Black Beard Algae – The Battle Begins

This is a picture of the Black Beard Algae finally dying off

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Update: You can read about how we actually removed this stubborn algae in this article.

It seems like whenever we set up a new scape, there is at least one thing that plagues us, and that plague comes in one form of algae or another. This time it is Black Beard Algae. The thought of it is deeply unsettling for me.

The excitement of a new project

Think about it, your somewhere out in nature, and you see an area that you think would look beautiful in an aquascape. You take about 100 pictures of the area from every angle, and in the months following you plan which of the materials you can buy commercially that it will take from at least 10 different sources to create the vision you have of that particular slice of beauty.

You start looking at different websites, Google images, etc., and one of the more fun parts of this hobby (at least for me), shopping for equipment. The spot in your living room is all lined up after a little creative rearranging, find the perfect stand, the right size tank, and your set. The tank sits on the table that you luckily found on OfferUp or in some antique store that you probably paid too much for, and you daydream about how the scape will look when finished.

You even go as far as to partially ignore, or at the very least, miss some of your favorite television programs because you can’t quit looking at this soon to be piece of art.

Your vision becomes a reality

The day finally comes. You have your filter purchased that has been sitting in a box for months, you have made a dozen or so trips to The Home Depot for just the right parts to create this finely crafted sculpture and have finally received the last of the glassware in the mail.

You set up the equipment, adjust the lighting so it has the perfect spread, dry scape your layout, pull all the stuff back out, fill the tank with water and give the new filter a go, and viola, nothing leaks and everything seems to be perfect.

At this point, you have a plant list that you have studied for the past 6 months or so that will perfectly replicate the little piece of nature in your photos, and your off you go to the nearest LFS that can supply your needs.

The setup

It is at this point that you get home and start the process of setting up you new design. You thought that you had the scape figured out, but somehow the fine details always seem to get altered in one way or another. After carefully redesigning your layout to fit the actual needs of the support you’ll need for the giant rock that you found at the river, you know, the one that you just knew would be perfect in your layout?

You are now ready to start planting. Great debates are held on whether to place the Hygrophila pinnatifida in the back or middle of the tank and how you think the Dwarf Pennywort will grow on a log that is partially immersed. Oh, and the long discussion you have as how the new fish you have planned to live there will interact with their new home.

It’s beautiful!

After 6 to 8 hours, the masterpiece is finally finished. You stand back and look at the greatness in front of you, and you remember the hike that you took down the river that this fine piece of art replicates. You look at all the plants that are freshly planted and anticipate that they will have enough room to grow and be happy and healthy. All the glassware sparkles under the new Kessil lights that you just installed and set after careful consideration, and the aquarium has not one fingerprint or small spec of a water-spot on it. Everything is just perfect.

And then, what the?!

A month goes by, and everything seems to be doing just fine. Water changes are performed twice a week on schedule, nutrient dosing is done as needed, the CO2 levels are checked consistently, and most of all, the plants are pearling and healthy.

Then, it seems like overnight – Bam! the beginning of an algae infestation. You start to see little bits of it here and there and panic a little bit. After all, most of us have seen at least one of our setups consumed by this stuff in one form or another at some point and time in our hobby.

It is then you start to formulate a plan of attack. You are all over Tom Barr’s forum looking for threads that have the same topic as your dilemma, and now you are searching Google images again for a different reason – trying to find out exactly which algae you have that you just know is going to ruin your life, or at the very least, your beautiful scape.

OK, now what?

All drama aside, we have had our ups and downs with several different types of algae as well as BGA and have dealt with it from just spot dosing with peroxide to tearing down whole setups. When we first set up our 8 gallon Mr. Aqua rimless, we had dealt with a bout of hair algae and won, but the BGA was out of control and that was a battle that led to the demise of that scape. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The slime was everywhere, and the smell in our living room was at times overpowering.

We took apart the tank, transplanted the fish, and scrubbed everything and let it dry for several months before re-scaping it. That was a bad situation. We made the best of it though by taking away a valuable experience on what not to do with a planted tank. We did not, however, deal with Black Beard Algae.

Dealing with Black Beard Algae

This is a corner of our Mr. Aqua 12 Long AquariumHere we are once again a couple of years later, and we have a new outbreak to deal with – Black Beard Algae. We started seeing this stuff approximately one month after initially setting up this scape.

At first it started to grow on the log that we have laying up the center of our layout. I started to question how it got in the tank. Obviously, it came from somewhere, but where? Did I leave the log out in the backyard soaking in a tub for too long? Would that cause Black Beard Algae? Did the algae ride in on one of the plants that we paid a small fortune for? As to the cause of the problem, I will probably never know. That’s not important right now anyway, the pressing issue here is, how do I eliminate it?

We have been battling this for several months now, and have tried to starve it of light, overdose it on CO2 until my fish were almost floating upside down, scrape it off with a knife while pulling water out of the aquarium, cut away heavily infected plant leaves, and remove the smaller pieces of hardscape that we could afford to lose without losing the aesthetics of the theme.

Black Beard Algae is no joke. It is stubborn and as hard to eradicate as cockroaches, and it pains me to look at this beautifully decorated aquarium with this stuff all over everything. We have not let it get long and hairy like you see in some pictures that show awful infestations of this stuff, but it is still unsightly in our mosses and all over the decor and plant leaves.

What is the solution?

I have been all over the internet to try and find a solution to eradicating Black Beard Algae and have yet to come up with a method of completely ridding my tank of this vile pandemic, until the other night. My wife and I were watching YouTube videos while eating dinner and came across this video of this guy talking about the same issues we have and what he did about it. This just may be a game changer!

We are going to try Mike at Mass Aquaiums method in battling Black Beard Algae in the next week and document it on video to show the steps taken to perform this task. I will post the video here on our website so that you may observe whether or not this is a magic bullet. Check back soon, and keep your fingers crossed!

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