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Algae growth is a common problem for novice aquaponics practitioners. Sooner or later, and without any intervention, algae can quickly take over your tank. Before giving up on your hobby, it’s good to know that there are many algae eaters you can add to your aquaponics system. So, what are the best algae eaters for aquaponics?
The best algae eaters are aquatic creatures you can add to your system to control algae growth efficiently. They either exclusively feed on algae or make them a part of their diet. Here are the most common algae consumers you should consider adding into your system:
In this article, we will cover how algae grow and inhibit plant growth and enumerate the different aquatic animals considered as efficient algae eaters.
What Are Algae?
Algae are considered plant organisms that thrive best in aquatic environments. There are over 350,000 species of algae, and they come in various forms. Some are stringy and furry, while others can appear bubbly, or slimy. They are also available in different colors, with green as the most common one you see on your tank.
Although they are plants, algae are not the same as terrestrial plants, which have stems, leaves, true roots, and transporting tissues. Also, they only have simple reproductive structures.
How Do Algae Grow?
Since algae belong to the plant kingdom, they have the same needs as the plants that you grow in your system. They need light and oxygen, water, and the nutrients to thrive and multiply – and they do so very quickly.
For example, when you have your tank outdoors, your tank may be getting too much sunlight. As a result, algae can multiply if you don’t do anything to diminish exposure to light. In this case, providing a garden shade can be very helpful.
Algae may make any aquatic scene look more natural, but most aquaponic growers wouldn’t want them to appear on their tanks, knowing the problems they can bring if they are not controlled.
Problems With Algae In Aquaponics
If algae populations are not managed properly, they can cause serious problems in your system. The most urgent of these problems, which need your attention are the following:
- Oxygen depletion
- pH fluctuations
Algae overgrow quickly, which leads to a phenomenon called algae blooms. When this happens, algae consume oxygen that is intended for your fish. Oxygen consumption is at its highest when the algae start to die off, and this becomes concerning for your aquatic animals that need oxygen to survive.
Algae also consume oxygen at night, and when they accumulate in your system, dissolved oxygen is quickly depleted.
pH is a useful indicator of the overall health of your system. For your plants and fish to thrive, there has to be a balance of the pH. However, when algae are present in large quantities, pH can fluctuate dramatically.
Algae photosynthesize during the day and consume carbon dioxide, a weak acid, in the process. Since carbon dioxide is being removed, this results in a raised pH, making your water more basic or alkaline.
You may not notice this or you may be confused when you test your pH going high in the morning but will, later on, decrease by nightfall. But this is likely an effect of the presence of algae.
How Bad Is Algae?
Based on the two negative effects mentioned above, you can see how algae can compete with your fish or crustaceans for oxygen and make the tank an unfavorable environment for these creatures. That said, you have to tackle the problem by making sure algae don’t reproduce in your system. One of the measures to keep algae at bay is by adding algae eaters in your tank.
Best Algae Eaters For Aquaponics
Adding animals that feed on algae can be considered as one of the most economical and natural methods of controlling algae. Fish and crustaceans will make great additions to your system to help control algae growth.
You may already be keeping an algae-eater; if not, you can get the most efficient ones, which are herbivore or omnivore species. On the other hand, crustaceans, which usually settle at the bottom of your tank, are also excellent algae feeders.
Plecostomus (also Plecos or suckerfish) are among the most popular algae-eaters for aquarists. They are often added for algae control, thanks to their suction-cup-like mouths. But experts recommend against keeping Plecos for the sole purpose of getting rid of algae since these fish can outgrow your tank rather quickly.
Instead, you can depend on the fish that you are currently raising in your aquaponics system to help clean out your tank. Some of the best fish for aquaponics that eat algae wherever they find it are the following:
When it comes to shrimp, one species is recognized for its love for algae – the Amano shrimp. Not only does this species look interesting, but they help clean your tank since they feed on different types of algae.
If you plan to keep Amano shrimp, there’s one tip to make sure they only go after algae: never give them commercial feed. Amano shrimp eat algae only when they’re starving. For that reason, you might want to cut down on feeding them so they’ll go for the algae instead.
Algae growth is normal when you raise fish. A perfect, algae-free aquatic space doesn’t exist, despite religious care and maintenance of your aquaponics system. Seeing algae in your tank is not necessarily a bad thing, but it only becomes a problem when algae populations are not kept in check.
More than aesthetic concerns, algae compete with fish for resources in your tank. Overgrowth also results in pH fluctuations. Both effects are harmful to your system if not remediated.
Adding the best algae eaters is one of the natural ways you can control algae growth. If you have a problem with algae, consider adding algae-feeding omnivorous or herbivorous fish and shrimps.