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How To Get Rid Of Brown Hair Algae In A Reef Tank!

As more and more people within the fish keeping community are deciding to try their hand at keeping a saltwater reef tank, the number of questions that we see from the community each month relating to taking care of reef tanks is also increasing.

Although there are usually a wide range of questions asked about reef tank keeping, one of the most commonly asked questions that we see from the community by far is based around getting rid of brown hair algae in a reef tank.

Brown hair algae really is the scourge of reef tanks and it can be a total pain to deal with!

Even if you take all the precautions possible to prevent the brown hair algae spores from managing to get into your aquarium, fish keepers can still randomly end up with a brown hair algae bloom starting and it’s even worse in a reef tank rather than a general saltwater tank as you are usually not able to use any of the chemical treatments that can quickly deal with brown hair algae.

Thankfully though, there are a number of different things that you are able to try that will usually be able to get rid of brown hair algae blooms in your reef tank.

The two main methods that we will be covering in our article below are usually the best and most reliable so that is what we will be focusing on.

You can use our table of contents below to easily skip to specific sections of the article to help save you time but if you do have a problem with brown hair algae in your reef tank on a regular basis then reading the full article is worth it.

What Causes Brown Hair Algae In A Reef Tank?

Brown hair algae is a very common problem in reef tanks and the number one cause is due to having an excess of essential nutrients that brown hair algae need to thrive with this usually being iron and various phosphates.

This means that even a small amount of brown hair algae that is accidentally introduced to the tank from new substrate, plants, decorations or fish is able to thrive and spread quickly.

It is a very delicate balance of keeping your essential nutrients in a reef tank at a level where your corals, anemones, and fish have everything that they require but it is under a threshold to prevent a huge brown hair algae bloom from starting.

Although some people do put a large amount of time and effort into maintaining their nutrient levels in their tank, it is usually a waste of time as brown hair algae can still take hold of your reef tank.

This is one of the very few cases in fish keeping where cure is often considered better than prevention due to it almost always working out to be the cheaper, more time-efficient path to take.

The majority of people will simply choose to add a couple of brown hair algae eaters to their reef tank to eat all of the brown hair algae before it is able to fully bloom and manage its breakout size as easily as possible.

What Will Eat Brown Hair Algae In A Saltwater Tank?

There are a number of brown hair algae eaters that you are able to use in saltwater tanks with the trochus snail often being considered the best option by far.

Trochus snails are considered reef safe and they will leave your corals and anemone alone while eating large amounts of algae and diatoms with brown hair algae being a particular favorite of theirs and they can eat a huge amount of algae relative to their small size.

As we covered in our article going over what eats diatoms in an aquarium, the trochus snail has rightfully earned its place as the most popular saltwater aquarium snail due to its excellent ability to eat algae in large amounts.

The majority of people who have regular problems with brown hair algae blooms should look to add one trochus snail per three gallons of their aquarium but many people will stock less snails in their tank with the snails still being able to stay on top of the algae consumption requirements.

There are a number of other brown hair algae eaters that some people can add to regular saltwater tanks but they are not considered reef safe and will often also take bites out of your corals and anemones too.

This is why the trochus snail has to be our number one recommendation to our readers who are having problems with brown hair algae blooms in their reef tanks as they are easily the best reef safe option on the market by a long shot.

How Do I Get Rid Of Brown Hair Algae In My Reef Tank?

The two main ways to get rid of brown hair algae in a reef tank is to either add a brown hair algae eater to your tanks such as a trochus snail or to manually scrub the surfaces of your reef tank that have the brown hair algae on it.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages with trochus snails usually being the easiest option by far and our recommended counter to brown hair algae.

Due to covering trochus snails above, we will be focusing on manually scrubbing or scraping the surfaces of your tank that are having problems with brown hair algae in this section.

Thankfully, it is very easy to remove brown hair algae from your aquarium glass and a simple glass scraper will usually be enough to remove all of the brown hair algae as quickly as possible.

The issue with manual removal is when the brown hair algae takes to your live rock as most reef tank keepers will usually have multiple organisms living on their live rock with many of them being corals and anemones.

This means that manual removal of brown hair algae can literally take hours or even days in some cases as a peroxide dip and dry are usually out of the questions due to the risk the pose to the other organisms on the live rock.


That brings our article going over how you are able to remove brown hair algae from a reef tank to an end. We would highly recommend that our readers get a couple of trochus snails for their tanks and let them be responsible for keeping its growth under control. There is a good reason that trochus snails have such an excellent reputation amongst reef tank owners and its due to the snails being peaceful while eating huge amounts of algae without issue.