How to Clean Algae from Aquarium Plants

Algae are eukaryotic and photosynthetic aquatic organisms under the kingdom of Protista. Algae growth is a regular trouble in any fish tank. Many types of algae grow in the aquarium and deplete vital nutrients from the water and thus affect the growth of live plants and aquarium fishes. Growth of algae relies on light. If you see the algae with other colors than green, it indicates the water quality is deteriorated. If you see the red or brown algae in your aquarium, it designates the water with high dissolved nitrate or phosphate levels.

Types of Aquarium Algae

There are many types of algae available in the fish tanks.

Green carpet algae: It is very common algae which can grow and spread very quickly in your aquarium. Generally, it occurs on rocks, decorations, and aquarium glass walls.

Green Water: These types of algae float on the aquarium water and make the water green in color. It creates the huge trouble in the aquarium by depleting the oxygen level and preventing the penetration of artificial light to reach your aquarium inhabitants.

Brown Algae: It is also the most common type of algae which generally occurs in a new aquarium under dim-light condition on the bottom layer and side’s wall of the tank forming brown layer sheet. You can easily remove the brown algae using algae scrubber pad. Generally, this problem can improve with increasing the age of your fish tank.

Red Algae: It is the toughest type of algae which grows and spreads rapidly on driftwood or other decorations. It grows up to 3 cm in height and forms a thick green carpet grass.

Common Causes to Grow Algae in Your Aquarium

Growing algae in your aquarium mainly depends on water, light, and nutrients (nitrates and phosphates) level. To prevent algae growth in your aquarium, you should control the amount of nutrients and light.

Sunlight influences the growth of algae. Aquarium would never be placed near the window or where direct sunlight is available. If you use artificial light in your tank, length of the light hour per day should not more than 8 hours. To control lighting hour, you can purchase a lighting system with a timer to turn the light on and off automatically.

Over-feeding your fish creates food wastes which influence the algae growth in your tank. To avoid over-feeding, fish should be offered small amount of feed that can be eaten within 5 minutes. Uneaten food must be removed after five minutes using a small meshed net to avoid food wastes.

General Algae Control Measures

Role of Live Plants to Control Algae: Generally, excess nutrients and light influence the overgrowth of algae in your aquarium. To control the algae growth, live aquarium plants play a vital role because they naturally absorb lots of phosphate and nitrate from the water and lessen the chances of algae growth. More live plants in your aquarium means fewer algae in the aquarium.

Role of Algae Eaters to Control Algae: There are lots of aquatic organisms which prefer to eat algae from the aquarium water. Cory Catfish, Apple Snails, Red Cherry Shrimps, Ghost Shrimps, Twig Catfish, Bristle-nose plecos, and Siamese Algae Eater are some prominent algae eaters. They feed on algae and other fish waste from the tank and make it healthy and clean.

Role of Algae Control Drop to Prevent Algae Growth: You can also combat the algae by using algae control drop. Algae Control Drops are available in the pet fish business market with reasonable prices. We recommend you to purchase the algae control drop to prevent the growth of algae in your tank.

Regular Aquarium Maintenance: Regular Maintenance of Aquarium is the best process to keep algae away from the aquarium. 10-20% water change on regular basis helps to lessen the nutrient level from the aquarium water and thus reduces the algae growth. If algae build-up on any decoration, heater, filters and aquarium walls, you should use algae scraper to remove algae. 

To make your aquarium clean and algae free, you should install the best aquarium filters that have biological media which helps to break down the nutrient substances (nitrate and phosphate) in your aquarium. The filter also eliminates any fish waste materials from the tank water and lowers the levels of nitrate and phosphate, make your aquarium cleaner and prevent algae growth. 

How to Remove Algae from Artificial Aquarium Plants

  • Many aquarists use plastic plants to make aquarium more colorful and nice-looking. Over time, these plastic plants become dirty due to the build-up of algae, mineral deposits, bacteria wastes and sludge on them. Ultimately, algae can make your plastic aquarium plants dull and ugly. If you do not clean the plants on regular basis, they become unrecognizable. To make your plastic plants attractive like new, you should clean your plastic plants regularly.
  • To prevent overgrowth of algae, the aquarium should not be placed in direct sunlight. If you use artificial light that should be turned off at night. 
  • The artificial plants are more difficult to clean compared to other parts of the aquarium. Algae can easily penetrate into any gaps or cracks of artificial plants.
  • Before cleaning your artificial plants, you should unplug the electrical connection and then take out the filter, pump and other large decorations from your tank.  Now, you can remove plastic aquarium plants from the tank using fishnet. In this case, many aquarists use their hand to remove plants from the tank. After removing plants from the tank, you should place the plants in a large bowl or other containers to wash.
  • Algae pad is used to rub the plastic plants. You should softly rub each part of the plants to remove debris and algae. To scrab successfully, fold the pad to clean all the cracks.
  • Some aquarists use bare hands to remove any debris or algae. Some algae are difficult to remove from the plants which are penetrated deeply into the plants. In this case, you can use a soft bristle toothbrush to eliminate any algae or debris.
  • You can clean the plastic plants using hot water which removes algae and debris from the surface area of the plants.
  • To completely remove algae from the plants, you can use the bleach solution. To make bleach solution, take warm water in a cleaned bucket and mix bleach with water. Use one-half to one teaspoon of bleach in one gallon of water. For bright-colored plants, you must just use one-half teaspoon bleach in one-gallon water to avoid fading the plants color. After completing bleach solution, you immerse the plants in the bleach solution for 5-15 minutes.
  • Alternately, you can also use chlorine neutralizer solution to remove algae. You should follow the instructions manual provided with the product by the manufacturer company.
  • After 15 minutes, take out the plastic plants from the bleach solution. If any smell of bleach solution remains, wash the plants again before returning them to the aquarium.
  • Running warm water is ideal for easy removing algae or other dirt that attached to the plants.
  • For removing plastic plants from bleach solution, you should use gloves to protect your skin from the bleach. 
  • Wash the plants thoroughly under running warm water. if the plants feel slimy, use the brush again to remove the remaining algae and finally wash it with again running warm water.
  • To dry the plants properly, you can use a paper towel or a soft cloth.  After drying up the plants, carefully place the plants in the suitable location of the aquarium.

How to Clean Algae from Live Aquarium Plants

Live plants need to be cleaned if it is covered with algae, waste or debris. Generally, it is more difficult to clean than silk and plastic plants. Cleaning live plants should be done carefully; if you do it incorrectly you may damage or kill the plants.

To remove waste and debris from the live plants, simply you can brush the plants by using a soft sponge. If your plants are covered with algae growth, you should follow the guidelines below to remove algae from your live plants:

  • You should never use soap or cleaning chemicals to remove algae. Because cleaning chemicals may kill the beneficial bacteria on the plants.
  • Live plants play a great role in the biological filtration. you should not clean all the plants at the same time. If you clean all the plants at the same time, the biological filtration process may get hampered as well as high ammonia levels leading high algae growth in your aquarium.
  • In case of fewer algae build-up, you can gently rub the algae using your finger. If it is not possible, then you can shake the plants softly to remove the algae.
  • If plants are covered with a large number of algae, you have to give great effort to rub the algae off. You should remove the plants and put them under running water at the same temperature. By this, most of the algae can be removed from your plants.

Using Bleach Solution

Sometimes 10% bleach solution is used to remove algae from live plants. In this case, plants should be soaked in bleach up to 5 minutes or less if the plant`s species are fragile.

Following soaking, take off the plants from the bleach and gently rub the plants to remove algae. After that, immerse the plants in a container with clean water and let them soak for more 10 minutes and wash them thoroughly. After cleaning, place the plants in your aquarium at the desired location and make sure to embed the plant roots.

Safety Measures

  • During cleaning your plastic plants, you should avoid any forms detergent, dish soap, harsh chemicals or strong cleaning solutions. Small amount of hard chemicals remaining in the aquarium plants can result huge damage or may kill the aquarium inhabitants;
  • Bleach makes the silk plants dull in color and causes harm if you do not completely wash the plants;
  • Porous materials such as driftwood or coral should not be washed in the bleach solution;
  • You should never mix bleach solution with other chemicals;
  • Never submerge live plants in boiling water;

Final Thoughts

Plants make the aquarium more appealing like natural environment. They provide hiding spots and make spawning ground for many fish species.  To make your tank environment healthy with good water quality, you should clean the algae from both live and artificial plants and other waste materials regularly. Generally, the well-being of your aquarium inhabitants relies on your tank`s hygiene. Therefore, you should clean your fish tank thoroughly on regular basis.

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