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FAQs about Marine Macro-Algae Culture

Related Articles: Marine Algae, Algae Can Be Your FriendRefugiumsAvoiding Algae Problems in Marine System, Algae Control, Marine Maintenance, Nutrient Control and Export, Marine Scavengers, Snails, Hermit Crabs, Mithrax/Emerald Green Crabs, Sea Urchins, Blennies, Algae Filters, Ctenochaetus/Bristle Mouth Tangs, Zebrasoma/Sailfin Tangs, Skimmers, Skimmer Selection, Marine Algae, Coralline Algae, Green Algae, Brown Algae, Blue-Green "Algae"/(Cyanobacteria)Diatoms, Brown Algae

Related FAQs: Marine (Macro) Algae 1, Marine (Macro) Algae 2, Marine (Macro) Algae 3, Marine (Macro) Algae 4, Marine (Macro) Algae 5, Rationale, Identification, Selection/Compatibility/Control, Systems, LightingNutrition, Disease/Pests/Predators, Algae Use in Refugiums, Coralline Algae: Use in Marine AquariumsMarine Algae ID 1, Marine Algae ID 2, Marine Algae Control FAQs II, Marine Algaecide Use, Nutrient Limitation, Marine Algae Eaters, Culturing Macro-Algae; Controlling: BGA/Cyano, Red/Encrusting Algae, Green Algae, Brown/Diatom Algae

Growing macro algae      9/22/18
Hello there.
I was hoping I could ask for some advice. I have had a love for macro algae for some time now. And a few months ago i set up a tank to grow macro algae. The intention is it just to be for maximising growth of the macro to sell to pay for my reef tank and grow out some large plants to put in a future big seahorse tank.
<Okay; did take courses on algal culture in college, and my MACNA pitch this mo. was on the economics or business side of mariculture, including macrophytes. Oh, and visited places that do such culture for human food as well as ornamental aquatics.>
It is 250 litres and not very tall so its a lot of area. I have 3 powerheads producing a good amount of flow. Sand substrate. I have two surface skimmers to maximise gas exchange on the surface. I have several macro but am looking at doubling it.
<Mmm; better to just grow one variety per system. Often they produce chemicals that interfere w/ the growth of competitors>
And two Kessil h380 lights (cost a fortune). I feed them nutrients every day and they are growing ok but I do get a lot of. micro algae growth on the macro although it seems to be getting better as the macro gets bigger. I am monitoring the parameters and have a target range I found for a macro tank.
I have lots of Cerith snails and an algae blenny and they are the only livestock.
I wanted to ask what you thought about a set up like this. Am I missing something?
<Mmm; mention of supplement and monitoring processes. You'll want to have high, consistent alkalinity and alkaline earth content...>
I'm going to be adding a calcium reactor at some point.
<This will help w/ the above; and I'd look into the use of a comprehensive fertilizer as you state that you're shooting to "maximise" growth here>
I'm unsure whether I should add a canister filter I've done a lot of research but can figure out what the consensus is I added copepods and amphipods but my.surface.skimmer seems to have at least killed the amphipods.
I also don't know if there are any other inverts I can add that wouldn't eat the macro and be beneficial to the tank.
Thanks in advance
<I can't encourage you enough to visit a large college library, ask a reference librarian to help you search for current, pertinent literature. I have older, copied... as well as standard print works on algae, culture. You will benefit, save a good deal of time, effort, money by gaining insights by others who have done this work already. Bob Fenner>
Re: Growing macro algae      9/22/18

Hi Bob. Thank you for your advice I will get down to a library
<Ah, good Cory. This is THE single best use of your time here; invested in
seeking out the best available, most appropriate technology. Bob Fenner>

Chaetomorpha Growth…Or Lack Of… - 09/22/17
The subject title will make you go noooooooo,
but I've got a question I cannot find an answer to.
Ever since I've grown Chaeto, I've been successful in keeping it. Until recently. Nothing has changed, the available nutrients are still there, the red/blue light is still there and adequate flow is still there. I had my crop die over a period of a month, just disintegrated. I replaced it with another healthy handful which has grown slightly (nowhere near as fast as before), but is also disintegrating now. The question is, in your knowledge does Chaeto require anything other than the aforementioned, which it may be lacking? I have a flourishing sps system with close to ideal parameters.
<<The alga needs pretty much everything your SPS need…including adequate water flow. Some say the Chaetomorpha needs enough water flow to make it “tumble” but I have never found that to really be necessary. I keep Chaetomorpha in a 55g RDP refugium with a flow-through rate of about 450 GPH which has proven sufficient for more than a decade. Much of the water is directed to ‘flow through’ the alga, but it certainly does not tumble. If flow is not an issue, double-check water parameters. Another possibility is something is either attacking the alga (chemical attack), or maybe it is simply being outcompeted by the system/your other filtration.>>
As the coral have grown larger year on year, is it possible they are consuming what may have been previously available for the Chaeto?
<<Indeed…you may no longer need the Chaetomorpha, though I like it not only for its filtration properties but also as a habitat and nursery for the myriad of critters it hosts.>>
Kind regards,
<<And to you…EricR>>

Chaetomorpha in wet-dry setup? Emersed?   10/31/11
There might be some advantages to growing Chaetomorpha in one of those old wet-dry filters with a drip plate. I think they would do fine in a moist environment rather than being fully submerged;
<Mmm, think it has to be submersed>
the exposure to CO2 might help growth, and generally prevent fouling and make it easier to harvest. This would also work kind of like a degassing tower, with improved pH stability, especially if you were using a very large mass as the primary filtration. Having the water run over the algae rather than flowing through it, probably improves contact, and prevents fouling areas as the algae grows.
On a large recirculating aquaculture system for sensitive organisms, it might work better than a bacterial system such as beads.
I'm surprised that there are no references to this idea. Do you know if anyone has tried it?.
<I do not; but you're welcome to give it a go>
Charles Matthews
<Bob Fenner>

Sharing Halimeda   8/4/11
Hello friends!
Just a quick question today:
I've got a huge amount of Halimeda exploding in my tank (yeah, in the display, I don't have a sump, and I kind of like the way it looks). I have to cut it back weekly. I've let it grow out a bit, though as I'm thinking of taking some to offer at my local reef club. So I'm wondering how best to move it? Can a simple cutting "take root" (or whatever they do), or should I pull bits out from the rock?
<Both can work... some times becomes quite invasive...>
Then obviously transport in a bag in water, but what would the recipient do with it? Just add it to their tank or sump, or do they have to attach it somehow?
<Can attach with a bit of epoxy, reef "glue", or just bury in substrate, place in cracks in the rock>
Many thanks,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Display Tank Macro-Algae and Sand Types -- 09/30/10
Hello Crew,
<<Hello Jeremy>>
I was going to get a little bit of a step up and add some macro algae to my display tank since I have plenty of growth in my fuge.
<<Mmm, okay'¦ Though I find that most species suited to nutrient export via rapid growth in a refugium are often problematic in a display for just that reason>>
Here are some things I was wondering about I couldn't find on the site or may have missed it. First, I don't have normal real sand in my DT; it is a non-buffering Tahitian Moon Reef and Marine Substrate.
Can the macro algae grow off of this "fake sand" or does it require nutrients from real sand?
<<The alga will pull nutrients from the water column -- this non-carbonaceous sand; while not ideal for a marine system in my opinion, will still serve fine as a substrate for the macro-alga>>
Second, if the nutrients are used by the plants which are then eaten by fish do they stay in the water negating their main purpose of filtering said nutrients out of the water?
<<Some will be used/sequestered by the fishes but yes, much will reenter the system as waste. To make the most of the 'filtering capacity' of the macro-alga you will have to harvest it from the display as you do from the refugium>>
I think getting some fauna in the display would make a more natural environment as well as add some color to the DT.
<<No argument'¦ But do be aware the alga competes for space on the reef like all the other living organisms -- aside from shading issues, it can/will exude chemicals (compounded in a closed system) to limit growth or even kill sessile invertebrates>>
Have you ever done anything like this?
<<Mmm, yes'¦ I introduced Caulerpa mexicana to a reef system once -- was a mistake as it overgrew everything in short order'¦the amphipods sure loved it though [grin]>>
I know people have but I haven't had much luck finding articles or pictures about it. I'm guessing because a lot of macro algae is invasive and aggressive for those who can't keep up with trimming and harvesting.
<<Indeed'¦ I have seen instances where pretty much 'daily' intervention is required>>
Look forward to your input.
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>

Algae Growth?/Growing Algae 5/6/10
Hi Crew,
<Hello Charley>
I have maybe an odd question, but how do I increase algal growth in my tank?
<Not necessary to do so, the freeze dried seaweed will provide this. Do consider a refugium for culturing algae, it will also improve water quality. Do read here.
My Yellow Tang is always looking for food on my live rock, but never, ever eats any. She finds so little vegetable matter that I have to add in two seaweed clips a day just for her.
<And a practical way to supply this food source.>
With the supplemented brine shrimp
<Not a very nutritious food.>
and seaweed she looks "pretty" healthy, but what's life with given food all
day, right?
<Do read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/yellowtang.htm>
Foraging seems so essential to their life, and I plan on adding a dwarf angel (flame or potter's, love the coloration of potter's but love the spunk on flame) soon.
<The Potter's Angel is not easily kept, better off with the Flame.>
I have 3 turbo snails and 7 other snails (prolly Astraea) for my 55g (moving in a month, getting a 125), so I don't think that's enough snails to take all the algae.
<I would hold off adding more snails in the 125, the tank will be too new and food will be scarce.>
Should I periodically turn off my sump and my protein skimmer?
<No, and for what reason?>
Oh I have a coral in the tank so the lights are power compacts, and I DO see coralline algal growth, so the rocks should be live...
<Not necessarily, coralline algae will grow on glass and I've never heard the term "live glass".
Thanks for everything!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Charley Teng

Growing Macro Algae & A Rust Problem 3/23/09
Thanks for your help in the past.
<You're welcome and hello Sean.>
I have a few more questions. My setup is as follows: 220g display tank, 35g acrylic refugium, 25g acrylic sump, 64g Rubbermaid overflow sump, Aqua-C EV240 skimmer, polyfilter, 300lbs LR.
I recently got some Gracilaria to grow in my acrylic sump as a macro algae filter and as a source of food for my tangs. My problem is in trying to keep it contained in the sump. Water exits the Gracilaria compartment by flowing over a baffle into a second compartment for the skimmer and poly filter. The Gracilaria wants to flow over the baffle if I let it tumble freely. I tried using a sponge to keep the Gracilaria from going over the baffle, but then much of it got caught on the sponge. So I tried using a light duty power head to constantly blow the Gracilaria off the sponge, but then the Gracilaria got pulled into the powerhead. For now, I have it sitting in a floating colander in the sump, but that prevents it from tumbling and prevents light from reaching most of it. What do you recommend to keep it in the sump while letting it tumble freely? Also, is a 24w (6700k) daylight compact fluorescent light about the right amount of light for the Gracilaria in this setup? (The Gracilaria compartment is about 12g.)
<I think I'd try cementing four PVC legs to a piece of white plastic eggcrate. Cut the legs so the eggcrate would be just below the baffle. If the eggcrate tends to float, a small piece of live rock will keep it down.>
I also got some Ulva for my refugium to (1) provide a breeding place for 'pods, (2) serve as an additional macro algae filter and (3) provide another source of food for my tangs. It's a 35g acrylic refugium, but the refugium compartment is 22" x 14" and the water level is 8" high.
It also contains LR rubble and a mixture of sand and mud. Is a 13w (6700k) daylight compact fluorescent light about the right amount of light for the Ulva in this setup?
<I'd say a little on the weak side with the length of the refugium. Adding another light and spacing out equally should give you plenty of light.>
The fuge and the acrylic sump are side-by-side, and I am running the lights for both on the same 12-hour cycle, opposite of the display tank. Also, is it correct to let the Ulva spread out over much of the water in the fuge, rather than being clumped in a ball or tumbling?
<Ulva lactuca (Sea Lettuce) normally shoots out a holdfast and if live rock rubble is present, it should attach as long as the water flow isn't too harsh.
If you prefer just using the sand bed with no rubble, I'd let the Ulva do what it wants.>
Water overflows from my display tank and is sent either to the acrylic sump or to the refugium -- so that both the Gracilaria and the Ulva get nutrient rich water -- and then flows into the overflow sump for return to the display. I have the Gracilaria and the Ulva separated so that they don't compete with each other.
<As long as they are in the same water system, there can/will be competition for nutrients.>
The display tank overflow is rated at up to 1400 gph total. I have about 1/4 of the display tank overflow water going through the refugium and about 3/4 through the sump. I have the lower flow in the refugium to provide a peaceful breeding ground for various critters and to keep the sand/mud from getting stirred up too much. Does the flow split sound appropriate for the Gracilaria and the Ulva? It sounds like the flow might be too much for the fuge, but it seems fairly peaceful in there.
<I'd leave as is.>
As a side note, I am thinking about adding a DSB in the sump compartment with the Gracilaria. My real concern there is making sure that the flow doesn't create a sand storm while letting the Gracilaria tumble.
<I wouldn't add a DSB, with the AquaC skimmer and refugium, you should be fine.>
What's your opinion on the carbon debate? Given the two macro algaes, the poly filter and the skimmer, is there much value in using carbon in this setup?
<Likely not, as long as the nutrients are being exported faster than they are imported. Keep an eye on the nitrate level.>
On another issue, I recently had a custom canopy built for my tank.
Every morning, there is so much moisture that the hinges are rusting, and I'm concerned that the rust will drip into the water and kill my fish. It's an island display, so all four sides are enclosed.
Unfortunately, I think that switching the hinges may be an expensive option (based on the way it's constructed, it may require some major re-work), and I'm not sure that any hinge would resist that much moisture anyway. As an alternative, do you think that installing a fan and a vent would take out enough moisture to solve the problem?
<I think so, and I would leave the fan run about 30 minutes after the lights go off.>
Lastly, I was having a major problem with micro bubbles due to all the turbulence in my sump/refugium setup (which is in the basement below the tank). I found a lot of suggestions in your FAQs that helped me to eliminate most of them; however, I still get a small amount. Do I need to eliminate micro bubbles completely, or is a small amount OK?
<What is a small amount, are they near the surface? Back in my early years in this hobby when horses were your ride (just kidding), there were no sumps, refugiums, and wet/dries. Biological filtration was carried out with undergravel filters employing one or more one inch lift tubes with limewood airstones powered by a Silent Giant air pump. We had tons of micro bubbles at the surface but they did not cause any harm to the inhabitants, just created a mess.>
Thanks again.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Growing Macro Algae & A Rust Problem 3/24/09
Thanks for the fast and VERY helpful reply!
<You're welcome.>
Two quick follow-ups:
You suggested doubling the light for the Ulva refugium (from 13w to 26w). Is 24w sufficient for the Gracilaria sump, or should I increase that too?
<Depends on how far the light will be from the surface of the water and the water depth of the sump. Makes it difficult to answer without seeing your set-up. If it has good growth now, you should be fine.>
Regarding the micro bubbles, it's hard to quantify how many there are.  Before I made adjustments, it was like a swarm. Now it's just some tiny, lazy bubbles floating around spaced fairly well apart. The bubbles are so tiny that they look more like dust particles than bubbles. They are throughout the tank water (at least in the top half of the tank). There are no bubbles sitting on the surface of the water.  Should I be concerned?
<I don't like bubbles in the tank for aesthetic reasons, if you're OK with that, then no cause for concern.>
Thanks again for the info, and for all the great WWM FAQs and articles that have provided wonderful guidance to me as I dive deeper into this hobby (and my wallet!).
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Three questions... Reef maint. f'   3/8/09 Will split these questions up so they can be posted where you guys want. Thanks to you guys who have brought the joy to a hobby that can be very confusing!! <Welcome> First, what might cause Chaetomorpha to decline in a sump? (Was flourishing for the six months prior to this). The only things that I can think of is I added more flow directly at the "ball". Also, I've seen a boom in what a internet pic identified as Munnid isopods. No changes to chemistry or lighting. My Chaeto has withdrawn to about half the size is was two months ago and is a darker green instead of the bright, light green it used to be. <Mostly nutrient limitation... other water quality issue/s... sometimes light quality diminishing... or predation as you speculate... On diverse occasions, seemingly "nothing"... perhaps some internal/genetic deterioration after so much metabolizing> Secondly, I have a cleaner that I recently received from a guy who owned it for three years. It eats great. My question is that I've recently seen him "pick" at other fish in the tank (as is natural). Does this indicate a parasitic issue? <No, not necessarily... what sort/species of "cleaner?"... Some are more obligate...> Does this indicate an outbreak or just a natural habit that doesn't indicate a serious issue for my tank? In other words, do I need to panic and start quarantining/treating fish? (Fish act fine) <... is this a Labroides? See WWM re> Lastly, my coralline seems to be disappearing in patches (used to be covered). It's not bleaching, it's just not there (I've attached a pic). It looks as if something has been eating it. Which of my fish/invertebrates may be eating the coralline off my rocks? Cleaner shrimps, ocellaris clowns, cleaner wrasse, yellow wrasse, neon gobies, Nassarius snails (didn't figure it could be any of these), scopas tang, coral beauty, Nerite snails. Any ideas? <The same as for the Chaetomorpha above. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/corlinedisfaqs.htm and the linked files above> I've tried to research everything before I ever bother you guys (know that you get lots of email), but haven't found these answers. Thanks for all your work and the sharing of your knowledge!! Scott <Again, glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Algae Queries For my sixth year Advanced Biology higher project I have decided to do  Algae growth and the factors effecting it's growth. I realize I will have to  grow it in the laboratory and then will immobilize it into jelly beads, using a solution to measure the uptake of carbon dioxide. I would be grateful for any advice on a better experiment or any changes I can make to mine to add to the reliability of results etc. (keeping in mind it is a school experiment, so nothing too advanced or complicated.) thank you very much, I would be really   pleased if you could get back to me with some feedback, Susannah Bennett >>>Hello Susannah, At the most basic level, algae needs light and a nitrogen source, (nutrients) and or a phosphate source to grow. So, you could vary the amount of nutrients and light in different cultures. One has no light, but high nutrients, one has tons of light, but no nutrients, one with high light and high nutrients, med light and high nutrients, etc, etc, on and on. :) Same with phosphates depending on how complicated you want to make this. You can measure the nutrients in the water, and phosphates with test kits.   I would use a macro algae such as Caulerpa, and simply weigh it, rather than messing with solutions and jelly beads, but that's just me. :)Seems like that is needlessly complicating things. Regards Jim<<<

Chaetomorpha question 11/10/04 In Today's Q/A there was mention of Chaetomorpha and to allow it to roll around. Is this a part of the requirements for successful growth of this plant?  <Chaetomorpha does not root and does best when it is not allowed to simply lay on the bottom of the tank, but it is very forgiving.  I have successfully grown it without keeping it suspended.  IME, the most important thing is to thin it often and not allow it to become too dense. HTH.  Adam Growing Porphyra perforata and Kappaphycus alvarezii (Opening A Sushi Bar?) - 06/10/05 I am trying to grow two types of Red algae (Porphyra perforata and Kappaphycus alvarezii) in 20 gallon fish tanks.  I have synthetic seawater (Ricca chemical) and Instant Ocean mix.  I also have a hydrometer, floating type for specific gravity determinations. I am using a chiller at 25C/77F for temperature control with light source and air circulation provided within a Conviron growth chamber.  Rio pump 2500 for circulation through the chiller, fitted with a nylon filter over intake.  The pH is maintained at 8.0.  Do I need to have rocks or other means of attachment for growth of the two species listed?  I want to culture the macro algae, which was shipped on wet ice, but am having problems getting it to grow in the 20 gallon tanks...any suggestions would be helpful.  I want to ONLY grow the algae, no fish involved. <<Well Dennis, my first suggestion would be to separate the two species if they aren't all ready to eliminate energy loss due to competition (chemical aggression).  Next...the P. perforata; according to my research, is a northern Pacific algae...likely the water temp should be in the 68-72 degree range for it to prosper...the K. alvarezii; again, according to my research, is a tropical algae...bumping its water temp to 79-80 degrees may increase growth.  Based on this you may need to operate two systems, or specialize in one species of algae.  As for rocks, both algae are found attached/overgrowing a substrate/other sessile organisms, so it probably couldn't hurt to add a few, though I don't know about the algae's ability to reattach.  You might find that obtaining specimens still attached to a substrate will be more suitable for propagation.  Providing intense lighting, increasing water flow, and supplementing iodine/iron may prove beneficial as well.>> Thank you, Dennis O'Neill <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Seaweed culture  8/31/05 Bob I was going thru ORA's website on how they culture seaweeds. What do they mean when they say they use "An air-generated method of tumbling the algae in large vats is employed to culture them." <Air bubbles, from pressurized air, are released in a circular (torus) fashion on the bottom of circular tanks, lifting water and the algae and turning it "donut fashion" in the water... gives all exposure to light, moves nutrients about. BobF> http://www.orafarm.com/algae.html regards Perry

Hawaiian Ogo... Lolo for Ogo! Aloha WWM Crew, <Eh Howzit Jeff, Scott F. with you (one haole with one Big Island girl)> Your web site is DA KINE (the best). I can't thank you guys enough for the great service you provide. I live on the island of Oahu and have a 55 FO tank. I have a question about Hawaiian Ogo (seaweed). I noticed that the local markets have fresh Ogo bagged for consumption. I was wondering if you could place that Ogo in your sump or main display. <If you got the Ogo already refrigerated, chances are it will not grow in your sump or aquarium. If it's fresh, meaning you "jus' wen pick em from da ocean water," then, the Ogo will probably survive and grow. I have had success growing fresh Ogo in a 10 gallon aquarium with an airstone. Please note that Ogo (Gracilaria parvispora) needs a lot of light and should be kept in suspension in order to grow at its best>  Moreover, would it be okay to place shoreline rocks from the North Shore into my tank without worrying about pollution and other negative consequences. Thanks for all your help. <Jeff, are you referring to coral rubble or lava rock? If it's coral rubble, it may be okay after curing. If it's lava rock, it may not work in a closed system, because of the possibility that it could release lots of compounds that will induce microalgae growth. Also, you might want to check with local authorities to see if it's legal to collect rock.> Jeff <Malama Pono and A hui hou! Scott F.>

Macroalgae In The Mix Hi My water parameters are calcium 350, kH 7.4 and alkalinity 2.63. <KH and alkalinity are a bit on the low side, but well within acceptable parameters> The iodine is saturating the water through adding too much. <Hmm- definitely continue regular water changes and discontinue the iodine dosing- the level should fall to a "normal" concentration> The Penicillus seaweed is still white looking and the Ophiocoma seem to be shedding segments from the tips of their arms and to be losing bristles and turning white in patches along the arms. One brittle star seems to have lost most of his arms. <Not sure what could be causing the brittle star to lose arm segments...I'd keep shooting for the highest possible water quality through aggressive skimming and water changes> I cleared out most of the racemosa and the prolifera isn't a problem but how do I attach cuttings of taxifolia to rocks? I know a local fish shop takes seaweed cuttings but the taxifolia is harder to attach. <If you want to keep working with this species, you might want to try attaching it with some cable twist ties gently pressed near the runners (not too tight-you just don't want it to blow away in the current) around some small chunks of live rock. I've done that with Halimeda and even Gracilaria with decent results. Once the algae puts down it's runners, you can cut away the twist ties. It's not too attractive, but you'll only need to do this for a few days, or until the runners attach. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Phycology Culture Text/Manuals?  Hi Bob,  Been catching up on reefkeepers and saw you mention a phycology culture  course you had to take way back when. Are there any texts available for this  subject (and can you recommend any you might know about) and would they be  applicable to the types of algae available to the hobby.  <Yes to both... several... look at the bibliographies to the algae pieces posted on the WWM site, www.wetwebmedia.com> Specifically, I've  tried some of the Rhodophyta that occasionally crop up (pun intended!) in  the LFS but have never had much luck. I haven't been able to find anyone who  knows (or will confess to know) much about the culture of tropical  macroalgae.  As you may know I was trying to find someone to speak on that topic for WMC  but even Jim Wolfe, who did his thesis (or was it dissertation?) on one of  our local macroalgae punted at that suggestion.  Dave Sheehy <I'll do so if you'd like... Bob Fenner, pls note/use new e-mail addr.>

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