Shrimp can help minimize and remove algae in a fish tank.

Removing aquarium algae can be a real mess if you don’t do it properly. Gooky hands, water all over the rug, slipping and sliding in the kitchen, angry fish … you name it. It’s not pretty, but with the right techniques, it doesn’t have to be your least favorite chore.

If you really want to make it easy on yourself, leave most of it up to me. But you will need to do some of the work on your own on a regular basis.

So here are a few facts about aquarium maintenance and tips for removing aquarium algae that can help.

The Importance of Algae

First of all, you don’t necessarily want to remove all algae out of the tank. Algae creates a more natural habitat, can feed some of the livestock, helps control levels of nitrogen in the water, and can beautify the aquarium in some ways, such as when it gently colors a natural rock.

Too much algae, however, endangers the livestock, suffocates the plants, and simply looks gunky. 

Ideal nitrate levels for freshwater aquariums are <80 ppm. Nitrate levels for saltwater fish only tanks should be <50 ppm, and the ideal levels for saltwater reef tanks are <10 ppm.

How to Easily Take Algae off Your Fish Tank Decor

Algae commonly accumulates on decor, but fortunately it’s easy to clean it off. Simply remove the decor and place it outside under the sun for a few days. The algae will dry up, and you can wipe it off quickly. Rinse the decor in RODI water before replacing it.

You may wish to have a stock of substitute decor that you can place in the tank during those few days, which will allow the fish to continue feeling at home.

Tips for Minimizing and Removing Aquarium Algae

Following are several ways you can safely and easily minimize the amount of algae in your aquarium.

1. Make sure your aquarium has all the necessary elements.

Many of the elements you add to your tank have a role in minimizing algae, such as properly functioning filters, gravel, and bottom-dwelling algae eaters. 

Algae eaters offer the best of both worlds: intriguing livestock for your tank as well as a natural cleaning system. Our favorite algae eaters include:

  • Various types of catfish
  • Shrimp
  • Certain snails (when placed intentionally)
  • Geophagus (part of the cichlid family)
  • Siamese algae eaters
  • Loaches
As shown here, hardworking, hungry cleaning fish will remove aquarium algae, helping to keep your fish tank habitat healthier.
Hardworking, hungry cleaning fish will remove aquarium algae, helping to keep your fish tank habitat healthier.

2. Maintain a regular aquarium maintenance schedule.

Regularly clean the decor as described above, and use algae pads, scrapers, and RODI water to clean the inside, outside, and top of the tank. Alternatively, you can use vinegar and a microfiber cloth to clean the outside of the tank, although the acidic product shouldn’t be used inside the tank. 

You should also vacuum the gravel once a month. (Find gravel vacuuming tips here.) 

3. Don’t keep your fish tank in direct sunlight.

Sunlight stimulates algae growth because algae gets its energy from the sun. Move your tank to a shadier area of your home if possible. If it’s not possible, ask me for aquarium design elements that may help create shade.

4. Consider using algae control products.

A couple drops of algae control solutions, such as those from Marineland and Brightwell Aquatics, may help.

5. Give live plants some extra TLC.

While cleaning artificial decor can be easy, live plants do tend to accumulate plenty of algae. To clean them, gently rub them with your fingers prior to a regularly scheduled water change.

Additionally, trim live plants on a regular basis to minimize aquarium algae growth.

6. Change your aquarium water as recommended.

Clean water will naturally minimize and remove aquarium algae, not to mention keep the water safer in general.

If you have a reef or saltwater planted tank, change 15 to 20% of the water every two weeks. For freshwater and saltwater swim/fish only tanks, change about 20 to 25% of the water.

Why You Should Only Use RODI Water in your Fish Tank

We’ve said it time and time again: only use RODI water (reverse osmosis deionized water) in and around your tank. Even the slightest bit of impurity in the water can make the fish uncomfortable, especially because they also have to contend with algae and waste that naturally accumulates.

RODI is the purest water you can get, so you can quite literally start with a clean slate. 

If you have a saltwater aquarium, you will need to add salt to the water, but you can control how much you add. When you order RODI water for delivery to your Phoenix area home, you can also request your favorite brands of salt. I can mix it for you as well before it is delivered.

To have RODI water delivery to your Phoenix home, visit the Seatech H2O website. You may order 3- or 5-gallon jugs of aquarium water, or we can change the water for you as a part of our fish tank water delivery and aquarium maintenance services available throughout Maricopa County, Arizona.

For additional information on minimizing and removing aquarium algae, contact me at 602-628-7270, or ask me for tips during our next appointment.

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