Killer Algae

by Lexi Dean, Animal Science major

Invasive Species: Killer Algae
Scientific Name: Caulerpa taxifolia

Killer Algae is native to the Indian Ocean range but is now established in the Mediterranean Sea and was found in Southern California in 2000. It was introduced to the environment by net fouling, ballast water and released from aquariums.

Killer Algae can form new fronds and stems from mere segments of itself. It can produce up to one centimeter of vegetative per day. It is invasive because it crowds out and replaces native algae and sea grasses. Other negative effects of  Caulerpa taxifolia are that is spreads rapidly and. is very toxic. The herbivores that feed on the native algae now have to feed on the toxic algae. Fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, and sea birds are adversely affected by this nonindigenous invasive species.

A certain strand of Mediterranean Caulerpa taxifolia was selectively bred for aquarium trade and therefore is extremely tough. It is tolerant of many temperatures and light conditions. It grows on many different substrates and can grow in waters as deep as one-hundred meters down.This seaweed can live up to ten days out of water and can spread with just one torn leaf.

Each stem can grow up to nine feet in length. Copper sulfate can be used to control the Killer Algae. In California, a small invasion was controlled by covering it with tarps that were weighted down by sandbags and then pumping chlorine bleach into the enclosure. While this method did prove successful it did in turn kill any marine life that was stuck to the algae or in the enclosure.

We can help prevent future introduction or spread by not using seaweed in aquariums, disposing of unused bait and seaweed, inspecting your boat, trailers, anchors and other water sport equipment and placing all organisms in a trash bag, not back into the water.


Caulerpa taxifolia (RIDNIS Project). N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2017. <>.

Killer Algae :: Caulerpa Taxifolia. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2017. <>.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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