What should I do about a brown algae problem in my tank

  1. silliputty23 Member Member

    I've had this 10 gallon aquarium set up for about two months now. I used Tetra Safestart, dechlorinated the water, planted dwarf hair grass into the substrate, put one Gold Zebra Danio in the tank for about two weeks, used Seachem Flourish 2 or 3 times, and noticed a bit of brown algae growth. I took the fish out a while later and intended to add a couple new fish to this tank. But the brown algae growth just really took off. It grew noticeably each night - a layer over the substrate and the walls of the tank...algae clung to the grass and flowed about with the current from the filter.

    I did about a 70% water change, scrubbed the walls, cleaned off the heater and the stones I had set in there, etc.

    A few days later, there was already a layer of algae over everything again. I want my tank to look nice and to have a nice carpet across the bottom before I add fish. I'm not sure how to end this algae problem.
     
  2. AquaticBrandon Well Known Member Member

    How many hours is your light on? It can be the light from having it on too much


    Sent from my iPhone using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum
     

  3. smee82 Well Known Member Member

    brown algae is very common in new tanks and is caused by excess silicates and phosphates.

    Other then checking your lights, what type and how long they are on for your best bet is to wait it out it should go away on its own.
     
  4. jdhef Moderator Moderator Member

    Oddly enough, diatoms (unlike green algae) thrives with less light. So ironically one way to fight brown algae is to have the lights on longer.

    But as mentioned diatoms are very common in new tanks and will go away on their own in time. They usually last anywhere between a couple of weeks to up to a year. But for me personally it has never been longer than several weeks.
     

  5. delta5 Well Known Member Member

    That is funny OP. I started getting brown algae around 2 months after setup as well. Aside from cleaning it during water changes leave it alone. It'll go away on its own.
     
  6. Sayba Well Known Member Member

    I got them really bad! I used to have my lights on around 7 hours, now I have them on around 10 hours. My lights are quite dull, but having them on longer sorted the problem out in less then two weeks!
     
  7. Phishphin Well Known Member Member

    To piggy back on what's been said, diatoms are a special type of algae that do not require light to thrive. New tanks with new substrate often give off excess silicates. Brown diatoms have a unique cellular structure that uses silicates to construct cell walls.

    There are a few steps you can do to reduce/remove the diatoms.

    1. When it is on the glass, take a sturdy paper towel, start from the bottom, and pull upwards without moving the paper towel around. The objective is to trap the diatoms in the paper towel without spreading them throughout the tank (as scrubbing may do). Then throw the paper towel out and grab another.

    2. Diatoms will grow on the plants and decorations. Since I do not advocate removing the plants for scrubbing, as this can sometimes cause more harm than good to established roots, just brush off the diatoms into the water column right before a major partial water change. Some of these will end up in the suctioned water, some will end up on the glass to be scrubbed, and yes, a portion will fall back onto the plants. This will be a process that's repeated a few times while the diatoms persist.

    3. My filter sponge actually became clogged with brown diatoms. I noticed less flow and had to clean my filter. I found huge colonies of the stuff. Place the filter in a bucket of tank water (say, from a pwc), and shake out the media/sponge. This will shake off the bigger chunks of diatoms, while keeping you beneficial bacteria colonies intact. Do not rinse in the sink or you will destroy the bacteria colonies.

    4. I noticed a significant change after adding a small bag of phosphate/silicate remover to my filtration system. They are little white beads that absorb the silicate in the tank, thereby removing what the diatoms need to form cell walls. It's recommended that you check it in a week. If the white beads are all brown, remove and replace. You can actually reuse the stuff, but you need to let it dry out and release what's been absorbed (then you can rinse it off and reuse). A useful product if you intend on starting more tanks in the future.

    5. Last, but not least, you can employ a small clean up crew, although I would only recommend this if you are interested in continuing to care for them. If this is a route you'd be interested in, there is none better than a nerite snail. They are one of the few invertebrates that actually seeks out brown diatoms. They have a small bioload and are very reluctant to reproduce in freshwater (as opposed to other snails).

    I hope this helps :)
    Like others said, it should dissipate on its own given time, but these are methods to speed the process along. Reducing the light source will not help your brown diatom issue, for the record.
     

  8. smee82 Well Known Member Member

    Phishphin Without seeing i cant be sure but i would guess that the brow gunk that clogged your filter was not actually diatoms but was mulm.

    Personally i find it to be a great fert for indoor plants and is also does great as a root fert if you lay it under the substrate. So what ever you do dont dump it if you have a garden or house plants especially if you have chilies or cherry tomatoes as mine went wild with it in the pot.
     
  9. Phishphin Well Known Member Member

    That was definitely a part of it! I just also had these nice flowing strands of brown along the outtake of my filter as well that had built up over night.

    I had no idea you could use the mulm as fertilizer though! Awesome tip!
     
  10. smee82 Well Known Member Member

    im going to try freezing it next time i have a build up to see if i can use it under the substrate in an established tank.
     

  11. Mortisha Member Member

    I have been battling the dreaded brown diatom for years!! I have to take my artificial plants out every month and bleach them. I recently added a clean up crew(as Phishphin called them...lol). I have 6 tiger nerite snails and they are doing a good job.