How To Get Rid Of Bubble Algae (Permanently)

Image Credit: Jamie Henderson via Flickr
Image Credit: Jamie Henderson via Flickr

How To Get Rid Of Bubble Algae (Permanently)


Algae can be irritating but few species are as annoying as Bubble Algae. The green bubbles of this species of algae can be unsightly in large numbers and can get out of hand quickly but how do you deal with them effectively? Before you start trying to pop all those bubbles like bubble wrap, continue reading to ensure that you can deal with your Bubble Algae infestation efficiently and carefully so they won’t reappear anytime soon.

What kills bubble algae?

The more common way to deal with not only Bubble Algae but all species of algae is to invest in different organisms that can make up a cleanup crew for your reef tank. These critters will nibble away at the algae in your saltwater tank and hopefully decrease their population sufficiently. 

The only issue is that these critters come with their own needs and if they aren’t met, some of them can become a little aggressive towards their tank mates. 

  • Emerald Crabs

    • Mithrax Sculptus or Emerald Crabs might eat Bubble Algae. However, they also will attack small fish and coral if they are not properly monitored and fed. Emerald crabs should be given additional foods in their diets such as dried nori or pellets to help supplement their diets. This will also help them keep more to themselves rather than antagonizing their tank mates or attacking your coral. Also, it is possible that Emerald Crabs won’t care about the Bubble Algae in your saltwater tank so you always want to make sure you are monitoring any new clean-up crew members to ensure they are doing their duty properly. 
  • Blennies

    • Blennies are just one of many fish that can help eat Bubble Algae in your reef aquarium. These fish though tend to be a little aggressive towards their tank mates so they require some space to do their work. If you do settle on a Blenny or another fish like a Tang then make sure you are supplementing their diets. Supplementing their diet will not only give them a better diet overall but it can help make them a little less aggressive towards their tank mates.
  • Turbo Snails

    • Very helpful to prevent Bubble Algae but unfortunately they will not do much if they are introduced after an infestation has already started. 

Manual removal of Bubble Algae

Preferably, you would have been able to find the hitchhikers while you quarantine your live rock so you can easily manually remove them. However, if the algae haven’t spread too far yet you can still get away with trying to manually remove the Bubble Aglae after the rock has been installed in your tank. 

DO NOT pop the green bubbles while you work. 

The physical removal of Bubble Algae can be tricky because you might release spores into the tank which will lead to even more Bubble Algae in your reef aquarium. 

The longer you allow the algae to grow the more likely the bubble will pop and spread its spores. It is best to take care of this species right away if you want to avoid an infestation.

  1. You can use any narrow, long, and sharp object to rip the algae out with. A screwdriver is probably the most commonly used item but you want to ensure that you have ripped out the entire plant. Like a weed, Bubble Algae needs the entire structure to be removed in order to prevent Bubble Algae from growing back. 
  2. Twist and pull the algae at its base until it pulls off from the surface it is attached to. Use a siphon to suck up the algae once it has been removed from the surface it was attached to. 
  3. If possible, if there are pieces of rock or equipment that you can take out of the tank to scrub clean, you should do so. By doing this, you are decreasing the chance of causing one of the green bubbles to rupture and you can be more sure that you have thoroughly taken care of the algae-infected object.
  4. This algae is actually very resilient and does not need as much light as other kinds of algae. Look under rocks and other objects to see if there are any Bubble Algae growing there.
  • Alternatively, if you have spare airline tubing and a bucket or jug, you can discreetly siphon out the Bubble Algae. Essentially, you use the airline tubing to suck up the green bubbles and knock the green bubbles off with the end of the tube. The idea is to pick out the green bubbles without bursting them but if they do the spores should be sucked up into the line anyway. For more dexterity, you can use your screwdriver, tweezers, or scalpel to help remove the algae from your rocks and equipment.

If you do decide that you want to try a manual removal of your Bubble Algae aim for where the bubble connects with the surface and avoid the bubble as much as you can.

Introduce competitors

You might even consider introducing species of algae that are actually beneficial for your saltwater tank. The competition means that there will be fewer nutrients available for the Bubble Algae to absorb and grow with. 

A great example of a friendly competitor is Coralline Algae. The red Coralline Algae won’t get rid of Bubble Algae itself but it helps to make an environment that is less conducive to Bubble Algaes growth. 

The low nutrient environment means that the Bubble Algae will grow slower and possibly become more manageable for your clean-up crew to take care of.

Does Vibrant kill Bubble Algae?

Vibrant is a bottle full of bacteria that you can purchase to help fight not only Bubble Algae but other types of algae as well. All you need to do is add 1 ml of Vibrant per 10-gallons of water in your tank’s water supply. If you are dealing with a bad infestation, you should opt to treat your water 1-2 times a week until it is manageable again. Once it appears to be under control if you wanted to continue to use vibrant to control your algae population you can use the bacteria every couple of weeks. 

Like any additive to your reef aquarium, you should take doses slowly with Vibrant as adding too much can have adverse side effects. If you add more Vibrant than what your aquarium may need to break the algae down at an appropriate pace, you risk increasing nitrate levels due to the quick breakdown of algae plants in your aquarium.

It will take a few weeks to completely eradicate your algae problem but if you are taking your time, this method will take care of your Bubble Algae in due time.

Will a UV Sterilizer kill Bubble Algae?

Another method that might be helpful in removing is a UV sterilizer. These little devices use UV light to destroy the DNA of reproduction in the algae. Effectively, this method attempts to give you some control by making it harder for the algae to multiply when they release their spores. 

However, they only really work if you are getting quality sterilizers and even then it is an investment. A UV sterilizer is for someone who is looking for higher control over the quality of their water to prevent algae blooms and diseases. 

Even a quality sterilizer is not a guarantee that these things won’t help. It is simply another form of protection and will prevent future bubbles from growing in your tank.

What causes Bubble Algae?

Nine times out of ten, Bubble Algae will find its way into your reef tank by hitchhiking its way in on some of your live rock. 

The best way to prevent an outbreak of this algae is to properly inspect your live rock when it’s in your possession and then quarantine it before placing it in your display tank. You should also thoroughly look over any coral plugs or discs that you may have. 

After Bubble Algae is introduced into your tank, they can quickly multiply through the spores they release from their bubbles.

Will Bubble Algae go away?

Bubble Algae won’t just go away unless you have creatures in your tank that are actively eating away at the species. You will need to either introduce a new member to your clean-up crew to take care of the algae or manually remove the Bubble Algae from your tank yourself. 

How does Bubble Algae spread?

Bubble Algae once it begins to grow will store spores in its bubble and once the bubble ruptures (whether that is due to its size or an outside force popping it) those spores will begin to spread through the tank’s water supply. This is why you want to be careful if you are attempting to deal with a Bubble Algae infestation manually. 

Depending on your ability and available equipment, manually removing Bubble Algae can be a practice in futility. It might be best to spring for critters that will help eat the algae and make your job easier.

What is Bubble Algae?

Bubble Algae is a type of algae and is one of the largest single-celled organisms on the planet as each bubble is technically a single cell. 

They are brilliant dark green color and can grow up to 5 centimeters individually. In small numbers, this species can be a wonderful splash of color in your tank.

Is Bubble Algae good or bad?

Since we are talking about removing them, there must be something more than their color to talk about. The Bubble Algae can look visually stimulating with their color and gelatinous bodies but they have a dark side. 

These little emerald bubbles, if allowed to spread, can cover every surface in your reef tank. They will get in the way of the inhabitants in your tank and clog up your tank’s systems. Bubble Algae can even break off from where it is and jam up equipment like filters. 

Unless you have some experience dealing with Bubble Algae, it would be prudent to deal with them as soon as your spot them. Some people are comfortable with the species and are able to keep them as a decoration in their tank however, it requires experience and the right cleanup crew to keep them from taking over.

Final thoughts

Bubble Algae can be really irritating to deal with but with the proper care and patience, you should be able to remove your infestation in no time. It isn’t impossible. If there is one thing you take away from this article, it’s to avoid popping the bubbles at any cost. Each pop is likely going to be another day of trying to remove the persistent bubbles from your tank’s ecosystem. 

Finally, always remember that a good defense is a good offense. Try to inspect all your live rock carefully so you decrease your chance of introducing the species into your aquarium. Worst comes to worst begin looking into introducing a few crabs to assist in getting rid of your algae problem. 

Now you should be ready to dive into the trenches and deal with the Bubble Algae yourself.

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