Know Thy Enemy.
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Koi Pond

Want to remove algae from your ponds? From your water garden? From your aquarium? Want to rid your waters of that nasty green hue and greenish muck to get crystal clear waters just like this?

It pays to know thy enemy. 

What are algae?

While there are numerous types of plants and single celled organisms in the world, algae are perhaps the most invasive and the most talked about. There are many numerous types of algae which commonly plague our pond waters and aquascapes, mainly the Phytoplanktonic (free floating) algae and the Benthic (attached) algae.

Free Floating Algae
Green Waters caused by single celled algae
Green Waters caused by single celled algae

Free-floating algae will be those that could cause that greenish hue in the waters, the ones that create that hulk-like green waters. This particular type of algae may be the most common ones to afflict and plague most pond owners who have their water bodies exposed to vast amounts of sunlight.

Attached Algae
String Algae floating
String Algae floating

Attached algae will be those that include “string algae” or “horsehair algae”. String algae are one of the worst enemies any pond enthusiast could face given the dangers that it can pose to the waters. String algae tend to produce vast amounts of dissolved oxygen which will lead to the production of oxygen bubbles tangled and trapped within its “hair”. This will eventually result in an unsightly carpet of green muck floating atop your water surface. Yucks! 

How to prevent algae growth

In the case of algae, prevention is always better than cure. Here are some few tips that can hopefully prevent further algae growth in your waters, and remove algae for good. 

Reduce Sunlight

Perhaps the greatest source and contributor to algae growth is excessive light. Think of light as the food source for these little green monsters, more light – more food. More food – More algae. To combat this, a good idea would be to invest in some nearby land plants or water lilies that could provide shade in the form of leaves and lily pads. Furthermore, this could even make the pond more aesthetically pleasing to the eye with vibrant flowers blooming against the dark green leaves. A good estimate of how much of the pond to cover with shade from plants will be around 2/3 to 3/4 of the surface area of the pond. 

Should you have an aquarium, glass tank type of setup, routinely switching off the LED lights for the tank will be more than sufficient to prevent excessive lights from reaching the little amounts of algae present within the setup.

Reduce Nutrient Overload

If sunlight is the food source for algae. Nitrates and phosphates in the tank are probably comparable to steroids for algae. A little excess of this within the waters are enough to cause algae blooms and result in a tank/ pond overflowing with little green monsters. These nutrients of nitrates and phosphates are typically found in the waste from the fish that are kept within the waters of the pond/aquarium, hence it is especially important to keep the nitrates level low. There are a few ways to do this.

1. Frequent Water Changes

Do frequent water changes to ensure that the waters are not always concentrated with a high percentage of fish poop that could contribute to the algae bloom. Water changes are an important part of maintaining a healthy ecosystem in your pond/ aquarium.  Do take note that ONLY up to around 20-30% of the water to should be changed at any one time. This ensures that the beneficial bacteria within the original waters do not get depleted completely and the fishes will be able to adapt to the water changes that take place. 

2. Introduce More Live Plants
Aquarium Tank filled with numerous live plants
Aquarium Tank filled with numerous live plants

This is probably my favorite method on this list. By introducing more competing live plants, such as the amazon sword and water lilies, there will be less resources and nutrients available for the hungry algae. Water lilies are heavy consumers of nitrates and phosphates especially when they start flowering. In an optimal pond setup, the amount of waste produced should be slightly less than the total amount of nutrients that the plants in the pond require. As a result, there will always be a slight deficiency in nitrates and phosphates, controlling the algae population within the pond. Even in aquarium setups, extra live plants will help absorb all the excess CO2 and nitrates which are contributing factors to an algae bloom.

Adding Salt

Salt appears to be a remedy for a lot of things in the world, perhaps even controlling algae population? Well, it turns out that adding a little salt can go a long way in helping control algae blooms as well. The drawback, however, would be that this MAY also affect other aquatic plants within the area. For instance, common aquatic plants like the lotus and water hyacinth will begin to grow weak and die at levels of 0.10% concentration, while water lilies tend to be able to thrive up till levels of 0.50%. To effectively control algae populations, a healthy concentration would be around 0.25 to 0.30%. Hence with this information, you will have to determine if adding salt is right for you and your setup. Too much salt in real life can cause high blood pressure, too much salt here? Not a very good idea too.

Filtration with UV Sterilizers

For most aquarium setups, one of the most effective methods of solving problems like greenish waters caused by single-celled algae would be to install a UV sterilizer as part of the filtration system. Think of UV sterilizers as a sort of high-intensity laser beam that strikes every living algae cell as it passes through the filter. These are an excellent way of dealing with algae especially in an aquarium setup, however, do always bear in mind the extra costs that this may incur. These are only effective for single celled algae that cause the waters to turn a bright green, and are not as effective in getting rid of “attached algae” such as string or hair algae. 

How to destroy algae ... by eating them?

The best thing about keeping fishes is that they look good, and they are one of the best lines of defense against an algae invasion. Here are some fishes and little critters that can help to remove algae within the aquarium/ pond setup. 

These are just 5 of the best algae removers in my opinion. 

Siamese Algae Eaters
Siamese Algae Eater
Siamese Algae Eater

The name says it all. They are algae eaters. Siamese Algae Eaters. These bad boys are the best at removing algae. Fuzz algae? No problem. Hair/Thread algae? No problem? Black Beard algae? No problem. Adding these guys to any tank is highly recommended to ensure a relatively clean tank/pond setup.

Otocinclus Catfish

These guys are magnificent at removing brown algae within the tank or pond. See those brown hues around the corner? Not anymore, with the addition of an Otocinclus Catfish. They consume algae like crazy and helps to maintain clean healthy waters within your setup.

Mollies and Platies
A livebearer - The white molly, a voracious algae eater.

Surprisingly, these livebearers are heavy algae eaters. They will feast on the attached algae within your pond or aquarium, eating off the algae stuck on plants and other decorations that you might have. They consume large amounts of algae and eat throughout the day.

Dwarf Flat Ramshorn Snail

These snails are a good match for a community tank or a pond environment. They are relatively small (hence the name) and do a fantastic job at keeping a tank or pond clean by eating uneaten leftover food debris, dead or decaying plant matter, detritus and most importantly soft algae build up on hard surfaces. These snails are the final touch to remove any algae build up within your ponds or aquarium.

Bristlenose Pleco
A Bristlenose Pleco
A Bristlenose Pleco - Image by Kurisu Mills

The diet of this alien looking pleco consists mainly of algae. You can be sure that they will destroy and eliminate most of the string algae within the tank or pond. They will spend most of their time foraging through the substrate in the waters for algae and other food debris. One of the best scavengers to be included within any setup.

If all else fails...

If all else fails, and you still can’t remove that greenish glow. Perhaps it is time to consider more desperate solutions. Literally. For instance, API Pond ALGAEFIX is fast-acting algae control solution that works to minimise and limit the presence of algae in water gardens, ponds and large water bodies. This algae solution is particularly effective in removing String or Hair Algae as well as Blanketweed. It is safe for fish and plants, but only when used as directed. It is important to note that Algaefix will cause a sudden drop in oxygen levels within your aquarium/pond setup, hence there should be adequate aeration to maintain sufficient oxygen levels within the waters especially in warmer weathers. Hence it is especially important to follow the instructions on the labels. I would only recommend this for owners who have a large aquarium setup/ pond setup that has enough water to fully dissolve and dilute the chemicals within this product. Less is more! Greed can never be a good thing when using chemicals such as Algaefix. Patience is a virtue, my friend.

Hopefully the information and knowledge you have obtained within this short post can keep your waters cleaner. 

Stay happy, First Floor Family.