Diatoms are brown algae that often appears when the aquarium was set up new and is just in the cycle process, this may take up to a few weeks. But they are not limited to this. Even in older systems it can reappear when a lot of rock was moved or new added.
They might cover large areas of sand, rock glass, pretty anything, and make the aquarium look very unsightly but they are not harmful.
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How to identify them:
These micro algae will spread in thin layers over the sand and rock, normally less than 2mm thick. Rubbing them between the fingers it will feel like sand as the shell of the diatoms are made out of silicon dioxide. They don't have trapped air bubbles, and the colouration is grey to brown.
How to remove them:
A good way to remove them is to manually syphon them out, cleaning the tank glass carefully ( from the bottom to the top with a sponge , and cleaning the sponge once you reached the top), using silicate removing compounds or to get some critters who feed on diatoms, like the Cerith snail (Cerithium strercusmuscarum).
These nuisance algae feed on silicates in the water. A very important point to avoid the further introduction of silicone in the marine aquarium is to use quality RODI water and salt mixes. Should you use your own RODI-unit keep an eye of the intervals to change the filter and chemicals, to maintain a proper water quality.
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