Defeating Hair Algae

Hair algae can be an infestation in a reef aquarium that can lead some to turn to tearing their tanks down, cooking rocks and spending enough money leading to divorce and car repossessions. For some, hair algae can be a quick fix that leads them to wondering what all the hype and struggle is about for others. And for many, hair algae can be a problem where there seems to be no end.
So what is hair algae? In short, there are a few strains of hair algae, but all are photosynthetic and use chlorophyll to capture light energy, which fuels the manufacture of food – sugar, starch and other carbohydrates (Hauter, S.). Much like any other plants, hair algae depends upon light, temperature and nutrients in order to grow. In saltwater tanks, the most common nutrients that fuel unwanted pest algae are phosphates and nitrates. Hair algae also has the ability to trap detritus within its stalks which can aid in its spread and act as a food source as it breaks down.Now that you understand Green Hair Algae, let’s look into ways to eliminate its food sources. The root of all evil in a marine aquarium is generally your water. If one uses anything other than RO/DI (reverse osmosis/deionized) water in their marine aquarium they risk adding numerous potential chemical and mineral nightmares including phosphates and nitrates to the system. It is essential that you use RO/DI water for both top-offs and water changes. Your success is directly affected by the quality of water that you introduce to the system. Other causes of Phosphates and Nitrates include the natural nitrogen cycling process, overfeeding, and waste within the tank. Below are a few ways to knock out these menacing sources.
  • Remove all excess clumps of the Green Hair Algae as carefully as you can to avoid splitting it up and sending it around your tank prior to doing a water change.
  • Do a water change using quality RO/DI water – Removing any hair algae floating around the tank and laying on the sand bed.
  • Add mangroves and macro algae, such as chaetomorpha algae to either the display tank or a refugium to feed off of phosphates and excess nutrients.
  • Add snails, hermit crabs, and fuzzy sea hares as a cleaner crew.
  • If you are using a protein skimmer; make sure it is kept clean so it can perform at optimal levels.
  • Clean pumps clean and free of debris.
  • Implement the use of a reactor.  Granulated Ferric Oxide (GFO) or nitrate sponges used in a reactor will help remove the food sources for hair algae.

Leave a Reply