Aquatic plantAquarium

How to Kill Hair Moss in an Aquarium

How to get rid of moss, and especially hair moss, is one of the most common problems in aquarium hobby.
How to Kill Hair Moss in an Aquarium

Hair moss usually forms filaments up to 20 cm long. If left untreated, moss can grow quite quickly and take over the tank within weeks or even days. Although, erroneously, hair moss is considered a nuisance, it can still clog filters, pumps, and even damage the nitrogen cycle. 

Hair moss is not just a genus or a species of moss, as some articles have stated. These mosses include several genera, the most common of which are Rhizoclonium, Cladophora, Spirogyra, Oedogonium.

You are watching: How to Kill Hair Moss in an Aquarium

In this article, you will know the different types of hair moss, what causes them and, more importantly, how to get rid of them or prevent their appearance in the tank.

Is Hair Moss Harmful to Plants and Animals?

Yes, hair moss can be harmful to a plant when it starts to deteriorate.

For example:
Mosses compete with plants for nutrients (Allelopathy) and can slow their growth.

When hair moss covers the tree, the plant cannot carry out photosynthesis and grow. In the worst case, the tree will die.

In heavily contaminated tanks, when hair moss dies, they can cause ammonia spikes. These substances are very toxic to shrimp & fish. High concentrations can wipe out your entire tank.

– Some species of hair moss can be so long that small fish and fry can get entangled in it and die.

– Sometimes there can be so much moss on the tree that the only way to get rid of them

– remove the entire plant along with the moss.

– The water becomes dirty and cloudy.

– Moss can slow down gas exchange in the tank, which will also slow down plant growth.

– Reduce the density of invertebrates and spawning fish.

– Can clog filters, pumps and damage the nitrogen cycle.

While it may not be a problem at first, when it starts to go bad (and gets worse very quickly!), hair moss can do a lot of harm to the plants and animals in your tank.

Types of hair moss

1. Rhizoclonium hair moss

These pesky hair mosses often appear in aquarium systems that are recently launched or are severely unbalanced. Therefore, when there is a significant amount of ammonia in the tank, you should not be surprised if Rhizoclonium appears.


Features of Rhizoclonium:
– This type of hair moss has the appearance of light to pale green filamentous clusters.

– It is very slimy to the touch.

– They are thread-like and form large tangled rugs.

– The fine filaments can be up to 5 cm (2 inches) long, they are unbranched.

- Cells are large, long and cylindrical. They are 2 to 4 times longer than wide, seen under magnification.

In nature, Rhizocloniums do not adhere to substrates and can even float near the surface, being held by the oxygen they produce. In aquariums, on the contrary, these mosses often start to grow from the surface of leaves, decorations and from the media.

This hair moss prefers to grow in shallow and hard water in places similar to Cladophora, where it is related.

According to research, Rhizoclonium can grow even in diluted seawater.

Common causes:
New tank setup and incomplete nitrogen cycle.
– Low maintenance level.
- Very low CO2 level.
- Very low water flow.

How to remove Rhizoclonium hair moss?
– This is the easiest moss of the 4 types of hair moss.

Once the nitrogen cycle is restored or terminated, Rhizoclonium usually disappears.
Manual removal:
– Use moss-eating species such as any color shrimp, Amano shrimp, Nerite snail, Otocinclus fish, grouper….

2. Oedogonium hair moss

Oedogonium is a group of green mosses common in freshwater tanks. Their tenacious cells allow these mosses to adhere firmly to almost any surface including plants and substrates.

Oedogonium Hair algae

These mosses look very fluffy and often appear on weakened or dead plants. It can be found both in new and stabilized tanks. In some cases, it can appear after mass pruning.

Features of Oedogonium:
– The main characteristic feature that Oedogonium hair moss can always accurately recognize among other fibers is the “cap” present on some cells.

– Color from dark green to yellow green.

These hairs do not feel greasy to the touch and are non-slip

- Very fast growth rate.

– It prefers to grow in tanks without strong currents.

Membranes are made up of mononuclear, cylindrical cells.

This hair moss is very versatile and can reproduce by vegetative, asexual and sexual methods.

Common causes:
– Hair moss in this group is often associated with low macronutrient levels, too high or too low levels of nitrate (NO3) and phosphate (PO4) in the tank.

See more: Little Star Tree – Instructions on How to Grow and Propagate (Pogostemon Helferi)

– Unstable or very low CO2 levels.

How to remove Oedogonium hair moss:
– Contrary to popular belief, Oedogonium hair moss is affected by most species of shrimp and fish (except for Amano shrimp). dislike eat. Those that eat moss, Nerite snails, Otocinclus fish can eat when hungry and the moss is not too large.

– Remove severely affected parts of the plant.

Use a toothbrush to remove it manually.

– Adjust nitrate and phosphate levels in the tank.

– Use CO2 spray once (20 ml per 100 liters or 25 gallons) at night for 3-5 consecutive days.

– Seachem Flourish Excel and/or Hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide) will also be helpful.

Another option is to look for moss treatment products that contain algaecide. Algaecide is very effective against hair moss. Example: Tetra Algae Control

Once optimal conditions for plant growth are restored, Oedogonium hair moss usually weakens and disappears. In a balanced tank, it cannot compete with the plants for nutrients.

3. Hair MossSpirogyra

Spirogyra (also known as pond silk) is one of the most common freshwater green mosses in all parts of the world. There are over 200 species of Spirogyra, some of which can even be found in brackish waters.

Spirogyra Hair Algae

Although it is fragile to the touch, it is one of the hardest hairy mosses to remove in the aquarium hobby.

Features of Spirogyra:
In the aquarium, it looks like bright green filaments.

– To the touch there is a slimy and slippery feeling due to a mucous membrane.

– Free-floats and can form cotton-brown carpets.

Spirogyra has very long, unbranched filaments that can grow up to 15 cm or more.

Reproduction can be vegetative (mitotic) or sexual (conjugation).

- Multiply very quickly. In a well-lit aquarium, it can cover all the plants and decorations in just a few days.

The fibers usually grow parallel to each other rather than twisted. If necessary, it can be split into a string.

– Spirogyra hair moss prefers calm and slow-moving waters.

These filamentous mosses are characterized by ribbon-shaped chloroplasts arranged in a spiral form inside the cell. This unique feature gives it a sparkling look in water.

Common causes:
- Too much light in the tank.

- Lots of organic waste.

Too many micronutrients in the water.

According to research, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause growth.

How to remove Spirogyra hair moss:
– Confronting Spirogyra is extremely difficult. The main problem is that to grow, it has the same needs and requirements as aquatic plants (more nutrients in the water, good light and even carbon dioxide (CO2)).

– Manually remove as much as possible.

– Reduce fertilizer dosage to at least 50% or even stop.

– Turn off the lights for 3 days.

– After 3 days of turning off the lights, reduce the lights to 2-4 hours.

– Use moss eaters like Amano shrimp, Florida sailfish, and hope that Spirogyra hair moss won't grow too fast for them to eat it.

We can use chemical Excel + H2O2.
Although you can use Seachem Exel and Hydrogen peroxide separately. They are most effective when combined. You need to make a 50/50 mix of 3% Hydrogen peroxide and Seachem Excel.

Potential Problem: You must understand the risk. Hydrogen peroxide + Seachem Excel may be too much for your beneficial bacteria, pets and plants. This is very dangerous but is effective even against tough mosses like black moss. 

1 day
– Reduce the daily light cycle to 4 hours.
– Remove moss manually as much as possible.
– Large water changes (50 – 80%) to remove free-floating moss particles from the water column. Important: Besides the fact that the concentration of this treatment is not safe for animals, especially for shrimp, excessive water changes can also cause serious molting problems for shrimp.
- Increased breathability. When mosses start to die, they will begin to decompose. This process will absorb a lot of oxygen. Depending on the case, it can even suffocate your fish or shrimp.
– Turn off your filter (Note: Ideally, you need to remove the filter media so that the beneficial bacteria are not affected).
– Use a mixture of Hydrogen peroxide and Seachem Excel at 1 ml per 4.5 liters (Slightly stir the water to spread, if you have the filter turned off).
- Wait 1 hour.
– Turn your filter back on or reset the filter media.

Day 2 and Day 3:
Keep a daily light cycle of 4-5 hours.
– Change water and add microorganisms.
– Turn off your filter (Note: Ideally, you need to remove the filter media so that the beneficial bacteria are not affected).
– Use a mixture of Hydrogen peroxide and Seachem Excel at 1 ml per 4.5 liters (Slightly stir the water to spread, if you have the filter turned off).
- Wait 1 hour.
– Turn your filter back on or reset the filter media.

At this point, you should notice some changes:
– No new moss grows.
- Some patches of dead moss.
The moss becomes pale, short, and begins to recede.
– If you are satisfied with the results, you can begin to gradually increase the lamp cycle and dosage.

4. Cladophora hair moss

First of all, there are many varieties of Cladophora that fall under the general category of hair moss. However, for aquarium purposes, we can divide them all into two main categories:
- Helpful
- Harmful

Cladophora Hair

For example, Marimo ball moss is also a filamentous green moss (Cladophora aegagropila or Cladophora sauteri). They are often used in aquariums to decorate the foreground and midground.

Unfortunately, all other Cladophora species are harmful mosses and should be removed immediately from the tank.

Refer: Retired Horn Moss – Causes And Treatments

Cladophora hair moss is also often confused with Rhizoclonium hair moss. As we all know, Rhizoclonium moss is the easiest moss to remove and it usually goes away on its own. So people just let it grow and didn't take any action. This is a mistake.

Note: Unlike Cladophora, Rhizoclonium fibers are softer and more mucilaginous to the touch.

Features of Cladophora:
– Color range from light to dark green (most often).

– Feels rough and elastic to the touch. These fibers will regrow when crushed by hand. Unlike other hair mosses, these mosses do not have a mucous membrane.

– Can be firmly attached to any surface including surfaces or can float freely.

These hair mosses are not afraid of water currents and can survive in fast currents.

– Cladaphora moss grows huge! In aquariums, their filaments can be up to 30 cm long. In the wild, this moss can grow to several meters.

Most Cladophore species prefer cold temperatures.

Common causes:
- Unknown
During my research on Cladophore hair moss, I found a lot of controversial information. For example, some sources say that low concentrations of macronutrients, nitrate (NO3) and phosphate (PO4) can cause it in the tank. At the same time, I know for sure that people get these mosses when they have enough macronutrients, nitrates and phosphates. Same with CO2, water flow, light, etc

– Although it is not clear what exactly causes Cladophore, I believe it is an excess of nutrients. The reason behind this idea is quite simple. Cladophora is the most 'plant-like' of all mosses.

Like Spirogyra, it has the same needs and requirements as aquatic plants (many nutrients in water, good light and carbon dioxide (CO2)). The difference, however, is that Cladophore moss has a more complex structure, so it is closer to a plant than a 'higher life form'. Basically, we have to treat it almost like a plant. (Remember, Moss Balls are a species of Cladophora.)

So if it's very close to plants - nutrients are probably the most important factor in this equation.

How to remove Cladophora hair moss:

– This is the hardest hair moss among mosses. In some cases, you may be able to flip your tank over fighting the Cladophora for weeks and even months.

It is not afraid of shade or glare, feels comfortable in both cool and warm water. Some species of Cladophora can even live in sea and fresh water, they are tolerant of salinity of 5–30 ppt.

– Killing Cladophora selectively in a planted tank is almost impossible. It must be a combination of many different methods. Get ready that some of them won't work for you.

– In any case, we should always try to balance all the parameters in the tank first. Although Cladophora is an 'evolution of moss', it can still be competed by plants. This factor will give us an advantage while we use other methods.

– Manual removal. In some cases, when it clings to the background, you may have to remove the background. Because Cladophora will leave spores there.

– On-site treatment with H2O2 and/or Excel for mild cases.

– Overdose of H2O2 and/or Excel for bad cases.

– Optimize CO2 and nutrient levels

- Turn off the light

– Use Amano shrimp

Overdosing on H2O2 and/or Excel

– I have described these methods, the only difference is that Cladophora is a very hard and resilient moss. Which means you may have to increase your H2O2 and/or Excel levels to deal with it.

For example, instead of 1 ml for every 4.5 liters, use 1.5 ml or even more. Once you see Cladophora turn pale, that's a good sign for you.

– You must understand that this concentration can be very dangerous not only for fish, shrimp, etc., but also for plants. There's a very high chance that some plants (especially soft ones like moss) won't make it.

Optimize CO2, nutrient levels

– If you use CO2 injection, you need to reduce your CO2 level slightly for a week or more.

Next, raise your CO2 level slightly above normal. Don't forget to remove Cladophora manually every time.
By doing so in well-constructed tanks, plants will be promoted which can help remove moss. However, if there is no balance in the tank, the Cladophora can also adapt to changes quite well.

Turn off the light

– Cladophora is not interested in turning off the lights for 2 to 3 days. The only option here is to increase it to 7-14 days. Unfortunately, it can also be a problem for your tank.

Therefore, we can only use this method when it is possible to remove infected plants from the tank.

Types of moss eating

Most moss eaters refuse to eat Cladophora. Even the Amano shrimp won't do that if there's something else in the tank. Therefore, we had to stop feeding the Amano shrimp. Amano shrimp must be very hungry to touch this moss.

– Note: Amano shrimp can be especially effective when combined with the light-off method

Any disease is easier to prevent than to cure. This rule is also true in the case of uncontrolled growth of hair moss. The presence of moss in the tank is a clear signal to the aquarist that there is an imbalance in nutrients, light and maintenance.

And last but not least, don't forget to quarantine all plants. You must treat them before adding them to the tank. Never place plants with any visible moss on them. It will save you headaches like hair moss or parasites (like harmful snails). 

See more: Ludwigia Arcuata (Ludwigia Arcuata) - Instructions on how to grow and propagate

5 ( 11 votes )

Related Posts

New Posts

see more