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Staghorn algae

In this article I want to write about my experience with Staghorn algae; scientific name "Compsopogon sp.". However, this is not a scientific article. I'm not writing a definitive guide to how to eliminate this algae from your aquarium. I'm going to write how I defeat it.

Let's start from the very beginning. I established my aquarium in April 2006. I keep a few plants and fish there. Feel free to read about my tank at my blog called Aquarium fish and plants. Step by step, I planted my aquarium successfully. Basically, I was introducing new plants as well as Staghorn algae into my tank. I cannot say exactly when I first got the algae, but I noticed some algae in my aquarium. I didn't know what a catastrophe was waiting for me. In the beginning, I saw only a few spots. Immediately, only a week after the first spot was noticed, the algae had grown on every piece of my tank. It usually grows about 5-10 cm during a night, so I had to cut a lot of algae from my tank every morning. I couldn't believe how fast it was growing.

Please, check the photo gallery at the bottom of this page, so you'll understand how my aquarium was looking "over-planted" with the Staghorn algae.

At that time, I went on a holiday with my family and I was away for 2 weeks. When I returned, I could not believe my eyes. That algae was present in the whole tank, only the top layer of 5 centimetres was free; my fish were swimming at this level. Then I decided to kill this algae.

I started to looking for some information about the Staghorn algae problem including what I must do to kill it. I found some informative forums posts that this algae grow badly in water without any fertilization. So I bought some aquarium water tests and made tests in my fish tank.

The results are as follows:

And this was my problem; the water was too hard and alkaline. The NO2, P and Fe level was also too low. Basically, people consider similar values as a starting point for other algae to grow. In my own experience, they're not.

I next bought a PMDD. This is a fertilizer designed for helping aquarium plants to grow fast. I started the fertilization process according to the manual. After two weeks, levels of NO2, NO3 and Fe went up, but the algae was still growing.

Next, I bought a CO2 pressure bottle and I put a granule of peat inside my external filter. Suddenly, the pH and kH went down. My new values are below:

After these changes, the algae slowly stopped growing. I bought more plants and removed all the old plants. What's interesting is that a lot of algae changed it's colour from green to black. In my opinion, the reason is that it was dead.

Nowadays, I keep all the values at the same levels, since they prevent my tank from the Staghorn algae even though there are some small spots which don't reproduce at all. As time goes by, I'm watching how these spots disappear.

On the other hand, I know that I probably will not kill all of the algae. Anyway, my goal is to keep my aquarium clean and without any Staghorn. Patrik Ruzic alias Wampa (visit my blog at; patrik.ruzic at gmail dot com

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