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Macroalgae, also known as seaweeds, are divided into three main divisions: Chlorophyta (the greens), Rhodophyta (the reds) and Phaeophyta (the browns). They grow in a diverse array of forms and inhabit many different areas of the world, from the chilly kelp forests off California to the warm tropical reefs of the Caribbean. Macroalgae can beautify your aquascape, enhance your system biologically as nutrient sinks and pod havens, or invade your reef. For this month's ReefSlides we take a look at some of the most common decorative and pest species.

As a general reference the following species appearing in the 'Slides are often considered pests: Asparagopsis, Bryopsis, Caulerpa sp., Valonia and the other bubble algaes, diatoms, cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates. Chaetomorpha and Ulva are often used, along with some Caulerpa, for functional export of nutrients and to increase copepod cover in refugiums. And Botryocladia, Scinaia, Sargassum, Lobophora, Padina, Halimeda, Udotea and Penicillus typically are used for a decorative effect, as they grow too slowly to be used functionally or to be considered pests.

I would like to mention that I am not a phycologist, i.e., a person who studies algae. While I am reasonably sure of the identifications presented herein, the process of identifying algae to species level is tedious and at times relies on distinctions made at the microscopic level. It is particularly difficult for red macroalgae, as there are many more red species in the world than green and brown combined. For those aquarists interested in learning more about algae and algal diversity, the Journal of Phycology and are invaluable resources. And for macroalgae husbandry, IDs, "dos and possible don'ts," you can always visit our Marine Plants and Macroalgae forum here on Reef Central.

Photos by Reef Central members. Text by Sarah Lardizabal.
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