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Light spectrum and Algae growth?

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Detritus Mulm, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. Detritus Mulm

    Detritus Mulm Guru Class Expert

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    I read somewhere that BBA did better in blue light, which I suppose means other Algae do better in red light. I did a search but did not find any research here to back this up? Does spectrum really matter/help that much? I do hate the 'colour' of 3000K bulbs.
     
  2. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Sounds like a tightly wound coil on the front lawn to me. BBA shouldn't be an issue in any properly balanced tank; any decent planted tank under 50/50 actinic kills this theory outright. There may be a study somewhere that shows that BBA does slightly better because of its heavy carotenoid level, or one of the more obscure chlorophylls liking 500nm-ish light, but it's definitely not necessary to change your light to fix the problem.

    Look to your CO2 rather than to your light when BBA happens.

    -Philosophos
     
  3. Tug

    Tug Lifetime Charter Member
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    I need to testify

    I've watched BBA melt away with a sufficiently large, consistent level of CO2. It does come back, here and there. My diy CO2 goes cold now and then. I fix that and I expect I'll see less BBA.
     
  4. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    The book "The Biology of the Red Algae", Kathleen M. Cole, Robert G. Sheath (1990) says that growth of red algae is at a maximum around 550nm.

    Nice to know, but it also shows a graph that it grows in the entire range from 300 to 700 nm. Impossible to avoid with any lamp.

    The real difference makes high and consistent CO2 combined with adequate circulation.
     
  5. Detritus Mulm

    Detritus Mulm Guru Class Expert

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    [CO2 Mantra snipped]

    Thanks Dutchy, I gather the curve was fairly flat.

    The question was purely theoretical BTW guys, I hadn't planned to give away my CO2 or put in Infrared bulbs.:rolleyes:
     
  6. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Interesting that it'd be 550nm, dutchy. Chlor a, b and carotenoids don't seem to be stimulated by this spectrum. At the same time I haven't been able to find any good spectrum plots of c1, c2 or D. I also wonder about phycobiliproteins in red algae and their action spectrum. Does the book happen to give any hints as to what's causing this offbeat action spectrum?

    *edit* Check this out:
    [​IMG]

    That'd be the pigment responsible for the color in BBA (Audouinella spp.)

    -Philosophos
     
  7. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    I looked it up. Chlorophyll and cartenoids seem to peak around 425nm, while phycoerythrin peaks around 550nm and up. Seems I got those two confused.:eek:

    It's possible to buy lamps here that don't emit light under 400nm.

    It's an interesting book. You can find it a Google Books. It also has a part specifically about FW red algae.

    Biology of the red algae - Google Boeken
     
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Was this specific to Audouinella and Compsopogon?
    Those are the only two pest red algae we have.

    I'm afraid generalizing, is just that, a bit too general:cool:
    As folks know, learn more, they need to focus more on the pest in question, this means a precise definition of what the pest is.

    Red algae can be found 800ft deep, or at the surface, massive large macrophyte sheets, or microscopic, 20 different life histories etc.

    They might have a few things in common such as pigments, but the amount of those vary greatly depending on species, habitat, intensity, other growth factors etc etc.

    We really cannot say a whole lot.

    Red algae are less of an issue for folks who get their CO2 right.
    Green algae are the closest to plants, so they are the worst pest in general.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  9. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    I think I see your point, Tom...

    From: LIGHT AND ADAPTIVE RESPONSES IN RED MACROALGAE
    "In the red macroalgae, the most abundant pigment is R-PE [66, 67] with g and g ’ subunits [47]. The PE g units are bifunctional phycobiliproteins that act as light-harvesting phycobiliproteins and as linker-proteins [41]. In Audouinella saviana under B, R-PE underwent spectral changes, that were interpreted as indicative of molecular rearrangements [53]. Similarly to Cyanophytes, R-PE of red algae might play a role in adaptation to sudden irradiance and light spectral changes with its light-harvesting and linker function (through the g subunits) within PBSs. Furthermore R-PE may be considered an ecological advantage for algae living in sublittoral zones. In fact, among all the biliprotein subunits, the g- polypetyde carries the greatest number of PUB chromophores capable to extend the biliprotein absorption spectrum toward the B/G shortest wavelengths."

    So then I'm guessing one shift from phycoerythrin to something like allophycocyanin turns the spectrum from 550 to 660 based on availability, meaning it just matches up to chlor A's action spectrum. Just one of a few ways to adapt, besides the fact that you'd be changing the parameters to favor some other advantageous species.

    -Philosophos
     
  10. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Why does good CO2 retard the growth of BBA and other algaes?

    Does it make the plants healthier so that they can outcompete the algae? (I assume not)

    Are the algaes somehow "poisoned" by the CO2?

    And, why are non-CO2 injected tanks often algae free? Is there something else?

    Bill
     
  11. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Overall lack of need for structure means algae has a lower carbon requirement than plants. By elevating CO2 levels you're giving the plants a nutrient the algae does not require to the same degree, and offering an advantage.

    Non-CO2 tanks could be free of algae for any number of reasons. Non-limiting CO2 through lowering the light is one, phosphate limitation is another method, keeping spores and NH4 down through regular water changes and high filtration works, and so does scrubbing like a mad man.

    I have my father up in Canada currently managing his algae problems through non-CO2 methods with limiting CO2 until he can get compressed. Heavy maintenance routines are doing the job.

    -Philosophos
     
  12. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    I can understand how increased CO2 can help the plants, but I don't understand how that could discourage the algae. I don't think that you suggesting that the larger plants would then better outcompete the algae, are you?


    LOL in the scrubbing! The lower light could be the reason that the algae is less, I guess. I think typical low light, non-CO2 plant growers don't do much water changing nor nutrient manipulation, though.

    I'd say the poor man has several problems

    Thanks.

    Bill
     
  13. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm suggesting what's been said often enough; that aiding plant growth prevents algae from growing on the plants through encouraging growth. It's got nothing to do with directly harming algae.


    Most of the nutrients can be taken care of just through feeding and water changes with stock lights if the density isn't too high. I keep low tech tanks with ADA AS bottoms and 50% WC's every 2-4 weeks, with the odd bit of ferts and they're surprisingly clean.


    His first mistake was deciding it'd be a cool idea to get a bunch of plants and ADA AS while visiting SF with me. The next was trusting the LFS owner about his 2x36w being able to run as a 1x36w. His final mistake was opting out on the CO2. Now he's stuck in the hobby, and looking at his first CO2 system :D

    -Philosophos
     
  14. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    OK, but why does "aiding plant growth" "prevent algae from growing"? The only reason that I can think of is some kind of improved competition mechanism in the plants, but we know that plants can't outcompete algae for nutrients. Right?

    Or could it be that the plants produce a substance that is toxic to algae in large doses, and that critical point is reached when the plants get larger? I am not suggesting that process the name of which starts with "A".

    I have even lower tech tanks without the water changes, and some of those are surprisingly clean too. Some aren't, do to long deferred maintenance.

    Water changes are discouraged in low tech aquaria in part because they often temporarily increase the CO2 and cause instability.


    Your dad is heading down the primrose path. Get him a copy of Diane Walstad's book.

    Bill
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    It is a paradox.
    However, perhaps our own need to explain is less complicated that this.

    Maybe it's simply algae responding to change/changes over some unit of time.
    Has nothing to do with nutrients(which would support observations).

    What changes?
    CO2 seems to be a big one.
    NH4 is another.

    But adding them or not, is not a simple on /off switch either.

    HOW we add NH4/CO2 seems to be a huge role and over what time and how high or what rate variation we use.

    This is going to be different for each light intensity.
    At higher light, we'd expect more/faster change responses.
    Same if you add enrichment for CO2.........

    The levels can go higher/lower, more extreme.

    Seems a stable system that's rich or somewhat lean can support an established plant community pretty well, both in aquariums and in natural systems, lakes, rivers etc.

    The rates of growth will be slower in lower nutrient systems, but they will grow and be fairly algae free. I'm including both water column and sediment nutrients.

    If........you buy into any of that, then adding activated carbon(AC) in high amounts would INDUCE algae, since AC removes organics very effectively.

    No, I do not buy that argument that it only takes a tiny amount to cause the effect, unidirectional rivers also have the saem dynamic and there's no way at 2 knots of flow, that the allelopathic chemicals are going to have any affect, dilution factors and differences in these systems are way too wide spread.

    Also, we can fine plenty if high density planted systems, aquariums included, where the plants are growing well, and we also have high levels of algae.

    So this does not support the observations that well if.....you look at both sides of the coin.

    AC is used in allelopathic research as a control, where allelopathic has actually been demonstrated, so we KNOW it works in such systems, alleleopathy has never been demonstrated in a natural system aquatically.

    In a tiny test well, we crush plant material(hardly a natural of aquarium state), add to an algae culture and get a % reduction in biomass(not 100% reduction), this is NOT support for allelopathic response in natural systems or aquariums where we use live plants that are intact.

    You can argue it all day, but it will not offer any support.
    The results do not support the conclusion.

    I speculate this, and I can show research that supports it for plant health/adaptation, but I have not demonstrated it as far as algae.

    Correlation, but not cause.

    I do not agree with the conclusions in Diana's book about algae causes, I've tested some of them and they do not support the hypothesis she speculated.

    AC is one way to test it, that will be extremely tough to show. I'd give it a 0.001% chance at best. Fe limitation is a simple test, add say 0.5ppm Fe as ETDA, DTPA, etc to a non CO2 planted tank, or a CO2 enriched system, result= no algae bloom.

    Cannot be that either.

    Carbon(CO2) stability, NH4 loading rates seem to be the better bets.

    We can add perhaps 0.8 ppm per day to 1.0ppm of NH4 without ill effects also, but like cycling a fishless tank, adding NH4 increases the bacteria. They modify the rates and residuals of NH4 like plants do.

    So adding more NH4 slowly over time to induce algae will not work either, just like having a planted tank with high light/CO2/nutrients and ......a high fish load.

    If you rapidly overload the tank with too many fish/add say 3-4ppm of NH4 to an established tank where the bacteria cannot respond for a couple of weeks, then you get algae. This is common in new aquariums, GW. Still NH4 seems to only induce GW and perhaps a few others like BBA/Staghorn secondarily with high fish loading(not able to do this with NH4Cl).

    In order to test any algae bloom, you also need a standard reference aquarium to compare to, and be able to fix it and get it back to that state once you do a treatment.

    If Diana, or myself, or anyone wanting to test this hypothesis cannot do that consistently, then you cannot test the hypothesis, you lack to control to do the test properly. You have to do it in blocks, then fix it and try it again and repeat the test.

    There are too many variables to do matched pairs in normal aquariums hobbyists might own.

    So a set of repeated replications is required.
    This is easy if the results show no affect.
    If you get a nasty algae, then you have to reset thing.
    So then it takes a long time.

    So you can rule things out much easier than you can support possible nutrients/CO2/light causes/correlations.

    That's why I have so many rationals as to why something does not cause algae, and can be pretty certain about it, but few reasons as to why and what causes an algae bloom;)

    Think about that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Well it looks like Tom got to this one before I could, but I'll still toss in my 2 bits worth.



    While I agree with allelopathy existing (it'd be like holocaust denial not to), naturally I don't think it's a big part of planted tanks. I think the effect of some sort of immune system is a definite possibility. If plants hadn't developed some way to prevent algae from attaching to them by now I'd be a bit surprised.

    I also know algae takes a while to establish on things; constant growth would make this difficult if the plant is growing faster than the algae can establish. The mechanism may simply be that of the plants growth acting as direct cellular competition with the plant.


    And this is where my bit of heresy comes in. I pump air into my low tech tanks all day and night rather than avoiding disturbance. The stability is quite nice, the plants grow very well, and the algae is minimal.

    He takes his perspective on things from years working in health care and computers. If I hand him a book based on an appeal to nature, I'm not sure it will end well ;)

    -Philosophos
     
  17. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thank you, Tom and Philosophos, for your responses.

    I didn't get a firm answer to my question, "Why does good CO2 retard the growth of BBA and other algaes?" because, apparently, there is none. (In fact there doesn't seem to be any scientific data to support that claim that CO2 does that.)

    I have seen that several hypothesis have been offered to explain this effect (if it actually exists) but that none have been subject to controlled experiments, because of the difficulty in doing that.

    Even though a lot of the postings here have a scientific bent, we still learn a lot from observations and experiences even if they are unproven.

    Philosophos, watch out - that "A" virus spreads. :)

    Bill
     
  18. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Well I decided to get off my backside for a moment...

    Allelopathy exists between plants, perhaps between algae and macrophytes, which would mean non-limiting nutrients would foster stronger plant growth (and possibly) immune systems:

    ScienceDirect - Aquatic Botany : Allelopathic inhibition of epiphytes by submerged macrophytes

    But you still have to tolerate the fact that interspecies allelopathy between macrophytes isn't something nailed down based on current research:
    http://www.bio-web.dk/op/pdf/TAG_2002_15_7.pdf

    And indicating that the possibility of the second is heightened because of the existence of the first falls in line with a slippery slope fallacy.

    -Philosophos
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I'd say response time.
    Algae have a much better response time to CO2 varaition/adaptation when the CO2 ppm's change, than plants even might.

    So large variations will select for algae, not plants.
    There's is strong evidence for adaptation and Rubisco with CO2 change. This is expensive metabolically for plants and central to everything in terms of uptake.

    With carbon, they cannot make anything.

    Algae, might simply sense this CO2 variation.
    They use CO2 as well, and when it's easy to get for a brief time even, they can respond much faster over short time periods. In other words, algae spores, germination, might be signaled by CO2 changes over short time frames.

    That would suggest both why plants grow poorly, thus provide a substrate for algal growth, and why algae grow during this phase. Both observations are found in aquariums, perhaps natural systems as well.

    If you think about CO2 as nutrient, like NH4, or PO4 etc...........then it makes more sense.

    However, it's still speculation/correlation.
    I can induce algae easily, every single time with simply fooling with my CO2.

    Does that imply direct cause and why I stated above?
    Nope.

    Many aquarist are tempted to say so.

    I think the thing that gets me wondering, it really has to do with ruling things out step wise that we can rule out.

    The metric for that(falsification) is much lower than than finding cause/s. So now we have fewer and fewer variables to look at, or.....we are a much closer to the truth than we where say 15 years ago.

    I think looking at specific algae, specific plants etc, and really good measurement of light, nutrients(fairly easy for an aquarium, but also really look at temp again. CO2 and O2 have been on my mine for the last few years obviously.

    Correlation is very high and other alternatives are few with CO2 variation.
    It also explains algae in non CO2 and CO2 aquariums, and testing it is harder than any other parameter in our aquarium.

    A data logging CO2 meter/probe is required to get a good consensus.

    Here's an example from the 1600 Gallon tank over 24 hours after it stabilized and curiously, all the algae died off after a couple of weeks and the tank has done extremely well since:

    [​IMG]

    The other thing, there are plenty of clowns on the web blow hards, etc...............willing to speculate all day, some will even look up a few papers for support. But very few are willing to test, detail out the question, the issues, and then set up and do the test.

    They just wanna yell louder than you to make their point and convince every one or anyone willing to listen they are right. They are extremely rarely willing to test anything critically. I see plenty of clowns doing this, and have to wonder how they know the "cause/s" without measuring anything, without testing CO2 critically, without telling me anything about their methods to get there, rational, and why there's no things they falsified and ruled out along the way(very curious about that one!!!) etc.

    Diana Walstad is passionate about some things and has done nice test, she spent some $$$ to do it and have some analysis done. There are some speculations that she cannot/has not/will not do, for the sake of $, time etc.
    Very few bother doing non CO2 these days. Testing even less so.

    But what we both do adds up....and that of others that have come before and after us. I am interested in the non CO2, CO2 issue.

    I think it links algae issues.
    And we have to look at both to come up with a reasoned cause for algae in the context of CO2/non CO2 in planted tanks, because both get algae and both can be algae free.

    Blow hards on the web claiming they know the cure to algae and why always use CO2/Excel. Almost never have seen they use non CO2 methods.

    So that's often forgotten(cough cough, overlooked is more like it) in their discussions.

    You cannot do that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  20. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom, if you're going to call me a clown could you do it a little more directly? I'm all for a thick layer of ad homs in a debate, but being indirect about it leaves me wondering about your actual criticism. :confused:

    Surely you can't be criticizing people who read and cite studies to state points that have already been made? It shouldn't matter who said it, or who did the study.

    -Philosophos
     
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