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Watersurface film mistery

Discussion in 'Algae Control' started by Dusko, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. Dusko

    Dusko Prolific Poster

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    Hi all,

    I have a problem and no explanation so far.

    2 aquariums similar set-ups.

    Both have aqua soil and same gravel over it.
    Both get CO2, Tropica with N&P.

    No big bio-load.

    One aquarium never ever gets a surface film the other all the times!!!

    The one with the film now has two pumps, and one is only for surface agitation.
    Doesn't help.

    Any help on this one?

    Thanks. Dusko.
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Poor CO2 = surface scum.
    The plants seem to leak fats/lipids with poor CO2.
    I've induced and removed it by varying the CO2 a little.

    Nutrients are easy to keep equal, light etc, but CO2?

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  3. JamesC

    JamesC Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm not so convinced with this. I've got a little open top 25 litre tank that I use for testing new plants and has no fish , shrimp etc in it. CO2 is via rhinox diffuser with the filter output sending bubbles all around the tank. There is surface movement in the form of ripples. Drop checker is yellow and plants grow very well with plenty of pearling. Dosing is lean EI. Not a hint of any algae.

    But I get surface scum.

    James
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I'm not convinced it's one thing alone either....but that's what I've seen.......

    A few good water changes, more plant biomass, clean filter etc.....

    I've seen it in full ADA tanks as well........
    Never had it in the sump overflow tank........only with canister filter planted tanks.

    How often do you clean the filter?
    Water changes etc?
    General maintenance?

    If you assume everything is equal from light/nutrients, CO2 is about all that's left there.

    So......look at that good, and also rule out the other things, canister, any organic sludge anywhere in the tank, give the plants some time to start growing and producing O2, etc.

    H2O2 ought to roast it, but it will come back generally.
    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. Dusko

    Dusko Prolific Poster

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    Makes sense Tom, thanks.

    After two huge (80%) water change (+ the extra circulation pump) it started to look better but still not cristal clear.

    I think I have spotted the culprit !

    I have lots of Microsorum plants between the Curio wood that have developed huge root systems and lots of dirt is trapped under!!
    I mean so much that as soon a Cory or SAE pass near them dirt comes out.

    Impossible to vacuum because of the plant mass.

    All I could do is take them out cut off as much of the old roots and plant them back.

    And of course do a large water change afterwards.

    I have changed my filtration system as well last week. I took out all the ceramic rings and Zeolite out. They were full of crap. Instead I am going back to pure filter sponge and rinse it every week well.

    I am not dosing any CO2 but every day Easy Carbo and plants grow fine.

    The other aquarium that is almost the same didn't have CO2 for 2 month and no difference (no BBA either, well low light) except plants slowed down. But no surface film.

    I will do as I said and post back to you.

    Thanks, kind regards, Dusko.
     
  6. geministudios54

    geministudios54 Junior Poster

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    Surface Skimmer

    Would a solution both visually and practically be in the addition of an Eheim or Fluval surface skimmer? Attaching it is straight forward to any cannister filter. I've used both on tanks up to 125gal and have had great results.
    Just a thought
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, the biomass is a huge difference........even if you treat the tanks the same........then there are plant species differences...................then flow rate differences between filters...........many things are different between tanks.

    This makes trying to figure things out difficult without really isolating things to very simple systems.

    Many aquarist make this mistake, they assume that the tanks are relatively similar........

    But adding a much higher level of complexity just with 2-3 variables becomes very daunting, adding, 10-20 variables turns the brain and the model to mush.........

    I think it's best to isolate the 10-20 things one at time in isolation, then try and synthesize them together.

    It is better to know a lot about one thing than little about many things.

    It's hard adding every factor together.

    However, and neat little trick, one I employ: Try and induce the surface scum.
    Or try and induce algae by adding "Excess" NO3, light, CO2, PO4, NH4 etc........

    You must try and experiment with ecological questions, not just watch and observe alone.

    Those days are long over in Ecology as a rule, it is far more experimental these days. Physiology and molecular methods have long employed such methods to try and induce something.

    Problem is...........few aquarist are really willing to try and make algae blooms, surface scum, stunt plants, kill fish and shrimp etc........

    They just want to know how to prevent it, not kill it, or set up experiments to answer such questions.

    This represents a huge gap between learning more and getting very far answering such questions.

    I do some..........but I'm human also, and can only do so much.
    Also, while CO2 reduction induced it in several tanks, I've also been unable to induce it others.

    I speculate organic materials may have been the source of the proteins and lipids(hydrophobic organic compounds).

    However, these are much more rapidly oxidized and broken down when the bacteria have plenty of O2(via plants, or H2O2, or pure O2 gas).

    So that explains why poor CO2 might induce it(less O2) and adding more CO2 removed it.

    So rather than CO2 alone, perhaps good bacterial cycling seems key, although many seem to ignore it and some suggest foregoing all filtration, something I've not found none too wise.

    Again, such a hypothesis can be tested by aquarist.
    No need to have a lab etc.

    I had issues with a smaller canister on a large tank. It had a lot of scum. I added more CO2, the issue went away.

    I am curious that if there was a larger higher flow canister, or if there was a wet/dry filter etc, that the system would be much less prone to this scum layer?

    More/less CO2 might be just a secondary affect.
    Organic material/waste might be much more the issue than plants leaching with varying CO2 dosing.

    I did induce algae with left over plant leaves that where pruned from another tank. So old leaves can induce some issues, I do not recall if there scum layer was formed with that though.

    Right now:
    I have a small 20 gallon tank with a tiny filter, it has a nice scum layer.
    I also have a large canister on another tank, similar light/CO2, biomass etc.
    No scum ever, both are in the same room, open top , high light(450 micromols), lots of CO2.

    So come to think of it, CO2 alone in that tank(there are no fish/shrimp etc) cannot be the only factor, the CO2 is pretty high!

    But the filter is very different.
    I do have another large filter I'd planned to add, so it'd be interesting to see if it cleared it up.

    Also, H2O2. Or Pure O2, which I do have.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. paludarium

    paludarium Guest

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    Hi Tom,

    do you read german? Here is an excellent website with some very nice microscopic picutures of the surface scum. http://www.aquamax.de/HG27UG02.htm

    Regards,
    Erich
     
  9. Professor Myers

    Professor Myers Guru Class Expert

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    We've had the very same situation in my wifes tank early on. It abated within a week of hooking up tanked Co2 and installing a drop checker to verify the output.

    I am also a firm believer in surface skimming !!! But honestly there was already an Eheim surface extractor running in the tank and the surface scum still seemed perpetual. Thick fatty scum is really indicative of lipids leaching out of the plants, so it is rather obvious that there would be a nutrient imbalance. Grtz, Prof M
     
  10. JamesC

    JamesC Lifetime Charter Member
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    Interesing link. Thankyou for posting. As I'd always suspected there are different types of surface film and possibly different reasons for their cause. The one I have is the blue film one that once broken doesn't flow back together again and is caused by what is called 'Iron Bacteria'. Got me thinking. I use a trace mix with added iron at the moment but have snow stopped dosing this in favour of Tropica Plant Nutrition. Be interesting to see if it makes any difference.

    James
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yes, thank you for the link.
    I think being more clear on what types of surface scum we are all talking about certainly is wise:eek:

    I'm not talking about the floating algae.
    Just the lipids.

    I have a nice microscope.
    So I can take similar images.

    Humm.......well, something to do in my free time:)

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. Dusko

    Dusko Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Paludarium for the link.

    And I thought I had just one type of surface scum :eek:
    I have photographed the Neuston type once, and that is the one in my Algae ID blog. But once I also had that type which can be broken, but never thought it is a different stuff...silly me. I have been thinking it is the start of Green Neuston type.

    I have missed the Photo ID :rolleyes:
    Iron-bacteria, hmmm....? interesting...

    Thanks again.

    Regards, Dusko.
     
  13. evandro.carrenho

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    I am doing aeration during the 14-hour-lights-off period, by raising the canister outlet pipe over the water level.

    This helps a lot. It not only removes the water film but it seems to me that it helps maintaining water clarity over the week, before the next water change.

    I have to do it every day, because some film returns during lights-on period. I believe that it has something to do with fish feeding as well.

    Regards,
    Evandro.
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The aeration comment also worked for some folks I know in the past.

    Seems bacteria/O2 play a large role the more I think about it.
    Since plants produce O2 and CO2 reduction limits their production, it makes good sense why the poor CO2 caused it, as well as small filters/clogged filters, dirty tanks etc.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. JamesC

    JamesC Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom, this thread has got me thinking about the surface film I have which from what I can gather is caused by Iron Bacteria. Doing a Google search brings up loads of hits for iron bacteria. From the literature I've read so far it seems to thrive in oxygenated water containing ferrous iron. Are you able to shed any more light on this for me in relation to planted tanks?

    Ever since I've dosed EI or variants of I've always had this film. I have managed to work around it via skimming or increased surface movement so it's never been a major concern, just a minor irritation. I've nearly always used dry traces so is it possible that these could be a contributory factor? Started using Tropica traces now and will see if there is any improvement.

    James
     
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