Staghorn Algae In Fish Aquariums (Causes & Treatment)

Do you have staghorn algae in your aquarium and you are wondering how it got there and how to remove it?

Staghorn Algae is a light / white stringy in appearance and can take over an aquarium very quickly when it has started to grow.  This Algae can also be quite hard to remove from your aquarium.

Staghorn Algae

What Causes Staghorn Algae?

Staghorn Algae usually grows in your aquarium because of poor conditions such as water flow and filtering. Another main reason is low CO2 and high levels of ammonia.

Staghorn Algae is also more likely to form in an aquarium that has live plants.

Below is a list of all the things that can cause staghorn algae growth in your aquarium

  • Poor Water Flow Or Circulation
  • Poor Filtering System
  • Low CO2 In Water
  • High Ammonia Levels
  • High Levels Of Iron Fertiliser
  • To Much Light In Aquarium
  • New Tanks
  • Fish Waste
  • Rotting Plants

What Is Staghorn Algae?

Staghorn Algae is a type of red algae that is fast growing and will cling on to anything it touches.  It will form light / white strands that can be many inches long.

This algae is mostly seen in planted aquariums and will easily take over your aquarium because they will starve the plants of the nutrients they need.

Worse of all the algae will grow on your plants and will be very hard to remove.

YouTube video

Is Staghorn Algae Bad For My Aquarium?

Staghorn Algae is not actually bad for your aquarium.  The algae will actually feed on the waste in your tank as well as producing oxygen to your water.

Some organisms will also form on the algae and your fish will feed on these organisms as well as the algae.

Having said that, Staghorn Algae will consume nutrients in the water much faster than plants or fish will, so your plants and fish in the aquarium are less likely to thrive.

If gone untreated Staghorn Algae can quickly grow and take over your aquarium, so make sure you take action ASAP.

Will Staghorn Algae Kill My Plants?

Staghorn Algae will eventually kill all the plants in your aquarium by starving them of the nutrients they need to survive.

If there is little staghorn algae in your tank it will not harm your plants at all, But as it grows the algae will consume more and more nutrients which will mean there will be less and less for the plants to consume.

Will Staghorn Algae Kill My Plants

The algae will also grow on the plants which can block them from getting sun light and also consuming nutrients, The two main things plants need to survive.

Is Staghorn Algae Bad For My Fish

Staghorn algae will not do any harm to your fish at all.  In fact your fish will feed on the algae and the organisms that live on the algae.

The algae forms in your aquarium because of some sort of issue such as poor water conditions, So this condition will be bad for your fish.

The algae over time will also kill all the plants in your aquarium which will eventually rot and cause poor water conditions in your aquarium.

So, the algae does not directly harm your fish, but the conditions that caused the algae growth and the damage the algae does to your plants will in turn harm your fish.

How To Get Rid Of Staghorn Algae

The best way to get rid of staghorn algae in your aquarium is to add seachem flourish excel to your water, this will attack the algae as well as helping the plants in your aquarium to flurrish.

You can buy seachem flourish excel from amazon

Before adding flourish excel to your water you will need to remove the staghorn algae from your aquarium by hand.

Start by removing it from the plants, you should be able to rub it off like shown in the video below.  If the algae is mature and can not be removed consider removing the plant from your tank.

YouTube video

Next make sure to give all the ornaments in your tank a good rub.  Now after about 10 minutes give your filter a good clean, then again rub the plants and orniments to remove the lose algae.

Leave the tank for an hour then add the seachem flourish excel to your water.  Read the instructions before adding it to the water. I recommend to place it in your tank right next to the filter so it spreads it all over your tank.

Keep up the treatment with seachem flourish excel and after about a week most of the staghorn algae should of died.  I recommend that you clean out your filter every other day to make sure it does not get clogged up.

What Fish Will Eat Staghorn Algae?

Siamese algae eaters, also known as Crossocheilus oblongus are the best fish to remove staghorn algae from your aquarium.  They are well know for eating many different types of algae.

Below is a video of a Crossocheilus oblongus eating black beard algae from a plant.

YouTube video

Fish will typically only eat algae if there is no other food source available for them to eat.  Algae is a good addition to a fish diet, Algae should not be the only thing the fish feeds on as this does not contain all the nutrients they need.

Other fish that will eat staghorn algae include

  • Koi
  • Goldfish
  • Carp
  • Minnows
  • Most Catfish
  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Mollies
  • Barbs
  • Tang Fish
  • Pleco Fish

Will Shrimp Eat Staghorn Algae?

Shrimp will only eat staghorn algae if there is no other food source available.  Some shrimp will not eat the algae even if they are very hungry.

You should not expect shrimp to eat the algae because they just don’t like to eat it because they are fussy eaters.

You will have more luck with fish and snails eating the algae from your aquarium.

Will hydrogen peroxide kill staghorn algae?

You can use hydrogen peroxide to kill staghorn algae on plants, ornaments and gravel, just make sure that you remove them from the tank before applying.

You can also use bleach to remove staghorn algae from your plants, ornaments and gravel, Just make sure not to soak in it for to long.

Make sure you clean the plants, ornaments and gravel thoroughly under a tap before putting them back in to your aquarium

How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to kill algae? It only takes a few minutes for the hydrogen peroxide to kill algae, Do not use for much longer or this could damage what you are applying it to

Will staghorn algae go away on its own?

Staghorn algae will not go away on its own.  The algae is in your aquarium because of a conditions such as poor water conditions, to much light, High ammonia levels.

You will need to find and resolve the root cause for the algae growth in your tank.

Once the root cause has been found and resolved you will need to treat your water with something like seachem flourish excel (Available from amazon)

Why is the staghorn algae turning red?

Healthy Staghorn Algae will be white or grey in colour, if it is turning red this is a sign that it is dying.

staghorn algae turning red

If you have followed the steps above then the algae will turn red and at this time you should remove it from your aquarium.

After applying treatments the algae should die between two days up to a week.

Make sure you perform regular water changes by changing 50% of your aquariums water every other day.