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Hair (thread) Algae


  1. hair algae growing too fast
    by (Kristan Geissel) (15 Jul 1993)
  2. "floating on hellish spores"
    by krombhol-at-felix.TECLink.Net (Paul Krombholz) (Sat, 18 Nov 1995)
  3. Thread algae (Pithophora)
    by (Neil Frank) (Sat, 21 Oct 95)
  4. Re:Bleach treatment
    by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz) (Fri, 10 Oct 1997)
  5. Filamentous Green Algae
    by Erik Olson (e-mail) (Wed, 17 Dec 1997)
  6. Filamentous algae and generalizations
    by Neil Frank <nfrank/> (Wed, 06 Jan 1999)
  7. Algae
    by "Richard J. Sexton" <richard/> (Sun, 3 Jan 1999)
  8. Algae and the critters that love it.
    by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/> (Sun, 25 Feb 2001)

hair algae growing too fast

by (Kristan Geissel)
Date: 15 Jul 1993

In article <> (Janet Rawlins)  writes:
I've got a small tank which has a good case of hair algae. Since
it's just a baby guppy tank, it's not real important, but I was curious
whether there is any type of fish which will eat this type of algae.
It's mingling in with the Java moss and is pretty hard to separate and
remove by now.  Any suggestions?

I found out quite by accident that my gold barbs are GREAT algae 
destroyers.  They eat it like spaghetti if I 'harvest' it from
my other tank and will clean a tank out in about 24 hours.

I also found that the algae eaters that I bought won't touch the 
stuff unless it is in its baby stage - the little seeds(?) stuck
to the side of the tanks they'll eat but not the long stuff.
These are otoclincus(es).  I don't know about other algae eaters.


"floating on hellish spores"

by krombhol-at-felix.TECLink.Net (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995

To J. Schmaus:

This notion that hair algae comes in on spores has not been substantiated
in my experience.  Ever since I got rid of it about 20 years ago with the
bleach treatment, I have had almost no problems.  I got some once from some
soil, but I am pretty sure it came from surface soil that got enough light
to support the alga.  It didn't grow very well under water, and it was no
problem to eliminate.   Now, I scrape off the top half inch of soil before
I collect any.  I got some once from some rain water.  Apparently some can
grow in the eavestrough of my house.  That wasn't a bad form either, and
the Ramshorn snails ate it all up.  All the really bad forms, such as
Oedogonium,  Cladophora, Rhizoclonium, and the red algae varieties have
never shown up again, and once I had them all.  You can't get rid of green
water algae, bluegreen algae (Cyanobacteria), or green spot algae with the
bleach treatment.  I use Daphnia to keep the water clear, and snails take
care of the other forms.  The bad forms of hair algae seem to be uniquely
sensitive to the bleach treatment, and they don't have spores that float in
the air.

Most of the time hair algae comes attached to the plant you purchased.  it
can also come in as some floating fragments in the water that comes with
fish from the pet store.  It may come in attached to the shells of snails.
There are many stories about how a particular form of hair algae suddenly
showed up in somebody's tank that probably give rise to the belief that it
came in on spores.  Actually, it was probably there all the time in
vegetative form, but there wasn't enough of it to be noticed until it

Just try setting up a hair algae-free tank. Give a few plants the two or
three minute 5% bleach treatment, and set them up in the tank with topsoil,
snails and Daphnia.   Once you have a 'haven' set up, you will want to
bleach more of your plants and set them up free of hair algae.  With snails
to control soft attached algae and Daphnia to control green water, you will
be able to give all the nutrients, light and CO2 you want, and you won't
have to worry about hair algae taking over.  You should see growth rates
not possible in a hair algae-infested tank.

I have five 15 gallon tanks free of hair algae at school, and a 55 and a 75
at home, also free.  Last summer I got some plants in New York City that
were heavily coated with black beard algae.  They got the bleach treatment,
and are fine, now, with no sign of any algae.  Every year I bring home
plants covered with various types of bad hair algae, and the bleach
treatment has always got rid of it forever.  Without hair algae, you can
really pour on the nutrients, light, and CO2, and see what your plants are
capable of doing!

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174

Thread algae (Pithophora)

by (Neil Frank)
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 95

Lets talk about thread algae. In Baensch V2, one type is called green bunch
algae. Booth called it staghorn algae. It is the one that forms irregularly
branched threads from an attachment point. I can be seen attached to
inanimate objects like powerheads, sometimes plant leaves. It forms coarse
bunches or small clusters of tangled filaments, an inch or so in diameter.
It is called Pithophora, a green alga, also known as horse hair algae. It
seems to flourish with excess micro nutrients like iron. Recently, it
started to reproduce extensively in my 70 g tank after adding a trace
element solution, after many months of deprivation.  Baench says that the
SAE will control its spreading, but not for me. (the tank also has Endlers
livebearers and E. kalopterus) When the algae is in small quantities, it is
feasible to simply remove the small bunches when they become visiable and
annoying. I currently have quite a bit of it attached to plant leaves and I
am tired of pulling it out.

A few water changes and reduced feeding will bring the nutrient levels back
to normal (and eventually starve the algae), but I am now curious what may
eat the stuff.

What is the wisdom and experiences of the readers of this list? I seem to
remember using some species of barbs many years ago to munch on filamentous
algae. Are there fish which like to eat this stuff?


Neil Frank   Editor of "The Aquatic Gardener"  Aquatic Gardeners Association

Re:Bleach treatment

by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997

This is in reference to Steve's post on Oct. 10.  I notice an inverse
relation between daylength and the length of his posts.:-)

My quarantine tank is just a five gallon with some coarse gravel on the
bottom.  Since I am moving fish out of a fur algae-infested 20 gallon tank,
I am doing them in about three groups. so as not to overcrowd them during
their stay in the quarantine tank.

No, it wasn't Java moss that is as tough as nails, although Java fern might
qualify.  The most I ever gave Java moss was two minutes, and unexpectedly
it survived.  All the little 'leaves' got killed, but the stems lived.
Actually that is pretty tough for such a skinny little plant, but I never
had Java moss in bleach for 5 minutes.

My experience with hair algae has been pretty extensive, and I have seen a
lot of the types.

Cladophora is one of the very bad ones.  It is bushy, has a characteristic
rank smell and it attaches to things.  A typical filament has numerous
short side branches.  It occasionally sends out flagellated cells,
zoospores, which anchor somewhere and start new growth.  This is not
common, and much of the spread is by pieces of the filaments.  It requires
4 minutes in the 5% bleach, and is the most resistant hair algae species I
know.  Fortunately it is usually attached to old plant stems and the bottom
gravel, and the recently grown parts of thin-stemmed plants that might not
survive 4 minutes of bleach are usually free of it.  The kinds of plants I
have found it attached to have been plants that can withstand the 4 minute

Oedogonium is very bad, also.  It is probably the one people are calling
fur algae.  It spreads very rapidly and prolifically by means of
flagellated cells, and covers leaves of plants and other objects in a dense
coat of unbranched hairs, about 2 to 5 mm. long. It is much more sensitive
to bleach than Cladophora, and can be killed by one to two minutes, but if
the coating of hairs is dense enough, the bleach doesn't circulate well
enough to kill the basal cells.  I have treated densely furred plants two
to three minutes and seen the Oedogonium return.  When it is only scattered
hairs, it can be eliminated completely by a short treatment.  I am in the
process of getting rid of an Oedogonium outbreak now, and I had to treat
some myriophyllum twice to get all of it.  I have been putting my treated
plants in gallon jars on the windowsill, and, when I noticed the Oedogonium
getting started in the jar with the myriophylum, I just pulled out the
plant, retreated it in bleach for two minutes, and set it up in a new jar.
This time it looks like I got it all, and the plant didn't seem to show any
damage from the second bleach treatment.

The So-called black beard algae is a kind of red algae, I think.   I got
some plants from a store in New York City that were badly covered with it,
and was able to eliminate it with a three and one half minute treatment.  I
had another type of red algae a long time ago that had greenish to copper
colored, branching strands that were thickest where they were attached and
became more slender as they branched.  I can't remember how many minutes of
bleach I needed to kill it, but it was probably around three.

Finally I have had to deal with long, tough, unbranched threads that form
tangles around plants or green mounds out of which the plants attempt to
struggle.  One of these types may be Rhizoclonium. They seem quite
sensitive to bleach, and two minutes appears to be enough.

Actually, I make the bleach treatment as long as I think the plant can
stand, rather than timing it according to what kind of algae may be on the
plant.  I havn't found any plants that can't take at least a two minute
treatment.  I was sure the Java moss couldn't take that, but by golly, it
did.  Thin-stemmed plants like Ceratophyllum are more sensitive to the
bleach, and they will lose all their leaves after a two minute treatment,
but with good light and iron in the water, they recover nicely.  Elodea
(Egeria densa) has a nice thick stem and can withstand three minutes
easily, although not without loss of the leaves. Anubias is extremely tough
and could take six minutes if it needed it, and so are the rhizomes of
crypts, lace plants and other aponogetons, etc.

I am currently battling a worse problem than hair algae---a species of
ostracod that chews up my plants.  What's the problem, you ask.  The
problem is that it lays eggs that have delayed hatching times of up to a
year or maybe even longer.  The eggs are also resistant to drying, full
strength bleach and concentrated hydrochloric acid.

Paul Krombholz in Jackson, Mississippi where the rains have been staying
off to the west.    

Filamentous Green Algae

by Erik Olson (e-mail)
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997

> From: Stephen Pushak <>
> If you want to kill filamentous green algae to avoid their introduction
> into your aquarium, I only know of the Krombholz bleach treatment for
> this purpose. If you want to pioneer a different chemical for this
> purpose, you'll need to prepare a series of tests using a range of
> algae, solution strengths and treatment times such as Paul Krombholz did
> in developing the bleach treatment. 

Also don't forget Ameca splendens as an eater of filamentous green
algae once you are cursed with this unfortunate plague.  I've now
completed both phases of "research" on these guys: One of our tanks
was overgrown with algae at the time we swapped in some A. splendens.
Especially bad, since the plants were all delicate, small-leaved
things, easily damaged by trying to physically remove the algae.  A
month after the fish were in there (only sparse feedings), the algae
was gone.  Delicate plants were in good.  Recently (2 months back), we
swapped out the A. splendens for some "normal" fish.  The tank is now
plagued again.  Perhaps next time I will use A. splendens to "clean"
the plants, and then bleach-treat them.

> I have heard of potassium permanganate as a treatment for snails and
> snail spawn but discussions on that method have not been very fruitful.
> permanganate. Not sure if its mentioned in the aquaria FAQ pages or the
> Krib.

Just checked...Yes, it is. :)

  - Erik

- ---
Erik Olson                              
eriko at

Filamentous algae and generalizations

by Neil Frank <nfrank/>
Date: Wed, 06 Jan 1999

Ok folks, please take a breath. I haven't been participating in the APD for
a while. Is this what it is always like?

I am pretty sure that most of you are saying something meaningful. It is
just that there is so much babble and you are all talking past each
other!!! There are also too many generalizations. But this is not new <g>.
I feel bad for the newcomers to this list who may be getting the wrong

Since there are so many imbedded comments , I will not attempt to make

>>> There IS a 100% sure method of keeping filament algae out of a tank.

>> >  Just so
>>> > everyone knows we may be dealing with Cladophora

With tougher filament algae, its even MORE difficult to get
>>> anything to eat it. What eats Cladophora? The stuff is like

>>> you have a thick mess of Spyrogyra, its very very difficult to keep
>>> other fish alive and keep algae eating fish hungry enough to consume
>>> mess.

>Yes, I know, I know, I know... filament algae...[snip]...  You have seen
with your own
>eyes my 50 gallon aquarium covered in long green slimy well attached
>filament algae... it was beautiful, light green , flowing in the
current... Guess that
>means that bleach ISN'T the ONLY effective way to eliminate *filament*

There are many types of filamentous algae. The various names in use only
contribute to the confusion. Aquarium books and articles use names like
horsehair, staghorn, fur, bunch, cluster, beard (sometimes misspelled as
bear), brush and probably others. The scientific literature use names like
Cladophora, Pithophora, Spirogyra, Audouinella, etc.  Because many books
are translations, the common names are not always used consistently.
Unfortunately, scientific keying is not easy either. At least I can't do
it. There are dozens if not hundreds of different filamentous algae that
can find their way into the aquarium or pond. Some are easy to deal with,
others less so. Some are attached (epiphytic), some not. Some are not even
a nuisance or a threat to the health of the tank (perhaps, like the
beautiful, light green , flowing one). 

>>> But limiting
>>> nutrients alone will never make a thick mess of filament algae die.

True. But it can be eliminated by first significantly reducing the size of
the matt and _then_ significantly reducing one or more nutrients in the
water column. It either feeds off itself or the water. It is that simple.
Increasing circulation will also prevent local build up of nutrients.

The same treatment will work on Cladophora. This is an unattached algae. It
is only a problem for tanks with high nutrients and without water
circulation. It crops up in one of my tanks when the power head or filter
is clogged.

>One question, do you bleach your arms, hand, tools and keep the tanks
>from splashing water on each other? 

I know for a fact that some aquatic plant nursury owners insist that hands
and arms be cleaned with a mild chlorox/antiseptic solution to prevent
transfer of algae or pathogens from one outdoor tank to another. I soak my
nets and tools that were placed in my one tank with BBA. [yes, I have
one.... it is for experimenting]

> My theory on this is forget it, make
>it as painless, effecient and easy as possible, i.e. use the KISS
>principal (Keep it Simple Stupid)

Maybe this principle should also be used when posting on the APD <g>



by "Richard J. Sexton" <richard/>
Date: Sun, 3 Jan 1999

>>This is the only effective measure to prevent reoccurence of hair algae.
>Oh Steve... what absolute poppycock!! "Only"? Nonsense. It's *one* very
>overkill way. There are lots of folks on this list who use less drastic
>methods. Drop the "only" and say "*ONE* effective measure"... well,
>effective until you make a slip and let a <gasp> spore in! <g>

I have to agree. I've had so much hair algae in tanks
you couldnt see an inch in them. Snice I keep killies
they'r emy first line of defence: Florida flag fish
(Jordanella floridae) and Procatopus both eat the stuff,
they also eat the blue green rubbish.

I've been fighting algae all my life and in the past
2 years two things have all but made algae a non-problem
for me: 1) feed only live food, and don't overfeed. I swear
that 99% of algae problems (other than new tank syndrome)
are because of overfeeding and 2) I stopped killing all the
snails. I use red (very red) ramshorns. Cute little devils.

I'd say optimal feeding (that is, not to much, not too little)
is more important than water changes; that is I can chanage water
religiously, but if I use frozen food, I still have a problem.

My daughter has a tank with a bunch of neons in her room (she's
7) and I really neglect it. Not a speck of algae; I throw a bit
of live food in there when I rememeber. The crypts and E. tenellus
are doing just fine, and it's right next to a south facing window
and gets lots of light. Lots and lots.

- --
Richard J. Sexton                               
Maitland House, Bannockburn, Ontario, Canada, K0K 1Y0       +1 (613) 473 1719

Algae and the critters that love it.

by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001

Experiments? Controls? Uhhh... is not the general good conditions the real
cure for algae? Critters are just icing on the cake to make sure. How can
you say anything unless you have great conditions as a baseline? Nutrients,
critters, CO2 systems, lighting, substrates etc.

Then you take one factor out at a time and play a nice little old game:)
I suppose you could add a divider in a tank and add some hair algae to both
sides. But you'd actually need to divide it 3 ways. This would take into
account the CO2 and water chemistry and lighting etc. One for the control,
one for the comparison for each critter to be judged. Do you or anyone else
wish to do this? BTW, what is hair algae? There's at least 4 different
genera that are commonly called hair algae. Each is different. If it's dying
or on the way it out anyhow it may be much more palatable to a critter. So
you need to muck your tank up on purpose. Get a good growth of algae growing
well and then add your critter. But your tank is messed up to induce the
algae. Is that a fair set up?  Not all critters of the same species are the
same nor attack algae the same. Behavioral differences.

If you have Riccia stones or branches, Hair grass, moss etc you do not want
flagfish or Rosey barbs. Swhrimps and snailies are a better choice provide
no one eats them. If you have less delicate plants they will be good though.

If you get "enough" of some critter they will overpower the algae at some
point in mass. This is the idea behind lots of Amano shrimps. Enough of them
or flagfish or whatever your trying will work with, if there's an excess of
them relative to a certain tank and it's algae production they will control
it. I've used SAE's in mass for removal of hairalgae.

*** So if*** you have minimal algae production(from good overall conditions)
this quickly becomes a NON-ISSUE what critter you have for control and you
much greater flexibility with both plants and critter choices. Still goes
back to the big three things, Light , CO2 and nutrients.

>  His description of the nibbling of the FFF on Dwarf Hairgrass is
> unremarkable.  I personally, would not start an aquarium w/ dwarf
> Hairgrass; I'd reserve it for a more established tank that's beyond the
> algae wars.

Well you can have the fish and that issue:) Don't attack the grass. My
girlfriend can keep hairgrass and started out with it. She has a brown
thumb. She kills cactus in the desert:) (true story) Snails are the only
algae eater. A comb works very nicely for removal of any algae in hair
grass. It's hair(grass), so do you comb yours? It stays nice and clean if
you do comb it:) 
I don't consider grass, Riccia and moss plants to "need" an established
tank. No plant for that matter. Fish are another story.
I have it in tanks as low as 1.6 watts a gallon. It's done well in all sorts
of tanks. Hell, it grows right outside in the vernal pools near here. It
stays shorter in higher lighting. Does very well in the basic flourite
gravel as does most any plant. It does better in slightly aerobic

I don't and haven't had any Flagfish for a number of years nor intend to in
the future. I like a pack of shrimp, SAE's and my snails. These guys are
classics. I have to collect hair algae in the wild or get some from folks to
play and mess with. These critters attack it and hang all over it when it's
added. I must be doing something right? But they can be useful in the right
situations. Still, I personally was not impressed with flagfish compared to
other critters but they are very tough and hardy.

 I think it gets away from the issue at hand, removing the algae not
bickering over fish:) It's hard to quantify a critter from another one on
this. Some are clearly good.
Best way is still to have good conditions for the plants. Everything else
will be fine if this is done. SAE's, Flagfish, snails, a comb, fingers
shrimps etc will help to some degree but the main issue is still good
overall conditions for the plants.

Richard said:
> They both eat algae."

Not Richard's algae:) He has em and has tried them for years and his hair
algae problem doesn't go away. He's been cursed:) Yes they eat it but not
enough for him. Environmental issues/controls should be considered first.
Then critters. One or two doesn't do it, keep adding more till something
goes your way. 

Another issue is all this yabbering about hair algae. Well I can inform
folks that there are several genera that you call HAIR algae. So which one
are we talking about? Do you even know thy enemy? Some folks call the
"thread" algae hair algae etc. Some fish like one but not the other etc.

Amano shrimps will not eat the Cladophora (Aeragropila) that I like (it
forms nice ball shapes - see Rataj's book) but eat the type I don't like(the
stuff that is sometimes called haystack which is branched, typically
entangled in the gravel. Actually, I like it but not in my tanks). Both
species are Cladophora. There are a few critters that will eat one and not
the other. Splitting hairs, I know:)
Sorry couldn't help but to slip that one in there.

This should give some degree of insight into controlling algae with critters
and environment. 

Tom Barr


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