algae cleaning

What is Algae & How to Spot It In Your Tank

Algae Issues Suck. But What Even Is It and How Do I Know When It’s in My Tank? 

As aquarium lovers, it can feel like algae problems are a never ending go at problem solving in your tank. But it doesn’t need to be this way! Let’s take some time to understand what algae even is, how to identify it, and how it may show up in your tank.

If you're a more visual learner, checkout out our YouTube channel with part 1 on an intro to algae and part 2 on how to ID kinds of algae in your tank, plus the importance of prevention!


What is Algae?

In our tanks, algae usually grows in the form of micro-algae, which just means that they’re organisms that measure micrometers in size and are photosynthetic, non-vascular, and eukaryotic organisms. Okay, science! Let’s break this down: 

  • Microalgae can perform photosynthesis to produce their own food in the form of carbohydrates from sunlight and water, and are often green in color. 
    • Very rad, but re-validates the importance of algae-prevention to avoid runaway blooms. 
  • Many microalgae grow as single-celled organisms and lack the sophisticated transport structures like other vascular terrestrial plants.
    • This makes algae incredibly resilient and able to thrive in extreme conditions like the hard to reach corners of your tank. 
  • Many microalgae are eukaryotic organisms that have a nucleus and other membrane bound organelles. Think compartments within compartments. These thrive perfectly in moist environments with periodic access to sunlight, especially aquatic ones like your tanks!

At the end of the day, what this really means is that microalgae are resilient creatures that can become pests in aquarium settings. While they’re super hard to control in our fish tanks, they're found in almost every outdoor environment because of this adaptability! In some cases, environments might be so harsh that microalgae are the only forms of life there at all. For example, there are types of microalgae that can tolerate the salt content of the Dead Sea and high temperatures of hydrothermal pools. Crazy stuff! 


Okay, So How Do They Show Up in Our Tanks?

Algae problems often come from too much lighting and too much nutrients– and yes, they can even feed off fish poop. Again, the more we learn about algae, the more we realize how valuable prevention is to avoid fighting with such resilient and resourceful organisms.  

Sometimes though, you might not even realize you have an algae problem until it’s too late! So here’s some key things to look for to spot algae before it gets bad. 

Algae most commonly shows up as small, round spots on the glass of your tank, and other times might hit your plants first as thin, green, dust-like filaments covering their leaves and stems. You can usually identify the types of algae from noticing different characteristics. These include how it appears on your tank’s walls, the color of the algae, its strength, and the structural patterns of growth. 


Algae to Look Out For

Here are the most common and annoying types of algae in your tank that you definitely want to avoid seeing before it’s too late: 

  • Black Beard Algae
    • This kind of algae is notorious for being hard to get rid of. This is because not many things eat it and it grows in very thick, bushy clumps. 
  • Brown Diatom Algae 
    • Most commonly in newly planted tanks, these kinds look like dusty, flour-like substances.
    • Not to be confused with Green Water Algae which just makes your aquarium look like pea soup!
  • Hair Algaes 
    • These are the many types of algae that look like wet hair. They’re stubborn as heck because they grow rapidly and are hard to get rid of.


Prevention is Key

While there are tons more kinds of algae, we hope this helps you get an introductory understanding into the world of microalgae and how they can show up in our tanks. If there is anything we can learn from this, it’s that stopping the problem from ever starting is key and we can help with that! 

Our 100% plant-based algae regulators take out the stress, the scrubbing, and the harmful chemicals with just one, weekly dose to help support your aquarium ecosystem’s natural algae cleaning & regulation functions. No water movement or high tech needed!  

To help prevent algae drama in your home aquariums, checkout our Algae Control today and stay tuned for more algae info, cleaning, and prevention tips with us at Green Water Labs! 


As always - Keep it natural, keep it fun!

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