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Looking for some expert information on algae!

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Carissa, Jun 8, 2007.

  1. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,
    I tried asking about this on other forums but couldn't really seem to find anyone who really knows what's going on. I don't just want to know what to do, I want to know why, I'm sure someone here has a good understanding of the chemistry and biology involved which is what I really want to understand.

    I have a 10g and initially had Hygrophia polysperma and a java fern planted in it. Over the course of several months the blue green algae (I'm assuming that's what it is based on descriptions, it was like a thick black sheet if it grew long enough) totally took over my tank. It didn't seem to matter how often I would clean it out, or even if I would physically remove it from every single leaf of my plants, it would come back with a vengeance before my next water change (and I would do them weekly). I had two screw-in florescent bulbs, 9w, and then tried 13w, and that only served to increase the algae's spread. I tried major water changes, even at one point totally removing almost all the water and replacing it. This only resulted in adding a brown algae bloom to my issues. I tried diy co2 which helped the plants increase their growth but didn't slack on the algae at all. Finally when all of my plants were dead except one part of the java fern and one tiny polysperma plant, I removed the florescent lights and put two 15w incandescent lights in since I thought the battle was lost. Then to my surprise, the java fern started to really take off. It doubled in size in a few months. The polysperma also started growing, and even though the leaves weren't the verdant green that they were before, at least it wasn't dying anymore. Another tiny polysperma plant that I figured was too small to take root, also started growing.

    So then I thought - great, my algae problem is finally over! I switched back to florescent lighting, starting off at only 6 hours a day to see what would happen. Within days the algae was back again but not with quite the same vengeance. I scrubbed and scrubbed and fought it this time but again it seemed like a losing battle. Then, I came across a study that said that high phosphate to nitrate ratio can cause issues with bga. So I got a phosphate remover and added it to my filter. Now it seems that I finally have everything under control and I can even have my light on for 8-10 hours a day (yes one light, I'm still afraid to use both).

    So what I want to know is this: Is phosphate present in tap water? What else could cause bga issues of this magnitude? Also, how can you tell the difference between regular green algae and bga? I have some algae on the glass now and it's not growing fast, I would like to know what it is. Another question I have is, has anyone done co2 using paintball cylinders and if so how did you hook it up? I totally LOVE aquatic plants in fact even more than fish sometimes. My dream is to have a 90g filled with all kinds of plants. (I think I have fish because I don't want to look stupid having just a tank full of plants. No offense though.)

    Just as a sidenote, my tap water here is about 6.6 pH out of the tap, NO KH or GH at all. I use a few small seashells to add buffer to the tank water. Also the tap water here has a yellowish brown tinge on it. Since there's no GH I'm thinking tannins maybe? Or could it be some mineral?
     
  2. Frolicsome_Flora

    Frolicsome_Flora Guru Class Expert

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    There can be phosphates in your tap water but thats not whats caused your problems.

    You have to imagine algae as a weed in your garden. If your plants arent doing well, then the weeds take over and become strong. If your plants do well, the weeds are subdued.

    This is whats happening, your plants are being limited by the lack of other nutrients in the water, and by the lack of CO2 (DIY is very unstable unless your very good at it, which is almost worse than no CO2 at all). So, the cyanobacteria in this case.. took over. Slowly other types of algae are taking hold; namely, gsa and brown by the sounds of it. Individual nutrients in the water column would rarely be the direct cause of algae issues, its always more likely that there just isnt any competition for resources because the plants are shut down.

    The best way to sort it would be to read up on the sections of this forum relating to and explaining the Estimative Index. This will clue you up on what you need to be doing to dose your plants with everything they need.

    Paintball CO2 is fine, but fire extinguisher CO2 is better and probably cheaper in the long run. CO2 fittings are standard, so any regulator that fits refillable bottles will fit a fire extinguisher.

    In any case, no matter which way you do it, youll need a regulator (with a thumb needle valve in it so you can control the output), also a good idea to have a bubble counter of some sort (very easy to make one). DIY can be done properly though, again, there are threads on this forum from people that make a full go at it and get superb results, have a read through.

    The other main bit of kit youll need to do if your going to be doing proper CO2 is a drop checker. Its the only way we can be sure just how much CO2 we have in the tank.

    Before you do any of this though, you need to do a huge cleanup.. you might want to try doing Tom Barr's 3 day blackout routine, its a great way of wiping the slate clean and starting again.

    Good luck on it though, Im sure itll sort out in the end. Oh, and welcome to the forums.
     
  3. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,
    Thanks for the info. I did a bit of reading and from the sounds of it the basic idea of the estimated index is just estimating how fast your plants are going through nutrients and then dosing that much or more every day or few days depending on tank conditions, and doing big water changes to avoid build up of excess nutrients. Do I have this straight?

    So this might be a dumb question but where can I get these nutrients? Are they sold under other names besides aquatic plant fertilizer? I guess I need KNO3 and PO4? The only plant fertilizer I can get at the pet store here just seems to have lots of iron and trace minerals, but I would need to have the basic nutrients seperate in order to dose appropriate ratios of each. Does regular (out of water) plant fertilizer work too?

    A cleanup of my tank isn't really necessary at this point, it's doing fine as it is now. The phosphate remover has pretty much eliminated my overgrowth of algae but obviously it's eliminating nutrients from my plants too.

    So I might look at CO2 in the future but it's a big investment for just a 10 gallon tank. DIY did not work well for me, too many pH fluctuations and it backed up into the tank once.
     
  4. Professor Myers

    Professor Myers Guru Class Expert

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    FTR most E24 Base(screw in fluorescent) bulbs have a CRI of 2900- 3300k AVG. is 3000k CRI. This is Grossly inadequate for most aquatic plants, and tends to promote Cyanobacteria. There are a few specialty E24 fluorescents with a CRI of 7000K and these should be sufficient, but I honestly couldn't say how accurate those ratings are.

    I'm afraid not all lights are the same. Perhaps it's time to invest in better components ?

    KNo3 and Po4 are Nitrate, and Phosphate...While high levels are considered to be a scurge in most Tropical, Salwater, or Reef Aquariums, they are valuable nutrients in FW planted aquaria. At the point where you remove all phosphate from a planted aquarium your plants become Terminal. Without Po4 new growth ceases to occur, and old growth quickly dwindles. Death is inevitable...High growth plants like Hygro diminish to nothing amd rot away. The correlation of phosphate being directly responsible for the growth of nuisance algae is myopic theory. Removing Po4 to inhibit algal growth in a planted aquarium is like syphoning the gas out of your car to improve the mileage. Technically you WILL save gas, but may very well miss the point of transportation entirely ? ;^) Likewise no matter how much Co2 you pump into your planted aquarium without Po4 to drive new growth and photosynthesis the plants become inhibited, and only the algaes could make efficient use of it. This is like taking that syphoned gas and putting a match to it. Wasteful in the extreme, and very often quite destructive.

    Dry nutrients can be readily purchased at Aquarium Plant Food - hobbyist taking care of hobbyist … | Planted Aquarium Fertilizer HTH. Prof M
     
  5. Frolicsome_Flora

    Frolicsome_Flora Guru Class Expert

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    :) Greg Watson will sell it to you if your in the States, Aqua Essentials will sell it to you in the UK.

    You can run a non CO2 tank as well, but there are a few other things you need to be doing, again, there are lots of threads about non CO2 tanks :)

    You need to be getting the proper dry ferts, or a complete blend designed for aquariums. Dont put normal house plant/garden ferts in it, most of those contain ammonia, and thats something you DONT want any more of.
     
  6. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,
    Thanks for the info. Yes I plan on building a new tank this summer if I get the chance, I'll invest in some better equipment then. I am in Canada, are there any mail order suppliers that anyone can refer me to?
     
  7. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Rex Griggs, Rex's fertilizers for sale, sells the same fertilizers, and he does ship to Canada. You also need a heavy planting of plants to avoid algae. This works because many algae species start growing when they detect ammonia in the water - just a tiny bit - and if you have a lot of plants growing in the tank they consume the ammonia the moment it is produced and the algae spores never see it. It is always best to start out with the whole bottom of the tank planted with fast growing plants, then after a few weeks you can remove and replace some of them with the plants you like better.

    Algae like the same nutrients as plants, and like lots of light just like plants do, so adding a lot of light will make algae grow faster just as it makes plants grow faster. So, you need to remove/kill any algae in the tank if you don't want it to keep growing.

    An alternative to CO2, for small tanks, is Flourish Excel, which is a chemical that plants can use instead of CO2 for their carbon supply. It has an advantage of acting to kill some species of algae too.
     
  8. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Great, I'm going to check out that site. Does anyone know a good place to mail order plants from in Canada?

    Also I'll be going to the big city this week, maybe I should stock up on some more plants when I have the chance. Any suggestions for a 10g, low light and little expertise? Preferably something with leaves that are easy to remove algae from? And something that's pretty widely available since I don't think there's a huge selection? By the way I took out the phosphate remover, because my hygro is suffering a little. It's looking funny on the edges, probably starving now, poor thing. And I'm going to get my hands on the Flourish Excel too plus the other ferts when I can. And another question, how full should I stock my tank with plants? Right now, I have two of the hygro plants, one is maybe 2/3 of the way to the top of my tank and the other is maybe 1/2, so they're not really big. I have one java fern that is pretty big, taking up maybe 1/3 the length of my tank, and numerous other little java ferns that have come from the big one and are slowly growing.
     
  9. Professor Myers

    Professor Myers Guru Class Expert

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    RE: 10 gal. Lighting

    You'll find the lighting components at AH Supply. 13watt Bright Kits HTH. Prof M
     
  10. charlie

    charlie Guru Class Expert

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    Where in Canada are you? I`m in Canada also, Ontario.
    Regards
     
  11. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,
    I'm in Newfoundland. I'm hoping to find something for lighting I can retrofit to my hood, or maybe make a new hood since it's only purpose is basically supporting my lights anyway and if I'm junking my old light fixtures there's not much point in keeping it if I can find a better way.

    So those 13 watt bulbs that are shown on that web site, the long skinny ones, are those better than the screw in 13 watt bulbs? I was kind of thinking of picking up a cheap tube type one (fixture and all) that I could install into my hood or otherwise hang over my tank. I know this isn't ideal but I think it would at least be better than the setup I have. So lets say I have an option between Kitchen and Bath, Daylight, Plant Gro light, or just a regular flourescent. I don't know if they will have any kelvin rating on them but I can look. Are there any differences that I need to be aware of? What would be best? What would be most/least likely to encourage bga?
     
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