How to Get Rid of Black Beard Algae (BBA)

What is Black Beard Algae (BBA)?

Black Beard Algae (BBA) or brush algae typically manifests as bushy, tuft-like growths that cling tenaciously to plant leaves, decorations, and tank equipment. Its hardy nature makes it a persistent issue on slow growing plants such as Anubias and Bucephalandra as well as hardscape.

Black beard algae

What Causes Black Beard Algae?

There are three key factors that cause Black Beard Algae:

  1. Flow: BBA is commonly seen in areas of high flow. For example it is commonly seen on the filter outlet or on plants/hardscape that receive high levels of flow.
  2. Inconsistent CO2 Levels: Fluctuating CO2 levels often causes BBA. This is common when a CO2 cylinder runs out, resulting in a sudden absence in CO2. It may also be caused by unreliable DIY, yeast/sugar based CO2 systems that generate varying levels of CO2.
  3. Organic build-up: An aquarium that is not frequently cleaned or has a build-up of waste in the substrate may  trigger BBA.

The following factors do not cause BBA:

  1. Light: BBA is not caused by high lighting, however, it will grow faster if provided with higher light levels.
  2. High phosphates: There is no real link between any nutrient level and BBA. The idea that BBA is caused by phosphates is false. Many modern, CO2 injected aquariums run with very high phosphate levels without any BBA.

How to Get Rid of Black Beard Algae:

  1. Manual Removal: Physically remove as much BBA as possible. BBA tufts can be pulled off with fingers or tweezers. A steel brush is also extremely effective at removing it from hardscape
  2. Chemical Treatment: AquaLabs Algae Aid is an excellent solution for BBA. It can be dosed directly on the affected area and the algae will die off in approximately 48 hours 

Preventing Black Beard Algae:

Black beard algae is quite easy to prevent once its causes are understood

  1. Maintain proper CO2 levels: If injecting CO2, ensure a 1.0pH drop by the time the aquarium lights have turned on. Alternatively, a green/yellow drop checker by the time lights have turned on. A backup CO2 cylinder is also useful to limit the time between bottle changeovers when one runs out
  2. Flow: Redirect flow away from slow-growing plants and hardscape. If this cannot be done, regular treatments with AquaLabs Algae Aid are an excellent alternative.
  3. Change Outflow Pipe: Changing to a 'poppy' style lily pipe is a creative way to redirect flow away from plants.

Chihiros Poppy Type Glass Outflow M 12/16 Aquarium Filter Pipe – Green  Aquatic

What Eats Black Beard Algae?

There are a handful of aquarium inhabitants that can help defeat BBA.

  1. Siamese Algae Eater (SAE): The SAE, not to be confused with the Chinese algae eater, is excellent at consuming BBA. It is the only known algae-eater that will eat BBA when it is still alive.
  2. Shrimp: Shrimp will eat BBA, but only after it has died due to chemical treatment.
  3. Otocinclus: Otocinclus will eat BBA, but only after it has died due to chemical treatment.
  4. Bristlenose Catfish: Bristlenose will eat BBA, but only after it has died due to chemical treatment.
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