Black beard algae (BBA) is a common problem in aquariums. It is a type of filamentous algae that grows on plants, decorations, and even the glass of the aquarium.
BBA is not only unsightly but also harmful to aquatic life and can affect water quality. If you’re looking for ways to get rid of black beard algae, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about black beard algae and provide you with several methods to eliminate it from your aquarium.
What is Black Beard Algae? A Quick Overview
Black beard algae is a type of filamentous algae that is commonly found in aquariums. It is green or black in color and has a beard-like appearance, hence the name.
BBA is often considered a pest in aquariums because it is difficult to remove and can grow quickly. It can also compete with aquatic plants for essential nutrients, making it a threat to the health of your aquarium.
People often confuse black beard algae with staghorn algae , which is similar but a little less bushy. Black beard algae are thick hair-like appearances, and they are so notorious that they keep returning again and again.
Although some aquarists deliberately cultivate black beard algae to provide hiding places for fish. However, if you don’t like it at all, you have to maintain water parameters and adequate lighting to prevent an algae outbreak.
Factors That Contribute to the Growth of Black Beard Algae
There are several factors that can contribute to the growth of black beard algae in an aquarium. Some of the most common include:
- CO2 fluctuations
- High levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water
- Poor water circulation
- Poor lighting conditions
How to Get Rid of Black Beard Algae
There are several methods to get rid of black beard algae in your aquarium. These include:
- Chemical treatments
- Physical removal
- Adjust lighting
- Heat Treatment
- Introducing natural algae eaters
- Floating aquarium plants
- Improving water quality
1) Chemical Treatment
Chemical treatments are one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of black beard algae. There are several products on the market that are specifically designed to control the growth of BBA.
A. Hydrogen Peroxide
Now it’s time to do a spot treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) solution on the remaining algae. Before that, you have to prepare the solution with appropriate concentration to get the best result and avoid any side effects of overdosing.
Get 3% over-the-counter peroxide solution, and soak affected decors, and rocks (which you can remove from the tank) for a few minutes (3-5 minutes). After that, rinse thoroughly & put them back in the fish tank.
At the moment, you will treat the affected areas inside the tank (plants, leaves, pipings, etc.). Make a 1:3 (3% hydrogen peroxide to freshwater) solution, fill a syringe, and spray on the afflicted areas.
While doing this, turn your filter off; this is because if your filter runs, the H2O2 will just be blown around and won’t do any good.
H2O2 breaks down quickly, so you are just allowing it to sit on the algae and kill them by stopping the water flow. In contact with water, H2O2 will break down into water and oxygen after 24 hours .
Sensitive plants (Moss ball, Anubias) may melt if you overdose; I would suggest changing 50% of water to nullify harmful effects on plants (if any).
You may have to do that consecutively for several days if your tank algae are stubborn. Simply pouring the peroxide into the water won’t help; target the specific areas. Black algae will turn red when they die.
B) CO2 Balacing Agent
CO2 fluctuation is considered one of the reasons for algae formation. Low CO2 levels can arise for two reasons:
- If you have planted a tank and a CO2 system in place, the dosing rate is not appropriate.
- If you have no CO2 system running, low CO2 levels can arise from the water change.
Whatever the reason, you should resolve the issue and maintain a healthy CO2 level in your aquarium. Also, in some instances, stagnant water can create favorable conditions.
A widely accepted method is applying Seachem Flourish Excel to deal with CO2 fluctuations. People get excellent results using this product while combating Black Beard Algae (BBA).
Just follow the method similar to the peroxide solution and directly apply it to the black beard algae (switch off the filter). Don’t overdo it; follow the instructions on the bottle for the right concentration. Keep using it until you get rid of algae.
Seachem Flourish Excel works by boosting the CO2 level, although it has some algaecide properties. Raising the CO2 level will help plants to outcompete algae in sucking nutrients.
If you have a planted tank, a reliable CO2 system will always keep algae at bay.
C. Phosphate Reducing Chemicals
Phosphate is the hidden reason and is often overlooked. Unless you have a high phosphate level in your tap water, the common reason for elevated phosphate levels is an improperly maintained aquarium.
When anything like fish poop, leftover foods, etc. decomposes, phosphate produces as a byproduct.
A water change will instantly lower the phosphate level and additionally, it would be best if you can add some phosphate-absorbing media to your filter. Perform a 50% water change weekly to lower the phosphate level when you have algae issues.
You should always use reliable testing kits such as the API one to monitor phosphate levels.
Whenever your tap water has more levels of phosphate, find another water source, the preferred option is RO water.
However, don’t forget to remineralize water before channeling it to an aquarium. I recommend using Brightwell Aquatics Remineralizer to mineralize the water.
2) Physical Removal
Physical removal is another option for getting rid of black beard algae. This involves manually removing the algae from your aquarium using tools like a scrub brush or tweezers.
This method is time-consuming, but it is effective and does not harm other plants or aquatic life.
3) Adjusts Lighting
Algae, just like other plants, need exposure to sunlight/light for photosynthesis. Because of this, light deprivation will ascertain that the algae will not live. This is because of the lack of light for photosynthesis as a way to make their food.
The absence of light will permanently weaken almost all living organisms in the water. Therefore, turning off lights will ensure that your algae are no more.
At the beginning of an algae outbreak, turn off the light for 72 hours. After that maintain 4 hours of lighting for a few days, this will help to get rid of algae fast.
To prevent a BBA outbreak I would suggest buying an aquarium light with a timer and adjustable intensity. In this way, it will be easier for you to manage the right lighting duration for your aquarium.
4) Introducing Natural Algae Eaters
Introducing natural algae eaters is another option for getting rid of black beard algae. There are several species of fish and snails that will eat black beard algae, including Siamese algae eaters, otocinclus catfish, and nerite snails.
Adding these natural algae eaters to your aquarium can help control the growth of BBA and keep your aquarium clean and healthy.
5) Boiling (Heat Treatment)
Boiling the aquarium water would kill every spore of algae. But, make sure to quarantine your aquatic pets before raising the temperature. In that case, a quarantine tank would have been quite handy.
Typically, the heater should be between 45-50 degrees Celsius. The high temperature will burn the algae making it die off or be eaten by algae eaters immediately. Before heating, it is necessary to clean the gravel.
6) Floating Aquarium Plants
Floating aquarium plants are a great addition to a planted tank. They are fast-growing and will suck a lot of nutrients from the water column, thus preventing algae growth by depriving them of necessary nutrients. Check my article for the 15 best-floating aquarium plants.
7) Improving Water Quality
Improving water quality is a long-term solution for getting rid of black beard algae. This involves maintaining proper levels of nitrates, phosphates, and other essential nutrients in the water.
This can be achieved by regularly performing water changes, using a good aquarium filter, and avoiding overfeeding. By maintaining good water quality, you can prevent the growth of black beard algae and keep your aquarium healthy.
How to Prevent Black Beard Algae (Never Get Back Again)
At this point, you have an idea of how to avoid the infestation of black beard algae again. Having a checklist on how to prevent any recurrence is essential. This is because black beard algae will generally take advantage of any favorable conditions. To protect your aquarium from being infested again, these details are crucial.
- Don’t Overfeed: Overfeeding is a common issue; it will eventually create a conducive environment for algae growth. Leftover foods will decompose and will raise the Phosphate level. Always feed your fish an amount that they can finish within 2-3 minutes. You can use an automatic feeder to handle the overfeeding and ensure your fish are getting the food on time.
- Keep phosphate Level Low: It is advisable to always ensure that anything in the aquarium is below 0.25 ppm.
- Right CO2 Level: CO2 is essential for the live plants in the aquarium. Appropriate CO2 levels will enable the plants to function appropriately hence out-competing algae for nutrients.
- Do Not Provide Excess Light: It is vital to investigate the amount of light your aquarium needs. Ensure that you have the optimal amount of light that is needed to avoid excess.
- Buy Live Plants from Reliable Sources: This is important to avoid buying plants that carry black beard algae, which may not be visible. It would be best if you always disinfected even when you trust the source.
- Do not Add Pet Store Water to the Aquarium: This is important to avoid buying plants that carry black beard algae, which may not be visible. It would be best if you always disinfected even when you trust the source.
- Maintain Aquarium Hygiene: Regular cleaning and maintenance will keep the water quality pristine and will prevent algae outbursts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
How does black beard algae grow in an aquarium?
Black beard algae grow in an aquarium due to several factors, including high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water, poor water circulation, poor lighting conditions, overfeeding, and overstocking.
Do You Really Need to Remove Black Beard Algae?
The black beard algae problem will never go away on its own. As a result, you must find the right approach to removing it.
Is black beard algae harmful to aquatic life?
Yes, black beard algae can be harmful to aquatic life as it can compete with aquatic plants for essential nutrients, affecting their health and growth.
Are chemical treatments effective for getting rid of black beard algae?
Chemical treatments are one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of black beard algae, but they can also harm other plants and aquatic life if not used properly.
It’s important to follow the instructions on the product carefully and to perform a water change after use to reduce the risk of harm.
What are some natural methods to get rid of black beard algae?
Natural methods to get rid of black beard algae include improving water quality, physical removal, and introducing natural algae eaters, such as Siamese algae eaters, otocinclus catfish, and nerite snails.
Black beard algae can be a frustrating problem in aquariums, but it is possible to eliminate it. Whether you choose to use chemical treatments, physical removal, or natural methods, it’s important to be patient and persistent in your efforts to get rid of black beard algae.
By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can get rid of black beard algae and keep your aquarium healthy and beautiful.