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Need Help With Planted Tanks

Discussion in 'Algae Removal' started by Flinkbag, Jul 22, 2016.

  1. Flinkbag

    Flinkbag Mostly New Member

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    Hey all!
     
    So I set up 2 16L tanks 2 weeks ago, and they've developed this ugly brown algae thats covering everything. I'm aware its virtually impossible to keep algae out of planted aquariums, but is there any way to keep it at bay? I can barely see my betta in one of the anymore! D: 
     
    Both tanks have a substrate called propagating mix for cacti as their nutrient-dense layer. This was recommended by a friend, who says it's worked for her tank for 3 years without a problem. Lighting for both is a 25W full spectrum UVA globe for reptiles, which is a 'plant-growth stimulating' light. Well, it sure is good at stimulating algae growth, but I'm not so sure about the plants. Both tanks don't have filters, which isn't by choice, its a money issue. I'm currently doing 20% water changes on them twice a week to compensate.
     
    In tank 1 (first pic) I have a heater and fish, and the plants seem to be doing ok in there. But in tank 2, my Dwarf Blyxa, green/gold rush and glossostigma plants are browning and looking manky as all get out. Is this a CO2 issue, or nutrient issue? I add Flourish to both, but perhaps i need to add Excel to them too... Please help, I really don't want to start them all over again, but I'm feeling very inclined to right now.
     
    Any help would be most welcome, and feel free to move this if its in the wrong spot! Thanks! [​IMG]
     
    Ok so browsers won't let me upload photos. The algae is literally just brown and flat, and it mainly growing on flat surfaces such as the glass, rocks and plant leaves. 

     
  2. Munroco

    Munroco Member

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    This is fairly common in newly set up tanks. I don't know what, if any effect your substrate is having. I'd just keep up the usual maintenance and hope it goes away soon.
     
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  3. Byron

    Byron Member

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    "Brown algae" can be one of two types.  If you can easily remove it from glass, plant leaves, etc. with your finger tips, it is likely diatoms.  If it does not easily remove, it is more likely to be a form of brush algae.  From what you've told us, the diatoms is more likely, but not definitely.
     
    The substrate and light are probably significant issues here.  Taking the light first...both tanks are 16 litres which is just under 5 gallons.  A 25w light is a lot of light, though this can depend upon just how the light is being produced.  Watts is only a measure of how much energy (electricity here) a bulb or tube uses to produce the light, not necessarily an indication of light intensity as this depends upon how the bulb/tube is made.  As a quick example, a 9w incandescent bulb of the "old" type is about four times less intense than a 9w CFL bulb.  We will need to know more about the light.
     
    Moving to the substrate, regardless of someone else's alleged success, some of these non-aquarium substrates are full of problems.  I don't know what might be in the cacti mix, but this could be trouble for not only plants but fish.
     
    I understand that the tanks are not behaving the same, but this does not mean something may not be wrong with the light or substrate.
     
    Be careful using fertilizers like Flourish Comprehensive Supplement.  These can easily provide too much of some nutrients and cause terrible algae issues.  Without knowing exactly what is in the substrate, I can't offer much more.  The confines of an aquatic system has a number of chemical and biological processes going on, and they inter-relate.
     
    Byron.
     
  4. Alasse

    Alasse Fish Herder

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    I use propagating sand, all it really has in it is clay :)

    Diatoms are normal part of new tanks generally
     
    I would not be dosing anything but a bit of excel, especially when the tanks are new. You also have fairly highish light for small tanks, excel will more than likely be a requirement daily
     
  5. Flinkbag

    Flinkbag Mostly New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies! 
     
    Byron: Definitely sounds like diatoms then, because i can easily scrape it off with my finger. Its also producing little bubbles all over the tank. How do I get rid of the diatoms? And as for the lighting, you're right, it IS quite a lot of light. Should i move it further away from the tanks to make the wavelengths weaker? And as for substrate, what do i use that isn't going to cost me $60 a bag? I really want to get this right, but I don't want to spend an arm and a leg to get there. Any suggestions? And I'll give the flourish nutrient supplement a miss until i can work out whats going on. The plants are looking worse by the day, some of their leaves are yellowing and others are turning brown/transparent. :( I'm guessing this is a collection of issues, but CO2 would probably be the main culprit, right? 
     
    Alasse: Do you find the propagating sand is sufficient for your plants, or do you dose with something else to keep your plants healthy? Im happy to add some other kind of fertiliser to the tank to keep the plants happy, but I'm not willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for it. 
     
    I also realise that if i want to start carpets in both, its best to keep the tanks empty but humid for a couple of weeks right? I probably really should just start again... :/ I don't even like one of the scapes anyway. If anyone could give me either a link to an existing post/info on starting a planted aquarium for beginners, that'd be sweet :) I also would like to get filters for both, but i need them to be quiet and preferably easy to hide amongst the plants. Any ideas?
     
    Thanks again! 
     
  6. Alasse

    Alasse Fish Herder

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    Yes, grows plants no problems. I do add some Dino Dung under swords and lotus in my tanks just for a bit extra for these guys. I also dose Dino Spit daily, and Dino Pee once or twice a week. I water change weekly around 50% at least
     
    When i started one of my planted tanks it turned into diatom heaven, honestly i could not even see through the glass lol I left it be, took many weeks, but it finally leveled out and cleared up. I just kept up the water changes
     
    It ended up like this
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I wouldn't worry too much about diatoms in a new tank, this can occur due to the unstable biological system.  Of much more concern is the condition of the plants.  Regardless of it being a new tank, the plants should not be dying, and this has to be resolved.
     
    CO2 is only one of 17 necessary nutrients.  The brighter (more intense) the lighting, the more nutrients plants need.  Different plant species have differing requirements when it comes to light and nutrients, but these must be balanced so plants can thrive and algae is not encouraged.  When any thing is out of balance, algae can take advantage as it is much less fussy than higher plants.
     
    Another thing about CO2 is that in so small a tank this is a big expense and effort.  Natural CO2 produced in the substrate by the breakdown of organics by bacteria is or should be sufficient.
     
    As for substrate, I use common play sand.  I used touse fine gravel, but over several years I changed all my tanks.  It is inexpensive (nothing is less so), natural in appearance, good for substrate fish, and plants grow very well in it.  It is also inert, so nothing is being done to water chemistry which is something likely the issue with this cacti substance.
     
    As for the light, a lower wattage bulb might work, or increasing the distance.  The latter might be problematic given that this usually means light is shining in your face when you are viewing the tanks, which is why I like my fixtures on the tank frame.
     
     
     
    I am not following the empty/humid idea...can you explain?  If you use "soil" under a layer of sand, it is advisable to use the "dry start" method, but I have never done this when using play sand or gravel.  I plant the tank on day one, and often some fish go in then too, depending upon the situation.
     
    Filters need to be selected based upon the fish intended.  How you begin the planted tank is also connected to this, so knowing your intent would help.  By this I mean, what sort of tank is this intended to be?  You mention carpet plants, which are less problematic in small tanks than larger and deeper ones, but the fish are part of the biological system, contributing nutrients and living in the biological system resulting, which goes both ways.
     
  8. Flinkbag

    Flinkbag Mostly New Member

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    Thanks for the lengthy replies! :D
     
    Alasse: That tank is MAGNIFICENT! :O Im blown away, so beautiful!! I'd love to turn my 230 litre tank into a planted, but again, money comes into play with the lighting and substrate, etc... Im glad you find propagating sand good for growing plants. I didn't think my friend would tell me lies, especially knowing how expensive fish keeping can be. She says she's used it for 3 years on multiple tanks and had no problems at all... And whew! I won't worry about the diatoms then, ill just wait it out. However, i have noticed this dark green hairy type of algae growing around my anubias nanas in particular. *sigh* it never ends, does it? It's been growing on the anubias and on the substrate. :(
     
    Byron: Ive noticed the plants in the tank with no fish in it currently are the only ones that are dying. So I guess the issue is lack of ammonia, but i can't be sure. I will be buying a small bottle of excel and adding it to see if that helps too. As for substrate, I'm using propagation sand with golden sahara sand as a top layer, so I would've though that top layer would help prevent excess nutrients from escaping the substrate. But if all else fails, i'll definitely be using play sand in the future :) Also yes i did mean the dry-start method, I just forgot what it was called XD As for filters, I think i could get away with not having one in both tanks, as long as I do larger water changes more frequently :) 
     
    Thank you so much for your input, both of you are so full of knowledge! :D I'll keep you updated if anything crazy happens! :p
     
  9. Byron

    Byron Member

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    Brush algae (which is what the dark green hairy algae likely is, can occur on Anubias and Java Fern (slow growing plants) in too much (intensity) light.  These plants are best in some shade, as provided by floating plants, and/or with less intense lighting.
     
    I have a QT tank for new fish that remains running permanently with some plants, and I have noticed that plant growth is very slow when there are no fish.  The reduction in ammonia/ammonium (the plants' preferred source of nitrogen) is likely the issue.  Adding Excel will not help this, but could make it worse.  There may also be a reduction in CO2 from no fish, but increasing carbon without nitrogen will not get you very far.
     
    Nutrients from soil or similar substrates will leech into the water column regardless, which is natural.  Water flows through the substrate.  The cool water from the tank enters the substrate where it is slowly warmed due to the organic breakdown (which produces some ammonia and CO2 along with heat) and then the warmer water rises back up.  So there is a natural flow of water through the substrate.  The nutrients will thus be carried up into the water column.
     
  10. Flinkbag

    Flinkbag Mostly New Member

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    Byron, you blow me away with your knowledge of aquatic ecosystems. I adore biology, so I always find what you have to say deeply fascinating. :)
     
    I will be getting some taller plants for the tank with said brush algae issue, so that should help to shade the poor anubias! As of today, i now have 1 devastatingly beautiful sapphire blue delta tail Betta and 3 neon tetras (will be getting 2 more soon, just wanted to take things slowly. After that, no more fish in this tank) in the struggling tank, so HOPEFULLY this will provide the plants with adequate nutrients. I won't be adding any CO2 for a couple of days, and hopefully i won't even need it anyway :) 
     
    Without starting a new post too, for my 230 litre (60 gallon) tank, do you think a south american cichlid set up is possible? Im contemplating purchasing a green severum and a Geophagus Orange head, but i know the severum can reach 20cm. Is this too big? The last thing I want is unhappy fish. As your quote emphasises, its not about survival, its about the quality of life and happiness of the fish. I already have a fire mouth cichlid, who isn't too bad for a fire mouth, but I just don't want any of them to be excessively aggressive with each other... 
     
    Thank you again for all your knowledge and guidance, you've been a huge help! :D
     
  11. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I have tried to fathom the basics for what we do, recognizing that this can sometimes leave out steps, but some aquarists are almost scared of the science, which is unfortunate as this hobby is strictly scientific and without some understanding of the fundamentals it is not going to be successful for very long.  Luck eventually runs out.
     
    Be careful combining a Betta with any fish, and neons being brightly coloured frequently set them off.  I had a Betta once who suddenly and easily ate a neon as I was sitting there, so it does occur.  Betta are not community fish.
     
    I generally donot recommend more than one species of cichlid in an aquarium, unless it is very  large.  The exception obviously is African rift lake cichlids.  But when it comes to Central and South American species, one has to be very careful.  Cichlids are territorial, very much so, and this tends to be the physical space around them, i.e. the tank.  The firemouth for example needs a 4-foot tank (120 cm) for a pair, and a much larger space for a small group (it is a social fish, though not strictly speaking shoaling) or if any other cichlid species is included.
     
    Byron.
     

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