I think we've all had to deal with the nasty topic of nuisance algae at one point or another in our fishy careers, huh?
Seems like there is not a fish geek on the planet who hasn't had to deal with this yucky stuff at one point or another.
There are countless forum threads, magazine and online articles, and lectures all about algae and algae control. The causes and techniques for control seem to be pretty well known, and covered in intimate detail by experts far more learned than I.
However, my simple Saturday though on algae comes to us from...the "reef side" of my hobby experience. Simple stuff, that in the rush to find an answer, we often seem to forget about. Its easier, it seems, to toss lots of money at different things sometimes. I get it.
Algae is super opportunitstic. That's why it's been around for billions of years. It waits for the proper conditions, and takes off when it's needs are met. In a closed system aquarium, algae blooms are simply caused by excess nutrients accumulating or being made available somewhere in the system.
Simple as that. And the solution is not fancy additives, manual removal, etc. It's isolating the cause of the nutrient excess and discontinuing or eliminating whatever practices, additions, or factors are contributing to it. So the enemy- the problem is really not the algae itself (it's not attractive to everyone- I give you that.)- It's the circumstances that lead to its proliferation in our systems. That's the enemy!
Think about it- algae are merely exploiting what is there to exploit. take that away, and the excess of algae go "buh-bye!"
Nutrient control and export- be it through checking the source water quality, controlling feeding, filtration, or use of chemical media- is the key. In reef aquariums, for a generation we've used the "macro algae refugium", run on a "reverse daylight" lighting schedule, which the macro algae (Chaetomorpha, typically) can utilize to consume the excess nutrients in a system that would otherwise be used by the nasty algae in the display. Since higher algae an plants are more efficient and require more nutrient to thrive, the nuisance algae lose out.
So, perhaps one could consider constructing a freshwater versions of a macro algae refugium, but with highly efficient and fast growing plants, like Anacharis, Cabomba, Java Moss, etc. When you harvest the plants from the refugium, you're also permanently removing the nutrients bound up in them from your display, right?
Out hustle. Outcompete. Outwit. Outlast. Sounds like a the format of a successful reality TV show, but it's the key to algae control. Simple as that. Beat it at its own game with a life form that is more efficient at doing what the algae is doing.
Just think a bit differently about the problem. Easy.
Think about that simple idea before you reach for the bottle of algaecide or other exotic, complicated control technique.
That's my quick thought for today.
Stay creative. Stay logical. Stay focused.
And stay wet!