Remove black beard algae (BBA) with this treatment

Written by: Marian Sterian
MasterLine Founder

My perfected, complete guide for better understanding black beard algae in the aquarium: why does it grow, how to get rid of it and also how to prevent it from growing back

Better understanding BBA

Black beard algae (BBA), also known as black brush algae, is a common problem for aquarium enthusiasts. It is a type of red algae that can be identified by its black or dark green tufts that grow on surfaces such as wood, rocks, substrate, plants, and even aquarium equipment. While it may not seem like a big deal at first, BBA can quickly take over an aquarium and harm the health of your aquatic plants and fish.

BBA on a snail's shell

One of the main causes of BBA is the lack of proper maintenance which in return leads to poor water quality.
When I say lack of proper maintenance, I mean that the aquarium cleaning was done too late or rarely, the weekly water changes were not done on time or were too small. Overstocked aquariums complicate the situation even more. Overfeeding as well.
A proper way of doing the maintenance is by changing 30-50% of the water weekly, cleaning the entire glass surface, all the equipment and static elements like hardscape materials and substrate, cleaning the external filter every 2-3 months, vacuuming the dirt in the substrate every 3-4 months.

Even if you are doing all things right, you can still have the algae growing after you add hardscape materials or plants that have algae or spores.

The proper way of getting rid of BBA and prevent it from growing back

In order to properly fight this algae, you need to be as strict as possible and follow the steps below until the aquarium is algae free. For me and other aquarists to whom I have recommended it, this method has always given great results.
Here are the steps:

Once or even twice per week water change of 50%
- this keeps the algae spores and the organic mater dissolved in the water at a minimum level

Reduce the light intensity and period while fighting BBA
- light gives energy to the algae and by lowering the intensity and period, you will see faster results

Manual removal of as much algae as possible
- cut the affected leaves
- replant the healthy tops of the plants
- vacuum the affected substrate grains

Manual cleaning
- remove technical equipment and if possible any wood and stones, and clean them in the bathtub with a brush
- spray hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) on them afterwards (get the 3% concentration from your local pharmacy)
- allow the H2O2 to work for at least 10 minutes before putting them back in the aquarium

Clean the external filter every 2-3 months
- rinse the filter media with aquarium water
- clean the hoses, the rotor, the adapter, IN and OUT pipes

Vacuum the substrate at least 3-4 cm deep every 3-4 months
- when you do a replanting also vacuum the substrate in that particular area
- don't vacuum to the bottom of the aquarium but only 70-80% of the substrate thickness

Reduce the number of fish if the aquarium is overstocked
- too many fish create great conditions for most algae

Feed once a day and only what the fish can eat in a few seconds
- don't feed frozen food

Dose MasterLine Carbo, or any other equivalent product, daily
- for spot dosing, fill a syringe with the daily dose of Carbo, connect the needle, turn OFF the currents and slowly release the solution directly on the algae. After 3 minutes turn the currents back ON
- make sure that there are no animals or plants in the area where you are doing the spot dosing
- repeat on the second day by choosing a different spot affected by BBA
- the spot dosing attacks the algae directly and the solution that remains in the water works against it on the long run
- if you do not have the time to spot dose Carbo, at least dose it daily

Ask the cleanup crew for help
- Siamese algae eaters (SAE) and amano shrimp are known to consume BBA. However, it is important to note that while these organisms can help control BBA growth, they will not completely eradicate the problem

Overall, BBA is a common problem for aquarium enthusiasts, but with proper care and attention, it can be prevented and controlled. By maintaining a clean aquarium environment, reducing the light, using algae-eating organisms, and employing chemical treatments as needed, you can easily get rid of BBA and enjoy a healthy and thriving aquarium.