How to get rid of Black Beard Algae - Planted Tank Mates

How to get rid of Black Beard Algae

Overview

At some point in the aquarium hobby, you may look up “how to get rid of black beard algae.”  Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned aquarist, algae is a common problem that everyone faces.  Some people would embrace it; it’s a plant after all.  Shrimps, snails and common bottom dwellers feed off it.  Others use it as a sign that there’s an imbalance in their tank.  Your aquarium is an evolving ecosystem, so algae can be an indication to adjust your lighting, feed or fertilization.   Black beard, Black brush, or simply BBA, is one of the most stubborn algae.  While most find it unsightly in their tank, there are instances where people have successfully turned it into a nice feature in their planted aquarium.

Causes for Black Beard Algae

Black beard algae spreads and reproduces from tiny spores.  These spores can be introduced from new livestock, plants and virtually anything brought into the aquarium.  Other causes are similar to common algae issues which include excess lighting and nutrients, poor circulation and fluctuating CO2.  Excess nutrients can come in the form of overfeeding fish, overdosing fertilizers, or simply not performing enough water changes.

Universal treatment for Black Beard Algae

Regardless of how you’re going to balance your tank, there are a few things you should and should not do when treating black beard algae.  First off, do NOT try to brush it off inside the aquarium.  The spores will spread and it’s extremely difficult to remove all the floating debris.  Also, for the same reasons noted above, do not trim it inside the tank.  

If you’re able to, remove the infected hardscapes and manually clean it.  You can dry it outside and brush it off, or soak it in a solution of vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or bleach.  Be sure to soak and rinse thoroughly before reintroducing back into your tank.  Unfortunately for plants, it’s difficult to save the parts infected with BBA.  It’s best to trim the infected stems and leaves and remove it from your tank.

Trim plants infected with BBA

Introducing algae eating livestock can also help control black beard algae.  Emphasis on help, as most of the time they can reduce and contain the spread, but not fully eradicate.  Amano shrimp, snails and the popular Siamese Algae Eater are all great choices.  Do remember that all livestock need nutritious food as well and cannot solely survive on eating algae alone.

amano shrimp profile
Amano Shrimp – available on Amazon

 

nerite snail algae eater
Zebra Nerite Snail – available on Amazon

 

Siamese Algae Eater – available on Amazon

Other methods for treating Black Beard Algae

When removing hardscape or plants is NOT an option, you can treat black beard algae inside your aquarium.  This must be done with caution.  There’s always an inherent risk when chemically treating an entire tank for a single nuisance.  Imagine the ring toss game at carnival.  You can target the bottles one ring at a time, or randomly toss a handful and watch them scatter.  It’s the same with treating BBA in a tank.  You can treat one area at a time or treat the entire tank with potential harm to livestock and plants.

Black Beard Algae
How to get rid of black beard algae with Hydrogen Peroxide

A safe, slow and easy way to spot treat black beard algae is to use 3% hydrogen peroxide.  This method localizes the treatment to one specific area at a time.  Turn off the aquarium filter for about 15-20 minutes and use a pipette or syringe to apply the area.  Hydrogen peroxide is safe at about 1 ml to 1 gallon of water, but don’t go and max it out every time.  Be patient and start in small doses.  There’s no fast way to eradicate black beard algae and it’s not worth the risk of harming livestock.  For example, spot treat a selected area with 10 ml of hydrogen peroxide in a 20 gallon tank.  

Applying Hydrogen Peroxide

 

 

Wisdom Tooth Syringe – available on Amazon
plastic pipet
Plastic Pipette – available on Amazon

With little water movement, you’ll notice the black beard algae rising and turning red.  Let the hydrogen peroxide bubble and saturate while keeping an eye on the surrounding plants and livestock.  After a while, use a long tweezer to manually remove any algae that looks like it’s about to fall off.  When the 15-20 minutes is up, turn your filter back on and let the water recirculate.

BBA Reacting to Hydrogen Peroxide

 

3% Hydrogen Peroxide – available on Amazon

Come back in a day and remove any BBA hair that’s floating around or clogging your filter.  Siphon loose algae at the target area and throughout your tank as best as possible.  Tip, you can attach a small tube to a straw and use that to accurately siphon specific areas in your tank.  Replenish with fresh water and let your tank rest for a day or two.  Consider this a very small water change.  A day or two later, grab the tweezers and repeat the process.  Manually try to grab out any loose algae and restart the hydrogen peroxide treatment. 

Black Beard Algae Removed

All things considered

Eliminating black beard algae is a marathon, not a race.  Depending on how severe it has grown, spot treating it can take days to weeks.  The key is patience, especially if you are treating it inside the tank with livestock and plants.  Observe the other inhabitants to make sure all are doing well.  Also, don’t forget the basics to algae treatment.  Check your water parameters, nitrates, photo-period, light intensity etc. Make sure you’re not adding fuel to the fire you’re trying to put out.  A little frustration is OK; embrace the process. And good luck!

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