6 Fast Ways To Get Rid Of Brown Hair Algae

Last Updated on 2023-11-04

If you notice brown hair algae in your tank, then you’re naturally going to be wondering how to get rid of it and more importantly, whether it’s going to be harmful to your tank! Well, in this article, not only will you find this out, but you’ll also learn what causes it, how to prevent it, and much much more!

So, keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

Key Takeaways:

  • Brown hair algae, actually diatoms, thrive on silicates and nitrates, not actual algae.
  • Causes include excess silicates in water, high nitrates from decaying matter, and excessive light.
  • Elimination methods involve manual removal, water changes, enhanced filter media, adding algae-eating creatures, and regular tank maintenance.
  • Specific measures for dealing with brown hair algae on java moss, driftwood, live plants, and sand involve manual removal and maintenance.
  • Recommendations for various tank sizes, suggesting different algae-eating creatures for smaller and larger tanks.

First Of All, What Is Brown Hair Algae?

Brown hair algae aren’t actually algae at all. It’s made up of an organism similar to bacteria known as diatoms. Unlike algae, they have a cell wall that is completely transparent and made of silica.

What Causes Brown Hair Algae?

You may be wondering why it’s important to know that brown hair algae are made from silica. As you read on, not only will you learn why this is the case, but you’ll also learn every cause of brown hair algae in your tank as well!

An Excess Of Silicates

One main cause of brown hair algae in your tank is an excess of silicates. There is a whole range of reasons silicates might be leaking into your tank. For example, your tap water may be higher in them than average. On top of this, certain substrates like silica sand will leak silicates into the water as well!

Nitrates In The Tank

Just like with other types of algae, a build-up of nitrates in the decaying matter in the tank is also going to feed brown hair algae and cause it to grow rapidly. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to maintain your tank and make sure you’re cleaning it regularly.

Too Much Light

And, of course, like all plants, the more light they’re getting, the more they’re going to grow (up to a point). And it’s not just the duration of light but also the intensity of light that can cause brown hair algae to grow.

So make sure the light you’re using in your fish tank isn’t encouraging brown hair algae growth!

brown hair algae

How To Get Rid Of Brown Hair Algae

Now you know what causes it, the next stop is learning how to get rid of brown hair algae altogether! Fortunately, with the right measurements, you’ll be able to get rid of it in no time!

Methods to Eliminate Brown Hair AlgaeDescription
Manual RemovalUse an aquarium scrubber or toothbrush to remove algae from tank walls and plants.
Water ChangesPerform regular water changes to remove floating algae and maintain water quality.
Enhanced Filter MediaInclude phosphate and nitrate removers in the filter to eliminate nutrients supporting algae growth.
Algae-Eating CreaturesIntroduce algae-eating fish (e.g., Amano shrimp, snails, catfish) to control brown hair algae.
Regular Tank MaintenanceClean the tank, remove waste daily, and control debris to prevent algae growth.
Additional PlantsIntroduce and maintain aquatic plants to outcompete brown hair algae for resources within the tank.

Remove It Manually

The easiest way to get rid of brown hair algae is just to remove it manually. Just use an aquarium scrubber to remove the algae you notice building up on the sides of your tank. As well as this, you can also use a new toothbrush to wrap around any brown hair algae on your plants.

Perform A Water Change

You should also make sure you perform a water change after removing as much brown hair algae as possible from your tank. Brown hair algae is also able to float freely in your tank, so performing a water change will help to remove some of this algae!

Not only this, water changes will also help remove most of the nutrients brown hair algae has, oxygenate the tank better, remove any debris and fish waste that will decay in the tank, and dilute the remaining chemicals that can be dangerous in your tank too!

Just make sure you’re not changing too much at once. No more than 25% of the water should be removed at a time, and as a general rule of thumb, the more water you remove, the longer you should wait before performing another water change.

Improve Your Filter Media

You should also consider adding a filter media, which will help remove any brown hair algae as well! Phosphate removers and nitrate-removing media filters are the go-to choices here! Once both of these are removed from your tank, it’s going to get rid of the brown hair algae food source!

Try Algae Eaters

If your tank is big enough and you’re considering adding some more fish anyway, then now can be the perfect time to add some algae eaters to the tank! The best algae eater, in my opinion, has to be Amano shrimp, although there are plenty of snails, catfish, and other algae feeders you can choose from as well!

When you’re choosing algae eaters, just make sure that you research their individual needs and that your tank meets their requirements!

Maintain Your Tank

And of course, maintaining the tank is also vital for reducing the amount of brown hair algae that are being produced.

By removing waste daily, you’re going to remove the brown hair algae’s food source. On top of this, you can also take the time to remove any brown algae you see as well. Also, by cleaning your tank daily, you’re going to reduce the chance of illness and disease spreading in your tank, as well as keeping the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels low as well!

Add More Plants

Algae and plants are going to fight for the resources available in the tank, and the vast majority of the time plants are going to win this fight. By adding more plants and maintaining the plants you already have you’re going to drastically decrease the amount of brown hair algae you currently have in your tank!

Now, check out this video by Aquarium Genius on how to remove brown hair algae!

What Eats Brown Hair Algae?

Now you know all the different ways that you can prevent and treat brown hair algae, you may be wondering what the best algae eaters are for removing it from your tank! So if you’re thinking about adding some, then you should try the following:

For Smaller Tanks

If you have a tank that’s smaller than 15 gallons then you should try:

  • Mollies
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Amano Shrimp
  • Malaysian Trumpet Snails
  • Ramshorn Snails
  • Nerite Snails

For Larger Tanks

If you have a larger tank, then you should consider:

And remember, whichever algae eater you’re planning on adding to your tank, make sure that you check their requirements beforehand, such as the pH, temperature, tank size, and compatibility with the fish you already have!

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Why Is There Brown Hair Algae In Your Planted Tank?

If you already have a planted tank but you’re still suffering from brown hair algae, then you may be wondering why!

Too Much Light

One of the most likely reasons that brown hair algae is occurring is because the light is on for too long. Your tank light shouldn’t be on for more than 8 hours a day, and you should also make sure other sources of light aren’t entering the tank either.

The Substrate You’re Using

If you’ve been using a substrate such as an aquarium soil in your tank, then there could be too many nutrients in the tank, especially during the first couple of weeks.

When the substrate is the cause, there’s not much you can do except wait and change the water frequently. Overtime, the soil will produce less and less nutrients, so you won’t have to worry about brown hair algae anymore!

The Nitrates Are Too High

It may also be the case that the nitrates in the tank are too high as well. While fish can survive in up to 20ppm of nitrates, algae will begin flourishing and thriving at 5ppm. So frequent water changes, making sure the tank isn’t overstocked, and keeping the ammonia levels down are going to help keep the nitrate level low as well.

Your Plants Are Being Outcompeted

Lastly, if your plants aren’t growing well enough, then they may end up being outcompeted by the algae in the tank. One great easy way to deal with this is by adding CO2 to the tank. CO2 will give your plants the extra boost in growth they need to begin out-competing any brown hair algae in your tank!

How To Get Rid Of Brown Hair Algae On Java Moss

If you notice brown hair algae is growing on your java moss, then you may be wondering what the best way to remove it is. Fortunately, you can be quite tough with java moss, and it’s going to grow back quite well.

So if you do plan on removing brown hair algae from java moss, it’s literally as simple as tearing out the java moss that’s been infested with brown hair algae. Just make sure that you leave the rooted portions in the tank. After this is done, the java moss will grow back in no time.

If you don’t want to cut the java moss out, you can also twirl a toothbrush around the algae and pull it out that way.

Lastly, once again, you can dose your tank with CO2 to help the java moss grow rapidly so that it can outcompete the brown hair algae.

Why Is There Brown Hair Algae In Your New Tank?

If you have a new tank, then you shouldn’t be alarmed if you notice brow hair algae or any kind of algae in the first couple of months. Brown hair algae are much more likely to occur in newly established aquariums when there are not enough beneficial bacteria to successfully deal with the ammonia and nitrates in the tank.

Fortunately, removing brown hair algae in a new tank is the same as removing it in any other tank! Manual removal, water changes, strong filters, and improving plant growth are all going to be effective methods for getting rid of brown hair algae in your new tank!

Why Is Brown Hair Algae On Tank Sand?

You may not think that brown hair algae would grow on the sand in your tank, but it’s definitely possible. Especially when the sand is left undisturbed. While it starts on plants and rocks, it’s only a matter of time before it migrates.

So if you do notice brown hair algae on your tank’s sand, make sure you’re removing it as soon as possible, performing water changes, vacuuming and disturbing the sand regularly, and encouraging plant growth!

All of the above will help remove brown hair algae from your sand for good.

How To Deal With Brown Hair Algae On Live Plants

Making sure you remove brown hair algae from live plants is vital for keeping them alive. Not only is brown hair algae going to be a direct competitor for nutrients, it can also block plants from sunlight as well!

So once you’ve manually removed as much as possible, the next step is making sure you’re keeping your tank clean as well. So regular water changes, cleaning your tank, introducing algae eaters, reducing the light, and increasing the amount of CO2 in the tank are all effective methods!


Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about brown hair algae in their tank!

Is Brown Hair Algae A Part Of Cycling?

It’s perfectly normal for all types of algae to occur during the cycling phase, so if you notice brown hair algae, don’t be alarmed! In fact, the first 3 months of a new tank often end up with algae of some kind!

Can You Remove Brown Hair Algae From Driftwood?

If there are brown hair algae on your driftwood, then the easiest thing to do is remove it manually. Use your hands or a toothbrush to get rid of it all. As well as this, you can also perform water changes, encourage plant growth, improve your filter media, and clean your tank regularly too.

Is Brown Hair Algae Bad?

Fortunately, brown hair algae aren’t harmful to fish, in fact, some fish even like to eat it! With that being said though, brown hair algae can be harmful to plants in your tank, competing for nutrients as well as blocking them from light if it starts growing on them. So removing it is still paramount in most cases.

Is Seachem Good For Brown Algae?

If you’re looking for a chemical solution to getting rid of algae, then Seachem Phosguard is your best choice. It’s so effective because not only does it remove phosphates from your tank’s water, but it removes silicates as well!

Will Brown Hair Algae Go Away?

It’s unlikely that brown hair algae will go away on its own. Instead, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to get rid of it. In fact, if you leave brown hair algae untreated, the chances are it’s just going to grow and grow uncontrollably.

How To Deal With Brown Hair Algae On Pennywort

If you notice brown hair algae on your pennywort, the best thing you can do is try to remove it by hand, as well as ensure that your tank is being maintained well!

How To Deal With Brown Hair Algae On Anubias

Just like pennywort, if you notice brown hair algae on anubias, try to remove it by hand! Failing that make sure you’re maintaining proper upkeep of your tank.


As you can see, brown hair algae aren’t as hard to beat as you think. And if you notice it in your tank, don’t panic! It’s extremely common. The best ways to get rid of brown hair algae are of course good tank maintenance. However, removing it manually and adding plants and co2 to the tank are also effective!

And if you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the article! Otherwise, have a great day!


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