Battling Hair Algae in High Tech Aquarium, Fish Stressing Before 30 PPM CO2 Reached

dsm555

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Thank you for the advice.
I have not run any chemical filtration in this aquarium in the form of carbon or Purigen in quite some time. I am going to give Purigen a try as I too believe there must be high organic waste due to plant + algae decay over the past months.
I also picked up a new drop checker that may prove a bit easier to read. The geometry of the fluval one results in different color top to bottom. I have seen others complaining about the exact same issue on other forums. My goal is to lock in CO2 + KH and then continue ticking off potential causes of algae. I like the idea of purigen as a removal of organics may result in a measurable drop of my NO3. I don't feel like I dose very heavily to be reaching 20 PPM NO3
Ill be continuing to provide updates on this one.
 

dsm555

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Since reduction of light to 50% intensity algae growth is reduced and plant growth still looks pretty good. I have been spreading the rotala cuttings around the tank to maximize nutrient uptake. I am seeing BBA in a couple of places. I think this is most likely a result of the hair algae deaths and water parameter balancing that has been taking place. I have done my best to remove it where I notice it.

Kind of a side note on the drop checker I mentioned I was replacing. The new drop checker is much easier to read than the fluval drop checker. The white plastic running down the center of the fluval checker results in a rather thin profile of solution and results in a different color top to bottom. I added a comparison image of the new drop checker side by side. In the new drop checker I used the same fluval 4dkh drop checker solution. I replaced the solution with fresh solution as recommended by Allwissend several posts back assuring no contamination and have always had the same problem.
20211107_154135_HDR.jpg

This is 4 hours into the lighting period. I feel CO2 could still be a touch higher, but things are looking pretty good.
 

Allwissend

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The tank does look better now . As the plants start growing right you can remove the old parts which are more prone to BBA and keep the tops which are adapted to the new conditions.

Yeah the color looks like there could be a bit more CO2 in there but if plants are happy and algae go away with that amount then all is good.
 

dsm555

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I wanted to provide an update on this one. Things are going pretty well, green hair algae growth is significantly lowered and BBA hasnt progressed. Just one or two signs on occasion I am able to manually remove.
Interestingly I am still getting these little patches of brown fuzz on plant leaves more commonly in the low light areas. This makes me think diatom related. I will add another picture but the image in post #19 is a good one. This is definately not dying hair algae as it shows up where there was no hair algae and seems to be indicative of a different imbalance. It comes off easily with agitation and is mushy and low mass.
I have been attempting to clean the substrate a bit by gently disturbing the top layer while maintianing suction ~1 inch above. I had quite the detritus buildup after months of unhealthy plants.

I havn't made any changes for about 2 weeks and this brown algae is new as of late. I am considering adding some phosgaurd back to the system to see if this knocks it out.

Plant growth is steady on the easier plants but almost nonexistent on the plants that want a bit higher light. (The monte carlo patch that survived, pogostemon helferi)
 

Allwissend

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Thanks for the update and good to hear things are going in the right direction. The diatoms growing can still be a late 'adapting' response to the new conditions in that the algae have still managed to find a smaller niche to exploit. This can go away with time or you repeatedly cleaning them out. If it still a problem consider increasing the nutrient dose . Phosguard will remove phosphate, that's a no go in a planted aquarium ... plants need phosphate to grow healthy.

The low light conditions are good to help you correctly set the CO2 levels and nutrient levels for the tank as well as give the plants extra time to get established and adapt to the general water and light conditions. Once you feel you have CO2 and nutrients dialed in to provide abundant supplies you can start increasing the light intensity watching your plants. 2 week intervals seem to work well in not triggering too much of an algae response in case you have gone too far with the light level.
 

dsm555

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Thanks for the quick response Allwissend.
I will hold off on adding phosguard. I am feeling much better about CO2 levels and believe this was the root cause of why the aquarium had so many issues. Now its just cleaning up the mess of dead plant matter and stunted growth.

Should I consider adding to my cleanup crew at this point? I still only have the 1 amano shrimp, 1 nerite, and 1 otocinclus.

Here is the picture of the algae or diatom growth in some of my dwarf hair grass.
20211119_202827_HDR.jpg

Featuring heroic monte carlo. That is styrogen repens in the back middle as well. Hanging on but better than it was.
 

dsm555

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Here is how everything is looking pre-water change today. Stems have been cut and re-planted several times. The bases have been left to continue growing shoots to increase my plant mass.
20211122_183421_HDR.jpg


Perhaps this should go into a new thread at this point but I think it is directly related to the title of this thread.
I had another of the white cloud mountain minnows die yesterday. I had been monitoring it for a few days as it appeared stressed hovering near the top of the tank and showing loss of appetite. The symptoms were quite similar (with a few differences) to previous losses, now 8 of the 10 original WCMMs. The symptoms displayed are what I referred to in my original post as a sign of CO2 sensitivity, but through hours of research, multiple drop checkers moved around the tank, and watching the plants I am convinced CO2 is not, nor was ever the issue. Additionally none of the newer CPDs have shown any signs of lethargy or CO2 poisoning throughout the day.
This particular minnow more or less lost appetite, got thin, and died, over the course of a few days where I was able to recognize something was up. I have had consistent and very gradual deaths in this tank, never multiple in a week and usually showing signs of lethargy and what may be breathing difficulty. A few of the deaths have displayed signs of dropsy and bloat before dying.
To add I had a group of 5 otocinclus originally, but the 4 I lost were from a different batch. All survived at least 5 months. I now think these deaths are related as well. These also showed bloat and some lifting of scales on death. Symptoms leading to death were much less observable due to shy nature and originally dismissed as oto sensitivity.
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Anyways every time I look up these consistent yet gradual fish deaths I find discussions on parasites. I have suspected this in the past but never been able to ID anything. I am wondering if its gill flukes or something. Are there medications that aren't too hard on the tank that would be worth trying? I took note of this kind of spot behind the gills on one of my WCMMs. It has been there a while and this particular minnow is colored nicely and currently showing normal energy. Not sure if this looks like anything.
20211122_183653_HDR.jpg
 

Allwissend

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First congratulations on the tank looking cleaner and the plant looking well on their way to fill in.

Sorry to hear about some of the fish deaths. Yes such individual fish death could be linked to parasites, bacteria infection due to low immune system or overeating or stress from transportation etc. Im not a big fan of just medicating, it takes a toll on the fish and the plants. I don't see any visible signs of disease. I would not expect mount minnows to be more sensitive to CO2 than CPDs. In my experience till now fish don't really have issues with true 30 mg/L CO2. The issue is the rapid increase in CO2 concentration per drop in pH after the 30-40 mg/L CO2 which could lead some people to underestimate the CO2 conc.

Clean water and good food often help the fish strengthen themselves. Maybe give them some baby brine shrimp.
 

dsm555

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I had another of the WCMM die on me yesterday. 1 week apart from the last death this was close enough to prompt checking the basics. My ammonia reading was 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 10-20 ppm. Water changes 25% still twice per week treated with dechlorinator and temp matched. I leave the water in buckets for a day as an extra precaution.

This fish died for the same apparent reason as the previous one, but the actual cause is unclear. Symptoms were lethargy loss of color occasional gasping at the surface. None of the CPDs have shown any clear signs of stress but I am monitoring closely. I checked in on CO2 levels and everything looked normal. I still feel CO2 is a bit low with the drop checker blue green for about the first 3 hours of light and green the last 3. Even accounting for the delay in the drop checker to change color it never goes past green, even when checking after lights off.

I checked on the possibility of a higher than expected pH swing but only measured 6.4 (right before lights out). Water out of my tap is 7.2 and my kH is currently 3. Even assuming no other buffer is present a CO2 kH pH table would indicate 35 ppm of CO2. And it is almost certainly lower than this due to my substrate still having some buffering capacity and wanting to bring the pH to 6.5 ish. I can take a morning measurement after my air stone runs during the night to confirm the full pH swing.

Here is the WCMM shortly before death. I can't identify anything wrong other than the obvious upside down issue + loss of color.
20211128_150710_HDR.jpg



I found this picture from Sep 25
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This is before starting this forum and before CO2 levels were increased with my most recent attempt to get the tank stabilized. The two WCMMs that have since passed show loss of color already, but otherwise look healthy to me.

I still think the issue is related to gas exchange in the fish but doubt O2 levels or CO2 directly are the issue. I have decent surface movement, run an air stone at night, and the drop checker indicates < 30 ppm Co2 most of the day.
I went ahead and dosed the tank once for flukes with PraziPro yesterday night. I don't see clear evidence of flukes but I think something is making these fish unhealthy. My research indicated this treatment should be pretty safe, and so far all fauna look fine.

I'll keep updating.
 

Allwissend

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i can only suspect that maybe they are less adapted to KH 0 compared to the CPD. Otherwise the CPD's are viewed as the more sensitive of the fish. It can put additional stress on their kidneys and overall health and weaken them to get a bacterial infection etc.
Also, be careful when temperature matching, especially in winter, some heating units have copper pipes which can really increase the Cu content.

Again just guesses. Haven't had much experience with this species. I last had them 20 years or so ago.
 

dsm555

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Oct 23, 2021
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KH has been kept stable between 3-4 since initially adjusted about 4 weeks ago.

Your point on Cu is very interesting though. I do use water out of the tap at about 68 °C usually so it warms up within the 1 day wait. This is not set all the way cold and some amount of hot water is being mixed in. Cu causes hypoxemia in fish which is exactly what I believe I am seeing. My pipes from the hot water heater which is inevitably getting mixed in are brass, they happen to be labelled, which is an alloy of zinc and copper. So this is interesting... I have got to figure some copper would be leached into the water.

I have ordered a copper test kit. I won't change anything with my process until it arrives. This may be an interesting development. Thank you for the continues suggestions! I am quite enjoying working through this one.