"Lessons from algae" (well, metaphorical ones, at least!)

The other day, while working in my lawn, I paused just a few moments to reflect upon the unfortunate growth of weeds that appeared to be sprouting up in a lot of places I didn't want them (well, is there anywhere that you actually want them?). And like gardeners worldwide, I dutifully removed them and vowed to eradicate them each and every time they reappear. 

And I felt that sort of thing that we all feel- a tinge of anger, frustration, a bit of resentment that you get when you've went to a lot of effort to create something nice, only to have something opportunistic make its appearance and do its best to sort of spoil your party...

Where had I felt this before? Oh, yes, in my aquariums! You know- algae growth!

We've all been there. Felt that.

Of course, algae are pretty much pervasive in every body of water on earth, and I can go through the usual rhetoric about them being ga sign that the water might have an excess of nutrients that they are exploiting, and that their appearance is kind of a good indicator that your aquarium is more than suitable for a diversity of life forms, and...


But, shit- it's ALGAE! 


I mean, none of that really makes you feel all that great when your carefully planned aquascape is turning into a tank full of green, brown, or red goo.

Yup...But I think that the interesting thing to focus on (outside of the eradication efforts you'll inevitably attempt) is the very fact that they DID appear, and where and how they are growing. Not so much for the reason that this will give you some clues in how to eradicate them (they could), but that studying these facts will give you a sort of- how do I put it gently- appreciation for them!

Yep. An appreciation.

An understanding about how these tenacious life forms arise and utilize space, light, and nutrients to survive and even flourish. Now, they may not look all that nice  to us, because they tend to take over areas that we would rather see covered with plants, botanicals, or nothing at all...

But, hey- they really DO grow, right? And studying where they appear and why can sort of get us attended to the fact that "desirable" organisms and aquatic plants will grow effectively in locations that provide them the conditions that they need- be they light, nutrients, flow, "territory", proper substrate, etc.

Algae, like their terrestrial counterparts, weeds and mushrooms, are amazing at utilizing what is available to them. They're unabashedly opportunistic. 

That's pretty amazing. How can we learn from algae- to our benefit?

Well, when you're contemplating your next aquascape or overall tank configuration, it only makes sense to "set the stage" for the plants and other organisms you intend to keep, providing them optimum, specific  physical and environmental conditions.

Duh, right?

As we all know, our fishes and plants will adapt tp a variety of conditions, but they will really thrive when we provide them the right conditions. They'll seek them out. The plants will grow towards the light, take root in the substrate best suited for their growth, and spread into other areas that they can take advantage of.

Just like algae. 

Fishes will migrate towards the section of the aquarium that provides the best shelter, foraging, or spawning site. Areas that offer them the best possible situation to flourish.

Just like algae.

And, as aquarists, we re always advised to research and provide our fishes with an aquatic environment most reminiscent of the one they've adapted and evolved to over the millennia.

When they have those things, they thrive.

Just like algae.

So, yeah, it's almost a ridiculously, insultingly simple idea...yet, algae can actually "teach" us a few things, right? Or at the very least, just reinforce what we already know to be correct.

So before you siphon out that algae patch, pull that group of weeds, or  blast that Aiptaisa anemone with kalkwasser (for you reefers out there), pause for a second to consider why and how the "offending" life form came to be in that location. And reflect upon how we can benefit by designing our aquariums to provide the optimum environment for each and every fish and plant that we treasure to grow and thrive.

"Lessons from algae."


Admire them. Study them...and then eradicate this little &@*$#!%s from your tank! 😜

Stay open-minded. Stay philosophical. Stay grounded. Stay curious. Stay creative. 

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response

Tamara Davidova
Tamara Davidova

June 18, 2018

And I hoped that you, Scott, as an adherent of the natural course of things, will not call for the destruction of algae!

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