How to Remove Black Beard Algae from Driftwood and Rocks?

In this post, we will cover the basics of beating black beard algae, and remove it from driftwood and rocks in your aquarium.

I am going to guess that everyone who has had a planted aquarium has experienced these algae, at least once.

You may have had these algae growing on your Driftwood, rocks, or even your aquarium plants.

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It probably looked black and fluffy, but sometimes you will see gray or some other different colors. In any case, black beard algae is a headache to deal with and it takes a lot of effort to remove.

Which fish eat black beard algae?

Normally things like Amano shrimp and otocinclus are enough for soft algae. But other than the occasional Siamese algae eater, nothing will eat black beard algae.

Unfortunately, no animals will eradicate all of it when your tank is overrun with black beard algae, and because of all this dealing with this pest is very challenging.

So for this post, I will tell you why black beard algae will grow in an aquarium, and also how to remove it when it has appeared in your aquarium.

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How do you get rid of black beard algae?

Over time I have learned not only what kind of conditions black beard algae likes to grow in, but also how to reduce and remove these difficult algae. So for those aquarists dealing with black beard algae, this information should be useful and I hope you keep reading till the end.

In the picture below you can see an example of black beard algae in an aquarium.

Black beard algae on a driftwood

It may be difficult, but if you look at the Driftwood in the middle, you should be able to see the algae and patches. As I mentioned earlier they look sort of soft and fluffy and appearance.

Black beard algae normally have a hard time growing on healthy thriving plants. It’s usually on your aquarium hardscape like your driftwood and rocks that you’ll find these algae.

What causes black hair algae?

You’ll see it pop up in tanks with too many nutrients, or after a very large trimming session, or you have taken out a lot of plant material.

Why do black beard algae start growing in an aquarium?

There are three main reasons why Black beard algae will appear:

You have a dirty aquarium

This reason does not apply to just black beard algae, but to any algae. As a general fact, the dirtier aquarium is, the more algae will want to grow. For black beard algae, the main cause is said to be too much phosphorus. But to be specific and imbalance of too much nitrogen or phosphorus is what makes algae grow. And that wraps up reason number one dirty water.

Too much water flow

When you have too much direct flow hitting your Driftwood, rocks, or plant for a long time, it is very common to find black beard algae in those areas getting too much flow.

I am going to assume most of you, use an external filter for water circulation, and it is possible that strong flow coming from your filter can be directly hitting the affected areas. This is easy to check so definitely do that.

Not enough plant mass in the aquarium

There is not enough plant mass in the tank, or the plants are not really growing. In the end, the condition of your plants can dramatically change how much black beard algae can grow. For example, in an aquarium with healthy growing plants, you will not see any black beard algae.

It may sound weird and probably not something you have actively thought of before, but in healthy aquariums, you just do not see any black beard algae. The opposite is true as well.

Blackbeard algae will appear in aquariums with plants that are doing poorly, or in an aquarium, that does not have enough plant mass. This is thought to be the reason why black beard algae will grow.

These three reasons are thought to be with black beard algae likes to appear and grow in.

Getting rid of black beard algae from driftwood

Let’s talk about what to do when you have an existing Black Beard algae problem.

So for this post, one of the answers will not be to remove it by hand. You may know that there are many different ways of removing it by hand. One example is using wood vinegar and covering the algae growing on a leaf until it turns red, then letting your shrimp eating the dying algae.

But for this post, I will not be talking about these methods.

The reason being that if the environment the algae was growing in, is not fixed, the black beard algae is just going to grow back. At that point, it will turn into a cat and mouse game which is not worth doing. So instead, the better way to do it is to solve the root problem of the environment first, so that it will lead to you properly defeating the algae. To me, this is more important than how to manually remove it.

So in this post, I will only be talking about the measures you should take when you have a beard algae problem.

To solve a black beard algae problem, the key is to remember the three reasons why it grows and to fix that.

Do water changes

First, let’s talk about reason number one – bad water quality and how to fix it. This may seem obvious, but the best way to fix bad water is to remove that water and replace it with clean water. By doing a water change, you are removing excess phosphates and nitrogen that is growing the beard algae. But note about water changes taking out only water will not fix your problem.

You need to actively try to remove the sludge and waste trapped in your substrate with the water for water changes to work. Phosphates are more accurately waste products build up on top of the substrate over time.

So the key point is when you do a water change, be sure to take the water and the sludge on / in the substrate.

Do not overfeed your fish

Another reason why water quality can go bad quickly is by having too many fish or feeding too much. So if you do feed too much or have too many fish reduce them accordingly. For example, fish food contains a lot of phosphorus, so overfed tanks grow lots of algae especially black beard algae.

Make sure your filter media is not too dirty

Next let’s talk about filters more specifically filter media.

This is also important if the filter media is too dirty, the filter will have a hard time doing any cleaning. So please check to make sure your filter media is not too dirty or else your water change won’t be as effective.

With that said for biological filter media washing it too much as bad, but so is leaving it alone for too long.

In a healthy thriving tank, you probably don’t have to clean your bio media much. But if your tank has beard algae, it would be best to open up your filter and to clean it. Also, if your bio-media is too old, you should replace it.

Reason being that for Bio media that feels rough over time, there’s probably pores in the media that got clogged with waste reducing the amount of filtration.

So by replacing the clogged media with New Media, your filtration capacity will go back to where it was before. Most of you probably don’t think about how clean your bio-media is or its lifespan, but please do check.

That concludes how to fix number one bad water quality.

If you follow this, you will see your water quality improve, and you will see your black beard algae disappear with time.

Do not use too much water flow

This is an issue that goes under the radar for many people. In particular, people who use a spray bar for their external filter output can have trouble with beard algae due to the flow from the spray bars being strong direct flow that blast many parts of your Aquascape.

To solve this I use ADA Lily pipes. With the ADA Lily pipes, they output the right amount of flow, which makes the environment difficult for Black Beard algae to grow. So for people who use spray bars in are having trouble with beard algae look into switching to a lily pipe. Or if you feel hands-on you can drill more holes into your spray bar, which will help to reduce direct flow.

So I recommend checking your water flow situation if you are having trouble with beard algae.

Make sure your plants are healthy

Lastly, let’s solve reason number three the condition of your plants.

This is important because the weaker your plants get, the more pests algae will want to grow. It’s like a seesaw, for example, the healthier your plants are the less healthy, the algae will be. The less healthier plants are the more healthy, the algae will be.

The key here is that having healthy plants directly affects how much beard algae wants to grow, and having too few plant means not as much waste gets removed naturally, so always plant a lot.

And if your plants are not happy, maybe check your fertilizer routine or even possibly replacing your old soil. Regardless of replacing very old soil is very important, if you try to use a very old soil for a long time, the aquarium will slowly turn into a tank full of beard algae.

One way to replace soil is to just remove a section at a time and then add new soil to replace the old one. Or the other method is to take out most or all of the old soil then replace it with new soil. If you do this, I know of cases when doing a big soil change almost remove the beard algae instantly.

So things like soil can play a big role in solving beard algae. If you fix all of the three points mentioned, I would say almost everyone will not have anymore beard algae. Make no mistake, your problem will not go away overnight or in a few days, but instead the beard algae will gradually disappear until you don’t even notice it all gone.

So if you are having a beard algae problem, please look into those three reasons and how you can fix them.

In summary

To solve beard algae, I would say impulsiveness is actually quite an important treat to have.

It is much easier to remove beard algae with these techniques I have taught you when you first find it then it is to wait until your whole tank is covered in Black Beard algae.

For any algae, the speed of both finding and solving is the key. If you think this way daily observation of your aquarium is very important. I know that many of you are busy people, but try to at least watch your tank for five minutes every day.

For those five minutes watch your tank closely, look for things like if there are any pest algae growing, or if there is a fish carcass rolling around rotting in your tank. I would say the most important step you can take to prevent beard algae is to properly look at your aquarium.

I hope this post becomes a helpful resource for you to beat that annoying Black Beard algae.