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algae in a month old tank

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by ramis, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. ramis

    ramis Junior Poster

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    About a month ago I started new 20 gallon tank with no CO2. I have 36 watts of lighting, Acuaclear 50 HOB filter, substrate is 0.75" layer of peat with 2" of eco complete on top. I am using EI method for dosing: 1/8 tsp KNO3, 1/32 tsp KH2PO4, 1/4 tsp Seachem Equilibrium, and no water changes.

    I have planted about 70% of the tank, and have just a few fish: one small molly, 2 mickey mouse plattys, and recently added 4 small ottocinclus.


    Just about 2 weeks ago I started getting brown algae on the leaves of plants, and yesterday I noticed also BBA starting to grow on corkscrew vals and ludwigia repens. Also, some plants are not growing too well. They are loosing leaves, some leaves are melting, others turning yellow, then brown, and then fall off.

    I have no idea, is this just because it's a new tank, or am I missing some nutrients? I thought I should have enough, since I am dosing once a week. Should I do a water change? I am at a loss, and don't want to loose my tank to algae.

    I would be gratefull if you have some suggestions.
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I think you may have a bit too much light for not having any form of carbon for the plants. You could add Flourish Excel to the fertilizing routine and that would probably be adequate. But, you can't do EI without water changes. You will slowly build up too much of the fertilizers in the water that way. If you dose once a week you will probably avoid that too.
     
  3. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Ramis,

    You have what I would call a low light tank. Such a tank does not use nutrients very fast. In fact, it might need dosing once a month, if that often. The excess nutrients can cause algae to grow.

    I would suggest that you add fast growing plants to absorb the nutrients that are in the water. I also suggest that you get at least a nitrate and a phosphate test kit (although test kits are anathema here.) :) The kits should be checked for accuracy. Some have validation solutions enclosed, Seachem being one such vendor.

    Newly set-up aquariums often have algae problems. Over time these go away as the aquarium stabilizes.

    Good luck!

    Bill
     
  4. Mooner

    Mooner Lifetime Charter Member
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    Here is a tank currently running that is a NON carbon setup.

    BL2001a.gif

    I am using the non CO2 method(modified for my conditions) for dosing: 1/8 tsp KNO3(weekly), 3/64 tsp KH2PO4(weekly), 1/4 tsp Seachem Equilibrium(Monthly), and no water changes. Lighting is one T8 17W 24" under AH reflector. Last WC was 12/07 and before that 6/07. Just water top off.


    Hand remove what you can and stay on it until you get the upper hand

    As said by VaughnH, your lighting is better suited for a carbon tank.
     
  5. ramis

    ramis Junior Poster

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    Thank you all for your replies.

    Mooner, your tank looks very clean and healthy.

    I was thinking that I could just take Tom Barrs EI method for non CO2 tank and use it directly. It looks like I need some adjustments. I thought algae is brought on by nutrient deficiencies, not surplus?

    I probably have to give up non CO2 and start dosing excel with 50% water changes weekly. If I do that, should I dose less than I do now?
     
  6. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Some of us, not including me, still believe that excess nutrients or an "unbalanced" tank will cause algae. I used to want to pipe up and say "NO" everytime someone says that, but I don't do that so much now. Algae are also often said to compete with plants for nutrients. And, I don't think that is correct either. (Logically it is certainly incorrect because algae don't have the mass to use anything close to the amount of nutrients even our smallest plants use.)

    But, back to your tank: As I understand it, all non-CO2, non-Excel methods start with a nutrient rich substrate. Walstad's method uses ordinary garden soil for the lower level of the substrate. The Barr method says to use one of several substances to give a nutrient rich layer below the top substrate. Then, both methods say to use low light intensity, and rarely change any tank water. Of course there is always a debate over what low light intensity means, but it is less than 2 watts per gallon of AH Supply light kits, for sure.
     
  7. Mooner

    Mooner Lifetime Charter Member
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    This tank looks dark due to tannins. Substrate is Leonardite caped with crushed granite. Also used mulm and lite dusting of peat. I started this shortly after my join date to this forum. I started off with an AH 36W CF, waaay to much light. Then backed it off to two T8's. Still to much for this tank. Finally settled on current lighting and it does quite well. Also started way back with less fertz and slowly built up to what it is now. Until two weeks ago, had 8 Precox Rainbows but removed them to add shrimp. Now just shrimp and dwarf cory's.

    If this method/tank taught me anything it was how to read plants. I was then able to apply this to Excel tanks, then finally on to CO2. Point is every tank is a little different, and the sooner you learn how to read the tank and be willing to try different approaches the sooner you will succeed. I'm no expert by far, but thanks to Tom and others I'm light years ahead of where I would be otherwise. My advise, read all you can(Barr Report) and ask specific questions. Be willing to try what you are given. No need to re-invent the wheel :D
     
  8. Mooner

    Mooner Lifetime Charter Member
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    The "EI method" applies to CO2. The article for the "non-CO2" is a starting point to provide nutrients to a slow growth system. If you recall in the non-CO2 article the suggested dosing could be weekly or bi-monthly. It depends on how the tank responds. Your tap/well water is different than mine, so you may have to tweak your dosing.

    I know the is true because I did it myself. I've added more of certain macros or micros(slowly)and have corrected the issue.

    Start with about one third of the "EI method for CO2" for Excel. If you don't see growth after a week or two something is missing. Be willing to adjust and observe and make changes accordingly. Give it a few weeks, maybe less to see what affects the changes made. If you have the patients, the payoff will be big :cool:
     
  9. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    If the tank has a good number of healthy, growing plants, it is correct that algae will occur if there are insufficent nutrients available. That's why the addition of nutrients will often correct that problem.

    But if there are only a few plants and a lot of nutrients, the plants will take only what they can and algae will rise up to take the rest. Why do you think that wouldn't happen?

    It is strongly suggested that new aquariums be very heavily planted with rapidly growing plants. The reason for that is that the plants will take up the nutrients, mainly nitrates, that often spike in such environments.

    Note that a proven recipe for creating green water for daphnia is to add plant food to a jar of aquarium water.

    Bill
     
  10. ramis

    ramis Junior Poster

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    thanks Mooner,
    I am really not really good in reading the plant symptoms. I had a 10 gal planted tank for a few years before, but never figured out how to keep it in good condition. I'll try to work more methodically with this one.

    What confused me most, actually, I was thinking that I don't have enough nutrients, not too many, because some plants are loosing leaves, turning yellow. So I thought they might be missing something. Then brown algae appeared. Some other plants (ludwigia repens, java fern, flame moss) are growing well.

    I see that I made mistake describing my lighting. I have 28 watts total, not 36. So I don't have too much light for non CO2. Is it not too low for excel addition?


    Bill, it does make sense, of course. I thought I planted enough plants, but maybe it's not enough. I will remove as much algae as possible and add more plants, so the nutrients get absorbed quicker.

    I'll start dosing less often and see how it goes. I am tempted to do a water change, but really I don't have any green algae or mess, it looks clean except for brown algae and a bit of starting BBA. I don't want to unbalance CO2 levels too much if I am going for no water change mathod.

    Thank you for all your replies.
    I am determined to learn more about this.
     
  11. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I think the apparent contradiction of thoughts is coming from the generic use of the word "nutrients." What I have observed is that certain nutrients contribute greatly to algae growth even in small concentrations (like ammonia, or whatever it is that comes from rotting debris/plant matter/food), and other nutrients you can dose and overdose and will never induce algae no matter what you do (such as nitrates and pretty much everything else that is on the fertilization list for planted tanks). This is why one of the standard routines for eliminating algae is to do water changes and vacuum the gravel well, and then dose fertilizers. You're thereby removing the "bad" nutrients and dosing the "good."

    What I've come to the understanding of is that algae is opportunistic, more along the line of a parasite than a plant. If the plants are healthy and don't have deficiencies, algae will rarely ever grow on them unless lighting is far too high (or light:co2 ratio is out of whack or changed suddenly which would end up manifesting a carbon deficiency). If the plants are weak, algae moves in and starts taking over much like disease will overtake fish that are in a weakened state.

    The need for stability of the light:carbon ratio has proven to be probably one of the top three things I've learned that has helped me keep successful planted tanks with few algae problems. Anytime you have a somewhat dramatic increase in light or corresponding decrease in co2 the plants have to work hard to adapt, and melting leaves, holes, algae problems, and leaf loss are some of the results of this. Keeping co2 and lighting stable and not increasing light or decreasing co2 quickly will help eliminate these issues.
     
  12. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Much of that sounds reasonable, but I think that your last two paragraphs sort of contradict what you said in the first paragraph. Or am I not understanding?

    Bill
     
  13. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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    This thread is very informative but I had a question regarding Ramis's current situation.

    I agree that his tank not being planted enough/not having enough fast growing plants to act as nutrient sponges is leaving a lot of nutrients for the Algae to utilize. This explains the presence of algae. However how would one explain the fact that some of his plants don't seem to be doing so well? Sufficient lighting plus plentiful nutrients (presumable not high enough to inhibit plant growth) doesn't seem like something that would cause issues with growth?

    I'm curious about what the possible explanation would be for this. Could this be caused by insufficient CO2...the need for which is being generated by the extra lighting? (although his lighting doesn't seem to be all that high).

    PS- I'm a noob with no experience with planted tanks :). I'm just trying to learn as much as I can as I find this very interesting and I will be starting my 10g planted tank in a few weeks.
     
  14. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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    Oops, I just noticed that he isn't dosing traces. Could that be a reason? Although with a newly setup tank/eco complete substrate shouldn't it have enough traces atleast to initiate plant growth for a few weeks/months?
     
  15. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Good questions, Orion.

    I think dosing micros should be done, although as I said earlier, maybe once a month.

    The tank really doesn't have enough light, as the picture shows. The mass of plants that take up half of the top are shading much of the lower part of the tank.

    As Vaughn said, 1.6 watts of A + H's lights are plenty for such a tank. However, Ramis is using T8's, which produce (maybe) about 2/3 of the light energy of the higher intensity lights.

    So, I'd heavily prune the plants in the center, cut back the nutrients, and if that doesn't work, add a little more light.

    I'm sure that there are other approaches.

    I'm off to add more nutrients to my daphnia food jars, to get more green water growing. :)

    Bill
     
  16. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I can see what you mean. I'll clarify what I meant a little bit.

    Ammonia (or excessive organic waste) tells algae to START growing. Healthy well adjusted plants tell algae to STOP growing.

    In the first paragraph, too much ammonia/organics can tell algae to START growing. Even if you have healthy plants - BUT it won't grow on healthy plants. It will grow elsewhere in the tank. The fact is, if there were enough healthy plants in the tank, there wouldn't be an ammonia problem to start with. Ammonia is the only nutrient that I know of that plants do need to compete for against algae.

    In the second two paragraphs, healthy plants tell algae to STOP growing. If a plant is not healthy, even in the absence of ammonia you will see algae growing directly on that plant, whether or not there is algae actively growing anywhere else in the tank.
     
  17. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    What do you add?
     
  18. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I agree that the lighting might be part of the problem. I have low lit tanks and it can be a challenge to keep the lower plants well lit. Light deficient plants will definitely develop algae. It may work better to rearrange things and stick with lower light plants in areas where you don't have as much light. Some plants simply won't grow without high light, algae develops on them as a symptom of their deficiency.

    Also I think you need to do water changes and vacuum weekly to remove organic waste that will throw off your system since it's still in it's infancy. This will enable you to do proper dosing of nutrients. You don't need to do 50% water changes, you could even just go 25% or so and dose lightly. In a new tank you will likely be building up some amount of ammonia in areas where you have decomposition, which will stimulate algae growth. After the tank is 6 months old or more it will be more stable and forgiving and you will likely be able to slack off a lot with water changes.
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Might be better to speak in terms of "germination of algal spores".

    What causes spring flowers to flower and grow?
    They have nutrients etc as do most plants.

    Temp is one factor.
    Water is another.
    Increased light time is yet another.

    Now apply it to algae.
    What occurs in spring?

    1. Warmer temps.
    2. More light(more than 10-12 hours)
    3. Influx of nutrients from the land(generally lowering O2, adding NH4, adding CO2)
    4. Sediment turnover, mixing in the water column(think pulling up plants, trimming etc and then not doing a water change thereafter)
    5. Changes in the KH/nutrient levels

    In our tanks, Temps are stable, light is somewhat stable, no influx of nutrients really, sediment turnover, sometimes......., changes in the CO2 level sometimes...........CO2 variations and O2 variations........very often occurs..........

    High fish to plant ratio(more NH4- this can be good or bad depending on how much plant biomass and how well it's growing, Zeolite, water change routines, type of fish, feeding routines etc).

    Unfortunately, some assumed it was this simplistic model => excess nutrients caused it.

    Careful observation of a lake or stream over the seasons will tell you far more than most anything you read on the web.:cool:

    You'll note I go to many places seeking aquatic plants and taking pictures.
    We can learn a lot from nature, but folks need to look and observe the places where aquatic plants grow well over a season and then test and see.

    Then you get your answers, and generally more questions to be asked.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  20. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    As I understand it, excess ammonia (ammonia that is not consumed by the plants) "sends a signal" to algae to start reproducing. But I don't think that healthy plants send a signal to algae to stop reproducing. It is the absence of a "start" signal that does that.

    Even in healthy, well-planted aquariums, algae does grow on some slow-growing plants, such as anubias. And once some kinds of algae get started, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them, even though whatever condition that got them started had long been corrected. I'm thinking of some kinds of hair algae and BBA.

    (If adequate nutrients and a lot of growing plants were all that were needed to control algae, one would not see so many recommendations here and elsewhere to use SAE's and Amano (swamp) shrimp to control it.)

    I think there are a number of factors, alone or in various combinations, that contribute to the growth and/or maintenance of algae. I do agree that excess ammonia causes algae blooms.

    Bill
     
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