Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #8

The #8 Mistake – Worrying Too Much About Algae

I’m very sorry to have to tell you that if you have fish in water, algae will grow. There is no way around it. Fish produce the perfect fertilizer for algae, nitrate. You may not be able to avoid it, but there are ways to mitigate it.

However, remind yourself that fish don’t care about algae, people do. Just because your tank is a little bit green does NOT mean that you are a terrible fish parent. It means your tank is healthy! But this does not apply to a tank so thick with slimy green scum that you cannot even see your fish.

Algae is a single-celled plant that can replicate very quickly. It may clip together with similar cells to produce hair or string algae, or it may stay singularly suspended in solution. During the daylight hours, algae converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into oxygen and water, a process known as photosynthesis. However, once the sun goes down, the algae start to use the oxygen in the water to respirate, converting oxygen back into carbon dioxide. This can produce respiratory acidosis, where the carbon dioxide levels start to drop the pH. In tanks that are very, very green, the algae can out-compete with fish for oxygen AND start to decrease you pH. As long as you kH or alkalinity is sufficient, your pH will not drop drastically. Having sufficient aeration in your tank will make sure there is plenty of oxygen to go around.

So, how do you keep algae from getting out of control?

  • Keep up with your regular water changes. Algae uses nitrate as a food source, so by limiting your nitrates by doing regular water changes, you will keep your algae in check.
  • Try to minimize direct sunlight on your tank. Not only will it keep your temperature from spiking, removing sunlight will help keep the algae from growing too quickly.
  • Scrub your tank walls regularly. Once the algae is loosened and sent into the filter, it will die from lack of sunlight.
  • Out-compete the algae with aquatic plants. Aquatic plants work the same as algae, just on a larger scale. For everything you want to know about aquatic plants, check out our webinar on Plants in Fish Systems. They will not rectify the entire problem, but will give minor assistance.

What should you not rely on?

  • Chemical additives are rampant on store shelves. These have NOT been tested on all species of fish. They are NOT controlled by any governing body.
  • UV lights only catch particulates in suspension. They will have NO affect on any algae trapped to the sides of your tank. But they will help zap it if you scrub.

Need help cleaning your tank properly? Check out our How-To video!

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Barley Straw in Koi Ponds – What’s it all about?

Barley Straw in Koi Ponds – What’s it all about?

If you have any experience with keeping koi in large outdoor ponds, you’ve had some experience with algae. Controlling it is not always an easy task. Throughout your struggles, you’ve probably heard something about barley straw and extract. How does this work and what’s it all about?

The Science Behind Barley Straw

The exact mechanism of how barley straw works is still unknown. As the barely straw breaks down, it releases compounds that keeps algae from growing, especially string-type algae. Although it will stop the growth of algae, it will NOT kill it. Killing algae will need an additional UV filter or chemical additives.

Is it safe for fish?

Barley straw is the safest algae deterrent available for koi ponds. Adding barley with a UV light will take care of the bulk of your algae problems.

What is the difference in the formulations?

Most products involving barley come in three forms: hay bales, pellets or liquid. The hay bales should be kept in a mesh bag to keep the individual straws from floating into your filtration. Pellets are usually compressed hay in shorter lengths. Both the full bales and pellets will take 3-5 weeks to start being effective. The barely straw needs to be broken down in order to start stopping algae. Liquid extracts bypass this step by doing the breakdown in advance.

When should I add this to my pond?

The best time of year to add barley is before your warmer months and throughout the summer. By starting to use the barley straw prior to the biggest algae growth season, you can stop growth before it starts. Read the instructions carefully on any product before you start to use it.