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Green Hair Algae Control

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 at 8:57 am

If it’s green, stringy, and overtaking your tank, chances are it’s Green Hair Algae. Green Hair Algae is the marine equivalent to our lawn’s summertime dandelion explosions. I mean that in the sense that it’s oddly attractive, yet completely a nuisance. Once Green Hair Algae has shown up in your reef tank, it can rapidly spread and create an aesthetic nightmare. Not to worry though, there are a few quick fixes and preventative measures that can keep this green beast at bay.

The first part of any good war strategy is to get to know the enemy. Green Hair Algae is a simple minded opponent that needs very specific things in order to survive and thrive. If you cut it off from its resources it will surely surrender. Green Hair Algae needs Nitrates, Phosphates (PO4), and Light to expand its empire. If you cut off access to these you will have it waving a white flag in no time.

Now that you understand Green Hair Algae, let’s look into ways to eliminate its food sources. The root of all evil in a marine aquarium is generally your water. If one uses anything other than RO/DI (reverse osmosis/deionized) water in their marine aquarium they risk adding numerous potential chemical and mineral nightmares including phosphates and nitrates to the system. It is essential that you use RO/DI water for both top-offs and water changes. Your success is directly affected by the quality of water that you introduce to the system. Other causes of Phosphates and Nitrates include the natural nitrogen cycling process, overfeeding, and waste within the tank. Below are a few ways to knock out these menacing sources.

  • Do water changes. Chances are if you are having Green Hair Algae issues you’re using tap water. I get it, it’s cheaper (in the short-run). Spring for an RO/DI unit or find a commercial source. It will save you hundreds in livestock losses and many headaches.
  • Add mangroves to your sump system. The roots of the mangroves absorb phosphates and are a unique natural solution.
  • Add some form of Macro-Algae to the sump system. Chaeto is an excellent choice. Chaeto will remove a lot of the unwanted excess nutrients out of the system, thus lowering the nitrates
  • Use a chemical weapons! There are several chemical alternatives such as GFO (Granulated Ferric Oxide), Nitrate Sponges, etc. Do your homework and find your own chemical warfare comfort zone. I suggest running GFO in a media reactor.
Ideal Reef Tank Water Parameters
Specific Gravity 1.024 – 1.026
pH 8.0 – 8.4
Alkalinity 8 – 12dKH
Calcium 400 – 450 ppm
Magnesium 1300 – 1350 ppm
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 10ppm or less
Phosphate .03 or less

You now know a few different ways to combat Green Hair Algae, but you still need to do some work to understand the most likely cause of your outbreak. Your ideal water parameters are as outlined in the table to the right:

Using your test kits you should be able to see where your problem areas are. However be warned, your Green Hair Algae may be absorbing the nitrates and phosphates giving you a false reading of near zero. If the Algae is there, you can be assured that you water quality is not up to par. Testing your water with quality testing kits is also a huge stepping stone to success.

You have now tested your water, chosen a plan of attack, and have started doing adequate water changes. You are on the right path. You need to do a few more things to eliminate the Green Hair Algae.

  • Remove all access clumps of the Green Hair Algae as carefully as you can to avoid splitting it up and sending fragments of it around to settle on your rock and build new colonies.
  • Clean all of your pumps and skimmers thoroughly. Be certain to eliminate any build up of algae that might be hiding within the sump chambers.
  • Stop over-feeding your tank!
  • Purchase a good cleaning crew. Many snails and crabs will eat the Green Hair Algae. I prefer Turbo Snails due to their demanding appetite.

With these methods you should be able to watch the Green Hair Algae disappear in a matter of a few weeks. You will hear this mantra often: Nothing good ever happens fast in this hobby. Just remember, keeping stable and acceptable water parameters in your marine aquarium is the single most important step in preventative and reactive Green Hair Algae defense. It will be a challenging battle, but a sure victory none-the-less. Good luck.

Red Bugs Treatment with Interceptor

Posted on Sunday, November 8th, 2009 at 1:42 pm

A friend has recently noticed that there were red bugs in his system, so I decided to outline a red bug treatment plan using Interceptor and add it to the Reef Tools knowledge base.

Tegastes acroporanus, commonly known as red bugs or red acro bugs are copepods that prey on Acropora corals. Red bugs are actually primarily yellow, with a bright red “spot”. They are very small and are sometimes difficult to see with the naked eye.


Sometimes, you can see tiny bright spots on a coral suspected of being infected by shining a flashlight directly on the exposed branches. I will add another article exclusively dedicated to red bugs, as well as one about treating new corals with Interceptors, but for now, let’s just say that red bugs feed exclusively on on Acropora corals, and are sure to create a less-than-optimal environment for corals on which they reside.

Let’s turn the discussion to treating your reef tank for red bugs, using Interceptor. Interceptor is a given to dogs and cats for the prevention of heartworm, hookworm, roundworms, and whipworms. It is important to note that the Interceptor comes in several tablet sizes, and for the purpose of this article, I will be referring to the large tabs (Dogs 51-100lbs and cats 12.1-25lbs).

Here is a photo of the current packaging for Interceptor:


And on of a single packaged tablet :


Red Bug Treatment Basics:
It is commonly agreed on, that a large tablet of Interceptor will adequately treat about 380 – 400 gallon or aquarium water. And although this is sometimes difficult to estimate, do your best, taking into account variables such as your sump, Calcium Reactor, Protein skimmer, refugium, and the amount of rock you have. It has been found that 25mg of Interceptor per 10 gallons of aquarium water is the appropriate dosage for killing red bugs.  Since Interceptor can negatively effect crabs and shrimp, you should remove them from your system for the length of the treatment. Please make sure to remove the air feed to your protein skimmer, so that it continues to run, but does not skim. Please also remove any carbon you have running in the system, and turn off Ozone and UV sterilizers. It is important that EVERY part of your system comes in contact with Interceptor, so if you turn off your GFO and Carbon reactors, please dispose of the water and replace with clean saltwater when turned back on.

Interceptor is known to kill adult red bugs, but it’s effect on the different stages of red bug life is speculative at best. As a result, the outlines treatment should be performed 3 time at a minimum. This will ensure that any adult red bugs remaining after the initial treatment as well as any that were juveniles or at the egg stage, are killed during the second treatment. A third treatment is performed as an insurance policy, as would subsequent treatments. There is some discussion regarding the treatment intervals, with some hobbyists performing 1 week intervals, and others performing the first two treatments a week apart, and the third treatment 2 weeks after that. In addition, some hobbyists wait 6 hours before turning everything back on, and some wait 12 hours. I have experimented and have found them both to be successful.

Red Bug Treatment Routine:
After you’ve read the previous section, and have performed the basic preparatory steps (skimmer on but not producing bubbles, carbon and gfo out, ozone off, uv sterilizer off), crush one large Interceptor pill with a spoon, until it is completely turned to powder. Take a cup of aquarium water, and mix the appropriate amount of crushed Interceptor (25mg per 10 gallons of aquarium water) until it’s disolved. Note, Interceptor is not the most soluble medication, so just keep mixing :). Once the solution is ready, pour it into your tank in a high flow area. Your aquarium should not cloud up, and should remain looking natural throughout the treatment. Once the desired treatment time has lapsed (6-12 hours), add fresh carbon to your reactor, and turn your skimmer, ozone, uv sterilizer, etc back on. You’re done. Repeat this a minimum of 3 times, and your tank should be red bug free!

How can I get Interceptor?
Interceptor is prescribed by a Vet. I have a couple of dogs, so obtaining Interceptor has never been an issue. If you do not have a dog, you can try printing this article and taking it with you to a vet’s office, and tell them what you will be using it for. There are also some mail-order companies in Canada that will ship out Interceptor without a prescription.

How can I weigh the correct dosage?
I crushed the tab into a powder, and then walked into a local pharmacy. After a brief discussion, they were more than happy to use their scale and assist me. (I will say that walking into a pharmacy with a strange powder and asking them to weigh it for you, may not work everywhere, and is sure to get you some strange looks, so be prepared).

Why do I still see red bugs in my tank after the treatment?
Red bugs latch only Acropora corals well into the late hours of the treatment, and sometimes for several days following the treatment. Use a turkey baster to get them off of the corals, following the treatment. Rest assure, than any living red bugs will be eradicated with follow up treatments.

Before we begin, let me say that this is just an article based on my research and experience. I am not telling you to perform this routine, nor do I want to get hate mail about it if your tank crashes at some point in the future 🙂

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