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Good plant growth but still algae

Discussion in 'Marine Plants - Macroalgae' started by scottward, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi guys,

    So what does it mean when you have good plant growth but still algae?

    My tank mainly contains E.Tenellus (or whatever it is called now). This plant is throwing out runners and new growth is green and waxy, i.e. plant is in good colour and is propagating well. As the general consensus with regards to balancing lighting, nutrients and CO2 goes, "looking at the plants" as a guide suggests to me that the balance is good. Yes?

    So why do I still have green fur algae growing about the tank - on the rocks, on the filter hoses, even on the leaves of the plants themselves? This algae isn't a particularly bad looking algae (like BBA), but nevertheless it is quite prevalent throughout my tank.

    So why is it there?

    I can wipe it off the rocks etc, but it comes back.

    Tom has often mentioned the 'holistic' approach which, in addition to the above big 3, also includes filtration and water changes. So, I suppose a good balance comprised of:

    1. Lighting
    2. Nutrients
    3. CO2
    4. Filtration
    5. Water Changes

    As per above, based on the plants, I'm sure points 1-3 are good. Point 5 is taken care of by 50% weekly water changes as per the general EI guide (I know it's not set in stone).

    Point 4 - well - my only filtration is an Eheim 2217 - about 1000lph @ 0 head (and it's underneath my tank in the cabinet). Recently I have talked (or rather questioned) in detail about different types of filter media, adding more biological media etc (I have recently added Zeolite to the filter, not so much for NH4 capture but really as it was an inexpensive soon-to-be biological media). Could the 'missing link' here simply be that my tank just does not have suffient biological media to process the dissolved organics?? Is there a way I can test for them?? {Cue BIO and Redox}. :)

    Tom mentioned not so long ago that Redox is really only useful in the substrate. I feel like I disagree - surely measuring the Redox in the water column would be a good way of knowing whether the 'organic load processors' are up for the job or not?

    If it were possible to determine that they weren't, this could suggest that either they aren't being fueled with enough O2, or, they simply don't have the capacity (i.e. a tiny corner box filter in a 180g despite having plenty of O2 just aint gonna cut it).

    In keeping with the above, it would seem that well and truly over-engineering the biological filtration in our planted tanks might be a very good idea!! I know Tom has mentioned before that it is not possible to over filter and he does often mention keeping filters clean etc. Maybe I'm just finally starting to get it............ :)

    Thoughts dudes/dudettes?

    Scott.
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I had a tank with nothing but Ech tennellus. no issues, used low light, good CO2, sediment was just flourite sand..........grew like a weed, no algae issues of any sort, EI type dosing/WC's etc.
    A little on the rocks is one thing, bad if on equipment and very bad if on plant leaves.

    Good plant growth will absorb most of the organic loading from decay/fish waste.
     
  3. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your help.

    But I do have good plant growth - as I pointed out from the outset.

    So it would seem that in my situation, the organic load from decay/fish waste and whatever else might be simply too much for the plants + filter + whatever?

    In your Ech Tenellus tank that was doing well - do you recall what size the tank was and exactly what fish you had in it - i.e. what species, how many?? It would be interesting to see if the difference between that tank and mine was simply that you had considerably less fish.

    I could just go out and buy another filter - but research doesn't hurt first. :)

    Scott.
     
  4. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    I can induce green algae when PAR levels start to be more than 100 micromols at the substrate, although my CO2 seems to keep up with the extra demand and plants keep growing very well. If I lower light again to around 75 micromols, do a good cleaning of everything and change 50% water every other day, I can beat this algae in two weeks.

    Of course my 180 has two Eheim 2078e filters, which have around three times more total capacity...., but insufficient filtering would probably show itself by getting BGA because of organic load, not green algae.

    In my opinion green algae is always a CO2/high light issue, you should look into this subject.

    Buy 4 juvenile SAE's, they will help you keeping the new growth under control. They can remove algae on a level that you'd need a microscope. You can remove them when they get too big and become a nuisance.
     
    #4 dutchy, Sep 16, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2011
  5. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    scottward, I REALLY feel your pain.

    You mean that green fur algae? It was my nemesis in my previous tank.
    And it especially covered my Tenellus and Blyxa leaves, making them look furry,
    not nice clean crispy as they should be.

    I've found that it couldn't be corrected by just reducing light. I remember Dutchy
    also struggled with this for a while before getting it sorted.

    It's not easy to eradicate. I found it grew even on the lowest leaves where
    light was very low: a 20 gallon tank, 13.7 inches high. Lighting was just 2x18w T8
    with 50% of the bulbs covered with paper. But that algae still grew.

    Reducing phosphate + low light gave good result to me for Spirogyra
    (yes, I know what you would say: CO2). But not for this green fur.

    Then my Cories started to breed and I had to remove the fries from the filter
    every 30 days. And at last it started to recede, but why? I'm still not sure.
    But I incline to believe that because I cleaned my filter (a 2217) more often.
    From 2-3 months to once a month. The clear victory could be noticed after
    2-3 months. I was so glad.... but then BOOM, there was a big flood the whole
    city was under metres of water. I had to restart again.

    But the trend was quite the same. Cleaning my filter often helped, again, against
    this kind of algae. May be the real culprit is DOC. My tank was(is) very over-stocked.

    And when they are gone. I can bump my light up (slowly), and ferts (yep, PO4 too) without issue.
    If you increase your light too fast, it will come back.

    I see this trait in Dutchy's tank as well. You can use high light but not when you
    still have algae issues.

    That was my old 20 gallon tank.

    [Now I'm having load of problems with my 90 gallon tank. BGA, BBA, Spirogyra,
    Oedogonium, you name it! :mad: After 8 months I think I'm just STARTING to know
    what light level is suitable for it.:p]
     
    #5 nipat, Sep 16, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2011
  6. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    Oh, I forgot to say something about CO2.

    After I had successfully beaten that green fur, I ran out of my CO2.
    And there was CO2 shortage in the city. So I had resorted to use yeast
    for a while. And it gave just 1/2 of CO2 compared to pressurised system.
    I was so angry that this happened when my tank was looking quite nice for the first time...

    But guess what? There was no problem of any kind. And with lower CO2,
    my Cories which had been hiding all the lighting period, looked so happy.
    When the CO2 supply in the city came back to normal. I still adhered to
    that injection rate.

    This taught me that I had been barking at the wrong tree. It was not CO2.
    I think this is worth mentioning because “just bumping up CO2” is already gone "mainstream" today.
    I've frequently seen people just keep bumping it up without much thought,
    some did it without knowing how stressful fish looks like.
     
    #6 nipat, Sep 16, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2011
  7. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi dutchy/nipat,

    Thanks for the replies.

    My tank only has 2 rows of T8's, so not a lot of light at all. My photoperiod is 10 hours. Perhaps my photoperiod is too long - maybe the E.Tenellus has 'had it's fill after the first 7-8 hours and the remaining part of the photoperiod is exaecerbating (but not directly causing) the problem.

    So by reducing the photoperiod I may be able to reduce the green fur growth without having any significant effect on the plants.

    Thoughts?

    Yeah, I'm agreeing that perhaps the organic load in my tank might be the culprit here. I have Amano's books, and all his tanks are lightly stocked with fish (at least I think so anyway). My tank isn't ridiculously full of fish, but I do only have an Eheim 2217 so not a lot of bio media here.

    Hmmmm. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

    I'm waiting for Tom to say 'increase CO2', but I honestly don't feel that is the solution as the plants are growing and looking ok..... :confused:
     
    #7 scottward, Sep 19, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2011
  8. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Scott,

    As long as you "feel" CO2 is ok and are not "sure" you have a thing to worry about and to check. I agree you're not using much light, mine is much higher and I also use 10 hours, but then again, this only relates to how much CO2 you put in.

    I agree with Nipat that the "increase CO2" is almost getting a standard solution but I also agree that in most cases it's exactly where the problem is. Not always though. But lights and ferts are the easy part.

    I'm sure your filtration is kind of underpowered, maybe you can get an extra 2217 somewhere?

    What's the CO2 according to the pH/KH chart? (not very useful but just to give me an idea) Do you use a dropchecker? After how much time do you reach optimal CO2?
     
  9. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    I remember your light seems already low, but I don't remember how long your photo period is:confused:
    Reducing light surely helps about algae. As long as it's above LCP, your plants will be fine.
    Tenellus tolerates low lighting very well. So I would say try it.

    I've seen a 60 inch long tank with just a 2213 on it. No algae, but low light & low fish load.

    Although reducing DOC is my interest for now, I'm still surprised Walstad method can use
    organics to its advantage.
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Often times with the Green algae, poor CO2 might be the cause.......but getting rid of it is more troublesome than mere add more CO2. Any advice needs to be holistic.
    I've had a few bouts with a few greens where CO2 was not a factor in getting rid of it. Blackouts helped some. Less light. Ferts did not appear to cause the algae, but seem to help it once well established.

    Algae eaters also helped a lot.

    So good care, trimming, CO2, light adjustments, better fert management.........still the basic stuff.

    Excel will not help for Green algae except to help with bad CO2.
     
  11. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    With the green fur, the hope is on new leaves. The affected old leaves won't recover.
    So you have to be patient, since new leaves will come out slower with lower light.
    And don't lose your hope if those new leaves will slowly get algae too, algae will still grow
    on it but slower and slower overtime in each new leaf. Then it's gone.
    The change to better doesn't occur abruptly.
     
  12. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Why can't this hobby be simple? :rolleyes:

    In terms of getting rid of this algae, would a 3 day blackout do the trick? Would this cause the fur algae to die and fall off the surfaces that it's attached to?

    If this would do the trick, at the end of the blackout period I would obviously do a large water change.

    I'm sure the E.Tenellus would pale off a bit over the 3 days, but I'm fairly certain that it would green up again within a few days.

    As far as preventing it coming back goes, I'm still leaning towards a root cause of too much organic matter + ammonia.

    More CO2, if I haven't hit the non limiting CO2 mark already, might increase the NH4+ uptake of the plants as their growth rate is increased and this *might* be enough to counter the oranic matter + ammonia.

    Alternatively, preventing the organic matter + ammonia in the first place by removing fish, even more water changes etc might be the other solution.

    I guess I could try the blackout to at least 'reset' the situation, and then change something to see if the green fur comes back?

    Scott.

    P.S. Would it have to be 3 days? Would 2 or even 1 day be enough? I have used 4 day blackouts successfully for BGA, but I don't have any BGA at this time.
     
    #12 scottward, Sep 19, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2011
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I had very few issues with this little weed.
    It did not get any algae and grew rapidly.

    I think many water changes, good Excel might also help more than the blackout.
    The plants can handle longer time frames than 3 days.
     
  14. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Excel costs more $$$ than a blackout though.

    Would 3 days blackout knock out the fur algae?

    Scott.
     
  15. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    It could even be that all conditions in your tank are ok now. But when the algae has established itself, it will stay present without any problem. You will have to attack it agressively. Thorough cleanings, sometimes every day, frequent waterchanges and of course a three day blackout, even in cycles (3 days bo, 3 day light, 3 day bo) will help a lot. SAE's do a great job with this algae.

    All little hammers that act as a one big hammer.

    If you want to do 50% waterchanges, do them in the morning, before lights are turned on, but when some daylight hits the tank. If it's oedogonium, I've seen it float in the water at this time, but later it was gone because it gets entangled in plants etc. You will prevent some spreading.
     
    #15 dutchy, Sep 20, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2011
  16. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    Try (black-out) it. Although it didn't work for me, for this green fur.
    I remember Tenellus didn't even turn yellow or anything when doing black-out.
    Very hardy plant. I saw some couldn't grow it, but they couldn't kill it either.
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    SAE's will munch on most any green hair like algae, BBA as well.

    You could go 3-5 days without any issues with a black out, maybe longer..........but the root issue needs addressed.
     
  18. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Thanks Tom, dutchy, nipat; appreciate the help.

    How many little SAE's would you recommend for a 100g?

    I wonder if the extra zeolite I added to the 2217, now that it should be establishing itself as biomedia, will be enough to address the root issue (which I believe to be more organic load in than organic load out, i.e. organic load production higher than organic load removal).

    Scott.
     
  19. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    Based on my experience with these fish I'd say one on every 50g.
     
  20. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Ah ok, so that means I would only need 2. I guess you are talking about fully grown adult fish here Dutchy?

    I can buy them for $4.99 @ 3-4cm in length. I know they grow to about 12cm.

    At only 3-4cm in length, would I be better off buying 5-6 of them?

    At only 3-4cm are they going to be big enough to be any good?

    Scott.
     
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