What is causing this algae?

Beck106

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Can anyone help with this? I've got a well established tank but a black algae seems to be taking over the lava rock. There's small spots of it here and there but the rock and surrounding gravel seems to be affected the worst. Any hints on what it is and how to get rid of it greatly appreciated. We've used an algae treatment but it's had no effect. Any fish suitable for a community tank that might help? We've got ottos already but they aren't doing anything! Fish wise we've got platys, guppies, tetras, assassin snails, shrimp and Cory's. Thank you ?
 

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OnlyGenusCaps

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I'm sorry to say you have been infected with what is often known as black beard algae. This is a contaminant from bad suppliers. If you can figure out where this came in from, don't buy from there again.

In the meantime, there are ways to control it somewhat. There will likely be many great suggestions to follow my comment here. I've used H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) treatment will a decent amount of success. But long-term I find this easier to try to prevent as complete irradiation has been challenging in my experience. Once it is in there it's absolutely annoying. If you have more than one tank, be careful not to transfer it over.
 

Colin_T

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You lot get some really nice looking algae growing in your tanks. If you don't like it, take the ornament out and soak it in bleach for an hour, then rinse it off well and let it dry in the sun for a day or two until it no longer smells. Then rinse it again and pop it in the tank.
 

StevenF

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I'm sorry to say you have been infected with what is often known as black beard algae. This is a contaminant from bad suppliers. If you can figure out where this came in from, don't buy from there again.
Algae is pressent in airborn dust. if it settles into your tank and it like the water chemistry it will grow. You don't have to buy anything to get it. And yes it is black beard algae.
 
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Beck106

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I'm sorry to say you have been infected with what is often known as black beard algae. This is a contaminant from bad suppliers. If you can figure out where this came in from, don't buy from there again.

In the meantime, there are ways to control it somewhat. There will likely be many great suggestions to follow my comment here. I've used H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) treatment will a decent amount of success. But long-term I find this easier to try to prevent as complete irradiation has been challenging in my experience. Once it is in there it's absolutely annoying. If you have more than one tank, be careful not to transfer it over.
Thanks for the advice, we only have the one 90l tank so no cross over. Have you had any success with getting rid of it rather than preventative. I know you said it's a pain, but have you had any success?
 
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Beck106

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You lot get some really nice looking algae growing in your tanks. If you don't like it, take the ornament out and soak it in bleach for an hour, then rinse it off well and let it dry in the sun for a day or two until it no longer smells. Then rinse it again and pop it in the I didn't mind it too much in the beginning, but it's now causing issues with our plants and
 
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Beck106

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Thanks for your help. I didn't mind it too much in the beginning, but it's beginning to take over and spread to some plants which my husband isn't happy about! I'm surprised bleach would be ok to use, do you mean just every day household bleach?
 
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Beck106

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Algae is pressent in airborn dust. if it settles into your tank and it like the water chemistry it will grow. You don't have to buy anything to get it. And yes it is black beard algae.
That's reassuring thanks. I only use a very reputable aquatic family run warehouse that has been going for over 30 years so would have been surprised if they supplied something like that. Obviously unintentionally these things happen but I'm not concerned with our supplier.
 

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Algae is pressent in airborn dust. if it settles into your tank and it like the water chemistry it will grow. You don't have to buy anything to get it. And yes it is black beard algae.
While that is true of many of the more common green algae species, I do not believe it is the case to nearly the same extent for some of the freshwater red alga species (like black beard and staghorn). These are most likely introduced to the majority of aquaria where they are found through contaminated water or ornaments (including live plants). Not all algae species can easily colonize distant water sources. Those that can will be available to colonize all aquariums, but within the diversity of algae others have other dispersal strategies.
That's reassuring thanks. I only use a very reputable aquatic family run warehouse that has been going for over 30 years so would have been surprised if they supplied something like that. Obviously unintentionally these things happen but I'm not concerned with our supplier.
They may well be reputable but these things get passed along supply chains. As long as we pretend that any algae can show up in any tank, we do not demand that the suppliers be better. We deal with algae so much in this hobby, we need to get a better handle on its biology.

In terms of control, there are good methods using hydrogen peroxide out there (these algae species are susceptible to that while many others are not). And some people have had success with Seachem Flourish Excel (I believe). However, it's a bit of a nasty chemical in my mind, so I've avoided using it personally. Perhaps somneone with experience with it can weigh in so you can consider it as an option with more confidence.

Good luck!
 

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I won't comment on the source, but just the cure. This is the only "problem" algae I have had to deal with in several decades of planted fish tanks. Controlling it is the safest course, not trying to eradicate it (whether or not that is even possible, doesn't matter).

Brush algae needs light and nutrients. In tanks with live plants, the goal is to find the balance of light (intensity and spectrum and duration all factor in) and available nutrients so the plants benefit but not the algae. Too much light (intensity, wrong spectrum, on for too long or not long enough sometimes) has been the most common cause in my experience, but I have a few times found it suddenly increase if I increase the plant fertilizer, obviously beyond what the plants can use first. I have had it begin to increase when the tank lighting has weakened and needs replacing. I used to have it increase every summer due to the increased daylight (intensity and duration) entering through the windows; having a dedicated fish room, heavy drapes blocking most of the light ended the summer increase of brush algae.

Any substance to kill it is a serious risk to the plants, fish and bacteria in the aquarium. Excel is the absolute worst chemical toxin one can put in a fish tank. Glutaraldehyde is a highly toxic disinfectant used in embalming fluid, antifreeze, to kill bacteria--this does not belong in an aquarium. The fact that Excel kills this algae should sound warning bells not to use it.

In the absence of live plants to worry about, this algae is quite lovely as a cover on solid surfaces, and it does perform the same useful purpose as higher plants--using nutrients and releasing oxygen. But on plant leaves it can rapidly suffocate and kill.
 

Colin_T

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Thanks for your help. I didn't mind it too much in the beginning, but it's beginning to take over and spread to some plants which my husband isn't happy about! I'm surprised bleach would be ok to use, do you mean just every day household bleach?
Bleach is fine to use on plastic items. It washes off pretty easily and can be neutralised with water conditioner if you are concerned.

I just use normal household bleach and put it in a bucket with the item. Use straight bleach and slosh it around. Let it soak for a bit and slosh it a bit more. Then take it out and rinse it off. You can either let it sit in the sun for a bit to get rid of the bleach or put it in a container of tap water and add a double dose of dechlorinator. Leave it for 30 minutes and see if it still smells. If it does, rinse again and put in a new container of water and dechlorinator.

------------------
Black beard algae gets into tanks from contaminated water or plants. The spores from it don't float around like most algae and once it's in a tank, it's usually there forever, or until you scrap the tank and start again. Some people use shrimp to help keep it under control, it might or might not help.
 

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Originally I wanted to put more in my earlier brief comment. but was very busy and couldn't do it.

My experience with Black Beard Algae was that it was caused by organic buildup in my substrate. At the time the tank had a thick carpet of plants that covered about 75% of the substrate. This made it very hard to do a though vacuum of the substrate. And a google search brought up comments that organic buildup could cause it. I also wanted to replace the substrate with black diamond blasting sand.

So I removed everything from the tanksubstrate and plants and then siphoned out the mud and did water changes. That took a couple of days to get clear water and then the plants went back in while i waited for the substrate (I made a mistake when I placed the order). Note I didn't clean the hardgreen spot algae off the walls of the tank or the BBA on the plants and filter. I also didn't use black or anything to kill the algae.

By the time the substrate arrived most of the BBA was dead and the are green spot algae wasn't growing. The new substrate went in and then the plants floating in the water were planted. and my nerve snail went back in. The BBA was definitely dead and a manuallyscrubbeed the walls of the tank and filter to removed what was left. The tank went about a years before some BBA showed but it was not out of control and some hair algae. but the green spot algae never returned.

I would advise you to do a deep substrate cleaning. during you next water change stick the siphon deep into the gravel substrate to remove as much of the dirt and organic. Do this in as many places as possible to get the substrate as clean as possible . Hopefully that would help you get it under control. But note you have to keep cleaning it otherwise it could come back.
 

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I don't have BBA at all.

That sounds pretty arrogant, but it's the truth.

The reason I don't have it is because I've addressed the source of the cause of it: excessive micro nutrients.

It's got nothing to do with organics and everything to do with your water parameters. Hence for a quick summary of WHAT and HOW MUCH elements are in your water just do an ICP test.

They cost money but then you KNOW what's going on, instead of guessing or having endless discussions about this and that but not pinning down any values or specifics.

They may well be reputable but these things get passed along supply chains. As long as we pretend that any algae can show up in any tank, we do not demand that the suppliers be better. We deal with algae so much in this hobby, we need to get a better handle on its biology.

That's why I decided to use only invitro plants, no pests or any other nasties that might come with it. Also no snails too.

In terms of control, there are good methods using hydrogen peroxide out there (these algae species are susceptible to that while many others are not). And some people have had success with Seachem Flourish Excel (I believe). However, it's a bit of a nasty chemical in my mind, so I've avoided using it personally. Perhaps somneone with experience with it can weigh in so you can consider it as an option with more confidence.

I agree with the other posters. Don't use Excel, it's horrible stuff. Hydrogen peroxide should be OK since it's not really toxic.

Brush algae needs light and nutrients. In tanks with live plants, the goal is to find the balance of light (intensity and spectrum and duration all factor in) and available nutrients so the plants benefit but not the algae. Too much light (intensity, wrong spectrum, on for too long or not long enough sometimes) has been the most common cause in my experience, but I have a few times found it suddenly increase if I increase the plant fertilizer, obviously beyond what the plants can use first. I have had it begin to increase when the tank lighting has weakened and needs replacing. I used to have it increase every summer due to the increased daylight (intensity and duration) entering through the windows; having a dedicated fish room, heavy drapes blocking most of the light ended the summer increase of brush algae.

You've verified my suspicions. But it depends on what fertiliser, macro fertilisers no, micro fertilisers yes, but with All-in-One fertilisers increasing the dosage increases the micros too.

Again your reply is vague, but I don't blame you. It's very hard to discuss the quantities involved sometimes and what's causing the mischief.

I agree that too much light can cause algae - if your dosing is wrong for that level of light. Light probably acts as a magnifying glass on your dosing errors. More light and the bigger your errors will show up. You can get away with some careless dosing on low light. I run about 12 hours daily on high intensity and in the process of trouble shooting the remaining algae issues at the moment. BBA and BGA algae are not on that list since I don't give them a chance to even grow.

My experience with Black Beard Algae was that it was caused by organic buildup in my substrate. At the time the tank had a thick carpet of plants that covered about 75% of the substrate. This made it very hard to do a though vacuum of the substrate. And a google search brought up comments that organic buildup could cause it. I also wanted to replace the substrate with black diamond blasting sand.

Not true.

My tank is heavily stocked and the fish produce a horrendous amount of waste. Even though I'm running 3 times tank volume turn over a significant amount of fish waste and organics collect on the mosses and the large Blyxa Japonica bushes I have. It's so bad I have to get a net there from time to time to stir it up and collect it.

I would suspect that your substrate had a CEC capacity. It's absorbing a lot of the nutrient dosing you put in and then leaches it out. If you dose excess like the EI (Estimative Index) method then you'll literally be poisoning your tank - this is why those who run it have to change their water EVERY week.

The most damaging and idiotic concepts promoted in this hobby was the idea that excess nutrients don't cause algae. They damn well do. The idiots who are promoting it also promote:

1) 30 mg/l of CO2 as a level to aim for (green on drop checker).
If your nutrient dosing is optimal you only need 9 mg/l. Most fish DO NOT like 30 mg/l of CO2, they gasp and breathe more rapidly. I'm sure I'm not the only one noticing that in the videos of these so called planted tank experts. It's really laughable that so many people have not called them out on this.

2) no need for water testing, because excess nutrients won't cause problems so testing becomes pointless, just make sure you always have excess.
This is the most retarded advice ever offered and you can thank those "planted tank gurus" (or morons as I like to call them) for causing all this grief we see here. By not testing you don't get a handle on the problem, you might as well be shooting in the dark, or flitter from one "expert's" advice to another "expert".

3) obsession with excess flow or low CO2.
This has always been the standard stupid response. They tell you that BBA is caused by low CO2 or lack of flow - never for a minute troubling to look at the other areas like water parameters, since their belief is that excess does not cause issues we don't need to worry about it.

So here we are, discussing BBA which, for those in the know, don't have. You have to thank the youtube influencers and other idiots for promoting nonsense in the hobby and it will take some time to correct this. Meanwhile the myths will abound and we'll see more and more discussions in the algae forums.
 
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Byron

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There is a lot of good info in the above post (#13). Having read it a couple times, I think we are pretty much saying the same things. BTW, I have not had BBA for a few years now, it was the problem algae I dealt with but since I worked out that balance of light/nutrients, no more. And I left it growing on some of the wood for its attractiveness, but it has never spread further.

Thank you for posting.
 

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What a lot of people don't get is that nutrient toxicity works by the mechanism of relative concentrations. This is the source of the problem, and is the reason that the conclusion of this post is the way it is.

This is a very important point that I was only aware of last year, and it was by accident since I was reading a blog about algae that was trying to shine light on what I was experiencing.

The fact of the matter is that water chemistry is an extremely complex subject, but the idiotic advice promoted by so many planted tank experts is absolutely baffling to say the least.

Here is the root of the problem, and if I were to point a finger at who caused most of it, it would be Tom Barr and his retarded followers (George Farmer and most of the idiots at the UK aquatic plant society).

1) Emphasis on CO2 being "stable" at 30 mg/l. There is no such thing as "stable" CO2. Never has been. It's dynamic in an aquarium due to all the biological processes, consumption and production from various organisms etc. . . why anyone wants it "stable" is quite beyond me. Keeping it at 30 mg/l (and God knows where they got this figure from) is also retarded because there are HIGH light tanks WITHOUT CO2 and they do just fine. If anything CO2 is a secondary nutrient, not as essential in algae control at all, but they all seem to want to point the finger at "lack of CO2".

2) Emphasis on high flow. Because they argue that CO2 is much, much harder to dissolve in water than, say oxygen, is so having excessive flow to spread it all around will promote better plant growth. So now you have all these beginners jumping on the bandwagon buying oversized filters for their small tanks and blasting the hell out of the fish - who don't like it BTW! All this achieves is to annoy a lot of fish, give plants unnatural conditions due to excessive flow, and not really fix any issue at all. I do agree that SOME flow is required, but not in the order of 10 times tank turn over. If you look at ADA tanks they have 6 times turn over at the most, some even 3 (like what I use). They don't follow this silly practice. And also adding flow pumps inside planted tank spoils the aesthetic.

3) Pointing the finger on "poor maintenance and not enough water changes". Always one of the standard responses: it's your fault, you've not done your water changes or cleaned out your filters enough, and hence it's causing this algae issue! There's even one aquascaper doing TWO water changes a week to try and combat BBA, and he still couldn't solve it. I sort of laugh, and I know that sounds cruel, since my water change regime is about once every 6 - 8 weeks! By deflecting to this excuse they can avert your suspicions that they are just as clueless and inexperienced as everyone else is. It also is an excuse for laziness and promotes ignorance since you don't feel you need to probe deeper, but it is only by probing deeper do you get the truth. You don't get to the truth by parroting what other idiots say. This is not to say that I don't disagree that biological filters need to be cleaned regularly, but if you know how to set things up you should be able to keep your maintenance regime down to a manageable frequency and still have a life. Also the best looked after filters and frequent water changes will not fix nutrient issues.

4) Saying test kits are useless. It's sort of like a badge of honour for these idiots to think testing is unnecessary. Yes, test kits in the past were awful but they still worked within a reasonable range. Now they're much better, and the marine reefing side use them extensively. It's also insulting to even think test kits are useless since they're created by some extremely clever chemists who can wipe the floor intellectually with these self proclaimed planted tank experts. With the advent of ICP tests there's now no reason NOT to test the water if you suspect something is amiss. It's through ICP testing that I got to have snap shots and extra understanding how my tank was consuming the nutrients I'm putting in.

5) And this leads to one of the biggest mistake of all: not caring about the source water you put into the tank. Because of the belief that having excess nutrients is NOT harmful it legitimises ignorance and laziness. The corollary of this is that almost any water will do for growing plants as long as you get rid of the chlorine and chloramines etc that hurt the fish. The lack of nutrients can be fixed by added large amounts of fertiliser till the plants perk up. The truth of the mater is if you DON'T control the water going in you're letting yourself in for a lot of grief! The level of heavy metals and other elements in the water have a very important part to play in the promotion of algae and plant health. The idiots like Tom Barr and George Farmer tell you that it doesn't matter simply because they don't want their ignorance to show. And this sadly leads to . .

6) That All in One fertilisers are fine. Or any brand of fertiliser for that matter. Since their belief is that as long as there is no deficiency and excess is not toxic it therefore follows that all you need to do is put enough of this stuff in! There is NO taking in account the nutrient levels in the water already, and if you don't factor this in, you'll play havoc with your water chemistry and create an algal farm!! Aquatic companies seem to spend a lot of money promoting their fertilisers when most of them are absolutely awful. They pay Social media influencers and "experts" to say the things you want to hear, and shut down the truth.

You may ask why do they promote this crap. The short answer is because Tom Barr got famous (due to total ignorance in the planted tank hobby in the early days) and his reputation gave him legitimacy and others followed onto this trend, like George Farmer and idiots like him. It was a trend for a long time (and still is) but ultimately what they promote is damaging to say the least given the recent advance in understanding. And they still give the same tired out answers above for most algae issues. The EI (Estimative Index) method has been the most damaging dosing regime ever to happen to the planted tank hobby. For soft water you literally kill your shrimps, snails and most of your fish. For hard water tanks it's not so bad because the high hardness levels protect against the heavy metal toxicity introduced by EI's excessive trace element dosing. Even Tom Barr himself was using EI at HALF strength on his own tanks, which tells you a lot when the inventor of it isn't even using it properly. But still it promotes ignorance and causes no end of "weird" issues with plants.

So what is the truth? What is really going on?

1) Social media influencers, planted tank experts etc . . are promoted by fishkeeping magazines and aquatic companies to further THEIR agenda. This agenda is mainly down to increase sales. Sales of CO2 equipment, large canister filters, plants, fertilisers, books and articles these idiots write etc. . .

2) So blaming lack of CO2 and flow is an easy way to promote more sales of these types of equipment.

3) also a lot of planted tank forums are biased because some of these aquatic companies are PAYING for the running of said forums. Which is kind of laughable, but at the same time shows conflict of interests for anyone with at least half a brain.

4) This is really cynical on my part, but if most people knew how to grow plants properly, there would be a massive dip in aquatic plant sales.

5) The lack of criticism and/or negative reviews of fertilisers or commercial methods due to fear of libel and legal action. This has literally shut down any discussion that SHOULD have taken place. Also these self appointed experts have the nasty trick of appealing to morality from their followers by labelling anyone who criticise them or undermines their influence as being aggressive, confrontational, subversive and being a troublemaker troll etc. . . when it's nothing of the sort.

I'll leave the conclusion for later.
 
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