Possible BBA and a host of questions

Marcus_F

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8 Jun 2020
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Essex
Hi all,

New member having been recommend this place on a fish forum for some advice. I've been reading and researching all weekend to a point where I feel I have a basic understanding of the chemistry involved and how it should all work however trying to put it into practice on my tank I'm a bit lost as it doesn't all add up. I'm at the point now where I'm not sure where I should post my questions or which area of the tank I should tackle first. Decided Algae first because well I think I have Black Beard Algae.

The details of my tank which has been running for 9months now.

1. Size of tank - 170L (Cube 53x53 with a depth of 56)
2. Filtration - Fluval 307 external cannister
3. Lighting and duration - Just changed to Fluval Plant Spectrum 3.0 (38W). 4 days ago it was Fluval Aquasky 53cm which I think was 16W. The Aquasky was on 10hrs a day, I was given the impression the depth of the tank was causing issues for the 18W to reach the floor. The new Plant Spectrum is now on 8hrs a day, the blue has been reduced from the start (5%) as it was on the Aquasky. Whites both on 80% and red 55%.
4. Substrate - Caribsea Eco Complete
5. Co2 - No injection, just stared Seachem Excel dosing in the last two weeks. I add 8ml every day but only in last two days have I started adding it just before lights go on. Prior to that I was adding it in the evening almost as lights go off.
6. Fertilizers used + Ratios - JBL ProFlora Ferropol, 40ml when I change 35 litres each week and a further 20ml midweek. First dose of Seachem Potassium used yesterday 8ml will add 2nd dose tomorrow with the aim to be 3 times a week and also added a Seachem root tab under my Amazon Sword to help.
7. Water change regime - 35 litres a week ( about 20%)
8. Plant list:
Cryptocoryne Becketti 'Petchii' - From the start
Echinodorus Bleherae - Again from the start, looks to have some for or nutrient deficiency, oldest leaves go brown at tips, still seeing new healthy green growth.
Limnophila Sessiliflora - From the start originally, it died. Another one put in about 6 weeks ago.
Vallisneria americana Gigantea - Growing well, seeing runners shoot up I think but has the algae over it.
9. Inhabitants - Cardinal Tetra's, Dwarf Rainbowfish, Penguin Tetra, Cherry Barb, Black Widow Tetra

image5.jpeg


Now for the algae, here are some not so clear pics I was able to take two days ago.

image1.jpeg
image0.jpeg
image2.jpeg


Despite my research online I've not yet seen BBA which is so fluffy and across full leaves, all examples I've seen are tufts of it. I did originally see tufts on the wood which is why I think it's BBA. Can see some reddish where the Excel has been directed on to the leaves and wood but it's too much to directly apply without massively overdosing.

My plants look poor, are not growing as intended maybe with the exception of the Vallis and small Crypto. I originally started looking at ways to help my plants to grow better, thinking if I were to solve that issue it would kind of resolve the algae issue. So my research began and over the last 6 weeks I've been trying to make adjustments.

My tap water is ridiculously hard think it read 21dKH and similar GH. So I started to mix with RO water. Well I say RO water, it's not from a fish shop or made myself, I get it from PureWater Solutions. It's for window cleaners but is pure water like RO and read a few different places people have used it with great success. Anyway, fish etc. all the same as prior use. On my tap water I also use a Pozzini filter as tap water is 40ppm Nitrate and I wanted it lower. So now my water change of 35 litres holds just 5ppm Nitrate. Wanted the RO water to get my hadrness down for my fish so intention was about 7 or 8 KH. I started at 50/50 and then 66/33 the larger value being RO. My last change at the weekend I used 75% RO which read 5dKH which is where I want it to be I believe try and help my 8.2PH and minimal CO2 levels.

I was going to write more about how i've looked at the PH and it's relation to KH value and if my understanding is right, the drop of the PH would help with a slight increase of CO2 for my Easy rated Tropica plants.

I do have some Hygrophila difformis and Egeria densa on order which should arrive this week to help draw out all the nutrient to combat the algae. Oh and I added a power head at the weekend to try improve circulation and it certainly looks to be helping, much great movement on the plants.

As you can see I've been over reading in trying to understand a lot of what is going on. I did have a good read over some topics here too but I'm getting myself into a bit of a mess of what should I do. I guess the main question is, do I forget my plants and target the algae problem or as I've been lead to believe and trying to achieve, get my plants healthy and in good growth which will in turn sort the algae out.

Thank you for your patience if you got to the end :rolleyes:
 

Kezzab

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Hi, my tuppence worth... if plants are happy and growing well then algae tends not to be a problem. Focus on plant health rather than algae eradication. You wont really get rid of the algae thats on the plants now, but keep an eye on new growth comingtjrough. If it stays clean then you are solving the problem.

With the exception of one leaf, the algae in the pictures looks like a green fuzz algae type thing.

It may be worth dimming the light intensity for a few weeks and see how plants respond. Its also the case that many people find vallis reacts badly to excel/liquid carbon, but should do well in hard water. Maybe stop the excel too (although it does have combat algae a bit).

The thing this probably isnt about is excess nutrients. So by all means its a good idea to add more plant mass as that usually helps, but not because you are removing nutrients. You could do that more easuly simply by stopping dosing fertiliser (which probably wouldnt be a good idea).

I also think ferrapol is just a micro nutrient mix. So you are adding potassium, have high nitrates in the tap water, but there's no phosphate being added anywhere (i think!). Perhaps try an all in one fert like TNC Complete instead of the combo you are using.

Others more expert than me can set me straight on any of this!
 

Marcus_F

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Joined
8 Jun 2020
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65
Location
Essex
Thank you,

Yeah Ferrapol is micro only, the tap water being high Nitrate is a non issue now I use RO mix. The tank always measures around 20ppm Nitrate although the colour of the API kits does leave some what interpretation to 10 or 20ppm orange. I began to add Potassium only because Phosphate test reads 0.25ppm which I was told is a fine level and would a macro all in increase Nitrate?
 

rebel

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4 Aug 2015
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While the advice of focus on plant health is a good one, for significant outbreaks like this you need to follow the following principles.
1. Manual removal (daily).
2. Chemical attack daily. Almost anything can be used including your usual ferts if you stop filters and do a spot dosing.
3. Add algae eaters (can just be temporary).
4. Frequent water changes and filter cleaning.

Once the algae is almost defeated then you can concentrate on plants again. ;)

This algae looks like staghorn though. You need to be very aggressive because staghorn can break people; even experienced ones.
 

Witcher

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15 Jan 2020
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now my water change of 35 litres holds just 5ppm Nitrat
Hey @Marcus_F with all respect to you, but there are (almost) no plants in that tank so you can't reach biological stability, I think you'll need to at least triple the plant mass to keep everything stable and to make those algae dying.
Other few things - it looks that you dose only 1ppm (approximately) of NO3 weekly (assuming 170l tank and water change containing only 5ppm of NO3 in 30l of water). I think you'll need at least between 5-10x of that amount (5-10ppm/whole tank) with no gaseous CO2.
Phosphate test reads 0.25ppm
Plus you seem to have extremely low amount of PO4 in the tank.

If it was my tank, I'd massively increase plant mass, slowly increase NO3 to approx7-10ppm (only guessing, you'll need to test the amounts in your tank), increase PO4 to approx 2-5ppm, stop messing with water hardness (mix it with RO but keep it STABLE for all the time, especially gH), daily dose your typical dose of excel/carbo, make sure you have Iron+micro+K available for plants (keeping iron at approx 0.1ppm but again that's only a guess) and I can bet most of those algae will die with no of your additional input - just make sure you have lots of plants and NO3 never reaches 0 (while other ferts present in the tank) and generally stable conditions.
 

rebel

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Without getting complex about the ferts, I think you should put a fertiliser tab under each of those plants. Do big WC often.
 

Marcus_F

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it looks that you dose only 1ppm (approximately) of NO3 weekly (assuming 170l tank and water change containing only 5ppm of NO3 in 30l of water). I think you'll need at least between 5-10x of that amount (5-10ppm/whole tank) with no gaseous CO2.
Thanks for your reply, completely agree the plant mass is low, I did have more at initial setup which didnt make it, I was also expecting some of these plants to have a lot more to them especially the stem plant. I don't dose NO3 the by product of RO and Tap Water mix gives me a reading of 5ppm Nitrate before I add it to the thank. Nothing else is add anything to this. The tank does run at around 10 - 20ppm always been this ready when I test at different intervals. I'm a little lost when you say I should increase my NO3 by x5 or x10 Are you suggesting my NO3 reading of the water I'm adding at the change should read closer to 10ppm? My NO3 has never reached 0. I might take a reading each day so I can see how it evolves from the water change.

increase PO4 to approx 2-5ppm,
I was reading all weekend that anything over 2ppm Phosphate would cause an Algae bloom and the suggested levels were 0.1 -1.0? Quite happy to be corrected, just like to understand things myself rather than blindly add stuff for the sake of it.

I actually spoke to Fluval to help with the light and they said to add phosphate removal pads to stop the BBA algae. This was a week ago, not had a chance to act on that yet.
 

Kezzab

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Hi, i'm a simple fellow when it comes to all this. Once we get into PPM territory i run and hide. Maybe you like the numbers, but it seems confusing.

If i were you i'd forget about chasing numbers. Stick with your 50/50 RO/Tap water mix then just start dosing a complete fert at the recommended dose for your tank - stop all your others fert/chemicals. Don't worry about what PPM it is or isnt. Stick with it for a few weeks and see the impact. It cant make things much worse.

The suggestion to add phosphate removal pads its not something ive seen in relation to BBA (which i dont think you have anyway) and the repeated evidence from people on this forum is that very large amounts of fertiliser can be added to a tank without causing algae.

I genuinely think reading too much can be more of a hindrance than a help sometimes.
K
 

sparkyweasel

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I was reading all weekend that anything over 2ppm Phosphate would cause an Algae bloom
That is a common myth. Apparently phosphate from agricultural run-off is associated with algal blooms in lakes, but that is a very different situation. Somebody must have put 2 and 2 together and got 587. :)
If you want even more reading, there are threads on here debunking the myth, both with science and with empirical results in real tanks.
If you starve your plants of phosphate (or any other nutrient) they will struggle. Algae are adaptable opportunists, and there are lots of different kinds, they can exploit any wet habitat. With low, high or imbalanced nutrients you just get different algae that can use what's available.
The best way to combat them is with healthy plant growth. The extra plants you have ordered will help, and you need to use fertilisers containing all the nutrients for plant health.
 

sparkyweasel

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As you can see I've been over reading in trying to understand a lot of what is going on. I did have a good read over some topics here too but I'm getting myself into a bit of a mess of what should I do.
Obviously I am biased, being a member, but I have a lot more confidence in what I read on here than elsewhere. That's why I am a member. :)
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @Marcus_F

I don't know how you'll feel about the suggestion I'm just about to make, nor am I sure if it's the right thing to do. But, as you don't have many plants in the tank, would it be possible to temporarily re-house your fish in another tank and, dare I say it, make a fresh start on this tank? I'd be interested to hear the views of everyone else on this. But, it's your tank and your decision.

What say you?

JPC
 

Marcus_F

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8 Jun 2020
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Thanks all, glad the phosphate is a myth can't believe I've not come across that in everything I've read. Certainly gives me more confident to stay with a complete major fert rather than split it all up.

The new plants arrived today and installed. Five bunches of Egeria densa and five bunches of Hygrophila difformis although I hate having to install stem plants, always get floaters. So far so good but I did turn the power head off.

I have two large stones too so going to get some Microsorum pteropus 'Windeløv and also get some more Cryptocoryne Becketti 'Petchii' which is my best grower in the foreground which I really like.

image1.jpeg
 

Witcher

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RO and Tap Water mix gives me a reading of 5ppm Nitrate before I add it to the thank. Nothing else is add anything to this. The tank does run at around 10 - 20ppm always been this ready when I test at different intervals.
I think that relatively high level of unconsumed NO3 in your tank is a direct effect of low phosphates (they actually work in synergy to my observation, PO4 (and Fe) is literally allowing NO3 to be incorporated in plant tissue. But I must admit that some of your calculations seems to be unclear - do you do water changes with 20% of water containing 5ppm of NO3? Because that gives you only 1ppm of NO3 for the whole volume of the tank after water change and that's why I think you'll need at least 5x more than that with no gaseous CO2.


I was reading all weekend that anything over 2ppm Phosphate would cause an Algae bloom and the suggested levels were 0.1 -1.0? Quite happy to be corrected, just like to understand things myself rather than blindly add stuff for the sake of it.
That's certainly not true and I'll definitely agree with @sparkyweasel - PO4 (if balanced, correlated with other nutrients) causing algae blooms on its own is a myth. Of course PO4 can cause algae blooms, but at extremely high levels (and other nutrients can do the same thing when they are available in massive quantities caused for example by extensive farming and leaching nutrients to the rivers etc). Level of PO4 need to be correlated wit levels of NO3/Fe to my observation and has nothing to do with algae blooms unless it will be left out of control. As an example just now I keep my tank with (weekly) 8-9 ppm of NO3, 0,18ppm of Fe and 7.5pm of PO4 - and I have only some string algae here and there, but overall, my plants look super healthy - and frankly speaking supplying large amounts of phosphates (of course large to some levels) over last few months was probably the best thing I did to my tank over last few years (I think relatively larger amounts of PO4 overall had more impact on my tank than supplying CO2 which I've ditched completely few months ago) - it was a test and I'm very happy with it.

And I strongly believe that those famous experiments conducted by PaulSears and Kevin C. Conlin accusing PO4 of being the main causes of algae are to be blamed for all the fear folks feel when pouring PO4 to their tanks. Completely unnecessary.
 

Marcus_F

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I think that relatively high level of unconsumed NO3 in your tank is a direct effect of low phosphates (they actually work in synergy to my observation, PO4 (and Fe) is literally allowing NO3 to be incorporated in plant tissue. But I must admit that some of your calculations seems to be unclear - do you do water changes with 20% of water containing 5ppm of NO3? Because that gives you only 1ppm of NO3 for the whole volume of the tank after water change and that's why I think you'll need at least 5x more than that with no gaseous CO2.
I'm still a little lost but let me try and explain what's happening. The tank was started up 9 months ago, always used tap water, never had issue etc. but I did use the test strips not real solutions. So with the new tank, I wanted to do it right so I got the API solutions to test. I was testing all the time and my NO3 for 6 weeks no matter the water changes would never get before 40ppm and often was over 50ppm when testing using API NO3 test solution (two bottles). It was pointed out to me that there is a strong chance my tap water has a high level of NO3 in it and in testing the water I found my tap water was 40ppm on the API test.

I was always told with fish and I was 99% concentrating on my fish at this stage, that you need 0 ammonia, 0 Nitrite and you did water changes to keep Nitrate under 40ppm. So I was shocked to find I was adding 40ppm at a water change which was intended to dilute the NO3. I was worried this 40ppm with fish waste would then increase to 50 or 60 or I'd have to complete countless water changes a week just to keep it at 40. So i invested in a Pozzani filter which can give me 0ppm NO3 but I let it run a little quicker than quoted so not all is removed.

The end result is my 35 litres of water which is a mix of RO and filtered Tap reads about 5ppm of NO3 and I add this to my 170 litre tank. I'm guessing the fish waste contributes to keeping the tank reading itself always around 20ppm NO3 on the API test.

Sorry I still don't understand why I'd want to increase my NO3 by x5 to a reading 25ppm NO3 as a minimum. It can easily be done, I can mix the RO water directly from the Tap without the filter.

I will add before any jumps on my about fluctuations :) all of the above including my changes to RO/Tap mixes has been done very slowly over time with small percentages at a time.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
that you need 0 ammonia, 0 Nitrite and you did water changes to keep Nitrate under 40ppm. So I was shocked to find I was adding 40ppm at a water change which was intended to dilute the NO3. I was worried this 40ppm with fish waste would then increase to 50 or 60 or I'd have to complete countless water changes a week just to keep it at 40.
Don't worry too much about the nitrate level, have a look at <"What about test kits"> and linked threads. The great thing about planted tanks is that the level of NO3 goes down rather than up.

There are a number of reasons for this, as well as direct uptake by the plant they create a much larger volume where <"aerobic microbial nitrification, and anaerobic microbial denitrification can occur">.
So i invested in a Pozzani filter which can give me 0ppm NO3 but I let it run a little quicker than quoted so not all is removed.
You can use nitrate exchange resins to reduce the level of NO3 in your water, but they are an expensive option and you still have the issue of not knowing when the resin is exhausted.

I'll be honest I haven't got a lot of time for the vendors of a number of these sorts of <"magic bullets">, and I look at them as a bit like <"payday lenders"> or <"betting companies">. There is no money to be made in telling people that they can use plants to:
  1. Reduce nutrients
  2. Improve water quality
  3. and as a visual guide to nutrient status.
Have a look at <"How achievable is a nitrate free....">, it goes through the options for nitrate depletion. There are a number of opinions on how effective tests kits for nitrate are, <"personally I wouldn't base my decisions on the results of a NO3 test">.

cheers Darrel
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @Marcus_F

The reason I made the suggestion in post #14 was because I fear that the algae may spread to any new plants and get out of control. Rather than try to 'blitz' the tank as it stands, I felt that a fresh start was worth considering. So, I think we need to bring that algae under control. It is some form of brush (or beard) algae. Pinning down which one is probably immaterial. I'm wondering if you have too much light going into your tank. It's light that dictates how much nutrients (ferts) are needed and that includes the big one - carbon. I suspect there may be a problem here. It's always difficult looking at a photo but your tank appears very brightly lit. I see that you're using Excel of which I have negligible experience. Are you using the recommended dose?

That'll do for now.

JPC
 
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