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Algae battle continued ...

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by MediaOne, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    Hello guys,

    Things are looking up in my system - plants are growing well and I am not battling hair algae at all anymore. All the advice Tom Barr gave me saved the day. I still have some trouble though and I was hoping for some guidance.

    Current Routine:

    4x55W T5's running for 10 hours. I use two 6K and two mixed gas 6K and 20k.
    50% Water change per week, the following dosed right after:
    3/4 Teaspoon kNO3
    1/8 Teaspoon phosphate
    15ml Trace
    gH & kH adjusted
    ph 6.25 (with a CO2 level way over 30 mg/l I am quite certain, bubbles start forming on the underside of leaves 2 hours after lights on).
    *I am dosing 3 times a week to add back nitrate, phosphate & trace.

    By the end of the day my tank looks like a freshly cracked Perrier bottle! The pearling is extreme...

    Plants are growing well (some better than others, but they are all noticeably improving).

    1) Over the course of the week micro algae will catch up with me. It will coat my 2 day old leaves and start to coat the glass quite heavily. I can't stop the spread of this algae very easily. The plants that are not doing as well, usually have a good amount of this stuff on the leaves. Black outs work well to clean things up, but it comes back again. Some BBA on my wood comes back over the week also ...

    2) I have green spot algae (I think this is what it is called) on some of the Anubias leaves. Does this per chance point at a specific nutrient imbalance? Or just more of the same ....

    3) Where can I get some silicone spray for my Eheim "siphon plunger"?

    I tried to get some pictures but I can't get clear ones.

    Thanks guys!

    Cheers,
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    This almost sounds like when I get a pimple on my nose, get all kinds of advice, and finally it goes away - but my hair is falling out, my teeth are rotting, and I broke a leg.:D

    The micro algae you describe sounds like green dust algae, which is frustrating to get rid of. Tom proposed we just let it grow unmolested for about 2-3 weeks, to live out its life cycle, then remove it and it shouldn't return. Lots of us have tried this, and many of us find it still came back, but not nearly as bad. My last adventure with it ended with me doing a really big water drain, wiping down the walls with paper towels to keep as much of the algae debris out of the water as possible, refilling the tank and then doing another really big water change, plus adding 1.5X water change dose of Excel. I then did a 3 day black out, followed by another double big water change and glass wipe down, twice, with a day in between. That seems to have eliminated the GDA, but I still had some green spot algae, and if I neglect the tank for two weeks, I get a very light dusting of what could be GDA on the glass. Also, my situation is complicated by being very busy lately and not doing routine pruning, so my tank is virtually packed with plants now, reducing the water circulation. "The answer" appears to be good routine maintenance of the tank after doing the 3 week grow out of the GDA.

    The minor BBA is something I keep running into also, and that is with 30-40ppm of CO2 as measured with the drop checker, but again, with impaired circulation from the mass of plants.
     
  3. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    It is interesting that you mention your BBA is being helped along by the slow water flow. The area of my aquarium where the BBA is growing has the slowest water flow in my aquarium. I wonder if increasing water flow in this area would improve the situation. There is only one way to find out.

    I could care less about the green dust on my glass, but it is disruptive to the plants. I think I would rather keep up on maintenance (even more than the said average) to keep it at bay, than go through a 3 week grow out that may possibly harm the plants further. The main reason I say this is because I feel the tank is still coming around from the few weeks ago when I got assistance from Tom.

    Silicone spray for my Eheim anyone?

    Thanks for the reply,
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    BBA is related to stable CO2.

    Stable CO2 allows the plant to adapt to the Carbon available.
    I'm not just saying this.

    There's some very good biochemical and enzymatic reasoning behind it.
    And it makes a lot of sense:cool:

    Plants make an enzyme called Rubisco. This represents the largest fraction of nitrogen and protein in the plant and, well....the entire world!

    It's an expensive enzyme to make.
    Plants up and down regulate the production and also degrade it for use in other situations when in excess. Plants are lazy. If they have too much Rubisco not doing anything useful, they will allocate and partition the Nitrogen from the enzyme and degrade it.

    So aquatic plants certainly do adapt to high, medium and low CO2 content, there's plenty of recent direct evidence for this in aquatics and most every terrestrial plant as well.

    It's not a special case adaptation to their environment in other words.
    It's very broad, "generalizable" and a common sense regulation.
    No plant should be without it.

    In a non CO2 enriched tank, plants adapt to low CO2, takes maybe 1-6 weeks depending on the species, by making a lot of Rubisco and scavange for any CO2. As long as the CO2 is nice and low, the plant maintains this cocentration/enzymatic activity of Rubisco.

    Contrast this with a high CO2 tank where the plants get a stable level of say 30ppm.

    These plants become fat and lazy. They do not produce much CO2 fixing enzyme because, they do not have to after a few weeks of adaptation. We see plants slowly acclimating to such tanks just like the non CO2 ones.
    Once they settle in, they really take off.
    They can devote far more resources to growth than CO2 uptake.

    Now ask yourself this question: what would happen if I added CO2 to a non CO2 tank? Would this hurt/harm growth? No, but the CO2 would be removed very fast and then the Nitrogen PO4, K, Traces etc.

    This is fine if you add the other downstream nutrients like N, P, K, Fe etc.
    But if not?
    Folks think enriching w/CO2 = algae.

    Now the next question you most likely should ask about this: what happens if you take a high CO2 adapted aquatic plants, and place it in a tank with 50% less or 75% less or 90% less CO2 and also add high light (this will remove the CO2 much faster than the lower light non CO2 approach!!) ??

    The plants now have very little Rubisco since they are adapted to high CO2 and are "lazy". You also add lots of light which makes the uptake demand (but not supply) faster.

    Your plants cannot respond quickly to this low concentration. It takes time for the plant to make more enzyme. It takes them a few days, weeks to make more. So if the CO2 drops say from 30 ppm to 15ppm during the day, the net effect is that the plants are CO2 "starved", limited for a peroid of time. This is not a black and white effect, there is a gradation of carbon limitation over a wide range. After a few weeks of stable conditions, the plants are fine again, but now the adult algae are there and tough to get rid of. So you pick and clean things up and prune and pick on the adult algae and keep things in good shape for the plants.


    Suppose you are NO3 limited? Then the ability to make the enzymes required when conditions change like this becomes even more troublesome.

    Alagae have very low CO2 demand, but they also have far less trouble responding to CO2 changes in their environment. They prefer high CO2 as well, but have much less trouble with variations and making Rubsico or HCO3 uptake and can respond very rapidly to such changes, whereas the plants, which are much larger, take more time.

    That time difference in CO2 adaptation allows some species of algae to get a foot hold and germinate. Think about in terms of nature. It's a good adaptation if you are an alga to respond quickly to CO2 variation.

    If you have low light, there's much less issue with all this and shows why it helps to reduce lighting rather than limiting NO3, PO4 etc.

    Light first drives CO2 uptake!! Less light= less CO2 demand.

    Now why do take grow wekk for awhile, then get algae a bit later? As plant biomass increases, so does CO2 uptake, assuming the CO2 is going to be the same the entire time is a bad idea. If you have 3x the plant biomass , you are going to have a lot more CO2 demand.

    Therefore: good consistent pruning, adding a bit more CO2 as tanks grow in well and biomass increases, watching the CO2 conternt over the lighting cycle(rather than one discrete point during the day) and giving things time once you do stabilize the parameters will help a great deal.

    Aquarist have a lot of issues with CO2, they whine, they cry, they bellyache, they speculate, they blame the innocent players such as NO3 or PO4 or the advice. But few really look at CO2 critically in terms of of why it helps, why it works, or also, why it does not work sometimes. My CO2 is high and I'm certain it's perfect, why do I still have algae with EI or with ADA?

    Then the counter, why doesn't Amano or Tom Barr, or other folks have algae then?
    We add a fair amount of nutrients, I use the same type of substrate as Amano and a lot of other substrate, and probably more light than Amano, most of you use more light than Amano BTW.

    Well what is the solution then? Keeping a closer eye on CO2, making sure things are stable, kept up on, pruned well, being a lot more humble and doubtful of your abilities and assumptions about what is causing issues for you. If you have an issue, try and figure it out, not by the advice so much, rather test and give the test time.

    Work from this downstream appraoch if something does come up: light(easy to change generally)=> CO2 (often hard to measure, takes many readings and a careful eye)=> NO3=> K=> PO4=> Mg=> Ca => traces.

    EI takes care of the nutrients, light and CO2 are all that are really left.
    Obviously, from and management prespective, less light(duration to some degree within a fairly wide range and more importantly, intensity) will help reduce the deamnd for all down stream nutrients since it drives CO2 uptake and carbon regulates N, which regulates other processes such as enzyme production of Rubisco.

    Patience is another issue, how long should we really try and keep up on things?
    No simple answer there, but if you can do a fair amount of work to do that for a few weeks, typically 3 or so, then you should see some improvement.
    If not, change the approach.

    It does not mean or imply the tank will be spotless, but it should be on that way, no new algae growing/formed etc.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. freshgoby

    freshgoby Junior Poster

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    It sounds to me that maybe you've got too many phosphates in the water. I've noticed that whenever any algae shows up in my tank, it's because of the phosphate. Maybe lower your phosphate dosing and see if that helps. Maybe you don't need to add it 3 times a week, only once. It also sounds like your water change may be a little high. How many gallons/litres is your tank?(please mention dimensions too)

    50 gallon freshwater tank, HOT Magnum filter (used for Mechanical Filtration only, 2 T5 bulbs equalling 17500K @78W. No Co2 injection. No Chemical Filtration.
    1 brushnose pleco
    6 Peacock Gudgeons
    4 Green Flame Tetras
    6 Serpae Tetras
    2 Kuhli Loaches
    2-3 Amano Shrimp
    Red & Green Tiger Lotus, Amazon Sword, Water Sprite, and Broad Leafed Red Ludwigia
     
  6. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    High phosphates has not been shown to cause algae. Quite the contrary, high phosphates actually inhibit GSA.
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Freshgoby,

    The PO4 addition often times stimulates more CO2 uptake.
    If not, it has no effect on algae.

    If the PO4 is limiting, there's little CO2 demand.
    Because the plant can only regulate CO2 uptake by it's most limiting nutrient, the CO2 demand is downregulated.

    So if you do not have enough CO2 to begin with, and you are slightly to strongly PO4 limited, adding PO4 will cause a bloom, but it';s not directly related to PO4, it's due to poor CO2.

    This why we and most other folks may have very high PO4, say 2-3ppm, dosed 3x or more a week and no algae.

    It's not the PO4, it's not having good CO2 to begin with for the cause.

    Algae have access to plenty of PO4 either way, but it's when the plants are CO2 stressed that the algae bloom with many species such as GSA, BBA and perhaps a few others.

    You can do a simple test and trey this out your self.
    Take an otherwise stable tank, add PO4 and keep a close eye on the CO2 when you have PO4 limitation vs none (assume this to be 2-3ppm of inorganic dosing
    PO4 per week).

    You should see a very notable CO2 decline when you add the PO4.
    You should also see some increase in GSA as well, and perhaps BBA.

    If you bump the CO2 in response to the PO4 addition, you no long see such algae and you also see a dramatic increase in plant growth and pearling.

    This suggest that PO4 cannot be a cause for algae by itself.
    It may be correlated in some cases, but it does not express nor imply causation. The question is, if your hypothesis is that additional/excess or high PO4causes algae, then why can I add high levels as I have for 15 years on many tanks and set ups and never have the algae?

    This says that the hypothesis is wrong and we must make a new one that better explains our observations.

    Such newer hypothesis must be testable as well.
    And if they are shown not to be true, we must reject those as well until we have a hypothesis that explains the observations better.

    But the new hypothesis I've suggested has not shown to be false.
    New planted aquarist with less testing skills might be fooled, but good CO2 control/usage is absoluately critical if you want to test any nutrient in a CO2 enriched planted aquarium.

    Adding KNO3/PO4, traces, GH etc will influence the rate of CO2 demand.
    Too many aquarist are unaware of this and unable to control and test for it well.

    The downstream effects of low CO2 also take a few days to show up, so it's often hard to trace some things to their root causes unless...........you do a test on purpose and wait and see how long it takes for symtoms to occur and know what to look for ahead of time.

    Most just try and relate their observations rather than make specific test to show cause or rule out potential agents.

    While it may be nice to say PO4 = algae, if that was the case our life would be pretty easy, but this is not the case, the process is more complex and still revolves around optimizing plant growth. Happy plant = happy fish = happy tank = happy owner.

    Even in non CO2 planted tanks, the CO2 is stable, low, but stable, then you also do not get algae. PO4 maybe added to 2ppm in such tanks and no adverse effects have been noted. But in both cases, the CO2 is stable and maintained at a non limiting level in one tank and a low limiting but stable level in another.

    No such PO4 theory applies nor explains such controlled testing.
    Nor does it explain why many Florida lakes that have high levels of both N or P and lots of plants do not have algae, they are literally "gin clear". You can check out several Limnologist's research at UF for more info and background.

    For at least a decade now folks in the web hobby have known the PO4 algae hypothesis to be wrong. The researchers have known for about 20+ years.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. freshgoby

    freshgoby Junior Poster

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    Thanks Tom for the info on CO2 and PO4. I don't do CO2 injection in my tank (haven't gotten the $$$ for it yet) So I don't get to play around with the possibilities of CO2 and how it affects nutrient uptake. I guess in that way I'm somehwat stunted in my knowledge of nutrient and algae control. I'm still experimenting with my tank to figure out what things work for me and I'm trying to learn all I can. Here's a question for you, is it possible that when I notice an algae bloom in my tank, that it isn't solely phosphate but other nutrients that are in the water & ferts?

    You're right about that and I get the Phosphate=algae thing from what I've read but also because when I add the fertilizers into the tank water or kick up the substrate, I get small algae blooms. However the compound in my fertilizers (which are terrestrial) is not PO4 (Phosphate) but P2O5 (Phosphorus pentoxide - a dessicant from what I've read). Perhaps that has something to do with the occurrence of algae when I add it to the tank. Would you agree?

    I'm experimenting with terrestrial fertilizers because I want to find the best way to fertilize my tank without spending tons of money on pre-made aquatic fertilizers that I feel are overpriced. Unfortunately to say I still haven't gotten a lot of chance to experiment with PMDD and making my own ferts.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Okay, now we are into things besides CO2, you are not suing it.
    Sediment upheavals often brings up lots of fish poo and decayed plant material, which is loaded with NH4. In the water column or near the top 1cm of the sediments, there's not much NH4, but deeper there often is.

    So when you do uprooting etc, you should do a large water change.
    This will prevent the algae.

    This is true for both types of CO2 or non CO2 planted tanks.
    If you run a non CO2 plant tank with less plants, or/and high light, you run more algae risk. Algae are very good at removing very low levels of PO4.

    Not doing the water change is a good habit for the non CO2 approach, this relates to CO2 stability. So more care is needed, and rarely do you uproot things in such tanks(once evrery 3-6 months at most, doing a water change after is fine there)

    Folks that chronically move their plants around in non CO2 tanks, especially newer tanks, will have chronic issues with algae.

    I'm not suggesting that you buy a CO2 system.
    You can go either way and is both systems higher PO4 will not induce algae.
    Generally if it's not CO2 related, and for a non cO2 tank, that means no water changes to rule that out, then it's NH4 in most cases, at least you can trace the bloom to NH4.........

    There may be other things that induce algae, such as temp etc, or more specific species.

    But overall, these two items explain the lion's share of the algae issues folks have.
    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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