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Journey With Algae

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(Dumb tablet!! I had to plug it in in the middle of my post and lost everything!! Ok...second try!)


This is basically of going to be a journal of how I battle green spot algae(the least worrisome), bba, a tiny bit of hair algae, and the most worrisome, cyanobacteria.

My tank stats: 20 gallon high. Temp is 77f. pH is 8.2. gh is 13. Kh is 11. Ammonia and nitrites are 0 and nitrates are normally around ten or so. I have a SunSun canister filter that I just drilled holes in the spray bar to lessen the flow and I just added the intake sponge as well(which unfortunately has to sit on the sand as no matter how I tried...the pieces would fit higher up.) I also have a fluval aquasky light. Current inhabitants are 3 glowlight tetras(will up their numbers when they move to a bigger tank I'm working on) and 7 black neon tetras.

Anyway, this battle started a few months ago I think? I believe the first thing I got was the bba in the back glass and on the anubias nangi that is directly under the light. It is also in the spray bar. I put in some water lettuce and water sprite. Things seemed ok though the water sprite didn't make it(arrived badly). So the guy sent me more water sprite and I also got some crypt retrospiralis. I also took some dwarf sag and crypt wendtii from another tank and added it in. When I did this, I used two flourish root tabs for the two groups of retrospiralis and I added aqueon liquid plant food.

After this is when I got hair algae galore. So I didnt use this fertilizer anymore and the hair algae started to go away, though now I still have a bit but it's not taking over anything.

So I came on here for advice when the bba also started to get a bit worse and I noticed some cyanobacteria starting. That's when I started to learn more about the light and nutrient balance. My light had been set for ten hours on. The white light was full intensity and I don't remember what the red, green, and blue lights were set to. But...my first experiment was to change the light settings. I now have it set for 8 hours on. The white light is 2 notches down from my highest intensity. The red and blue lights are fully in and the green is only a little bit on.

Well, the bba isn't spreading as much but is still there. I also how get green spot algae in the glass. And the cyanobacteria is trying to take over.

Now, another tidbit. I'm bad about water changes. So if I would have done more I think things might not have gotten to where it is now. Maybe. I am going to start doing water changes(and I may do a couple small ones a week to see if I can take care of this cyanobacteria).

I'm hoping that with regular water changes I can keep some of the algae and such at bay, and maybe my plants will start to grow again.(they've been suffering...except the crypt wendtii.) Oh, and I am on well water and I am not going to be using conditioner.

I also switched foods today. I was feeding seachem nutridiet tropical flakes which has too many fillers since I learned about foods. Maybe this could have been contributing to organics or waste. I just got omega one tropical flakes so we'll see how that goes. I also have two days a week I give hikari freeze dried daphnia, blood worms, tubifex worms, or spirulina brine shrimp.

I'm hoping to that I won't need any liquid ferts. I'm going to wait and see if the water changes might perk the plants up. If that doesn't work, then maybe I will try something else. I'm also going to get some Malaysian trumpet snails since I have a sand substrate. Whether they help with some if my possible extra organics or not(from plants dying) I do think they will be beneficial to this tank. Eventually I plan on adding nerites for more of a clean up crew.

Anyway, I have a before and after video along with a few pictures I want to share. If anybody has any ideas on how to battle this stuff(without chemicals preferably) then please let me know. I will try to keep this updated somewhat on what seems to be responding and what doesn't. Water changes right now are going to be my next step. I'm leaving the light as is as the moment.


Oh, and the video and pictures aren't even 24 hours apart yet...

https://youtu.be/uuq5j9SzN8c


https://youtu.be/elqSNjHNPNM


IMG_20160921_125652.jpg


IMG_20160922_080758.jpg


Just a close up I got of my glowlights...they wanted to say hi! Lol.

IMG_20160922_080823.jpg
 

StevenF

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aqueon liquid plant food.
I think that is your problem.  When I set up my aquarium I used RO water because I have a RO  system and my water is hard and I wanted soft water fish.  Eventually  then learned you need to fertilize RO water otherwise nutrient deficiency will cause the plants to dye.  The first fertilizer I used Aqueon.  At first my plants did great but slowly over time (months) growth slowed and eventually stopped.  My duck weed died.  Algae took over the tank.  
 
Nothing resolved it until I noticed the ingredients list didn't have copper, a trace nutrient.  It had everything else but copper.  I eventually switched to Seachem Flourish comprehensive which does and all required nutrients including copper.  My plants started to recover but it was slow.  Eventually I also found I had high phosphate levels (a side effect of slow plant growth).  High phosphate levels can also inhibit plant growth.  
 
So more water changed to start to get the phosphates down, Seachem fertilizer with a little extra nitrogen and the plants recovered nicely and the most of the algae slowly dissipated.  I never got rid of all of it but for while it was nothing to worry about.  However in my quest for continuous improvement I tried a different fertilizer and well I now have algae issues again which I am working on.  Although this time it is not copper related.  
 
Overall I believe Aqueon is a better algae fertilizer than it is a plant fertilizer.  If your well water is low on trace nutrients, especially copper.  a copper deficiency could slowly develop and an algae bloom will start.
 
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cowgirluntamed
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Thanks for the info Steven. I think right now just keeping up with (if not even a few extra) water changes to see if I can get rid of the cyanobacteria. Then if the plants haven't started growing a bit more by then with nice fresh well water, I was thinking of getting the seachem one. I just don't want to risk hair algae with the aqueon one again because that was a pain! Killed all my floating plants in another tank because of it.

If I do decide to go that route, how should I dose it? Should I start with the full amount like it says or should I try half or even less at first? I was thinking maybe half a dose once a week or even twice a week? I know I've read some people do better with smaller doses more frequently than one larger dose once a week. But I was just curious where to start.
 

StevenF

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If I do decide to go that route, how should I dose it? Should I start with the full amount like it says or should I try half or even less at first? 
I would do what the bottle recommends.  Using  less than the recommended would just delay any recovery.  
 

AbbeysDad

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Have you tested your well water for nitrates?  I ask this because I live in the country across the road from a 95 acre farmers field and I have very high (80~ppm) nitrates in my well water. This combined (or not) with your lack of water changes would suggest a high nitrate, phosphate and possible acidic water more prone to evil algae and cyanobacteria.
 
So obviously you need several water changes to remove and replace your heavy tank water. You might use H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide) to treat plants with algae where you can. Once the water is more in balance, you might reduce light to beat the algae.
A good way to do this is with floating plants. Not having them, I used a strip of fiberglass window screen placed between the light and the glass canopy to act as a shade cloth. It sounds like you can reduce your lights intensity or cut back on the photo-period some more.
 
I have had good success with the modest use of Seachem ferts. I used their root tabs for rooted plants (especially heavy feeders like amazon swords) and very slight amounts of Seachem Flourish Comprehensive and Flourish Trace. Once I got the plants growing well, I've stepped back the use of these ferts, feeling that the fish food, fish & plant waste along with the 'herd' of Malaysian Trumpet Snails can 'feed' the plants. In the Walstad method, Diana explains that in the low tech tank, the fish food / bio-load alone can support the plants. She also advocates good water circulation, but little filtration and no water changes. She feels that the plants filter the water and water changes merely remove nutrients that the plants could use. I believe her methods work as long as there is a very good balance of plant mass to bio-load - However, I think most of us might have more and/or bigger fish than strict adherence to this method would support.
(Translation: In many - perhaps most low tech tanks, filtration, partial water changes, and supplemental fertilization may be required...we need to 'listen' to the plants and be patient.) 
 
So do your water changes and fight the algae with better water and slightly less light. 
 
Good luck and keep posting!
  -Mike
 
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cowgirluntamed
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Thanks Mike! I tested my well water before but it's been awhile. I believe I only had 5ppm of nitrates. I can set some water out in the morning after work if i remember so I can test it the next day. I actually didn't test the tank this time, but that's normally what it is at(checked my log lol), even without water changes. Heck the last time I did it my water lettuce was doing well and I had zero nitrates even! But it's not doing quite so well now probably because of lack of water changes. So...that's at least one thing to fix first! I'll give it a couple weeks and see what happens. If not a tad longer. Then I will repost from there. (I will add the test results though and I will also test the tank again to get a reading on it after this last water change and cleaning.)
 
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Test results are in!

First up, tap water.
pH- 8.2
Ammonia- 0.25
Nitrite- 0
Nitrate- between 5 and 10
Kh- 15
Gh- 17

(Just a note, none of my tanks ever test that high on gh and kh. So I'm not sure what that means?)

Now for the 20 gallon
Ph- 8.2
Ammonia- 0- less than 0.25 (most of the time the test always shows a tiny bit of ammonia but fish seem fine. No gasping or anything to indicate anything is unhealthy)
Nitrite- 0
Nitrate- over 0 but under 5
Kh- 11-12(11 was green, 12 made it yellow)
Gh- 13


So, those are my results. Cyanobacteria is still coming in so I will probably do another water change even if it's just a small one to try to get it out again.

I did have a question...if I was to go ahead and at least get a floating plant of some sort...should I go ahead and get the flourish comprehensive to make sure it does well? Or should I just put it in to see how it does?
 

StevenF

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So, those are my results. Cyanobacteria is still coming in so I will probably do another water change even if it's just a small one to try to get it out again.

I did have a question...if I was to go ahead and at least get a floating plant of some sort...should I go ahead and get the flourish comprehensive to make sure it does well? Or should I just put it in to see how it does?  
Cyanobacteria may be feeding on organic materials in the water.  However plants will also do that if they are growing well.  However at this point they are not growing well.  So I would go ahead and get the Flourish.  Using Flourish should eliminate any possibility of a copper deficiency.  Although it will provably take several weeks for nutrient levels to stabilize after switching to Flourish.  I would start the Flourish with any new plants to give them the best chance of helping you.  Continue the water changes.
 
Note I would get the smallest bottle of Flourish you can get.  Once the bottle seal is broken it has a limited shelf life.  So open the bottle poor a months worth of flourish in a smaller bottle and freeze the rest.    The Flourish Comprehensive 100ml bottle size would probably work best for your aquarium size.
 
 
 
(Just a note, none of my tanks ever test that high on gh and kh. So I'm not sure what that means?)
GH is mainly a measure of magnesium and calcium levels in the take.  PH and KH will be affected by the amount of  potassium, magnesium, and calcium in the water.  All of these elements will be absorbed by plants. and algae as they grow.  So if your plants are doing well you could see the PH, GH, and KH levels drop in the tank.  In fact when I stopped Aqueon and switched to Seachem I did see some rapid changes in KH and smaller PH changes. when the plants started to recover.
 
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Thanks for the info Steven! Especially about the flourish. I will have to look around to see what size I can get. Petsmart doesn't have much variety sometimes. Lol. Otherwise I can order it online before I get new plants. Or at least a floating plant. (Looking at water wisteria or Brazilian pennywort...though I would love to try the Amazon frogbit again with better lighting and care....lol.)

I still want to get Malaysian trumpet snails to maybe help with the organics(dead/dying leaves or even flakes if I'm overfeeding. The omega one food doesn't seem to sink fast though so that may be a good thing.) I am also planning on putting maybe 4-6 nerite snails to help with the green spot or anything else they eat. They do great in my ten gallon that I believe would have green spot(regular marineland LED lights on for 12 hours) if not for them.


As for the gh and kh, i have a quarantine tank set up for my baby pleco and it just has fake plants. I do have one small piece of mopani wood in there for it though. But it doesn't test as high as my tap water either. Is this because of the wood? Just curious. Lol. I'm beginning to enjoy a bit more of learning the science side of things as well.
 

StevenF

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As for the gh and kh, i have a quarantine tank set up for my baby pleco and it just has fake plants. I do have one small piece of mopani wood in there for it though. But it doesn't test as high as my tap water either. Is this because of the wood? Just curious. Lol.
The only way to reduce GH and KH is to reduce the mineral level in the tank. Drift wood cannot do that. It can release acids which can reduce PH over the short term. However that effect fades with time.
 
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Hmm...strange then. To test the gh and kh, is it better to let the tap water sit out the 24 hours or can you test it right out of the tap? For the last test I let it sit. I'll have to test the baby pleco tank again too.
 

StevenF

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Hmm...strange then. To test the gh and kh, is it better to let the tap water sit out the 24 hours or can you test it right out of the tap?
The reason water is sit a couple of days before adding it to the tank it to let gases (chlorine, CO2) to outgas and leave the water . The two gases I mentioned will affect the PH of the water. typically they reduce the PH. When the gases are gone PH will typically increase. Sometimes a lot or sometimes a little bit.

If there is a small PH change GH and KH shouldn't be significantly affected. If there is a large PH change GH and KH can change.

In this thread the tap water (treated acidic well water) with a ph of less than 6 and a kh of 0 moderately soft was passed through crushed coral in a treatment device and then came out of the tap a PH of 7.5, KH 80, and gh 300. After outgassing it was at PH7.5, KH 80,and GH 200.

So the numbers can change a lot with big water PH changes while in my experience with neutral PH water is that the numbers generally don't change much.

However when it comes to outgassing water what is really important is what your are trying to achieve. If you typically add water to an aquarium without outgassing it first test the water without outgassing it. If you typically outgas water before adding it in the aquarium test the water after it has outgassed. If you are injecting CO2 into the aquarium you probably don't want to outgas the the aquarium water before testing it.
 
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The ph of the tap vs any tank is the same at 8.2. so no big swings with ph. I will test again without outgassing as that's the way I add it to the tank. Then I will test tanks again.

Though, I was thinking...even in a tank with no live plants, could the gh and kh go down a bit from the fish and the bacteria that are in the tank? If they are using some of the nutrients?
 

Mrscmurray

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The ph of the tap vs any tank is the same at 8.2. so no big swings with ph. I will test again without outgassing as that's the way I add it to the tank. Then I will test tanks again.

Though, I was thinking...even in a tank with no live plants, could the gh and kh go down a bit from the fish and the bacteria that are in the tank? If they are using some of the nutrients?
This is a good question because my water softens once it's in the tanks and one of them isn't planted so I've been wondering this too.
 
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