Hair Algae – Causes & How To Get Rid of Them

Hair algae and a dead fish

Hair algae are the scourge of an otherwise healthy and beautiful aquarium. 

It can be a real pain to deal with, but there are some tips that can help. In this article, we will go over some of the causes of this algae and how to combat it.

Causes of Hair Algae

Once hair algae begin to grow in an aquarium, it can quickly spread and get out of control. This is why it is so important that you know how to keep it under control. Before you can start getting rid of it, you will need to know the root cause.

Tanks that have high levels of nitrates and phosphate are more likely to become a victim of hair algae. It typically forms as your tank is cycling, which is why it can be hard to avoid.

This type of algae can also start growing as a result of too much light. This encourages growth, causing it to spread even faster than normal throughout the tank.

If your tank has either too much or too little CO2, hair algae can quickly become a problem. You’ll find that the ideal amount is around 15 to 30 milligrams per liter. The plants, water flow and other things will be factors in determining just how much CO2 your tank requires.

How to Get Rid of Hair Algae

There are numerous methods you can use to get rid of hair algae, though some of them can be more effective than others. It is important that you consider the cause before choosing which approach you are going to take.

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Hair algae e1580475730899

1. Lower Macronutrient Levels

You can start off by trying to lower the amount of phosphates and nitrates in your tank. These macronutrients can encourage the growth of hair algae, so reducing them could be effective in slowing down its growth.

While it is simply not possible to take out all the nitrates in your aquarium, there are ways to minimize its presence. It is important that you make a point of removing uneaten fish food, as it can raise nitrate levels. Detritus also releases nitrates as well as phosphates, so you’ll want to keep that in mind.

2. Clean Up Your Substrate

Keeping your tank’s bottom layer clean is another good way to prevent hair algae from forming. It will also help slow down its growth if you already have some. While siphon cleaning is an option, this can be a real hassle.

There are all sorts of organisms you can put in your tank to help with keeping the substrate spick and span. This includes the Tiger Sand Conch, which devotes all of its time to aerating the sandy substrate and keeping it clean. 

Hermit crabs can also be useful for this purpose, as they tend to consume a large amount of algae when given the opportunity. You can also try putting in some snails to maintain the cleanliness of the substrate and your tank as a whole. If you ever notice a snail not cleaning the algae, simply pick it up and place it where you want it.

The Siamese Algae Eater is one of the best fish you can get to prevent hair algae and get rid of whatever has already formed. This fish consumes lots of different types of algae, which is why it is so popular. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to care for, which is a huge plus.

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The Chinese algae eater is another great option to consider. Because these fish can grow up to 10 inches, they need a pretty big tank. Even one of these fish can do wonders for keeping your tank incredibly clean. ghost shrimp can also be immensely helpful for this purpose. They are cheap and have a reputation for being hard workers.

3. Add More Plants

You should at least consider adding more plants to your tank in order to minimize algae formation. It is crucial that you only put in plants that are very healthy and not diseased at all. The increased shade that comes with putting in more plants will make it more difficult for the algae to grow and spread.

Hair algae under microskope

4. Commercial Products

There are a number of commercial algaecides on the market that you should look into before deciding on anything in particular. Many of these products can be quite effective when it comes to getting rid of the hair algae in your tank. 

Liquid carbo can also go a long way towards helping you resolve this issue; you should use it on a daily basis. Apply this liquid to everything in your aquarium that has thick algae growth on it. This can stop the algae growth in its tracks, making it much easier to get rid of completely.

5. Pull it Off

You can also just reach into your tank and pull off the hair algae by hand. While this is not the most pleasant method, it can work well. Make sure that you wear gloves, as this particular task can get pretty gross without them.

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  • Hair algae can form extremely fast and take over an aquarium if you don’t take steps to hinder its growth.
  • This type of algae can start growing as a result of too much light or unbalanced CO2 levels.
  • Lowering the levels of macronutrients like phosphates and nitrates in your tank can slow down the growth of hair algae.
  • It is very important that you keep your substrate clean when trying to limit algae growth.
  • Certain fish and other marine creatures can be helpful in keeping your aquarium algae-free.
  • Snails are particularly helpful when it comes to reducing the presence of algae in a tank.
  • You can try adding more plants to your tank to prevent the growth of this type of algae.
  • There are lots of commercial algaecide products on the market, so you’ll want to spend some time looking into your options.
  • You can remove the hair algae in your tank by hand, but it is a pretty messy chore that can take a while, depending on how much there is.
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