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Struggling with staghorn algae

reefaddict

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tank2.jpg

tank1.jpg

Tank: ADA 45P, 38 litres
Age: 9 months
Filtration; Dennerle Scaper’s flow, 360 l/h filled with Seachem matrix; EHEIM surface skimmer for additional flow and to remove surface scum.
Lighting: Chihiros WRGB2 @ 50% for 8 hours, gives a PAR reading of 100 micromoles on the carpet
Substrate: ADA Amazonia light
CO2: pressurized, kept stable at around 30 mg/L during lighting period
Ferts: I dose daily for a weekly total of 14,5 ppm NO3-, 1,46 ppm PO4- and 6,11 ppm K+; I dose micros accordingly; this regime keeps pretty stable levels of around 4 ppm NO3-, 0,5 ppm of PO4- and 5 ppm of K+. Mg is kept stable at 10 ppm.
WC: 50% weekly with remineralized RO water keeping same stable conductivity of around 300 microS in the tank
Plants: from day 1: Myriophyllum mattogrossense, Anubias barteri "nana", Hygrophila pinnatifida, Bolbitis heudelotii, Hemianthus callitrichoides “Cuba”, Althernathera reineckii “mini”, Hydrocotyle tripartita “Japan”, Rotala wallichii, Staurogyne repens, Murdannia keisak.
Inhabitants: 7 Danio margaritatus, 1 Otocinclus, 2-3 Amano shrimps.
Water parameters: temp. 24°C, GH 7, KH 4, pH ranging from 7 early morning to 6,6 during daylight.

I’m struggling with staghorn algae since Christmas. They grow on older leaves of lower growing plants, while fast growing stem plants seems unaffected. I’ve found different opinions on several forums and internet sites. Apparently, there’s a consensus on an ammonia spikes as possible cause of the infestation, and, in fact, some amano shrimp is missing, probably because of too much micros fertilization. A well-know german producer of ferts thinks that an excessive amount of iron is to blame, but after a couple of 50% WC with a pause in my micros regime, I saw no results but an apparently better growth of staghorn!

tank3.jpg


Here is what I did :
  • Thinking to the event of an ammonium/ammonia spike I carefully serviced my filter and all the pipes restoring maximum flow;
  • I kept my macros regime constant (plant growth seems pretty good as usual), but I reduced my micros to half the usual dose; I see no apparent sign of iron or other micros deficiency.
  • I’ve been monitoring my CO2 levels during 24h with a pH meter: I’m pretty confident about CO2 levels during daylight being at around 30 ppm; apparently, I don’t have much degassing during the night; I tried to use the surface skimmer more frequently to help degassing and improve oxygen levels at night;

I never mentioned glutaraldehyde or H2O2 as a remedy: I don’t want to use strong chemicals without addressing the cause. I just tried once to lightly spray some excel on Bolbitis leaves and this is the result:

tank4.jpg


Any suggestions?
 

JoshP12

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Hi all,

Am following with interest - so thought I would share some of my thoughts.
24 degrees - can we drop it down a degree or two without affecting livestock?

Primary reason is to increase dissolved oxygen levels (which I will comment on after).

Ferts: I dose daily for a weekly total of 14,5 ppm NO3-, 1,46 ppm PO4- and 6,11 ppm K+; I dose micros accordingly; this regime keeps pretty stable levels of around 4 ppm NO3-, 0,5 ppm of PO4- and 5 ppm of K+. Mg is kept stable at 10 ppm.
Sounds silly to ask, but how is Calcium?
Apparently, there’s a consensus on an ammonia spikes as possible cause of the infestation, and, in fact, some amano shrimp is missing, probably because of too much micros fertilization. A well-know german producer of ferts thinks that an excessive amount of iron is to blame, but after a couple of 50% WC with a pause in my micros regime, I saw no results but an apparently better growth of staghorn!
I've read that before as well. Let's consider it to be ammonia. If that is the case, then we need to make more efficient bacteria functionality - Oxygen.

Here is what I did :
  • Thinking to the event of an ammonium/ammonia spike I carefully serviced my filter and all the pipes restoring maximum flow;
Beauty.
  • I kept my macros regime constant (plant growth seems pretty good as usual), but I reduced my micros to half the usual dose; I see no apparent sign of iron or other micros deficiency.
If you reduce the micro, you may reduce overall demand of some nutrients. No way of saying when or by how much.
  • I’ve been monitoring my CO2 levels during 24h with a pH meter: I’m pretty confident about CO2 levels during daylight being at around 30 ppm; apparently,
Can always try a slight increase and pay very close attention. If I were a plant, I wouldn't live underwater sheerly because there is less light and air, so I don't think it could hurt to also try this.
  • I don’t have much degassing during the night; I tried to use the surface skimmer more frequently to help degassing and improve oxygen levels at night;
This is where I would pay some attention. Maybe run the surface skimmer throughout the entire photoperiod? Naturally, you will offgas more CO2, so you will need an injection increase -- this will give more O2 during photoperiod. If you are getting surface scum, then this would be the route I would try.

Also, if you have floss in your filter, I'd remove it for now to get faster flow rates and to prevent clogging.


Quick question: how is the pearling? This will give us a crude indication of O2/light intensity.

Josh
 

Kezzab

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Frustrating stuff.

In my experience its hard to 'save' leaves that have been badly affect. Trimming them off is needed.

The excel treatment has killed the staghorn, hence the red. But I've tended to find it easily melts bolbitis fronds too...

How's the flow in that central part of the tank? Could be worth experimenting.

There doesn't seem to me to be an obvious fault in your regime. Perhaps a big trimming session is needed, then you can monitor the new growth and see if you are over the hump?
 
Last edited:

GHNelson

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Hi
I agree with Kezzab:thumbup: ........ hard pruning of all the affected areas will be for the best in the long run!
Stops the plant using energy on badly affected leaves!
Encouraging new submerged growth!
 

tiger15

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Staghorn belongs to the same family of red algae as bba and responds well to peroxide and Glutaldehyde treatment, as evident in your pic turning red after one treatment. Peroxide breaks down quickly into harmless O2 and H2O, and Glut biodegrades in less than 24 hr, so neither is harsh chemical at appropriate dosage. So if it is working for you, why are you afraid of using them temporarily until you balance out the fundamentals. I spray peroxide to exposed plants and hard surfaces in weekly water change and dose Glut afterward after filling up as an algae prevention measures even though I do not have algae. With rare exceptions, plants, fish and inverts are tolerant of Glut and peroxide at appropriate dosage; in fact, SeaChem promotes daily dosage of Glut as liquid carbon (I don’t buy it) suggesting that it is a benign chemical at recommended dosage.
 

Tim Harrison

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I spray peroxide to exposed plants and hard surfaces in weekly water change
That's interesting, what concentration do you use?
And how long do you leave it. do you spray just before you refill for example?
Are there any plants that don't respond well?
 

Siege

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I’d echo what Tim said and the others about oxygen.

Also look at your co2 . You want it light green at lights on.

also think about the skim, move it maybe? Perhaps a circular flow? At the moment it is blasting your stem plants.

A decent external filter with glassware is probably the best advice.....
 

tiger15

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That's interesting, what concentration do you use?
And how long do you leave it. do you spray just before you refill for example?
Are there any plants that don't respond well?
I spray 3% peroxide on exposed plants, rock, heater, and all hard surfaces when the tank is drained down. So they are exposed to as long as it takes to refill the tank. Then I dose 2 ppm glut after refilling.

Vals, Hornwort, mosses and a few non emergence plants are known to be sensitive to glut. Majority plants are not.
 
Last edited:

Zeus.

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They grow on older leaves of lower growing plants

So with it mainly affecting lower leaves, suggests that the flow and indirectly the CO2 to those leaves may be inadequate.
There does seem to be more CO2 bubbles higher in the tank and very few at substrate level which supports the lack of flow theory.

In my 50l Dennerle tank I also have a 'Dennerle Scaper’s flow' which I have coarse sponge filers only in to help improve flow and I have the Eheim skim working in combination with the Dennerle Scaper’s flow output which hit the CO2 bubbles and force them to front of tank straight down to substrate level, Plus I do have my skim set higher than your . I also have a twinstar nano on tank (not sure if it actually helps) but when its on the whole tank is full of the nano bubbles - if the twinstar nano does nothing 'per sa' the one thing its does is give a great visual display of the flow.

I will try and get some decent pics of CO2 bubbles getting to substrate level and Twinstar nano in action once lights are on later ;)

I dose the tank with Urea and no staghorn or BBA issues, thats not to say there isnt any BBA, as dont always keep on top of maintenance of tank esp the cleaning side (WC always weekly 50%++, but the BBA will be very localised on hardscape only or on CO2 tubing.

So IMO the most likely culprit is insufficient 'Flow/tank turnover' and Filter/Skimmer/CO2 injection placement need optimising, plus affect leaves removed and replace the Amano 'if' its no seen soon as it may have jumped/climbed out. I struggle to keep Amanos in my 50L due to jumpers/climbers and when doing a WC in my 500l braced tank there is always a few trying to escape when I am filling the tank climbing the glass.
 

reefaddict

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First, let me thank you all for your help!

24 degrees - can we drop it down a degree or two without affecting livestock?
I'll do that during weekly maintenance, Danios do like cooler water.
Sounds silly to ask, but how is Calcium?
Given a GH of 8° and Mg at 10 ppm, Ca should be around 40 ppm
If you reduce the micro, you may reduce overall demand of some nutrients. No way of saying when or by how much.
I restarted with micros since I saw lighter sprouts on my Myryophillum
This is where I would pay some attention. Maybe run the surface skimmer throughout the entire photoperiod? Naturally, you will offgas more CO2, so you will need an injection increase -- this will give more O2 during photoperiod. If you are getting surface scum, then this would be the route I would try.
Also, if you have floss in your filter, I'd remove it for now to get faster flow rates and to prevent clogging.
Quick question: how is the pearling? This will give us a crude indication of O2/light intensity.
I think that increasing gas exchange is definitively one of the key problems. I run the skimmer with the help of a programmable socket now: it's on every 2 hours for 10 min. This seems at the moment a resonable compromise between too much flow/degassing if kept always on and the formation of surface scum. I know that this way it would not help in permanently increasing flow.
The filter is filled with coarse pumice stone, no floss.
Pearling start in less than an hour from lights on now after several adjustements I made. Previously, it was probably starting later. I think my issues have more to do with night O2 levels.
In my experience its hard to 'save' leaves that have been badly affect. Trimming them off is needed.
The excel treatment has killed the staghorn, hence the red. But I've tended to find it easily melts bolbitis fronds too...
How's the flow in that central part of the tank? Could be worth experimenting.
Bolbitis fronds melted! Done! :oops:. I worked on the flow with an extensive trimming yesterday, now I see most leaves gently swaying
I agree with Kezzab:thumbup: ........ hard pruning of all the affected areas will be for the best in the long run!
Stops the plant using energy on badly affected leaves!
Right, trimming: done.
Staghorn belongs to the same family of red algae as bba and responds well to peroxide and Glutaldehyde treatment,
I'll give H2O2 a try. Do you spray 3% solution in a diluted form?
Also look at your co2 . You want it light green at lights on.
also think about the skim, move it maybe? Perhaps a circular flow? At the moment it is blasting your stem plants.
A decent external filter with glassware is probably the best advice.....
I know CO2 is one of the most important things to check, but I'm pretty confident my levels are ok just before lights on and through the entire phoperiod.
I've never been satisfied with the position of the skimmer :rolleyes:. I have to place it somewhere else.
My tank is in a bookshelf. Unfortunately I had to choose a hang-on-the-back canister filter like Dennerle's Scapers flow because there's no room for pipes on both sides. What I can do is to switch from the lily pipe to a spray bar, that would probably improve circulation a little bit (although the pump has such a small head that a spray bar may be a bad idea...)
So with it mainly affecting lower leaves, suggests that the flow and indirectly the CO2 to those leaves may be inadequate.
There does seem to be more CO2 bubbles higher in the tank and very few at substrate level which supports the lack of flow theory.
Apparently, most affected leaves are not in low flow area but are always the oldest and biggest. Probably the plant drives more "energy" on healty young leaves and keeps them algae free while sacrifying the oldest ones. Tips are much more affected than other parts of the leaves. Does older leaves leach more than new ones? Staghorn seem to prefer places where the plant leaches nutrients into the water.
replace the Amano 'if' its no seen soon as it may have jumped/climbed out. I struggle to keep Amanos in my 50L due to jumpers/climbers and when doing a WC in my 500l braced tank there is always a few trying to escape when I am filling the tank climbing the glass
I found my kitten happily playing with 2 bodies on the floor... He asked for some mayo sauuce with the shrimps, but I firmly refused.
He can't jump close to the tank, it's in a shelf, THEY jumped out

I made a strong trimming, now I try to increase the flow and reposition the skimmer. I would also make some water test today (yes, boring). Then I'll be back in a few days with (hopefully) good news.
 

reefaddict

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Just an update after a month or so. The situation is much better but still partially unresolved

CO2 and gas exchange: I made plenty of work on this subject ;) I plotted a CO2 concentration curve through the day with the help of a pH meter. pH is now around 7.3 (previously 7.0) in the early morning meaning I reached a higher degassing/oxygenation rate during the night. At lights on pH is now 6.5 and stable through the whole photoperiod. Given my temp of 23° C and KH of 3.5 °dH I have between 30 and 40 mg/l CO2 during the day. I made some fine tuning of CO2 injection rate, position of lily pipe, position and running schedule of the Eheim surface skimmer (btw: excellent in degassing!)

Bacterial mineralization: besides improved gas exchange, as stated before, I keep my filter carefully serviced and I regularly clean all hoses.

Water movement: I have plenty of staghorn algae flowing in very strong current rich in CO2 as well as in calm places. Apparently staghorn algae have nothing to do with water movement per se.

Chemical warfare: I sprayed a diluted solution of Excel (I had no H2O2 at hand, but I think it works too) on plant leaves when water level is low during the weekly water change. Left 5 minutes. The day after the staghorn turned pink and disappeared in a week. Leaves are ok. Definitively a way to go.

Biological warfare: I have two Amano's and one Oto. They don't seem to eat staghorn algae at all.

Fertilization: I kept my steady macro regime (pretty heavy regime, EI-like); after 2 weeks of lowering micro supplementation with no evidence on algae growth, I returned to regular dosing of micros as well. I suffered from low potassium since my tap water, which is mixed 50/50 with RO water, is very low on K. I think I stayed a couple weeks with K in the range 0-5 ppm before adding potassium sulfate to return to 10 ppm potassium. My Alternathera reineckii suffered a lot.

Problems solved: all leaves exposed to air during wc and treated with gluth are now free of algae and healty; I also have no signs of GDA, really! (was a minor problem before); very good plant growth (but A.reineckii) that is recovering
Problems unsolved: staghorn is now affecting the "Cuba" carpet. HC is growing pretty fast and well, requiring trimming every 2-3 weeks, but staghorn algae cling to the tiny leaves and is difficult to remove. I wonder why (and how) staghorn clings to such a healty growing/pearling plant in full current!
 

Wookii

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Good to see you are getting on top of the Staghorn. For the remaining bits on your carpet plants, either remove by trimming the carpet - it looks fairly thick in the image on your first post. Trimming will encourage fresh growth and remove the algae in one go. For any persistent bits, mist them with some Excel using a small syringe, sticking within the overall tank dosing level, and keeping the filters off for 15 minutes.

Oto's won't touch visible staghorn (though they may help minimise initial microscopic growth just from the general way they rasp on leaves to feed), and shrimp will readily eat it once it's dead, but won't touch healthy staghorn.

Unless you are particularly against them, I would recommend getting a batch of cherry shrimp to supplement your Amano's, and some Ramshorn snails (assuming you're not a snail-phobe). A solid algae eating crew, along with healthy growing plants, are the best prevention for algae.

Finally, I know your tank is small, but Oto's are quite social fish, so you may want to consider getting a few more to make your current occupant comfortable, but don't forget to target feed them regularly with algae wafers and cucumber/courgette etc.
 

reefaddict

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Unless you are particularly against them, I would recommend getting a batch of cherry shrimp to supplement your Amano's, and some Ramshorn snails (assuming you're not a snail-phobe). A solid algae eating crew, along with healthy growing plants, are the best prevention for algae.

Finally, I know your tank is small, but Oto's are quite social fish, so you may want to consider getting a few more to make your current occupant comfortable, but don't forget to target feed them regularly with algae wafers and cucumber/courgette etc.
Thank you Wookii. I'd love to keep more shrimps, snail and give my poor Oto some friends. I'm aware Oto's should be kept in small groups. Unfortunately Covid restrictions had an impact on availability of live stock here, so I'm looking for red cherry shrimps from local farmers, but snail are almost impossible to find.
My Oto was... the last in my LFS ! I thought my tank was better than the one in the shop, fully stocked with hungry angelfish (!) with a single shy Oto in a corner
 

Wookii

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Thank you Wookii. I'd love to keep more shrimps, snail and give my poor Oto some friends. I'm aware Oto's should be kept in small groups. Unfortunately Covid restrictions had an impact on availability of live stock here, so I'm looking for red cherry shrimps from local farmers, but snail are almost impossible to find.
My Oto was... the last in my LFS ! I thought my tank was better than the one in the shop, fully stocked with hungry angelfish (!) with a single shy Oto in a corner

For the shrimp , you could try Shrimp Marketplace on Band - I've seen a few breeders/seller based in mainland Europe that may ship to you:

 

Beaker

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Food for thought about off gassing CO2 and increasing O2. Surface agitation & gaseous exchange in CO2 injected tanks
I have a 1.5 ph drop from my CO2. Around 1.7 ph drop, my fish start getting stressed.
I have been following this guys advice for my new planted tank. In the past, my tanks were always full of algae But since I started following his advice I was algae free for months until my CO2 ran out without me realizing it and my needle valve started floating down to a low injection rate. Now I’m dealing with hair algae that is slowly going away as I fix the CO2.
 

reefaddict

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Food for thought about off gassing CO2 and increasing O2. Surface agitation & gaseous exchange in CO2 injected tanks
Hi Beaker, I worked a lot on my gas exchange rate/CO2 injection. I also plotted a daily curve of CO2 concentration using a pen pH-meter every 30 min (thanks to working from home...).
I'm now running at around 5-6 ppm at night and I reach 30 ppm at lights on, I'm pretty happy with that.
Plant growth seems fine, and I don't see new growth of staghorn algae, I only see it on old plant leaves. I wonder why old leaves leach this much.
 

reefaddict

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I find Aquasabi information to be somewhat better than many of the offerings on the Net. It may be worth investigating your iron dosing based on what they are saying.
Thank you JPC, there's a lot of useful information on Aquasabi site. Some info seems someway anecdotal, like the suggested Ca:Mg:K ratio 3:1:0.5 (never found any evidence for that, particularly for the Mg:K ratio) or like the staghorn/iron relation.
Unfortunately, I stopped from dosing Fe+micros for a couple of weeks, but I saw small effect if any on staghorn algae growth (btw, no sign of Fe deficiency too...)
I used to test for Fe with a test kit from JBL, but I never had the chance to see a fair color developing in the vial, so apparently no detectable free iron. I'm aware iron is tricky to detect as will very likely form unsoluble salt and precipitate out of solution.
Therefore, my micro dosing has always been based on a reasonable proportion with macros, which I can easily test.
I don't know if I have to try to do another 2-3 weeks without iron.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Plant growth seems fine
Good, that is honestly the main thing.
Therefore, my micro dosing has always been based on a reasonable proportion with macros, which I can easily test.
I don't know if I have to try to do another 2-3 weeks without iron.
It takes a while for <"iron deficiencies to show">, and then there is a bit of a lag in growth, after iron becomes available again, because iron isn't mobile within the plant.

cheers Darrel
 

Bent17

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For Staghorn I was told to dose Hydrogen Peroxide 6% directly to the water flow. So since i'm a 200L tank it would be 70ml day one 70ml day 3 and finally 70ml day 6 followed by a 50% water change. Is this good? or too much peroxide in the tank? opinions?
 

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