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Re: Algae: Friend or Foe

Luca Specchio wrote:

> Hi there!
> >of their way to "eliminate" algae isn't paying attention. Almost all
> photos I've
> >seen of natural plant ecosystems seem to have two characteristics that are
> not
> >found in a typical plant tank - mostly a single species of plant
> correct!
> >AND lot's of algae.
> Well... I havent seen ANY ! Show your pics and I'll show you mine! Even in
> the Optimum Aquarium there are many pics of natural biosystems where you
> CANNOT find ANY algae.

I won't dish up any photos, since I don't have any on hand, but I'll
comment anyway.  The setting were I have often seen aquatic plants growing
apparently without algae is in spring-fed streams, near the source where
(providing the groundwater is clean and fresh) there are very few
dissolved nutrients and not much time has elapsed between the moment the
water issued from the spring and the time it reached my point of

I've seen a few other settings were macrophytes are growing but algae
weren't readily apparent but in these instances I think if you looked
closely enough you will usually find some algae.  Phytoplankton is found
almost everywhere.

Most any other time I see aquatic plants, I also see algae.  This wouldn't
necessarily be obvious in photographs.  But if you submit those settings
to the same kind of close scrutiny you give your tank I think you'll find
it there too.

The importance of algae in natural settings is undeniable.  Algae are the
primary biomass producers in aquatic systems and without them some water
bodies would be barren.  Streams and wetlands are closely linked to
terrestrial production and nutrient sources but even there the trophic web
would be pretty thinly occupied if not for the production by
phytoplankton, which are grazed by zooplankton and filter feeders, which
feed the fish...

As far as our aquariums are concerned, algae are usually present to some
degree and we often have to work to keep it below nuisance levels.  There
are cases where algae is desirable, as when you are keeping african
cichlids and other biofilm feeders that depend on it, or (as in some of my
tanks) where supporting a diversity of invertebrates is part of the reason
for the tank.

There are even times when algae are aesthetically pleasing.  Someone else
on this list mentioned once having a thick "lawn" of brush algae that was
very attractive.  I've seen this effect on stones in one of my tanks and I
would agree that it is interesting and attractive.  I also have a variety
of usually slow-growing green algae on a bit of driftwood that is very
attractive as long as its well-grazed. The algae creates a carpeting
effect that is both lush and very natural.

Roger Miller