Why dont nutrients cause algae?

Discussion in 'Aquarium Fert Dosing' started by aaronnorth, 5 Oct 2008.

  1. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    why dont they? I know they dont but i dont know the explanation/ science behind it all, can someone help please

    Thanks.
     
  2. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    Why should they? They don`t cause plants. :D

    When you think of what triggers algae, these are nutrients....ammonia, CO2 and light. We just tend to think of NPK and trace as fertilisers.

    Dave.
     
  3. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    You cant really compare the 2 though can you?

    If you had algae already, would dosing nutrients (EI method) kill/ minimize the algae, or will it feed it?
     
  4. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Aaron,
    I think you're missing the point a bit. To get a better idea of the fundamentals of algal blooms it's helpful to remember that most algae live in a "duality" in the same way for example that a butterfly has a dual nature. A butterfly first exists as a caterpillar. The job of the caterpillar is to accrue as many chemicals as possible from the environment until something triggers the caterpillar to enter metamorphosis. At the end of this transformation there is a butterfly which looks completely different from a caterpillar and also feeds a completely different set of nutritional components.

    Algae first exist as spores. This is their "caterpillar" equivalent. AS far as we have been able to ascertain, spores seek out light+ammonia in some combination, and that's all they look for. If they have plenty of ammonia but no light they cannot enter metamorphosis because there is not the right combination of triggers. If there is plenty of light but little ammonia they can accrue enough to trigger the metamorphosis. If they have plenty of light plus plenty of ammonia the trigger is immediate and they change forms from spore to flagellate so fast your head will spin. It is this flagellate form which we see expressed in our worst nightmares, and this is their "butterfly" equivalent phase.

    Spores do not feed on fertilizers such as PO4 or NO3, therefore PO4 and NO3 cannot possibly trigger a bloom, no matter what the level, however, the butterfly form - the flagellate - does feed on fertilizers and will immediately begin to take advantage of any nutrient source in the water column or on leaves once it changes from spore to flagellate.

    We ought to know by now that algal attacks in a eutrophic environment such as an EI tank (or really, any water column dosed tank) is brutal because the flagellates are feeding voraciously on any available nutrients, however these flagellates then produce spores which, as stated, don't really care about the nutrient content. The spores once again simply seek out more light+ammonia. If you have a water column dosed environment at the same time that you have high light AND ammonia production then the tank is in trouble. However, if your ammonia production was due to malnutrition then that means the ammonia production was due to starving plants and only by feeding the plants will you stop this ammonia production.

    If you have a healthy EI dosed tank and you pour ammonia in the water column you normally will trigger an algae bloom, but it is important to note that only certain species of algae will bloom in this otherwise healthy tank. Typically this would be green water or BGA, and as JamesC has pointed out in another post, certain variants of staghorn, but importantly these will typically not attach to the plants because the leaves themselves are healthy. When you see algae attack a leaf it is specifically because the source of the ammonia is the leaf itself and that usually means that the leaf is decaying as a direct result of malnutrition.

    In the first instance, where ammonia production is from other than a decaying leaf, the dosing can stay unaltered but the ammonia production has to be tracked down and eliminated - so this may mean water changes, removal of dead things, filter cleaning and so forth. This is a very different scenario to that of an algal bloom that is attached to the plants. When this happens it is a sure sign that malnutrition is at fault so dosing normally has to be increased even though it feeds the flagellate forms. You'll just have to live with this short term escalation of algae in order to stop ammonia production due to starvation. The ammonia accrued in the water column that was due to starvation can be abated via frequent water changes and the flagellates can be eliminated via blackout, but it is pointless to reduce the nutrient dosing if starvation was the cause of the ammonia production.

    Thus there is a fundamental difference in the types of algae that develop because there is a difference in the ORIGIN of the ammonia. Folks don't think about this nearly as often as they should and that's why there is so much confusion, so for example, one can have a green water attack and blame NO3/PO4. Withholding NO3/PO4 dosing in this instance then starves the plant and causes other types of algae that are NO3/PO4 starvation related so then one ends up with three or four types of algae needlessly.

    Poor CO2 often causes problems which can escalate beyond belief if we misinterpret the dynamics in the tank and if we don't think about this duality of algae. Check this thread for further details=> Guide for algae?

    Cheers,
     
  5. jay

    jay Member

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    So... like in my tank I have staghorn due to fluctuating Co2... If I, in a panic stop ferts, then rather than halting the problem of just having staghorn, i'll end up having green water etc aswell?
     
  6. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, if you panic and stop adding ferts you can end up with any or all of the algal forms seen on this page (where it states the cause is "Low Nutrients")=> JamesC's Algae Guide in addition to your staghorn, yes.

    Cheers,
     
  7. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    That`s an interesting write up, Clive. Algae spores looking purely for light and ammonia makes a lot of sense when I consider what it is exactly that I have done to trigger an algae bloom.

    Is there a reputable source for this information? Not that I am saying your repuatation isn`t sufficient, :D but are there any peer reviewed articles?

    Dave.
     
  8. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Dave,
    I can only refer to the Barr Report Newsletters mate, other than my own tests as well. You won't find this anywhere else in The Matrix because it's specifically programmed to make you believe that nutrients cause algae... :? Part of the problem is that in many water samples there is present both NH4 as well as some level of nutrients. Nutrients are always left holding the smoking gun because of nitrification. That's kinda like killing someone with an icicle. As soon as it warms up the evidence disappears...

    Cheers,
     
  9. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    I wish people would observe what is going on in their tanks a bit more. :D I hate to see any algae in my tanks, but it is a far better indicator of conditions than any coloured liquid in a test tube.

    Fabrique Belgique, Rodney!
     
  10. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    Ceg, although I agree with what you have written above you concentrate on malnutrition. Should it not be added that the slightest damaged leaf will have the same effect ammonia--->algae wise? This is easily shown that when doing a water change with a syphon (and I am not the most careful) that if you catch a leaf, then a few days later algae can be seen. If you look at the actual leaf it is healthy and isn't decaying and continues on for infinity but the algae remains on that damaged section. I get this all the time because (as I said above) I am always getting leaves damaged from syphon water changes.

    I have started just to let the water out of the filter outflow pipe rather than syphoning out but I am assuming I will then get a different type of algae due to leaving the detritus in the tank.

    Great write up by the way. Easy to follow English that even I can understand. lol

    AC
     
  11. oldwhitewood

    oldwhitewood Member

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    Very interesting this. I guess it backs up the idea of removing infected alage leaves as soon as possible through trimming.
     
  12. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Andy,
    Well, I hesitate to extend this to all cases of "mechanically" damaged leaves and the reason is that my observations aren't consistent with this. Here is a classic example in my tank. As you can see here this sword leaf was damaged during a water change some weeks earlier. Similar to your case it got sucked in to a siphon inlet and damaged a "vein". The portions of the leaf downstream of this damaged vein turned brown but the leaf continued on and there was never any algae formed either on the green or damaged portion of the leaf. In fact, if I were to include physically damaged structure I would have no way of explaining why there isn't an immediate algal attack every time we prune our plants. Somehow, at least in my tank, healthy plants are able to compensate for physical damage much better than they are able to withstand malnutrition. I am intentionally violent during my water changes because I want to shake out any weak leaves in the tank which ultimately fail and produce ammonia through decay. I do inflict damage to some leaves but they carry on without any algal attacks at all. If my CO2 runs low or if I bottom out some other nutrient then I will see the associated algae, but not necessarily on the damaged leaves first.
    [​IMG]

    Cheers,
     
  13. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    Thanks everyone, as part to Andy's question, i was wondering the other day why just 1 section of HC has gone brown and the rest is flourishing, guess i know why now :D

    so when dosing EI, we are making the plants grow more (to stop leaching NH3) to cure the algae, and thats why it is killed?

    Thanks. :)
     
  14. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    My Co2 must keep running too low (or not dosing enough nutrient) Every leaf I damage gets staghorn or BBA within days.

    I shall have to keep an eye on it.

    AC
     
  15. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    This part is bang on the target.

    This part less so. EI is about growing plants, and that is it. Follow the ethos of EI correctly and algae shouldn`t come in to the equation.

    Dave.
     
  16. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    so why does EI kill algae?
     
  17. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, again, we need the proper mindset to make the right decisions. Algae is never "curable" because it in and of itself is not a pathogen. It is a plant like the macrophytes we have in the tank but lives within a certain niche in the environment. The environmental niche for algae is somewhat different from the niche for higher plants. What we are trying to do is to convince the spores that the environment they are in does not conform to their preferred niche (i.e. high light+ammonia) and that as a result there is no reason for them to bloom into the flagellate form. This is why, for example lowering the light and performing frequent water changes helps. The water change reduces the ammonia concentration and the lower light reduces the energy stimulus.

    Malnutrition is "cured". Algae also is not "killed" by nutrients. Curing malnutrition disrupts the trigger mechanism so that spores, which are always going to be present are not influenced into blooming. This occurs due to the reduction in ammonia.

    We will be in trouble if we think solely in terms of killing or eradication, even though blackouts and algecides are used to directly kill them. In fact spores will always survive and can return with a vengeance, especially if in or efforts of eradication, we damage the plants. A better mindset, is to consider that what we are trying to do is to convince algae spores that winter has come and that therefore there is no point in blooming, or that the environment is healthy and that the trigger levels are not occurring to stimulate the bloom.

    Single minded violent eradication efforts often meet with failure because we fail to consider the life cycle of algae. If a CO2 related algae appears and I dose Excel what should be my mindset? Should it be solely that Excel is an algaecide and I am nuking the algae into oblivion? No, it should be that Excel offers the plants more CO2 than they are currently assimilating and that I need to fix my CO2 so that failing plant health does not cause further triggers to the bloom.

    A similar mindset should be employed for example with BGA. It can be triggered by [light]+[ammonia due to organic waste decay] or by [light]+[ammonia due to NO3 starvation.] So what should the mindset be? Remove the trigger. Lower light + clean tank/filter. Again the lower light lowers the energy trigger and cleaning the tank/filter removes the ammonia producers. If the BGA was triggerd due to light+poor NO3, well, lower the light and/or add NO3. Does the NO3 "kill" the BGA? No way. NO3 resolves the malnutrition (therby stopping the ammonia trigger due to starvation) and it's presence in the water column tells the spores that it is not a good time to bloom.

    EI is never about killing, but yes sometimes we do have to kill via other methods. But why? Well, Algae flagellates produce more algae spores and feed on the nutrients which is a double whammy. So we kill/remove the flagellates to lower their spore reproduction rate and to arrest their growth but spores will always remain. Once the flagellates have been killed the nutrients in the water column no longer poses a threat because the spores are not triggered by, nor are fed by the nutrients. By solving the condition of the environment and eradicating the flagellates we now only have to convince the remaining spores that conditions are not conducive to blooming. Lowering light and/or removing ammonia production by having healthy well fed plants and a clean tank and filter convinces these spores to wait until conditions deteriorate in the environment before striking again.

    I always prefer to think of algae as obnoxious yob neighbors, who, when roused makes you life a living hell. The best thing is to convince them to go back to sleep and to then avoid waking them up. :D


    Cheers,
     
  18. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Andy, it might be worth trying an experiment for a few weeks in which you supplement the tank with Excel/Easycarbo, or if you are already using it, to increase the dosage and/or frequency slightly. There is a strong possibility that your CO2 distribution is marginal which perhaps makes the leaf more susceptible when damaged.

    Cheers,
     
  19. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    thanks agin Clive, much appreciated the time you take to post answers :D

    i was just saying killed by going on your other thread 'how EI frightened the gardener' ;)

    so they start as spores who search for light + ammonia (but they cant feed of other nutrients), once they get these they turn into flagellates, who can feed of nutrients, so we overdose nutrients to stop them producing more flaggelates as they think the environment is unsuitable to bloom!

    correct :?:
     
  20. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    Ceg. I have a light grass green DC and I can see the swathes of CO2 bubbles shooting out of the powerhead along the back of the tank. I can even see them coming back around the front of the tank to complete the cycle at the same end they started. On top of this I dose the recommended dosage of EasyCarbo daily!!!

    I am going to try to up my ferts a little though and see if it is in fact starvation due to the huge plantmass I have at the moment with 60% of it being non substrate planted maybe I am not dosing enough in the water column.

    AC
     

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