Diatoms, Bacteria, Algae - OH MY!

kribensis12

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In my 10g breeding tank for Apistogramma cacatouides, there is a lot of algae... I'll own up to it - when I first installed their LED light it ran for 12-14 hours a day due to my work schedule and caused the algae bloom. The Bristlenose in the tank does not touch the algae, which surprises me because in my past experience I've found them to be very good at cleaning algae.

With that being said, I recently introduced some Mopani wood which obviously caused a bacteria laden film to appear around the wood.

Just prior to introducing the wood, I had begun to notice some of the plants beginning to have a "film" or "cloud" (for lack of a better word) beginning around them. The hornwort in the provided photos look to be covered in debris, as if I were overfeeding. I feed 2x a day and just a little bit of flake food - enough for the breeding pair, nothing addition. You can see the new growth on the hornwort as it's clean and bright green.

I stopped adding nutrients for the plants a month ago, the tank now has 8hrs of light (4 hours on, 4 hours off, 4 hours on) and I have been continuing to keep up on my water changes.

Readings are: Ammonia: 0, Nitrite: 0, Nitrate <0-5 depending on how close it is to W/C day. Currently, 0.

I have provided some pictures - any insight would be helpful! It's obviously not harming the fish, but the tank looks disgusting!
 

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Sunnyspots

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Could you have a problem with another parameter like phosphates?? I know silicates increase the risk of diatoms but have a feeling I read phosphates can influence things like algae too.
 

PheonixKingZ

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As said above, high phosphates and nitrates causes algae issues.

What are your phosphate and nitrate levels?
 
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kribensis12

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My nitrates are currently 0, I do not have the ability to test phosphates. I use straight R/O water with Seachem Regulators "Neutral Regulator" which is a phosphate base buffer.

With that being said, I utilize Neutral Regulator on two other tanks (10g, 15g) with the exact same light schedule (they all share the same timer) and those tanks do not have this issue.

Decor in all of the tanks is the same, water changes are the same - feeding schedules are the same.

So in summary, it seems to me that phosphates (which are low, as the only in the tank are from the regulator) and nitrates (also low)are not the issue.
 
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kribensis12

kribensis12

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Anyone else have an idea? The algae/bacteria have now formed a rather large "ball" at the surface - It looks like a big, brown and watery cotton ball. I've attached the picture.

I have been googling quite a bite and can't seem to identify it - looks to my like a cross between stag horn algae, cyanobacteria and hair algae all in one.

Here is a new picture (it's inverted):
 

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Byron

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A few observations. First the brown stuff is organics. I had this bad in my 90g tank, and never did track down why over three years. I tore the tank down due to my move two years ago, and after a few months it appeared in the new 33g in which I had used some of the chunks of wood from the former 90g. I went into this in detail with my friend Neale Monks, and in the end he advised that he has known this to occur with never tracking down the source, but it is organic matter. One of those biological mysteries. However, there are ways to try and control it. Massive regular (weekly) water changes, being sure to remove all of the crud in the substrate. Keep the filter spotless. Don't overfeed or overstock (latter not the case here clearly, but it is a factor), reduce plant additives to the absolute minimum (substrate tabs such as Flourish Tabs are good as they do not leech nutrients into the water column)--and do not use chemical adjusters. I think we may have gone into this elsewhere, it is only making it more difficult for the fish, and here it may have a direct bearing which brings me to the phosphorus.

Fish foods contain all the phosphorus--and more--that plants require unless you are running a high-tech tank with bright light and CO2. Nitrates and phosphates do cause algae, no argument, but they can be kept in check. Nitrate doesn't seem an issue here, but phosphates likely are. You are already adding more than enough with fish food, so the "regulator" is bonus.

The "siesta" approach to tank lighting is detrimental to fish because it disrupts their circadian rhythm. This idea is (or was any way) popular with high-tech planted tank aquarists, but they give no thought to the fish (which are often not even present). The "daylight" to the fish is the duration of the brightest tank lighting, and it must be a continuous period during each 24 hours, with a good block of total darkness. The dawn/dusk periods with ambient light from the room are usually fine. This siesta works for plants because the "siesta" period allows the CO2 to rebuild, and then photosynthesis can continue when the light returns. Plants do not photosynthesize when the "daylight" lighting is not sufficient for the species' needs, so in plant-only tanks this has no real harm, though not all botanists fully agree. But it is the fish I would be more concerned over. I have an article elsewhere on lighting, perhaps it is time I posted it on TFF as the subject does arise frequently and it is a significant issue for our fish.
 

Sunnyspots

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Anyone else have an idea? The algae/bacteria have now formed a rather large "ball" at the surface - It looks like a big, brown and watery cotton ball. I've attached the picture.

I have been googling quite a bite and can't seem to identify it - looks to my like a cross between stag horn algae, cyanobacteria and hair algae all in one.

Here is a new picture (it's inverted):
Ooooh! I think I have that stuff in my tank too. Is it slimy to touch and looks like clumps of white hair? Mine does, and it has come out of my spider wood. I just wash it off at a water change.
 
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kribensis12

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@Sunnyspots I have never touched it - but I would imagine it's pretty slimy.

I would imagine it's flourishing due to water conditions but I need to know what's causing it so that I can correct the issue.
 

Sgooosh

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Ooooh! I think I have that stuff in my tank too. Is it slimy to touch and looks like clumps of white hair? Mine does, and it has come out of my spider wood. I just wash it off at a water change.
no thats driftwood slime i think, that goes away
 

raylove

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I was getting a little slime algae and suspected excess phosphates. The tank is heavily planted and nitrates run at about 10ppm compared to 30ppm out of the tap.
I bought a phosphate test kit which confirmed that phosphate was the issue, but not for the reason I was expecting - phosphates were zero! The tank us, if anything, slightly overstocked and I only change 15% water per week, otherwise nitrate rises.
Anyway, I now add a home made phosphate fertilizer once or twice a week to raise levels to 1.5 - 2.0ppm and this is doing the trick. Plants, which were growing OK went ballistic and the algae has retreated. The plants have slowed a bit in the last week or two because nitrate has now fallen to 5ppm.
So, whilst excess nitrate and phosphate can cause problems, it is important to realise that these are nonetheless essential in a planted tank, so a lack of either can cause very similar issues to an excess. Lots of fast growing plants can produce great water conditions but can very quickly cause an imbalance as they soak up these nutrients.
 
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kribensis12

kribensis12

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I was getting a little slime algae and suspected excess phosphates. The tank is heavily planted and nitrates run at about 10ppm compared to 30ppm out of the tap.
I bought a phosphate test kit which confirmed that phosphate was the issue, but not for the reason I was expecting - phosphates were zero! The tank us, if anything, slightly overstocked and I only change 15% water per week, otherwise nitrate rises.
Anyway, I now add a home made phosphate fertilizer once or twice a week to raise levels to 1.5 - 2.0ppm and this is doing the trick. Plants, which were growing OK went ballistic and the algae has retreated. The plants have slowed a bit in the last week or two because nitrate has now fallen to 5ppm.
So, whilst excess nitrate and phosphate can cause problems, it is important to realise that these are nonetheless essential in a planted tank, so a lack of either can cause very similar issues to an excess. Lots of fast growing plants can produce great water conditions but can very quickly cause an imbalance as they soak up these nutrients.
I have contemplated reintroducing the fertilizer - but I am not sure what is growing in the tank and didn't want to accidentally feed it.

Thoughts on what it actually is?
 

raylove

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That's the conundrum isn't it. If you lack one thing that plants need, then relatively speaking you have a surplus of something else! Them growth slows and things might get worse or, if you are lucky, you might reach an equilibrium.
What you have us either an algae or a cynobacteria, and it's a sign that there is an imbalance of something. I can only say that apart from the obvious excesses that you might test for, don't forget that what we think of as 'nasties' are essential in small amounts and, counter-intuitively, the solution might be to add these. Try a phosphate test. In a planted tank aim for 1.5ppm or perhaps 2. Mine disappears really fast and I have to keep topping it up. Phosphate ferts are expensive, so once I had proved that was the issue I made my own (thanks YouTube!) for a fraction of the cost. General ferts either have phosphate and nitrate or neither. I don't want nitrate so I use a general fert with neither plus my home made phosphate one
 

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