We all have problems with algae in our tanks as some point in time. When we have adjusted our parameters to combat the algal growth we can take steps to remove unwanted algae from our plants. Other times they are plants we have obtained from another source and we want to clean them. There are several ways to do this with ingredients that are available to most people quite readily. Killing off the algae without killing our beloved plants can be accomplished with a few simple steps.
The first thing we need to do is find out why the algae is growing to begin with, and remedy the problem. Is your fertilization regiment appropriate for your tank? Sometimes a photoperiod is to blame, other times a dead fish or snail might cause an algal bloom when it starts to decompose. If you don’t fix what caused the initial outbreak it is likely that it will happen again, making your work in cleaning the tank wasted.
There are some fish and other tank inhabitants that are good at eating algae. Be careful when choosing your algae eating workers as some of them will eat your plants just as readily as algae. Shrimp and flying fox are good candidates for a cleaning crew in many cases but make sure your tank mates are a match so as to avoid one eating the other.
Many of the plants we have the most problems with are slow growers. Anubias in particular is one that is renowned for growing algae on a healthy plant. It takes a week, sometimes weeks or more for a new leaf to come out. And because of the slow growth it facilitates algal buildup making your plants unsightly. Not Only does it make them unsightly but it slows down their growth rate.
Many hardy plants can be cleaned of algae contamination by giving them a bath in a mixture of citric acid and water. A 10 to 15 minute bath in a mixture of one and a half cups of water with a teaspoon of citric acid should do the trick for many occurrences. The mixture is strong enough to kill off the algae but mild enough to not harm the plants themselves. Many chain grocery stores carry citric acid crystals and many Indian and Asian markets carry it as well or you can order it online..
Some lighter forms of algae can be killed with a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide bought from the local pharmacy. The 3% solution can be put into a spray mist bottle and sprayed directly on the plants. Let the mixture sit for 2 or 3 minutes and rinse with clean water that is not too hot or too cold. You want to reduce as much shock to the plant as you can.
Another technique to use is a powdered alum solution containing one tablespoon powdered alum mixed in 1 quart of room temperature water. It will aid greatly in removing parasites from your plants before introducing them into your tank. Soak the plants in the well mixed alum solution for about five minutes and rinse them very well in clean fresh water.
Avoid leaving your plants out for so long that they dry out and risk becoming damaged or dying. In most cases a shallow tray or a paper towel wrapped around the plant will discourage the plant from drying out too much. This will also let the active ingredients in the dip work its course of action. While this is a good way to clear your plants of unwanted algae it certainly isn’t a cure all.
The next time you have an outbreak with algae and want to clean it up without cutting back the plants give these tips a try. The soak times are a rough guide so be sure to learn slowly what plants can take a few minutes and what can take much more. The best medicine is prevention but we all have our turn at growing algae.