The Fish Guru

Natural Effective and Low-Maintenance: The Benefits of Algae Scrubbers

Maintaining a healthy and thriving ecosystem is crucially important for aquarists. Achieving this balance requires careful consideration and management of various parameters in your aquarium.

An important aspect of water quality management is controlling the growth of unwanted algae. There are several options available to tackle this issue, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we will look at algae scrubbers and the benefits they offer in controlling algae growth. We will also compare them to other solutions available in the market.

Algae Scrubbers vs. Other Solutions

Algae Blocker

Boyd Enterprises Chem Clean and Cyano blocker are examples of chemicals that can be added to your aquarium to control algae growth. Chem Clean is primarily used to remove red slime algae (Cyanobacteria), whereas Cyano blocker prevents its growth.

Although these chemicals can be effective, they have to be used carefully as overdosing can harm fish and invertebrates in your tank.

Algae Reactor

An algae reactor, also known as a macroalgae reactor, is a tank that holds macroalgae like

Cheato that grows by absorbing excess nutrients in your aquarium’s water. This method of algae control is natural, eco-friendly and can serve as a food source for some marine creatures.

However, macroalgae using reactors can provide low levels of denitrification; thereby, other measures would have to be taken to achieve maximum efficiency.

Biopellet Reactor

Biopellet reactors are similar to algae reactors in the way that they function, with only a few differences. The primary mechanism of action in biopellet reactors is denitrification.

Biopellets are cylindrical beads made of polymer material that serves as a food source for nitrate-consuming bacteria. Biopellet reactors are efficient at removing dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus.


Cheato is a type of macroalgae that is popular for natural removal of excess nutrients from aquariums. They provide a natural habitat for microfauna such as copepods that can be a food source for some marine invertebrates.

Cheato grows in a refugium within your sump, and it’s suitable for nutrient control in a refugium that gets adequate lighting.


Denitrators, as implied by the name, are used to remove nitrogen from your aquarium. They operate by encouraging the growth of anaerobic bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrogen gas, which is then released from the aquarium’s water.

For efficient denitrification to take place, the media bag containing the bacteria should be regularly replaced to enable growth.

GFO (AKA Phosban)

Granular Ferric Oxide (GFO), also known as Phosban, is a media that binds phosphate in your aquarium’s water. They are effective in removing dissolved phosphorous and usually come in a small reactor that has to be regularly maintained.

However, the recurring costs associated with replacing media are a downside of using GFO.


A refugium is a portion of your sump designed to house macroalgae like cheato and microorganisms that remove excess nutrients and provide diversity to your tank ecosystem. Refugia also serve as a safe haven for newly introduced fish and invertebrates.

They help to maintain a healthy balance in your aquarium.

Zeovit System

The Zeovit system is an ultra-low nutrient system that aims to achieve maximum water quality. The system is based on dosing combinations of chemicals with the primary goal of making ammonia the primary nutrient available to your aquarium’s inhabitants.

The system also uses macroalgae, polymer beads and activated charcoal to remove additional nutrients from the water.

Advantages of Algae Scrubbers

Natural Solution

Algae scrubbers offer a natural solution to controlling the growth of unwanted algae. They work by growing algae on a surface area, thereby absorbing nutrients in the water rather than filtering the water directly.

Long-term Investment

Algae scrubbers are long-term investments that do not require constant maintenance and replacement parts. Their simplicity means fewer potential problems that could arise.

Concentrated Nutrient Absorption

Algae scrubbers utilize maximum surface area for algae growth, which translates to the efficient absorption of nutrients from the water. Therefore, an even more potent water filtration mechanism is possible with a minimum of algae scrubbers.

Control ofProcedures

Algae scrubbers can be used to filter tank water before it is introduced to a new fish, plant or other aquatic life. This prevents the introduction of unwanted contaminants to your aquarium.

Easy to Operate

Algae scrubbers are simple to operate and require minimal monitoring and maintenance. By allowing light to filter through a screen, you can grow algae on a screen mesh and easily remove it from your aquarium.


Controlling unwanted algae growth is crucial for aquariums. There are several methods for managing algae, and each has its unique advantages and disadvantages.

Algae scrubbers offer a natural, efficient, and straightforward solution that is easy to operate, making them an excellent option for those looking to keep their aquarium healthy and balanced. By using algae scrubbers, fish and other aquatic animals can thrive in an environment that supports life to the fullest.

Comparison to Other Products

Algae scrubbers have several advantages over other products for controlling unwanted algae growth in aquariums. In this section, we will explore these advantages in detail.

Advantages Over

Algae Blocker

Chemical-based algae blockers, such as Boyd Enterprises Chem Clean and Cyano block, can wipe out nuisance algae in your tank. However, they come with several disadvantages.

Firstly, poor water source quality can lead to the continued development of new algae. Secondly, the use of chemical-based algae blockers can disrupt your aquariums essential bacteria and lead to bad aquarium housekeeping.

In comparison, algae scrubbers operate by utilizing a natural method of filtration, making them the ideal choice for long-term maintenance without chemical intervention. Advantages Over

Algae Reactor

Algae reactors, also known as macroalgae reactors, grow macroalgae like

Cheato to absorb excess nutrients in the water, preventing algae growth in the main tank.

However, algae reactors can be tricky to set up, and issues with individual parts can be complicated to fix. In comparison, algae scrubbers are easy to assemble, operate, and replace if necessary, making them more efficient than algae reactors.

Advantages Over

Biopellet Reactor

Biopellet reactors operate by removing dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus by providing a food source for nitrate-consuming bacteria. However, biopellet reactors can be tricky to dial in, leading to algae growth.

Additionally, they can strip too many nutrients, leaving the aquarium unstable for its inhabitants. In comparison, algae scrubbers provide stable and reliable nutrient control without the necessity of constantly monitoring settings.

Advantages Over


Cheato is widely used to control nutrient levels in aquariums with mechanical or chemical filtration, acting as a part of your refugium systems. But, cheato growth comes with risks of pests and diseases that can harm your tank’s delicate ecosystem.

To overcome this, successful algae scrubbers (like from Algaebarn) have focused on increasing surface area growth and including a 6-stage vetting process, including quarantine periods, ensuring that each product is pest- and disease-free. This makes an algae scrubber an efficient alternative for controlling nutrient levels in your aquarium.

Advantages Over


Denitrators operate by removing nitrogen from the aquarium water by using bacterial denitrification.

Denitrators require regular media-replacement to promote colony establishment, making them operational and expensive solutions in the long run.

In comparison, algae scrubbers are more cost-efficient as they do not require any media replacements, and they can also effectively remove phosphates from the water, preventing algae growth. Advantages Over

GFO (AKA Phosban)

GFO or Phosban media is used by aquarium enthusiasts to remove phosphates from their tank water.

GFO can be a component in a phosphate reactor or used within a micron filter sock within your sump. However, GFO has recurring costs for replacing the media and can lead to depleted levels of nitrate, harming the aquarium’s delicate balance.

An algae scrubber is more efficient because it can remove nitrates and phosphates from aquarium water, without the recurring costs of media replacement. Advantages Over


Refugia, a portion of your sump designed to house macroalgae, compensate for inadequate filtration or help to sustain copepod growth in your aquarium.

However, the size of your refugium may limit the amount of nutrient removal possible, as opposed to an efficient algae scrubber. Scrubbers provide more reliable nutrient control, effectively removing nutrients from the water without the need for refugia.

Advantages Over

Zeovit System

The Zeovit system is an ultra-low nutrient system aiming to achieve the highest water quality possible. Though the system can improve water quality, the process can be complicated, and the initial setup requires care and attention to the chemicals being introduced.

In comparison, algae scrubbers require minimal setup and are known for their ease of use. Inclusion of nature as the solution allows for a less complicated, more eco-friendly approach to aquarium maintenance.


Algae scrubbers provide a natural, effective, and low-maintenance solution to controlling unwanted algae growth in aquariums, which algae blockers, reactors, refugia, and other products cannot match. They are easy to operate, do not require recurring maintenance costs associated with chemical-based or media-consuming solutions, and have a minimalized risk of disrupting the aquarium’s delicate ecosystem.

An efficient algae scrubber can improve water quality in your tank, enabling your fish and other aquatic creatures to thrive in their natural environment. Algae scrubbers are a natural, effective, and low-maintenance solution to controlling unwanted algae growth in aquariums.

Comparing them to other products in the market, this article has identified algae scrubbers as having several advantages, including concentrated nutrient absorption, controlled introduction procedures, long-term investment, and ease of operation, among others. Algae scrubbers can improve water quality in your tank, enabling your fish and aquatic creatures to thrive in their natural environment.

The importance of maintaining a healthy and thriving ecosystem cannot be overstated, and with algae scrubbers, aquarists can have an eco-friendly solution to maintaining their aquarium and ensuring their desired aquatic species’ longevity and success.

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