How To Get Rid Of Brown Algae In Your Fish Tank In The Easiest Ways Possible

April 21, 2017

Brown algae can serve as delicious snacks for the fishes you choose to take care of in your tank. However, they can also be ugly things to see in your aquarium.

When the tank owners discuss brown algae, what they are trying to describe are diatoms. These are small greenish or brownish creatures that come with glassy skeletons.

Often, these diatoms are sore to the eyes. That’s why a lot of aquarium owners want to remove them. But, this can be challenging task if you don’t have any idea how to do it.

Thankfully, we’ve listed some of the steps on how to get rid of brown algae in your aquarium.


Overview of Brown Algae or Diatoms

Brown algae are also known as diatoms. These creatures are quite difficult to remove from your fish aquarium. Plus, brown algae also affects the appearance of your tank and can pose harm to your fish.

But, what are brown algae? It is an organism containing only one cell with brown color. Also, it has a skeletal structure that has a central component of silicon nitrate.

Brown algae can grow when your aquarium becomes rich in silicon and nitrate levels. Furthermore, it can develop when your tank has high or low lighting. What does it require to live in the aquarium?

It is best to take note that even though diatoms may synthesize food using the sources of light. They do not need the same method as most algae or other plants need to grow. Also, they do not obtain energy from just the light. Diatoms live because of light, nitrates, silicates, stagnant or still water, and water rich in minerals.

What Causes Diatoms?

Here are some of the factors that contribute to the growth of brown algae:

  • Excessive amount of nitrates and silicates in the water
  • Inadequate or too much light
  • Low levels of oxygen

Also, you need to remember that you can usually find brown algae in a newly installed aquarium. Why? It is because of the little light it can get or the excessive silicates in the water.

Plus, too many nutrients and the lack of oxygen may contribute to its development.

Steps to Remove Brown Algae

The problem with diatoms is that no matter how long you turn on or turn off the light source, it can still grow. If you somewhat tried to remove the nitrates and silicates in your tank, but they may persist. Here are some of the ways to get rid of diatoms in your tank:

Do Not Think of Diatoms as Normal Algae

The very first thing you have to take note is that you remove the thinking that brown algae are similar to the standard algae. They may somewhat look quite similar, but they need different factors to living.

Place Enough Filtration or Filter System in the Tank

The next step is to make sure that the aquarium has an adequate amount of filter system or filtration. You need to take note that the hang on the back approach of filtering can cause the water get too much light.

But, of course, it may still depend on the model of the filter you use and the source of lighting in the room.

The Aquarium Needs Water Movement

Then, you also need to remember that although you may put enough filtration, you still need water movement. That way, you discourage the growth of diatoms.

You may obtain the motion of the water by using items called current makers or power heads. These products tend to move the water in the tank.

Perform a Hands-on Work in Your Tank

The next step is to improve your aquarium using your two hands. You have to get rid of all ornaments and plants from the reservoir. Then, you have to only leave the substrate behind, including sand and rocks.

Also, you do not need to remove hardware such as heaters and filters. You have to wipe off the diatoms on the surface of the filters and heaters. You need to scrub them properly off the sand and rocks.

Change the Water

Moreover, you have to know that this step is pretty obvious. All you have to do is to replace 30 to 50 percent of the water tank after scrubbing the substrate and hardware. Later on, you can return the entire plants and decors back into the aquarium.

Repeat the Steps Again if Necessary

If the diatoms still grow, you have to take note that you can repeat all of the steps needed. You can perform these ways every two weeks. But, you can observe that each time you do these steps, the brown algae appears less and less.

WARNING: If the steps provided above may not work for your aquarium, the reason may be because:

  • Your tank has too much lighting
  • Your aquarium has an inadequate light source
  • No enough movement in the water of your tank

Too many brown algae remains in your substrate even after scrubbing

If the steps mentioned still do not work as planned, you might proceed to use these methods:

  • Vacuum gravel well
  • Utilize silicate absorbing resin in your filter
  • Obtain a Plecostomus or Otocinclus in the tank

You need to remember that brown algae do not stick strong enough to the surface of the aquarium. So, you can quickly wipe it away. When you vacuum the gravel using a siphon.

You have to get rid of the coatings from the substrate right away. Also, by putting fishes that eat brown algae such as otocinclus and plecostomus, you remove the diatoms in the tank. Also, if the problem is because of the high levels of silicates in the reservoir, you can use resin. A silicate absorbing resin in the tank can be helpful in removing the diatoms.


It is true that brown algae and its continuous growth can be a pain in the ass, especially for tank owners. What you need to do is to keep your tank clean at all times. So, you have to change the water tank regularly and remove all of the key factors in the development of diatoms.

Also, prompt attention to the vertical growth of brown algae will prevent the rise of more serious problems in your aquarium.

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About the Author


Hello, fishing world! My name is Bella. Yes, you got me right, I am a woman! But, I am a woman not only fond of cooking and shopping. I am a woman who shows interest in everything that covers topics regarding fishing. Don’t get me wrong! I believe that the world of fishing is not exclusively for men! In fact, I, myself enjoy fishing. That’s why I created this website.

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