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Diatom Algae in Aquariums: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

by Rahim Mohamed 06 Jun 2024

Diatom algae are a type of single-celled algae that are commonly found in aquariums. They appear as a brown or golden-brown film on the glass, plants, and decorations in the tank. While diatoms are not harmful to fish or other aquatic life, they can be unsightly and can interfere with the overall health of the aquarium.

Causes of Diatom Algae

Diatom algae thrive in aquariums with high levels of silicates. Silicates are naturally present in tap water and can also be introduced into the aquarium through sand or gravel substrates. Other factors that can contribute to diatom algae growth include:

  • Overfeeding
  • Insufficient water changes
  • Poor filtration
  • High lighting levels

Preventing Diatom Algae

The best way to prevent diatom algae is to control silicate levels in the aquarium. This can be done by:

  • Using a reverse osmosis (RO) water filter to remove silicates from tap water
  • Choosing a sand or gravel substrate that is low in silicates
  • Performing regular water changes (25-50% weekly)
  • Avoiding overfeeding

Treating Diatom Algae

If diatom algae has already taken hold in your aquarium, there are several methods you can use to get rid of it:

Manual Removal

Gently scrub the affected surfaces with a soft brush or sponge. Be careful not to damage the plants or decorations in the tank.

Chemical Treatment

There are several algaecides available that are effective against diatoms. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and be sure to remove any dead algae from the tank after treatment.

Biological Control

Some species of shrimp and snails feed on diatoms. Adding these creatures to your aquarium can help to control algae growth.

UV Sterilization

UV sterilizers can kill diatom algae and other microorganisms in the water.


Diatom algae are a common problem in aquariums, but they can be prevented and treated with proper care and maintenance. By controlling silicate levels, performing regular water changes, and implementing other preventive measures, you can keep your aquarium free of diatoms and ensure a healthy environment for your aquatic pets.

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