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Can't identify this algae, want to eradicate it!

Discussion in 'Algae Control' started by atrixnet, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    I've been fighting it for a year. It has nearly brought me to such frustration as to completely give up planted aquaria altogether. At one point my planted tank looked breathtakingly beautiful, with a glosso lawn and several other lovely and rare plants.

    But then this algae crept in, maybe on a new plant purchase or a new fish. I have no way to know. For a year straight I have tried everything I can and every method I could find in books and on the internet to remove this awful plague. It killed my plants in a parasitic manner; it grew over the leaves of my glosso and strangled off my plants by colonizing on, and snuffing out their leaves. Only my cabomba carolina (sp?) and java fern have been strong enough to resist the onslaught, and only the cabomba plants have been able to somehow keep the algae from establishing itself on their stems.

    I can't identify the algae myself, but I have taken some very detailed photos, probably worthy in quality of inclusion in the algae database here at the barr report. We'll see.

    I'd attach a few photos to this post, but the quality of a photo compressed in size enough to fit within the allotted 97kb limit for attachments here would be pathetically indiscernible to the point of precluding any possibility of assisting the viewer in identifying said algae. (Might I humbly submit that the limit in file sizes of attachments be increased?) Having said that, I'll include a web link to a directory on one of my web servers that has an array of snapshots of the algae from several angles. The most recent photos are of the higher quality as they have been taken with my best camera.

    The link is: www.tommybutler.com/algaeproblem

    Please help me get rid of this menace. I don't know how and I'm all out of ideas. I need a true plant guru team to guide me on my journey of planted aquarium enlightenment. Words can't express my exasperation, nor can they express my thanks to those who help me to graduate from the level of algae victim to algae jedi warrior, defeater of aquarium algae sith.

    --
    Tommy Butler
     
  2. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    Allow me to also discuss some of the things I've done to try and fight this algae off:
    1. Common pleco added to tank
    2. Upgrade lighting to a 6700 kelvin VHO bulb providing me with about 2 watts per gallon
    3. Addition of natural driftwood with the pleco to soften up the water a little
    4. Really fill up that aquarium with lots of plants
    5. Otocinclus sp added to the tank, in combination with the above methods
    6. Addition of a few hardy and some very fast growing plants: cabomba carolina, java fern, "marimba" algae balls
    7. Manual removal with a toothbrush, skewer, or thumbnail, in combination with the above
    8. Constant, consistent removal of leaves and fronts and gravel that have become coated with the evil malefactor algae.
    9. Heavy treatment with Flourish Excel, in combination with all the above (wow that pleco is getting fat)
    10. Using the estimative index fertilization regimen in combination with all the above (including the 50% weekly water changes)
    11. New filtration: got a via aqua 750 for that 30 gallon tank; lots of current, overkill? (got it here: Aquarium Canister Filter; Via Aqua 750 filter & 650/750 impeller, valves)
    12. CO2 injection in combination with all the above (using CO2 regulator, pH controller, and elaborate commercial setup (not your ho-hum DIY CO2 by any means))
    13. Really juice up the CO2, pH dropping to 6.6, CO2 levels approaching 42ppm (pleco has got to be 6 inches long by now)
    14. Ten hour photoperiod reduced to 8
    15. A mystery snail added to the tank, 5 malaysian trumpet snails added to the tank
    16. Replace algae-infested driftwood with new driftwood
    17. Mated pair of "Florida Flag Fish" added to the tank, in combination with all the above
    18. Removal of algae with a paper towel from glass during an 80% water change once a week for 4 weeks
    19. Scale back the Flourish Excel use to nothing
    20. 5 watt UV sterilizer with a nice phillips bulb from the LFS added to the 30 gallon tank with all the above methods in play
    21. Upgrade that lighting again, this time to 6500 Kelvin 85 watt SHO bulb, giving me just under 3 watts per gallon of lighting (the bulb and reflector pendant I got here: COMPACT FLOURESCENT LIGHT BULBS; Standard and SHO CFL aquarium bulb)
    22. Modifying fertilization regimen so as to accomplish the "redfield ratio" described here: Free of algae with Redfield Ratio | Aquariumpagina's van Charles Buddendorf
    23. Reducing levels of iron so as to dwindle near zero ppm
    24. Straying from the true estimative index hasn't helped. The redfield ratio hasn't yielded any results. Start back with estimative index, flourish excel, and fourish iron and trace ferts.
    25. 3 day blackout period used a couple times. Both times I must have done something wrong because the algae was completely unaffected. Not a noticeable change at all.
    26. Allowed tank to become completely overgrown; not a square inch of water was unoccupied. This had the greatest effect. The algae takeover was halted, but the algae previously present was not killed off. After clearing out the extra growth and restoring the tank to what I'd still call a "heavily planted" state, the algae is slowly back on the move, creeping onto plants, swallowing up the gravel, festering on the driftwood, colonizing on the pH probe, CO2 reactor, filter tubes, glass, etc.
    27. Pray to God for a miracle (didn't work, I think Jesus has bigger things on his mind than my algae; maybe this algae is a "learning experience" for me to "grow", "and gain patience and humility"??!?!)
    28. Cry and beg algae to die
    29. Twitching stupefied and crazy on the floor in front of the aquarium, babbling incomprehensibly and asking myself if I was in an edgar allen poe nightmare
    30. buying a subscription to the barr report, why didn't I do this yet?

    --
    Tommy Butler
     
  3. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    That looks like Black Brush Algae to me. And, it usually gets started when you don't have enough CO2 at that area of the tank, combined with a lot of light. You apparently don't use a drop checker, so you don't know how much CO2 you are providing. Trying to measure it with tank water pH and KH doesn't work.

    You may have enough CO2 on average in the tank, but unless you have good water circulation so all areas of the tank get a good supply of both CO2 and the fertilizers, BBA can take off.

    So, I suggest getting a drop checker and using it with 4 dKH distilled or deioniized water in it to measure the CO2 in the water. Then check the water circulation making sure every leaf waves a bit in the current.
     
  4. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    Thanks for the reply!

    I do use a drop checker. I also measure the CO2 as a function of pH and KH. I use the calibrated pH controller attached to my CO2 system, and in combination with my personal test measurements and the drop checker it is very obvious that my CO2 levels are on the high side (did you see where I said "43ppm"?.

    If you were to look at the link I provided for the filter I use you'd see that the filter is rated for aquariums up to 125 galllons and this is a 30 gallon tank! I keep the filter clean, and my water flow/circulation is excellent. I move the drop checker regularly around the aquarium in order to test the levels in any given spot. But as my water circulation is so high, I never see a variance in color.

    What else can you tell me?
     
  5. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    ...oh, and yes I do use purified RO/DI water adjusted to 4dKH with sodium bicarbonate in my drop checker.
     
  6. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    I've been combing through the previous posts in this algae control area of the forums and I'd have to say that the ideas and things presented here are pure genius. I specifically refer to what I've learned in reading this thread: http://www.barrreport.com/algae-control/2192-gda-7.html

    While I've managed to beat every other type of algae I've found in my aquarium through trial and error and various things I've read (these victories include the riddance of gda, cyanobacteria, and spot algae), this bba (and I agree with vaughn that it's bba) stuff is totally kicking my butt =(

    It's interesting to read that the introduction and build up of CO2 in the water column prior to the lights coming on was discovered to be such a big factor in the thread I just referenced above. I say this because I've found that my plants do better when I leave the CO2 on all night and fire up an air stone when the lights go out (via a timer) and shut it off about two hours before the lights come back on (again all via timers). This has evolved over time and experimentation to become my present methodology for a combination of several reasons: automating it with the pH controller and timers provides regularity and compensates for my human laziness and inconsistency in routine, and it also came about by my discovery of very, very drastic and dramatic changes in CO2 and Oxygen levels in the water column with the diurnal rhythm of the plants, regulated by my lighting schedule. Using the setup I've just described I've been able to keep the CO2 levels quickly available to the plants when they want it and keep the Oxygen available to them during the night (also preserving the lives of my fish who would otherwise drown to death without the added oxygen as the oxygen uptake of my plants is so dramatic during the nightly period of darkness!)...

    So much to know, so much to learn. I am so eager to gain from the knowledge that I very poignantly hope is forthcoming in this thread. I desire so deeply to be rid of this bba, and to have gained the knowledge necessary to be rid of it forever.
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    A few SAE's will help a lot more than any of the other critters.
    It can take some time before seeing a result with BBA, often 2-3 weeks and then it slowly dies off and away.

    If...you correct the CO2, which if you want to beat this, it where you will want to spend your time and energy.

    That's the root of about 90-95% of the algae related issues.
    Charles Buddendorf does not even know the basics about the Redfiled ratio, he assumes that it's based on mass, not atomic ratios, thus he's off by a factor 2.2X too little PO4!

    I'm an Aquatic Biologist, I know the difference and do tissue analysis for my research for submersed aquatic plants. I mentioned to Charles about this, seems he's clueless or ignoring the glaring oversight so I have no issue challenging him directly about it. He's wrong.

    I can tell you blackout swill not work except for some greens and BGA only really.
    Excel is a good thing to keep adding while dealing with the BBA.
    Add the 15mls every other day.

    More light will not help, it will just make the issue worse.
    Stick with 2w/gal.

    More light = more CO2 demand, that's the way aquatic plants work if you want to provide them with non limiting growth. So adding more light merely increases the issue.

    So no method is going to help you if you do not resolve the CO2 issue.
    Folks that failed with the fake RR stuff, or EI or PMDD all blamed the method when it was really the CO2.

    I nag about CO2 more than any other topic when it comes to algae and plant growth.

    and rightly so...it's 40-45% of all plant biomass, can dramatically influence uptake of every other nutrient(the other nutrients need carbon backbones to make the nutrients into organic components for the plants, no carbon, not need for nutrients= no growth etc), a good signal for lulls in plant/other algae growth for algae spores to germinate, and the list goes on and on.............

    Regards,
    Tom Barr


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    :D

    Wow Tom!

    I feel actually quite honored to hear from you. What a pleasant surprise.

    I must say that I stayed up until 5 AM last night reading your material in this algae control area of the forum, as well as printing out your red algae issue of the barr report and reading it (volume 3, issue 3).

    While my methods will undoubtedly continue to evolve, I have learned a few things and made adjustments already.

    • Principle: Look at the plants to solve algae problems, not the algae
    • Practice: I took some tissue samples and looked at them under a magnifying glass. There was a glaring need for potassium. I juiced up the nutrients when I realized my lighting was causing vitamin deficiencies in my plants.

    • Principle: Misting the CO2 as opposed to dissolving it allows for more CO2 present in the water without hurting the fish; direct contact of the CO2 with the plants themselves while in its gaseous form is beneficial and should be sought after.
    • Practice: I modified my vortex CO2 reactor (dissolver) into a bubble-chomping power head that spews CO2 mist all over the tank like it was snowing bubbles.

    • Principle: Automated CO2 dosing via a pH controller has its drawbacks just as it has its virtues, and Tom Barr has said that he isn't a fan on at least one occasion, for mixed reasons.
    • Practice: Considering doing away with the pH controller as a dosing tool, and using it as a reference point, controlling the CO2 solenoid with timers and not with the pH controller, adjusting the timers fire up an hour prior to the lights in order to account for the critical first few hours of the photoperiod. Still mulling over this very heavily in my brain

    More thoughts forthcoming...
     
  9. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    That was not to say that I don't feel honored to hear from vaughn or anyone else!
     
  10. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    My three tanks do not have BBA. They don't have much CO2 in the water, either. What is there comes from the atmosphere or from the biological processes in the tank.

    These are 2 WPG, soil substrate environments with little if any nutrient dosing.

    I think there is more to controlling BBA (and other algaes) than adding more CO2. Maintaining a more natural, less forced growth environment is one.

    Bill
     
  11. atrixnet

    atrixnet Prolific Poster

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    Wow it really is a religious war with the CO2 isn't it. My My. Well we'll soon see. I juiced up the CO2 today and misted it for the first time since my DIY days of CO2 glory. Now my plants are pearling for the first time since a long time, if by pearling we all mean that they are giving off bubbles of their own and burgeoning out with new shoots and tender growth. That is what we mean by pearling, right?

    When I look up "define:pearling" in the ye ol' google search, I get some rather disturbing descriptions and imagery. YIKES! Nothing plant-related whatsoever!
     
  12. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    LOL. No, it's not a religious war at all. There is room in this hobby for everybody, even those whose 'scapes consist only of handsome, well arranged rocks.

    I posted that to remind folks that there are other ways to have attractive planted aquariums beside using high light and everything that follows from it. But for those who choose that approach, CO2 is the determining variable.

    Bill
     
  13. Dusko

    Dusko Prolific Poster

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    How often do you perform water changes and how much?
    Soils also provide some CO2.
    Do you grow fast growers or slow growing plants?
    There must be an explanation.

    Regards, Dusko.
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    For non CO2?
    No water changes at all.
    That's right, none.

    The explanation is rather deceptively simple.

    If you reduce the rates of growth, use low light, do not add CO2, allow the plants to adapt to a low CO2 environment, over time they will adapt quite well.

    They do not grow nearly as fast though.

    So the rate of growth is slowed.

    Now what happens is you change things once a week?
    Say do a large 50% water change?

    Plants spent all week getting adapted to low CO2, then add a bunch, so then they stop, and start chewing up all these extra CO2 uptake enzymes.

    When there's a lot of CO2, they get "lazy" and do not need as much CO2 uptake enzymes, which is the largest enzyme and N source in all plants.

    If you provide stable CO2, then it works well.
    If not, then you get things like hair algae and BBA.
    DIY CO2 users have the highest known occurrences of BBA.

    See any correlation?:cool:

    Soil really does not provide that much CO2, the fish and bacteria are the ones actually providing the CO2, and to do that, they have to use what precisely?

    O2.

    So with 7ppm of O2, how much available CO2 is really there for the plants?
    Consider how much is required for fish to do well, assume about 5 ppm.

    so that leaves you with at best without harming fish, 2 ppm extra.
    Reality is much less though.

    But there is some, just not as much as Diana Walstad seems to suggest.
    You can look up rates of CO2 production from wetland sediments. A few plants, like Lobelia dorm..they have a very large root system, so they have a specialized adaptation, but this is rather rare and not a generalized trait.

    I would not say that CO2 form sediments plays much of role in our soil based tanks. You could see a pretty good O2 pull down if so.
    Because no CO2 is going to be produced without aerobic respiration(O2 use).

    No way around that, like it or not.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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