algae blooms on a new setup?

Discussion in 'Algae' started by jarthel, 9 Mar 2010.

  1. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    I was reading another forum yesterday and it was mentioned that algae blooms are common in new setups especially those using commercial substrate?

    Any truth to this? What is its cause? Can it be prevented/minimized?

    Thank you :)
  2. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Chicago, USA
    This is only 50% true. Algae is very common in new setups but it is not necessarily related to the substrate. Some substrates that are highly enriched do tend to exacerbate the problem but their long term value as a nutrient store is more important than the short term effects at startup.

    The cause of algae during startup is a result of a couple of different things. Firstly, many people are under the impression that one needs a lot of light for planted tanks and they go overboard. Light causes algae and excessive light causes excessive algae. One is well advised to keep the lighting low, at least for the first few months of a setup.

    Another fundamental cause is that new setups have a poorly developed or nonexistent bacterial colony in the sediment, filter and water column. Nitrifying bacteria detoxify the environment by converting ammonia to nitrate, however you need billions of billions of individual bacterium. That takes a few weeks for the population to rise to sufficient levels which results in varying levels of ammonia production in the tank. The ammonia production instability triggers algal blooms. This can be mitigated by performing massive water changes 2-3 times a week. This reduces the ammonia content. One can even use a mineral called zeolite in the filter to lower the ammonia levels. Other products such as Purigen help as well. One should also seed the sediment and filter with the brown mulm from another established tank to "innoculate" the tank with some bacteria. The mulm provides some nutrients and carbohydrates to feed the bacteria. There are some substrate additives sold commercially which do this, mainly they consist of peat or other organic materials.

    Of course the plants need to be fed as well, so a dosing regime should be employed which includes NPK + micronutrients, and if the tank is to be an CO2 injected tank then proper attention to CO2 injection techniques should be followed. Starving plants encourage the onset of algal blooms.

    Hope this clarifies.

  3. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    This is part of the reason I like a long setting up period before adding any fish, rather than just trying to cycle the tank. By allowing the tank to stabilise micro-biologically and the plants to have an extensive root network (rhizosphere) in the substrate you get past the all the initial large oscillations in conditions and achieve a fairly stable state. I like to add some MTS and allow some build up of organic matter and DOC, although other will disagree.

    You can think of in the same way as KH buffering in the tank, in this case the plant/microbial biomass is your buffer, and once the "buffering" has built up the tank becomes more resilient to changes in condition (like the addition of ammonia caused by adding your fish).

    cheers Darrel
  4. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    thanks everyone for the help :)

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