Types of aquarium algae

13 Types of Algae & How to it Remove from the Tank

Ever wondered how time passes by as you watch those tiny little fishes swim along the water inside your aquarium? Needless to say, having an aquarium with fishes inside can have a calming effect on your mind. However, maintaining one can be a tedious task. One such notorious element that can easily be a part of your aquarium environment is algae.

Few months or even weeks of neglect and boom, you are plagued with a variety of these thriving inside your fish tank. However, algae don’t always have to be the classic green color that you know of. In order to make sure you understand the type of algae growth haunting your fish tank, here is a complete guide on various types of algae.

Our list comprises of the 13 commonly occurring algae that love the fish tank environment and the ways you can use to eradicate them.

What are algae?

An alga or algae (in plural) is a non-flowering and generally aquatic plant that thrives in a large group and similar to that of your seaweed or multiple clusters of single-celled blooms. Algae houses chlorophyll like other plants but lacks any true stem, leaves, roots, or even vascular tissues.


Types of Algae & How to it Remove from the Tank


1. Hair Algae:

Hair algae are the most commonly seen algae that pop up within the aquarium. It can be characterized by its classic stringy green look from which it derives the name. One thing that is known about the hair algae is the fact that it can be a notoriously fast grower and tends to cover your complete tank within weeks. It can lead to a lack of nutrition and light for your aquarium plants as well as the fish.

Green algae growth in itself might not be a sign of danger for your fish stock. However, the long-term risks that come from the same such as lack of light, nutrition, and more, can have a devastating effect on your aquarium.

What causes the growth of hair algae?

Hair algae bloom when there is a nutrient imbalance within the aquarium. The growth of these algae is primarily associated with an insufficient amount of CO2 in the tank. In case the CO2 quantity within the containers isn’t enough for the plants to go on for their normal photosynthesis process, the algae take over.

How can you get rid of the hair algae?

Given the fact that the growth of hair algae comes from a lack of sufficient CO2, the obvious choice or solution here is to balance out the same. It gets rid of the algae completely in no time. In order to introduce the right amount of CO2 into your fish tank, you need to install a pressurized system comprising CO2. These machines are specially designed for the aquariums, and when used right, they will provide your plants the much-needed boost required to battle these hair algae.

Now, there is another option in place that can help combat the CO2 issues within your tank. You can try to decrease the overall demand forCO2 inside the aquarium. In order to do so, you can reduce the light cycle, which tends to decrease the growth time for the plants. Although you might see minimal growth in plants, this is a surefire way to combat the algae issues.

Keep in mind that this solution will work only for low-maintenance species, and the ones that need a good amount of light can die easily. Another way you can combat the growth of hair algae is through manual removal. With the help of a fork or simply your fingers, you can easily pull them out of the tank. Anything that is left can be scrubbed off with the help of a scraper or sponge.


2. Green Algae:

“Green algae” is a term generally used as a common name for the algae variants that tend to have a greenish hue. They are seen attached to fish tank glasses with hair algae being an exception. Although the green algae can take up multiple forms, they are mostly similar. They can be dusty in texture that is easy to wipe out or be those stubborn surface holders that need better manual force.

In general, the green algae population tends to be harmless. However, they can be particularly annoying when it comes to removal. They tend to block out your view of the fishes and plants within. A glass-covered green layer can make it hard for you to see what is within. If you fail to deal with its underlying cause, it will surely come back regardless of how many times you scrape the same.


What causes the growth of green algae?

In case your aquarium is highly lit, chances are, the green algae will take over your tank. It includes natural lighting or artificial aquarium lights. Additionally, green algae can also come from a lack of CO2or absence/imbalance in the macronutrients present within the tank.

However, green algae can also be a part of the diet of certain fish species. Fishes such as Otocinclus catfish or hillstream loaches love the green algae bloom.


How can you get rid of the green algae?

Every now and then, you will find the green algae blooming within your tank in a corner, if not the entire tank. It is especially true if your aquarium receives a good amount of light. While some aquarists surely consider this as a sign that your tank is healthy, the algae population should never get out of control.

The best way to get rid of the same is to opt for a water test. It helps determine whether your tank has a surplus of commonly occurring nutrients or lacks any of it. Elements such as phosphates, nitrates, as well as potassium, are the common reasons for the growth of green algae.

Also, make sure you do not leave the lights on for a duration that is longer than necessary. You can also add some critters that feed on green algae to control any new growth within the tank. These include names such as amino shrimp, nerite snails, or the Otocinclus catfish.


3. Brown Algae:

Brown algae can be rather frustrating, especially when you compare it with the green variants. It isn’t just stubborn to get rid of, but ugly as well. They will cover up the window panes in the aquarium with a gunky, brown-green film. These massive colonies comprised of diatoms take a toll within your tank in case there is an excessive accumulation of certain elements within the water.

What causes the growth of brown algae?

Brown algae are generally seen within new aquariums. The cycling process will show you some spots here and there. These unicellular colonies are diatomic creations that feed on the silicates within the tank. Silicates come from tap water, which means your brown algae have a lot of it to thrive on. It is why aquariums with large water capacity tend to experience a good amount of brown algae growth.

Just like normal algae, brown algae also thrive in the presence of excessive light, phosphates, or nitrates.

How can you get rid of the brown algae?

With brown algae, the best you can do is wait for the nutrients to subside and brown algae to die by itself. Meanwhile, you can make use of an algae scraper or scrubber for stain removal. If the tank is properly established yet still packing in the brown algae, you must go for a water test. Your tap water could be holding a high amount of phosphates or nitrates. Additionally, review the lighting cycle to ensure you do not promote the growth of brown algae.


4. Black Beard Algae:

Also termed as the brush algae, this particular variant of diatoms tends to be annoying and adds in a nasty look within the tank. These dark-grey tufts look like beard hair and stick to your equipment or tank décor. The way it attaches to the tank makes it a nuisance to be removed. Removing the black beard alga can be tough, especially when the growth has taken over the delicate parts of the plant, such as leaves.

What causes the growth of black beard algae?

Functioning in a manner that is similar to the hair algae, the black beard is something that thrives on the CO2 imbalance as well. Apart from that, any other nutrient imbalance can act as a stimulator for algae growth.

How can you get rid of the black beard algae?

In case you have come across these black-colored algae within your aquarium, the best possible way to get started is to opt for a tank water test. Ensure that this water is free from excess nutrients such as phosphates or nitrates. If any of these nutrients are too high in concentration when compared with the recommended number, make sure you opt for solutions that tackle the same. In case there is a problem with CO2 concentration, the ideal option is to go with a CO2 system installation. On the other hand, you might want to opt for phosphate or nitrate reduction solutions that are available in the market in liquid form.


5. Cyanobacteria or Blue-Green Algae:

If you are a frequent swimmer and love to paddle around the local lake in the summer months, you might surely have come across the beautiful blue-green algae. Also known by the name cyanobacteria, these algae are pesky characters that can cause the complete lake to shut down for the swimmers. Like others on this list, the blue-green bacteria might look pretty to your eyes; however, looks can be deceiving. When and if you happen to come across these algae, you might experience a violent outburst of illness.

Although it might not be problematic for you when present within the aquarium, this alga can surely be a nuisance. It tends to cover the complete tank with a putrid blanket of smelling slime. Although it can be removed easily with the help of a hose pipe, simply getting rid of it won’t solve the issue.

Cyanobacteria tend to be problematic as it leads to a lower level of oxygen within the tank.

What causes the growth of blue-green algae?

A small section of cyanobacteria will always be there within your tank, and it generally isn’t a big threat. However, the issue starts taking over when the surface gets slimy and obstructs oxygen from getting in. A cycle pump can also be the cause of growth for cyanobacteria. The absence of beneficial bacteria means the Cyano has ample possibility to thrive with minimal to no competition. However, once the bacterial population has stabilized, it could lead to a reduction in the population of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae.

How can you get rid of the blue-green algae?

As is standard with most blue-green algae populations, testing your water is a priority. Take a quick look at the nutrient dosing. Make sure everything is perfectly balanced. Now, what should you do? Would cleaning up help or would bump up of the overall CO2 level help?

Given the fact that cyanobacteria occur in places where the natural bacterial cover is disturbed, it is vital to dose up the tank with the same. Once you are done with the obvious treatment, you can go for an all-out treatment. To do this, simply remove the plants and fishes from your tank while making sure you do not scoop out the algae. Next, put off the lights and cover the tank with a lid for a few weeks. It usually gets the job done.

On the other hand, you can also have success with scrubbing or the use of algicides.


6. Green Water:

As suggested by the name, green water is an algae growth that makes your water suddenly appear green in color with a look close to that of pea soup. Although aquarists are putting in a good amount of work for the cultivation of this nutrition-packed algae, however, for local fish bloomers, it is something that might cause a bit of panic. Even though green water might not be dangerous for your fish, this thing surely is alarming.

What causes the growth of green water algae?

The green-colored water in your tank is actually caused due to a free-floating, microscopic algae variant. This particular phytoplankton is a common part of the aquarium. However, the surplus growth of the same might not be something you want.

The cause of green water tends to be relatively standard with algae. The nutrition imbalance that comes from improper maintenance or lack of CO2is surely going to generate a lot of soupy green-colored water.

How can you get rid of the green water?

Green water algae are among the easiest infestations for you to remove from the fish tank, given the fact that these algae tend to float, catching them, and removing the same is fairly easy. The common solution here is to make use of a temporary tool for UV sterilization. It might be an investment; however, it is surely worth the same.

On the other hand, you might also try to add certain filter floss within the filter and then replace the same weekly. The fine floss material helps in catching the tiny particles way easily as opposed to a sponge. However, all these would have no success unless you opt for some judging or testing of the water within your tank.


7. Cladophora Algae:

An extremely stubborn variant of fish tank algae, the Cladophora is characterized by a long and stringy growth. The algae’s hair-like strands might form a dense ball that happens to choke the plant and eventually kill it off. Trying to tackle the same might result in a tank that looks clean for a week or so. In case you manage to leave behind a few strands, the infestation will start over again.

In case you aren’t sure whether you are tackling Cladophora or any hair algae, the best way to judge the same is by bringing the nose closer to the culprit. However, make sure you are prepared for a notoriously bad smell.

What causes the growth of Cladophora Algae?

It is deducted by most aquarists that the Cladophora hitchhikes its way into your aquarium with the help of an infected plant. This alga grows at an alarmingly fast rate when the lighting conditions are way too bright with a lot of extra nutrients that aren’t being taken up by the plants or fishes.

How can you get rid of the Cladophora Algae?

Keep in mind that the Cladophora can grow even when the parameters tend to be normal. It is the only variant of algae where you do not need to fix the underlying issue. Once it gets into your tank, the only way you can get rid of the same is by completely draining out the constituents of your aquarium. Make sure you clean the tank inch-by-inch and remove all the constituents and replace the water with a fresh one.

In case you see that the Cladophora has just started appearing in the tank, you can opt for spot treatment. Squirting in hydrogen peroxide or liquid CO2 on the spot ensures that the Cladophora tuft is killed off. Make sure you keep repeating this process until no new strands are appearing within the tank.


8. Staghorn Algae:

The Staghorn alga is a part of the red algae family and flaunts looks that are strikingly similar to that of the black beard. The grayish tint within these algae varieties is particularly similar. However, you can tell them apart from each other by taking a peek at their growth pattern. With the black beard, the growth comes in short tufts while the staghorn flaunts a longer and bushy threat count.

The latter takes up the shape of an antler. Similar to the black beard, the Staghorn grows atop surfaces such as plant leaves or fish tank equipment. It tends to be particularly difficult to clean off & you might need a sharp blade to get this done.

What causes the growth of Staghorn Algae?

Staghorn Algae experiences excessive growth whenever there is an abundance of nutrients, dearth of CO2, poor flow of water, as well as negligence in terms of maintenance.

How can you get rid of the Staghorn Algae?

Keep in mind that the removal of staghorn algae in a manual manner might not be an easy feat. It is especially true when they attach themselves to the fragile leaves of the plant within. Scrubbing too vigorously might lead to leaves breaking off. To make things worse, Staghorn receives minimal attention or interest from fishes or invertebrates that eat algae. So, they might not help you in containing this outbreak.

However, you can wipe out this population easily by dosing the water with liquid CO2. Apart from this, you can opt to spray the area with hydrogen peroxide and get rid of this menace. In case your aquarium has been facing a growth spurt of algae, it means there is a particularly big issue that you need to tackle as soon as possible. Remember not to leave your lights on for way too long.


9. Fuzz Algae:

As evident from the name itself, the Fuzz Algae is a collection of individual filaments within the aquarium that establishes itself atop the decorations, plants, as well as glass. It creates a fuzz-like appearance inside the tank. As of now, it isn’t evident whether the fuzz algae are just the early stage growth of the hair algae. However, just like other algae growth within the tank, a minimal population of the same is not harmful. A lot, though, can lead to issues such as difficultly in oxygenation, blockage of light, and so on.

What causes the growth of the Fuzz Algae?

Often seen thriving within new aquarium setups that are known to have imbalanced nutrient content, the Fuzz Algae can quickly take a toll within. If your tank is older and yet you have been experiencing a massive Fuzz algae outbreak, it’s time to check the nutrient consistency within the same. Algae are known to take up nutrients faster than any other plant we know of. It means there would be high competition for your aquatic plants to survive.

How can you get rid of the Fuzz Algae?

The first thing you need to put in place when trying to get rid of the fuzz algae is to test the aquarium for CO2 or nutrition level. Adjust the same as per recommendations. Apart from this, you can accumulate a cleanup team by introducing some species to your aquarium. Some of the popular fuzz algae consumers include SAE or the Siamese Algae Eaters, Otocinclus, Amano Shrimp, Bristlenose Plecos, and Black Mollies.


10. Green Dust Algae:

These particular algae can be fairly easily confused with the Green Spot Algae. While the GDA forms a greenish slime that covers the glass, the GSA tends to grow in patches. Both these variants won’t cause much trouble when present in small amounts; however, complete coverage can lead to significant damage to flora and fauna within the aquarium.

What causes the growth of the Green Dust Algae?

The green dust occurs mostly within the aquariums that have just been set up. They lack proper nutrient flow or enough beneficial variants of bacteria to help bring down the algae population. However, it can also stem from a lack of a good amount of CO2 or critical nutrients.

How can you get rid of the GDA?

The best way to get started is to do nothing. Yes, you heard that right. The key is to allow the algal growth to run the complete life cycle and wait for it to die out eventually. It will take about 4 weeks or more. During this growth cycle, try not to remove or wipe the algae. It can lead to an instant release of spores, and the complete life cycle shall start again.

After the 4-week tenure, you can change the water by lowering it to the maximum possible level. Eventually, wipe off any remnant from the glass. Some of the hobbyists have also claimed that the replacement of the light bulbs post-cleaning of the GDA film can cure the aquarium of the green dust algae. However, this solution might not always work.

Apart from this, you can add algae eaters such as BristlenosePlecos.


11. Green Spot Algae (Coleochaete Orbicularis/GSA):

The green spot algae is a species that appears as tiny green spots within the glass, decorations, equipment, or plants with slow growth. These colonies tend to start as miniature dogs within the tank. However, in the case of the environment favors, they tend to widen their reach and create extensive coats all throughout the tank.

What causes the growth of Green Spot Algae?

For green spot algae, the common cause for growth spurt is an imbalance in nutrient consistency. Apart from being prevalent in new aquariums, this problem can also surface if you are someone who changes the aquarium water every week or has inadequate fertilization within. Phosphate level depletion is another cause for green spot algae to thrive.

Low CO2, heavy light exposure, or poor circulation of water can also contribute to the growth of the GSA.

How can you get rid of the Green Spot Algae?

The prime reason for GSA to take over your aquarium is the low amount of phosphates. So, make sure you get yourself the best testing kit and check the level in your tank water. In case it is low, you can use phosphorus supplements to get the job done.

Once the levels have been adjusted, the spot algae can be removed with the help of an algae scraper. Make sure you monitor the tank continually to check if it returns back or not. Additionally, check the duration for which you have been leaving the lights on. Keep in mind that an average of 9 hours of light is enough for the tank.


12. Oedogonium Algae:

The Oedogonium Algae is a short and green filament-producing algae that can either be free-floating or attach to the plants within the tank. It gives them a classic fuzzy appearance. They can give a tropical and exotic look to the aquarium in case they settle on the rocks or pebbles within. However, if they take over the entire tank, they can block out the light or lead to the minimization of oxygenation.

What causes the growth of Oedogonium Algae?

Just like most algae types on our list, the prime cause for Oedogonium algae to take over is the lack of CO2 and proper nutrition in the water.

How can you get rid of the Oedogonium Algae?

The best thing you can do for your fish tank is to test the water and determine the nutritional and CO2 content within. Adjust the same with the help of supplements in case the number is low. Additionally, a CO2 diffuser can be added to the tank too. You can also make use of aquarium conditioners that help in controlling the population.


13. Rhizoclonium Algae:

This particular genus of the green algae is comprised of fine green and brownish strands that look similar to that of the hair algae. It is soft to touch and very slimy. They can be beautiful to look at but create just as much havoc once they take over the entire tank.

What causes the growth of Rhizoclonium Algae?

With issues such as lack of timely maintenance, low CO2, low nutrition, as well as poor circulation of water, the Rhizoclonium algae can bloom. However, it is just as easy to control, especially if you notice the growth in the early stage when it hasn’t taken over the complete area.

How can you get rid of the Rhizoclonium Algae?

To start with the removal of Rhizoclonium algae, the aquarium needs to be cleaned off completely. Make sure you do not see any remnants left behind. Next, check the nutrient dosing within the tank. Opt to enhance the CO2 levels to an optimum number within the tank. You can find a lot of supplements in the market that can help get the job done.

Alternatively, you can also introduce some algae eaters such as Amano Shrimp to the population and help keep any new growth in control.



Ultimately, your goal is to keep your fishes and aquatic plants healthy and disease-free. Regular maintenance of the tank with nutrition control will help keep your tank free of such notorious algal growth. However, little growth won’t hurt. Simply monitor the algal growth, and if they are sprouting at a fast rate, tackle it wisely with the help of the solutions explained above.

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