Various algae problems in my Rio 125

Discussion in 'Algae' started by drooke, 13 May 2009.

  1. drooke

    drooke Member

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    Hi all,

    I've had my tank setup now for about 8 months and have always had algae problems. I started off with a very simple setup which has developed as I've learnt more. I'm hoping that you can point me in the right direction with my current algae issues.

    Tank: Juwel Rio 125 litre
    Filtration: Internal Juwel 600lph and TetraTec EX700 external (added this week)
    Temperature: Approx. 24 Celsius
    Lighting: 2 x 18w T8 on between 14.00 and 22.00. Tank is close to window receiving morning sunlight which can shineon tank.
    Substrate: Tropica Plant Substrate capped with sand
    Fertilisers: Tropica Plant Nutrition+ 3ml 5 times a week
    Plants: Reasonable level of planting with Amazon swords, Elodea Densa, Hygrophila Polysperma, Cabomba, Ambulia Aquatica, Crypt Lingua.
    Fish: 2 Angel, 2 Neon Rainbow, 2 Red Platy, 1 Neon Swordtail, 5 Neon Tetra, 5 Lemon Tetra and some Corys to come.

    Water stats this week are pH 6.6 and Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate 0ppm. pH has recently dropped after changing substrate from pea gravel. Used to sit at 7.8.

    I've included some photos of the tank and algae below. I believe I have Green Spot, Green Dust and Black Beard algae although I may be wrong.

    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]

    Any ideas on where I'm going wrong?
     
  2. Piemonster

    Piemonster Member

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    Are you injecting any form of CO2?
     
  3. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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  4. drooke

    drooke Member

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    Sorry, no CO2 at the moment and no plans to add.

    The description of BBA suggests it's only small tufts. I've had this in rather large patches before, only seems to appear on the stones I have in the tank. Could it be something else?
     
  5. Stu Worrall

    Stu Worrall Forum Moderator Staff Member

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    Theres one of your problems right there. If you can, get some co2 or easycarbo/excel in there, that sun in the morning wont help either.
     
  6. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi,
    The BGA and GSA indicate that the plants are suffering nitrate and phosphate starvation respectively. Therefore you'll need to increase the dosing. Are you sure you have "TPN+" and not "TPN"? Also ensure that you are not overfeeding the fish as this can be a contributor to many forms of algae. Ensure that your filters are cleaned regularly as well.

    If you're having BBA then this is a CO2 related issue which, in a non-CO2 injected tank can occur if you are performing water changes. Non-CO2 injected tanks should avoid water changes as this generates CO2 instability which induces BBA. There is no need to start adding carbon products such as Excel until you fix the other problems first.

    The sunlight could also be an issue so you may want to close the curtains or otherwise find some way of blocking the extra light at least temporarily while you implement some of the other changes.

    Cheers,
     
  7. drooke

    drooke Member

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    I definitely do have TPN+. Should I maybe start dosing about 5ml five times a week? And I guess I should see the Nitrates increase on my water tests? I was under the impression that lower Nitrate levels are better, perhaps there's a good level to aim for?

    I feed the fish approximately enough to last them 5 - 7 minutes. I don't believe I'm over feeding, perhaps I am?

    CO2 wise, I do perform fairly regular water changes about every 2 - 3 weeks at about 75% each time. This is to gravel vac primarily to try and keep the substrate clean and to remove/hide the algae. With the Corys, I will need to be doing more regular changes to keep the substrate free of uneaten food and other nasties. How can I keep the fish and plants happy and the algae away?

    Perhaps I should shift the lighting period earlier in the day to match daylight hours for a while and see if this improves maters. Does this sound like a good idea? It'd be good to have the lights on in the evening but I'm not sure shutting out the light is practical for the morning.

    Thanks for the advice so far.
     
  8. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, I can tell you that assuredly, these are all classic fundamental misconceptions which are responsible for a huge percentage of troubles in a planted tank. Were you aware, for example, that TPN+ contains a Nitrate component? The significance of Nitrate (NO3) is that it is a vehicle for Nitrogen (N), which, apart from Carbon is the most important element a plant can obtain. In general terms the best level of Nitrate from a plants perspective is an unlimited level.

    It's difficult to say, with any degree of certainty, whether 5ml dosed 5X per week is the correct level, however the fact that it's more than you are currently dosing is a step in the right direction. Nitrate test kits are notoriously inaccurate soany test results will be irrelevant. A much better technique is to observe your tank for a few weeks with the increased dosing. When the BGA does not return then you know for certain that this is the correct dosing level. If you use test kits you will be as a dog chasing it's tail.

    I reckon 99% of hobbyists massively overfeed, probably because it's so entertaining to watch the fish eat.

    Well, each time you perform a water change in a non-CO2 planted tank you introduce a new, higher level of CO2 with the new water. This confuses the plants because they have a mechanism which senses the level of CO2 and they adjust their chemistry to the ambient level. It takes a couple of weeks to accomplish this chemical balance. When the water change occurs this mechanism is then triggered inadvertently and the plants then are fooled into thinking that there will be more CO2 and this disrupts their CO2 consumption. This causes CO2 related algae. You can vacuum the tank but instead of throwing away the water, simply reuse it. The idea is to keep the CO2 level in the water column consistent.

    The water change and the dosing issues are the biggest contributors right now. I'd suggest to spend the next few weeks fixing those first. Without the water changes you might find that you don't need to increase the dosing as much, or that you can simply dose once a week or once every two weeks. :idea:

    Cheers,
     
  9. drooke

    drooke Member

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    Thanks for your reply ceg4048, I appreciate your advice although I'm unsure if I can implement your points.

    In terms of Nitrate level, all advice I have seen elsewhere suggests that a high Nitrate level suggests high levels of decaying food and plant matter which is harmful to fish. Obviously I would like to strike a balance between what good for the fish, good for the plants and bad for algae. What might be the best course of action to achieve this?

    Water changes are performed to remove decaying food and plant matter. I'm unsure how I would reuse the siphoned water while removing all the debris. Hence why I replace this with fresh dechlorinated water. Any suggestions for this?

    Thanks
     
  10. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, I'll completely understand if you find the following response to be completely outrageous, but all the advice you've seen elsewhere is completely misguided within the context of a non-CO2 planted tank. In a tank without plants there is a problem with organic waste as there is no organism that will recycle the waste. Ultimately, without this mechanism, the nitrate levels can climb to toxic levels if no water changes are accomplished. In a planted tank however we have the ultimate sewage treatment facility. Plants will thrive by using the ammonia, nitrates, phosphates and trace elements that are being produced in the tank. It is a perfect recycling machine and your animals will be healthier as long as the plants remain healthy.

    Would it surprise you to discover that grass and weeds grows the greenest in a cow pie? Or that farmers regularly use cow, pig and chicken manure as fertilizers? Is the concept of recycling organic waste so incredible? How do you suppose that fish waste and decaying particles are handled in natural water systems? In fact it's accomplished in this way, though nitrification of ammonia products and subsequent uptake by plants.

    Here are examples of a tank in which 60ppm of nitrate and 10ppm of phosphate were added on a weekly basis. of course this was a CO2 injected tank but this illustrates that the fear of nitrate/phosphate is unfounded:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    If you have BGA then what's clearly happening is that the waste products are not nitrifying quickly enough to produce a nitrate level sufficient for healthy plants. As a result you're getting algae due to nitrate starvation. You'll need to supplement nitrate via KNO3 for example or via commercial mixes such as TPN+. i suggest that you review the thread EI DOSING USING DRY SALTS to get an idea of how important nitrate is to a planted tank. If you ant to grow plants successfully you'll have to purge your mind of the debilitating propaganda being fed to you by "elsewhere".

    It's easy to reuse the siphoned water. Place the external end of the hose over a sponge or over/within a mass of filter floss and allow the water to seep through while the floss traps the debris. Someone else suggested that you simply allow the the siphoned water to settle in a container and the debris will settle to the bottom of the container. The clear water can then be siphoned back to the tank. Theoretically, you ought to be able to age water in a container which will out gas CO2 and be at a similar CO2 level after a few days. You should be able to use this water if you wish but it's completely unnecessary.

    Cheers,
     
  11. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    If you take a look at the journals section and you will see that almost every tank adds NO3 and PO4 on a daily basis, or every few days.
    It has been proven that NO3 doesnt cause algae or even health problems in fish above 30ppm, you cant beat evidence, and by looking and tanks with levels above the "dangerous" line is all the proof i certainley need! :D

    http://www.setacjournals.org/perlserv/? ... -5028(2000)019%3C2918:AACTON%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    Pierce et al 1993 suggested for marine fish:
    "Previous studies have indicated that long term exposure to nitrate-N levels above 100 mg/L may be detrimental to fish(440ppm). This study was undertaken to assess the acute toxicity of nitrate to five species of marine fish, while efforts were taken to reduce the nitrate concentration in the recirculating systems."

    Tom Barr has also tested levels of 140ppm with shrimp before any deaths occured.

    I understand it is hard to believe, because you are used to being told the opposite and to suddenly change your perceptions is difficult.

    Rotting plant matter and food release ammonia anyway, which in turn is convverted into NO3. However the intial ammonia spike (probably undetectable) can cause algae and it is the most common cause next to CO2.

    The tank in my signature had 6ppm of NO3 and 0.3ppm PO4 added daily. doesnt sound much but levels were constantly around 30ppm NO3 and 2ppm PO4

    Clive, do you know the average levels of CO2 in a non-injected tank when in equilibrium with the air? There is different answers everywhere.

    thanks.

    thanks.
     
  12. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    That's because few people have a CO2 meter. I think Barr's data indicates the number to be somewhere around 8ppm. Again, the concentration probably won't be homogeneous throughout the tank.

    Cheers,
     
  13. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    thanks, i though i have read it was about 6ppm.
     
  14. drooke

    drooke Member

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for all of the advice. I've been ill this past weekend, hence not replying. I have managed to keep dosing more TPN+ (5ml per day) and have not done any water changes.

    Plant growth is very strong at the moment with some stems about 2/3 of the way to the surface. The BBA seems to be spreading however and I'm still getting a fair bit of algae on the glasswhich is brown. My biggest Amazon Sword has developed several holes in it's leaves which I believe points to low CO2, possibly due to previous water changes as you've said. This plant is also producing offspring so to speak with two new plants on a stem.

    I'll carry on as I am for now, but if anyone has more pointers that'd be great.

    Thanks
     
  15. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    BBA in a non-CO2 tank is very tough indeed. You may have to cheat a little and overdose Excel in order to knock it back. Physical removal is also a must so you'll have to cut out infected leaves and scrub infected surfaces. Sadly, this is a Catch-22 because adding Excel means resuming water changes since this effectively adds CO2. If you wanted to avoid Excel then only a blackout would be of help.

    Glad you're feeling much better mate. :D

    Cheers,
     
  16. drooke

    drooke Member

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    Thanks again for all of your advice. The plants have been growing very strongly.

    I wanted to check back in as I've been having problems with ammonia levels since stopping water changes. Unfortunately I lost one of my Angel fish before realising ammonia was through the roof at 8ppm (as high as my test kit goes). Since then I have performed two 50% water changes and levels are much better now at 1ppm just before the second water change. This will have had a negative impact on the plants as I understand it, but my fish are more important.

    So my question is, how can I continue to give my plants what they want and look after the fish at the same time?

    Thanks for any more advice.
     
  17. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Sorry to hear of your loss. I guess I don't really believe your test kit readings as they seem absurdly high. At a pH of 8, the 50% lethal concentration of ammonia (LC50) is about 0.25ppm at a 1 hour exposure time. So 1ppm is 4X the lethal dosage at this pH. At 8ppm you would have annihilated all fish in your tank in no time. This doesn't mean that the fish was not poisoned by ammonia, but that the numbers you are reading are not valid. We can't be sure that ammonia toxicity was the cause of death, unless you had dramatically increased the stocking levels or were massively overfeeding. With the amount of plant biomass and filtration in your tank there is slim likelihood that ammonia levels would rise to toxic levels.

    In any case if you wish to abandon the non-water change you may find that you need to supplement the tank with any of the available liquid carbon products if gas injection is not an option.

    Cheers,
     

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