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Brown algae/Diatoms

Badjester1

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8 Mar 2022
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Whitley Bay
Hi,
I'm after some advice on what I assume to be diatoms aka brown algae (I know it's not technically an algae.) So my plants were doing absolutely amazing a few weeks ago, yes they are in sand but I use TNC plugs, TNC Complete and they were beautifully green and growing well. Then I had a burst of what I think were pond snails and they started munching on the plants. Mostly the Salvinia and unbelievably annihilated the Salvinia in a matter of days! So I popped 4 assassin's in and they've cleared the pond snails. There's still tiny little snails I believe to be ramshorns that are no bother at all. They're too small to damage plants and seem to eat micro particles of whatever. Anyway when the Salvinia was mostly annihilated I also cut back a lot of the plants as it was getting a bit like a jungle. I also removed damaged leaves from the snails. Still plenty of plants and still heavily planted. However this is where things have started to go wrong. The brown quickly started to cover the highest parts of the tank including leaves like in the photo. attached.

At first I thought too much light what with cutting back etc. Cut the story short... I've searched and searched online for the best course of action and as usual there seems to be a divide. Some suggest lights minimal or even off. Then some advise (which I actually agree with) that you need the plants to out compete the brown algae/diatoms. They're not going to do that very well if I turn the lights off surely? My lights are only on full for 6 hours a day with and hour sunset and sunrise either side. So at the minute my Aquasky lights are as follows... Red 85% Green 75% Blue 15% and White 80% and that's from listening to Bentley Pascoe on YouTube about settings for a tank like mine (Fluval Roma 240.) So basically what I'm wanting to ask is this... Am I right to keep the lights like that and just continue to dose the ferts as normal? I assumed the diatoms are more towards the top as they're always going to prefer the highest light source they can get? I have a strong feeling the Salvinia was doing a fantastic job of gobbling up any excess nutrients as they really did cover a lot of the surface. I was always having to take some out. Or am I doing it all wrong and should I be turning lights down or even off? As I previously said if I do that then the plants won't out compete for the nutrients? Any help would be greatly appreciated as I'm tearing my hair out as it's not going away!
 

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FrankR

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I'm not an expert, but I think that diatoms go as fast as they come. That takes a week or so. In some cases they persist though.
Natural predators of diatoms are copepods. Otocinclus fish, Amano shrimp and Nerite snails also eat diatoms.
 

GHNelson

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Implement the tutorial below....this will help!
Diatoms will eventually disappear.....do small water changes try not to disturb the substrate.
Ramshorn snails will eat diatoms.
 
Last edited:

Badjester1

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I'm not an expert, but I think that diatoms go as fast as they come. That takes a week or so. In some cases they persist though.
Natural predators of diatoms are copepods. Otocinclus fish, Amano shrimp and Nerite snails also eat diatoms.
Thanks for the reply. I'm torn between turning the lights off to see if it helps. Or just leaving them on and adding ferts as normal. Obviously there's an imbalance between lights and ferts which I'm trying to sort. I can look at getting shrimp to help. Just hope it goes because it was looking so good just weeks ago.
 

Badjester1

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Implement the tutorial below....this will help!
Diatoms will eventually disappear.....do small water changes try not to disturb the substrate.
Ramshorn snails will eat diatoms.
Ok thanks, so my Salvinia is recovering after the snail infestation. I'm hoping once it does it'll out compete the dreaded diatoms.
 

GHNelson

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Hi
Unfortunately pond snails just love some types of floating plants....
You don't need to switch the lights off, reduce the lighting by 50% intensity!
 

GHNelson

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Sure that's Salvinia looks like Amazon Frogbit!
Its always best if members can give as much detail as possible as per sticky below.
 

jaypeecee

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21 Jan 2015
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Bracknell
I'm not an expert, but I think that diatoms go as fast as they come. That takes a week or so. In some cases they persist though.
Hi @Badjester1

As @FrankR said above, Diatoms often stop growing after a few weeks. But, if you continue to feed them, they may hang around. Diatoms need silicate (SiO2) in their diet to build their hard outer shell. One source of silicate is tap water. If things don't improve, I'd be tempted to use a JBL SiO2 test kit to see if your tap water is contributing to the problem. Please see below:


Please keep us updated.

JPC
 

FrankR

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Thanks for the reply. I'm torn between turning the lights off to see if it helps. Or just leaving them on and adding ferts as normal. Obviously there's an imbalance between lights and ferts which I'm trying to sort. I can look at getting shrimp to help. Just hope it goes because it was looking so good just weeks ago.
I'd suggest you follow @GHNelson 's advice. Diatoms are photosynthetic, so reducing the light to 50% will definitely make their life harder. They do consume silicate though, as @jaypeecee said.
No need to worry though. They'll go away in a week or so. Be patient.

It would also be helpful if we knew how old is your aquarium, what type of filtration do you use and how much flow does the tank have.
 

_Maq_

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Diatoms need silicate (SiO2) in their diet to build their hard outer shell.
That's true, of course. However, I add hydrated silica as a fertilizer occassionaly and it has never led to diatoms appearing in noticeable amount. So I guess some other conditions are more important.
 

jaypeecee

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That's true, of course. However, I add hydrated silica as a fertilizer occassionaly and it has never led to diatoms appearing in noticeable amount. So I guess some other conditions are more important.
Hi @_Maq_

Dependent on the silicate concentration, there may be other important factors. Agreed. Somewhere, here on UKAPS, I think we identified three factors that can contribute to the growth of Diatoms. But, I can't recall in which thread this appeared. I'm just about to shut down for today but use of the Search facility (top RHS) may have the desired result. :thumbup:

JPC
 

sparkyweasel

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Are we talking about the brown patches on the Amazon Swords? They don't look like diatoms to me, more like damaged leaves. Can you remove the brown patches ny rubbing the leaves?
 

PARAGUAY

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@jaypeecee think it relates to Clive(ceg) posts were he says we fret too much about rock or sand ,water parameters etc Instead concentrate on water changes esp. in new set ups and correct distribution of CO2 if using. The use of Ottocinclus ,juvenile SAEs amano Shrimp as first critters is a good way to see off brown algae. Too much lighting and photoperiod needs addressing. Fast growers and floating plants at start or even add later
 

_Maq_

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When it comes to diatoms, I'd suggest taking inspiration from nature. Diatoms often appear in early spring (and autumn). Later on, green algae and cyanobacteria regularly prevail, and diatoms disappear. It seems that diatoms quickly proliferate once conditions are favourable, but then just as quickly disappear due to competition of other primary producers (macrophytes, algae, cyanobacteria).
 

FrankR

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This is how I see it.
An aquarium, FW or SW, has to go through two cycles. The first is the nitrogen cycle. The second one is the biome cycle. Both cycles start at the time we set up a tank.
There's plenty of information on the nitrogen cycle. No need to elaborate there. The biome cycle is the most important though in my opinion, because that's how we achieve balance/maturity in our miniatured ecosystems.
It is during that cycle that diatoms, algae and cyanobacteria appear. A tank is like a newly discovered land, where settlers try to establish colonies and dominate.

The best way to keep these "pests" in check is by maintaining a diverse ecosystem where competing organisms exist in balance. This can be achieved by:
  1. Having sufficient flow, effective filtration and good husbandry.
  2. Limiting the introduction of pests in the first place. Clean and rinse new plants, don't add fish-bag water in tank, etc.
  3. Promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria/biofilm to outcompete the pests for resources.
  4. Introducing microorganisms that prey upon these pests, ie. copepods, amphipods, microcustaceans, etc.
  5. Maintaining a CUC, like shrimp, snails, etc.
  6. Adding utilitarian fish, like Otos, Corys, Loaches, etc.

It's worth noting that while diatoms and cyanobacteria can show up in our tanks from thin air, algae has to be introduced into a tank in some way or another.

All the above is based on my limited knowledge and research on aquariums. Like I said, I'm not an expert.
My nano tank's been running for 6 months and it's not balanced yet. This hobby needs patience.
 

_Maq_

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while diatoms and cyanobacteria can show up in our tanks from thin air, algae has to be introduced into a tank in some way or another.
As far as I'm aware, algae too can come from 'thin air'.
Otherwise, I cannot agree more to what you posted.:thumbup:
 

John q

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It's worth noting that while diatoms and cyanobacteria can show up in our tanks from thin air, algae has to be introduced into a tank in some way or another.
The air we breathe containes algal spores, trying to limit these spores entering our tanks is as futile as reducing silicates to prevent diatoms, the next level of wasted reasoning is limiting nutrients to prevent algae.

@Badjester1 I'm assuming this tank is relatively new? If this is the case then the diatom stage will pass. What happened here? I suspect the reduction in floating plants increased the light levels above what the system could handle, you ended up with a bloom.

The cure.... rub off any brown deposits, do regular 50% + water changes, reduce the lighting intensity for a while whilst the tank matures and please for the love of God don't waste your money on SI02 test kits, or silicate removing gizmos... 😀
 

FrankR

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As far as I'm aware, algae too can come from 'thin air'.
Otherwise, I cannot agree more to what you posted.:thumbup:
I stand corrected. I thought that algae can be introduced in our tanks by cross contamination. I'm still learning :)
 
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