What Causes Bubble Algae? {How To Get Rid Of Bubble Algae}

Are you noticing bubble algae spreading in areas of your reef tank? How did this happen and how can you get rid of it? In this article, we’ll find out what causes bubble algae.

What Causes Bubble Algae? The spores of bubble algae spread easily when they arrive on live rocks, corals or other items in your tank. Lights, nitrates, phosphates and nutrients in your tank that help algae grow will also allow for bubble algae to spread. 

What Is Bubble Algae?

Bubble algae is also known by the following names and varieties:

  • Ventricaria ventricosa (large bubbles and most common)
  • Valonia macrophysa (clustered bubbles that are elongated)
  • Boegesenia (less dense bubbles)
  • Dictosphaeria ocellata (slimy light green bubbles)
  • Dictosphaeria cavernosa (ugly pitted bubbles)
  • Sea Pearl or Sailor’s Eyeballs (common nicknames)

This algae can spread rapidly with or without popping them in your reef tank. They can quickly become a nuisance if you don’t manually remove them, starve them of nutrients or employ bubble algae eaters to devour them.

How Big Does Bubble Algae Get?

Bubble algae can look rounded or tubular. They can be as small as peas or larger than a quarter. Each “bubble” is a single cell. The largest bubbles can reach up to 5cm in length

The spores can easily spread when popped or ruptured. Bubble algae likes to anchor on rocks, equipment or other live, planted and artificial decorations in your tank.

Do I Need To Remove Bubble Algae?

Bubble algae can quickly become a nuisance if it spreads in the following places:

  • inside powerhead intakes
  • throughout overflow tubes
  • clogged substrate vacuums
  • suffocate corals
  • consume rocks

Before you know it, the growth of bubble algae can quickly spread to a point where an algae eating fish or invertebrate will not be able to help you.

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How Did I Get Bubble Algae In My Tank?

You may not have noticed it, but you probably brought in bubble algae spores in your tank when they were attached to live rocks or corals.

The spores can go undetected and this is why we should quarantine anything before we place it into a delicate reef tank. Look at the plugs or disks on live rocks where bubble algae anchors itself.

Remove any of these vesicles manually, clean or quarantine the rocks for up to a week before placing them into your reef aquarium.

How Does Bubble Algae Spread?

Bubble algae spreads when its spores get scattered throughout the tank. This could happen when the filters or powerheads push them along the reef tank or when the bubbles are popped.

The water column can get overrun quickly with this form of pest algae. You can:

  • pop them
  • scrape them
  • siphon or suck them out
  • suffocate them by reducing light
  • eliminate nitrates
  • lower phosphates
  • add more live plants
  • bring in bubble algae eaters

Can I Pop Bubble Algae?

Popping the bubble algae may cause the spores to spread across the water column. Others may disagree and notice no such effect.

The better method is to scrape or manually pick them out with a chisel or flathead screwdriver. This may not eliminate all the spores that can find their way into vesicles of live rocks.

The bubbles are anchored, but a gentle wiggle should dislodge them.

What Fish Eats Bubble Algae?

There are many fish you can stock in your reef tank to eat bubble algae including:

  • Highfin Blenny
  • Lawnmower Blenny
  • Rockskippers
  • Combtooth Blenny
  • Naso Tang
  • Red Sea Sailfin
  • Convict tang
  • Angelfish
  • Surgeonfish
  • Fox Faces
  • Invertebrates (Emerald Crab, Nerite Snail)

We tend to enjoy watching Emerald crabs and Nerite Snails focusing and devouring bubble algae more than any fish who just nibble at it with less desire and care.

What Is The Best Way To Remove Bubble Algae?

We have mentioned scraping, twisting, picking and manually removing bubble algae with a chisel or flathead screwdriver.

The best method for removing bubble algae has got to be siphoning them to suck them out of your reef tank. Remove these bubbles through a siphon before they grow too large and end up clogging tubes or intakes.

Bubble algae that ruptures may also release spores throughout the tank. Remove rocks that are covered in bubble algae. Clean them in a bucket with saltwater.

Ornamental algae like Caulerpa or live plants can outcompete bubble algae for nutrients as well. They will block or prevent certain areas from being colonized with bubble algae.

Which Invertebrates Eat Bubble Algae?

Invertebrates can help to scoop up bubble algae, but they also like nibbling or damaging corals too. The following invertebrates like to consume bubble algae:

  • Sea Urchins
  • Emerald Crabs
  • Mithrax Sculptus
  • Sea Hares
  • Turbo Snails
  • Nerite Snails

The best method is still manual removal. Invertebrates will help, but they also contribute the overall bio-load of your tank.


Bubble algae will not go away on its own. You can starve them out by reducing aquarium lights with a blackout period. Make sure your fish and corals are hardy enough to withstand 2-3 days without light.

The better method is to manually remove bubble algae by hand, with a flathead screwdriver or siphon and suck them out.

Some fish and invertebrates will help to eat bubble algae, but you can manually remove rocks and equipment that are covered in bubble algae overgrowth.


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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.

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