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Algae Advice

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by longahc, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    I recently set up my tank.

    180 gallon, 75g sump filter with a Fluval 404 for mechanical/carbon filtration. The only fish load at the moment is four SAE, and 10 ottos which I haven't fed due to the assumption they would feed on algae. Temp is around 78 F. (edit) - forgot to mention lighting which is four 95W CF bulbs and two 90W T5 bulbs all 6700K (makes around 3.1 watts/gal.).

    The CO2 is probably around 20-25ppm based on the color of the drop checker. I'm using the EI method for fertilization. I put in 0.75 tsp of KH2P04 on Friday, and Monday. I also dosed 1.5 tsp of KNO3 the same days. I used the recommended quantity of Seachem Flourish on the same days. Today (Wednesday) I noticed Spirogyra (silk algae) growing on the plants and driftwood. A sizable amount but nothing that overly concerns me.

    The plants are growing like weeds and have great color. According to the following article (Aquarium Algae ID (updated)) this algae is caused by an excess of nutrients. I was surprised because the amount of ferts I dosed was half what I calculated for my water volume. I thought it best to start out low and build up as the plants matured. The plan load is as follows: ~50 assorted stems, ~15 val, 5 HC patches around 2" in diameter, 2 swords, and 4 aponogetens.

    I thought the best thing to do to keep things from getting out of hand was to not dose ferts today (Wednesday) and then go a little lighter on my doses when I did a water change this Saturday. Seem like a reasonable plan?

    Any advice appreciated.
     
  2. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    How long ago was the tank setup? It could be still cycling...........

    > 3 wpg is a lot of light. You may want to reduce that to 2 wpg or so if possible.

    High light = high demand for nutrients (including c02). So, keep in mind. Lower light = less demand.

    How are you injecting/distributing your c02?

    I have a 180 and keeping the flow/current so that nutes are available all over is quite a job.......

    Are you just using the canister for flow? The 404 seems undersized for your tank........

    What is in your sump? Bio-balls, anything? What size pump drives the sump?

    Are you using 4d KH water in the drop checker?

    You should dose regularly. K and P on Mon, Wed, Fri and trace on Tues, Thur, Sat, and the min 50% WC with condition and/or GH booster on Sunday.

    Daily dosing would be better if possible. If so, wait 4-6 hours after dosing the K and P to dose the traces..........

    Can you post a pic?
     
  3. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    About six months ago - yeah - LFS couldn't get the plants in - gave up and ordered from aquariumplants.com. Anyway - I kept the lights off for that time and did three 50% water changes the week before I stocked with plants. I figured with a low fish load and a large volume that the surfaces and gravel bed would have plenty of bacteria. Think I might be wrong on that?

    I'll turn off one of the CF banks which will leave me with about 2 wpg. My lighting is left over from my saltwater setup which had 4 T5 and 4 CF for about 5 wpg. :)

    A mazzei injector. Aquatic Eco-Systems: Mazzei® Venturi Injectors. The bubbles are too much to count - likely a cost of the sump.


    I have two return pumps running through the sump. One Mag 9.5, and a Iwaki 30 RXT. This gives around 1300 gph turnover with the head loss taken into account. The sump just has gravel (Eco Complete same as display) and a couple of driftwood/stones. I plan to use that side to grow some more plants to sell back to the LFS. Nothing is in the business end of the sump except a 1000 W heater. The 404 is in addition to the rest of the tank - I added it for the sake of running carbon and mechanical filtration which works best under a forced flow as opposed to gravity fed via a sump. The flow looks good in the tank - I make that judgement based on the CO2 bubbles that float around - they are getting good distribution throughout the tank and it doesn't appear to have any dead spots. Also not too much as the plants are gently moving in the flow. I use spray bars at the back/bottom of the tank to distribute the flow.

    Yes, bought online from here: KH Standard

    I've only dosed twice since I added the plants last week. I was dosing K, P, and liquid ferts all on the same day. Does alternating make a difference?

    I'll post pictures tomorrow when the lights come on.

    Thanks for your help!
    Aaron
     
  4. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I don't think your dosing is correct. Adding 1.5 tsp of KNO3 to 160 gallons of water only gives you about 9ppm of nitrate and less than 5ppm of potassium. I think you want to maintain at least 15-20ppm of both nitrate and potassium, depending on the uptake. Especially with co2 and high light, this sounds very lean to me.

    Adding .75 tsp of KH2PO4 is giving you a whopping 4ppm of phosphate. Suggested levels are only 1 - 2ppm.

    Here are some numbers if you want to see how you might adjust things...

    KNO3: 2.6 tsp will give you 15ppm in 160 gallons of water, and 9.4ppm of potassium
    KH2PO4: 1/3 tsp will give you 2ppm in 160 gallons of water

    Adjust frequency of dosing depending on uptake/co2/lighting - you might need to add this 3x/week. If it were a low light tank or non-co2, I would add 1x/week at the water change only.


    Edit: Wait, didn't see that about the sump! This changes things a lot.

    So if we now assume 230 gallons of water:

    KNO3: 3.8 tsp
    KH2PO4: 1/2 tsp

    This will give you the same results as above. What you were adding before, was giving you 6ppm of nitrate, 3.79 ppm of potassium and 3ppm of phosphate.
     
  5. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hey,

    So, the tank was setup with some fish, but NO lights and no plants for MONTHS? Just curious.

    I am sure the tank is mature after 6 months, but remember that bacteria grow with the abundance of food for them. Low fish loads, low feeding etc, there is no need for a huge number of bacteria, regardless of the amount of SPACE available for them to occupy.

    The lower light can be temporary until things are going well. It is easier to add than take away light.

    I would set duration to about 8-9 hours at first.

    I ordered from them too, I think they have good stuff. AP.com that is.....

    What size Mazzei, and what are you driving it with? The mag 9.5?

    Plants need food just like fish.

    You should dose as Carissa suggested. You will be able to adjust this amount as your tank grows in.

    C02 is most likely going to be your biggest issue long term......

    Remember that as the PLANTS GROW, they will need more ferts, INCLUDING C02, so don't forget that in the coming weeks and months. You will need to increase c02 maybe more than the other ferts..........

    You can't set it and forget it, unless your tank NEVER changes in bio-mass lol

    You can dose macros and micros on the same day, just know that some traces with Iron may bind with P04. This will make both elements unavailable to the plants. Waiting 4-6 hours between will resolve this.

    Hope this helps.
     
  6. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    Thanks for the advice guys. Carissa - right or wrong I was starting a bit low on the ferts with the idea that the low plant load wouldn't need it. I see the error of my thinking now due to the ppm argument. I've tried to absorb a lot of information before starting and appear to have gotten a bit confused here. I'll have to check my math on the KH2P04 - not sure how I got off there.

    Gerry, the tank had no fish for those six months - it was just a bucket of water with a nasty film on the top.

    The Mazzei is the $50 version. I have it plumbed with my Iwaki return on an alternate loop - I change the flow depending on the fineness of the bubbles - if I run the full output of the pump it creates large bubbles for some reason. I plan to buy another one next month to install on the other return to allow diffusing more CO2. I assume I'll notice the drop checker turn more blue if I need to increase CO2 injection - true?

    Thanks for reminding me about the PO4 and iron binding issue.

    Again - thanks for the advice. I'll implement and see how it goes.
     
  7. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    I was hoping someone could help me understand how Carissa arrived at her numbers? I used Chuck Gadd's online calculator (4 tsp KNO3 dissolved in 1 ml H20 would add 240 gal of water 20 ppm of NO3). Carissa recommended using 3.8 tsp in 230 gal for 15 ppm. What is the formula one uses to determine ppm in a gallon of water for each of these chemicals?
     
  8. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I created a calculator a while back in Excel so I wouldn't have to calculate anymore. You can download it on my site if you want. I used the same site you went to, to get my numbers.

    If you want to do your own calculation, here's what I have in my Excel spreadsheet:

    Nitrates (KNO3): PPM you want / (905/gallons) = # of tsp you need to add
    Phosphate (KH2PO4): PPM / (884/gallons) = # of tsp
    Potassium (K2SO4): PPM / (711/gallons) = # of tsp
    Iron in Plantex CSM+B: PPM / (87.592/gallons) = # of tsp

    To figure out how much potassium you are getting if you add x number of tsp of KNO3: [HASHTAG]#tsp[/HASHTAG] / (572/gallons) = ppms

    I hope these calculations are good, if anyone sees any errors please let me know.
     
  9. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    Thanks Clarissa. Just to confirm as well. If I'm doing 50% water changes weekly then I should dose half what I want my target ppm to be? So if I want my NO3 to be 30 ppm I should dose 15ppm. I understand that doesn't mean I will actually get to 30 ppm as the plants are taking NO3 out of the water; however, I will never exceed 30 ppm. That is what I gathered from Tom's EI article.

    I still have the string algae but it hasn't overtaken the tank. I've been getting in there each day and pulling it out for now - not a big chore but I definitely want to solve the problem long-term as this won't last for a daily chore. :)

    Thanks,
    Aaron
     
  10. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Ok, you're on the right track but that's not quite how it works. The purpose of EI is to ensure that nothing is ever zero. Exact ppm's don't matter that much (one reason why test kits aren't needed), inasmuch as it's never allowed to get to zero and start limiting your plants.

    So to accomplish that, measurements have been made of how much of each nutrient a high light, co2 injected well planted tank would use up in a given week. EI suggestions for dosing are based on this assumption, so dosing can be adjusted downward a bit if a tank is lower light, non-co2, or not well planted (see this link for suggested dosing: http://www.barrreport.com/estimative-index/2819-ei-light-those-less-techy-folks.html ) What you are essentially doing is taking those suggested ppm's and dividing by 3 assuming you are dosing 3x/week. The suggested ppm's are the total weekly rates of uptake, not necessarily what you need to have in your tank at any given time during that week.

    For example, if you know you will probably burn $50 gas in your car each week, you don't need to have $50 worth of gas in your car at all times, as long as you are adding enough weekly to keep up with what you burn. The whole idea of EI is that you never run out of gas, and at the same time you never overfill your tank either. :)

    So the idea is that you are adding enough that you will very likely never get to zero on anything, but on the other hand the 50% water changes weekly ensure that you will also never get to double the total ppm's that you dose on a weekly basis. Maintaining these levels of fertilizers has been shown to have no adverse effects on fish health or cause algae, even though you theoretically can have what may be considered higher than necessary levels of fertilizers in your tank at any given time.
     
  11. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    So if I'm adding 4tsp of KNO3 3 times weekly that means I'm expecting my tank to consume 12 tsp of KN03 each week. Generally speaking that should keep the tank around 15ppm for NO3 and about 10ppm K. The purpose of the 50% water change is to ensure that I never exceed 30ppm if my guess of the tank needing 15ppm is wrong (for NO3 that is - K would be 10ppm and 20ppm respectively).

    Is that correct?
     
  12. jeremy v

    jeremy v Guru Class Expert

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    Assuming that you have 240 gallons of actual water between your tank and sump (once gravel and stuff is subtracted from the tank volume), if you dosed 12tsp of KNO3 in one week as 3 separate 4tsp dosings, you would have about 42ppm of nitrate in the tank at the end of one week assuming that the plants didn't uptake any of it.

    There is no need for this much. When doing 50% weekly water changes, that allows the total amount of nitrate in the tank to reach a level of 2x what you dose each week if the plants never use any of it. That would mean that if your plants never used any of the nitrate, that you would have nitrate levels of up to 84ppm in the tank within several weeks.

    If you dosed 4tsp of KNO3 a week total, you would be about right. If you want to dose your ferts 3x a week that would mean doing 3 doses of 1 1/3tsp of KNO3 each. That would put 14ppm of nitrate into the tank over the course of 1 week's time, and if the plants never used any of it the highest the levels would get with 50% water changes is 28ppm assuming that there are no other nitrate inputs into the tank system. That should get you a good starting point for dosing and then try small adjustments if necessary from there as the plants grow in.
     
  13. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I think it is important to start by realizing that you are very unlikely to get an algae problem due to overdosing fertilizers. You are much more likely to get that problem from under dosing CO2 in particular, or any of the other fertilizers. You also have a big tank, which needs a lot of water circulation that occurs in all parts of the tank, in order to keep the nutrients available to all plants all over the tank. Otherwise, even if you dose enough of everything, some plants can still be nutrient limited.

    Instead of cutting back on fertilizing I would try to improve the water circulation, try more CO2, and follow the EI dosage amounts until the plants show signs of needing even more nutrients.
     
  14. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    Vaughn,

    I understand what you are saying. I am working on getting more CO2 in the tank by adding another Mazzei injector to the second return line which will distribute the CO2 more evenly in the tank. With the CO2 mist you can tell there is good flow throughout the tank. The algae is subsiding since I started dosing more KNO3 and less KH2PO4 and backed off the lights (except for a green dusty algae on the logs that looks a lot like Tom's 180 tank which he says is a good thing).

    I'm trying to verify if I understand how the amounts Carissa said I should does 3x weekly affects the ppm of the tank over time. It seemed I had it figured out on my last post but Jeremy seems to disagree with Carissa. So I'm still confused. I'm not trying to cause problems :) just trying to figure this out so I know what I'm doing and why rather than just trusting the experts.

    (edit)

    I think I get it now - I re-read Carissa's post and she is saying the suggested dose amounts is for a weekly amount. So I want 15-20 ppm of NO3 per week - not each time I dose. That follows then what Jeremy said in stating I would take the 4 tsp and divide by three to get the amount to dose 3x a week (i.e. 1 1/3 tsp). So Jeremy and Carissa are saying the same thing - just different ways.

    Thanks,
    Aaron
     
  15. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Yep you got er.
     
  16. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    Thanks to all for your advice last time but I'm still not quite there yet. The algae has gotten worse. Most of it is staghorn, greenspot on my anubias, thread, and hair algae. I'm still pulling it off but it has gotten so bad that I've had to claim some plants a total loss.

    Here is an update on the changes I've made from my original post in this thread.

    The tank is now about 2 months old. 180 gallon, 75g sump filter with a Fluval 404 for mechanical/carbon filtration. I've increased the fish load from four SAE, and 10 ottos to 4 SAE, 20 ottos, and 30 Amano Shrimp (many have died as I see translucent carcasses on the gravel each day). I have added 20 cardinal tetras as well and I've been feeding them once daily.

    Temp is around 78 F. Lighting has been scaled back to two 95W CF bulbs and two 80W T5 bulbs all 6700K (makes around 2 watts/gal.). The lights are on for 10 hours a day.

    The CO2 is probably around 25-30ppm based on the color of the drop checker. The color is a solid green and even yellow green. I don't think it matters but today the pH was around 7.75 in the morning and dropped to 6.5 by 10am - CO2 comes on at 8:30. I'm only using one Mazzei 584 injector with a Mag 9.5 pump driving it (full flow). Another pump - an Iwaki 30 RXT is driving the remaining circulation through the sump.

    I'm using the EI method for fertilization. I put in 0..25 tsp of KH2P04 on three days a week. I also dose 1.3 tsp of KNO3 the same days. I am using two capfuls of Seachem Flourish on the following days. I should use four according to the bottle once a week for my water volume.

    I've been progressively increasing the CO2 each day hoping to see the algae recede. This because of Tom's advice to others to always suspect CO2. But since I've seen no improvement I'm wondering if I'm missing something (in fact the Staghorn algae is worse where the CO2 water return is).

    I've also seen this could be a flow issue so I'm considering adding a Iwaki 30 RT (this is a high head version of the other pump I had running a protein skimmer on my saltwater setup). I was going to attach the Mazzei to this and allow the Mag 9.5 to run unobstructed. Figured maybe this is a flow issue; however, with the two return pumps and the Fluval I'm getting a good 10x turnover per hour so I'm not convinced this is the right approach either.

    Sorry for the long post - but I'm trying to give you the complete picture so you can help. Thanks in advance!

    Aaron
     
  17. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    To make it easier to solve this I suggest turning off one of the T5 bulbs. Those, if they have individual reflectors, are the equivalent of at least 1.5X their wattage when you calculate the watts per gallon. You will have plenty of light with one turned off.
     
  18. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Aaron,

    Lowering the light was a good thing for you.

    IMO, you are severely underdosing your tank. You are giving the plants lots of light and c02 (maybe), but they are starving for other nutrients. Plus, you are increasing the c02 which is only 1 nutrient (albeit a primary one) that plants need. This causes a need for other nutrients that are just not present in sufficient quantities for the plants to grow well.

    However, there are more than enough nutes for the algae to utilize. When the plants are under stress they produce more ammonia which leads to algae. Algae needs less of all nutrients and light to grow, so they can overtake the tank esp when the plants are not growing.

    I would do the following:

    1. Increase your dosing to 2 tsp of KN03 and 1.5 of KH2P04 DAILY. Dose AFTER the WC.
    2. Perform a 50% water change every day (if possible) or every other for a week. This will also help with the algae.
    3. Be PATIENT. It will take several weeks for the plants to respond to the abundance of nutrients, esp after being stressed for a time.

    Remember that the WC will take care of any excess nutrients if you are concerned about the amount of fertilizers in the tank.

    If not better after 1 week, no better growth, less algae, etc, than increase the ferts by 10-25% or some number that you are comfortable with every week until they respond.

    After the first week, you can go back to weekly water changes.

    I would be very surprised if you don't see some improvement within the first week.

    As an FYI, I have a 180 as well and dose daily 3 tsp of K and 2 of P and am still fine tuning:)

    EI is a recommendation, but many folks dose more or less as their tanks need.



    Hope this helps.
     
  19. longahc

    longahc Junior Poster

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    Thanks for the input Vaughn and Gerry.

    I suppose I can try both. I backed off the lighting and corrected the dosing at the same time. And the algae has gotten progressively worse. Gerry, your numbers contradict Carissa's suggestion earlier but I suppose if you are doing it there can be no harm in increasing (I'll proceed slowly though rather than just dosing the same amount you do). From what I've read if I have too much nutrients in the water it doesn't matter as long as I have enough of each (within reason for fish health). It is when a deficiency exists that algae take hold.

    I'll try and let you know what happens.
     
  20. jeremy v

    jeremy v Guru Class Expert

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    Longahc,

    I think you are just looking at the increased dosing that Gerry is recommending and seeing it as just a huge increase in nutrients going into the tank, and you’d be right. Realize that what Gerry is saying related to the nutrient dosing has TWO parts that are both just as important and they are integral to each other. One part is to increase the dosing, and the other part is increasing your water changes to 50% a day (or every other day).

    This recommendation is not the same as just increasing your dosing. In reality this dosing regimen in combination with the large increase in water changes doesn’t change your maximum tank nutrient levels from where they are now at all, it just makes sure they don’t run out as easily, and it allows you to help your tank fight the algae by changing out water regularly.

    If you just increased your dosing of nitrate for instance, to 2tsp a day (as Gerry is recommending) and kept your water changes at 1x/wk you would be putting 14tsp a week of nitrate in the tank. That would be about 50ppm of nitrate a week, and with no plant uptake, tank levels could get as high as 100ppm within a few weeks. That is not what Gerry is recommending.

    Remember that every time you do a 50% water change you are also removing 50% of the nutrients that are in the water from the system. Your total tank levels of nutrients are whatever you dose BETWEEN water changes, and will never reach levels more than double what you put into the tank BETWEEN water changes (when doing a 50% change).

    With Gerry’s recommendation of 2tsp of nitrate daily, you are adding 7ppm nitrate to the tank each day, so if you increase your water changes to 50% every day (or every other day) like he is suggesting, you will be adding a maximum of 14ppm of nitrate BETWEEN water changes (if you change 50% every other day). That means, with no plant uptake, your levels would never be more than 28ppm. That is actually exactly the same max nutrient level you have now, so nothing was actually increased at all in that regard.

    You have to increase your fertilizing quite a bit when you increase your water changes to compensate for the nutrients that you are removing from the system each time you do a water change.

    Now, think along the same lines of Carissa’s earlier explanation with the car and adding gas to see what is actually changing with Gerry’s recommendations:

    1- The way you are dosing now is the same as you having a car that starts out the week with 4.6 gallons (4.6ppm nitrate) of fuel. You then add 4.6 gallons more gas two more times during that same week for a total weekly dosing of 13.8 gallons of gas (13.8ppm nitrate). If you get 10mpg in your car, that would allow you to drive a total of 138 miles in one week (4.6 x 3x/wk x 10mpg = total miles). The catch however is that between each fill-up, you can never drive more than 4.6gal x 10mpg = 46mi or you will run out of gas (plants out of nutrients).

    2- Dosing the way Gerry is recommending, the car starts out with 7 gallons of fuel on day one. Then you add another 7 gallons on day two. That means that even on day one you have enough gas to drive 7gal x 10mpg = 70 miles if you wanted to. That means that instead of being able to only drive 46 miles each day without running out of gas, you can now drive 70. Then every day (or every other day) you remove half of whatever amount of gas is left in your car and then immediately add another 7 gallons to the tank (same thing as 50% water change with dosing after). So even though the total nutrient levels can still never be more than 28ppm if the plants don’t take up anything at all, you are now able to drive 70 miles a day vs. 46 (like you have with your dosing now). That is your change.

    I hope this makes sense. You are increasing the amount of nutrients available to the plants in any one day with Gerry’s recommendations, but you are doing it in a way so that the total levels in the tank still never go any higher than they could with your current dosing. Gerry’s increased dosing is just as safe as the dosing you are doing now in relation to the fish health and maximum levels of nutrients, as long as you take all of the advice he gave you and also do the increased water changes that he is recommending at the same time.

    Have a good one, Jeremy
     
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