There is nothing worse for aquarists than an unwelcomed guest in our reef aquariums. Brown algae are just one of the many guests that weren’t invited to our aquariums but somehow managed to find their way in anyway and now they won’t leave. However, there is no reason to worry because we are going to discuss what these brown algae want from your tank and how to kick them out once and for all.
Diatoms are relatively tame for algae that is very common in aquariums. They are considered microalgae and can cover your tank in tiny brown particles. It usually will appear like your fish have been letting their home rust over but lime away won’t help in this situation. This species of algae thrive on the nitrates, phosphates, and silicates in your aquarium.
The easiest way to identity Diatom algae is by their color. If your rocks, substrate, and coral are being covered in a brown film, it is most likely the Diatoms that are spreading. If you are willing to get your hands a little dirty, you can reach into your tank and run a finger over a brown covered surface. If the film that comes off feels gritty, the brown film is most likely Diatoms.
The most common time for Diatom algae bloom is when you are setting up a new tank system. During its initial cycling, the tank has an imbalance of compounds like nitrite and ammonia which is what the Diatom algae feed off of.
However, that also means that if your tank ever has an imbalance in its nitrogen cycle, you very likely will see Diatoms begin to set up camp in your tank.
Diatom algae bloom can last forever technically, which is why we try to target the source of their persistence. If you can target their food supply, Diatom algae will begin to disappear fairly quickly but the tricky part is eradicating enough phosphates and nitrates for long enough where the brown algae will completely be removed from your tank’s system.
If your tank is fully matured and you have been removing your brown algae fairly regularly then that should be a red flag that there is something wrong. You want to review the list below of possible issues that might be causing the imbalance in your tank.
Diatom algae are not necessarily villains in this scenario. They don’t cause harm to your tank but can be unsightly and can give your tank a “dirty” look. Plus, they are often an indication that something is wrong with your water quality so it is best to remove them and deal with the source of the problem.
Diatoms eat the silicates that can come in the new substrate or even in salt mixes that you use to mix that your use for your saltwater. Nitrate is also a favorite of Diatoms so if your tank is creating more nitrate than it knows what to do with there is a risk for a Diatom bloom.
Nope! You have nothing to worry about. Diatom algae can not kill fish themselves however they can hurt the plants in your aquarium.
Diatoms are a sign that something in your tank is off though. The ripple effect of which means that your fish might be in jeopardy depending on the imbalance. It is best to figure out the source quickly so you can deal with the issue. Diatom algae act as a great initial warning sign that something isn’t quite right in your reef tank.
If you are still cycling your tank, in all likelihood, the brown algae will simply die off before you add your fish and corals. There is no reason that you should work to remove something that will simply remove itself in due time. However, if you have a mature tank and are experiencing Diatom bloom then you do a few things first. The initial priority is identifying what might have caused the Diatom bloom in the first place. Check the water quality and your equipment to ensure that everything is up to snuff.
Vibrant does a pretty good job clearing up the water in your aquarium of any algae that may be present. Vibrant introduced bacteria that go after algae in different ways like attacking its food source. Vibrant won’t clear up your aquarium in a week but it will help to keep not only Diatoms but other types of algae at a minimum.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle. Depending on the size of your tank and the problem you are trying to address the specific dosage may change. You should aim for one dose a week unless it appears that the algae are being resilient, if that is the case consider upping the rate to two doses a week.
You don’t want to add too much Vibrant too quickly because even though it is depleting your algae problem quickly, your tank is not prepared for the amount of waste that it will need to process. Take it slow and steady to ensure the problem goes away without any additional issues arising.
Seachem Phosguard is designed to remove phosphate and silicates from the water supply which are two of Diatom’s favorite foods. Diatoms will quickly die off when their food source isn’t sufficient enough to sustain them.
You want to ensure that the product is being distributed throughout your tank. Using your sump (at a high flow) as the distributor might be a good start to the process or place it in your canister filters. Within a few days, you should begin to see some difference in the total amount of Diatoms in your tank.
The best offense will always be a good defense. You should try to implement some of these care practices into your own routine to help prevent future Diatom blooms in your fish tank. Nothing is ever 100 percent secure because failures and other unforeseen circumstances occur but we can try our best.
Now you stand a fighting chance against persistent brown algae in your reef aquarium. Though it might be easy to say that you only need to remove the silicates and nitrates from the water to starve the Diatoms, the tricky part is targeting those compounds in the water. If you can successfully reduce their food source, brown algae should be no problem in no time. keep your glass clean and the water changes coming and you will be Diatom free eventually but persistence is key.
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