Algae in the Aquarium

Algae are an ever-present but unnecessary and sometimes dangerous part of the flora of every aquarium. The majority of them are harmful to higher plants because they settle on the leaves and reduce the photosynthetic efficiency of these organs. Some species cover the glass sides of the aquarium and shade the interior; they also prevent the aquarist from observing his fish and plants. The harmless filamentous green algae are also not welcome in the aquarium although they add a natural touch when present in small quantities. Unfortunately they are seldom present in small quantities for long, as they soon cover the bottom from their rapid growth. They can also be dangerous to small fish and fry, which might get stuck in the tangle of filaments and suffocate.

As a general rule, algae are considered weeds in the aquarium as their growth cannot be easily regulated. They are a weed which regularly gets into the water with food, fresh water, new plants, and through the surface with air-borne spores. Each species of alga has definite requirements with respect to the quality of the medium, and it develops only under the correct conditions. The most important of these conditions are temperature, duration and intensity of illumination, the mineral and organic substances in the water and substrate, the species and number of fish inhabiting the aquarium, and the kind and number of pieces of apparatus (such as filters, bubblers, etc.) which effect the movement of the water.

Algae can be fought by removing the causes of development of the specific groups. Generally any species of alga can be destroyed or suppressed by changing the conditions: increasing or decreasing illumination, increasing filtration and aeration, or—most drastic —moving the entire aquarium to a new location. Specific ways of checking individual groups of algae are discussed below, A chemical is now available which will subdue or kill all algae even when used in dosages safe for higher plants and fish in the aquarium. In heavily planted aquariums, however, any chemical can theoretically be dangerous to the plants and should be used with caution.

The Chinese algae eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) can keep the aquarium walls and plant surfaces free from algae.

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