How to Get Rid of Red Bubble Algae in a Reef Tank

Red Bubble Algae? In my Reef?

So, algae looks weird, smells weird, is like that dirty thing in the toilet you don’t want to look at, and generally is a royal pain to get rid of.

But what if I told you that there existed another form of algae, one that’s even more mind screwy than just green water? One that spreads with each passing moment, and can engulf even rocks whole?

That, my aquatic loving, and now fearing, friend is Red Bubble Algae. And in a Reef Tank, things can get…weird. 

Red Bubble Algae comes from a variety of places, but is most often found on rocks, and is thankfully handled by Emerald Crab. 

But, what is Red Bubble Algae? Or more specifically, what is Red Algae? 

To understand just what Red Bubble Algae is, it’s important to understand where it came from, why it’s such a big deal, and what you can do to prevent it from spreading.

Algae as we know is a lifeform that grows in moist or aquatic areas. In other words, it’s a plant that can only grow in the water. While it does lack the structure-based growth that many of its land-based counterparts have, algae can grow very quickly in a short amount of time. 

Red Algae has the scientific name of Rhodophyta, and grows usually in freshwater lakes, and is classified as the oldest type of Eukaryotic algae. Red in color due to a combination of cell pigments, such as the chlorophyll A and phycocyanin, red algae has the identifiable characteristics of:

  • Found in both in marine and freshwater.
  • Can grow on solid surfaces.
  • Groups of Red Algae can be found in tropical locations.
  • Can be found under other names, such as Irish moss, Dulse, and Caver.

Okay, so that’s red algae, but is bubble Algae?

Bubble algae are formed on hard surfaces, like those commonly found in reef tanks. The rocks, the walls, the pebbles, etc, and, at first, you might mistake them for just shiny rocks. They have a strange, almost hypnotic shine to their dome, and can be found pretty much anywhere.

But what makes them so bad? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple.

They get everywhere. They can stick to walls, filters, to an internal mechanism designed to keep your fish alive, and eventually, clog up the entire reef if left unchecked. They’re like a rapidly expanding swarm of red bubbles, and they are a pain to control, nevermind get rid of. 

What causes red bubble algae? So, here’s how they start. 

Bubble Algae come from moist surfaces that have traces of algae on them, such as a rock. Even if the rock was dry beforehand, there’s always a chance that there could be a scare amount of algae on it. 

So, naturally, they come pretty early in a reef’s development and are most fond of using coral reefs as a nesting ground. When regular bubble algae appear, you can normally get rid of them in a few ways.

The first is, well, lifting the attached surface out of the reef and scraping off the bubble algae with pilers. It’s not pretty, but hey, it works.

You normally just need a pair of pliers for it, or failing that, your hand. You might want to wear gloves first though.

That said, what you want to do is avoid popping the bubble, otherwise, you’ll just get algae all over you. But, you can determine which one can be removed and is otherwise durable enough to do so, by testing its feel. That is, the harder the dome is, the easier it is to remove. 

Red bubble Algae is, basically, the red version of the aforementioned bubble algae, and is a great pain to deal with.

See, if red bubble algae start to form in your reef tank, then that might mean you have a bad chemical composition in the water, and you should check to make sure the aforementioned reef is chemically balanced. After all, the red bubbles have to come from somewhere, right?

What eats red bubble algae?

Many reef tank users record their complaints on forum posts, and the general gist of removing said algae is usually done with:

See, Emerald Crabs actually eat algae of all kinds, be it bubble or otherwise. In addition, they also make meals out of leftover food lying around in the reef and will eat hair algae as well. 

Generally quite cheap, one example being just $9.99, you can find emerald crabs in local pet stores. 

But, all that said, you have to remember that Emerald Crabs are still just animals, and will eat whatever looks best to them first. So, they might put off eating Red Bubble Algae if there is something else more appetizing in the reef, like fish flakes.

Snails, like the Nerite Snail, also eat algae at an alarming rate. The aforementioned Nerite snail is a hugely popular example, identifiable by its black striped orange shell. They’re bottom feeders, as in they stick to the bottom to feed, and can eat practically any algae that comes their way. 

That said, they will try to climb out of the tank, so be aware of that.

Also, another way to get rid of red bubble algae is to get a UV sterilizer, which will kill algae, bacteria, and waterborne pantheons. 

That said, I have no idea what it does to fish, so be wary. 

So, let’s have a recap

Red Bubble Algae is the result of red algae, found in freshwater, mixing with bubble algae, which is formed on hard surfaces. It can clog up your reef fairly quickly and is a pain to get rid of.

You can get rid of bubble algae by scooping out the affected surfaces and then carefully piling them off, but be warned, they may burst, and can contain waterborne pathogens.

But, you can control red bubble algae by purchasing animals who are capable of eating it outright, such as the Emerald Crab, or the Nerite Snail. 


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