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New to plants (and algae mess) - help much appreciated..

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by Baltazar, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Hello everyone,


    I'm new. Been reading pages and pages of this forum for a couple of days now, ever since I've discovered your community :) The thing is, I'd really love to hear your advice on a couple of things concerning my efforts to plant a 200L (55gal I think) tank in an appealing way and deal with the newly discovered algae mess. I'll try to be as specific as I can in describing the situation, so please bear with me..


    Intro:


    About a year ago, me and my gal' purchased a Juwel Lido 200 (the cube-like tall 55gal tank) to keep a few tropical fish. The intention was to do a lightly stocked "black water" tank, but it kind of steered in a different direction. We never planned on planting the tank much, not knowing ofcourse how beautiful they can be :) So... We only swapped the internal filter for a cannister one, chose that a layer (about 5cm) of fine gravel (1 - 2mm) be our only substrate and when the tank was fully cycled, over the course of roughly a year, we added fish by fish, and ended up with a stock of:


    12 Corydoras arcuatus


    10 Ottos


    25 Cardinal tetras


    4 Keyhole cichlids


    2 Ram cichlids


    12 Nerite horn snails


    Things were going along fine, never really had any algae issues (after the tank matured enough) with lights running 10 hours a day, we weren't adding any ferts, but we did only have one specimen of water sprite that was growing like crazy and a tiger lotus that (ofcourse) refused to grow, but didn't die off either. So we decided to dive a bit more into plant territory and here comes..


    The problem:


    About 10 months in, I decided it was probably time to change the fluorescent T5 tubes. Instead of keeping the stock config of two "hilite day" (9000K) lamps, I opted for one "day" T5 and one "nature" (4100K) T5 28W lamp plus I added reflectors to achieve better light penetration to the bottom of the deep tank. Almost immediately - tufts of (I presume) BBA started to appear on the driftwood, on some parts of the gravel and so.. We bought a couple more plants to fight the algae for nutrients and tried to scrape the algae off manually. I also read that having more light without injecting CO2 was a no-no, so we bought the "no fuss" Flourish excel and started adding it at a recommended dose (1 cap per 200l a day). I thaught hey, having no soil to feed the rooty plants, might aswell get some ferts too - bought the entire flourish line of products and added a small powerhead to ensure distribution of ferts. So we added to the tank some java fern (regular and Windelov) and anubias plants and attached them to the driftwood, added a pogostemon octopus and hygrophila corimbosa, also some cryptocorines and a taiwan lotus and started dosing the macros and micros at 50% the recommended Seachem's dosages, the reason being - we only do a 50L (25%) water change weekly (been doing so since we got the tank running) after the fresh water's been left to become peat-infused and dechlorinated in a bucket over the working week.


    The thing is - I like to measure the water parameters constantly and after dosing the ferts for a month and a half, here are the results just before a WC:


    pH: 8


    GH: 7 dGH


    kH: 5 dkH


    NO2: 0


    NO3: 5 mg/l (ppm)


    PO4: 0.02 mg/l (ppm)


    K: 20 mg/l


    Now this is all with 2X 28W T5 lights running for 9 hours daily (this falls into low light category, right?). So from what I've read so far on EI dosing of ferts, the recommended Seachem dosage cut in half seems to be adding enough potassium, but not nearly enough phosphorus and nitrogen. Am I correct? The parameters seem to be completely out of balance, meaning the plants can't even suck up the potassium if they don't have enough N and P? The result of this mess is that the plants (except for the octopus and taiwan lotus) grow veeery slowly, and keep getting algae on the edges of older leaves, which I keep pruning away every week, on top of that there's algae growing in strings on the gravel in some parts of the aquarium (don't even know whether it's BBA or brown / hair??) which I try to pick up and remove by hand and scrape all four sides of the glass clean of algae that builds up in a grayish film / layer every week.


    I've never been used to having algae in a tank and this is spiraling out of control. I now know that we've already done a couple of things wrong - adding plant by plant, instead of lots of them from the start, and doing kind of half-way trimmed EI dosing for starters.. What should I do to get on track? Cut down on the photoperiod? I've already done a complete blackout for 6 days and the water was crystal clear right after, but in a couple of days, the algae returned. To cure the cause - should I target dose phosphorus and nitrogen to achieve, say, 0.5ppm PO4 and 5ppm NO3?


    I'd really appreciate hearing your input as I find it's quite overwhelming to be losing control of the situation. I'd love to see happy plants and happy fish and be dealing with pruning healthy plants, rather than dealing with algae all the time. Please excuse my english, I'm not a native speaker and please see the photos attached to get a better idea of the situation.


    Thank you all very much.











     
  2. Pikez

    Pikez Rotala Killer!
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    Consider getting a small CO2 system. Excel is not 'liquid CO2' and is not an alternative to CO2. Change 50-70% of the water weekly. In a tank like this, you mostly need potassium and trace elements. If you feed the fish well, the fish waste will produce enough N and P. Don't focus on fertilizers and test kits - common beginner mistakes. You should not even be thinking about EI.


    If you are serious about growing plants, strongly consider CO2. If not, focus on water changes, filtration, cleaning the tank and may be add some floating plants.
     
  3. Julia Adkins

    Julia Adkins aquariumfertilizer.com
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    When you are starting out it can be difficult not to get hooked on water chemistry results. A better indicator is to look at the plants and learn what their condition is telling you about how happy or healthy they are. To help with the algae problem you could try leaving the tank in the dark for a few days. Larger water changes or twice a week 25% water changes would help also. It also sounds like you have too many phosphates in the tank which contribute to the algae bloom. Perhaps you could cut back some on the fish food which contains phosphates. Excess fish food falling to the bottom is a source of excess phosphates. There are fertilizers available in dry form which is less expensive than pre mixed fertilizers.
     
  4. Kathy Yata

    Kathy Yata Junior Poster

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    If all this happened a couple days after you changed bulbs and added reflectors then clearly there is too much light for your tank as it is now. You may have doubled the light getting to the bottom when you added reflectors and new bulbs. No reflector at all before? I'd shade the tank with a layer of window screen mesh but leave the lights on for 7-8 hours a day and CO2 gas would be a good idea on top of shading the tank.


    If your test results are accurate then you don't have too much phosphate or nitrate, perhaps not enough for the light the plants are getting. How have the test readings changed since the lighting changes?
     
  5. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Thank you Pikez, Julia and Kathy for your kind replies :)


    My test results are fairly accurate I think and haven't really changed that much at all since adding the reflectors. I thaught about this increase in light immediately after replacing the tubes and adding the reflectors, as the tank just looked brighter instantly, so I tried to help the plants make use of the light and started adding Seachem Excel, Flourish, Trace, Iron, Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous in half the recommended dosages (by Seachem), thinking I was doing some sort of lean EI dosing.


    I think I just might have hastily added too many things too soon without fully understanding what was going on in my tank when the algae started to appear.


    So I'm thinking of going back a few steps. I've already cut the light significantly (from 10 to 3 hours daily), and will be running them this way for a while. Can someone confirm if what I see growing on my gravel is some sort of (grey) hair algae? If this is the case, I've read that I should probably just remove the infested parts of the gravel and clip off all the algae affected plant leaves and get good amounts of pressurised CO2 into the tank, add some more plant mass, then slowly start increasing the photoperiod by say 10% weekly to slowly reach those 8 or 9 hours a day with a more balanced approach.


    Do you agree this would be the correct course of action? I still dose liquid ferts regularly (daily), as I see the general opinion is that even high doses of nutrients do not cause algae outbreaks..
     
  6. Pikez

    Pikez Rotala Killer!
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    1) High nutrients + high light + poor plant growth = algae


    2) High nutrients + high light + healthy growing plants = no algae


    This has been my experience.


    If you take situation 2 and reduce light intensity a little bit, add generous amounts of CO2, you will have even less algae and more stability.


    Focus on reducing light intensity. I am not a fan of reducing photoperiod below 5 hours. But even before that, focus on getting a good CO2 system.
     
    #6 Pikez, Mar 15, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2016
  7. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Before adding the reflectors, I did some research on the Juwel tubes I'm using and couldn't really find any PAR measurements for the specific tubes, so I just went with the old WPG and thaught that 2 X 28W for a 55gal tank (especially with it being 24 inches deep) surely falls into the low light category with the reflectors mounted - guess it was still too intense for my tank situation as it was..
     
  8. SwampGremlin

    SwampGremlin Member

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    I have an established 75 with a gravel bottom but its a high cec gravel not smooth pebbles and i have a co2 diffuser in there and 4 hi power led spot lights hanging over it and i dose zero nutrients and the plants are growing like crazy And zero algae 100% tap water. The only nutrient they are getting extra from me are CO2 gas that starts with the lights ad goes off at lights off ill try to post a pic. Just proves to me that CO2 on its own without anything else can achieve pretty decent results with inert substrate.[​IMG]
     
    #8 SwampGremlin, Mar 31, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2016
    2 people like this.
  9. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Just wanted to provide you guys with a quick update and ask some more questions :)


    So... about a month ago I went with Pikez's recommendation added CO2 to the tank and switched to dry fert dosing according to the EI regime.


    My tap is KH = 5.5 and GH = 7 so I depressed pH from 8 to 6.8 with CO2 via a passive in-tank reactor (JBL Taifun), which should (according to the pH / kH charts) put me in the area of 25 - 30 ppm CO2. The CO2 injection starts two hours before the lights come on and shuts off an hour before they go off and is, I think, quite stable (drop checker showing light green the entire photoperiod, which lasts 7 hours without siesta).


    As soon as I started running pressurized CO2, the stringy algae on the gravel went bye-bye in a couple of days and the plants started to grow noticabely better / stronger. I then added some more plants to fill up the tank - 7x Alternanthera Rosaefolia pushed up against the background and a good amount of Hedyotis Salzmanii, some Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis, and some Micranthemum Micranthemoides to cover the open parts of the gravel and see which one of the three takes off. I'm now treating the tank more as an experiment rather than a display tank, so aquascaping is not my main concern.


    Ever since I've started with making solutions with dry ferts and RO water, I've been dosing full EI (3X a week KNO3 and KH2PO4 - not using K2SO4 since my tap water comes packed with 20ppm K), and on micro days Flourish Iron and Comprehensive. Rotala Butterfly fert calculator tells me that with every dose of macros I'm adding approx. 7.5 ppm of NO3 and about 1.3 ppm PO4. I know there's no need for it, but I still like to measure things now and then, so I tested what the plants uptake during photosynthesis and found that the NO3 levels stay at a relatively steady value (around 7.5 ppm), while the PO4 starts to build up as we approach the weekend and WC days (it goes from about 1, to 1.5 to almost 2 ppm) so the plans seem to be uptaking a lot more of NO3 than PO4.. I do 2 water changes - Saturday 25%, no dosing, and Sunday 25% and I dose macros after the WC on Sunday. I'm using aged and dechlorinated water for WCs.


    Now for the progress with plants...


    Of the newly added, the Hedyotis seems to be growing the quickest, but all three of them (Hedyotis, Lilaeopsis and Micranthemum) are getting totally covered in black / brown tiny algae. I've given all three a good trim and haven''t replanted the tops, so as to give them a fresh start as I started to dose EI, but algae keeps on covering them (the only leaves that aren't being covered in algae are always the newest, but they only stay "clean" for a week maybe). I've got some fuzz algae going on on the java fern leaves, so I keep pruning that, I've got algae on the edges of older Alternanthera and Echinodorus leaves, which is quite bizzare, as Echinodorus is supposed to be a real fast grower..? And then there's the grey film on the aquarium glass that is still present. I've waited for a month before scraping it off, so as to let it run its full cycle, but it returned in a matter of days. It's a stubborn kind of algae that I have to scrape really quite hard to remove from the glass... The situation isn't realy catastrophic, it's just that I'm not yet convinced I'm on the right track to a crystal clear healthy planted tank. I keep pruning all the algae infested plant bits every other day, but the cause I've not yet cured it seems.


    I have no dead fish in the tank, don't vacuum gravel anymore, my spray bar is providing surface agitation (and since I lowered the pH via CO2, the surface scum paid a visit - sort of a silvery / grey film that doesn't go away even if I raise my spray bar out of the water during the night and let it agitate the heck out of the surface), I clean my filter quite regularly (once a month with aquarium water), don't feed the fish a lot, and try to let everything come to a balance. Should I just wait it out?


    The lighting calculator (by Rotala Butterfly) is telling me that with my T5NO light fixture I have about 25 PAR at substrate, which I know is veeery low, but since I don't really aspire to have maximum growth, as long as it's healthy, and inject CO2 and dose the water column, it should, if anything, make it easier to have lower light, right?


    What am I still doing wrong?


    Thank you all for your kind advice
     
  10. Christophe

    Christophe Subscriber
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    Sounds like you're doing right for the plants -- Cut away any leaves that have algae growing on them. Things will grow back better, as long as you keep doing the right things.
     
  11. Pikez

    Pikez Rotala Killer!
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    You are doing a lot of things right. Bigger water changes are somewhat necessary if you are truly dosing EI level ferts + low light.


    Keep cleaning, keep changing water, manually remove as much algae as you can. If your light is truly at 25 PAR, you should probably reduce fert dosing to half of what you are doing now.
     
  12. Datsun Dude

    Datsun Dude Junior Poster

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    I've found this thread somewhat helpful in my own battle. I am still struggling though with an unidentified algae. Your tank looks very nice by the way!


    I truly hate to potentially hijack - but is there a thread approval process? I tried to post a new thread but it is not showing in this new members section.
     
    #12 Datsun Dude, May 12, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2016
  13. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Heheh, Datsun Dude thank you for your kind remark. I don't really think my tank looks nice but I'm determined to make it look really good in the future. Right now, as I said, it's just a bunch of different plants in a glass box filled with water and some fish I love :)


    I'll post some photos in a short while of the algae in my tank, as I have some fuzzy stuff still growing on some of the java fern and alternanthera leaves, which I keep pruning away, and then there's the grey dust-like film growing steadily on all four aquarium glass panes that I scrape off when I feel like it but just returns in a matter of days.. Doesnt really fit the description of GDA or GSA colour-wise.


    Pikez thank you for your comments, I know I should probably change 50% water at once, but I don't fill straight from tap and only have a 50 litre bucket to age and dechlorinate water (so 25% Saturday, 25% Sunday).


    I know I could probably dose half EI, since uptake isn't really happening fast, but I wanted to go full out first and then decrease the dosage if my plants don't use up much.. There can be no ill effects because of a bit too much ferts, right?


    Will upload photos soon..
     
  14. Jason King

    Jason King barrreport.com
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    You should be good now :)


    and your post is active :)
     
  15. fablau

    fablau rotalabutterfly.com
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    The only ferts that could give you trouble if dosed too much are traces. What's your dosing regime on that?
     
  16. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    My dosing regime is this:


    I dose macros in quantities mentioned above on Sunday (after WC), Tuesday, Thursday before the lights come on.


    I dose micros on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, adding with each dosing 1 cap of Flourish Comp (5 ml) and one cap Flourish Iron (5 ml) to my 200 litre (about 55 gal) tank.


    Can't really measure traces, but my Fe reading (according to JBL Fe test) is quite steady at 0.5 ppm.


    Have some additional info on CO2 injection though - I've observed that my dropchecker was a nice green colour the entire time of the photoperiod, however, it would stay this colour even throughout the night when the CO2 was off.. I was providing some surface agitation with the spraybar pointed slightly towards the surface (only very slight ripple) and thaught this was OK - my fish never showing signs of stress, but yesterday night, when the lights went off, I rotated the spraybar upwards more to achieve a good ripple, that was almost breaking the surface and in the morning before the CO2 starts injecting with the lights still off - the dropchecker was a deep blue again. Was I maybe not oxigenating the water enough? Creating basically anaerobic conditions for the substrate bacteria and not providing the system with enough O2 and not degassing CO2 enough at night? I don't want to be swiveling the spraybar every evening so is there a balance that I can achieve by adding more surface ripple but also turning up CO2 bps to provide good CO2 during the photoperiod?
     
  17. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    OK, took some photos of my algae situation:


    Can someone help me identify what this algae on glass is?





    ...or why I'm getting this fuzzy algae on Java fern?





    ...and Echinodorus?





    My Micranthemum Micranthemoides covered in algae where it's dense (but sideshots looking quite OK):





    Hedyotis Salzmanii - new (top) growth OK, down below algaed up:





    ...and finally Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis (if you can make it out) - just altogether covered in algae, not growing and looking like s***:





    So if anyone is experienced enough to advise me what is still causing the grey dust-like stuff on the glass, the fuzz on the fern, alternanthera and echinodorus, and the black/brown fluff covering the front three plant groups, I'd be delighted..

    IMG_0997.JPG

    IMG_0998.JPG

    IMG_1003.JPG

    IMG_0999.JPG

    IMG_1001.JPG

    IMG_1002.JPG
     
  18. fablau

    fablau rotalabutterfly.com
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    The algae on the glass is GDA. All those algae is a clear sign your plants are suffering despite it looks like you are providing everything they need... but in the correct quantity? That's the question...


    So, from what you wrote earlier, your macros dosing regime seems ok (if you are still dosing EI there, macros should be ok). On the micros side, you could be low if your water is hard. In my experience, the harder the water the more traces you need. But since traces are tricky, I'd focus first on Co2. From your pictures I guess you are not providing enough Co2 to your plants.


    Could you please tell us the following:


    1. What's your PH drop? Would be good to know your fully degassed PH, the PH before Co2 starts and the PH right before the Co2 stops.


    2. Also: What time do you start and stop Co2? What time do you start and stop your photoperiod?


    3. What kind of filter system do you have? Canister or wet/dry? That would make a big difference in your tank's degassing capacity
     
  19. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    Photoperiod has just been upped from 7 to 8 hours a couple of days ago and is now 11AM to 7PM, CO2 injection starts two hours earlier at 9AM and shuts off at 6PM.


    Since I've swiveled the spraybar upwards to provide more surface agitation, this is what the drop checker is showing @ lights on:





    ...and one hour before the lights go off, when CO2 cuts out, it's like this:





    The pH of degassed water is 7.8 to 8, at lights on (when CO2's been running for two hours) it's between 6.8 and 7 and at CO2 off, it's lowest at 6.8.


    My kH is 5.5, GH is 7, so at a pH of 6.8 the water should have about 25 - 30 ppm CO2, right? For CO2 I'm using a passive in-tank reactor (JBL Taifun) which came with the CO2 kit and is supposed to be pretty effective when set up in deep tanks, so the bubbles have some path to travel.


    For the 200 litre aquarium, I'm using a cannister filter - JBL e901 - with a turnover rate of 900 l/hour (I know this is a bit low, but the filter was purchased before the tank was planted, when it was a fish only aquarium), and an additional sicce voyager powerhead with a capacity of 1000 l/hour, mounted on the rear wall to the right of the spraybar, to give a back-to-front-then-down-over-the-substrate-and-up-the-back-wall circular water flow. The tank is pretty cube-shaped and tall though, with approx. 61 cm of height from substrate to water level (spraybar):


    ...tank front:





    ...tank side:




    At Lights On.JPG

    At CO2 Off.JPG

    Tank Front.JPG

    Tank Side.JPG
     
  20. Baltazar

    Baltazar Junior Poster

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    ...oh one more thing - I've probably been misleading you and myself as I assumed up until now that my two T5 tubes were NO and so as I input that into RotalaButterfly light calculator, it gave me the info I had about 25 PAR at substrate..


    After talking to a local aquarium light fixture manufacturer however, they informed me that my Juwel T5 fixture was actually a HO setup, with 28 Watts per bulb at a 590 mm tube lenght. After I inputed the new data to RotalaButterfly calc, it now says I have about 45 PAR at substrate with my reflectors, would be 40 if I took them off. So I guess my tank isn't really in the no-light category...
     
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