Waving the white flag! I need your help...

Discussion in 'Algae' started by Ben C, 10 Feb 2019.

  1. Ben C

    Ben C Member

    Messages:
    168
    Location:
    Witney, Oxfordshire
    Hello all,

    I need your help. I set up a new planted tank in early December. It started off perfectly, but has declined over the last couple of months to a mess. I've had planted tanks for years and this is the toughest ride I have ever had. I've made a video to help illustrate where I currently am with it.



    Specs:
    TMC Signature 60 x 30 x 45 cm (54l)

    Eheim Professionel 3 (2075) at 1250LPH
    Hydor koralia pump (added two weeks ago to increase CO2 circulation)
    Eheim Skim 350 on 24/7

    2x Kessil A80 Tuna Suns at 80% for 6hrs per day
    Pressurised CO2 for 7 hours per day (on two hours before lights, off one hour before lights off). Drop checker turns yellow shortly after lights on.

    Tropica substrate
    Hugo Kamishi sand

    Dechlorinated tap water (50% w/c per week)

    Ferts - Evolution Aqua complete liquid plant food (4ml per day)(although I do occasionally forget, but I don't think this is the problem)

    Plants:
    Monte Carlo
    Lilaeopsis mauritania
    Staurogyne repens
    Rotala wallichi
    Anubias pangolino
    Bucephelandra lamandau sp. red
    Fissidens fontanus

    I change 50% of water once a week, but was religiously doing 3x 50% water changes per week for the first three weeks after setting up. The filter gets cleaned every two weeks, washing the media in tank water.

    However, around a month or so after setting up, I had a really bad outbreak of diatoms which really smothered the plants. I overcame this with some intensive water changes, bleach-treating the plants where possible and dosing Flourish excel. Before I beat the diatoms, I then had an outbreak of stag horn algae which remains on the substrate and hardscape.

    Now I have this awful brown algae that I am struggling to identify and tackle. The plant growth is obviously sluggish (new growth looks healthy, but is soon overcome). I've also noticed that the Staurogyne is turning pale yellow, but this is new. Related?

    What am I doing wrong?! I have better kit than I've ever had, but never had this challenge.
    I feel like it needs a bit of a re-start, but won't do that until I understand what is going on here.

    Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

    Ben
     
  2. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    6,299
    Location:
    Leicester
    Diatoms at start up is a common problem especially with AS type substrates. It's usually self limiting and clears up in around 6 weeks providing your maintenance regime is adequate; it sounds like yours was.

    My thoughts are that you've inadvertently weakened your plants with LC and bleach and they're leaking organics hence the algae.
    Your plant biomass was quite small as well, a large plant biomass infers greater biological stability, and maybe your light intensity is a little on the high side.

    Personally, I'd break it down sterilise and start again. Maybe add some additional fast growing stems for a while, dial down the light intensity to btw 50-60%, and dial in your CO2 asap. I can't comment on your fertz since I've never used them, but I'd stick to the minimum recommended dose to start with, and increase if need be once the plant biomass increases.
     
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  3. Maxplantinstitute

    Maxplantinstitute Newly Registered

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Norway
    I had a similar experience when setting up mine. Diatoms and bga then thread/fuzzy algea.
    It seems my tank was not fully cycled yet and not ready for the bio load I had.
    I beat it with reducing lights, increasing ferts, increased co2, manually removing algea and waterchange every day for a week. This gave me the upper hand. Then I got some siamese algea eaters and amanos to finish it off. Get more sae and amanos then you normally would have in the tank and get rid of the surplus when algea is under control.
    I could spot vacuum the alge of with just the end of the hose. A lot of substrate and plant matter would get sucked up to, but it was the easiest way of removing it. good luck.
     
    Ben C likes this.
  4. Ben C

    Ben C Member

    Messages:
    168
    Location:
    Witney, Oxfordshire
    @Tim Harrison

    Thank you for this. When you say 'sterilise', what do you mean exactly? I can't afford to replace the Tropica substrate - do you think that would be a problem? I had a really high plant biomass to start with (first photo in the video), so perhaps ordering the same again would be OK. I might try a dry start and see if that helps next time...

    Inadvertently weaking the plants is an interesting thought - I guess its possible.

    @Maxplantinstitute

    Thanks - a few things there to think about. Thanks
     
  5. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    6,299
    Location:
    Leicester
    Perhaps sterilise is overkill. But, if you decide to strip the scape down, to give yourself the best possible chance of success, I'd soak the hardscape in 1:1 water and bleach over night. I'd also give the sand a good wash and pour boiling water over it.
    If you want to reuse the AS, it might be an idea to place it in a plastic sieve and rinse it under a running tap, and then dry it first.
    Yes I saw that, and although you planted quite densely, it's not what I would consider to be a particularly high plant biomass, especially since the plants are young and small.
    You could try and salvage some of the least effected plants and trim the stems right back, they will probably reshoot. But it doesn't look to me like there are that many left to save.
    Either way, if you consider it worth battling on or starting afresh, I'd make the suggested changes to your set up.

    Ordinarily I'd agree with the increase in fertz, but with plants that appear to be so damaged it's unlikely they will benefit and all you'll be doing is feeding the algae.
     
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  6. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    Messages:
    1,867
    Location:
    Yorkshire,UK
    +1 for rescape
     
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  7. tam

    tam Member

    Messages:
    852
    I don't do high tech. But, if it was mine I would:

    knock down the light intensity
    syphon or scoop out the sand that's effected and deal with it out the tank and then return
    take a tooth brush to the rocks
    see what will come off the plants with your fingers/tooth brush and chop off the worse effected leaves
    add some floating plants (not duckweed)

    Then repeat every 2-3 days so you keep knocking it back. See how it does if you get regrowth/no change maybe more on to nuke, but hopefully you'll see it return slowly/reduced and gradually petter out.
     
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  8. Geoffrey Rea

    Geoffrey Rea Member

    Messages:
    191
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    Evening @Ben C

    Can I ask what benefit all the flow produced by 1) your filter 2) the koralia and 3) the Eheim skimmer is currently providing you?

    You highlighted your reason for adding the koralia 2 weeks ago as a remedy to poor Co2 distribution. How do you know there was poor distribution? What evidence were you using? Was the drop checker failing to hit green at lights on? Were the plants showing signs they were struggling with carbon deficiency in certain areas of the aquarium?

    Personally if there was no specific evidence for Co2 deficiency I would drop the koralia immediately as high flow is doing nothing whilst your plants are struggling this hard. Just weakening them further then putting even more waste organics into the water column at a faster pace, helping the algae along. The pro 3 600 and skimmer are plenty for this size of TMC aquarium in a triangular scape.

    Also given you’re running A80’s above the plants, these are in my experience low lighting. The Rotala Wallichii will cause you issues as it will pick up a load of detritus in its leaves where it’s positioned in all that flow and is high Co2/light demanding for the most part. The Fissidens Fontanus is also technically high demanding and great for gathering detritus in high flow. I know others will say plants will adapt to the conditions but not once the conditions involve high organics from decaying plants, algae will adapt faster. It looked like all the Monte Carlo had all gone in your video as well? What exactly happened to the MC across the timeline from the beginning of December until now? If it failed to root down well in that time your fertilising regime may have been inadequate for its needs as you appear to have good distribution around the water column. MC is a hungry plant.

    The simplest thing I would suggest you can try immediately is to plant something with extremely fast growth and reasonably low demands temporarily. Maybe in the back left corner. Water sprite (Ceratopteris Thalicroides) for example and see how it grows for feedback on your light/Co2/ferts balance whilst carrying on with consistent maintenance and manual removal of algae.

    Get anything growing for now to turn the tide in the plants favour.
     
  9. Ben C

    Ben C Member

    Messages:
    168
    Location:
    Witney, Oxfordshire
    Hi Geoffrey,

    Many thanks for the comprehensive response - I appreciate it.

    The thinking behind adding the Koralia was in part to try to flush out some of the detritus, the thinking being that if I can do that AND ensure CO2 is reaching the plants, it might help.
    My drop checker is typically reaching green an hour or so after lights on, but I’m not sure how much more CO2 I can really get into the tank. As you note, the circulation is adequate and the CO2 already comes on two hours before lights on. Would you increase this? My diffuser is going like the clappers, at around 1bps.

    Thank you also for your comment on the Kessil A80s. I read quite a few reviews before purchasing them and ultimately they were recommended to me by Richard at Aquaessentials. We spoke over the phone about them. All the plants grew really well under them until the diatoms started choking everything. What makes you say they are low light? I can’t afford to replace them, so will need to work with them.

    And yes, good spot on the lack of MC in the video. After the diatoms and staghorn covered pretty much everything, I threw away the worst affected parts, rescuing what I could. I’ve re-planted a fair amount and it is growing back. On reflection, I should have cut the lighting down to reflect the lower biomass, but at the time the thinking was to give the plants enough light to start growing back in earnest. Good to know that it is hungry. As I said in my original post, all plants are growing well, even the fissidens - lots of green tips everywhere, until they become choked by this algae.

    I am considering restarting this scape with some quicker growing plants initially, as you suggest. I believe I turned the light intensity up too quickly last time (6hrs and up to 80% intensity after two weeks), so will take this slower, perhaps extended the CO2 period initially as well, before adding any livestock. How does that sound to you?

    Thanks again for your time. I’ve had a beautiful glosso carpet and perfect fissidens on DIY CO2 and T5s before so need to get back to those glory days!

    Many thanks

    Ben
     
  10. Geoffrey Rea

    Geoffrey Rea Member

    Messages:
    191
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    Hi Ben.

    It's ultimately up to you what it is you do with your scape but I will say I've recovered far worse aquariums that have been deliberately turned into algae playgrounds for the sake of learning. To me I see this as a great way to learn something new so I would persevere - what you're experiencing is nothing more than delayed success if you persist.

    First off I'll start with the lighting - the A80's:

    They're excellent lights... and they're point source. With every centimetre away from directly under the units the PAR level drops dramatically. They deliver a range of PAR levels, the majority of which can be considered low lighting under their spread. This means that plant requirements and location should be considered to get an optimum for each species if you're going to get the most out of them. Secondly, and perhaps controversially to all other advice received so far, I would leave your light settings alone. You have new healthy shoots appearing as things are. Why would you want to stop this? Plants are the customers here, this is evidence that you're winning, the algae is the scavanger that will be happier at lower lighting at this point. Get plants growing and algae will fail.

    Next Co2:

    then...

    Contradiction here... Which is it?

    "yellow shortly after lights on" or "green an hour or so after lights on"? Either way watching your plants and your fish is a better indication, bubble counters and drop checkers are guidance. If plants are growing now whatever it is set to leave it stable. Adjusting Co2 is risky business right now as fluctuations are not a good idea for the plants but benefit the algae tremendously as they are quick to take advantage. People will argue with this but your plants are in crisis with diminished resources currently, change and forced adaptation is not what they need. I would even extend this to doing water changes either before lights on or at the end of the photo period if you are using tap water, lot's of Co2 in tap water.

    Ferts:

    Keep this one simple and I am going to be opinionated.... TMC complete 3x the dosage on the label, 50% consistent water changes weekly. Don't fear the fertiliser, its food for plants.

    Plants:

    Fast growers that are cheap. I'd even put water sprite in a plant pot with some aqua soil if you don't want to plant in your scape. You can even float it. Allows for easy removal once everything has stabilised.

    Bacteria and Oxygen:

    You are cleaning your filter every two weeks.

    Why? Prefilter, sure. All media though?

    I'm not a microbiologist and I'm sure someone far wiser on this matter on UKAPS can give a more comprehensive explanation than me but.... The plethora of bacterias in the entire system, and which is more abundant at any given point, is in part related to the amounts of organic waste in the system. Heterotrophic bacteria rely on organic waste. Autotrophic bacteria synthesise their own food from inorganic substances. Messing with your media, at this point in time, may be counterproductive as you will be causing large, sudden die off as you remove organic waste. This takes up oxygen. I would aim for stability in the coming weeks and stick with just cleaning the prefilter for a while.

    The second part, oxygen availability, is entirely speculative but I would do what I could to get as much oxygenated water into that filter outside of the photoperiod. Everything benefits. All it costs is raising the lilly pipe up so it creates more surface agitation after lights out and putting it down before Co2 kicks in. Alternatively use an airpump and diffuser on a timer if you are forgetful like me.

    Hope some of that helps and you'll know your aquarium far better than me. See what you think may apply and what doesn't and what you think is complete rubbish.

    Cheers.
     
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  11. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    Messages:
    1,867
    Location:
    Yorkshire,UK
    The big plus of trying to recover is it stops you making the same mistakes but getting the result may take longer OFC. You learn much more from mistakes and they are all valuable lessons :thumbup:
     
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  12. Ben C

    Ben C Member

    Messages:
    168
    Location:
    Witney, Oxfordshire
    @Geoffrey Rea

    Thanks again for the time you've given me here. Its really appreciated. I should have quantified - prefilter only, every two weeks. Not the whole lot.
    You've inspired me to keep going. Just ordered some Ceratopteris so will implement the changes you've suggested and see how I get on. Will update in a month or so, all being well.
    Thanks again
     
  13. Geoffrey Rea

    Geoffrey Rea Member

    Messages:
    191
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    Fantastic @Ben C there is no substitute for experience.

    Knowledge is the gift that just keeps on giving. I know the responses that have been given here are long but they get to the root of what is going awry here - human behaviour. We see a problem (diatoms) and presume we must change things.

    I would estimate the reason your plants were all doing fine at the beginning is because your setup was fine as it was, maybe just a little low on ferts. You're an experienced aquarist after all. But then diatoms... They are a particular nuisance as they get their carbon from Co2 (just like your plants) and their energy from light (just like your plants). Brown algae in short are photoautotrophs and diatoms as a group make a fifth of the oxygen on the planet so love your diatoms a little. Oxygen is nice, highly recommend it.

    And here we go... Change this and change that, dial down this and restrict that... Instinctively it makes sense. Doing something feels like we're solving the problem. If we take a step back, sometimes we can reflect on how we as aquarists are an integral part of the problem or the solution.

    The specific problem in this case is that any changes you make to lighting/Co2/fertiliser to attempt to affect the diatoms has direct implications on your plants... At the beginning as they are settling in... When they are most vulnerable. Add to this that algae can adapt so much faster than your plants can generally. This is when things spiral out of control if adjustments start being made. Please enter... Staghorn algae, lover of fluctuating Co2 levels.

    There are exceptions to this. Yes, if you blast light on your plants on full power from day one expect trouble. So don't do that. Ramping up a few percent each day will help this but doesn't necessarily mean you won't end up with diatoms. Diatoms are part of life and otocinclus find them delicious.

    With the A80's you could gradually go up to 100% then probably stay there for your scape if you choose to. If the Co2 is dialled in/kept stable in balance with your light at 100% and there's ample fertiliser with weekly 50% (or more) water changes, plants will be winning all day long and algae won't be able to compete. Some green algae and BBA are an exception though, different topic anyhow. But at 100% you will be trimming frequently and your rock work will need scrubbing (nerite snails can be of great help keeping rock work reasonably clean if you want an easier life). This process of getting your plants successfully competing for resources is why diatoms disappear. It's not because a set amount of time has passed in my experience so far.

    It's important to note that through the diatoms, then the stag horn etc your plants keep trying to muscle through. Nature doesn't quit and its encouraging to hear you haven't either. Your filter and substrate will be more matured than the first time around as well so I suspect you'll get an easier ride for round two.

    Looking forward to seeing what can be learned and especially any disconfirming evidence to anything that has been mentioned. It's great being proved wrong, it's where the learning is. I'll keep an eye out for your update. Wishing you great success Ben.

    Anyway, as before... see what you think may apply and what doesn't and what you think is complete rubbish.
     
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  14. Geoffrey Rea

    Geoffrey Rea Member

    Messages:
    191
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    A bit of an example @Ben C

    Using Limnophila hippuridoides as a fast grower to soak up ‘excess’ nutrients and protect against algae whilst cultivating carpet. The first round I grew HC, around two square foot of the stuff in total. Ripped it all out for an iwagumi... instant HC carpet for the other aquarium:

    upload_2019-2-14_13-55-21.jpeg

    Then went on to plant Monte Carlo in it’s place and finished the scape off:

    upload_2019-2-14_13-56-28.jpeg

    (Bit overgrown here as it was just before I took it all down for a rescape)

    Using plants as tools...
     
  15. Siege

    Siege Member

    Messages:
    441
    Location:
    Huntingdon, UK
    Icymi Green Aqua’s brilliant video on algae. This may help and give you confidence.

     
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  16. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    Messages:
    1,867
    Location:
    Yorkshire,UK
    Great little vid, I did notice the tank tamp of 22 degrees
     
  17. Siege

    Siege Member

    Messages:
    441
    Location:
    Huntingdon, UK
    Yes 22 - 24 degrees is perfect so aim for 23.

    This video should be mandatory watching for every forum member! I know it makes me get off my back side and do some maintenance. :)

    Ps. Also Dennis Wong’s videos on co2!

    Can we add a section thing for useful tutorial videos? Eg.

    Maintenance
    Setting up co2
    Nigel’s turkey baster method
    Etc etc

    What do you think?

    Link a random mod @Ady34 what do you reckon, sorry don’t know who to ask or how to go about it!
     
    Last edited: 14 Feb 2019
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  18. Geoffrey Rea

    Geoffrey Rea Member

    Messages:
    191
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    @Siege All of Dennis Wong’s videos are worth the time to watch really.

    Personally think it’s some of the best content out there if you take the time to understand what he’s saying.

    His Co2 video:

     
    Last edited: 15 Feb 2019
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  19. Siege

    Siege Member

    Messages:
    441
    Location:
    Huntingdon, UK
    Follow up video is also here

     
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