How To Grow Coralline Algae – Take Your Reef Tank To The Next Level At Ease

Thinking about algae vibes a negative feeling, and you may remember so many occasions where algae make your tanks ugly. However, this is not the case with coralline algae

Coralline algae don’t develop on their own in a home aquarium unless you grow it. They have tremendous benefits on the reef system, and if you want to take your saltwater aquarium to the next level, then you should consider growing it in your tank. But, how to grow coralline algae?

You must have to introduce it to your aquarium, usually by a live rock or from hitchhiking (transported or carried) by snails, crabs, or any other marine critters. Now, you can also grow them using products available in the market. 

This article will talk about coralline algae benefits, how to grow and how you can speed up the whole process in your aquarium by applying different methods.  

What Are Coralline Algae And Types?

Coralline algae belong to the red algal family, contribute to the marine aquarium’s overall aesthetic, and play a vital role in reef health. They are ubiquitous; some species grow on other algae, on animals, or even live as parasites on other Coraline.

They are typically pink or red; however, yellow, blue, purple, gray-green, and many different color species are also found. Only one freshwater coralline species is available; the rest of them (over 1600 species) thrive in marine water. 

What Are Coralline Algae And Types

Coralline algae are divided into two groups based on their formation. Those are:

  • Tree-like structures (Geniculate): attached to the substrate using root-like holdfasts.
  • Rock-like thick crusts (Non-geniculate): range from micrometers to several centimeters.

We are primarily concerned about the second one—crustose coralline algae (CCA)—for growing in home aquariums. 

Coralline algae need live rocks to grow and spread. A suitable environment is also mandatory that includes water parameters and lighting for their growth. Corallines are slow growers, especially the encrusting type. They are hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water and nutrient conditions under proper lights. 

What Are The Benefits Of Coralline Algae?

Coralline algae also have so many benefits for your reef aquarium. They are desirable algae and are an indication of a matured saltwater aquarium.

  • Coralline algae work as a binding material that prevents coral and reefs from breaking apart and dislodging during intense waves. 
  • Prevents other nuisance ugly algae from growing by outcompeting them. Once coralline algae take up places on live rock, other types of algae such as hair algae, green algae can’t develop. 
  • Coralline algae produce chemicals that encourage forming herbivore invertebrates, which in turn keep various seaweed growth in check. Otherwise, seaweed can take over the tank.
  • They play a vital role in coral reef ecology; sea urchins, parrotfish, etc., feed on it.

How To Grow Coralline Algae

Coralline algae are the hallmark of a healthy reef aquarium. That is because you need to maintain good water quality to grow coralline algae. 

It’s not a fast grower like other algae; once seeded, you must be patient enough after setting up the suitable condition in your tank. You can grow coralline algae in three different ways. 

Coralline Covered Live Rock Or Anything Else

Coralline Algae From Live Rocks

You need to find a way to introduce coralline algae to your reef tank, and the most obvious way is to add some live rock. You can virtually put anything that’s encrusted with the algae, even snails.

People believe that snails may eat or destroy algae growth, but most reef snails have no business with coralline algae.

Scrapings Of Coralline Algae From Another Aquarium

Coralline Algae From Another Aquarium

This method requires help from others, such as your friend owning a reef aquarium or the local pet store. All you need is some of the scrapings of the algae from the live rock they have.

After that, you can use those scrapings for seeding your aquarium. Distribute those in every corner of your aquarium.

Use Products Online (Starter Packages)

Coralline Algae From Online

Suppose you find it difficult to get live rocks or even scrapings of coralline algae; in that case, this third option is definitely for you. There are lots of online starter packages available for reef aquarists to grow coralline algae in their tank. 

Based on the review and practical experiences of using different products, I recommend the ARC Reef Purple Helix coralline algae starter package. They offer different colorations of the algae, and you can eventually get instant success using the products. 

While adding the algae into the tank is the easiest part, the hardest part is to provide an optimum tank environment for their growth. I’ll discuss that in later sections.

I would suggest trying all three techniques for your aquarium; in that way, you may get different coralline algae species. Obviously, more species of them in your tank will result in a diverse community of coralline algae. 

How To Grow Coralline Algae Fast

What Are The Tank Requirements For Coralline Algae To Grow?

Whatever option you have, I hope it won’t be hard for you to seed your aquarium with coralline algae. After that, you have to maintain the tank requirements. Failure to maintain the balance may be subject to a much longer time, or even coralline algae might not develop.

1: Lighting

First and foremost is the lighting; any type of algae relies heavily on lighting; coralline algae are also not an exception. Lighting requirements may vary depending on the algae types and aquarium environment. However, you must follow certain rules to establish a coralline colony in your saltwater tank. 

Algaes are similar to plants, and photosynthesis must have to take place for them to survive. Therefore, optimum lighting is mandatory. The best light for coralline algae is a Kelvin rating of below 10000K and actinic blue lights with an intensity of 1.6 watts per gallon.

I have a separate article on the best aquarium lights for coral. Coral and coralline algae grow in a similar environment; the aquarium lights I have listed for corals also stand for coralline algae. So, you can have a look if you want to buy the best lights for this algae growth. 

Excess exposure to lights may hamper algae growth, create light shock, and make damaged portions white. Adjust the lighting to get the best results, and it’s proven that aquarium light resemblance to natural sunlight maximizes algae growth. 

2: Stable Tank Parameters

Lights are important, but the most significant for growing a good bunch of coralline algae is the tank parameters. They require some of the same things as corals. The goal should be to achieve the ideal range of water parameters for coralline algae growth and make that stable.

Stability is vital for the algae to flourish. At that point, you need regular water testing and smaller water changes to prevent rapid fluctuation in tank chemistry. Set your target for the following water chemistry parameters below.

  • Calcium – 350 to 480 pm
  • Alkalinity – between 2.5 to 4.3 meq/L or 7 to 12 dKH
  • pH – 7.9 to 8.3
  • Magnesium – 1300 to 1380 pm
  • Phosphates – 0.25 ppm or less than 0.25 ppm
  • Strontium- 8 to mg/L
  • Nitrates – not more than 5 ppm
  • Temperature – 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit

Regular water changes help to keep nitrates and phosphate levels at bay. You can also add some mangrove plants to your saltwater aquariums because they remove a lot of toxins. 

Mangrove plants lower nitrates, phosphate, and dissolved organic content (DOC) from aquarium water. The suitable types of mangrove plants and proper care are necessary to get the best outcome. 

Although mangrove plants reduce the necessity for a protein skimmer by removing DOC from the water, a protein skimmer is handy for lowering nitrates and phosphate if you don’t have plants.

Seasoned aquarists use protein skimmer to keep control of nitrates and phosphates. 

Keeping the right balance of calcium and strontium is essential. Sea salts are commonly used by aquarists; however, calcium and strontium additives yield better results than the continuous addition of salts.

How Long Does It Take For Coralline Algae To Grow?

How Long Does It Take For Coralline Algae To Grow

You won’t get instant success while growing coralline algae because it takes a bit long. Although the rate of spreading varies on whatever techniques you used for seeding. On average, you might see growth after 4-8 weeks of adding algae spore to your aquarium.

If you use online bottle products for seeding, the growth rate will differ from brand to brand. It also depends on the tank condition, the spectrum and intensity of the lights, carbonate alkalinity of the water, and so many other parameters.

Maintain stable tank water conditions and play around with the lighting to see what works best. Keep in mind that moderation is the key; adjustment should be slow enough to avoid stress on the tank habitat, corals, and algae in your aquarium.

How Do You Increase Coralline Algae Growth?

Sometimes you may not get the expected outcome while growing coralline algae; below are the two ways you can speed up algae growth with minimal effort.

Use The Algae Scrapings More Effectively

After scraping off the algae as much as you can, prepare the scraps for effective use. Blend the scraped-off algae with Kalkwasser solution—a highly concentrated solution of calcium hydroxide—and sprinkle onto your tank. Turn off the filter, protein skimmer, etc., at that time, and let the solution distribute naturally into the water.

After 20-30 minutes, start the water circulation pump to well seed your aquarium. This way, you can really speed up the rate; you will observe the exponential growth of coralline algae in your aquarium. 

How Do You Increase Coralline Algae Growth Tips

Growth Supplements

Sometimes you need a little boost up even if you did everything right. Guess what? Yes, I would like to talk about growth supplements to kickstart algae development in your tank.

I recommend using PurpleUp, a growth accelerator that works wonders like a miracle grow for algae among many in the market. 

How does that happen? Ok, it actually fills the missing link, injects nutrients directly to the coralline. This ensures coralline algae gets balanced nutrients to grow without promoting nuisance algae. The quality and quantity of ionic calcium, magnesium, strontium, and carbonate promote coralline algae’s healthy and rapid growth.

Why Is My Coralline Algae Disappearing?

Are coralline algae disappearing in your tank? If it’s the case, first check your water parameters, check your calcium level, magnesium level, and so on. If it’s not ok, try to replenish some of the missing ingredients and observe closely. Hopefully, within a few days or weeks, you’ll see a resurgence of algae in your tank only if there are no other issues. 

What if your water parameters all are ok? Here come the marine critters you have in your tank. Algae may lose due to some of the species if they feed on algae. If the consumption rate is higher than the algae growth rate, you can easily imagine what will happen. You will see the algae is starting to disappear. What species are responsible for that?

  • Sea urchins
  • Parrot Fish
  • Crabs
  • Snails (very few species)

If one of them is present in your tank, you should keep close eyes on their behavior. If you are sure that marine critters are responsible for algae loss, you can do three things.

  1. Apply growth supplements so that the growth rate of algae gets the upper hand over their cumulative consumption. 
  2. Feed your tank habitat with some alternative foods like pellets, flakes, etc. So they don’t rely heavily on coralline algae for their food. 
  3. Suppose the above two aren’t fruitful, and you continuously lose algae. In that case, you may consider removing some of them in a separate tank. 

Final Thoughts

As you move to the end of the article, hopefully, you now have a solid understanding of how to grow coralline algae in your tank and the factors you need to look at for their fast growth.

For instance, if you find it hard initially to grow coralline algae, don’t get disheartened; keep patience and try to figure out what might go wrong and try to resolve the issues. After that, you definitely achieve the desired outcome, but I repeat it, patience is the key.

Sujit Modak

Leave a Comment