Getting Rid Of Algae In Your PVC Hydroponic Garden

What is Algae? 

Algae is the plural for alga. It is a type of living thing which is also plant-like, and makes its food from sunlight. It uses the process of photosynthesis to do so.

Algae are nuclei, and they are different from bacteria. They get their energy to grow from the sunlight, and just like plants, they produce a by-product-oxygen.

Are the plants and algae one and the same thing?

No, they are not. The plants differentiate their tissues into leaves, roots, or trunks, and so on. Each of these is differentiated into different types of tissues.

On the other hand, the algae do not have tissue differentiation. The algae compose of cells which are generally the same.

As much as the algae is different from the plants, there are some species which relate closely to plants. The algae are in themselves very diverse.

There are different species of algae, and it can get tricky to tell the differences between algae and plants.

There is one unifying characteristic that helps to tell whether a species is algae. If a species has chlorophyll a, then that makes it algae.

On the same note, algae can be a major problem to a hydroponic system. Algae gave the capacity to climb up and cling on any surface.

That is to therefore mean that, in case it gets hold of the hydroponic system, the system is not safe from the algae.

Algae is a great threat to the hydroponic system in so many ways. If it gets a foothold into the system, it could get into the pipes and stick into the tubes.

It finds its way into the pumps, and that could paralyse the system. Once the algae begins to decompose in the system, it produces an odor you cannot stand.

When the algae in the system grows into a heavy infestation, it makes things even worse. It comes in between the medium, forming a barrier.

When the barrier develops, the plants are not able to receive the nutrients. Rather, the algae use the nutrients for their growth.

The next thing that happens is that oxygen levels in the system drop drastically. The insufficient supply of oxygen begins to suffocate the plants.

When the plants cannot receive enough oxygen, they grow too weak to fight off pathogens.

How algae effects pH levels in hydroponic

The pH levels of your hydroponic garden cannot be ignored. If you are to get the desired results from your hydroponic garden, you have to keep ensuring that the pH levels are accurate as should be.

However, algae can have a severe impact on your hydroponic pH levels if it infests your system. Some systems are more prone to algae more than others.

There is however none that is entirely safe from the same. Algae need the same conditions as your hydroponic plants in order to thrive.

It also consumes carbon dioxide the same way as the plants. In the daytime, photosynthesis takes place from the combination of the oxygen, light and the nutrients.

Towards the end of the photosynthesis period, pH levels tend to be at their peak. In the night, the opposite happens.

At night, the algae make use of the oxygen that is dissolved in the water, so that they can in turn release carbon dioxide.

The same carbon dioxide goes back to the water through respiration. The carbon dioxide in turn creates carbonic acid in the water. That causes a drop in the pH levels.

The pH swings are not good for the development of the hydroponic plants. The plants get hurt from the nutrient lockout and lack of oxygen. That eventually leads to the plants suffocating.

It is important to do all one can do to limit the chances of algae infestation in your hydroponic garden.

How does Algae get into my hydroponics system

But how does algae get into your hydroponic system in the first place?

Understanding how that happens could possibly help in putting up prevention measures. Algae is capable of travelling via microscopic airborne spores.

That is the same way they get into the hydroponic system. The spores are quite durable, and it is almost impossible to entirely keep your hydroponic system algae free.

The wind carries the spores and when one latches on your system, you end up with a mass to deal with, within no time. It is possible for the grower to be a carrier of the spores without their knowledge.

Once the spores land on your hydroponic system, they become so problematic. Assuming you had already set up all the necessary conditions for your plants, the algae thrive in the same conditions.

That explains why it is almost impossible to have a hydroponic system which is algae free. One should therefore not focus on an algae free system.

The focus should be on how to ensure the algae does not take over your system by getting out of control. If it gets out of control, it could take your system to its knees.

You should also focus on having a healthy hydroponic system. A healthy one is able to manage small amounts of algae without suffocating.

Before the small amounts of algae grow into a mass, the plants are ready for harvest. After harvest, you can then get rid of all the algae before the next growing season.

As long as you can keep the algae levels in the system within acceptable levels, your system will be good to go.

How to remove Algae effectively

The only best time to truly understand the levels of algae in your hydroponic system is when you remove the plants.

One way to effectively remove the algae is to use hydrogen peroxide. When you mix that as a solution, you can use the chemical solution to deal with the algae.

It is critical to clean the reservoir and rinse it appropriately. Then mix the hydrogen peroxide in the ratio of 1:10; (ten parts of water).

When you add small parts of the mixture to the reservoir frequently, it helps boost the oxygen levels for the roots to use.

However, it is advisable to only do this with the older plants, as younger plants may not comfortably handle that. The chemicals can damage their young roots.

Another effective way of stopping the growth of algae in the hydroponic garden is to deprive the algae of one of the conditions that favor its growth.

For example, you can remove the source of light, or the amount of light the nutrients it’s consuming is exposed to.

However, this might be almost impossible to do without hurting your plants. The plants use the same similar conditions as the algae for their growth.

It therefore becomes a challenge to deny the algae a favorable growth condition without hurting the plants. This option may therefore not really work.

You can use extracts from grapefruit seed to treat drinking water. Experts suggest that one can use that extract to get rid of algae without hurting your plants.

Prevent Algae growing again in your Hydroponic garden

It may not be practical to say that one can entirely prevent algae from growing in the hydroponic garden. Algae affects plants by competing for the same nutrients the plants need.

That slows down the growth of the plants, although at times you may not notice it. However, it gets worse when the fungi dies and decomposes by microscopic fungi.

The microscopic fungi attracts fungus gnats, which infest the roots and chew uncountable holes on the roots.

The holes then become open wounds which invite other pathogens in the nutrient solution to infect the plants.

Since you may not completely manage to ensure algae does not grow in your hydroponic garden, there are other measures you can take.

You can keep the nutrient solution between 65-68 degrees. That ensures the fungi does not grow fast enough to overtake the plants.

The other thing you can do is to ensure the nutrient solution is well oxygenated. It helps to keep the pathogens out of your hydroponic garden. It also encourages healthy growth of the roots of your plants.

When you use small amounts of Hydrogen Peroxide in your reservoir, it helps to do all the things that help keep algae away; it kills algae, eliminates pathogens and ensures the nutrient solution is kept oxygenated.

Just ensure that when you use Hydrogen Peroxide, you use it safely, and effectively.

How to prevent algae growth in your hydroponic system

The most effective way to prevent algae growth in your hydroponic garden is to prevent the algae from accessing a source of light.

However, there are other available ways to manage the spread of algae for the sake of the plants.

Each option varies in how effective it can get, but the results depend on how well the option is utilized:

  1. UVC light

The way to go about this is to install UVC lighting where the water infiltration is set. The light helps to kill any existing or potential microorganisms. That also includes algae which could have possibly accessed your hydroponic garden.

This option can be costly. It will also require you to power the lights as long as the system is running.

However, UVC light is a perfect solution when you have a serious algae infestation in your system.

  1. Grapefruit seed extract

Research shows that when you use grapefruit seed extract in proper measures, it effectively kills algae from your system.

This is because the extract is a powerful anti-bacterial, anit-parasitic and antifungal compound.

As long as you can learn to use them in low quantities, it is one of the most effective methods of getting rid of algae in your hydroponic garden. In low quantities, it takes away the algae without harming the plants.

The recommended portion to use is 5-10 drops for every gallon of water. This will keep the algae from growing.

  1. Barley straw rafts

The solution has proved to be an effective way of getting rid of algae growth in your hydroponic garden. The best way to apply it though, is when you are doing large scale hydroponic farming.

Research has been done on the decomposition of barley straw rafts. It showed that the decomposition results in a solution that stops the growth of algae.

The challenge with this method is that it is rather slow. It may therefore not serve small scale growers. Because the process is much slower, it would best fit large-scale growers.

You need to ensure that when the decomposition is happening, the water has lots of dissolved oxygen. This is to ensure that only aerobic decomposition takes place.

  1. Control light

However, when all the methods of controlling algae are gauged, the best of them all is to control the source of light the algae is exposed to.

Allow lighting for 6 to 8 hours daily. A shorter exposure to lighting will cause the algae to shrink back, especially the species that need intense lighting to survive.

If the problem persists, check if upping the lighting period will help. You can consider upping to 8 to 12 hours daily. The algae species that thrive in low-light environments will die away.

Steps to cleaning and sterilizing your PVC hydroponic system

Algae easily spreads through the air, and it is important to keep your system clean.

Before commencing your growing season, you need to ensure you get rid of algae from your hydroponic garden. These are the step to follow to clean and sterilize your PVC hydroponic system:

  • Step 1: Drain the system

You will need to drain your system of the old nutrient mixture. If your system is not using any pumps, you may need to empty it manually.

If yours is a recirculating system, you have two ways of emptying the system. You can open the tank and let the water flow out naturally. This would work for a tank that has a drain valve.

In that case, you would need an area that is lower than your tank, and use that area as a run off area.

You could also remove all the electrics before disconnecting the pump from the tank. This is especially important if you are using the return pump formula.

When you do not want to naturally drain out the water, the first thing is to remove the outlet pump.

The next thing is to connect the female connector to your pump. Then ensure your outlet horse connects to the draining or run off area. Just before the pump starts to dry out, you need to turn it off.

You will notice that both formulas of draining the water leave you with small inches of water that you need to dry out. The next thing to do is to use a sponge and a bucket to dry out the tank.

  • Step 2: Cleaning system

As you do all you can to tackle the issue of algae in your hydroponic garden, you will need to follow the cleaning steps after every harvest.

The only way to ensure you keep your system from algae is to keep cleaning it. Cleaning takes away all the traces of algae, bacterial growth and pathogens.

You can at this stage use two chemicals:

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide (food grade)-for each gallon of water, use 3mlts of the chemical. This will help you to attain 35% of the concentration.
  1. Unscented bleach- in this case, you would need to use 1.3 oz of the chemical for each gallon of water.

Steps to follow when cleaning your hydroponic system:

  1. Use either of the systems to drain the system.
  2. Put aside the pumps and the air stones. If you notice algae on them, you would need to clean them up.
  3. Remove every part of your system that in normal circumstances you find hard to access.
  4. Check if you will find debris, algae growth, or any broken roots.
  5. Get your preferred cleaning solution. Get your green scrubbing pads and wipe clean all the areas you notice algae growth. Consider using bottlebrushes for areas you find hard to access.
  6. When filling the reservoir, ensure the water goes above the normal filling level. This will help to cover the area the algae had formed.
  7. Get your sterilizing solution, either hydrogen Peroxide or bleach, and add it.
  8. Run your system for about four to six hours.
  9. Scrub the channels and the conduits. That helps flush the algae and the debris back to the tank.
  10. Triple flush the system if you are using bleach.
  11. For the final time, drain the system and wipe it down.
  12. Finally turn on the lights. This helps to keep the algae from growing.

Cleaning the hydroponic system components

Check for any traces of algae on the growing medium and the pots. Clean them up using Hydrogen Peroxide. Clean all the components including the pumps.

For all the small components, you can use a bleach bath. Soak all of them and ensure the chemical mix is in the ratio of 1:1.

You need to ensure that no traces are left on the components by carrying out a triple rinse.

This will make sure your pvc hydroponics if free of algae and thus produce a healthy crop.