How to Remove Hair Algae

Keep your aquarium free of hair algae by changing the water often.
Keep your aquarium free of hair algae by changing the water often. (Image: Bright yellow fish in Aquarium image by Sujit Mahapatra from <a href=''></a>)

Hair algae grow quickly and wildly as they feed off the accumulation of nitrate and phosphate in an aquarium or pond. Phosphate exists naturally in all living things, including fish waste, fish food and organic matter decomposing in the water. When fish release ammonia in the tank and the ammonia breaks down, nitrate is the result. Nitrate does not harm fish, but it does feed algae. Besides nitrates and phosphates, hair algae thrive in areas with improper lighting. Remove hair algae, which appear in red, blue and green, by eliminating their food source.

Things You'll Need

  • Water test kit
  • Protein skimmer
  • Purified tap water
  • Phosphate-free, nitrate-free salt mix
  • RO/DI or RO water purification
  • Full-spectrum lighting

Test the water to monitor the phosphate and nitrate levels, using a test kit. Keep nitrate levels close to zero ppm and phosphate levels at or below 0.3 ppm to limit the growth of hair algae.

Feed your fish smaller portions more often instead of larger portions less often. Remove uneaten food from the aquarium as soon as you notice it.

Put thawed fish food into a net, then rinse the food off with water over your sink before feeding your fish. The extra liquid in the thawed fish food contributes to creating more phosphate and nitrate, resulting in more hair algae.

Starve hair algae by using a protein skimmer. Protein skimmers inject air bubbles into a chamber of water. The bubbles rise to the top of the skimmer chamber, carrying dissolved organic compounds found in phosphate, which soon becomes a brown, thick foam. Empty the collection cup containing the foam, cleaning out your aquarium.

Change the water in your aquarium often, using purified tap water along with a phosphate-free, nitrate-free salt mix. Changing your water dilutes nitrates and phosphate.

Install RO/DI or RO water purification designed to remove nitrates and phosphates. "RO" stands for "reverse osmosis" and "DI" represents "de-ionization." Unpurified tap water contains traces of phosphates that will add to the growth of hair algae. Maintain your RO/DI system by replacing the filtration and RO elements according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Pull out as much of the hair algae as you can by hand. Also, pull the hair algae from rock.

Install full-spectrum lighting to control the growth of hair algae but promote the growth of other aquatic plants. Full-spectrum lighting resembles natural light made up of visible and ultraviolet (UV) light. Change the bulbs after a year, since the lower intensity can promote algae growth.

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