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Algae from hell - aggressive growth of basically every type in a 4 month old tank

Joined
7 Jan 2021
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Nottingham, England
Hi everyone, would really appreciate some help!

I have a relatively new planted tank (established Sept 2020) that I've had serious algae problems with since about a month after filling it.
  • Tank: Juwel Rio 180L, 1000lph pump upgrade w/spray bar, substrate is sand
  • Lighting: 1x 6500K and 1x 9000K bulbs, both 17W LED
  • Photoperiod: Currently about 8-10 hours - I've tried several day blackouts and reducing to 5 hours and it's made very little difference to be honest
  • Inhabitants: Plants are mostly anubias, echinodorus, lots of frogbit and marimo moss balls, other plants that I'm not sure of the identity of. Livestock is 5 guppies, 5 otocinclus, 3 kuhli loaches and a female betta.

Initially I had an outbreak of BBA, staghorn, GSA and GHA all pretty much at once. Tank maintenance consisted of 75% water change once per week, with gravel vac and cleaning of filter. Here is the wonderful sight I was treated to:

s5vsskiovl461.png


I then tried to treat with AlgExit and it didn't really do anything other than turn the water and pretty much everything else green (cyanobacteria?):

green.PNG


Eventually I lost it and just decided to bin all of the plants and driftwood because the BBA had basically wrecked them anyway. I then made the following changes about two weeks ago:
  • Started dosing Seachem Excel Fluorish, 5mL once per day (there have also been Fluorish root tabs in the sand since the beginning)
  • Reduced water changes to about 30% once per week, and SymecMicro microfibre fleece added for 24 hours after each change
  • Added completely new plants and driftwood
This seems to have eliminated the staghorn entirely, but a few weeks on small BBA growths have begun appearing again and I'm getting quite aggressive brown and green hair algae blooms. The below is just a couple days after water change - the past few times it's gotten much worse than this by the time water change is due, the whole front of the glass gets covered in green hair algae.

e3r6omuhcr961.png
1610044110875.png
IMG_20210107_180149.jpg


What is interesting is that my second tank - a 57L Fluval Flex - does not get any BBA at all, only a modest amount of brown algae. The tap water source, substrate, food etc is all the same, so I think I can reasonably rule those out.

Any ideas what else I can try? I want to add much more plants but I'm worried I will just end up having to bin them again in two weeks time. Other than replacing that 9000K bulb I'm a bit lost for ideas to be honest.

Thank you all in advance!
 

Tim Harrison

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Welcome :)

Buy more plants, a lot more plants, especially ones with leaves that grow across the surface like vallis.
Reduce photoperiod to 6hrs
Water column dose fertz, ready mix all in one like TNC Complete.
Don't bury Anubias rhizomes in substrate, they'll die.
Maybe think about using a more nutritious substrate.

Read, and then read some more.
 

Siege

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No co2, a lot less light - 6 hours is good.

more surface agitation - so a lot of surface ripple, 23 degrees. The more oxygen the better,

Tim is right a lot more plants. Add some root tabs for food.

Minimal fish food once a day. Don’t feed one day a week.

Big water changes, get all the algae out, don’t be afraid to go as low as you can. Remove waste at the same time, that algae is feeding on something.

clean the filter out.

check out george farmer and green aqua on you tube, get George’s book If you want, listen to his podcast.
basically follow one person and copy their methods, don’t add too many recipes into the mix and you’ll have success.👍

Don’t worry about testing, it won’t help.

Just some pointers!

S.
 
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spleenharvester

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That's awesome, thank you :)

I forgot to add, my nitrate levels are chronically low, about 5-10ppm even before water changes - I'd assumed higher levels produced more algae so it's interesting to read otherwise!

I've ordered some TNC Complete and will drop the (many) plants I've ordered straight into the tank, hopefully that'll help smooth things out. Will post back with some progress hopefully.
 

Siege

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Nitrate sounds low ( don’t worry about it though, that’s a nice level). I wouldn’t trust the test kit, maybe??

check out your water board website for a full report. That’ll tell you whats coming out of the tap.

big water changes and you’ll be changing basically tap water for tapwater. Again check out George farmers YouTube video on water change method to make it easy for you.
 
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spleenharvester

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I'm pretty sure it's a valid reading, both NTLabs and API liquid test kits return the same results - a less heavily planted tank returns 15~30ppm as expected, and tap water here averages 15ppm. My LFS was skeptical too, but it does seem like it is going somewhere. Just not really sure where, as you can see it's not that heavily planted.

Will take a look, thanks!
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
lots of frogbit
Can we have a picture of the Frogbit? Because it is a floating plant, it has access to aerial CO2 and is used to growing in <"bright tropical light"> and it can give us an <"idea of nutrient status">.
1000lph pump upgrade w/spray bar............Tank maintenance consisted of 75% water change once per week, with gravel vac and cleaning of filter.
It might sound a bit of a strange question, but what filter media do you have? Do you just have the sponges? and if you do what PPI are they? and when you clean them are they collapsed?

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

jaypeecee

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Hi @spleenharvester

Surplus nutrients in the tank* + light gives rise to algae growth. More plants will help to mop up the nutrients as will reducing the amount of added fertilizers. Turning to lighting, others have mentioned reducing the photoperiod. Are you able to reduce lighting intensity, i.e. are your lights on a dimmer? Picking up on the suggestion made by @dw1305, the use of floating plants obviously reduces the light intensity in the water column itself. So, you can use that to your advantage. Obviously, you would probably need to select plants that don't require bright lighting if you go down this route.

I disagree that doing a few basic tests won't help but it's your call.

* water column + substrate

JPC
 

Andy Pierce

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What kind of filter are you using - is there something that will let a colony of beneficial bacteria be established? When you do the water changes, the "cleaning of filter" you mention, whatever you're doing there maybe you shouldn't do it to let the beneficial bacteria have something to colonise. Unless you see chunky debris in the filter I suggest you don't mess with it. I have an "under substrate" filter and I never (really, never) clean it. Agree with the shrimps - the usual recommendation is 1 amano shrimp per 5 litres of water.
 

spleenharvester

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Check out the water board website, that’ll tell you 👍

That's where I got the 15ppm figure from, and it looks pretty close in the API test :)

Hi all,

Can we have a picture of the Frogbit? Because it is a floating plant, it has access to aerial CO2 and is used to growing in <"bright tropical light"> and it can give us an <"idea of nutrient status">.

It might sound a bit of a strange question, but what filter media do you have? Do you just have the sponges? and if you do what PPI are they? and when you clean them are they collapsed?

cheers Darrel

What kind of filter are you using - is there something that will let a colony of beneficial bacteria be established? When you do the water changes, the "cleaning of filter" you mention, whatever you're doing there maybe you shouldn't do it to let the beneficial bacteria have something to colonise. Unless you see chunky debris in the filter I suggest you don't mess with it. I have an "under substrate" filter and I never (really, never) clean it. Agree with the shrimps - the usual recommendation is 1 amano shrimp per 5 litres of water.

Certainly, pic of frogbit is below. Also below is a diagram of how my Bioflow M 3.0 filter is set up, it's very different to the manufacturer setup. The lower biogravel basket is never removed for cleaning; the sponges are removed and squeezed out in a bucket of tank water removed during water changes, as they get absolutely rammed full of green algae (the water literally turns opaque green). Unsure of PPI beyond the stack being course --> medium --> wool. I'm not sure what collapsed would look like, but they look no different to when they were newly added (aside from being dirtier of course!).

frogbit.PNG
filter.PNG


Buy some Shrimps, mine do a great job of eating all kinds of unwanted stuff.

Am tempted to try this :)

Hi @spleenharvester

Surplus nutrients in the tank* + light gives rise to algae growth. More plants will help to mop up the nutrients as will reducing the amount of added fertilizers. Turning to lighting, others have mentioned reducing the photoperiod. Are you able to reduce lighting intensity, i.e. are your lights on a dimmer? Picking up on the suggestion made by @dw1305, the use of floating plants obviously reduces the light intensity in the water column itself. So, you can use that to your advantage. Obviously, you would probably need to select plants that don't require bright lighting if you go down this route.

I disagree that doing a few basic tests won't help but it's your call.

* water column + substrate

JPC

Hopefully my new plants will help then - I'm pretty sure the light's not directly dimmable unfortunately, and I believe Juwel's fittings are proprietary so I can only choose between their bulbs. More floating plants sounds like a good plan - though I'm going to have to think up some way of stopping them getting pushed to the other side of the tank, as the spray bar is directly above the planted plants!

Thanks again everyone. Here is a bonus pic of some GHA that has sprung up practically overnight:

IMG_20210107_192058.jpg
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Certainly, pic of frogbit is below.
They looks pretty healthy. I'd let them cover a larger area of the surface, and that may help with you "green water" issues for the reason @jaypeecee mentions.
I'm not sure what collapsed would look like, but they look no different to when they were newly added (aside from being dirtier of course!).
That sounds fine, if they are a fine grade of foam (PPI30 or higher) the stronger pump can compress the foams and then you get water bypass.
The lower biogravel basket is never removed for cleaning
I'd be tempted to give it rinse, particularly if it has a <"very thick biofilm layer">? People are always (justifiably) worried about losing their "cycle" but things are slightly different <"when you have plants">.

A lot of purveyors of filter media etc talk about <"anaerobic nitrification"> as a good thing, but I don't personally subscribe to that view.

cheers Darrel
 

GHNelson

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Hi
You have a two large reflective surfaces, background and the substrate which can be a magnet for algae outbreaks with high lighting!
I would remove the sand and add a darker substrate or reduce lighting with a lot of floating plants to help reduce the light onto both the surfaces!
Give your filter a good clean also the bio gravel basket....change the replace the filter wool with a new pad or filter floss.
hoggie
 

Andy Pierce

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A lot of purveyors of filter media etc talk about <"anaerobic nitrification"> as a good thing, but I don't personally subscribe to that view.
Although under some conditions you might get anaerbic production of nitrogen gas (Anaerobic nitrification–denitrification mediated by Mn-oxides in meso-tidal sediments: Implications for N2 and N2O production), to the degree that might ever happen in an aquarium with biogravel and produce a sufficiently large amount of gas that would be visible as bubbles, I've never seen it and I've tried to look reasonably carefully. Anyone else ever seen bubbles coming off biogravel?
 

spleenharvester

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Thanks all :) I ripped the tank apart today, pulled the filter out, fully cleaned both baskets and thoroughly vacuumed the sand. Added a ton of plants and some new mopani wood (hopefully I've planted them correctly this time!):

IMG_20210108_194533.jpg


Existing plants have been clipped of BBA-infested leaves and dipped in a concentrated Excel solution before returning to the tank. I've also taken the BBA-infected Anubia leaf shown at the bottom of the OP and left it in that solution overnight, to see if it is at all possible to cure infected leaves.

Going forward the photoperiod has been reduced to 6 hours and I'm going to look into options to dim the lights in some way. I'm gonna try reducing light rather than replacing substrate first, as I love how the sand looks and my other sandy tank is doing much better, but it's on the cards as a last resort. I did wonder if it was perhaps the reflectiveness of the sand + the strong lights that were feeding it primarily.

I'm gonna look into getting even more stem plants per the mentioned link and some more floating plants up at that back wall, as it seems like the leaves closest to the lights are where the problem usually begins.

Will let you know how it goes!
 

spleenharvester

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Hello again everyone

Going well so far - haven't changed anything since the last post - still zero growth of BBA or green algae, just diatoms (which I can live with as they'll keep my otos nice and fat!). Plants are growing really quickly too. Still having trouble weighting the things down without burying them to death - I'm going to design a 3D printable "weight" for the plants that'll keep them held down but with the roots suspended above the sand.

IMG_20210113_173638.jpg


Today I made a number of changes. Dimmed the rear bulb as that top rear area is where the problems always seem to start. To do this I bought a Juwel HiFlex reflector and pulled the reflector foil off it, then angled the light towards the front of the tank a bit more:

IMG_20210113_155838.jpg


I've also added the first dose of TNC complete today. Lights are now on an automated timer as they were previously being turned on at wildly varying times of the day (I have a sleep cycle disorder so this was the only way to make it consistent) - unsure if this is contributing but it certainly can't hurt.

The leaf cutting infected with BBA from the post a week ago has been sat in concentrated Prime Excel ever since - heavy green algae death was observed very quickly, but most of the BBA is still clinging on tightly (though whether it is still viable for growth is another question). So if Prime Excel is having a beneficial effect, it more than likely is through supporting the growth of other plants, rather than direct algecidal activity.

IMG_20210113_155902.jpg


Will update with more progress later on.

Cheers
 

spleenharvester

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Update - found BBA all around the edge of this plant that I can't remember the name of (left, can't really see it in the picture). No others are affected so I'm not entirely sure why this one. Going to remove it. Bonus pic of some otos snarfing veggies.

IMG_20210116_134523.jpg
IMG_20210116_134535.jpg
 

spleenharvester

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Further update, I've removed a plant (looks a bit like creeping jenny but unsure exactly what it is?) that kept growing a bit of BBA despite pruning, there was a bit of it at the time of the last post too. Zero BBA in any other area of the tank still though, and it's even more heavily planted than a few weeks ago, so I think I'm nearly free of it now :)
 

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