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Diatoms, BBA, something else that isn't even algae related!?? Argh!!

Badjester1

Member
Joined
8 Mar 2022
Messages
37
Location
Whitley Bay
Hi everyone, firstly I hope the long post doesn’t deter people from reading and hopefully helping. I’ve had a problem for a few weeks in my tank now and after countless researching and trying various things. I’m at a complete loss. So I have a Roma 240 tank moderately planted. Some may say more moderate to heavily. I have swords, a few anubias, some I believe are a type of hygrophila, crypts and so on. I think about 20 or slightly more plants. Nothing too spectacular and I’ve always done exceptionally well with my plants. Despite using sand I do use root tabs regularly enough and I use TNC Complete with Profito and Easycarbo. I want to make it clear that I have been using this regime for 2 and a half years and I have had results I’ve been very happy with. I just don’t want to get into discussions about how I should mix my own salts and use this and don’t use that. I just want to clarify it’s been working great for me.

That is until something very strange started to happen about 6-8 weeks ago. I noticed that the plant I believe is a hygrophila (I think polysperma) started to get brown stains on the leaves. First I thought diatoms (I believe there are hundreds of types of these.) Then I noticed the brown starting to get onto the plastic casing of my heater. Never on the substrate or even on the glass. Just on my plant leaves and anything plastic in the tank. I have been using the light that came with the Roma and I know these aren’t particularly powerful lights. In the past I have opted for lesser light than more. Using the Fluval app my blue was down to about 20 reds and greens around 40 and white at a max of 60 at a 3-4 hour point in the day. Like everything in this hobby there’s conflicting info everywhere you look. Diatoms prefer low light, they prefer more light and so on.

Taking everything into consideration and looking at my tank specifically. I could see evidence that whatever this stuff is preferred low light. Like at back and in more shadowy areas. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time was to upgrade the light to a more powerful Aquasky. I learnt in the process of contacting Fluval that the light that comes with the tank is in fact not an Aquasky as I thought it was. It’s 24 watts and is basically a budget version. So I bought the 33 watt Aquasky which is the one for my tank. So I’m running both together now. In the whole process of trying to determine what this stuff is and how to get rid of it. I decided that perhaps my plants on lower settings were just not able to compete with whatever this stuff is. So I have slowly increased my lights (given neither light is particularly powerful) but enough for the easy growers in my tank. Back to whatever this stuff is…

So that brown I was talking about seems to be present in low or higher light now. It’s also turned black especially on my anubias plants. That and I imagine to most would spark off thoughts that it’s BBA. I took my anubias plants out recently (as they are on ornaments) and soaked them in a concentrated bucket of Easycarbo/water solution. Knowing that something like 60-80mls of Easycarbo in a 10 litre bucket should nuke BBA and turn it red and die off after soaking for an hour. That was a week ago and it hasn’t. So that’s swayed me back to the fact this isn’t BBA. My lights are on slightly longer now and I’ve upped them. I know a lot of people will say more light means more algae. I don’t even know if it is algae at this point? My theory is simple. That since upping my lighting that my anubias plants have started a lot more new growth, which tells me they needed more light in the first place. Also that plants can’t out compete algae (if that’s what it is) if they are not getting enough light in the first place. Which leads me back to the start of thinking is this diatoms due to originally having lower light? I know I mentioned at the start that my plants were doing great and they were. I just opted to grow my plants on a lower/shorter lighting strength/period and I don’t know if this has anything to do with this outbreak?

I mean everything was relatively fine until a month or two ago. I did have an outbreak of diatoms which was around two years ago, which led me to buy ottos and they demolished it within a day. I only have 3 ottos at the minute and a SAE (the real one not the flying fox or CAE.) They don’t touch it. When I took the anubias plants out to cut off the bad and soak them. The black on them that looks almost velvety under water but has no actual feel to it. It’s literally just like a coating and will not rub off. Even the heater can be cleaned but it takes serious scrubbing. This stuff starts brown then goes black and is hard to scrub off. It’s not growing in tufts like I know BBA does and Easycarbo seems to not touch it? I am just completely baffled at this and was hoping that someone may have encountered this before? I know that this is a barrage of information but I needed to explain the full process I’ve gone through in order to identify and try to eradicate it. In one of those photos you’ll see where it’s turned black. But if I cut an affected leaf off and rub it. It’s almost like the black has no substance or surface, like the plant is stained. It may look velvety and physical under water but all you can feel is the leaf. It’s so disheartening especially since prior to this my tank looked perfect. 🙁
 
Oops! Here are the photos. The heater was a lot worse, I cleaned it last week but it's coming back. As you see it seems to start brown then turn black. I'm so confused!
 

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I did state 240 litres as in the Roma 240 which is 240 litres. Tank age 3 years. Filtration is Fluval 407 with the Fluval sponges/media etc as standard. Although I have doubled up on ceramics. Lighting on at 12pm going into sunset settings between 8 and 9pm. As already explained I recently increased lighting to get plants to compete more. It's a Fluval lighting app so it's not just a set on and off. My lights build up from 12 to 3pm. Then my white is 80% red 70, green 60 and blue 30 for 4 hours. Then down into a sunset (that suits my visual needs to have the tank not too bright on an evening but visible.) Actually I'll just add a screenshot too so you can see. Keep in mind this problem started when my lights were lower and on for 6-7 hours in total per day. Substrate is SAND like I said. I don't use Co2 injection and dosing is 20mls TNC complete twice a week. So that's a double dose as 20mls is one weeks dose. I dose after water change then halfway through week. I also dose Profito and I only dose 10mls when I dose the TNC. As Profito has nutrients TNC does not. Easycarbo is 8mls per day. That was gradually increased long ago over months and I've had ZERO problems with fish and Easycarbo (including ottos as I had 6 originally but gave 3 to a friend and I'm getting 3 more next week.) Water change a minimum of 50% per week. Plants list is above and I don't know exact names of a few like the crypts and hygrophila. Fish are various tetras, corys, ottos and Bolivian rams and a SAE. Water surface had no floating plants and enough agitation and I also have a skimmer I use mostly at night for gas exchange. That's about everything I can think of. As for WP's. Ammonia/nitrite obviously 0 constantly. Nitrate around 10, PH max of 7.5 before lights out but around 6.5 through the night. KH 4/5. Phosphate from memory I'm sure was 1 and silicates were actually 0 to my surprise when I checked. See attached pic of lighting and a pic from around just before this problem started.
 

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That looks like start of BBA and unfortunately no one here or anywhere else can tell you why and how. Can be a million things or just one .

BBA is like herpes once you have it there is no getting rid of it.

Best you can do is cut off effected leaves , clean your filter more regularly and maybe clean the sand , I have read scapers replace sand sometimes/refresh it.

With water changes on low tech aquariums I have read that smaller water changes are better ( someone may confirm or discredit)
 
As I said above that was one of my thoughts but the soaking in very concentrated Easycarbo should have killed it. BBA turns red and dies after high exposure to it. Filter is maintained fine, last time it was cleaned was about a month ago and it was pretty clean inside even after a few months. My sand is very clean/maintained as the clean up crew see to that. As for the brown staining on the heater, it doesn't develop like BBA at all. I had BBA in a tank years ago in small spots and it never started like this at all. I can try smaller changes. The only thing I change on a water change is to increase KH as my tap water is 2 and I prefer around 4. I'm going to in a last attempt to turn the lights off for a few days. It's the only thing I haven't tried now so I guess it's worth a shot.
 
Before you do that can you take pic of new growth on few plants and send it through.
And would you say new growth is paler than old ones?
I'll take one tomorrow as lights are off for the night. New growth is normal green for new growth, as in yes paler but not deficient pale. Like new swords and anubias are healthy green. My hygrophila seems to have taken a bashing from whatever this is as growth has slowed. The whole reason for going towards higher light to battle this as obviously lower lights = slower growth. So I was hoping I could get the plants to out compete it. The new anubias leaves are unaffected so far and I cut all the bad off. I completely get that this all suggests towards BBA but there's literally no tufts/hair and the very start is like there's a staining in/on the leaves and it's brown. Plus that Easycarbo should have killed it at that strength soaking for an hour in a bucket. It has my head absolutely done in as I'm just completely out of ideas 😭
 
I suspect it's a type of BBA, l think possibly your lighting is all over the place, for now l would revert to a lighting period with no sunrise sunset settings add some really healthy fast growers(remove any existing unhealthy stems) Just use the TNC Complete on its own ,reduce the dosage, remineralise if it's soft water, add some floating plants Keep up maintenance,possibly try small water changes daily fo now. I have seen something similar in a chaps Discus tank we put that down to messy fish and he upped his schedule with maintenance ,Just what l would try, Have a look at the BBA threads on UKAPS
 
It is BBA, if you were to remove the SAE and relax your cleaning it would start growing tufts as the BBA you expect.

Looking at your filter outlet direction, the anubias and the heater probably get most of the flow which would also correlate with BBA. BBA is often preceded by what looks to be diatoms, especially on slow growers like anubias.

I would dose the anubias with easycarbo again but reduce the volume of water dramatically like 10ml to a litre (or you can direct dose and then rinse and it wont do any harm) just wear gloves fella!
Any 3 year old tank will have increased organics and your sand i pretty deep, have a couple of months pushing water change frequency and maintenance, reduce you light somewhat and remove any affected leaves on stems see what happens.
As you say, you'll hear various opinions..... mine is high tech, low tech, no tech whatever, the bigger and more regular the water changes the better your tank will be.

You might also like to play with the flow, duel outlets like yours tend to contradict each other making it less affective.
This is worth a read - Water flow in the planted aquarium?

good luck👍
 
I go along with @PARAGUAY and @Iain Sutherland regarding BBA.
There are hundreds of types of algae if not thousands!
I would suggest a ammonia spike after some changes causing this algae.
Remove all affected leaves as these will not recover.
Peel off affected Anubias leaves.
You should be implementing a filtration of 10 times the volume of the aquarium, therefore 2500 a hour!
Removing some of the media will help increase turnover.
You may aswell clean the filter again if removing x amount of media!
 
I suspect it's a type of BBA, l think possibly your lighting is all over the place, for now l would revert to a lighting period with no sunrise sunset settings add some really healthy fast growers(remove any existing unhealthy stems) Just use the TNC Complete on its own ,reduce the dosage, remineralise if it's soft water, add some floating plants Keep up maintenance,possibly try small water changes daily fo now. I have seen something similar in a chaps Discus tank we put that down to messy fish and he upped his schedule with maintenance ,Just what l would try, Have a look at the BBA threads on UKAPS
Thanks for that! I agree I've been all over the place with lighting which I can only assume has made things worse. I'll do that and take it down to 5 hours and less intensity. The hygrophilia is usually very fast growing. I don't really have much space to add much else. I used to have frog bit but with my water surface agitation it used to ruin it so I got rid. I like having my skimmer so I wouldn't be able to have both. My water is moderately hard. I'll just lessen the lights and ferts. I do have some esha protalon 707 I got just in case of worst case scenario, which it pretty much is now. I think I might use it while I try to deal with the source which is probably lighting.
 
It is BBA, if you were to remove the SAE and relax your cleaning it would start growing tufts as the BBA you expect.

Looking at your filter outlet direction, the anubias and the heater probably get most of the flow which would also correlate with BBA. BBA is often preceded by what looks to be diatoms, especially on slow growers like anubias.

I would dose the anubias with easycarbo again but reduce the volume of water dramatically like 10ml to a litre (or you can direct dose and then rinse and it wont do any harm) just wear gloves fella!
Any 3 year old tank will have increased organics and your sand i pretty deep, have a couple of months pushing water change frequency and maintenance, reduce you light somewhat and remove any affected leaves on stems see what happens.
As you say, you'll hear various opinions..... mine is high tech, low tech, no tech whatever, the bigger and more regular the water changes the better your tank will be.

You might also like to play with the flow, duel outlets like yours tend to contradict each other making it less affective.
This is worth a read - Water flow in the planted aquarium?

good luck👍
Thanks! As for the flow, that's about the best I can do with my set up. I have one facing directly down the back. The other I aimed at an angle skimming off the front. It's something I've kept a close eye on as I wanted as few dead spots as possible. The only dead spot is around the inlet/outlet. Which is half the reason I use my skimmer as it's outlet is quite submerged and gives a pretty good blast of water. It's actually very effective and clears any dead spots. I just don't use it constantly. I dosed my anubias today with 10ml to the litre. Cut all the bad off too. I'll be turning down the lights both duration and intensity.
 
I go along with @PARAGUAY and @Iain Sutherland regarding BBA.
There are hundreds of types of algae if not thousands!
I would suggest a ammonia spike after some changes causing this algae.
Remove all affected leaves as these will not recover.
Peel off affected Anubias leaves.
You should be implementing a filtration of 10 times the volume of the aquarium, therefore 2500 a hour!
Removing some of the media will help increase turnover.
You may aswell clean the filter again if removing x amount of media!
I can absolutely without a shadow of a doubt tell you I have absolutely zero ammonia spikes or nitrite. Through this after a water change I test, then I test a few hours later and the day after. I have been watching my water like a hawk especially after water changes during this problem. The parameters are a constant apart from normal PH fluctuations day and night and the fact I do have to very slightly increase my KH due to tap water being low at 2KH. Which I've been doing from day one. I am also going to be blunt. I am not increasing my flow. It's absolutely enough for my tank and my fish would not appreciate it. Yes I upgraded from the 307 that came with the tank. But the 407 on full flow with two baskets of media brim full has been and is ample. All fish are thriving and my water clarity is superb. However as I've said above, my top suspicion is light related.
 
I've turned my lights down to 6 hours not 5 as with my lights you have to have a sunrise and sunset time. Because on the pro mode you have to have a minimum of 4 time slots. Also the lights are dialled way down. White green and red 20% and blue 5%. I know my crypts will be triggered to melt doing this however. I'll continue with Easycarbo, looking at using the esha stuff to try and get rid of it in the hope I can then stop it coming back. Plus water changes etc. That's my tank in the pic now. As you can see it's not horrific after cutting the bad off but I need to get on top of this now. My worst fear from the start was getting BBA! 😡😭
 

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That’s a nice looking tank. I’d just go with the light changes and avoid adding chemicals to kill the algae. Your Kh of 2 from the tap is great, I honestly don’t think you need to add anything to increase it.
 
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