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How To Deal With White Stringy Stuff In A Fish Tank? (White Hair Algae)

As more and more people get into fish keeping, we constantly see the number of questions about keeping fish that we see asked by the community increasing with each month that goes by.

One of the more commonly asked questions that we see people asking about time and time again is the white stringy stuff that can often end up growing in a fish tank.

Due to seeing such a large number of people reaching out about the white stringy stuff that is usually just hair algae each month, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over the topic to try and help as many of our readers as possible.

Our hope is that we will be able to help you better identify the white stringy hair algae while also understanding how to get rid of it as well as why it is growing in your tank.

A common mistake that we have noticed people making time and time again when it comes to the white stringy hair algae growing in their aquariums is that they only focus on treating its growth.

As they are not going anything to deal with the actual reason the hair algae keeps on growing in their tanks, it just continues to return time and time again but this is usually very easy to fix.

What Is This White Stringy Stuff In Fish Tank?

The majority of white stringy algae that grow in aquariums is just white hair algae and it is usually not a major issue due to it being relatively easy to get rid of.

If you don’t have something like a pleco in your aquarium to eat discarded food from the bottom of the tank then a white stringy fungus can start to grow on the discarded food in your tank too but this is rare.

Most of the time, when you see anything growing in your tank it that is white and stringy, it will just be white hair algae with this being more common than most beginners initially think.

White hair algae is a type of Bryopsis algae with green and brown hair algae also possible but usually not showing at the same time as white hair algae.

This stingy algae will usually only grow on plants and driftwood surfaces in your aquarium making it easy to differentiate from the white stringy fungus.

The white stringy fungus will usually only grow on discarded food that has been left to sit at the bottom of your fish tank for a few days.

You are easily able to avoid the white stringy fungus from growing in your fish tank by adding something like a pleco to your aquarium to eat all of the food that your other fish miss preventing the white stringy fungus from having anything to grow on.

What Algae Eaters Will Eat White Stringy Hair Algae?

There are a number of popular algae eaters that will happily eat large amounts of white hair algae with siamese algae eaters, amano shrimp, rosy barbs, and nerite snails being the most popular options for most people.

Siamese algae eaters are not as aggressive as Chinese algae eaters but can still have some issues with other fish so the other three options are usually better.

In our opinion, amano shrimp or nerite snails are the best options for algae eaters that will eat white hair algae.

They will eat a huge amount of white hair algae relative to their small size helping to keep the growth of the hair algae in your tank to a minimum without causing any potential over crowing issues with other fish in the tank.

Although you can go with siamese algae eaters or rosy barbs if you have the space available in your aquarium, they tend not to eat as much algae as an amino shrimp or nerite snail.

If you are specifically looking for an algae eater to keep the white hair algae in check then the shrimp or snail will usually be the better option for most of our readers.

Why Is There White Stringy Stuff In My Fish Tank?

White hair algae is most commonly seen during the cycling phase of a tank but it can occur at other times depending on the situation.

White hair algae is also relatively common if there is a nutrient imbalance in your aquarium or if you have overly long lighting hours too.

Depending on the fish that you are keeping in your aquarium, you may have to have overly long lighting hours meaning that the best option to keep the white string algae growth in check is to add a suitable algae eater to your tank like a amano shrimp or nerite snail.

This will allow you to keep your longer lighting hours as required while also keeping the growth of the algae in check.

There is also a chance that white string algae can be on any new additions to your aquarium too ranging from new fish to new plants to new substrate.

If the white string algae is added to your tank due to this then there is a high chance that the natural nutrient balance of your aquarium will cause the algae to fade within a week or two anyway.

How Do You Get Rid Of Stringy Algae In A Fish Tank?

The easiest ways to get rid of stringy white hair algae in an aquarium is to add a suitable algae eater to the tank or to ensure you keep your lighting hours as short as possible.

You can also try to physically remove the white hair algae from the tank too but it will usually take too long to manually remove with it often just growing back within a week.

We have seen a number of other methods for removing white hair algae from an aquarium but in our opinion, they are either a waste of time or present a risk to your fish.

We always recommend that our readers add any chemical-based products to an active aquarium with live fish or other animals in it to deal with any type of algae if possible.

There are also a number of nitrate level manipulation techniques that you can technically use to remove the white hair algae from your aquarium but this can often present a risk to your other live plants in the tank too.

This is why we also recommend against any type of nitrate level manipulation if possible as there are usually a number of downsides associated with taking that path too.


That brings our article going over the white stringy stuff that some people find in their fish tank to a close. The majority of the time, if the white stringy stuff is growing on your plants or wooden features in your aquarium then it is due to white hair algae with it being easy to treat. If the white stringy stuff is growing on discarded food laying on the tank’s substrate then it is usually just fungus that is easy to prevent by adding something to eat the discarded food in your tank or by cleaning your tank with a gravel vacuum on a more regular basis.