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How to Get Rid of Black Beard Algae (BBA) in Your Aquarium: Tips & Tricks 2024

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how to get rid of black beard algaeRidding yourself of Black Beard Algae (BBA) can be frustrating, but you can do it!

First, pinpoint and resolve the underlying cause – typically nutrient imbalance, insufficient CO2, or inadequate flow.

Then, enlist the help of algae-eating crew members like Amano shrimp and otocinclus catfish. Target persistent patches with Liquid Carbon or hydrogen peroxide treatments.

However, prevention is paramount – maintain thriving plants, minimize phosphates, and enhance flow.

With patience and persistence, that pesky BBA will be just a distant memory.

Want to nip it in the bud permanently? Continue reading for a thorough plan of action.

Key Takeaways

  • Starve the beast: Cut off the supply lines of black beard algae by limiting nutrients and boosting CO2 levels.
  • Enlist an algae army: Introduce algae-eating fish and shrimp to your tank to munch on the BBA.
  • Chemical warfare: Use liquid carbon or hydrogen peroxide to target stubborn patches.
  • Prevention is the best medicine: Maintain healthy plants, reduce phosphates, and keep the water flowing to prevent BBA from taking hold.

How to Get Rid of Black Beard Algae?

To get rid of black beard algae, start by improving water conditions and reducing nutrients. Using algae-eating fish or chemical treatments like hydrogen peroxide can also help (Source).

Identifying the Root Cause of Black Beard Algae

Identifying the Root Cause of Black Beard Algae
You’re experiencing a stubborn outbreak of black beard algae (BBA) in your aquarium. This unsightly algae thrives in conditions with nutrient imbalances, insufficient CO2 levels, and poor water flow.

Nutrient Imbalance

Battling black beard algae? Check your nutrient levels. An excess of phosphates over nitrates fuels this stubborn algae’s growth. To regain control:

  • Monitor phosphates and maintain a 1:10 ratio to nitrates
  • Avoid phosphate sources like tap water and cheap fish food
  • Use an aquasoil substrate and balanced fertilization method

With nutrients in check, you’ll pave the way for thriving plants that naturally inhibit algae.

Inadequate CO2

You might be dealing with inadequate CO2 levels if your java fern and other plants are struggling. An unstable pH and low alkalinity create conditions ripe for algae growth. Tackle stubborn BBA by:

  1. Ensuring consistent CO2 injection
  2. Agitating the surface with a stiff toothbrush
  3. Adding algae crew like Siamese Algae Eaters or Florida flag fish

Poor Water Flow

Poor water flow can also contribute to BBA growth. Dead spots and stagnant areas allow nutrients and CO2 to accumulate, providing ideal conditions for BBA. To address this:

  1. Use powerheads or wavemakers to improve circulation
  2. Relocate or reposition equipment to eliminate dead zones
  3. Physically remove BBA with a wire brush or toothbrush

Maintaining good flow throughout your aquarium will help prevent BBA from taking hold.

Biological Control Methods

Biological Control Methods
You can introduce algae-eating fish like Siamese algae eaters or Florida flagfish to combat black beard algae biologically. Amano shrimp also make an excellent clean-up crew, though you’ll need a sizable population to tackle an established algae problem.

Algae-Eating Fish

One biological control method involves introducing algae-eating fish to your aquarium. Here are a few options to explore:

  • Siamese algae eaters – Voracious eaters that love BBA
  • Bristlenose plecos – Suck up algae with their sucker mouths
  • Florida flagfish – Peaceful community fish that nip at algae
  • Otocinclus catfish – Tiny, algae-grazing bottom-dwellers


While algae-eating fish are helpful, shrimp are another biological control option. You’ll need a large shrimp population to make a dent in black beard algae:

  1. Amano shrimp are excellent algae grazers.
  2. Cherry shrimp breed readily, building a sizable clean-up crew.
  3. Verify shrimp compatibility with tank mates and provide varied diet.

With patience and proper shrimp care, their constant grazing can slowly eliminate black beard algae.

Chemical Control Methods

Chemical Control Methods
To chemically treat black beard algae, liquid carbon products are highly effective when dosed directly onto the affected areas or into the entire aquarium water column. However, use caution with sensitive plants.

Alternatively, a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution can be applied outside the aquarium. Spray it onto the algae, allow it to sit for 5 minutes, then rinse and return the treated decor or plants to the tank.

Liquid Carbon

Another chemical method is using liquid carbon products like Seachem Excel or API CO2 Booster. You can:

  1. Target specific BBA areas
  2. Spray the solution directly
  3. Dose the entire tank
  4. Repeat applications regularly

While effective, exercise caution with sensitive plants. For a safer approach, consider hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Liquid carbon isn’t your only chemical option. Another effective solution is hydrogen peroxide. Here’s how to nuke BBA with H2O2:

  1. Dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide 1:3 with water
  2. Turn off equipment and run an air pump
  3. Apply the solution directly to affected areas
  4. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly

Be sure to take proper safety precautions, like gloves, and follow the application duration closely. With some elbow grease, that pesky BBA will be history.

Preventative Measures

Preventative Measures
To get ahead of black beard algae (BBA), you’ll want to maintain a healthy, thriving plant environment. This involves reducing phosphate levels through diligent water changes, limiting fish food, and ensuring adequate water flow to distribute nutrients evenly.

Maintain Healthy Plants

You’ll win the battle against BBA by maintaining thriving aquatic plants that emit allelochemicals to inhibit algae growth. Focus on:

  1. Proper light intensity (120 PAR for CO2, 80 PAR for non-CO2)
  2. Consistent CO2 levels and water chemistry
  3. Regular fertilization and root substrate

With happy, healthy plants, BBA won’t stand a chance in your aquascape.

Reduce Phosphates

With healthy plants established, you’ll next want to reduce phosphate levels to starve out BBA. Here are three ways:

  1. Use RO/DI water and remineralize it
  2. Avoid fish foods high in phosphates
  3. Perform frequent water changes

Excessive phosphates fuel BBA growth, so limiting this nutrient deprives it of sustenance. High CO2 levels also enable plants to out-compete algae, further discouraging BBA’s spread.

Improve Water Flow

Stagnant areas are BBA breeding grounds, so you’ll want to improve circulation with:

  1. Repositioned powerheads to eliminate dead spots
  2. Adding a small powerhead for better flow
  3. Adjusting the output of existing powerheads

Proper water movement discourages BBA growth by preventing pockets of poor nutrient distribution and low CO2 levels.

Patience and Persistence

Patience and Persistence
Winning the battle against black beard algae requires patience and persistence. It won’t disappear overnight, so prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. Here are three keys to success:

  • Consistency: Stick to a routine of identifying new growth and treating it immediately. Don’t let up, even when progress seems slow.
  • Diligence: Be thorough in your approach. Inspect every corner and treat every affected area. BBA thrives on overlooked remnants.
  • Determination: Stay the course, even when it feels discouraging. With proper nutrients, flow, and CO2 levels, your diligence will pay off as the algae loses its foothold.

Stay patient, keep at it day after day, and you’ll eventually starve out this stubborn nuisance. Consistency and determination are your greatest allies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to starve black beard algae?

Let’s say your aquarium is a battlefield, and black beard algae is the enemy – to starve it, cut off its supply lines. Limit phosphates and nitrates by doing diligent water changes, and increase CO2 levels to outcompete the invaders. With persistence, you’ll regain control of your tank.

What causes black beard algae in an aquarium?

Black beard algae grows in aquariums due to high phosphate levels, fluctuating or low CO2, poor water circulation, and overfeeding. Guarantee balanced nutrients, stable CO2, good circulation, and proper feeding to prevent its growth .

Do water changes help with black beard algae?

To keep black beard algae at bay, perform regular water changes to reduce nutrient buildup. It’s not a silver bullet, but combined with other methods, you’ll see improvement in controlling BBA .

What is the best algae eater for black beard?

To control black beard algae, Siamese algae eaters are your best bet. They actively graze on the algae, helping to keep your tank clean and your plants healthy .

Is black beard algae harmful to fish?

Black beard algae aren’t directly harmful to fish, but their growth can indicate poor tank conditions and stress plants. This can indirectly affect fish health due to degraded water quality and lack of proper nutrients (Source).

How long does it take to kill?

Curiously, it can take you 6-8 months to fully eradicate Black Beard Algae (BBA) in your aquarium with persistent efforts using methods like hydrogen peroxide treatment, CO2 management, and biological control with Siamese algae eaters .

Will it affect other plant/algae species?

Black beard algae competes for nutrients and light, potentially stunting or killing other plants. Its fast growth disrupts the ecosystem, harming beneficial algae and creating imbalances that can lead to a less healthy and vibrant aquarium (Source).

Can it grow on aquarium glass?

Black Beard Algae, symbolizing a persistent shadow on your aquarium’s beauty, can indeed grow on aquarium glass, thriving on imbalances and poor maintenance. Regular cleaning and balanced water parameters prevent its unwelcome expansion .

What water parameters encourage its growth?

High phosphate levels, fluctuating or low CO2, poor water circulation, and excessive organic waste promote black beard algae growth. Establish equilibrium in water parameters, and manage CO2 and nutrients to mitigate these conditions .


Imagine your aquarium thriving without the unsightly black beard algae. By addressing root causes like nutrient imbalances and poor CO2 levels, and employing biological controls such as algae-eating fish and shrimp, you can effectively combat BBA.

Chemical methods using liquid carbon or hydrogen peroxide further target stubborn patches. Prevention is key—maintain healthy plants, reduce phosphates, and enhance water flow. With persistence, you’ll succeed in getting rid of black beard algae, ensuring a beautiful, algae-free aquarium.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and beard care expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and get fatter. His work has been mentioned in countless notable publications on men's care and style and has been cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.