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Copper Colored Algae


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Well, my tank has finally stabilized and all is well. However, over the last week the algae has turned from a beautiful, lush green to this horrible, copper colored stuff. It's really aggressive and has taken over my tank within a few days. Two days ago I did a water change and wiped it clean from the rocks and decorations, it's all ready back. Ironically, the stuff wipes off easier than any algae I've ever seen. Thankfully, my snails are eating it... I won't use any chemicals to get rid of it... been there, done that... not a good idea.

My tank is by a window, which has a thin curtain on it, but I don't think that's a contributing factor. I live in Seattle and let's face it, it's cloudy 80% of the time, even in the summer (it's raining as I type). Anyway, I leave my lights on about 10 hours per day. I've all ready tried experimenting with closing the curtains and/or leaving the light off while I'm at work and it only seems to make it worse.

For reference, here's my water parameters prior to my last water change (2-3 days ago):

Ammonia: 0

Nitrite: 0

Nitrate: 10

PH: 8.2- 8.4

Help! I just want that lovely green stuff back... Any suggestions about this?

Edited by Desiree
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The green stuff typically needs more light to be able to compete with the brown algae. Brown algae is easy to clean, but returns quickly if the factors are right for it. It is not harmful, though - just unsightly.

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Thanks Daryl! So, would you recommend I leave my lights on a bit longer? I have a good light, it's a Coralife T-5 I think. Or maybe leave my curtain open for more filtered sunlight to give the green algae more light to grow? Or will this just make the brown stuff get worse...

Edited by Desiree
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more sunlight is what did it for me...my 10g was getting really icky looking so i opened the curtains a little more during the day and within a week i was already noticing a difference. at the moment, its rather disgusting looking in there...i have remnants of brown algae i just havent entirely scrubbed off yet and the green stuff is starting to come in...good thing tomorrow is scrub tank day. (you know, i really must not have much of a life if i've dedicated an entire day to scrubbing tanks...lol...i really am an addict.)

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more sunlight is what did it for me...my 10g was getting really icky looking so i opened the curtains a little more during the day and within a week i was already noticing a difference. at the moment, its rather disgusting looking in there...i have remnants of brown algae i just havent entirely scrubbed off yet and the green stuff is starting to come in...good thing tomorrow is scrub tank day. (you know, i really must not have much of a life if i've dedicated an entire day to scrubbing tanks...lol...i really am an addict.)

More light is the only thing that works. You then get the green stuff which is a lot harder to wipe of, but it 'looks' better and according to gf rather tasty :exactly

Although I have noticed that mine from time to time do munch on the brown stuff though, now idea why :blink:

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Thanks everyone! Looks like the curtains will be open tomorrow... Hopefully the sun will come back out, it's summer here, but you wouldn't know it. Yeah, thankfully my little family of snails seem to be enjoying the brown algae, they've been munching on it all day. And yes, I've even caught my fish stealing a bite or two. I sure hope it turns to green in a few days.

Come to think about it, I was getting worried about my electric bill, so last week I left my light off when I left for work a few days in a row. But today, I got my bill (only $4), so it looks like my light will be back on throughout each day from now on. I bet that's what set off this brown algae...

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Thanks everyone! Looks like the curtains will be open tomorrow... Hopefully the sun will come back out, it's summer here, but you wouldn't know it. Yeah, thankfully my little family of snails seem to be enjoying the brown algae, they've been munching on it all day. And yes, I've even caught my fish stealing a bite or two. I sure hope it turns to green in a few days.

Come to think about it, I was getting worried about my electric bill, so last week I left my light off when I left for work a few days in a row. But today, I got my bill (only $4), so it looks like my light will be back on throughout each day from now on. I bet that's what set off this brown algae...

I confess ignorance about which type of tank lighting produces which kind of light (frequency-wise), but I just wanted to add that for green algae 'sunlight' is best. Actually, it's red and blue frequencies (especially the red, for those interested, see this picture of the absorbance spectrum of chlorophyll a and b) that are used by the algae's chlorophyll, so it doesn't help to increase the lighting when it's not what the algae specifically need/use.

I've tried to find the chlorophyll absorbance spectra for brown algae but came up short. I did find out however that their colour is the result of fucoxanthin, a carotenoid with a absorbance peak around 510-525 nm, which might make it (or in fact, it's chlorophyll) less able to take advantage of the light around these frequencies, and offer a possible explanation of why the green algae do better in brighter sunlight (which is richer in short wave light such at the blue light around 520 nm). This is just an educated guess though.

(I hope the biology/physics lesson wasn't too boring for you guys :) )

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your electric bill was only $4!!!! :yikes i wish mine was so low! :cry lol.

Well, there's a few reasons for this. Utilities are ridiculously cheap in Seattle, all my lights are energy savers, and I have a studio apt (fairly small) with HUGE windows so I get a lot of light. In the winter on the other hand, my bill goes waaaay up (roughly $40) due to heating costs. I'm used to paying $250 with air conditioning in SoCal, so yes, this really small bill was quite a pleasant suprise! :)

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