Planted Discus Tank - Loads of Algae

mike_low3

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First post on the site, I'm looking for some help on a algae problem I seem to be experiencing

I have a planted discus tank, been up and running for around 4 years now, stats below;

Tank specifications - 4ft x 19" x 15"/approx 45 gallons
Lighting - 2 x T8 Arcadia Freshwater/Tropical - Photoperiod around 5hrs a day.
CO2 - None
Filtration - 2 x Eheim 2224 - returning through spraybars.
Fertilisation routine - Flourish Excel at recommended dose

Basically the plants have always grown well, I have a fertiliser substrate, topped with gravel and aquarium sand, heating cable as well. Plants include amazon swords, moss, fern, pygmy chain sword, wenditti etc. But around Feb this year the plants starting dying off, with the fern going first followed by the swords. My water stats are all normal, at the moment I have nitrate at 5.0, this is normally much lower, water changes are carried using a HMA filter unit, 30-40% water changes twice a week. Stock in my tank is 5 adult discus, around 15 tetra's and 5 ottos, nothing else.
At the same time my plants starting dying off the algae appeared, which is now covering most of the tank, but mostly on the plants, the algae is green hair algae, I've attached some pics of the algae.

I'm in the process of selling my discus because I know now the two don't go well together, at the moment the fish don't seem happy and I'm sure it's related to whats happening in the tank.
Any help would be very much appreciated
Thanks
Mike
 

glenn

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welcome to the forum! :)

what is the wattage of the lights?
and do you know what type of algae it is as many are caused by a specific deficiency. a pic would help if you have one :)

all i can say is that the photo period is quite short and the nitrate spike could have triggered the algae bloom. a large water change will help to dilute the nitrate.

here is an algae index to help find what type of algae you have if you dont know-http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/algae.htm
 

ceg4048

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glenn said:
...all i can say is that the photo period is quite short and the nitrate spike could have triggered the algae bloom. a large water change will help to dilute the nitrate.
This is completely erroneous. There is no correlation whatsoever between nitrate spikes and hair algae. And there most definitely is no correlation between short photoperiods and any type of algae, so this is terrible advice. If you were to read the very same algae index that you gave the link to you'd see quite clearly that hair algae is associated with lack of sufficient CO2 and you'd also see that there is no algae associated with "nitrate spikes".

mike_low3 said:
...I'm in the process of selling my discus because I know now the two don't go well together..
Nothing could be further from the truth. If plants are healthy they create the perfect environment for fish. Your mistake is in assuming that having low nitrate is a good thing. As long as you continue to believe that you'll have difficulties.

Assuming this is in fact hair algae, this indicates that the CO2 demand is higher that what you are supplying via Excel. When the tank was first setup the amount of plant mass was relatively low and at that time the level of Excel you were providing might have been sufficient, however, as the plants grow their demands also grow so you'll need to add more CO2 via Excel or you'll need to add CO2 via injection.

Starving your plants of nitrate and phosphate is never a good thing and you'll find that if you add more of these essential ingredients your plants will be healthier and so will your Discus.

Cheers,
 

glenn

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his post was edited after i posted so i could not see that mike was talking about hair alge in perticular.
 

mike_low3

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Thanks for all the replies, I'm not sure how to attach pics ?
The algae I'm suffering from is defo hair algae, mostly attached to the plants, if I can figure out how to attach a pic I'll upload some pics of the algae.
I did some research on the forum and had kinda guessed that the algae was linked to a lack of CO2, would you recommend some form of pressurised CO2 system to correct this imbalance, and how would this affect my discus ? I suffer from low ph levels and I'm concerned that using CO2 will make my ph crash ?
At the moment both the spray bars I have in operation are pointed up towards the surface, is this a bad idea ? is it driving of any available CO2 ? And is 5 hrs of photoperiod to little for the plants, I'd always associated long light periods with algae.
In response to the discus situation and planted tanks, I find that feeding beefheart is not helping the situation as any left overs finds it's way into every area of the tank, and no matter how much syphoning I do I can't remove all of it, that is why I've made the decision to sell the discus.
As for nitrate, I didn't think that having nitrate was an issue but with all the plants dying I didn't know if this was leading to increased nitrate levels ?
Any advice would be great
Thanks
Mike
 

mike_low3

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Sorry forgot to add that my lighting is 2 x Arcadia T8's 42" 38w, is this good enough ?
 

Steve Smith

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Light levels are not as important as CO2 levels, although the more light you add the more CO2 and nutrients you'll need. It sounds as if you have enough light IMO. 5 hours of light seems ok as clearly your plants are using up the carbon in that time. As you get things sorted, and get to grips with possible nutrient dosing, you may look to increase this period, but it's best to keep things as they are untill you figure out the algae issues.

A pressurised CO2 system would be more economical, and a better setup for a larger tank, as dosing Excel on a 4ft tank can get quite expensive. You can dose more than the stated dose on the bottle though, but it depends on whenther you have shrimps/snails in your tank. I've had problems with dosing too much EasyCarbo (similar product) and killing off nerite snails and shrimp in the past.

I would position your spraybars so thay are horizontal with the water surface. This will give a little movement but help with ciruclation more.

I can't comment on the possibility of PH levels to be honest, as I live in a pretty hard water area and have not had any problems/experience of dodgy PH levels.
 

ceg4048

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mike_low3 said:
Thanks for all the replies, I'm not sure how to attach pics ?
See this thread=> How do you post a picture

mike_low3 said:
I suffer from low ph levels and I'm concerned that using CO2 will make my ph crash ?
People really need to get over pH crash. It's such a myth, first of all, because it simply doesn't happen, and then secondly Discus are found in extremely acidic water so there has never been a case where low pH harms Amazonian fish. These fish often use low pH as a signal to breed.
mike_low3 said:
...At the moment both the spray bars I have in operation are pointed up towards the surface, is this a bad idea ? is it driving of any available CO2 ?
Have a careful read of this thread=> Difference in drop checker readings in different positions
mike_low3 said:
And is 5 hrs of photoperiod to little for the plants, I'd always associated long light periods with algae.
It's not so much the photoperiod as the intensity of the light. Your problem is due to a CO2 shortfall so that needs to be addressed. Once addressed the photoperiod for your lighting level can be 8-9 hours. That will allow you more time to enjoy your tank. 5 hours is too draconian.
mike_low3 said:
In response to the discus situation and planted tanks, I find that feeding beefheart is not helping the situation as any left overs finds it's way into every area of the tank, and no matter how much syphoning I do I can't remove all of it, that is why I've made the decision to sell the discus.
Well who says that only beefheart is acceptable? What's wrong with a combination dry flakes and live foods? I've kept Discus in planted tanks with no problems whatsoever (no beefheart). The only reason I see to give them up is having to collect RO water, and even that's not really an imperative as many Discus are kept in tap water. I think we make our lives more complicated when we handcuff ourselves with unreal restrictions.
mike_low3 said:
As for nitrate, I didn't think that having nitrate was an issue but with all the plants dying I didn't know if this was leading to increased nitrate levels ?
Plants dying fundamentally leads to increased levels of organic waste which then degrades to ammonia. This is the real enemy that few consider. By the time ammonia is oxidized to nitrite and then to nitrate the damage has already been done. The solution is to ensure plant health, then this issue goes away.

Cheers,
 

mike_low3

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Thanks for the advice, I'm going to buy a pressurised system try and to have it setup asap, I'm hoping that adding CO2 will benefit the plants, the reason I have my lights on such a short period of time is that any longer and the algae just goes crazy, I'd really love to have them on much longer.
I actually do feed my discus a very varied diet of frozen and dried food, but I still seem to struggle with left over food, I understand what your saying about plant helath and fish health been linked but I'd rather go back to less demanding fish tbh.
I have a question on CO2, is there a specific way to work out how many bubbles per minute for the tank size, and with using CO2, will it steady my fluctuating PH levels ?
Cheers
Mike
 

ceg4048

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mike_low3 said:
Thanks for the advice, I'm going to buy a pressurised system try and to have it setup asap, I'm hoping that adding CO2 will benefit the plants, the reason I have my lights on such a short period of time is that any longer and the algae just goes crazy, I'd really love to have them on much longer.
Well, around 40% of a plants dry mass is Carbon. It's THE most important element in the plant kingdom. Plants use light energy to strip C from CO2. The excess oxygen formed from this reaction is ejected into the environment - into the soil as well as into the water column. So anything that lives in the soil or water and that uses oxygen benefits from this miracle. Each time light is present without CO2 being present the reaction fails and the plants self destruct. Algae then attacks the destroyed cells. The brighter the light the more intense the self destruction and the more devastating the algal attacks.

You can do two things in the interim; you can lower the light intensity, i.e, disable one of the T8 bulbs if possible, or if not possible, shade the bulbs or remove/block reflectors. You can also double or triple the Excel dosage though this does get expensive. The lower lighting relieves the CO2 feeding pressure and the Excel adds more CO2 while being toxic to the algae.

mike_low3 said:
I actually do feed my discus a very varied diet of frozen and dried food, but I still seem to struggle with left over food, I understand what your saying about plant helath and fish health been linked but I'd rather go back to less demanding fish tbh.
This indicates overfeeding to me, quite honestly. As i mentioned I've kept Discus in planted tanks and I never suffer this problem. Leftover food means too much food, however, yes they are demanding fish so I completely understand the desire to make life easier. :D

mike_low3 said:
I have a question on CO2, is there a specific way to work out how many bubbles per minute for the tank size, and with using CO2, will it steady my fluctuating PH levels ?
Well, again, you really need to get over pH and pH fluctuations. Every planted tank in the world which injects CO2 experiences an increase in pH fluctuations. No one cares because there are no ill effects of low pH or fluctuating pH. If you continue to worry about fluctuating pH I can absolutely guarantee that you will continue to have algae. Worry about fluctuating CO2 first and ignore pH.

You need to carefully study the following articles which address your CO2 questions:
CO2 In the planted Aquarium

CO2 MEASUREMENT USING A DROP CHECKER

Cheers,
 

mike_low3

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Thanks again for all your advice, I'll read the articles and hopefully they'll help me
Cheers
Mike
 

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