Do you suffer from cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates?

General, Other

How do you fight cyanobacteria

Many hobbyists suffer from a frustrating outbreak of red, brown, purple or even green slimy stuff in the aquarium. Our plan is to help you identify the problem, bust the myths and help you solve this problem.

Cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates?

The red slime in your tank could be either cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates. They look very much alike. Correctly identifying the problem is critical to solving it. Distinguishing a bacterium from a protozoa is not so easy.



In general, cyanobacteria are colored red and may be filamentous or slime. Dinoflagellates often tend to be brown and have a snot-like appearance with lots of bubbles.
Cyanobacteria are by far the most common and our advice to new hobbyists who have trouble identifying the difference is to treat the problem as if it were cyanobacteria. These are also the easiest to treat. If this treatment does not work, continue with the dinoflagellate treatment.

The new approach to cyanobacteria

In the past, almost all of the conversation around cyanobacteria was related to nutrients such as nitrate, phosphate, and poor aquarium maintenance that would feed these bacteria. This was because it was the most obvious.
An outbreak of cyanobacteria can certainly be related to increased nitrate or phosphate, but is not a direct cause of outbreaks of cyanobacteria. There are hundreds of aquariums experiencing outbreaks with some having low nutrient levels. Also, lowering nutrient levels has never been an effective way to fight cyanobacteria. A better solution than lowering the nitrate and phosphate content is to keep these values stable.

protein foamer

When the nitrate and phosphate in the water are zero, this can lead to problems. Start feeding more or reduce filtration, such as reducing the photoperiod on your refugium or adjust the protein skimmer to collect less waste. Do this until you get a nitrate or phosphate reading with your test kits. Even small amounts of these substances are sufficient for your aquarium.

Add extra flow to your aquarium

The only addition to the system that we recommend at this point is extra flow. It helps remove dead spots and washes away grime from surfaces.
However, waiting is a better option if the slime won’t bother corals or harm anything else. Give it time and see what the approach in maintenance yields you.

Step 2 – Bacteria

Dose competing bacteria to fight the cyanobacteria. You do not necessarily have to do this. You can also make sure you provide more surface area for bacteria to grow on. You can achieve this, for example, with extra porous stone or bio pellets.
Some bacteria will compete for cyanobacteria’s diet or for surface area, others may even be aggressive enough to consume the cyanobacteria.
When using these types of competing bacteria, understand that it will take months to finally fight cyanobacteria. It just takes time. It is recommended to add bacteria to speed up the process.

Step 3 – Chemical Solutions

If you have a cyano outbreak that is actively killing corals or you just can’t watch it anymore we recommend using a chemical. A few good products that we recommend are Colombo Mycosidol and Cyano Clean.
Chemicals are often used as a last resort. Always try to fight the underlying cause first. However, if you followed all the steps and you can’t figure it out, these are good ways to solve your problem.
When used on a healthy aquarium, these agents can quickly remove the cyanobacteria, usually with one or two treatments. While there is some risk in dosing anything in your aquarium, there are almost never any secondary effects from using these agents.


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