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Blue-Green Algae

Discussion in 'Algae Removal' started by SiMorris, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    Hello all, sorry for jumping in with a problem looking for answers. Never been much of a forum guy so not sure about the normal forum etiquette so please bear with me. I'm getting a bit desperate now and trying to ask around different forums for help.

    I have a 145L tank freshwater tropical tank that has been going for a couple of years now, hosting a variety of plants and fish (half a dozen small tetra, a couple of guppies, a loaches, platies and a dwarf gourami) with a few drift wood and rocks as decors. T5 light comes on during the evening, enough to keep the plants going but algae had never been much of a problem. The odd bouts of algae from time to time but never enough to concern me, and all was running well until I failed to quarantine a new plant that I bought. It started off with a light dusting of green algae on front glass panel of the tank.

    Almost overnight (well, not literally but you know what I mean) a sheets of green stuff was covering the hardscape, broad leaf plants, sand, wood, stones, everything.

    I thought it was just an algae outbreak which I could deal with. I checked the levels, ammonia and nitrites were zero, phosphate and nitrates were low on API scale.

    I did more water change than usual (every week instead of two weekly) and manually removed the algae as much as I could but the dreaded thing just kept coming back faster than I could remove them.

    I then bought a team of shrimps and snails hoping they'd eat it but they wouldn't even go near it. Some of the fish (guppies) did have a nibble every so often but nowhere near enough to keep it under control. It might have been just my imagination but the fish were getting lazy and less active. They're not gasping for air, but some of them were just hovering round the top a lot more.

    Slowly the more delicate plants started to die off. Lost a few fish in quick succession and I began to panic. Used a number of algae removers but none did anything other than burning a hole in my pocket.

    After lots of searching on the net and looking at pictures I then realised that it's blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) that I have in the tank. So immediately I used an extra pump to increase the flow, cut down feed for the fish, turn the lights off (T5) and even used RO water for water change to get the phosphate down. True enough it slowed it right down. The trouble is as soon as I have any lights on, the dreaded thing comes back with a vengeance.

    I tried the Ultra Life Blue Green Algae remover which seemed to have worked initially (never completely gone) but just as I thought it was safe to restock it returned a few weeks after. I'm now at a loss as to what to do. I've seen someone mentioning using hydrogen peroxide but from the sound of it, it's a bit tricky to get right.

    I also read somewhere that Erythromycin can work (is that the same as what you get from your doctor when you have a chest infection??), although the risk of wiping out all the good bacteria is a bit worrying. Does anyone even know where I can get the treatment (specifically for freshwater aquarium) from? Don't seem to find it anywhere, not on the net, not in LFS, not even eBay.

    I'm now afraid to restock any plants or fish until it is under control, and I don't want to keep the tank permanently in the dark.

    Can anyone here help?
     
  2. Byron

    Byron Member

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    Welcome to TFF. :hi:

    The first thing to pin down is exactly what this is. "Blue green algae" is usually a term many use referring to cyanobacteria, which is as the name indicates a bacteria not an algae, and it occurs as a slimy dark green film over anything. It easily comes off with your fingertips and breaks up. Any chance of a photo of some of this?

    While waiting for that info...for the future, never use any form of chemical algaecide in a tank with fish. These substances, like everything you add to the water, gets inside the fish, and while they may not die they are being detrimentally affected and this stresses them and weakens them if nothing else. The only way to deal with problem algae or cyano is to eliminate the cause, and that we will work towards.
     
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  3. Lunar Jetman

    Lunar Jetman Chatroom Moderator
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    I’ve had Cyanobacteria before. I managed to get rid of it without a blackout and no chemicals as such, but it took a little time.

    Firstly I got a wave maker from eBay. The was used to help get more water flow around the tank, in particular over the area with the BGA. Now I’m not saying you need to necessarily do that but you do need to make sure you have an efficient current flow over the area with the BGA.

    Then, I was already dosing my tank with ferts via EI so I doubled the dose. This helped push up nitrate levels which is something BGA doesn’t like.

    Also regular water changes helped too.

    BGA appears due to low nitrates and thrives in anaerobic conditions so overdosing with ferts brings the nitrates up and getting the water to flow around your tank, especially over the BGA area, will also help.

    As a last resort you could try a blackout. Lights turned off and the tank wrapped in dustbin bags or similar so it is completely dark in there for 48-72 hours. The fish and plants won’t mind. I’m not convinced this would resolve it for you long term though as you’ve seen it return so you need to resolve the underlying issues causing it in the first place.

    Good luck!
     
  4. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    Thanks for the help and advice.
    From appearance alone I'm pretty sure it's cyanobacteria after seeing a number of pictures of it on the net. Certainly green and certainly slimy! I guess the only way to be sure is to see it under microscpe??

    I tried all I could think of so far, blackout, reduce feed, water change, high flow, and I've been battling with it for months now and the situation seems to run away from me. I'm just at a loss what to try next. So far the only thing that had any effect was total blackout for a few days, but then as soon as I start to re-introduce light again it comes back.

    Just had a quick look on eBay and searched for blue green algae remover, hoping to find the erythromycin there, no luck. But I noticed another remover other than UltraLife one. It's called PureBlue. Not seen it before but from description it looks promising though, has anyone tried or know about it? It says no copper, no erythromycin, no algaecide and it's fish and plant safe, but then they can say anything. I don't fancy wiping out the tank trying it.
     

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  5. Byron

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    OK, although the photo is the size of a postage stamp, and my old eyes have trouble as it is :blink:, it does look like cyanobacteria.

    Cyano is caused by organics in the presence of light, nothing else. I had this in one tank several years ago, twice. Reducing organics is key (my nitrate level which can indicate organics tested at 0-5 ppm which all my tanks have done for more than a decade, so that is not always an indicator). Your regular water changes should be weekly minimum, and substantial (60-70% of the tank volume) normally, so if not increase the volume/frequency. Siphon out as much as you can at each. Clean the filter every week, all that brown gunk is organic matter. Don't over stock, don't overfeed. Discontinue plant additives if using any.

    Blackouts are pointless (they do work temporarily because deprived of light the cyanobacteria cannot photosynthesize) because unless the source (the organics) are also dealt with, cyano will only come back.

    It is true that antibiotics can deal with cyano, but this too is often temporary if the cause is not dealt with. And using antibiotics in an aquarium is like taking them yourself for no particular reason--bad idea.

    Do not use any chemical with fish in the tank. None of these are safe for fish, regardless of what manufacturers may say. What goes in the water goes into the bloodstream of the fish, and anyone who thinks this is not detrimental in some way does not understand biology. And again without dealing with the cause it will only return.

    It took me a few weeks of targeted removal during the weekly water change as described above, before it was gone. It came back several weeks later, but same treatment and it again disappeared, never to return. I've no idea why, in that tank only, out of 8 similar tanks in my fish room. But these things happen. Key is reducing organics. You could reduce the light period by an hour or two, to further discourage it, and it might help a bit.
     
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  6. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    Do not use Erythromycin for anything. It does not treat Cyanobacteria in aquariums.

    Erythromycin is an anti-biotic that should only be used if you have a known bacterial infection that responds to that particular drug. Improper use or mis-use of anti-biotics causes drug resistant bacteria that can kill people, animals, birds, reptiles and fish.

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    I need a bigger picture, because like Byron, I can't see squat on a postage stamp these days :)

    Cyanobacter bacteria (blue green algae) is a photosynthetic bacteria. This simply means it is a bacteria that can photosynthesise (use light to grow) like plants do. It doesn't need light but can use light when it's available. It regularly grows in areas with lots of nutrients, low oxygen levels and low water movement. Old lights will also encourage it.

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    Cyanobacteria regularly grows in tanks that are fed a lot of dry foods. If you feed dry food only, reduce that and add frozen (but defrosted) and live foods to the tank. These are more likely to be eaten straight away and less likely to settle on the bottom and feed the blue green algae.

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    Tanks with a low oxygen level are more prone to blue green algae problems. The bottom of the tank usually has less water movement than the upper water column. As mentioned by the others, adding airstones or a powerhead to increase water movement around the tank can help.

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    You don't mention gravel cleaning the substrate in your tank but lots of rotting matter in the gravel can encourage this. You should gravel clean the substrate every time you do a water change. You don't have to gravel clean where normal aquatic plants are growing, but any open areas should be gravel cleaned regularly.

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    Clean your filter at least once a month and every 2 weeks is better. Wash filter media/ materials in a bucket of tank water and re-use them. The filter case, hoses and impellor assembly can be washed under tap water.

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    If your light globes are old, they will probably have more red light and less blue light. This can encourage Cyanobacteria to grow in tanks. Fluorescent globes lose their various wavelengths (blue & red light) over time and their intensity also decreases over time. T5 fluorescent globes do this faster because they are hotter. High temperatures destroy the minerals inside the globes faster than cool temperatures.

    You want globes with a Kelvin rating of 6500K so they produce some blue light. If your globes have a lower Kelvin rating (4500K or similar), they won't have as much blue light. And if they are 2 years old the intensity and wavelengths being produced by the globes will probably be lower (maybe around 2000-3000K now). This will mean there is mainly red and yellow light feeding the plants and no blue light. A quick way to check this is to have the tank light on and stand at the end of the tank and look through it. See if the water looks crystal clear or has a yellow tinge to it. Lights with lots of blue wavelengths will produce a clear white light and the water will look clear. Lights with lots of red or yellow light (and not much blue) will have a pale yellow light and the water will look pale yellow. However, if you have driftwood in the tank, the tannins can also make the water look yellow.
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    You don't need reverse osmosis water to treat this problem unless you have lots of nutrients in your tap water.

    You want to try and physically remove as much of the blue green algae (BGA) as you can.

    Do a 75% water change every day for a couple of weeks. Gravel clean as much of the substrate as possible, every time you do the water change. Suck out as much BGA as possible.
    Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

    Wipe the glass down with a clean fish sponge each day to remove any of the blue green algae.

    Remove ornaments and wash them down each day or wash them and leave them out for a few weeks until this is resolved. Plastic ornaments can be bleached to kill off any bacteria on them. Then rinsed and left to dry.

    Clean the filter.

    Reduce the food going into the tank, especially dry food.

    Increase water movement and oxygen levels.

    Replace light globes if necessary.

    If you work at it, the problem usually goes away within a few weeks but can take longer.
     
  7. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    Thanks for the info, very informative and helpful. They're mostly consistant with what I've read all over the net, and I've been ticking them off one by one. The only thing that is sometimes contradicting is the nitrates. Some say low nitrates wil encourage the cyano growth, others say nutrients (which I assumed includes nitrates amongst others) will encourage the cyano to grow and therefore need more water change. So I'm a bit confused unless I mised something and got the wrong idea somewhere?

    The thing that foxed me most is that my system worked really well and was well established for a couple of years, lots of plants, a low fish stock for the tank size and 2 weekly water change. The only thing I could think of that changed was a plant I bought just before and didn't think of quarantine it before hand. Less than a week later the problem started.

    I have an external filter with 1000L/H pump, and in the filter there are 3 trays, one for foam mesh, one for carbon and one for Rawphos. Water goes through a U/V steriliser (that I added after the problem started, didn't help but I kept it going anyway). I've also since added a couple of powerheads to prevent any stagnant area.

    Light wise just a couple of T5 that came with the aquarium, tubes have just been changed a few months back so not really old.

    Fish wise I have half a dozen small tetra, a couple of guppies, a loaches, a platies and a dwarf gourami, now I've lost the guppies and the loaches since the problem started and have not restocked. So I don't think that's over stocked???

    Due to the number of fish I have in it now, I don't need to put much food in at all, and the fish are so well trained they know when and where the food will be so hardly any will get to the bottom of the tank. Whatever crumps is left the shimps and snails seem to be clearing it off ok.


    So a relatively low maintenance tank really, and hadn't needed to do much other than water and filter change and the odd bit of cleaning every so often.

    Normally use tap water, treated obviously, for water change. Tried using RO water I bought from LFS for water change but gave up after a month, not making and difference and cost a fortune. It was mainly to see if the tap water had too much phosphate in it, even though whenever I tested it, it's always on the min API scale.

    Now this green muck started destroying everything. A lot of the more delicate plants are dead, lost a few fish, and the tank looks more like a sewage treatment plant.

    For the past couple of months I'm keeping a lid on it by weekly (sometimes more frequent when it grew back sooner) 2 hrs cleanig routine bacause it grows back so quickly I'm having to clean the tank weekly. Syphoning the substrates, peeling off what I can, wash removable ornaments, then when the water is cleared by the filter, a full filter wash and 25% new water. Followed by episodes of depression after watching more plants disappearing +/- fish dying. I hardly have the ligfhts on more than a few hrs a day now because it's just not pleasant to look at.

    Is there something I'm missing? I've gone off the idea of erythromycin, from the sound of everyone's advice it's a bit risky especially when I don't know how to and how much to put in. Already tried the UltraLife BlueGreen algae remover with no success, I might just give this PureBlue I saw on eBay a try, unless you think there's something else I could be doing first?

    PS sorry about the picture quality, not really a tech savy person, still using a button phone. Bit unusual for my youthful age I know.
     
  8. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    Nutrients can include nitrates, phosphates and anything else in the water that shouldn't be there.

    What is the Kelvin (K) rating on the new T5 globes?

    How often and how do you clean the filter?
    Did you change the filter or filter media?
     
  9. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    7500k I think, it was labelled as for tropical aquarium.
    At the moment weekly clean with 25% of tank water I take out, I give the tank a good syphon and manual removal of as much algae as I can, clean whatever decor that I can take out with the tank water, then wait for the filter to clear the water followed by cleaning the foam mesh as well as all the bits and pieces in the external filter, media change (carbon and Rawphos) every 4-6 weeks.
     
  10. Byron

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    T5 lighting is very bright, so that may be a factor. The tank in which I battled this had brighter light only because it was shallower, but light is a factor. It is the organics though, and you simply need to reduce them. Do not resort to any chemical additive. Filter media is a different thing.
     
  11. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    The lighting definately makes it return after blackout. Currently I'm only having the light on a few hours a day, may be take out one of the tubes would help? (the lighting unit has 2 at the moment.)
    How do I reduce the organics further? Already have very few fish so not feeding much, not adding any fertlisers to the plants, water change doubled, what else can I do to reduce the nutrients?

    Chemical warfare is calling, much as I hate to go down that route, the force is strong.. . . Had a suggestion to put fish in holding tank, then use chemical to treat the aquarium. I think that's a good comnpromise and kinder to the fish (or what few of them I have left . . . )
     
  12. Byron

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    Two T5 is way too much light unless you have either a marine coral tank or a high-tech planted tank. If you can remove one tube, great; most fixtures won't allow this, but give it a try. Other options are floating plants...they have the advantage of using more nutrients i.e., organics too because they are fast growing.

    Organics. Keep the filter well cleaned, every week. Clean into the substrate at water changes. Floating plants, cover the surface.

    Having said that, I was doing all that when the cyano appeared. It just happens. Why does one type of algae become a nuisance in one tank when the other tanks with near-identical biological systems never get it? Rhonda Wilson asked that question in one of her monthly TFH columns, and the answer she gave was, it is nature and every tank is different even though we may see them as identical.
     
  13. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    Nature is being very cruel to me . . . .
     
  14. SiMorris

    SiMorris New Member

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    Anyhow, I've just ordered the PureBlue Blue-green algae remover on eBay. I'll try to keep fish in holding tank during treatment just in case, although it says it's fish, plant and invert safe, you'd never know. The difficulty is catching the little buggars!

    If this fails I might just have to resort to blitz the tank and start all over, which will be a shame, a real shame. . .
     
  15. Byron

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    I really don't understand the need for such drastic action. The fish are not that badly off now, so why stress them by catching/moving them unnecessarily? This is the highest form of stress fish experience, being netted, because it is the same thing as escaping a predator for your life.

    Reducing light some, and keeping up with a good regime of water changes and not overfeeding will deal with this, just give it time. And it is not really hurting the fish as I say.
     

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