexing components to algae control, as algae will thrive under low OR high intensities. Without aquatic plants, low light conditions will favor the growth of algae, since there is no competition for the light or other nutrients.

In freshwater planted aquariums, the use of Aquatic Plant LED Lighting Systems will promote the growth of plants, which will restrict the growth of algae. In most saltwater applications, the lighting intensity will be greater and if there are no competing organisms (corals, anemones), algae has all the light it needs. Many actinic and metal halide lights will require replacement after 6 months.

Nutrients
Almost all algae growth is fueled by excess nutrients, and true algae will also be more difficult to restrict if nutrient levels are too high. The two principal nutrients we need to manage are nitrate and phosphate. Both of these are end-products of the fish and bacterial digestion of foods. The less food we feed, the fewer nitrate and phosphate will accumulate in the aquarium.

In freshwater aquariums, the presence of true aquatic plants will make better use of available nutrients, "starving" the algae. This is particularly true when we can keep the pH level between 6.5 and 7.0, where the plants will utilize the ammonium as a nitrogen source, but the excess ammonium will NOT be toxic to the fish.

In saltwater reef aquariums, the corals, anemones, and coralline algae will also out-compete the algae, as long as we keep the nutrient levels as low as possible. Nitrate levels below 10 PPM and phosphate levels below 0.10 PPM.

You can use phosphate removing pads or resins to help manage the phosphate levels. Place phosphate-removing media in your filter system.

To control nitrate, you must address the breakdown of dissolved proteins in the water. For a saltwater aquariums, you can use a protein skimmer to remove dissolved proteins before they are broken down into nitrate.

For most freshwater applications, a protein skimmer would not be the best solution. You could use a protein-adsorbing resins which effectively absorb and remove dissolved proteins. When the resins become saturated, it will need to be replaced or recharged. 

While nutrient management is still essential, in the saltwater aquarium we can utilize Scarlet Leg and Blue Leg Hermit Crabs to eat the offending algae. 

In freshwater aquariums, some success has been reported using Glass (Ghost) Shrimp to control hair algae. If you develop "brush" or "beard" algae on the leaves in your freshwater aquarium, the best method of control is to prune the affected leaves before it spreads. It has been reported that higher levels of CO2 will help control these algae, perhaps by making the plants healthier and less likely to allow attachment of the algae to their leaves. 

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