How to Get Rid of Diatom Algae?

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    Vicki S.
    Vicki S.

    Author: Vicki S.

    Vicki S. is a professional writer and editor who adores animals and helps readers get along well with their pets. Vicki has been working in digital media for more than 5 years and has great experience writing content about lifestyle, including pets. Vicki specializes in Dog Feeding and Nutrition, Cat and Kitten Food, Dog Care and Training, Aquarium Fish Owner Tips topics. Also, Vicki headed several websites and worked as a news editor.

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  • Updated on: 07/24/2020

Brown algae are not the most dangerous enemy of the aquarium. Getting rid of them is very easy if you follow simple rules. However, if you do not pay enough attention to the aquarium, then diatoms will quickly cover all the decorations, plants, and glass in the aquarium with a nasty brown coating.

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Diatoms are considered the most sensitive algae, and they only develop well in aquariums, where they have no competitors. In aquariums where brown algae grow, as a rule, there is always an increased content of organic matter in the water and weak lighting, insufficient for the growth of higher plants and other types of algae, but it is quite suitable for diatoms to reproduce. There are also brown algae in aquariums where there are no living plants.

What Are Diatoms?

Diatoms are a class of lower plants. There are both marine and freshwater species. These algae are an essential component of phytoplankton and a food source for many aquatic inhabitants, thus playing an indispensable role in nature.

The cover they form actively damages the appearance of the aquarium. These algae are not dangerous to fish, and in the early stages, they do not cause significant harm to aquarium plants.

The cover of algae becomes black due to the constant build-up of layers on top of each other. In this case, the lower tier becomes challenging to remove. It seems that the leaves are covered with earth or black sand. At this stage, diatoms already become dangerous for living plants, because the dense coating on the leaves reduces the efficiency of the most crucial process for plant life: photosynthesis. In the end, it can lead to the death of the plant. Diatoms spread so quickly that new leaves are immediately affected by them.

The Reasons for the Occurrence of Diatoms

You can infect the aquarium with diatoms along with new fish or plants. Most often, diatoms appear in fresh aquariums with an unstable nitrogen cycle. This means that the water contains a high concentration of nitrogenous compounds-ammonia, nitrite. An additional part is the absence of living plants-natural opponents of algae.

READ MORE: Best Live Plants for Aquariums

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If diatoms appear in an already long-existing aquarium, more than three months ago, then the reason may be a violation of the balance. The aquarium should not be overpopulated; the fish should receive a moderate amount of food. It is important to remember about regular water changes and soil cleaning. It is necessary to control the content of nitrates and phosphates using tests.

The high content of silicates in water is an essential factor for the appearance of diatoms because, from it, they build their shell.

Fertilizers for aquarium plants can also provoke the appearance of diatoms, so it is necessary to avoid an overdose. This is especially true in fresh aquariums.

Also, a decisive factor for the development of diatoms is poor lighting or lack of it. In this case, you need to increase the brightness. The length of the day should not exceed 8 hours.

Treatment of fish with drugs containing copper or iodine in large quantities can also damage the beneficial microflora in the aquarium, which sometimes leads to the appearance of diatoms. You should be especially careful to add table salt for medicinal purposes. The increased sodium ions content will hurt higher plants, but algae will like it very much.

Incorrect operation of the filter also leads to the appearance of brown plaque. If the filter is clogged or not at all, the water is not cleaned. This leads to the accumulation of organic substances.

How to Get Rid of Diatoms

It would be best if you started fighting diatoms immediately when you detect the first signs of their appearance; otherwise, it will be much more challenging to get rid of them later. Removal of diatoms in the early stages does not present serious difficulties.

If the algae have settled in a fresh aquarium and do not reproduce very actively, it is necessary to wait until the biological balance is established (usually, it takes 3-4 weeks). When the balance returns to normal, the diatoms will recede. You can use special preparations, such as starters, to start the aquarium; they speed up the establishment of biological balance. At this stage, you only need to remove the algae using a sponge or scraper mechanically.

To Improve the Lighting

One of the most effective ways to get rid of diatoms is to enhance lighting. Diatoms do not like bright light, so adding additional lamps can effectively deal with them. The aquarium light should be 1.1-1.85 W/gal. The light should be direct because diatoms like scattered and reflected light. Also, their development is facilitated by an extended light day.

The length of the day should not exceed 6 hours during the fight and then no more than 8 hours (in the absence of live plants). It is essential to choose the right color for lighting sources. It would be best if you avoided “yellow” lamps; it is preferable to use a neutral white light (6000-6500 K). If this method is used, it is necessary to strictly monitor the content of nutrients in the aquarium because bright lighting, which helps fight diatoms, can provoke the growth of other algae, such as green algae. It is also essential that the aquarium is not exposed to direct sunlight.

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Mechanical Removal

You can mechanically remove diatoms, using scrapers, magnets, and sponges, and clean the aquarium glass. Decorations (grottoes, stones, artificial plants) must be removed from the aquarium and rubbed with a sponge under a stream of water.

Temperature Change

The water temperature is best maintained at around 75°F. Diatoms prefer colder water (60-71°F).

Using Algae Eaters

Many species of fish and invertebrates are happy to eat diatoms. The most successful wrestlers with brown patina are gyrinocheilus. For quick disposal, there will be enough fish for 13 gallons of water. Slightly less effective will be the popular catfish ancistrus.

Use of Anti-Algae Drugs

In addition to the normalization of conditions, it is recommended to use special preparations for combating algae. The active substances effectively fight various types of algae, while not suppressing biofiltration; in the recommended dosages, it will not harm snails and shrimps.

The Right Amount of Water for Fish

Always make sure that the number of fish in the aquarium corresponds to the volume. The minimum recommended amount of the aquarium is different for each species.

Feeding Fish

Overfeeding is a common cause of imbalance in the aquarium because fish that eat a lot produce more waste. Feed your pets 2-3 times a day in small portions that will be eaten entirely within a few minutes. After feeding, all the food should be consumed within 15 minutes. If the fish leave part of the food, then cut the portions. If there is a lot of food left, it is advisable to collect it using a net or a soil cleaner; in the process of decomposition, it can also cause the growth of nitrates and phosphates.

For additional information here’s a guide that explains How to lower Nitrates in Fish Tank

Preventive Measures

Prevention is always the best way to maintain a healthy aquarium. Several rules and tips will protect the aquarium from most diatoms and other unpleasant microorganisms:

  • Purchase of a lamp with red spectral light
  • Maintaining a constant temperature
  • Weekly replacement of part of the water volume
  • Aquarium equipment with filtration and aeration system
  • Planting live plants
  • Location of items made of zinc or copper metals on the bottom
  • General cleaning of the aquarium every one or two months

Following the advice and maintaining the standard of living of pets to get rid of diatoms is not tricky, and after a couple of weeks, your aquarium will be clean again.

ThePets is an informational website that features articles written by qualified veterinarians and professional writers. You can learn more about our editorial process. When selecting food for your pet, use Pet Food Finder, and search for the clinic to treat your pet using Vet Clinics Locator.

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