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Reef Tank Algae (Green Hair, Cyanobacteria, etc.) – Photos and Solutions

Reef Tank Algae (Green Hair, Cyanobacteria, etc.) – Photos and Solutions

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Reef tank algae outbreaks will happen. In general, trying to lower phosphates and nitrates can be helpful. It won’t necessarily cure the problem once an algae has taken hold however. UV sterilizers may help with some algae types. Additionally, dosing magnesium or other additives can help with other algeas. Also, refugiums or Algae Turf Scrubbers can be helpful as a preventative solution and even controlling an outbreak if added.

Remember, while our enthusiasm for adding something new to our tanks can be compelling, be sure to quarantine. Consequently, not quarantining can lead to the problems you’ll see listed below.

Common Reef Tank Algae

Diatoms

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • The recent addition of sand, rock, or plastic can trigger

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Wipe glass
  • Blow rocks with a turkey baster
  • Siphon sand

Cure

  • Will starve itself out

Clean Up Crew

  • Cerith Snails
  • Nerite Snails
  • Pods

Red Cyanobacteria

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate Levels
  • High Light Levels

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Wipe glass
  • Lightly brush rock, corals, etc.
  • Siphon sand

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Cerith Snails
  • Nerite Snails
  • Blue Leg Crabs
  • Emerald Crabs

Blue/Green Cyanobacteria

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate/Nitrate Levels
  • High Light Levels
  • Low Flow

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Wipe glass
  • Lightly brush rock, corals, etc.
  • Siphon sand

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Nerite Snails
  • Cerith Snails
  • Blue Leg Hermit

Calothryx Cyanobacteria

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate Levels

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Scrub Rocks

Cure

  • UV Sterilizer
  • Peroxide Dosing

Clean Up Crew

  • Nerite Snails

Lyngbya Cyanobacteria

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate/Nitrate Levels
  • High Light Levels
  • Low Flow

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Lightly brush rock, corals, etc.
  • Net Mass

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Nerite Snails
  • Cerith Snails
  • Blue Leg Hermit

Green Film Algae

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • The recent addition of sand, rock, or plastic can trigger

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Wipe glass
  • Scrub Rocks
  • Siphon sand

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock
  • Increase Flow

Clean Up Crew

  • Cerith Snails
  • Nerite Snails
  • Turbo Snails
  • Filter Feeders
  • Amphipods

Green Hair Algae

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate/Nitrate Levels

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Pull Out
  • Net Sand

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Turbo Snails
  • Blue Leg Hermit

Bryopsis

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Nutrient Levels

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Manually remove
  • Remove rock first if possible

Cure

  • Increase magnesium above 1400
  • Dose Fluconazole 20mg/gallon
  • Reduce lighting

Clean Up Crew

  • None

Green Bubble Algae

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • High Phosphate/Nitrate Levels

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Manually Remove

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Naso Tang
  • Rabbitfish
  • Foxface
  • Emerald Crab

Dinoflagellates

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • Low nutrients

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • None

Grape Culerpa

Cause / Trigger / Ideal Conditions

  • Macroalgae used in refugium for phosphate control
  • Can hitchhike into your tank
  • DO NOT use in refugium

Suggested Clean-Up Methods

  • Manually remove
  • Be sure to remove all pieces

Cure

  • Phosban/GFO
  • Macroalgae Refugium
  • Algae Scrubber
  • Increase Live Rock

Clean Up Crew

  • Tangs
  • Rabbitfish
  • Emerald Crab

Final Thoughts

Algae outbreaks are going to happen. Hopefully with good reef keeping practices and these tips they won’t turn into disasters requiring a complete tank breakdown.

Most of all, be sure to quarantine anything new you add into your aquarium. It’s a simple step that can prevent a major problem.

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