How to Get Rid of Red Hair Algae in Reef Tank {The Best Advice}

Do you wish to know how to get rid of red hair algae in reef tank?

Will algaecides and other chemicals harm your delicate reef tank ecosystem?

In this article, we will discuss how to get rid of red hair algae in a reef tank.

How to Get Rid of Red Hair Algae in a Reef Tank

Control and slowly eliminate red hair algae growth for your reef tank by maintaining safe levels of:

  • ammonia
  • phosphate
  • nitrate 
  • CO2

Limiting detritus is also crucial. Find out the best advice on this topic by glancing over this article and finding out what you can do to get rid of red hair algae.

What’s Wrong With Red Hair Algae?

Hair algae is most common when it is green in color, but red, dark red or brownish brush algae can become a nuisance in your reef tank.

Here are some possible issues that may arise:

  • rapidly spreads throughout the tank
  • becomes firmly rooted and hard to remove
  • traps in detritus, ammonia and nitrates
  • out-competes reef plants from available nutrients

The decision is yours to make if your aim is to completely eliminate red hair algae or maintain it at a safe and comfortable level for some of your marine life to enjoy.

What Are Some Ways I Can Remove Red Hair Algae?

Red hair algae can get messy and tangled up in your tank. The following options are available for you to help control, maintain or completely get rid of red hair algae:

  • rip it out manually
  • introduce more algae-eating marine life
  • use algaecides
  • remove decorations, rocks and dip them in hydrogen peroxide or boil them in water
  • blackout the reef tank by shutting off all lights for 2 to 4 days
  • drop in algae removing tablets
  • perform more frequent water changes
  • inject CO2 into the tank through canisters or a syringe with liquid carbon
  • reduce phosphates with a full tank cleaning to remove detritus

It’s crucial to adopt patience through this process and not rush it. The health of your marine life, plants and nitrogen cycle must be placed ahead of trying to speed up the process of removing red hair algae.

Can I Rip Out the Red Hair Algae in My Reef Tank?

You can try to put on rubber gloves to keep your hands safe and begin removing the red hair algae you see by simply pulling at it. You can also use shearers to safely cut any pieces of red hair algae.

Although it may seem successful, this will not completely eliminate your red hair algae problem. It will come back.

The bigger issue is controlling the amount of phosphates, nitrates and ammonia from fish waste and food leftovers.

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Will a Blackout Kill Red Hair Algae?

The red hair algae is absorbing nutrients from the lights in and around your reef tank. Lowering the lighting system or shutting it off completely will help keep nutrients away from red hair algae, but it comes at a cost.

If your plants and marine life are not hardy enough to withstand 2 to 4 days of this blackout, you are facing a larger problem with stress, possible illness or death.

Start with a 1 day blackout and monitor your plants and marine life. In the future, reduce lighting to 8 to 10 hours instead of the usual 12 per day.

You might be able to manage your red hair algae problem, but eliminating it completely needs more focus on water quality and eliminating excess detritus.

What Are the Best Algae Eaters for My Reef Tank?

If you have decided to maintain low and manageable levels of red hair algae, your marine life may appreciate it for their daily snacking needs.

At this point, it’s time to employ some algae eaters. Here are some great choices for your reef tank:

  • Purple Tang
  • Emerald Crab
  • Chevron Tang
  • Yellow Tang
  • Foxface
  • Electric Blue Hermit Crab
  • Chestnut Cowries
  • Highfin Blenny
  • Starry Blenny
  • Two Spot Blenny
  • Sailfin Blenny
  • Linear Blenny
  • Tail Spot Blenny
  • Scribbled Rabbitfish
  • Potter’s Angelfish
  • Aplysia sea slugs
  • Trochus snails
  • Cerith snails
  • Mexican Turbo Snails

Which Reef Plants Help Control Red Hair Algae?

The right choice of plants in your reef tank can help steal away available nutrients from red hair algae.

If the plants are not hardy enough, they may lose the battle with algae and suffer the consequences by withering away.

The following reef plants well help to decrease brush or hair algae from your reef tank

  • Red Mangrove Propagule
  • Turtle Grass Shoots
  • Shaving Brush Plant
  • Mermaid’s Fan
  • Halimeda

The shade that these plants can also provide will eliminate the light source that red hair algae receives.

What Can I Use In My Reef Tank To Get Rid Of Red Hair Algae?

When managing a reef tank, we are taking on the role of trying to replicate conditions in the ocean. Please take our 4 pieces of advice below.

  1. By adding in algaecides, liquid carbon, hydrogen peroxide, we are altering the delicate balance of the ecosystem we are trying to create.
  2. If you can accept marginal levels of algae growth, you will do a better job of managing and maintaining it instead of being frustrated over trying to completely eradicate it and wishing that it never comes back.
  3. We cannot safely recommend adding in any chemicals that may disturb the delicate balance of your plants and marine life as well as your nitrogen cycle.
  4. Maintaining clean and healthy water by eliminating ammonia and detritus is your best bet to control red hair algae growth.


Sudden changes including lengthy blackouts of the addition of chemicals won’t keep red hair algae from returning. The ocean adapts to changes slowly and you need to move slow as well.

Red hair algae will die out in tine once you eliminate the nutrients it absorbs through ammonia that it traps in. Creating extra shade with hardy reef plants will also starve it from light sources.

We will not accuse you of having a dirty reef tank, but we can attest that without regular management and removal of detritus, red hair algae will continue to come back even if you try all methods that we have proposed in this article.

Waste and leftovers are hiding everywhere from corals, rocks and the substrate. Your algae eaters will help, but you must do more to eliminate ammonia caused by detritus to get rid of red hair algae once and for all.


Thanks for visiting and we hope to see you again for another article on algae or any other types of aquatic life that interests you. 

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.