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Old 12-21-2005, 01:17 PM   #1
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At wits end with Brown Algae

Okies. first the basics.

1. My tank is 26 gals.
2. kept at about 71-74 degrees
3. Brackish water- 1 tablespoon per ever 5 gallons of water
4. contains fake plants, pebbles, and large rocks from Lake Superior in Michigan.
5. Contains only 1 green puffer fish
6. water changed ever 1 to 2 weeks. (Usually 30%, salt added)
7. The tank came with a white halogen light
8. all levels seem to be ok with the tank except the Nitrate which is just at stress level.
9. The Puffer seems to be uneffected by both my problem, and the Nitrate level. He eats extremely well, he swims boyantly, his body shows no signs of stress or illness.
10. I feed frozen brineshrimp (After thawed of course) 1x a day (Use to be 2x but I cut it back when I started having these tank problems.) I tried bloodworms, which he likes alright, but he enjoys the brine shrimp more.
11. I change my filter insert once every 3 weeks to 1 month.

Here's my problem...

My tank is constantly filled with this brownish-rusty color "stuff". its a film that grows over the rocks, (Fake) plants and the walls of the tank.

(Here's a pic)



That is the second time it happened. Both the aquarium store near me, and another website told me it was "brown Algae".

One advice site told me to do a 25 to 30% water change, wash down the rocks, plants and such since the brown Algae just wipes off, then add a tablespoon of salt.

That worked for like a week, but the algae came back. The Aquarium store told me to do another water change, treat the water for 5 days with these tablet medicines called Maracyn then do another water change. But when I asked a Brackish water puffer know-all about Maracyn they said not to use it. (Something about puffers not having a natural slimey skin layer that could be effected by Maracyn.)

So I did another water change, only this time I changed 50% of the water, scrubbing off all of the pebbles, the large rocks and the fake plants, and the walls of the tank so that there was no brown algae left. That worked for a week or so. but it came back.

So Against the advice, I treated the water with the Maracyn the aquarium store gave me, and that didn't seem to do anything at all.

So another puffer knowall told me that I was cleaning my tank too often, that it was too clean, the brown algae is caused by excess nutrients in the water, and that brackish puffers like a certian amount of ick. If the water is too clean, this could happen.

So they told me that I should not do anymore water changes for now, just add water if the water level starts to evaporate. Try not to add more salt for the time being, and the brown algae will eventually burn itself out. (In otherwords just go away on its own.)

Its been about 3 weeks to a month since the last water change, and the algae seems to be spreading rather than getting better.

I'm at my wits end. Sure the fish doesn't seem to be stressed at all by it, showing no signs of illness, but still, I like a clean tank that I can see through.

What should I do? Clean the tank more often? Try the Maracyn treatment again? Let it go for a while longer and see if it does start to burn out? I need advice PULEEZE!!!!!!
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Old 12-21-2005, 02:19 PM   #2
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Make sure your not overfeeding the tank. If food is kept to a minimum it's easier to starve the diatoms. I disagree with the "too many water changes" advice you got. I would think you should do water changes as much as possible until the problem goes away. Twice a week wipe down the glass in the tank and change about 50% of the water. If you feed less and do the constant water changes the problem should go away. I have never used any chemicals to treat diatoms. Also check that the salt you are using isn't high in silicates as that will help feed the diatoms.
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Old 12-21-2005, 02:46 PM   #3
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is the tank close to a window that is open alot bc alot of natural light may cause brown algae, or you can get a snail or 2 for the tank
1. occasional food for the puffer atleast was for mine
2. in my 20 gal my snail keeps the tank clean
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Old 12-21-2005, 02:58 PM   #4
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Welcome to AA!!!!

It never ceases to amaze me - the nonsense that lfs dispense as advice! Maracyn, an antibiotic does nothing against brown algae, a diatom. Definitely stop using it for this particular problem - you'll only risk stressing the puffer and harming your biofilter.

Brown algae is just one of those annoying things that accompany a maturing aquarium. Rest assured, it will eventually go away on its own. Silicates are probably leaching from the gravel substrate and lake stones. Once they're gone, the diatoms will starve. Fortunately, brown algae is harmless to fish and plants, and is very easy to wipe off. It just looks gross. I haven't had it in my established 58 gal for almost a year, but every inch of my relatively new 29 gal is covered with it right now.

You want to keep an eye on the nitrates - what are the exact levels in ppm? Most people try to keep it 20 ppm or lower in unplanted tanks. The only way to do this is with water changes. Did you test your tap water? Sometimes tapwater contains high nitrate levels and must be mized with pure RO water.

Water changes also remove dissolved organic pollutants. A 10% change once a week is more effective than a bigger, less frequent change. It would also be a good idea to do gravel vacs at every water change to remove uneaten food and puffer poop from the substrate - these organic wastes decompose into...you guessed it - nitrates! If you don't already have one, get a Python water change/gravel vac system - it makes this job a breeze.

Finally, what brand filter are you using? In most cases, it is not necessary to replace the cartridge until it starts to fall apart (in 3 - 4 months). You can gently rinse your cartridge off in some dechlorinated water every few weeks or whenever the flow rate decreases.

Good luck!
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Old 12-21-2005, 03:45 PM   #5
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thanks for the advice. That was the same advice I got about the Maracyn from another puffer knower. And like I said, it did absolutely nothing when I tried it.

I tested the tap water I use for my tank, and According to my test strips... Nitrate is 0 at the safe level, nitrite is 0 at the safe level, total hardness is 25 very soft, total Alkalinity is 180 which is ideal and the ph is 7.2 which is ideal. (This is all according to the Quick dip test strips which gives you a detailed color chart.)

I use a whisper power filter for a 25 gal. tank, and an xL replaceable insert. I was told at the aquarium store to change it monthly. They didn't say anything about it being ok just to wash it off until it gets beyond use. But then again, they're looking to make money. Right?

My puffer, sakana fu kurami (foo-koo-rah-mee, should be all one word but it beeped me because of the spelling. Its not a bad word really. its Japanese for "Puff Fish"), is doing great. Like you guys said, it basically looks disgusting. And I was worried about it causing health problems for Saka.

But I think I'll just keep up with the cleaning, try cleaning it more often, but not as much. Thanks for all the advice.

Is there a fish I can add maybe that eats brown algae that my puffer would leave alone? He's pretty aggressive. You should see what he did to his baby spoon that I use for feeding. So I'm worried about another fish coming out looking like that. lol
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Old 12-21-2005, 03:57 PM   #6
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I think frequent gravel vacs will bring the nitrates down quickly.

The only fish that I know of that eats brown algae is the otocinclus catfish. Unfortunately, they're small and would probably become puffer food. I'm not even sure they would survive in brackish water.
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Old 12-21-2005, 04:24 PM   #7
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That's what I pretty much thought. I'll just get a clean cloth and do the occasional wipe down when I notice it starting again. Sakana is doing great, so I'm not too worried. I'll also get a gravel vac. The aquarium store adviced against it because they said a vac just disturbs everything and makes it harder to clean, but everyone else I've talked to mention getting the vac.

Thanks again for the advice!
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Old 12-21-2005, 08:46 PM   #8
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I just let the stuff go. I wipe down the front of my tank, and the sides if I'm feeling particularly inspired, and let it grow all over.

There's not terribly much I can do about it anyway, as I've got 20 ppm nitrates out of the tap. My solution is to add as many plants as I can manage, and I'm hoping to get a HOB refugium for my 29 gallon to add more plants to. Unless, of course, I go with a sump.
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