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First algae alert ⚠️: Brown algae killing carpeting plants. Help!

Lance Wisher

New Member
Joined
22 Sep 2021
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11
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USA
Alright everyone,

First planted tank - 55 days in. See images for layout and plants. I've got 14 happy harlequin rasboras swimming around a fully cycled tank (still trying to keep nitrates down, taking almost daily water changes for that.

But my carpet plants are suffering from a brown algae outbreak. Many leaves on my monte carlo have gone clear (dead) and now have a fine layer of brown algae. Dwarf hairgrass also has turned brown in several spots. (see pictures)

Any idea on what to do here? Is this idea to wait it out, or should I be intervening somehow? (e.g., trying to remove dead leaves, using a chemical to remove agae, replacing the carpet plants altogether, etc.)

_____
Tank details: 20 gallon (75L) long, NilocG Thrive+ all-in-one firtilizer 3 times weekly and after water changes, DIY c02 with in-line atomizer diffuser (indicator kept lime green during photoperiod), LED 26 18 watt light with a 6.5 hour photo period from 4:00pm-10:30pm, next to a window with a touch of natural sunlight during the day (wife wants to display it in our living room), fully cycled (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites daily) Fluval 207 canister filter (780 L/hr).

Thanks!
Lance

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Stan510

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20 Oct 2021
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367
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Hayward ca
Stop with the water changes. That's feeding the brown algae and keeping a perpetual "new tank syndrome". Brown algae like that feeds on dissolved silica ( I've always read) and that's in your tap water. I also have seen brown algae grow great in aquariums lit with a wrong spectrum light. "Cool White,Daylight..spectrums of LED designed for garages. I would guess a warmer light would help. But for now..no changes and add more plants to compete with the algae or diatoms.
 

Zeus.

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Yorkshire,UK
ank details: 20 gallon (75L) long, NilocG Thrive+ all-in-one firtilizer 3 times weekly and after water changes, DIY c02 with in-line atomizer diffuser (indicator kept lime green during photoperiod), LED 26 18 watt light with a 6.5 hour photo period from 4:00pm-10:30pm, next to a window with a touch of natural sunlight during the day (wife wants to display it in our living room), fully cycled (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites daily) Fluval 207 canister filter (780 L/hr).

DIY CO2 is hard to get right which would lead me to think you have fluctuating CO2
DC colour change is only half the equation, needs a pH profile to check pH is reached before lights on
Fert - fine
WC fine as it will remove DOCs (Dissolved Organic Compounds)
Natural light not good- block light until algae under control - bit of carboard will be fine esp when lights are off
Tank 75liters and pump output 750L/Hr, Filter output should be enough, however tank in pics doesn't seen to have much surface agitation ! - was the filter on? Also what filter media are you using and is it 'stuffed' with it ? when was last time you cleaned the filter esp if using filter floss. Filter floss really reduces filter output I would advise to use course and medium sponges only and minimal Bio media (if any) as bio media also reduces filter output. The main biological filtration is done by the plants roots in our planted tanks as their surface area is massive.
Raising the lily pipe outlet will increase tank flow also - yours does seem a tad on the low side, better if it creates a ripple.
As for the water tests we don't advise them as they can be unreliable and are user sensitive and you regular WCs will be also help plus after six weeks you filter should be taking care of any Ammonia and Nitrites
 

Hufsa

Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
639
Location
Norway
I disagree with @Stan510 , silica, light spectrum, these sorts of things are easy to blame for ones issues but not the problem.
How would water changes be the cause of new tank syndrome? That doesnt make any sense.

Zeus has given you good advice, I would do what he says, he really knows his stuff.
CO2 and flow are THE factors to nail in high tech tanks.
There are many threads on the subjects available if you search
 

ceg4048

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Stop with the water changes. That's feeding the brown algae and keeping a perpetual "new tank syndrome". Brown algae like that feeds on dissolved silica ( I've always read) and that's in your tap water. I also have seen brown algae grow great in aquariums lit with a wrong spectrum light. "Cool White,Daylight..spectrums of LED designed for garages. I would guess a warmer light would help. But for now..no changes and add more plants to compete with the algae or diatoms.
Hello,
As noted above, these are all myths which have no basis in facts and have been disproven. Diatomic algae do not care about the silica in your tap water and they do not care whether garage light spectrum is being used. Also, plants do not compete with algae but are instead, preyed upon by algae.

Cheers,
Many leaves on my monte carlo have gone clear (dead) and now have a fine layer of brown algae. Dwarf hairgrass also has turned brown in several spots.
These are classic symptoms of poor CO2. The DC should be green when the lights are first turned on.
It would help to reduce the light intensity. Also, lowering nitrate in a planted tank is a really bad idea, although doing a lot of water changes is actually a GOOD idea, because that keeps the tank clean.
It's not clear what you mean by "DIY CO2". Is that because you are using yeast or are you using a fire extinguisher?

Cheers,
 

MichaelJ

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9 Feb 2021
Messages
1,187
Location
Minnesota, USA
Any idea on what to do here? Is this idea to wait it out, or should I be intervening somehow? (e.g., trying to remove dead leaves, using a chemical to remove agae, replacing the carpet plants altogether, etc.)
Hi @Lance Wisher, Just wait it out and keep up the WC - maybe up it - most, if not all, new tanks, and this is a very new and immature tank, suffers from some degree of diatoms at one stage or another. Get rid of dead and badly infected leaves - they rarely ever recover - and perhaps dial down a light intensity a bit (sunlight is generally terrible, so you want to do something about that for sure..) .... And of course take note of the advice given above by the high rollers on CO2 etc. - they really know their stuff.

And Welcome to UKAPS! :)

Cheers,
Michael
 
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erwin123

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4 Mar 2021
Messages
577
Location
Singapore
does the direct sunlight come from all directions or only from the window behind the tank (as shown in the photo?)
If only from the back of the tank, you could
(1) paste some sort of sticker on the rear of the tank (at least temporarily to see if algae situation improves)
(2) since the affected carpet is in the front of the tank - plant the rear of the tank densely with easy stem plants to block the sun from getting to the front of the tank?

my own experience with brief bursts of sunlight (i.e. through the window at certain times of the day only) is that it will lead to algae on the tank glass but should normally not affect healthy plants that much? I have to regularly clean my tank glass with a scraper and I blame sunlight for that :)
 

azawaza

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26 Aug 2018
Messages
179
Location
Singapore
Chill.
Wait six weeks.
Keep up water changes.
Lower photoperiod due to sunlight.
After six weeks, add Amano shrimps.
Snails too. Otos if you need more crew.
Wait a few days; munching in progress.
Keep up water changes.
Chill.

This hobby is about patience.
 

GHNelson

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Purchase some fast growing stem plants and use them as floating plants....ramshorn snails will help with diatoms!
hoggie
 

Lance Wisher

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22 Sep 2021
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Thank you all for the ideas and replies! Some really great tips here.

I followed several of @Zeus. suggestions:
  • Refilled bubble counter on my ZRDR 2 liter C02 system that uses citric acid + baking soda to ensure better consistency
    • (here's an image of the system)
      c02.png
  • Cut some heavy cardstock paper and attached to the left and back of the tank to block out sunlight
  • Removed filter floss and about 15% of the bio media from the filter (it was stuffed) to increase water flow
  • Raised outflow lily pipe to introduce a "ripple" and increase surface agitation
  • I Will plan on reducing water tests for nitrates (although consistently above 20ppm when I read them)
  • I will continue water changes, maybe 2/week now instead of daily
I also followed @ceg4048 and @MichaelJ suggestions:
  • Reduced light intensity to 75% during photoperiod

Remaining questions I have:
  • @Zeus. What is a Ph profile and what would I be looking for in terms of a reduction in Ph before the photoperiod?
    • Adding to that, what is the "ideal" C02 system in terms of consistency and reliability? I've heard of the fire extinguisher method with a regulator on top that you get filled somewhere, like a hardware store... Would this last longer/produce more consistent results than my system?
  • Will removing the filter floss and some of the biomedia reverse the cycle/bring back ammonia/nitrites that I need to deal with? I can test but wanted to hear your opinions.
  • How do I deal with dead Monte Carlo leaves? They are so delicate that when I try to trim them, the entire piece it's on shifts and nearly comes out of the soil.
    • When should I decide to replace the Monte Carlo altogether?
  • Would snails and shrimp really make a significant impact on reducing algae in my case? If the impact would be minimal, not sure I want to go this route.
New issues/questions I have :)
  • I am bothered by how much my bubble counter evaporates (making it hard to dial in consistent C02 output). I have ensured all connections have no leaks, and have used thread tape on all threaded connections to prevent leaks. I bought some mineral oil to use instead of water but have seen very mixed opinions about this - for some it works fine and others they say it can get into the diffuser... But I have a check valve...
  • Lastly - Jumping Rasboras 😞 I have had 3 out of 14 now jump out and die in only 2 weeks. I don't want to keep losing them at this rate. Will they settle down? I have considered building a net covering for the top. What has everyone tried that has worked for preventing fish jumping?
Thanks!!!
Lance

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ceg4048

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my own experience with brief bursts of sunlight (i.e. through the window at certain times of the day only) is that it will lead to algae on the tank glass but should normally not affect healthy plants that much? I have to regularly clean my tank glass with a scraper and I blame sunlight for that :)
Hi erwin,
This only happens when CO2 is less than perfect. I've kept tanks in a conservatory without even a speck of algae.
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Cheers,
 

Zeus.

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Yorkshire,UK
What is a Ph profile
pH Profile

what would I be looking for in terms of a reduction in Ph before the photoperiod?
Most folk aim for a pH drop of 1.0pH which is approximately 30ppm CO2. However it isnt just the [CO2] thats important is having the same [CO2] from lights on till CO2 Off
what is the "ideal" C02 system in terms of consistency and reliability
Any CO2 which is in a cylinder should do the job and a decent CO2 regulator and timer.
Will removing the filter floss and some of the biomedia reverse the cycle/bring back ammonia/nitrites

No, once the filter has cycled the bacteria seeded in the media will respond very fast if less media has more to do. Bacteria double every 20mins in idea conditions. There should be n need to test and I wouldn't test

How do I deal with dead Monte Carlo leaves?
Can be tricky, do best you can and I would consider a lift/trim replant if needed. However based on you pics I would give them a light brush to remove worse. Then 'clean up crew' will/should take care of it - once the Flow and CO2 is sorted

Would snails and shrimp really make a significant impact on reducing algae in my case?

Would having a clean up crew working 24/7 help - Yes. a few Amano shrimp would make a massive difference by them selves, I 50+ Amanos in my 500L and thousands of RCS ( Red Cherry Shrimp). Amanos are considered one of the best cleaner but can eat some softer plants and are hard the rear in tank. RCS are easy to rear so if you add 10- 20 a few months later you will have more, if the fish you choose don't eat the young.
Snails can be helpful too, some folk hate them - choose wisely - I have Ramshorn's and MTS in mine plus pest snails.

am bothered by how much my bubble counter evaporates (making it hard to dial in consistent C02 output). I have ensured all connections have no leaks, and have used thread tape on all threaded connections to prevent leaks. I bought some mineral oil to use instead of water but have seen very mixed opinions about this - for some it works fine and others they say it can get into the diffuser... But I have a check valve...

It evaporates on us all, some folk do use mineral oil which doesn't. the bubble counter is only there to help make minor adjustments and once the injection rate/pH profile is sorted there should be a need to adjust it on a regular basis. DIY CO2 production is a PITA IMO

Jumping Rasboras 😞 I have had 3 out of 14 now jump out and die in only 2 weeks.

All open top tanks can suffer this painful problem with any fish and Amanos, Amanos climb out if not happy. My 500l Lidded tank still had the issue with fish jumping and getting stuck. between glass.
 

Stan510

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20 Oct 2021
Messages
367
Location
Hayward ca
Brown algae has gone away even in low tech when I changed bulbs. I went from daylight to gro bulbs and problem solved. I did notice long ago the brown algae is strongest in new tanks or dimly lit,wrong spectrum bulbs. OP's is not dimly lit but I didn't see a mention of what light he's using and the Alternanthera colors are not very exciting. More of what a cool light looks like. Surprising nobody asked him what light he is using other than wattage. JUST TRYING TO HELP!
Open tops is just a bad idea. I can tell you even in a 920 liter I had a prized Rainbow leap out when the granddaughter was looking at the fish when I was not there,and I caught her cute smile having fun making the fish spook. Only,I did not see the Rainbow had jumped until hours later.
I imagine somebody somewhere new to this adding those small hatchet fish... that would be 100% suicidal in less than a night!
 

Hufsa

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Brown algae has gone away even in low tech when I changed bulbs. I went from daylight to gro bulbs and problem solved.
How do you know that changing the bulb is what made the difference, and that it wasn't just the passage of time?

I did notice long ago the brown algae is strongest in new tanks or dimly lit,wrong spectrum bulbs.
In new tanks for sure. Its pretty much a rite of passage that the majority of tanks seem to go through.
Surprising nobody asked him what light he is using other than wattage.
Probably because a lot of us know that there is no point to it?

JUST TRYING TO HELP!
We are also trying to help the original poster, im not sure why you wrote this in a yelling way?
 

Lance Wisher

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@Stan510 I have to agree with @Hufsa - your personal experiences are interesting and potentially useful - but have you done any research about light spectrums/wattage and how (or if) they affect the growth of different types of algae? And for the many who desire an open-top tank, including myself, who believe that it adds major impact to the viewing experience and another dimension through which to immerse yourself in your tank - saying bluntly that it is a "bad idea" is again not very helpful.

Thank you to @Zeus. for the excellent and experienced responses! I'll post an update of my progress soon.

Lance
 
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MichaelJ

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Minnesota, USA
Brown algae has gone away even in low tech when I changed bulbs. I went from daylight to gro bulbs and problem solved. I did notice long ago the brown algae is strongest in new tanks or dimly lit,wrong spectrum bulbs.
Hi @Stan510 That horse has been beaten to death many times over around here. I've probably had the same experience as you in the past (years ago back when using tube lights)... but what seems to have happened back then was really that I changed the overall intensity of the light when I went from cooler to warmer light and probably other things at the same time, and time went by and the tank matured etc. I simply drew the wrong conclusions with regards to cause and effect. You can choose any color of light you want, as long as you keep the intensity in check. The plants don't really care about the color or spectral distribution unless its completely out of wack - and that may not even matter much, but your tank will look very surreal. Currently I run both my low tech tanks at super low light intensity for 12 hours/day - no algae to speak off and excellent plant health. My light temperature probably correlates pretty well with standard daylight, but I honestly don't care what it is as long as it looks natural.

Open tops is just a bad idea. I can tell you even in a 920 liter I had a prized Rainbow leap out when the granddaughter was looking at the fish when I was not there,and I caught her cute smile having fun making the fish spook. Only,I did not see the Rainbow had jumped until hours later.
I imagine somebody somewhere new to this adding those small hatchet fish... that would be 100% suicidal in less than a night!
I am not a big fan of open tops either for the same reason and evaporation. But again, plenty of people around here run their tanks with open tops. It's merely a personal preference and what constrains you are running your tank under - I couldn't hang my fixtures over my tanks even if I wanted, because my wife wouldn't allow it :)

Cheers,
Michael
 
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