How To Kill Staghorn Algae

A Staghorn Algae Clump Attaching On Driftwood
A Staghorn Algae Clump Attaching On Driftwood (Photo Copyright: @richardsjokvist On Instagram)

Keeping a planted tank is not always easy. In fact, many aquarists find it difficult to solve their own issues, even some of them choose to surrender.

Problems often arise by the aquarists’ faults or come surprisingly by themselves. Algae is one of the common problems frequently attack aquariums, which could make hobbyists feel stressed.

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There are many algae types that are usually seen; Staghorn Algae is one example that gives profound effect if allowed to grow out of control.

The blooming of these algae might be triggered by a variety of causes. Stay calm if you find some pieces cling in your tank, there is always a way to get rid of them.

In this article, we will outline what they are and how they appear, then move to how to kill these staghorn algae from your tank and offer other beneficial information along the way.


What Is Staghorn Algae

Staghorn algae (Compsopogon caeruleus) are species of red algae that live in a freshwater environment.

They commonly inhabit the rivers and streams and are usually pests in tropical aquariums. These algae are probably pretty easy to identify; their appearance is quite different from other freshwater Rhodophyta genera such as Hildenbrandia (Red Spot Algae) or Audouinella (Black Beard Algae/BBA).

These algae can survive in various conditions, so they are easiest to find in all places in the world except Antarctica. That is why staghorn algae easily thrive well in a fish tank.

So, how do they look in the aquarium? Exactly, they are filamentous algae species with grayish, bluish, or violet-green colors. Staghorn algae will turn red when it starts dying.

Black Beard Algae VS Staghorn Algae
The Comparison Of Black Beard Algae (Blue Circle) VS Staghorn Algae (Red Circle) (Photo Copyright:

They mainly grow on the surfaces of dense vegetations such as plant leaves, although in other cases, these algae also cling to the decorations, rocks, and filter pipes.

Sometimes their appearance is slightly similar to Java moss, but it will be easy to differentiation the two.

They tend to look like a wiry beard when fully grown, which makes the aquarist confused with the genuine black beard algae.

The BBA usually grows dense and bushy resemble the tightly packed clusters of fur on a makeup brush; that’s why it is also called black brush algae. While, the staghorn algae tend to be wiry and sparse, which reminds the antlers of a male deer.

Read Also: Is Red Spot Algae Dangerous?


Is Staghorn Algae Dangerous?

The answer is ‘yes,’ but not directly.

Like most types of algae, having a small amount population is not a worse thing. They help convert CO2 into O2 during photosynthesis and absorb toxic organic substances such as fish feces for their growth.

Even though a tiny population might not be harmful, most aquarium hobbyists do not want them present in their setup, so they find any solution to eliminate them entirely.

It will be a fatal problem if you let them grow out of control. Staghorn algae may grow thicker, covering all surfaces, blocking the light from any plants, consuming any nutrients in the water, making the plants suffer because of nutritional deficiency. Without it, the aquarium plants will die.

Read Also: The Best Ways To Beat Fuzz Algae In The Aquarium


Is The Staghorn Algae Dangerous For Fish?

Luckily, these algae are safe for fish and other animals in a tank as long as they do not impact the water quality.

Some organisms, such as algae eaters, enjoy staghorn algae as part of their diet. So you can save a little bit of their primary food.


Common Causes Of Staghorn Algae

One day your planted tank is very healthy and free from the algae, then the next day, you see the wiry gray hair attaching to the leaves plants. Their presence is like magic.

Actually, there are many points that push the staghorn algae to bloom. If you could identify what kind of reason caused your problem, it will be helpful to fix the condition.

At least, there are four potential causes that help staghorn algae thrive in your tank:

A Population Of Staghorn Algae Live On The Aquatic Plants
A Population Of Staghorn Algae Live On The Aquatic Plants (Photo Copyright: @mgali_aquarium)


Co2 Level Is Low

This point is the general cause in almost all types of freshwater aquarium algae, including staghorn algae.

The fluctuating or lower Carbon dioxide content creates the perfect environment for them to spread. This condition is probably forced by the CO2 tube running low, leaks, blockages at some parts, and other reasons.

Read Also: How To Stop Green Dust Algae Grow In The Aquarium


The Macronutrients Is Not Balance

An overdose of iron substances in the water can stimulate the staghorn algae to develop. This thing usually leads by an excessive fertilizer or soil that contains much iron (Fe) content.

A small number of dissolved macronutrients also could cause these algae to invade your tank.


Too Much Light

Leaving your aquarium LED lamp on too long creates an excellent way to invite the staghorn algae to present.

They will take this chance to photosynthesize, and if you let them grow, they may take over your tank.

Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Green Spot Algae In An Aquarium


Bad Water Circulation

A dead zone in your aquarium is their favorite place to live. The poor water circulation can not push the water flowing to the entire tank, making some areas are not supplied with fresh water.


How To Prevent Staghorn Algae Appear In Your Tank

Preventing is the right step than treating the staghorn algae. Here are a few tips to avoid these algae invading your aquascape aquarium:

Amano Shrimp Eating The Staghorn Algae
Three Amano Shrimps Eating The Staghorn Algae (Photo Copyright: @grady.trew)


Keeping Some Algae Eaters

Adding a few species that love eating the staghorn algae is an effective method to guard your tank from their invasion.

Otocinclus catfish, royal farlowella, and Amano shrimp can help fight with the staghorn algae perfectly, so choose the one you want.

Read Also: Freshwater Amazon Pufferfish Caresheet


Schedule Regular Maintenance And Water Change

Every planted tank needs maintenance to keep any elements on there stay healthy. Cleaning filter pipe, picking up any organic wastes, wiping up the tank glass, changing water, and supplying a fertilizer frequently makes your tank always good standing.

Doing these all will create some distance with the staghorn algae. Do not forget to use the right equipment required by your tank. It is very useful to stable the water quality.


Using A Timed Tank Lamp And Improve Water Circulation

This tip is sound optional; it helps protect your tank from excessive lighting. The utilization of aquarium smart LED becomes an excellent option. You can set the duration and spectrum you want, making your aquatic plants always get sufficient light to continue the photosynthesis.

If you sense the water circulation is too low, you could change it with the larger canister filter or add a powerhead around the dead spots because the dead areas are prone to be invaded.

Read Also: “Carinotetraodon Travancoricus” The Smallest Freshwater Puffer Fish


How To Kill Staghorn Algae When Your Tank Get Infected

It is a very hurt moment if your tank is affected by the staghorn algae plague. Any red algae species known is hard to remove than green algae types. Need more time and effort to beat them until these algae really disappear from your tank.

But do not be feel pretty discouraged; we will share a few tricks ‘How To Kill Staghorn Algae’ that sound helpful to get rid of them. Here is the list:


Remove Staghorn Algae Manually

The first step is eradicating them manually. Using algae scrubbers that you can purchase at online stores can help to decrease the population.

You can also use an old toothbrush to eliminate them; if it’s possible to pick up the algae by your hand, do that.

However, this step does not kill all staghorn algae, but it is the best first step against them.


Water Change And Clean Any Objects

If staghorn algae outbreaks are more serious, you can do an extreme water change until 75%. Then, clean any objects in your tank, such as filters, decorations even trim the plants if you have to.

Lift up any debris and organic wastes from the substrate using a siphoning tool; when performing this, you should be careful. Do not let rip up the algae apart, and do not let them float in the aquarium.

Use distilled water is recommended than tap water. You can produce it quickly and save more money by using RO water kit systems for aquarium use.

Read Also: Clea Helena The Assassin Of Aquarium Pest Snails


Perform A Blackout

This method effectively eliminates almost of freshwater aquarium algae types; it also works well for staghorn algae.

The blackout period generally needs three days. Use a thick blanket to cover the aquarium; it must be totally dark. During this process, the Co2 injection should be turned off. Supply more oxygen; you could install an extra air pump if required and do not add fertilizers.

If you have some fish, give enough food and don’t overfeed. While, if you keep a shrimp tank, this step may be skipped.

Once the blackout period is over, let your fish adapt to the normal conditions by opening up half your aquarium and leaving like this for thirty minutes. After that, remove the blanket entirely and leave for another 30 minutes before switching up the light.

Next, clean any equipment from the dead staghorn algae and trim any dead leaves or another one that still had algae.

And the last, do a water change. You can cycle until 50% water for the fish tank, while the shrimptank 10% is enough (shrimps species tend to have serious molting problems when performing a huge water change). Give lighting duration about 6-8 hours for the next week.

Note: blackout method could harm any high-lighting aquatic plants type.


Co2 Treatments And Add More Species That Eating The Algae

Increasing the dissolved carbon dioxide aids in wiping them out. It may take several days to get the results; once the staghorn algae begin to die, the crew of the algae eaters with large members will clean the remains.


Use Liquid Carbon And Balancing The Nutrients

You can find this easily in aquarium shops or online marketplaces. Using it simply, fill up 5 ml of liquid carbon to syringe and apply directly on the staghorn algae clumps once a day until they turn reddish.

We recommended using liquid carbon from Seachem that is “Flourish Excel.” It’s a top-rated product, and we also use it to stable to water parameters and become a lethal weapon to any algae presence in our tank.

Use the test kit to test the water parameters and nutrients. If there is an imbalance of substances, fix it soon.

Below is the standard formula that you can use:

  • Phosphate= 0.1-1 mg/l
  • Nitrate= 10-25 mg/l
  • Carbon Dioxide= 20-30 mg/l
  • Magnesium= >10 mh/l
  • Potassium= 5-10 mg/l

Read Also: 5 Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Ramshorn Snails In The Aquarium


Hydrogen Peroxide Treatment

You are tried all the steps above, but the staghorn algae are still hard to remove. Using hydrogen peroxide is the last way, although it is not a very advised method.

It can harm your plants, shrimps, and fish, so only this treatment for the tank containing many staghorn algae is impossible for treating with another way.

First, turn off the filter to keep the beneficial bacteria stay safe. Enhancing the aeration and switching off the light aims to improve treatment efficiency.

Add 1.5 ml dose of 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) per gallon (4.5 liters), spread evenly over the water surface, and stir it softly. At this point, knowing the tank capacity is essential, so be careful and do not make a mistake.

Leave it for around one hour, wait for the mixture thoroughly. Then, switch on the filter again. In the same week, perform a water change and add a beneficial bacterial supplement. It aims to boost their numbers because some populations attached to decorations, substrates, plants, or glass may lose when adding hydrogen peroxide.

Nowadays, many algae remover products that specifically for home aquaria use. It is safer for your tank populations and does not need much money to buy one. Most aquarists try this product before using hydrogen peroxide, so do you want to try it?

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