How to Clean Algae Off Live Aquarium Plants?

How to Clean Algae Off Live Aquarium Plants

Aquariums look striking in any kind of room with the stunning habitants swimming around, the green plants, and the colorful décor. To maintain its beauty, regularly cleaning the aquarium is necessary. While plants and decorations can be removed, cleaned, and replaced, there are other tough challenges involved in the cleaning process.

Live plants are already difficult to clean as compared to the artificial plants since they are delicate and you need to keep them healthy. This is even tougher when cleaning off the algae.

Algae are photosynthetic and eukaryotic organisms, which are a common occurrence in aquariums and fish tanks. There are numerous kinds of algae which start growing in an aquarium and depleting the essential nutrients from the water. As a result, the health of both fishes and live plants are affected.

It is highly important to properly clean algae off live aquarium plants carefully to protect their health and attractiveness.

Aquarium Algae Varieties 

Following are the different kinds of algae that occurs in aquariums, to help you determine the severity:

  • Green Carpet Algae – This is the most common type of algae. It grows and spreads rapidly in the aquarium, typically on the glass walls, plants, decorations, and rocks.
  • Green Water – This algae float on the water of the aquarium and turns its shade to green. This alga creates issues in the aquarium by reducing the level of oxygen and stopping the artificial light from penetrating through to the inhabitants of the aquarium.
  • Brown Algae – This is another common algae that are typically found in new aquariums that are placed under dimmed lights. It creates a brown layer and occurs on the sides of the glass wall and the bottom layer of the tank. This can easily be removed with an algae scrubbing pad. This risk of this issue reduces as the aquarium ages.
  • Red Algae – This is the toughest algae to remove. It rapidly spreads on plants, decorations, and driftwood. It creates a thick grass carpet of about 3 cm height.

The algae growth is mostly dependent on the light.

If you witness algae in your aquarium which is in some other shade instead of green, this is an indication that the quality of water has deteriorated.

Brown or red-colored algae indicates that the water in your aquarium with high dissolved phosphate or nitrate levels.

Steps to Clean Algae Off Live Aquarium Plants

The method to clean off the algae from both artificial and live aquarium plants is almost the same. However, since the live plants are delicate, you have to be super careful while cleaning them. While it is essential to be cautious when doing the regular cleaning of live plants, you must be even more careful when cleaning off the algae.

If the algae aren’t stubborn, you can simply brush it off using your fingers. But, you will need some cleaning supplies to get rid of the tough algae, including:

  • Algae Pad: you will need an algae pad to scrub off the stubborn algae gently from the plants
  • Bleach Agent: in some cases, only the algae pad won’t be enough to completely remove the algae. You will need a regular bleach to do the cleaning.
  • Conditioner: if you have used bleach on the live plants, you will then need to use conditioner to rinse of the plants to eliminate any residue.

Once you have all the things you need, just follow the mentioned steps. Keep in mind all these steps are not necessary, every step gets progressively more vigorous to clean tougher algae. Therefore, if you are able to successfully remove the algae from the plants in the first few steps, then you don’t have to follow the remaining ones.

Another thing, be sure to clean one plant at a time if there are plenty of live plants in your aquarium. The environmental changes in the aquarium make the fishes stressed thus ensure you take the process slowly.

Step 1: Removing Loose Debris 

Start by gently removing the loose debris on the live plants with just your finger. Just rub or brush the leaves, and you will notice the algae reducing. For this step, there is no need to remove the plants from the aquarium.

At times, this step is all it takes to get rid of all the algae from the live plants.

Step 2: Scrub with an Algae Pad

If you still notice algae on the plants after the first step, then you are dealing with stubborn algae. Remove the plants from the aquarium and carefully scrub it off with an algae pad. Avoid vigorous scrubbing as this will damage the live plants.

Do not use any chemicals and soap in this step as it may prove lethal to all the aquarium fishes. This step will successfully clean the algae off live aquarium plants.

Step 3: Apply Bleaching Solution

The tougher the algae is, the harder it is to remove. If the last step doesn’t work, it is time to use a bleaching solution. This step is usually the last resort. Be sure to use 10% of the bleach to eliminate the algae that refuse to let go of the plants.

Keep in mind that bleach can damage the live plants, so use as little as possible. Most importantly, if the algae are severe, then the plants are bound to die eventually. It is best to remove the affected plants and replace them with fresh ones.

It is recommended to use 5% of the bleaching solution to clean the live plants. Combine one part of bleach in 19 parts of water in a bowl and mix well. Let the affected plants soak for not more than three to four minutes. Use your finger to gently rub off the remaining algae.

If you want to remove the algae from artificial plants, then you can utilize 10% bleaching agent. Combine one part bleach with nine parts of water in a bowl and thoroughly mix. Soak the affected plants in the mixture for five to ten minutes. Remove the plants and gently scrub the remaining algae with an algae pad.

Step 4: Rinse and Place Them Back 

Once you have successfully removed the algae from the live aquarium plants, you must soak them in conditioned water. Leave them for half an hour and your plants will be ready to be returned in the aquarium.

For artificial plants, you just need to rinse with conditioned water and air dry before returning them to the aquarium.

These steps will ensure that you are able to successfully clean algae off live aquarium plants. Once done, you must take measures to prevent future problems.

Safety Precautions 

When you are cleaning your plants, it is important to take certain safety measures to protect the health of the habitats of the aquarium. Consider the following:

  • Avoid using strong cleaning agents, harsh chemicals, dish soap, or any type of detergent when cleaning aquarium plants, even the artificial ones. Even the slightest amount of harsh chemicals left in the aquarium plants or the décor can cause major damage to the fishes and live plants and might even be fatal.
  • Only use the bleaching agent as a last resort since live plants can get damaged. When you do apply bleach, make sure all the residue of the bleach solution has been removed from the plants or décor before placing them back in the tank.
  • Never wash porous materials like coral or driftwood with bleach solution.
  • Never mix the bleach solution with any other chemicals.
  • Never soak live aquarium plants in boiling or hot water.

These precautions will help in enhancing the health and longevity of the aquarium habitats.

Prevention Tips 

Prevention is always the best cure for any problem. The same applies to live aquarium plants. If the algae become stubborn, the consequences can be permanent. The bleaching agent can damage the plants even more or change their color.

Therefore, it is recommended that you prevent algae from forming on the live plants.

  • Keep cleaning the plants weekly using the first step mentioned in this guide.
  • Gently shake the plants to remove any remaining debris.
  • Regularly monitor the tank.

It is essential to understand that algae is formed on other things placed inside the aquarium, aside from the plants. You must take measures for the entire aquarium to prevent the algae formation. This will also reduce the chances of algae appearing on the live plants. Here are some general prevention tips:

  • Decrease the light if you notice algae formation
  • Reduce the amount of food you add in the aquarium
  • Frequently change the aquarium water
  • Invest in good quality filters
  • Place algae predators in the aquarium
  • Add more live plants to your aquarium
  • Choose the plants wisely that you put in your aquarium
  • Regularly monitor the water levels
  • Maintain the right water temperature in the aquarium

Cleaning the algae from the live aquarium plants can be a complicated task.

This is especially because of the delicate nature of live plants. Follow the steps highlighted in this guide to eliminate the algae, and use the prevention tips to prevent the occurrence of algae or at least reduce its severity.

If the problem is too bad to control, it is ideal to remove and discard the affected plants.

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