Aquarium Fish

Bubble Algae

The infamous bubble algae. If you haven't had to deal with the algae we're about to discuss consider yourself lucky. Green Bubble Algae usually comes in on the live rock and it can be difficult to keep your saltwater aquarium setup free of it once established.

There are several different varieties that you might get but they are supposed to all have similar needs and requirements for their growth. So we'll treat them the same for the purposes of this intro article on this algae.

Bubble Algae Varieties

Valonia macrophysa - smaller clustered elongated bubbles
Boergesenia - clustered, though less dense in numbers and elongated bubble shapes
Ventricaria ventricosa - can get quite large (around and inch) and grows in clusters and in singles
Dictosphaeria ocellata - usually smaller grouping slimey looking bubbles, can be a lighter shade of green
Dictosphaeria cavernosa - encrusting like growth forms with pitted looking bubbles

Some think this bubble algae looks unsightly and if left unchecked it may make your tank look a little odd. The other problem is that they can overgrow neighboring corals in your reef tank setup and you don't want that right?

The variety of bubble algae we've seen the most crop up in our tanks is the Ventricaria ventricosa and is the one pictured on this page. It came in on a piece of live rock as a single tiny bubble. Over several months that single bubble turned into several smaller bubbles. It didn't look too bad so we let it be. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we now had rock covered in these bubbles that were getting larger. A couple even looked deflated which is an indication that they have released thousands of tiny spores into the tank so that more algae can get a foot hold and grow. Time to do something.

Some pictures ...
Bubble Algae Ventricaria ventricosa - Bubble Algae

Tank Water Conditions
Supposedly this algae, like most others, needs nitrates to grow. Phosphates may play a role too along with a mix of others. Keeping these levels as low as possible means that algae in general should have a hard time growing. We usually run our tanks with 0 nitrates and undetectable levels of phosphates (using a phosban reactor) according to our salifert aquarium test kits. Partial water changes with reverse osmosis water are performed weekly. We also run an attached refugium that is used to grow the macro algae chaetomorpha so this algae shouldn't be growing as fast as it is! But, sigh, it does.

Getting Rid Of And Controlling Bubble Algae

So what do you do when see this stuff in your tank? You have a few options:

  • Make sure your water parameters are in line, i.e. 0 nitrates and very low levels of phosphates. Run a protein skimmer if you're not already and keep up with those regular partial water changes.

  • Manual Removal - very carefully grab the bubble towards the base and use a gentle pulling and twisting motion to free it from the rock without breaking the bubble. Ventricaria ventricosa feels like large rubber marbles and they can burst thereby releasing thousands of new algae cells into your tank. If they've already burst remove the bubble sack anyway. Don't let them get too big or you run the risk of them releasing the spores before you can remove them. Keep the upper hand here.

  • The Emerald Crab is reported to eat bubble algae, which variety we don't know. They didn't touch Ventricaria ventricosa it in our tanks. Perhaps it's not the first thing they are interested in consuming. If there is plenty of other stuff in the tank for them to eat you are out of luck.

  • Rabbitfish and some Tangs may eat them. I've noticed our Yellow Tang nibbling at the deflated bubble sacs but not going after the growing bubbles.

  • Some species of sea urchins (Diadema) may eat the bubbles. They may wreak havoc on your rock work and coralline algae too though.

Those are some of the ways to help deal with this dreaded algae. The bad news is that once you get it in your tank you may have a regular battle keeping it at bay. We've resorted to removing it anytime we see it starting to crop up. I don't want to remove the rock (as some suggest) and starting over. That would be more of a pain than just simply removing the bubbles by hand.

If you have experience and tips on dealing with this algae drop us a note using the link below and we'll post it on this page.

Thanks for reading!

Author : Mike FishLore

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