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How do plants out-compete algae when all nutrients abound?

Discussion in 'Talk to Tom Barr' started by elwaine, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. elwaine

    elwaine Junior Poster

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    Hi Tom,

    I've been blessed with Cladophora. I've read many of the posts here on that subject and I am now followwing the advice given:

    I have increased my CO2 to the point at which my fish started to act a bit squirely and then backed down a little. As best as I can tell, the CO2 in my tank is now close to 50 ppm. I know that the dKH of the indicator in my bubble checker is 4 because I made it myself using very accurate scales. I also keep a sealed vial of the indicator solution handy as a color reference. Up until recently, the color of indicator in the aquarium matched the nice green color of my reference sample. Since turning up the CO2, it is now a yellow-green color.

    I am doing 40% water changes every other day and I physically remove as much of the Cladophora as I can. I am dosing with Seachem's Equilibrium, a little Barr's GH booster (for good luck), KH2PO4 and KNO3. I'm keeping my Nitrates close to 10 ppm and my Phosphates between 1 - 2 ppm. The KH is 5 and the GH is 5. I don't test for trace elements.

    My HC , as well as several other plants in my heavily planted tank are pearling nicely. I started to use Excel but ran out and I'm waiting for a new supply.

    So far so good. But I do not understand why I am doing what I am doing. How does promoting plant growth adversely affect an algae like Cladophora which, as you've noted, has very similar growth requirements as the rest of the plants? And since I am keeping all nutrients high, how is it possible for the plants to out-compete the algae? I don't understand the mechanism of action. It's not as though plants that "eat faster" take the food out of the "mouths" of the algae, and even if they could, by following the recommended regimen, I am insuring that there are plenty of nutritious plant foods for all concerned to thrive on. So what's really at work here?
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    This is an old topic that I have address multiple times. You can search here for many versions of this one.

    It's not so much they are in any sort of competition really, perhaps light is the only one in natural systems where we might see some of this overlap.

    They occupy very different ecological niches.
    That's why we have so many species.
    Why as there so many species of algae? Why are they not out competing each other all the time?

    What about plants? Why aren't they out competing each other in our tanks?
    They are much more close ecologically.

    THE REAL ISSUE IS WHAT GERMINATES ALGAE SPORES?.

    That's the real question. We know it's not nutrients, at least the types we add.

    What happened was you induced the growth, most likely poor CO2 for awhile, got this alga. Now it's there to stay fro awhile.

    Cladophora is a bit more like a regularly plant than most species of algae, so the adults will keep growing and hanging out, it's a bit like moss. So have you ever tried to get rid of moss in a tank?

    It's a bit like that, you need to get in there and manually remove it, remove plants to catch it and you will likely need to do this a few times. If moss or Riccia get infested, do not waste your time, just pick a little that's clean, regrow and toss the rest.

    Moss and Riccia can get weedy and tough to remove, this is pretty much the same type of things. You'll never beat Cladophora with blackouts or nutrients.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  3. elwaine

    elwaine Junior Poster

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    Cladophora: an observation on the possible role of GH

    Ok... to start, this is just an observation, not a proclamation, so don't blast me for this report. In addition, be forewarned: always beware of the man with one case... and this is just one case report.

    I'd been fighting a tank full of #@^!@ Cladophora and, in spite of doing everything I read in this and in other forums, it kept growing. I could not get rid of it... lights out for days, Excel, etc., etc.. The Cladophora covered my HC almost completely and was invading my dwarf hair grass and some stem plants. I was really frustrated.

    Then I got some new fish (Gertrude's blue eyed rainbow fish) and they all died in my soft water environment (KH 5 - GH 5). I ordered a second batch of those fish, but this time I tested the water they arrived in and found that it had a GH of 15. I slowly raised the GH in my tank to 10 and slowly lowered the GH in the water bags containing the fish to 10.

    The fish are thriving. It's been 4 weeks since I made the GH change. After a couple of weeks I thought that the Cladophora was decreasing in abundance, but I was still fed up with it's invasion of the HC. So i removed all the HC and covered the visible Amazonia substrate with small smooth rocks (large gravel). Now, 4 weeks after the GH change, I find no living Cladophora... just some dead strands near the filter out flow.

    The rainbow fish do not eat Cladophora, so they are not responsible for the demise of that annoying algae. Now maybe something else happened to the water unbeknownst to me. I don't know. I changed nothing but the GH by adding Seachem's Equilibrium. I still use Excel on occasion, but since increasing the GH, I've been dosing a lot less Excel than previously (just because i grew tired of doing so and usually forgot about it).

    I'm making no claims... just wondering if anyone else has noticed a link between increasing the GH and the dying off of Cladophora?
     
  4. elwaine

    elwaine Junior Poster

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    Addendum:

    I forgot to mention one thing. Before joining this forum and learning "the right way" to dose a tank, I bought a bottle of ADA's Green Brightly Step 1. I only used it 2 or 3 times... then joined this forum, ordered chemicals from Aquariumfertilizer.com and stopped using the Green Brightly... until about 4 weeks ago. Since then I've added some of the Green Brightly off and on... maybe 4 or 5 doses in 4 weeks... between water changes. Maybe that has an algaecide in it??? Anyway, I wanted to be as complete in my report as possible.
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    If you think it, simply ask for clarification, do not assume ill will or intent. Particularly when it's not there to begin with;)

    Burial method, Excel will not harm Caldo.............good CO2, and going in and removing all you can, remove the plants it gets entangled with etc.

    Aqua Forest's 180 cm ADA #20 tank got in, and BBA and a couple of algae species and got pretty bad, I see they torn the entire tank down and are redoing it from scratch.

    I doubt you need to do that, but if you wanna rescape anyway, not a bad option at times.

    Well, I never had any issues with Clado unless my CO2 was off. And .....it stop growing when that was addressed. The clado that was there prior did not die however. It just stop growing and slowly went away with water changes, picking it out, trimming the plants where it got entangled etc.

    Took awhile, was a lot of labor, but it's not present in any of my tanks.
    A simple change in CO2, good trim, etc, can cause the CO2 issue to move in favor of the plants.

    Most overlook this and we really have no direct cheap way to measure CO2 over the day's cycle over time well.

    NO3, nutrients etc, are easy, they do not change much over time, but they are only 1-2% of the total biomass of a plant, the rest are water and Carbon from CO2.

    Plants compete with eachother much more than algae compete with plants for CO2.

    Algae are never CO2 limited in our tanks. Plants? Definitely, and CO2 is the largest factor in nature also.

    I've found a bit less Clado in higher GH's, not sure it is much more than correlation though. Easy to test and add, but you need to make sure that CO2 and other issues are not dependent first..........before drawing any conclusion.

    You also need to induce Clado as well. Then you have at least one cause, CO2 did it for me, particularly the first 1-4 hours without any CO2 during the light cycle, adding some healthy Clado to start with.

    Those two things did it.

    Folks with soft water/low GH also have plenty of examples without Clado.
    However, adding more GH might help.

    I do not see any reason not to try higher GH's, it's simply adding more nutrients.

    Regards,
    Tom barr
     
  6. elwaine

    elwaine Junior Poster

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    Good points, all.

    I did everything you mentioned, including raising the CO2 until the fish got a little squirely, and nothing seem to help. However, perhaps that is not really true. Maybe the regimen you described was actually working and the raising of the GH just happened to coincide with the start of a visible downhill spiral of the Cladophora. It's quite possible that had I done nothing to the GH, the algae would have died off anyway. But I wanted to report what I observed.

    I was reluctant to report this because (after a lifetime as a scientist) I understand variables and coincidences and how a single case report is rarely indicative of a principle.

    Thanks for your help...
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I think even if you do not know definitely what causes X and Y, then you still have options and can try the basic things you know help focus on plant growth(always a good idea) and that you can pretty well have a decent idea that bugs algae.

    These two concepts together typically avoid most of the "who knows", "correlation based myths" etc.

    We know plants grow well without limiting nutrients, that's easy enough to rule and make independent. Light, well, things are growing? Most all species are not limited by light(perhaps there's too much??)?? etc?

    That narrows most of the growth related issues down to the CO2.
    CO2 can change from 1-2ppm to 35 ppm in less than 1 hour when we start the light/CO2. It can move around, local higher in some places, flow dependency etc.
    Perhaps the CO2 takes a while to get going using a diffuser disc, or the disc clogs, of the filter driving the reactor changes flows as it clogs over 1-2 months etc etc.

    There must be a 2 dozen or more things that easily can go wrong with CO2.
    These account for about 95% of every algae related issue I have seen both on line and in person.

    Too much light is the other 4%(maybe higher, or in part, a CO2 issue management problem), 1-5% from not enough nutrients.

    Still, the lion's share is CO2.
    This is independent of dosing methods also or brands etc..........this is not just EI, this is universal.

    Even non CO2 systems have this issue(water changes add CO2, plants compete for CO2 very strongly- some do poorly as a result, not nutrient issues)

    Every method has abject failure and also good examples of success, so the dosing itself is less of the issue, just based on comparative study of the correlation alone.

    CO2 is the ugly little bastard.

    But many of us, myself included, have over looked it many times.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     

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