A hairy problem

Something I’ve been struggling a lot with in my tank is green hair algae. It started growing on one of my oysters one day, and I thought it was cute and didn’t worry about it until it got excessively long. I took out the oyster and scrubbed off the algae, but it was too late, and it quickly took over the tank. I did my best to clean the tank thoroughly, but it constantly came back.

Today I’ve accepted I may never fully get rid of the algae—the most I can do is try to manage it. In this post I’d like to share a few things I’ve used or have tried to use to keep it relatively under control.

This post contains links, however none of these are affiliate links so I will not make any money if you buy from them. They are genuinely just products I bought and like.

1. Physical Removal

Scrubbing away on a Sunday

Scrubbing away on a Sunday

I have these wonderful tongs I bought from Petco. Every time I clean the tank (once a week, usually on Sunday nights), I spend some time with these pulling out large clumps of algae, especially those that have gotten too long and I can see bother my fish. 

I also each week remove at least one piece of decor, and spend some time doing serious scrubbing under hot tap water. I have a designated brush I use only for cleaning fish decor, to prevent accidentally putting potentially toxic contaminants in my tank water. The silk plants require more elbow grease than the plastic plants or plastic decor, but the scrubbing does work.

2. Chemical Removal

My Pristine and Algae Reducer

My Pristine and Algae Reducer

There are two products I use to keep my water and algae in check. One is Pristine, by Seachem. I think using Pristine is just good practice when doing water changes in general. Every time I test my water, my results are great. I’ve had a bit of an issue with uneaten food, as my royal gramma is very shy and needs a lot of coaxing to eat. 

The other is Algae Reducer from Imagitarium. Honestly, I don’t think this product works so I wouldn’t recommend it. But I bought a whole bottle so I’m just using it since I have it. I can’t discern any changes from its use. 

3. Algae-eating pets

Kona and some of my algae problem

Kona and some of my algae problem

I bought an adorable Lawnmower Blenny (named Kona) from LiveAquaria. He(?) is a voracious eater and does do a good job constantly eating. However, animals are not an end-all solution to an algae problem. Because he eats so much, he poops a lot, and that is a big part of why I clean the water every week, using my gravel vacuum to get rid of it all. 

I also recently bought two Astrea snails. Similarly to Kona, they’re not a cost-free addition to your aquatic environment, which is why I only bought two to prevent adding more biomass than my tank can sustain (they also rarely reproduce in saltwater tanks). It’s only been a few days, but I’ve read they eat hair algae from the base and are best for preventing it from growing back. 

Since Kona and the snails eat the algae, I don’t want to get rid of it completely, but it would be nice to keep it from getting so long that some tendrils reach the top of the tank. What do you do to manage your algae problem?

New beginnings

I’ve always had a deep-seated love of fish, and the aquarium is something that’s always simultaneously enticed and terrified me. Enticed, for the beauty it can provide and for the joy of watching and interacting with fish, and terrified because of the responsibility of taking care of another life. I had a goldfish for about seven years, and I cried and cried for days after it passed away. I’d moved the tank into a sunnier spot while on break from college, and I think that shift ultimately led to its untimely end when I returned back to school and wasn’t there to stem the algal tide the extra sun set off. I was so naïve about what I was doing with the tank, and though I still have much to learn I’m truly ashamed of how irresponsible I was then.

                My fish had passed away the first semester of my junior year of college, and I couldn’t bear the thought of doing that again. Yet a school project, second semester senior year, suddenly led me to a low-stakes saltwater tank—an oyster tank.

                I filled the tank with sand and water from Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and to that put in seven Blue Point oysters from a seafood market not far from there. They seemed to be doing well, as far as I could tell, and as graduation loomed I realized I couldn’t abandon these lives I’d taken responsibility for. I’ve brought my oysters with me from move to move, and though none of the original seven remain, two and a half years later, I still have oysters from Whole Foods and local markets from across the US.

                An oyster tank is an extremely low-stakes saltwater tank, perfect for the unwitting saltwater novice such as myself. They’re extremely hardy, and don’t really move. They just eat phytoplankton, which I’ve been ordering from this place on Amazon for years. They’re also very inexpensive, and the moral stakes are low—when you buy an oyster at a supermarket, it’s destined for death in a human stomach. Arguably, the pets are rescues.

                But, in my last move, I had something additional to consider—my boyfriend, who I was moving in with. As we looked at the belongings in my old apartment, contemplating what to take, his gaze fell on the fish tank I had. The 20-gallon tank had only a few oysters, and the salt buildup on the lid had admittedly gotten out of hand. “If we move the fish tank,” he started, “Can we get one that is slightly smaller? And can we please get fish?”

                Today, we have a 13.5 gallon tank, and three small fish, in addition to two oysters. I never imagined I’d have a saltwater fish tank. I am so grateful for the breadth of available online resources, that have allowed me to avoid repeating some of my past mistakes, and I hope I can share back what I have learned, and am continuing to learn.

                Do you have a fish and/or oyster tank? What kind do you have?