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How I got rid of my algae issues...

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by adechazal, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. adechazal

    adechazal Prolific Poster

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    I debated posting this for quite some time but then figured if it helps even one potential aquarist not quit due to algae frustration it's worth it.

    Ok here goes, I have started using an algecide and it has transformed my tank from mostly frustration to a beautiful attraction.

    I have a 180 gallon freshwater planted aquarium built into the livingroom wall and have read the posts here for over a year trying to get the balance right to both have aggressive plant growth and minimal algae. Trying different methods of lighting, CO2, fertilizing etc. led to different levels of success but never quite to the point where I didn't have to get in the tank every 2-3 days to deal with either BBA, GDA or string algae. These different algae types rarely appeared at the same time suggesting that my system modifications were having an effect but just not the one I wanted e.g. slow enough algae growth that I could clean the glass once a week.

    What led to this? I built a pond this spring and was using natural algae prevention methods like barley straw. I started getting significant string algae and a friend who owns a planted pond told me to try an algacide. I hesitantly put in the recommended dosage, and within a day the string algae was dead. In a few days it was completely gone and the pond was beautiful. After a few weeks of success I got on line and found that the product was "safe" for freshwater planted aquariums. So after my weekend aquarium cleaning I dosed in the recommended amount of algecide into the tank. The following week GDA did not develop after the usual few days and the string algae in the overflows was dead and dying. I no longer get string algae in my HC or pearlgrass, GDA cleanings are once a week and my Myrophylum is 16 inches tall with no algae all the way down to the base, just beautiful bright green all the way down.

    I realize that I did not solve the root of the problem and I do believe that it is possible to solve the algae issue (mostly) without algacides, but after over a year of trying different things, I just hadn't quite gotten there.

    I dose 20 ml per week of algacide, 10ml after my EI water change and another 10 about mid week with my trace dosing. This regimen along with EI has worked very well for me. I use an overflow system with a 20 gallon open sump, injected CO2 with a drop checker, 320 watts of T5 HO lighting for 10 hours, ECO complete, no carbon and a mix of RO and well water since my well water is very hard.

    Bottom line, I'm just sharing what worked for me. I purposely did not share the brand name because I'm not selling anything except my experience. This is the best site out there for us freshwater aquarists and Tom and the plant guru team are my heros, one day my tank will require nothing but fertilizer and care to prevent algae.
     
  2. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Glad it worked for you and thanks for sharing.......

    I bet your issues are/were due to:

    1. High light driving high nutrient demand.

    2. Insufficient levels of both C02 and EI ferts for the lighting and size tank.

    3. Insufficient flow/current to distribute all of these nutrients.

    I would toss the product, lower your light, and increase dosing of nutes and c02, and get better flow in the tank...............

    Just my opinion of course and not that you asked for advice........

    Best of luck.
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Many folks will use algicides as crutch or attribute things to them that where not there prior.

    I take care of and manage several lakes for clients.
    I simply add lots of plants around mid March.
    Never algae issues, green water or otherwise.

    They harvest the weeds as they grow, we add about 20-30% coverage and after they grow in to about 50%, we start hacking them back.

    This is much wiser than Barley straw.
    Looks better than a bale of rotting straw.

    In aquariums, something as simple as a 3 day blackout can kill off and restore the balance. Generally, when folks have issues, they are not patient. They also tend the tank more. This why many test use double blinds. Was it the algicide? Will the algae come back later?

    I used copper and it worked quite well, we use in lakes rarely(see above for why), but many species are tolerant at 0.4ppm whereas most algae are not.
    Same deal with Excel, plants are very tolerant except a couple, and can use it as a metabolite, but at 5 ppm AI, it will kill many species of algae(some it will not).

    Copper is not a new algicide. Sodium percarbonate works supper on algae that are attached to surfaces and causes very little impact to plants. Sort of a dry version of peroxide. Perhaps Phyton Grit from ADA has this and some other junk to make it seem secret and propritory.

    Chloride oxides are also sold to kill algae etc.

    Point is, this still takes away from the focus on plants.
    You spent a year chasing things and not focusing on the basics of plant growth.
    Was that really time well spent?

    I can look back on my own progression and I've never been able to justify any of that. Out witting algae was never the real focus and never will be.

    Outwitting algae and killing algae is really not a hobby, growing/gardening aquatic plants in aquariums is the hobby. So with a general concept like this in mind, now you know where to focus and what direction to take.

    Focus on the plants. Always.
    They are the goal here.

    You can kill and reduce algae any number of ways and they will always sell algicides, but algicides will not grow plants, which is really your goal here.

    Excel is an exception because it generally can help plants grow(again, only at the suggested concentrations) while killing many species of algae and being non toxic to live stock.

    A 3 day balckout + Water changes + Excel can knock back about 90% of all algae species.

    But we all fall off the boat and neglect the tank, the key for me and anyone that is a successful aquatic gardener is whipping the tank back into shape fast, the only way to do this is through growing plants well. Some might use algicides, some might use a good trim and water change, some might use both, some might tweak things nutrient wise for subtle things, some might finally realize that their CO2 is really the root of 95% of their algae issues and all that darn light they have been using and unable to keep up with.

    Still, the bottom line is all these issues can be prevented and restored to a healthy state much better using a good growth approach vs anything else.
    Stick to that philosophy, it has never once failed me nor anyone.

    If you want to be more aggressive, do the blackout, more aggressive, add eXcel as well, WC's, Pruning, cleaning etc.

    These things really do work and while add more labor, the tank and health of the plants also are addressed and look nice.

    Basic care goes a very long way, trying to find a backdoor to caring for the tank will not be so good, for the simple reason that plant needs are not really being addressed as good as they could be and algicides do not grow plants.

    So it's a bit of a circular argument for the favor of algicides, it does not address the fundamental goal here.

    So how might you get rid of Bladderwort, a higher plant in a tank full of higher plants? Now you have much lower selectivity and a similar niche. Plant growth is being addressed, but the "weed" in this case is also a higher plant.

    The 4 day black I had killed off most of it. Downoi as well, but I can replace them. Chara? It can be hard to get rid of, or Riccia, or Duckweed.
    I found a good way to kill Duckweed.

    Use Excel but as a spray to the surface. Kills anything floating pretty good.

    Saves me labor, but I can still weed it out by net/hand and still do for minor issues. Same deal with algae, small amounts means it's time for care for the tank, water changes, add more CO2 perhaps, scrub etc, change the light routine etc.

    I've heard every algae story out there and every rational for using algicides for aquariums, ponds, lakes, rivers, fountains etc.

    While you ran through a nice listing of one algae woe to the next, as many folks often do, they find in general, maybe a few get lucky at some point for any number of reasons, a focus on plants is really what does it for them.

    Those that do and start off that way, use lower light, tend their tanks routinely and often, generally do best. I use higher light right now but I can change it to suit my desires.

    Knowing which algae appear for what reason, or at least one or more causes for germination is the key the understanding algae, not just add this to kill it.

    I know you know there's more to it than this, but the algicide argument is still flawed fatally due to the lack of focus on why algae is there in the first place and the goal in aquatic planted tanks.

    I sought/seek to answer why algae is induced/germinated.
    Then we know what to avoid and what to focus on, where we need less or no herbicide/algicide, reduce labor, better resolve on the long term goal.
    It's easy to get rid of adult algae, the key is to stop new growth, once you do that, they you have it beat.

    Algae is rarely a long term goal for most, especially if frustrated and impatient. I've been there and known many that fall into this social group.
    It's hard to get beyond this mind set for them.

    Also, via the web, there's a lot less understanding, we can try, but it will never make it as easy as in person. I can help folks a lot more in person and so can club members. This why I often suggest folks get involved in clubs, the folks can show you more, it will be far less complicated and take much less time. Then you can confirm with eachother and learn a lot more.

    I'd say it's 10-20X easier in person.

    While the algicide may have worked this time in this case, it may not later:cool:
    Folks change one or more things, add some algicide and then end up with another species they cannot kill. I see this case all too often.



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    What's wrong with a crutch?

    If someone wants to have a beautiful planted aquarium but various kinds of algae keep getting in the way, why not kill them in the most expeditious way possible?

    Sure, the cause(s) of the algae blooms should be found and eliminated, but in the meantime, if an algicide can get rid of the blooms without causing harm, why not use it and rejoice in its availability?

    Sure, it is not an elegant solution but so what?

    What is EI but a crutch for people who do not know how much of what nutrients their plants need? They simply overdose everything and then remove any excess via frequent water changes.

    If I had a high light tank with injected CO2 I would use EI because it works, and rejoice in the growth of my plants. And if algae started to become a problem that I couldn't easily fix, I might use an algicide if I were convinced that it was safe. Then I'd be using two crutches!

    Do I detect a bit of good old New England Puritanism here?

    :)

    Bill
     
  5. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    If I had something that would eliminate bba without harming my plants or fish, I would use it with no hesitation. The 'real' fix is for me to invest in a co2 system (other than diy), but with my new saltwater setup costing me too much $$$ that's not going to happen anytime soon. :) If anyone knows of a good bba algaecide....let me know!!!

    But at the same time I understand the principle of what Tom is saying. People love to have a 'quick fix', just add x to your tank and you'll have a beautiful tank with no fuss. People want to have their cake and not have to learn how to bake it first (I'm not referring to the poster here....just people in general).
     
  6. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Some algicides, such as copper, are harmful to fish and invertibrates. Those I don't think should be used at all. If others don't do any harm, I agree with Carissa. There is nothing so frustrating as having a tank full of algae a month after you did a really major clean up to clear out the algae, but the CO2 system didn't work right and you didn't catch it quickly.

    A crutch is only bad if you grow to depend on it, even for those with injuries. It is always best to work to eliminate the need for the crutch. (Free medical advice, freely given.)
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    If you are learning to grow plants, get on with it, no crying about algae.
    Once you see this basic issue here, you focus on that.

    I really cannot phatom why/how folks carry on about how bad herbicides are when it comes to their food, the environment, but at the drop of a hat, they have no issue using it on their lawns or in the fish tanks.

    It boggles my mind.

    Therein lies the big Lie.
    "Beautiful planted" tanks are done by focusing on the plants and being consistent, not with algicides.

    If you have algae, you generally have not been doing something right for the plants. Healthy plants= less algae issues universally in every case.

    Now something may have induced the algae in the past, and then you corrected things for the plants later..........some lag time, but the bottom line is the focus should always be on the plants, not using a mild herbicide/strong algicide to kill the algae and cure your original issue.

    A blackout is as effective in most algae related issues
    Spot dosing can be done etc, but heck, I can trim and scrub just as easy if not faster and do more leaves that way vs spot dosing Excel of H2O2.
    So trimming the algae and manual removal is virtually in every case, faster, or more expeditious.

    But folks are lazy and look for short cuts, take a pill attitude.
    Then they go the other way when it comes to weeds in their yard, but do not want Farmer Bob to use them on their food even though it is serious economics and massive labor to go the other way there. Try and remove aquatic weeds by hand sometime in a small pond.

    Then herbicides are really practical, in a small 2-4 ft by 1-2ft glass cube, this is a lot easier to do manual removal, algae are not that hard to kill if you can grow plants well to begin with and can use less light.

    You might add a little algicide in this routine of pruning, cleaning, preening, and after taking care of the root issue and focusing on plants as well, but it's never the solution, merely a small part.

    I see that with the folks that exude the benefits, they tend not to be folks that have really mastered how to grow plants without algae consistently, thus they still have a "need" for it. If you have, then you can see my point of view, if not, you will not agree.

    The thing is, algicides cause folks to avoid the real issue, growing plants,
    and also why they get the algae in the first place. Many folks fiddle with test kits and use them poorly, rather than watching plants and seeing what makes them grow well.

    You cannot even make a control for a test unless you can grow the plants without algae and without algicides to get you there.

    So what do you have to compare to?
    A stressed tank that will get algae again after you stop using the algicide?

    [/quote]
    What is EI but a crutch for people who do not know how much of what nutrients their plants need? They simply overdose everything and then remove any excess via frequent water changes.
    [/quote]

    No, this is not an analogus argument, EI is something that focuses non limiting nutrient to grow plants, not to kill algae nor claims to cure algae, it only claims to provide good nutrient levels for plants are most any light intensity.

    Huge difference in underlying philosophy, one focuses on algae, the other focuses on growing aquatic plants.

    If you had good growth of the plants, then you'd focus on that goal, growing plants.

    If you got algae, simply pruning and then a few water changes etc, more than likely back off the high light and raise the CO2 would be the other things to change.

    Since a lot of the issues about algae are based around CO2(how might I know this?), adding Excel addresses many such issues, adding that is a crutch for the CO2 user, but at least Excel can increase the rates of growth for plants, which is the main issue here. Algicides side track folks from growing plants better and dealing with that issue, they always have. That's not Puritanical or draconian, that's just plain common sense.

    If you want a nice looking planted tanks with healthy growing plants, then focus on the plants, the algicide is a secondary issue that tends to side track folks, always has, going back several decades.

    Newbie folks or even the intermediate plant grower falls for this stuff and the line of thinking. Amano virtually never discusses it, nor does Jeff./Mike Senske, Nor George and Steve, nor David Oliver and I, Karen Randall strongly argue against using them.

    We do not meet and talk about this stuff, we all saw this independently.
    Maybe the newbies and intermediate folks have it right and we really do not know the right way through all of this? Do not think for a minute I have not had my share of algae issues, nor they. We all do, some of us come out the other side far more enlightened when it comes to algicides and other things that wasted our time not seeing the big picture.

    My so called Puritanical opinion is hardly the only one, most folks in the know suggest the same for the same reasons. Now why would I or they lie and try and send folks down a different path?

    Malice?
    Keep others from learning the "real" secrets?

    Not hardly.........

    Folks ultimately will believe what they chose no matter what I say.
    Few believed me when I suggested adding PO4 did not cause algae, I still folks saying it does. Still, some tried it and noticed. So if you try this, perhaps the results will be the same. Still, some folks will louse things up for a long time, then at some point, get things right. Then if they added algicide or switched to eI etc, they might wrongly attribute it to the method or the algicide, and perhaps not to their own improvement at keeping planted tanks, better pruning/more routine care etc.

    Hopefully, at some point in the future, they will prove to themselves the wisdom in such advice. I do not need nor require such proof, I've already been down the road. I've heard this same deal 10 years ago, curiously those folks no longer keep plants or else got better at it.

    Carrisa:
    As BBA is CO2 related, Excel addresses the root cause and kills the algae.
    So there's your answer. Still, by using Excel and CO2, you are not really dealing with the root cause, poor CO2 gas usage. You get much better results using CO2 gas well.

    If you do not want to use CO2 gas, then Excel would be fine and you'd have virtually no algae and lower light. So in this case, there'd be no need for algicides at all.

    In non CO2 planted tanks, I simply prune and add herbivores, the growth rates are very slow for algae and plants, so the herbivores tend to do a lot more damage to the algae.





    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I've considered using Excel....but I can't get it in the area, and with shipping, the price doubles. But now that I'm going to be ordering salt for my new tank, I may consider it.

    I tried going non-co2 a while back on this tank.....after a month of constant hygro leaf loss (like a full net per day) and it didn't slack off at all...I bit the bullet and started diy again. It's going not too bad now....it's been a really busy summer and I was on vacation for a while and that's what led to my bba issues...but it's getting under control again now. Just the same. I might try Excel.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Try the DIY CO2 internal reactor.

    Just try it and then see.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I think what I have is pretty efficient already - it's basically the same principle. The co2 gets sucked into a powerhead in an internal filter, chopped up into tiny bubbles, and shot across the tank. Some microbubbles make it to the surface, but it takes forever since they are so tiny and just sort of shoot around. More of them that don't dissolve get caught under leaves and such and diffuse from there. I could rig up something to go over the outflow of bubbles to trap them, but that would compromise the good circulation I have. At least this way, the whole tank is doused in tiny bubbles from one end to the other (besides what dissolves prior to getting shot out). Operator error is more the problem here, not inefficient equipment. :)
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Okay dokey.

    I have found poor assumptions, errors, not being consistent, these things seem to be the main issues.

    But the real rational and argument for algicide is really where folks have a minor issue that's been nagging them, an issue where they already have it, stopped their good routine for whatever reason, and want to get back to having nice planted tank conditions.

    However, I've always felt that most strong algicides are like a sledge hammer, if you simply take good care of things, put your efforts there, and wait a bit, maybe reduce the light for a week or two, then the tank is much better.

    Folks have killed a lot of fish over the years using too much Excel, peroxide, copper, etc. Fried a few plants, sure there are folks that have not, but what you get out of it vs the risk?

    I have not used algicides other than say some excel when someone really loused up a tank, but always in conjunction with CO2/reduced lighting/blackouts etc and always spent far more time addressing why the algae was there, induced etc, and how to get the plants growing well again, they just where not growing great and suddenly algae came to town.............

    Algae blooms are inducible in planted systems.

    That is real issue and means that an "ounce of prevention" is worth a "pound of cure", and that is precisely how I go about addressing so called claims of how great "such and such product is or is not".

    I really do not care how good it is.
    Because at the end of the day, it does not matter.

    What does matter is how to grow plants well and if you slip up, how to get them growing well again.

    While some include algicides in there, I can tell you, they just are not needed and have historically and even to this day, do far more harm than good. Excel is an exception but even there, these folks over dose and kill their shrimp and fish with it.

    Is that risk really worth it vs focusing on plants, and cleaning and pruning your way out of it? Blackouts can kick many species of algae's butt, and cost nothing.
    But folks rarely wanna do it for some weird reason. They like the pills, the snake oils. Instead of further tweaking their plant horticulture skills and garden better, they fall back and give up and use these methods.

    I've slipped up more time than I can count and had to rectify my algae issues.
    So I've been in this same situation that many that exude the virtues of algicides when it comes to algae in my own tanks.

    But I took a novel approach. I focused on the plants, not on the algae.
    Then I went back and looked at the specific algae and see if it would grow well in such tanks. Turned out it did not.

    So I must have done something to induce the algae, so I tried a few treatments, I knew and was confident that I could control and kill this alga since I learned I could grow the plants well and prune or blackout etc my way back to a nice planted tank by focusing on the plants.

    Few, if anyone I've met has ever tried to confirm what induces algae and is able to clean it up fast and start again.

    They are too scared to try and do not really care about what induces, all they care is that it's gone and are so desperate, they will add anything that makes virtually any claim.

    So this method is far better at understanding both sides, both the plants and the algae and how best to approach control and re setting of the aquarium after there is an issue.

    I know what causes the algae species specifically, then I can correct that and simple hack and prune the stuff out, do a few water changes, the tank is super clean and pearling like mad, clean the filter, just basic stuff and stay on top of maintenance for 2-3 weeks and the algae goes away.

    If you use algae killers in this context, say 50% or so the suggested amounts, then things work really well, or add Excel etc or EM tablets vs a balckout, there's no harm in that either.

    Still algicides will not grow plants(other than excel) nor teach you how, why algae are induced or present.

    This is why I call them "a crutch".
    It's a mental block folks should try and move beyond in order for them to know more about algae AND their inducible causes and learn how to grow plants better.
    Few "experts" would disagree with this.

    Carrisa: less net time and more tank time:eek:

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Speaking just for myself, I have finally concluded that I just don't have the time nor the incentive to stay on top of a high light tank, catching any algae issue very early before it is a major issue. I really love the beauty of high light plants, and I love watching their rampant growth. But, I'm finally finished facing the frustration of runaway algae.

    So, I have raised my light fixture 6 inches, which by my measurements with Tom's PAR meter should leave me with the equivalent of about 1.5 watts per gallon, down from about 2.4 watts per gallon. Now I am slowly, as I have enough energy, removing all of my high light plants, getting ready to do a major cleaning job on the tank, substrate and hardscape, then switching to crypts, anubias and Java Ferns exclusively. I will continue with CO2 and my continuous water change system combined with daily diluted EI dosing, which tends to give me very stable concentrations of all the nutrients in the tank.

    This is the "algaecide" I will be using - it's free!
     
  13. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I just did a pruning yesterday on my tank, and in the process when it got too messy, I decided to haul out my java ferns and then put them back in. I started with about three medium sized java ferns a year ago. That has now somehow morphed into enough java ferns to fully plant a 10g (and I mean fully plant, with no other plants needed), a 2g, and what was left over that I pulled from my 32g actually FILLED a 2.5 gallon bucket. And I throw small ones away regularly too. So Java ferns are supposed to be slow growers...but if left to their own devices can multiply very quickly! Same thing with anubias - they are slow growers, but just the same, I started with 4 smallish sized pieces about 8 months ago, and now they totally cover about half the bottom of my 32g tank. So keeping slow growing plants, is not a static hobby either. In the process I pruned out a lot of my hygrophila, it kept growing up and shading all the other plants too much. I relegated all the hygro to the sides of the tank where there's not much light, to try to keep it at bay for a while.
     
  14. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The slow growing plants do still grow, but not so that weekly pruning and thinning are required to keep water circulation going. I have had Java Ferns of two types with high light and CO2, and they would have filled the tank entirely within about a year, but at least the process was reasonably slow. Anubias haven't grown that fast for me, and the few crypts I've had have been fast reproducers, but not too fast growers. I'm hoping this will give me the pleasure of watching them grow, without the frantic pace of pruning. And, the lower light level should be an effective "algaecide".
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    a few days ago I tried adding some dry ferts, KNO3 etc to a rock and when doing the water change, as excepted, it cured my algae on the rock.
    So is this an example of an algicide?
    Worked on leaves of Aunbias using KH2PO4, this was reported back a decade ago.

    Changes in light, current, CO2, but you can typically prune your way out most algae issues if the wish.

    A good old fashion work ethic really helps, no secrets, no short cuts, no silver bullets.
    You clean, you prune, you scrub, you do a large water changes to remove the waste etc, clean the filters, add good current etc ....you provide good conditions for the plants.

    They will grow fast, and the algae will have a rough time keep up.
    Add some algae eaters(better them than you), stay on top of things for a couple of weeks, you should be able to really beat it way back.

    Blackouts work well after trying the above, and then, you might consider adding Excel, H2O2 etc, clean and bleach equipment , rocks etc.

    Now you can be really aggressive and use the cleaning, basics, then the plant growing basics, then the blackout, and Excel spray/dip/dosing etc for 2-3 days.

    Now few things will survive this and it keeps the tank clean and has only a good effects on plants(well, not the blackout, but 2-3 days is fine), and rather than all one method, "many little hammers" work much better.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
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    Local Time:
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    Hard work is the best algaecide I've tried. :)
     
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