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Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

Discussion in 'Algae Control' started by DaveMill, Sep 2, 2006.

  1. DaveMill

    DaveMill Junior Poster

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    Blue green algae has been plaguing me for THREE YEARS. My tank is a 72 gallon bowfront with 220 watts of AHS compact flourescent and CO2 injection to 20+ppm. I have tried erythromycin, which helps for a while but is hard on the fish, and I have tried blackouts. :confused:

    A year ago, at Tom Barr's advice, I did a thorough substrate cleaning-over four weeks, I did a deep cleaning of 25% of the substrate each week during water changes. Currently I clean the gravel well during weekly water changes. I had really hoped that the deep cleaning would do the trick, but it has not. :(

    Last week I did a 5 day blackout:

    1. Thorough tank cleaning, 50% water change, added 1 tsp KNO3
    2. 5 days blackout
    3. 50% water change, 1 tsp KNO3, 1/2 tsp K2SO4, 1/16 tsp KH2PO4, 15ml Flourish, plus I cleaned out the Eheim cannister filter.

    Here is a photo of what I saw after the blackout when I turned on the lights, before even vacuuming the tank. Notice the bluegreen algae along the top of the driftwood. This was live bluegreen algae, immediately upon turning on the lights! Similar algae appeared on much of the driftwood, and a bit on the plants.

    Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that some of the bluegreen algae in this photo is actually growing on BBA, but the BBA is dead. My daughter loves the way it looks, so I don't scrape it off the driftwood. The BBA appeared during a period of neglect, but is dead now.

    Two days after the blackout, the bluegreen algae had doubled in volume, and it continues to grow. Now this growth cannot possibly be from lack of nitrate-I dosed after the blackout, so the tank had sufficient nitrate during the two days that the algae grew so nicely.

    The tank is healthy. A few months ago I stocked it with four species of apistos plus rams. These are growing big and colorful, and they happily fight territorial battles all day long with each other and some corydoras and rummynose tetras that are both 4 years old.

    Two other issues which might play a part: The water is soft. I keep soft water fish like apistos that just don't thrive in hard San Jose tap. My current formula is 1/3 tap, 2/3 RO. With weekly water changes, this should supply sufficient minerals.

    Also, the tank is full of driftwood. The photo shows a small piece. There are two larger pieces, 20 inche tall trunks with roots. The water has a slight yellow tinge from all the wood. I'm sure that all this dead wood has some impact on the water parameters. I don't mean to say that the driftwood is decaying-no more so than any piece of driftwood. There's just a lot of it.

    The funny thing is, on the other side of the room I have a 20 gallon grow-out tank that is currently home to 12 albino longfin ancistrus. Tap water (yea, I know, but the apistos don't like it), no CO2, aquaclear filter, two consumer spiral CF bulbs, and no bluegreen algae. What concerns me is my daughter's tank, a 12 gallon eclipse with the standard flourescent bulb, with a breeding colony of neolamprologus pulcher. It's been growing anubias and java moss fine for two years. But recently a little blue green algae has started to show up on the anubias roots.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am at the end of my rope on this. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    The only thing that I see standing out as inadequate is the dosage of phosphate. I use more that 1/6 tsp in my 29 gallon tank. You probably need to use about 3/16 tsp, which should cause the plants to grow much faster, using up nitrates faster, eliminating ammonia faster. Other than that I haven't a clue why you would have such persistent BGA.
     
  3. quenton

    quenton Guru Class Expert

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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    I have to agree with vaughnH -- I would up the K2HPO4 to 3/16 or even 1/4 tsp.

    Beyond that -- don't know. By the way, could not get to your photo, said it got an error!

    Blue-Green, assuming it is realy that, is not really an algae, but a bacteria, which is why the antibotic -- I have not personally had it, so I don't have any personal experience to pass on.
     
  4. fresh_newby

    fresh_newby Prolific Poster

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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Dave, I feel your pain. I too have done everything, but have it perpetually along the substrate line. i have done everything you have done as well. I have no idea why I still have it. My phosphates are high in my water supply, I EI dose nitrates and tend to over feed and have some poopers, so I really have adequate NO3. It is limited to the area between the acrylic and the substrate and sometimes creeps up hairgrass roots. All i can do it keep pulling out sheets with the long tweezers and vacuum the subtrate more and more with each weekly water change. I can always see it, even after a 5 day total black out.
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Substrate BGA is okay, just not a lot.

    BGA above the substrate is illegal:)
    Dave, don't make me come down and kill it:)

    There are a few things you can do, removign some of the plant/decore etc that gets infested, generally near the light/surface will help, increasing flow the those regions infested etc.

    Go lighter in anitbiotics.

    3 days is plenty of kill the BGA
    You must follow the full 100% blackout and keep the tank away from natural sunlight.

    Clean the rot off any and everything, clean the filter etc, do good sized water changes, do several, back to back, daily etc if need be to get the tank is very clean shape, trim things, remove the areas that are noramlly cess pools for it.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. DaveMill

    DaveMill Junior Poster

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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Tom,

    Thank you for your reply. But I don't think the full seriousness of the infection has come through.

    You wrote:

    >Clean the rot off any and everything, clean the filter etc, do good sized
    >water changes, do several, back to back, daily etc if need be to get the
    >tank is very clean shape, trim things, remove the areas that are noramlly
    >cess pools for it.

    Been there, done that. For three years. I've thrown away countless favorite plants, so that I am now down to generic stuff that I don't enjoy very much. I used to supply 5-10 people every month with a cool strain of variegated Rotala Macrandra that grew like a weed. Heck, I used to sell $20-30 of cuttings EVERY WEEK to the LFS. But most stem plants stopped growing in this tank two years ago. :mad: :mad: :mad:

    It is now about 12 days after the blackout. CO2 has been at 25 ppm the whole time, nitrate at 10ppm plus. The BGA is back with a passion, as usual:

    Sheets of bluegreen algae coat leaves, driftwood and glass. It pulls off in large sheets and globs with little effort. Five days of blackout scaled it back, but did not come close to eliminating it. I did the whole routine as described in my original posting, including cleaning the cannister filter and removing most of the BGA by hand. Blackout has not worked on this stuff for a year or more.

    You wrote:

    >There are a few things you can do, removign some of the plant/decore etc
    >that gets infested, generally near the light/surface will help, increasing flow
    > the those regions infested etc.

    I think you are saying to remove things from near the surface. Right now, 12 days after blackout and removing all BGA from the gravel surface, 30% of the gravel is now turning an ugly blue-green color, although that deep in the tank it is not thick sheets like it is up higher. This stuff covers the glass where ever light hits it, from the gravel surface up to the water surface. Thicker sheets at the top, thinner at the bottom.

    I have tried moving the plants to the top of the tank and lowering the light level. This didn't work (although it looks cool, and the apistos love it). The floating mats of riccia grow well for a while just three inches from the light, then bluegreen takes over and chokes it. That's happening right now, less than two weeks after the blackout. The riccia doubled or tripled in volume during the first week, but now its turning bluegreen. Bluegreen also coats a big colony of Windelov Java Fern on the top of another driftwood trunk, choking off growth until I clean off the leaves. Bluegreen also gobs up the java moss on the top of a third driftwood log, and sword leaves down at the gravel level, and anubias leaves at every level, and now the gravel as well.

    Another funny thing (see my original post the first funny thing): each time the BGA trashes another batch of Java moss, I toss it and replace it with a big hunk from my non-CO2, low light fry tank. Plants grow great in there, just floating around. Next time the BGA destroys more Java Moss, there's plenty more in the fry tank to replace it with.

    I no longer try antibiotics. They work, but they are hard on the fish. Healthy fish are my top priority (I've got 5 year old favorites in this tank, and they are doing quite well).

    THIS IS REALLY PISSING ME OFF! After three years of staring at BGA, I am tempted to toss the plants and turn off the lights for a few weeks to kill the BGA for good. In fact, I did that 12 months ago-the BGA disappeared until I replanted two months later, then returned promptly. If I do it again, I won't replant, and I'll just keep the lights off unless I'm in the room. No light, no algae of any kind, and the fish are still happy.

    But it sure is nice having living nitrate sponges in the tank. Tom, is there anything else you can suggest? I wouldn't mind a simple, low-light tank like my fry tank, but this tank is infected with BGA from Hell which comes back no matter what I try, high-light, low-light, whatever.

    One more clue, mentioned in my previous post: BGA has started to grow (slowly) in my daughters 12-gallon eclipse. It has accelerated since I put in some hornwort. The hornwort grew quickly (for a low-light tank), which may have pulled the nitrate very low. But my plant tank doesn't have low nitrate, and the BGA thrives, so I am not sure nitrate has anything to do with it. Anyhow, I am very pissed that the BGA is invading my daughter's tank, and really don't want to fight it in there. I will try removing the Hornwort, leaving the three anubias species and java fern, and see if that stops the BGA there.

    Sorry for my rant, and thank you.
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Is the temp stable?
    That link is dead BTW.
    Substrate type?
    What types of Food are you feeding?

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. DaveMill

    DaveMill Junior Poster

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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Temperature: I unplug the heaters during the summer, because the tanks stay at 80-82 without them. But the temp could vary, I didn't know that was an issue. Heaters have been plugged in for the last 4 weeks.

    Substrate: 100% Flourite, 2-3 inches average depth

    Food: Usually a variety. Right now, Spectrum Growth & Wardleys Algae tabs, with some frozen and flakes. I haven't seen a correlation with food, but I wasn't looking.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Well, with that type of substrate and feed, things should be fine.

    You vacuumed the entire substrate deep?
    If not, do it.

    Then place some tape or better yet, slope the gravel so that the lip of the tank covers the edges exposured to the window light etc.

    You have to be doing something wrong as BGA can be killed a dozen different ways pretty effectively. But it keeps coming back so there's something you are overlooking even if you are racking your brain here.

    Try large water changes also, 70-80%, 2x a week. Add Excel after.
    Add more K+, add KNO3 etc.

    Do this there plus the above water change:

    Dose 3x a week:

    3/4 teaspoon KNO3
    3/4 SeaChem Eq or GH booster from Greg Watson(water changes only)
    15mls traces
    ~1/8 KH2PO4

    Crank the CO2 more.

    Plants often do poorly when the CO2 drops and the dosing routine has been done the same for a long time etc.

    That leads to algae and other issues.
    So always re check that and recheck that and recheck that.

    20+ ppm is too low, shoot for 30 or more and add some surface turnover on the tank.

    Next, try the 3 day blackout, if you do more, it will not help.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    I re-read all of the posts here and didn't notice anything about water circulation. If you aren't using a powerhead for more circulation, I suggest trying that. Without good water movement throughout the tank there will be stagnant areas that can have zero ferts and CO2. I also get the impression that you are trying to avoid overdosing fertilizers. If so, don't do that, just dose double the EI amounts, wait a day, then do a big water change, followed by dosing the full EI amounts again. High fertilizer levels won't cause the algae problem.
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    I think Dave had been doing fine prior, hence the reservations to try much different than that.

    But, that assumes that the CO2, circulation etc where all the same.
    Often a bad assumption.

    I know why many folks feel "stumped", but it's generally not the algae that's doing that:)

    If the BGA was super BGA etc, that'd be one thing, but not likely, I've killed it and done it plenty of times.

    Why Dave's BGA is still there is more likely something overlooked.
    So start from the basics and move forward, Clean good, large frequent water changes, add Excel, dose right, always check the CO2 over and over till things are fine again.

    Etc.
    Nothing that new here, just we often miss things.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. fresh_newby

    fresh_newby Prolific Poster

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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    well...I feel is pain believe me. I am doing everything right. In addition, I have 2 Eheim ProII 2026's for movement...still my substrate line/entire depth is flourescent green. I have mo lip to the bottom of my tank because it is a 90gal rimless acrylic, so I will try now taping all of the way around . Gee that will look just swell :(
     
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Bluegreen Algae, Blackouts ineffective, end of my rope!

    Weekly edge troweling can be done, most just live with a little BGA along the gravel line, you can also reduce the amount of ambient light hitting the gravel line there(close the blinds etc).

    I do troweling anyway for other species anyway and like a clean look there.
    Organic loading can certainly add to BGA issues, so less is more and good vacuuming every so often is a good idea also. I just get more and more aggressive with algae and do the resets and do them frequently. Most think they just do it once and that's all that is needed. Nope.
    Don't wait, nail it several times, do 3-4 a week water changes, attack it, clean everything, stay on top of it for a few days, resetting each time.

    Algae can bounce back a day or two later, but if you keep attacking the algae, the spore bed will be depelted as will the adults ability to produce more spores.

    It's a lot of work, but it's only for a relatively short time and then you stay on top of things, it does not come back.

    So resetting tanks does take a lot of work, but only for a little while or when something goes screwy.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. DaveMill

    DaveMill Junior Poster

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    Thanks to Tom and everyone who contributed on this thread. A conclusion:

    After three years of grief with this tank, finally a solution. Credit goes to Christine Bennett of the Silicon Valley Aquarium Society.

    She asked me a simple question: Why do you have so much light? (recall from the first posting: 220 Watts of AHS compact flourescents over a 72 gallon bowfront).

    She argued that compact flourescents, when used with AHS reflectors, actually produce light output 62% brighter per watt than lamps without these reflectors. (AHS claims this on their web site). See:

    So if this is true, I had the equivalent of 356 W over 72 gallons, or nearly 5 watts per gallon. So Christine suggested cutting the light in half.

    Problem solved!:) :) I now run half the lights (110 watts, for about 178 effective) for 10 hours per day, with full lighting for an hour around feeding time.

    Since cutting the light, the bluegreen algae has slowly disappeared on all surfaces, and is no longer growing back on sword plant leaves in between weekly (or biweekly) cleanings. Wheras in the past, I was peeling large, smelly, slimy sheets of BGA off of the glass and plants, now what little is left on driftwood is nearly gone and very little grows on the plants. None has grown on the gravel since I turned down the lights.

    Something else: I haven't dosed nitrate in weeks. The fish are providing enough to keep nitrate over 10ppm according to the test kit. I still dose K2SO4, KH2PO4, flourish, iron and CO2.

    So the BGA from hell that blackouts couldn't kill has been defeated. Plants have begun to show more healthy growth. I can see through the glass again!
     
  15. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Congratulations! This is one more data point supporting the need to reduce the amount of light in order to be able to control algae. Now, I suggest that if you follow the EI dosing method, don't stop dosing nitrates. Dose according to the schedule and rely on the water changes to reset the tank if you get too much of any fertilizer in it. That system works, and works well.
     
  16. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I have very high light and have had BGA, but it always goes away.
    So while it might be part of a method, reducing light, that can be said of any alga.

    I've also seen nasty infestations with less than 2w/gal using shop lights.......

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  17. cbennett

    cbennett Junior Poster

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    Dave, glad to help and I'm so happy your tank is recovering! I remembered Tom saying that people really overestimate the amount of light needed to grow plants and that you can grow most things at 2.5 wpg. Plus, you need less light on big tanks, so 5 wpg was just a *little* overboard! :eek: :D
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yea, but while it appears to cure this particular case, it does not suggest that it is the cause.

    I can shut the curtins in my room and get rid of the Blue green gravel film also. Reduced lighting like a blackout will reduce algae growth as well as plant growth(not a bad thing if light is the limiting factor there!).

    But by contrast, I have very high light tanks that are clearly BGa free.
    I can still take microscopic smaples and get BGA, but I do not see infestations even unless I drop the NO3, do not clean the Java ferns, dead zones, trowel and other such mainteance items.

    But this is not totally BGA, this is for several species of algae.
    Keeps them all down.

    Dave still does not know what did cause his infestation and outbreak and continued plague. He might not have issues today and might not again in the future either.

    But it does not suggest it was a cure.
    There are too many things/examples that falsify such conclusions.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. Sintei

    Sintei Lifetime Charter Member
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    well, ive started to get some BGA now too, its trying to cover my HC and a small patch of my needlegrass.
    Im going to try more frequent waterchanges like 3-4x week. But, when do I add micro? Today i add micro the day after macro dosing. Should I just add macro+micro+booster day 1 with waterchange, nothing day 2, add everything day 3 with waterchange.. nothing day 4, etc?

    Also, should I increase NO3 and PO4?
     
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