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Understanding Tom's Algae Research

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by jarrod0987, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    I used to be a big fan of the control PO4 and NO3 to control Algae. I admit, I still kind of like it in fish only tanks. However, I am doing a lot of reading on Tom's findings with planted tanks and I think it is fascinating stuff. I would first like to make sure I am understanding what he is saying, then ask a what if scenario or 2 that I don't know what would happen.


    First, it seems like he is saying that PO4 is not directly limiting Algae, it is just indirectly limiting it by decreasing the plants need for CO2. Says you could do the same thing with light etc. Is this correct?


    Second, It looks like he is saying when you only limit one factor that CO2 seems to be the real trigger for Algae. That it is low CO2 that triggers it? That what nutrients are present have a role in which type you get?


    Is all that correct?


    So If a person had an algae outbreak in there planted tank they could bump up CO2 and get rid of algae? Is that what he means?


    I wonder if it is the presence of CO2 that is toxic to the Algae? That would be fascinating because H2O2 seems to kill algae very fast too.


    Or is he saying that higher CO2 just lets the plant beat the Algae?


    If nutrients and light are non limiting then it cannot be that the plant just out competes the Algae for nutrients right?


    Is he saying the plant just starves the Algae for CO2? Or is it Alelopathy? Does he know why higher CO2 prevents algae?


    Now what about in a fish only system with no plants at all.


    Suppose there was an algae bloom, non limiting nutrients, same light intensity etc...


    Could adding CO2 get rid of the algae? That would remove the out compete and alelopathy theories. It would have to be that the presence of enough CO2 somehow interfered with the Algae?


    I think this is a fascinating discovery. I would really like to understand this model better. I want to play with this one in my test tank :D


    UPDATE: So I kept reading and it seems like Tom is saying that Algae somehow knows when plants are doing well and when they are not. If the Alage thinks the plants are suffering it will leave it's spore stage and go to it's Adult stage. However, these adult stages don't last long and will die on there own. So if new spores are not germinating all the time then the algae will go away. Is that correct?


    Also...I want to be sure that high CO2 is the ticket, not low CO2?
     
    #1 jarrod0987, Sep 10, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2015
  2. Marcel G

    Marcel G Banned

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    What T.Barr really meant by his posts/articles only he himself knows. No one else can explain to you his "plantbrain".


    But according to scientists, algae are not so easily poisoned by high CO2 concentrations as aquatic plants are. So increasing your CO2 concentration won't lead to algae inhibition. As to the "algae somehow know when plants are doing well", that's a nice hypothesis, but unless someone verifies it using truly scientific methods, it's nothing more than hypothesis. I'm a little afraid that most people believes to hypotheses and myths than to verified results. Are you one of them?
     
  3. UDGags

    UDGags Lifetime Charter Member
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    A lot of your questions really depend on the type of algae and type of plants in the system. For most people CO2 is the limiting factor because they have fish and don't want to cause acidosis. So as soon as you increase CO2 it allows the plants to grow at a faster rate, which limits algae. As Tom says often says concentrate on healthy plants and you won't have algae issues. Watch your plants and look for signs of deficiencies. Just be aware that there are other factors that cause certain types of algae. For example, BBA can be caused by changing CO2 levels, bad circulation, organic build-up, etc.


    I'm pretty sure alelopathy has never been proven in submersed plants.


    I have had very high CO2 (80 ppm) and BBA thrives in my setup. When I go to no CO2 it dies off. It also only occurs on my wood (none on plants or glass). Leads me to believe the wood is giving off organics at the lower pH, which is helping the growth.
     
  4. Marcel G

    Marcel G Banned

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    Allelopathic behavior has been reported in 97 species of aquatic plants => see Elakovich, S., Wooten, J. (1995). Allelopathic, herbaceous, vascular hydrophytes. In: Allelopathy: Organisms, Processes, and Applications. ACS Symposium Series 582 (Washington D.C), pp. 58-73.


    So allelopathy has been proven in many aquatic plants.


    Another question is if allelopathy proves effective in the planted tanks, and this may be questionable. But due to a permanent leaching of some small amounts of allelochemicals via leaves the plants may prevent algae from settling down (at least to some extent). As the algae is trying to attach to the leaf, it may sense the chemicals and be repelled. So the allelochemicals don't need to be in some high concentrations in water column. But that's just a speculation. I agree with Dr. Ole Pedersen who says that "The best algae control will always be a densely planted aquarium with a limited stock of fish combined with frequent water exchange." Quite interesting is also his comment that "It is much more likely that this general observation (= "tanks with heavy plant growth often seem to have very little algae") is due to efficient competition for resources (light, nitrogen, phosphorus and CO2) from higher aquarium plants and this may prevent the algae from ever getting a hold in the tank." The exactly same opinion has Dr. Roger W. Bachmann.
     
  5. burr740

    burr740 Micros Spiller
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    I cant wrap my brain around the whole "out-competing" concept. Algae needs very little resources to grow and thrive. A bowl of water sitting in the sun will grow algae just fine. So I have a hard time grasping the theory that algae is kept at bay in a plant tank simply by having enough healthy plants to use up the available nutrients.


    My 75 gal has 120 par at the sub, high C02, and plenty of excess nutrients (surely enough to sustain a good algae farm). So how is it that I have no algae, other than minor nuisances here and there?


    In my mind, there has to be some other factor at work that prevents algae from taking over besides the plants simply out-competing it for nutrients. Because no matter what, there's always enough floating around to feed plenty of algae.
     
    #5 burr740, Sep 11, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2015
  6. Solcielo lawrencia

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    I have emersed plants growing in a glass by a window side that has no algae. The plants are deficient in certain macro nutrients but there has been no algae whatsoever in the water. Plants are also flowering. So how can the glass receiving so much sunlight not develop algae? Strangely, a container with submersed moss under shade has a lot of hair algae. It is fertilized very infrequently.


    I no longer believe that algae growth is the result of low CO2. It also doesn't explain why submersed aquatic plants in natural waterways receiving full sunlight doesn't develop algae on their leaves. Lack of micronutrients may be the cause since these deficiencies results in poor plant immune systems.
     
  7. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    No I like to verify things myself . However, if someone has done a lot of work and shows me there data and the scientific method seems good I am willing to accept it. Mostly, i just want to learn as much as I can on my favorite aquarium subjects :) Thanks for all your input.
     
  8. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    I would have to agree with your conclusion about the wood. I have had similar thoughts about why Cyano always lives down where the organics are trapped in the gravel. And no flow of course.
     
  9. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    One last Q while we are on the subject. I have been told not to overdose Micro because it can be toxic at higher levels. If it is too low does it(They) cause the same strong limitation that NP and K do?
     
  10. Jessy2363

    Jessy2363 Junior Poster

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    Just starting using Co2. Have it set around 15mg/L at present and am using 4 brand new HO fluros. Not sure I want to go with higher levels of Co2 yet as I want my fish to get used to it. Do you think that 15m/l will cause algae if my light is medium to high? It's staghorn I believe. A white hair like algae. Could I run my system with low Co2 levels and not get algae? If so why does algae not happen as much when I'm not running Co2.
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    1st off, one can falsify a hypothesis rather easily, finding the precise cause is entirely another matter. You can thereby, narrow the possible hypotheses down by simply ruling them out, one by one.


    Allelopathy might be a nice idea, and sure it occurs, but no one has shown this in a real natural system. In test wells? Sure, pure any number of things like KNO3 at high enough levels and it too shall kill and inhibit algae growth, it'll also do the same for duckweed and many other plants.


    I do not know any aquatic plant Scientist that agrees it's a big issue in natural systems, lakes, rivers, tidal freshwater systems etc.


    Test wells, in vitro, quite another matter.


    The researchers at the ARS USDA lab here in Davis were I worked for a few years felt the same, so did Ole and Troels in Denmark, so did my major professors, so did all the researchers at UF as well. You'd be hard pressed to show it has an ecological function in a real field system. It might occur, but the methods are always suspect.


    Anyhow, all one has to do with aquatic plant tanks as a control is use activated carbon to remove the allelopathic substances, something that's been done and used for alleloptahy method in plant Science for quite some time and is a widely well accepted control method. Hobbyists have been using activated carbon in planted tanks for decades, Amano uses it, I have in the past etc. No one has seen anything except perhaps a positive benefit from activated carbon.............


    Then there's the issue of Plant-Plant alleopathy which few have ever addressed. I've yet to have seen ANY evidence that this occurs having grown 400+ species in mix species groups over the years. I'll happily challenge anyone to propose a pair that have negative impacts upon one another.


    I do suppose micros can become toxic more readily than macros if you are considering ppm's, but I've really larded on the micros without any issue, some shrimp folks get a bit leary however at higher levels out of fear, but they do not dose much if they have high end shrimp that cost a lot of $ either anyhow.


    But yes, the micros can cause some issues if you do not dose for a long period, but sediment sources can help with limiting nutrients also.


    Adding another source if you will....a back up, redundancy etc.


    15 ppm or mg/l is not an issue for any freshwater fish I am aware of. 45 ppm is about the upper limits for Discus adults, which tend to be pretty good "canary in the coal mind". If they have good color and behavior at that level at 84F, good O2 etc, then that's about the upper limit for them.


    Plants will adapt to a good balance of light and CO2/no CO2 added.


    But from most aquarist observations, my own included......... in between ranges tended to do poorly, if you do not add CO2, well, there's a trade off.


    Adding CO2 to a low light tank is very beneficial also, many assume that it's not "needed". Plants will still grow but you will limit the choices and the gardening ability in the process.


    You gain a lot out of adding CO2 and having low light.
     
  12. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    Thanks for you post. Lot's of good intel here. I use Activated carbon in my planted tank too. I get a lot of flack for that but I have never had any problems either.
     
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Most of the issues are CO2 related for most folks. Then perhaps harder dKH etc.


    Cleaning filters/lots of water changes etc, all good things. AC can go sort of either way,m but I've yet to see it ever cause "harm" to any planted tank. After a few decades......well.......not much has changed or suggest allelopathy. So if anyone can show otherwise, then we might have some potential, but no one I know ever has nor has anyone reported it.


    Still, AC is not really something plant aquarist "need" either.


    Removes tannins, medications etc, then turns to bio media after 2-4 weeks.


    But so do water changes.........
     
  14. jarrod0987

    jarrod0987 Subscriber

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    I am pretty much at the level where I can prevent or defeat most of the Algae I come across. Really, my interest is just academic at this point. Knock on wood, there are a few types I have never got. I never want too but I would like to know about them. I am fascinated by the mystery of what conditions cause which type of algae etc. I don't know why. I just do :D I found out today that the study of Algae is called Phycology. Been on amazon all day but not finding a book I can afford or even really at my level. I need the newb book :)
     
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