How to win against algae

So, even though I haven’t posted much of anything in the last almost year, I have been keeping up quite a few (10?) total tanks during this time. I’ve removed a few or downgraded the maintenance schedules of many of my tanks. I simply haven’t had the spare time to keep my tanks going at their previous rates, let alone keep posting about them.

Which got me thinking that a lot of people probably get into this hobby and suddenly find themselves overwhelmed with the upkeep. Even a single, small tank can wind up with daily maintenance requirements if you set yourself up for such a situation. So here are some signs that you’re tank isn’t getting enough care, as well as “quick” fixes to reduce how often you need to get involved (scraping algae, water changes, etc). One of the major issues of an untended tank is algae.

If you have algae, it has either just appeared, you’ve given up the battle, or you didn’t yet realize that there was a war being waged in your tank. Tanks with habitual algae aren’t pretty. Algae results from too many unused nutrients in your tank’s water column. Thus, algae usually results from one of three causes:

    • Overstocked: Fish are awesome and I always wind up wanting more. Which requires that I routinely get rid of fish, or else I would have too many creatures living in too small a space. Some fish species require overstocking (e.g. some cichlids), which must be balanced with increased filtration. Most freshwater tanks cannot be crammed full of fish, and some fish create more waste than others. The only way to figure it out is to research the species you have. I can identify species if you post them here and provide basic information. You might need to return some fish to the store or else invest some money in a new filter to better remove waste.
    • Lighting: If you have the stock lights on your tank, chances are that this is not your problem. But sometimes people getting into planted tanks, much like myself, get super drawn in to all of the different cool lights available. There are specialty lights for specific wavelengths and quite intense outputs just for planted tanks. Often these are part of high-tech setups. These types of tanks come as a package deal: If you have a super powerful light, you will most likely also need to add carbon of some sort to your aquarium. Or else you’ll have to constantly scrape algae off of everything.
    • Overfeeding: Algae grows because of unused nutrients in the water. Adding food that is not consumed within a few minutes gives algae the opportunity to consume some of the nutrients, resulting in its growth. If you’re not overstocked and feeding properly, algae won’t appear. A fish “diet” of sorts can also be a decent short-term solution to algae growth.
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