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Old 05-15-2008, 12:44 PM   #1
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My Plan to Get Rid of Algae

I've kept freshwater fish for several years, but I've only just started trying to keep plants. I got hooked when I tried a 5 gallon tank with a big baby tears plant, some ghost and cherry shrimp, and four small fish. It looked great, so I decided to add plants to my 29 gallon tank. It was wonderful for about 3 weeks, but now there's an algae explosion! I have hair algae, black slime algae, green slime algae, and a reddish brown stuff that's really difficult to scrub off the glass. My fish love the extra food, but it's time for it to go. So, I read a book on aquarium plants, and I've come up with a plan. I'd really like to hear what you guys think before I try this, since I'm very new to keeping plants and this will be a lot of work.

Here's what I'm thinking:

1) Get the plants healthier, in general, so they out-compete the algae and use up all the nutrients. To do this, I'm planning to install a substrate heater, add a thin layer of Eco-Complete substrate instead of using liquid fertilizer, add a little laterite, use a finer substrate to allow better rooting, remove the plants that require high light, and replace them with moderate to low light plants. (I have a 65 Watt compact florescent setup for a 29 gallon tank).

2) Get rid of excess phosphates, using PhosRid.

3) Add lots of algae-eating shrimp. (I hope my fish won't just eat these guys. I'm planning on adding cherry shrimp to a tank with glass cats, a cory cat, cardinal tetras, a small rainbowfish, and two weather loaches. I may remove the loaches, first.)

4) Interrupt photosynthesis. I've read that getting an automatic timer and turning off the aquarium light for 2 hours in the middle of the day, each day, interrupts algae photosynthesis without harming the plants.

... so... What do you think? Will this do it? Any other ideas?
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Old 05-15-2008, 01:37 PM   #2
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First, can we get some more details on your tank? If we can isolate what the problem is we can correct then, then if you still wish to make these upgrades we can go forward.

You have 65W PC on your 29 gallon tank. What kelvin is the bulb you're running?

What type of substrate do you currently have?

What liquid fertilizers and how much are you using?

My initial response, without the above info, would be:
1) Not a bad idea, but don't use eco and laterite, there's no need. Also, the use of Eco doesn't wholly remove the requirement to dose ferts. Also, you need to consider injecting CO2 with the lighting level you're at. This will help the plants to use more nutrients.

2) Unless you have high phosphates in your source water, just do PWCs to get your phosphate levels down. What are you using to determine they're high?

3) Nothing wrong with adding shrimp, lots of us have whole tanks with nothing but shrimp in them. I can't comment to their compatability with your current inhabitants, however.

4) There's differences of opinions on the split photo-period. I've never used it, but not everyone agrees it's beneficial.

Most likely your issue is that you're dosing too much fertilizer, you have too much light, and no CO2. This is what's causing the explosion of algae that you're dealing with.
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Old 05-15-2008, 02:19 PM   #3
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I'd say that the root of the problem is probably a nutrient imbalance. The steps you've outlined will do little to address this issue.

There's little to no evidence that high phosphates causes any type of algae. In fact Green Spot Algae indicates that you need to increase dosing phosphates. To cast phosphates as a villian that needs to be removed could in fact make your algae issues worse.

As Neilhan has mentioned, there's no need to use both Eco Complete and Laterite. Laterite is meant to supplement substrates that don't hold nutrients, such as gravel or sand. Since Eco Complete comes already storing lots of nutrients and can absorb more readily to be released to the plants as needed. Laterite can cause water issues if accidently exposed to the water column, so care should be taken when using it. It definately isn't ideal for someone that likes to rearrange their plants frequently.

Algae eating fish or inverts are good at keeping normal levels of algae unnoticable, but they can't make up for an out of balance aquarium with rampant algae.

The general consensus is that the siesta in the lighting realy does little to help with algae issues. You're probably better off cutting back on your photoperiod, than you are at introducing a seista.

While some still swear by substrate heaters, most find them to be an unnecessary and expensive peice of equipment. Your money would most likely be better spent elsewhere.

It would definately be helpful to have more details about the care and maintenance of your aquarium.

Lighting - How old are the bulbs and kelvin rating. How long do you keep your lights on each day? Are they on a timer?
Carbon - Are you injecting CO2 or dosing Flourish Excel? How much surface turbulance is there? What type of filter are you using? Do you have air stones?
Nutrients - What are you dosing, how much, and how often?
Water Parameters - What are the test results for Nitrate, Phosphate, pH, and KH?
Plants - What plants and how many of each do you have? It may be that introducing some moderate light fast growing stem plants will go a long way to getting things under control.
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Old 05-15-2008, 03:26 PM   #4
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To echo some of what has been said, I too think the substrate heater is unecessary. More often than not, algae is a result of a nutrient deficiency, not excess, so I'd wager that the main culprit is the lack of CO2.

This is a fantastic source of all kinds of info about algae. GWAPA: It's stolen from Neilanh's sig, lol. It helped me learn a lot when I got BBA.
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Old 05-15-2008, 07:46 PM   #5
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Thanks for all the advice. Like I mentioned before, I'm completely new to planted aquariums, and I'm a little stunned by all the info out there. Anyway, here are the stats on my tank:

29 gallons

Temperature: 78 F

Kh: approx. 54 ppm

Phosphates: 0.15 ppm

Iron: Test kit says none.

Ammonia: Test says none.

Nitrate: 1 ppm

Substrate: aquarium gravel of various sizes

Ph: Currently 7.6 (I try to keep it around 7.2, but it stabilizes at 8.0 if left alone, and I try not to change it more than 0.2 during any one water change, so it can take weeks to lower it significantly.)

Fish: 2 weather loaches, 1 cory cat, 1 zebra botia, 1 rainbow fish, 3 glass cats, and a declining # of cardinal tetras, currently 2. All my fish are healthy and well-established, except the tetras. They survive only 2 - 3 weeks in my tank, and I can't figure out why. Currently on my 3rd batch.

Plants: 5 Amazon swords, 1 small java fern, 2 anubias v. nana, 1 unknown plant (probably anubias), 2 dwarf baby tears (one on a small piece of wood), 1 wisteria, 1 banana plant.

Algae: Brown and green smears on glass, black film on leaves and substrate (when I rub the wisteria leaves, a perfect black replica of the leaf slides off, made of algae), hair algae. No sign of green water. The banana plant is the only thing in the tank with no algae.

Lighting: 65 Watt compact florescent 6700 K

Filtration: Bio Wheel Penguin 150 (150 gph) and 1 submersible power head (75 gph) set for surface agitation. The bio wheel broke and it took me a week to replace it, so there was one week when there was no mechanical filtration. Oxygen levels seemed ok from surface agitation, as fish appeared healthy - not gulping at surface, at all.

Here's my aquarium 3 weeks ago:



Here's my aquarium today :

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Old 05-15-2008, 07:52 PM   #6
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One more note: I've been using Sera Florena Iron & Minerals for All Plants, although my iron levels don't stay up for long. Contains iron chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, sulphuric acid, and tetra-acetate of ethylene diamene. Other than that, I use Ph Down and API Water Conditioner to prepare my tap water, which has a natural Ph of 8.0
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:16 PM   #7
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First off there's absolutely no need to adjust your pH. A stable pH is much more important than a specific pH. Trying to adjust your pH can cause other problems depending on what chemicals it contains.

Don't bother with the iron test kit, the hobby grade ones aren't accurate enough for our use.

I know nothing about the particular fertilizer that you're using, but it appears to only be supplying trace nutrients. Based on your test results and lack of macro dosing, your algae problems are largely due to nutrients bottoming out. You'll need to start dosing Nitrates, Phosphates, and Potassium. The most cost effective method is to use dry ferts (KNO3, KH2PO4, & K2SO4). I'd also recommend switching to one of the Trace ferts that is highly recommended among experianced planted aquarium keepers (Flourish "Comprehensive", Tropica Plant Nutrition, or CSM+B). You'll want to bump your PO4 to 1-2ppm and your Nitrates to 10-20ppm. For Potassium, you'll want to dose 10-20ppm per week.

You may also find it helpful to get ahold of some additional fast growing stem plants while getting the aquarium stabilized. Rotala rotundifolia (often mislabeled Rotala indica) is a good choice. Some of the Ludwigias would probably work well too. I'm sure others can recommend other good choices. You could just pick up some more of the Wisteria if you'd like.

It also appears that some of your plants may not be true aquatics. From the pictures it appears that a couple of your plants are green with white stripes, this is a good indicator of a non aquatic.
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:23 PM   #8
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Pitt420Dude, thanks so much for the link! Great info and pictures! I definitely have a blue-green algae problem. According to the website, I should increase my nitrates. Anyone know how to do this? What would cause low nitrate levels?

Also, what's a good fertilizer?

Thanks again!
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:32 PM   #9
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Purrbox, thanks for the response - I think that's probably exactly the info I needed. Please disregard the questions in my last post - I wrote it before seeing your last post. I will definitely try those fertilizers.

As for the striped plant, it's supposed to be a color mutation of the Amazon sword - at least, that's what the LFS said. I really like it - is it necessary to take it out? Believe it or not, it seems healthy, under all that algae. I really don't know why my plants haven't died, yet, but they're still green under all the muck.
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:53 PM   #10
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Great advice here. Just one more thought. Clean as much of that stuff out as you can and rinse your filter pads out well. I could never win either until I got much more serious about keeping the filter pads rinsed out.
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:54 PM   #11
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Loachie you don't have to take anything out you don't want to. If it grows, it grows, no matter how it was "meant" to be grown. I think it's beautiful and if it works for you, go with it. I think purrbox was trying ot give you a heads up so you won't be surprised if it melts or can keep an eye on it.

Yeah that site is great for algae issues b/c they give pics too. Thank neil b/c he is who I found it through.

BTW, I got my dry ferts through Welcome To The Home Of The Best Aquarium Regulator and with the shipment ($20 combo pack will last you a LONG time) he gives you a dosing regime for EI as well.
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Old 05-16-2008, 09:40 PM   #12
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As for the striped plant, it's supposed to be a color mutation of the Amazon sword - at least, that's what the LFS said. I really like it - is it necessary to take it out?
I'd just keep an eye on it. It may be fine. Some non Aquatics will do fine for several months and then suddenly die, so just because it's it's doing well now doesn't guarentee that it will work out long term. If it is actually a Amazon Sword varient then it should be fine.
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Old 05-18-2008, 01:45 PM   #13
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Ok, here's my new plan :

1) Change to a better fertilizer. I'm a little confused on this, due to all the choices out there. Purrbox, your advice was great... but I'm afraid I could use even more. Tropica Plant Nutrition Liquid doesn't have Nitrogen or phosphorus, which my tank seems to need more of. Tropica Plant Nutrition + has N and P, but their website states, "The fertilizer is particularly suitable where plants display a lack of nutrition. However note that if algae growth starts, PLANT NUTRITION+ liquid will promote this growth." That doesn't sound good.

I also looked into PMDD Pre-Mix. The website says: " PMDD Pre-Mix 1 lb contains 1 part each of Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Plantex CSM+B." It's cheap, and sounds pretty good. But then I saw a fertilizer comparison chart (Fertilizer Comparison Chart, by Giancarlo Podio ) and it looks like Flourish has every trace element you could ever need.

So, is Flourish the best (although probably the most expensive) choice?

2) Getting more leafy plants - I'm not so crazy about getting more wisteria, since it loses its bottom leaves, needing to be trimmed and replanted to keep it from looking too leggy. I don't mind the maintenance, but I'd like a plant that looks a little more full and compact. I like the look of Rotalia rotundifolia - will it lose its bottom leaves as quickly as wisteria?

3) CO2 - Do I need to add this? From what I'm reading, it sounds very important for my plants, but complicated. Maybe I should start with the homemade "yeast in a bottle" setup? It sound like it will keep the plants healthier, which will reduce algae, and it will naturally lower Ph. Although I'm convinced that I should stop chemically altering the Ph, it would be a nice bonus to have the CO2 keeping the Ph closer to the ideal parameters for my fish. On the other hand, it looks like I could spend anywhere from $10 to $500 on a CO2 setup and I really don't know what is necessary (definitely not going to spend enough for one of the high-end setups). I have no idea what a "solenoid" is, or how to choose the correct "barbs" for my "check valve." I had no idea what a humbling experience this planted tank would be.

So, Flourish Complete + Rotalia rotundifolia + simple CO2 setup = no more algae problem (hopefully)?
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Old 05-18-2008, 04:17 PM   #14
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You'll want to select one of Tropica Plant Nutrition, Flourish Comprehensive, or CSM+B for your micronutrient fertilization. All three are good but none with provide the macro nutrients (at least not in sufficient quantities).

You can go with the Flourish Line (Flourish Nitrogen, Flourish Potassium, and Flourish Phosphorus) for you macro nutrients, but these are very dilute and will end up being very expensive. Your best bet is the dry ferts (KNO3, K2SO4, & KH2PH4). You can locate these locally in in other forms (KNO3 is the primary ingrediant of some stump killers, KCl is the primary ingrediant of some salt alternatives like NoSalt, and KH2PO4 is available in Fleet Enema) but even easier is to simply buy these online if you are in the US. Rex Griggs and Planted Aquarium Fertilizer are a couple of common sources. If you aren't in the US then locating a Hydroponics store is your best bet.

You amount of light will determine how well stem plants keep their lower leaves. If the wisteria is having problems then the other stem plants probably will too. All stem plants eventually need to be topped and replanted to keep them looking nice. Keep in mind the recommendation for the stem plants is to help get your aquarium established and algae free. You don't have to want to keep them long term. Once you get everything balanced you can work on switching them out slowly for plants that you actually do want to keep.

CO2 is a source of carbon. Providing additional carbon will help plants as long as their minimum needs for light are met. Adding carbon will cause the plants to grow faster and increase their demands for nutrients, so you would need to be prepared to increase dosing if necessary. Until you get over 2WPG you can usually have a very nice planted aquarium without messing with carbon supplementation.

You may find this article very helpful when it comes to figuring out the various types of CO2 setups. Notice the link to DIY CO2 at the top for more info about DIY setups.
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Old 06-15-2008, 09:42 AM   #15
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According to the website, I should increase my nitrates. Anyone know how to do this? What would cause low nitrate levels?
The most likely culprit is you are "too good" at doing your partial water changes. :p Remember, nitrates are what are produced at the end of the nitrogen cycle. So the most natural way (in the context of an aquarium) to increase your nitrates would be to do your PWC's less often and/or to add more fish to your tank (so you generate more fish waste).
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Old 06-15-2008, 10:36 AM   #16
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The most likely culprit is you are "too good" at doing your partial water changes. :p Remember, nitrates are what are produced at the end of the nitrogen cycle. So the most natural way (in the context of an aquarium) to increase your nitrates would be to do your PWC's less often and/or to add more fish to your tank (so you generate more fish waste).
AND: The more plants you add to the tank, the more they soak up the available ammonia (fish waste before its broken down by nitrites), nitrates.
You'll have to increase fertilizers or bio-load. Some heavily planted tanks with low bio-load started from day 1 do not cycle at all unless helped along.
Water changes should be kept to a minimum UNLESS there is a clear reason to do it. 20% per month should be plenty for a normally stocked, moderately planted, low/medium light tank. A sterile tank (one that has the gravel vacuumed every week, water changes every few days, spotless with no algae, is a sick tank. It will never come into equilibrium.
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