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Can Algae Affect Test Results?

Date Published - 3rd September 2020 - Published by - iQuatics Ltd

Testing Times

It’s commonly accepted that healthy aquariums need to be maintained to exacting standards in order to survive; too much light can lead to wilting, rising water temperatures can lead to bleaching – you probably get the (potentially very murky) picture. Regularly testing your aquarium helps to keep this careful balance in check, and should be a vital part of your ongoing aquarium maintenance schedule. The problem is, things aren’t quite that simple (if it was, we wouldn’t be writing a blog on the matter) thanks to persistent nuisance algae.

Nuisance algae can come in a variety of shapes, colours and forms, from dullish brown diatoms to the strangely-named cotton candy (because of its fluffy, pink appearance). Regardless of its colouring, or resemblance to popular snacks, algae build-up can lead to an array of problems, some of which are much more serious than simply not looking so great in the living room. Most importantly, however, it can drastically skew results when you test your aquarium for various substances. Take a look at the following common example:

Let’s say you’re trying to test the phosphate (PO4) levels in your tank, but you have somewhat of a hair algae issue. A variety of standard testing kits might well indicate that your tank has a PO4 reading of 0, even though phosphates are present in the aquarium, they’re just being absorbed by the algae that’s plaguing it. Taken on their own, instances like this aren’t catastrophic, but nutrient imbalances can lead to fatal conditions for both the plants and fish in your tank if left unchecked.

Passing the Test

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t test you aquarium levels regularly – if anything it means you should be more thorough. Also, it pays to be both sceptical and rigorous with your testing regime, and be sure to keep an open mind when you receive particularly skewed results; if something looks to be a little out of place, there’s a reasonable chance its being caused by nuisance algae. To pick our brains on all things aquarium lighting and maintenance, use our Live Chat functionality today!

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