Guide for algae?

Discussion in 'Algae' started by Tom, 11 Dec 2007.

  1. Is there a difinitive guide on algae anywhere, such as labels the common types, probable causes, and what to do about them??

    Tom
     
  2. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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  3. ulster exile

    ulster exile Member

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    I love James' guide for algae, although I wish I didn't have to refer to it at all :lol: however, the guide clearly states that it is aimed at high light, CO2 tanks.

    This makes me wonder if there is a similar guide for low light, no CO2 tanks, or are the causes the same essentially.
     
  4. Thanks ceg, I've never seen that before

    Tom
     
  5. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Tom,
    You're welcome. I think JamesC did a smashing job with his website. It's a great reference.

    Chrisi, pretty much at the end of the day there are really only a few direct causes for algae - ammonia, poor plant health and poor CO2. High light and anomalies with gas injection exacerbates/accelerates these problems and so we are much more likely to see the algae occurrence in a high tech tank but the same causes are found in all tanks. You merely arrive at the direct causes through different means in low light tanks.

    Cheers,
     
  6. JamesC

    JamesC Member

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    Thanks for the compliment. I actually set it up as a reference for myself as at the time there was so much conflicting advice around.

    James
     
  7. beeky

    beeky Member

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    Poor CO2? This is in relation to the amount of light, correct?
     
  8. Dan Crawford

    Dan Crawford Founder Staff Member

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    poor Co2 could be classed as inconsistent Co2.
     
  9. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    As Big Danne says, large fluctuations in CO2 (such as what you get sometimes with DIY CO2) counts as "poor".

    Low CO2 with respect to the amount of light is "poor".

    Inability to deliver the CO2 to the plants also counts as "poor". This can happen when the flow rate output of the filter is insufficient. This is why I'm always harping on the filter throughput ratings whenever someone asks for filter purchase recommendations.

    Cheers,
     
  10. Maximumbob

    Maximumbob Member

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    I never really understood poor CO2 properly until recently.

    I changed CO2 systems to a large solenoid controlled rig 1 month ago. After 3-4 day I had the CO2 levels where I wanted them.

    1 month later with only a little pruning and the bi-weekly dosing of Excel, my agae is pretty much gone. I put this down to steady CO2 levels as it was the only variable I changed, as the excel dosing and fert dosing has remained constant.

    **Hmm... talking about that.. I need to change my diffuser over.. as I'm typing I've noticed my pH has crept up by 0.1 and the bubbles are looking larger.**
     
  11. Ray

    Ray Member

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    I too find it baffling. I understand that algae can be triggered by sudden drops in the CO2 level. What I don't see is how this works.

    I mean, in a tank with all the correct PPM of CO2, Macros and Micros there is enough nutrients, CO2 and light for everything, plants and algae. But the algae does not grow until the CO2 shuts off - then BAM! - there is GSA or whatever all over the place.

    Why?

    We know plants take days to adapt to changes, if CO2 drops they have to put more energy in CO2 uptake so there will be a pause in their growth before they pick up again at a new, slower, CO2 limited speed. How does the algae exploit that ?
     
  12. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi ray,
    This is how I understand the mechanism. There are several issues occurring when CO2 fluctuates. The first, as you mentioned, is the issue of the plants having to reconfigure their chemistry to adjust to the new CO2 level. During this readjustment period photosynthesis suffers because the delivery of the CO2 is interrupted. Imagine a factory with a moving assembly line where components have to be delivered on schedule precisely at various locations along the line. If some components are missing the product that is assembled is faulty/weak/incomplete and cannot perform it's intended function. The speed of the assembly line is controlled by Light. High light-> high line speed-> high nutrient uptake speed-> high assembly rates->high yield. CO2 concentration drops result in defective assemblies within the plant which cause breakdown in cell structure and breakdown in processes within reaction chambers etc. This leads to nutrient and ammonia leakage across the cell walls into the water column. Similar breakdowns occur when there are deficiencies of the other nutrients as well.

    The other issue with fluctuations is that evidently, algae in natural systems (lakes, swamps) use the CO2 concentration profiles in addition to other environmental cues to determine whether their spores should bloom or not. I imagine that in spring, as various biological processes "awaken" causing CO2 levels to fluctuate as the systems are still unstable. This plus a combination of temperature rise, light, and doubtless other cues trigger the algae to bloom.

    We're therefore fighting an uphill battle because our tanks have high temperatures, high light, ammonia due to plants suffering and now CO2 fluctuations. We are sending all the right cues to the algal spores that spring is here and that it's time to germinate. That's why algae is so tough to fight because once the blooms occur they have no environmental cues to tell them it's winter and to therefore go back into remission. They immediately begin to feed on whatever nutrients are in the water and to therefore accelerate. That's why for such a long time we all incorrectly assumed it was nitrates and phosphates causing algae blooms. It was an illusion.

    Algae thrive under transient conditions and conditions of duress. When systems stabilize with reasonable parameters and good plant health the algae have "learned" that the best survival strategy is to "hibernate" until conditions deteriorate and favor a bloom.

    So how do we simulate "winter" to trick algae into remission?

    1) Healthy plants are capable of absorbing ammonia from the water column so that this trigger is removed when plants are well fed and have adequate and stable CO2. We avoid the first condition. The assembly line works perfectly and there are no weaknesses. The more plants in the tank the more ammonia is removed. I read a lot of post where people find comfort in the idea that "healthy plants out-compete algae for nutrients" I believe this is not really correct as algae can thrive with zero nutrients in the water. I prefer to think of it as plants out-competing algae for ammonia.:idea:

    2) Lower the light. In Winter there is less light. This is an easy one. That's why 3 day blackouts work. That is also why "noonday siesta" does not work. This is a transient condition which only helps algae.

    3) Stable conditions in the tank require fewer adjustments by the plants. Each adjustment required by the plant lowers it's production, efficiency and therefore health. That's why regular nutrient dosing several times per week is a better strategy than once a week in high light tanks. In low light tanks once a week works OK because the drop in concentration is slight, especially if there is a high bio-load.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
     
  13. Ray

    Ray Member

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    Hi Clive, that's a very interesting post. I think I am close to an epiphany - I _think_ I nearly understand the whole aquatic plant growing model!

    You are confirming that its the ammonia and condition changes causing the algae. It is interesting you say that the drop in CO2 might actually cause plants to give out ammonia! So imagine we have a stable system and the plants are taking up most of the ammonia given off by the fish (filter and ambient bacteria will get the rest), CO2 level drops, plants stop uptaking ammonia. This causes a a tiny (unmeasurable, at least for the home aquarist) ammonia spike until bacteria can multiply enough to pick up the slack; furthermore the plants actually give off stored ammonia as they find thier reserves are no long necessary and they need to make room to, as you descrbe it, re-arrange the factory floor to handle the low CO2 environment production flow. That compounds the ammonia spike. Algae spores pick up the CO2 change - indicates seasonal change to them, they pick up the ammonia for food and germinate!

    Does this mean that the reason high CO2 stops aglae is because it enables the plants to run at high speed and draw off all the ammonia?

    I read about this on the Dennerle site: (http://www.dennerle.de/EN/HG10.htm) and am trying it out at the moment - I wanted the lights on when the kids come home from school for lunch (quaint Swiss custom) so they can feed the fish but I didn't want them on from midday until late evening (I like to look at my tank in the evening). I'm not seeing any algae but I _think_ it is slowing plant growth, however, its only 2 weeks since I started TPN+ so maybe the plants are still adjusting to that...

    Why do you think it helps alage - as Dennerle say, cloudy intervals (even storms) are common in nature?
     
  14. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Ray,
    As far as I can tell, the ammonia ejection is not so much as "decision" by the plant that it no longer needs the stored chemicals as it is a structural breakdown and loss of nutrients and ammonia across the cell walls. I liken this to poor bladder control. :p Any nutrient deficiency (not just carbon) causes this breakdown of various systems within the plant. Growth is disturbed while the plant attempt to reconfigure for the new set of environmental conditions. Your epiphany is spot on I think.

    I checked the Dennerle link and I know it seems outrageous for me to argue their point, but I trust Barr's analysis. Just because there are clouds and thunderstorms in natural systems, it does not necessarily mean that the plants are optimized around this loss of light. It's more likely that the plants simply "endure" the loss of light and scramble to recover when the clouds go away. Algae are much simpler plants and so when the light comes on again they are much more able to recover and start producing right away, while the plant's more complicated physiology requires more time to spool up the assembly line again.

    This doesn't mean that you'll automatically get algae if you do the siesta, I'm not implying that because as we discussed, there are a combination of triggers which are required for the bloom to occur. What I'm saying is that there is no data that shows the siesta improves plant health or growth at all. Since health and growth are the key priorities siestas are counterproductive in this regard. In your case the siesta makes sense simply because it fits with your schedule and your lifestyle so I wouldn't suggest that you change that at all. You'll need to monitor for a longer time to see the effects (2 weeks is not enough time to draw conclusions as you say) but I don't think it will result in an improvement in growth overall with a siesta but you might see an improvement due to your dosing 8)

    Cheers,
     
  15. beeky

    beeky Member

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    I think it's important to realise that we will never eliminate algae growth, it will always be there. What we are trying to do is reduce it to unnoticeable levels by the use of careful management and fish/inverts. Hence the use of ottos and japonica shrimps by Mr Amano.

    I read something recently that in their natural habitat, ottos live in large shoals. There's algae in nature otherwise we wouldn't have algae eaters.
     
  16. Ray

    Ray Member

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    Right, I think this is the same effect that causes Cryptocoryne rot, for example?

    Ah ha! So if we have a high light tank with CO2 is this the same effect that means you get algae everywhere? Is the benefit of CO2 that the plants get going nice and quick and tidy away the ammonia is short order? Or is there anther factor I am missing?

    I think the Siesta is putting a slight brake on my plant growth, although I'm not noticing any new algae, will let it run for another fortnight and see - like you say - maybe they don't appreciate the interruption. What about midday bursts, anything to support them?
     
  17. Maximumbob

    Maximumbob Member

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    I assumed the seista at midday routine was something targeted at DIY CO2 users to ensure the maintenance of higher co2 levels in the tank. Are there other people that use it?
     
  18. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, we're talking in general here. I'm not sure that I fully understand the mechanism of Crypt rot. What is bizarre about crypt rot is that it's not usually accompanied by algae on the melting leaves :wideyed: I would be on thin ice if I offered the theory that it is the crypt that decides to jettison the leaf based on what it perceives to be unfavorable environmental conditions and that it pulls the chemicals away from the leaf in a similar fashion as autumn leaves. On the other hand, a crypt that is unhealthy due to poor carbon or nutrients has algae growing from the leaf without the leaf melting so the rotting/melting seems to me to be a different story.

    A high light tank is an unforgiving environment. If CO2 or nutrients are inadequate the breakdown occurs and the algae are triggered. Since the light is high, algae production is accelerated in the same way as plant growth is accelerated by high light. The difference is that algae don't require the quantities of nutrients the plants do but if nutrients are available this will add to the acceleration. Algae are opportunists. Ejection of ammonia and nutrients at the leaf site explains why algae typically attacks the suffering leaf first.

    In air, plants can get all the CO2 they want very easily. They consume tons of this gas in order to strip the Carbon to produce, well... carbohydrates, for growth, seeds, fruit, nectar etc. This is the "prime directive", so carbon is a critical nutrient. In water, gases don't dissolve nearly as easily and so therefore carbon is not easily available. Injecting CO2 allows greater contact of leaf with the gas which now enables photosynthesis and facilitates production/growth. If there is sufficient CO2 for the amount of light the plants next priority is to collect the other nutrients, the most important of which is Nitrogen. The more Carbon is made available the more Nitrogen must be collected. It's easy to see that Nitrate (NO3) and ammonia/ammonium (NH3/NH4) are convenient sources of Nitrogen. If the plants have sufficient CO2 for the level of lighting, then removal of ammonia is assured. This is how healthy plants keep algae in check, by removing this trigger. Algae recognize this by the low level of ammonia in the water column and concede - for the moment. Each species of algae has it's combination of triggers so lets say Phosphates are too low for the plant to collect at the proper rate: Structural breakdown starts to occur in the plant, ammonia and other chemicals leach into the water column near the leaf and you have now generated a set of triggers. Possibly, low PO4 plus ammonia leaching plus high light could be a trigger combination for GSA. It's more complicated than that but that's just a general idea.

    Well it wouldn't surprise me at all if turns out that the siesta actually results in arrested development. No light=no photosynthesis=no carbohydrate production. If someone did a test of 100 of tanks, 50 of which showed significant improvement with the siesta, and if they provided statistically relevant proof I'd have to reconsider my opinion but it just doesn't seem to fit the science model as I understand it. :rolleyes:

    On the other hand, the noonday burst adds light so as long as there is sufficient CO2 and nutrients at the time of the burst, well, yahoo! more light, more growth. But what happens if you were marginal on the CO2 before the burst? Adding more light with this condition can drag you into the Carbon deficiency zone, right? So there is no free lunch here either. Carbon and light are joined at the hips. There is no way around it. Light+Carbon=Photosynthesis

    Cheers,
     

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