How do I cure my al­gae prob­lem?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Fishkeeping Answers - NEALE MONKS

Can you please tell me what has caused the black al­gae on the plants in my 240 l mbuna tank, and how I can get rid of it? My tank has two fil­ters and I do 50% wa­ter changes every week. The set-up has been run­ning for six months and is stocked with 40 ju­ve­nile mbuna, four Cuckoo cats and a Bristlenose plec.

The al­gae is driv­ing me crazy. All my wa­ter pa­ram­e­ters are fine — please help! MIKE, HULL

ALook­ing at the pic­tures you sent in and also from your de­scrip­tion, the prob­lem you are hav­ing is with black brush or beard al­gae. It is ex­tremely com­mon on plants like Anu­bias that have slow-grow­ing, long-last­ing leaves. Like all al­gae, there’s a mix of rea­sons for its ap­pear­ance in an aquar­ium. Bright light to­gether with rel­a­tively high ni­trate and/or phos­phate lev­els are im­por­tant fac­tors, but the ab­sence of fast-grow­ing plants that can out­com­pete it for light and nu­tri­ents should also be con­sid­ered. Wa­ter chem­istry may be im­por­tant too, brush al­gae seem­ing to pre­fer wa­ter that is hard and al­ka­line.

Other than Si­amese al­gae eaters and the more strictly her­biv­o­rous live­bear­ers such as Ameca splen­dens, few aquar­ium fish con­sume brush al­gae, so its con­trol is usu­ally about get­ting the en­vi­ron­ment right rather than ad­ding some­thing to keep it at bay.

Float­ing plants are a quick fix, but at the very least you want to make sure that your Anu­bias are not sit­ting di­rectly un­der any bright light. Th­ese plants do best in shadier spots where the light is some­what fil­tered through green fo­liage, so you might want to think about ad­ding some other hard wa­ter tol­er­ant plants to your sys­tem, prefer­ably ones that are tall and fast-grow­ing, so quickly able to pro­vide the sort of shade your Anu­bias need. Op­tions might in­clude Val­lis­ne­ria, Sagit­taria, Crinum and some of the hardier Echin­odorus species.

You also want to check whether your plants are com­pro­mised in some way. Lack of proper fer­til­i­sa­tion and in­suf­fi­cient car­bon diox­ide lev­els can cause plants to grow more slowly than they should, and this makes the ap­pear­ance of brush al­gae more likely. Anu­bias re­spond well to the use of liq­uid fer­tilis­ers, be­ing epi­phytes, while ca­sual aquar­ists might find ad­ding the fer­tiliser tablet to gravel around clumps of Val­lis­ne­ria and other rooted species sig­nif­i­cantly im­proves their growth rate. Ei­ther way, hap­pier plants means life be­comes more dif­fi­cult for al­gae, which is ex­actly what you want here!

Fre­quent wa­ter changes, mod­er­ate stock­ing, fast-grow­ing plants, and the re­moval of any un­eaten food will all be use­ful ways to en­sure ni­trate stays nice and low and al­gae can’t get a foothold.

Beard al­gae on Anu­bias.

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