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Black Beard Hair Algae: Causes and Eradication

by Rahim Mohamed 06 Jun 2024

Black beard hair algae (BBA), also known as red beard algae or brush algae, is a common problem in freshwater aquariums. It is characterized by its dark, coarse filaments that can grow up to several inches in length. BBA can quickly spread and cover aquarium plants, décor, and even the aquarium walls, making it unsightly and potentially harmful to the health of the aquarium ecosystem.

Causes of Black Beard Hair Algae

The primary cause of BBA is an imbalance in the aquarium environment, specifically a lack of carbon dioxide (CO2) and an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphates and nitrates. Other factors that can contribute to BBA growth include:

  • Poor water circulation
  • Inadequate filtration
  • Overfeeding
  • Overcrowding
  • Insufficient lighting

Eradication of Black Beard Hair Algae

Eradicating BBA can be challenging, but it is possible with a combination of methods. Here are some effective steps to eliminate BBA from your aquarium:

1. Reduce Nutrients

  • Perform regular water changes to remove excess nutrients.
  • Reduce feeding or switch to a lower-nutrient food.
  • Use phosphate and nitrate test kits to monitor nutrient levels and adjust accordingly.

2. Increase Carbon Dioxide

  • Inject CO2 directly into the aquarium using a CO2 system.
  • Use liquid carbon supplements to increase CO2 levels.
  • Increase plant growth, as plants consume CO2.

3. Improve Water Circulation

  • Add additional powerheads or filters to increase water flow.
  • Remove any objects that obstruct water flow.

4. Manual Removal

  • Physically remove BBA by hand or using a toothbrush.
  • Trim infected plant leaves or remove heavily infested plants.
  • Vacuum the substrate regularly to remove BBA spores.

5. Chemical Treatments

  • Use algaecides specifically designed to target BBA.
  • Be cautious when using chemical treatments, as they can be harmful to fish and other aquarium inhabitants.

6. Biological Control

  • Introduce algae-eating animals such as Siamese algae eaters or Amano shrimp.
  • These animals will graze on BBA, helping to control its growth.


Once BBA has been eradicated, it is important to take steps to prevent its recurrence:

  • Maintain proper water parameters, including CO2 levels and nutrient balance.
  • Perform regular water changes and clean the aquarium regularly.
  • Avoid overfeeding and overcrowding.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and water circulation.

By following these steps, you can effectively eliminate black beard hair algae from your aquarium and create a healthy, thriving environment for your aquatic inhabitants.

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