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Old 07-05-2013, 09:46 AM   #1
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Hi - looking to have a better story-arc for 55G tank...

Hi - new member. Been lurking for a few days - great site!

I'm looking to try to understand better why my tank tends to grow too much algae and not enough plants, and what I can do to improve things for my fish and plants.

Quick History: I have a 55g planted freshwater tank that I've kept various community fish in over the past, for a length of time stretching about 8 yrs. It was, in some respects, quite successful with minimal maintenance required. A year and a half ago, we had a freak ice-storm here which wiped out power to millions, and put my tank into a deep freeze for about 10 days... all fish ceased to be.

I basically ignored the tank and allowed things to cycle for the last year and a half. My lights died, but the back-of-tank filter continued and there is significant indirect daylight on the tank. So the algae became dominant, and everything else dead.

I just decided to get it all going again two weeks ago. I did two 90% WCs in a row, got out all of the globs of algae (or whatever that stuff is), cleaned the sides with a razor blade, cleaned the filter put in new activated charcoal, added 20lbs of nutrient-rich substrate, bought a new 2x28W T5 light (48") w/ a 6700 and a 10K bulb. Also got a new, ceramic heater. Tested water, added 2 swords, 4 grasses, 4 java ferns, and 2 large Anacharis. A week later, after testing water again added 4 ruby tetras and 4 clown barbs.

PH is a bit high (7.5ish), no nitrites, no ammonia, iron is abysmal, KH is around 5-6.

I am already getting brown algae and green algae on the sides of the tank. Water is very clear. Plants are alive, but not thriving. Plants are beginning to get a hair-like growth on their leafs.

I've added quite a bit of plant fertilizer to the water, along with a stress-coating substance when I added the fish.

The fish seemed mildly stressed for a couple of days, but now seem to be quite happy.

---

Questions:

1, What is the white hair-like strands that grow on my plants? A kind of algae? What might I do about it?

2. I am hesitant to buy and build the necessary components for a CO2 injection system. Short of that, what can I do to improve the livability of the tank for both fish and plants?

3. Other suggestions?

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My apologies for being too **** verbose.
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Old 07-05-2013, 03:21 PM   #2
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1. The algae is most likely some type of hair algae, it looks terrible and is fairly difficult to eradicate.

2. You can use excel as a carbon source in the tank instead of a co2 injection system. It's not as good as co2 but will do just fine.

The algae grows because of an inbalance between light, nutrients, and co2.

How long of a lighting period do you have on your tank? Try dropping it down to 6 hours a day (probably the same time the most sunlight is hitting it) to limit the amount of algae growth.

What kind of fertilizer are you using?
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:32 PM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback.

My lights run around 11hrs - 8:30 to 7:30 daily. I could drop that a bit.

I had a lot of hair algae in there during the previous years. Just appeared one day and grew and grew until it - or something like it - globs of this nearly black hair-like material, consumed most of the tank. I'd just pull globs of it out occasionally, but I couldn't find anything that would eat it to the degree necessary to keep it down.

I do have a 2nd 6700k bulb, if that would work better than having one of those + the 10k?

I'll respond from home when I can read the label on the bottle for nutrients.
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:43 PM   #4
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Also if you can set a timer for the tank for the lights that might help too. What I found especially useful is turning them off in the middle of the light cycle, called a siesta or rest period, somehow it disrupts the growth cycle of algae. So if you lik the lights on in the morning when you are in the house and then again when you are home in the evening you can set tham that way with the timer. Also helps with the diatoms/brown algae spots.

Eliminate the natural daylight if you can. Pull the curtain add a cover on the back or the side where the light comes in.
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:59 PM   #5
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One thing I noticed is you stated your tank got or needed very little maintenance. So how often do you do WC's and when you do them how much do you change out? Do you know your nitrate level? Also what kind of filter/s do you use and how often do you clean them?

Often if filter aren't kept clean and on a maintenance schedule they can have a nutrient buildup which just gives excess nutrients to algae. Also if weekly water changes aren't done again excess nutrients can build up.

You have to run lights only 6 hours and not just lower them some. This will help reduce algae a lot.

What plants do you have in the tank?
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:33 PM   #6
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I just discovered that I had very high Nitrate levels - the API liquid test came out candy apple red - which is maybe 80ppm? Hard to really know how to match up a liquid color with a printed scale!

Anyway, I did a 50% WC (and vacuumed as much surface debris as possible), add 4 otto cats, and retested at about 20ppm. Not sure why it dropped so much, or if I just am matching the colors incorrectly (or I didn't wait long enough after the WC to test the nitrates, so the reading is off)?

I also switched to using two 6700K bulbs instead of one + a 10KK bulb, to see if I could help the plants more than the algae.

The tank is as far from all of the windows as possible, but there are many (north-facing) windows in the room. So, total elimination would require a physical block on the incoming light, which is desirable for the room.

The otto cats seem to LOVE the tank! Jumped out of their bag and have been jumping around amongst the walls, the plants, the rocks, the heater, just munching like crazy. Hopefully they won't add too much bio-load and make it a messy tank?

I have a whisper 60 back-of-tank filter (the dual type). I don't normally change the activated carbon - and I don't think I've ever changed the bio-foam (or whatever its called). I just rinse everything out about 1/week with well water.

Considering a CO2 system, but I'd like to get the current situation more under control first.
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:40 PM   #7
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The oto cats are very small fish and should add next to nothing on your bio load. Take care though, once their algae supply runs out they will need to be fed algae wafers as they tend to starve in home aquariums.

It looks like the nitrates would be another problem with the algae.
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Old 07-08-2013, 01:00 PM   #8
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When I had a little black beard algae I just used an eye dropper to dose flourish excel liquid carbon straight at it and it killed it all in a matter of days. I would highly recommend a liquid carbon supplement of some sort if you don't plan on pressurized co2 for your tank as it encourages plant growth and discourages algae. Also flourish excel tends to melt anacharis so if you end up getting some flourish excel I would recommend taking it out.
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Old 07-08-2013, 03:39 PM   #9
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Once your nitrate levels are at 20ppm or lower if you do a 50% WC weekly you won't have to worry about nutrient levels building up. Also run light 6 hours max daily until algae is under control. Then you can slowly build the time up to 8 hours as long as algae doesn't start to reappear. Spot treating with Hydrogen Peroxide or Excel will help if needed.

Until you decide to get CO2 you can buy Metricide 14 day solution for around $20 per gallon, mix it with RO or Distilled water at a 1:1 ratio and get 2 gallons for a very cheap price. Use it a 1ml Glut per 10 gallons water the first week, then up it to 1ml Glut per 5 gallons of water. Use daily before lights turn on.

Oto cats also eat a lot of bio-film which is usually in abundance in mature tanks.
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Old 07-08-2013, 08:07 PM   #10
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Hmmm, nitrates jumped back to candy-apple red (40-160ppm - I hate this chart!).
I did a 40% WC, again vacuuming up as much of the dead plant/animal matter on the bottom as possible. There was less this time, but I still didn't get all of it.

My PH is at least 7.6 (the test kit tops out at this color). I may need to get a high PH test to figure out how much higher it is?

I thought decomposing bio-materials would *lower* PH? Nitrates high means BB doing a bang-up job of converting the output of the decomposition, but the high PH means?
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Old 07-08-2013, 08:57 PM   #11
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A high pH doesn't really mean much of anything unless it's either too high (8.5ish) or too low (6.5ish). Decomposing stuff in the tank shouldn't have much of an effect on it.
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Old 07-08-2013, 10:01 PM   #12
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Hi, great advice here for getting your parameters back in order. One other thing you might want to consider for your plants is an air stone or tube that goes on strictly at night. Your plants use that oxygen most at that time, and the C02 during the day.

Hopefully, that will help get your plants a little stronger as you fight the algae.

Best of luck!
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Old 07-09-2013, 06:02 PM   #13
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Using an airstone at night will only benefit fish by adding more surface agitation which improves gas exchange.
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Old 07-09-2013, 07:01 PM   #14
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Cool. I guess I better go grab one. IIRC, there are various sized air pumps I can buy - is there a recommended size, or am I misremembering?

Here's some pics of my current tank - especially with a blob of the "green" algae and of some other plants which look to me to be shriveling and probably not on a road to health:







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Old 07-09-2013, 07:19 PM   #15
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That blob of algae is cyanobacteria which needs to be treated with Erythromycin. Most people use Maracyn. If that is the only place it is in your tank if you suck it out with a syphon it may not spread. No guarantee. The best thing to do is treat the tank for 5 days so it kills all the bacteria in the water.

Your java ferns look fine but they are low light and don't need a lot of nutrients BUT your hornwort looks to be dying off. It is actually a floating plant even tho some plant it. You may not have enough light or nutrients in the water. Try floating any that is still green and cut off and throw away and browning and dying off. IMO it's a fussy plant.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:18 PM   #16
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@Rivercats - That blob of what may be cyanobacteria - that is a blob I scraped off of the glass side of the tank. There were many such patches - that one got caught in the plant, rather than getting sucked up by the vacuum or filter.

Does that still mean its cyanobacteria, or does that change the picture? i.e. if I were to scrape the back-walls of the tank (which you can see has splotches of green on it in those pics), then I'd get more thin sheets of that neon blue-green that you're referring to...
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:09 AM   #17
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Here are some pic's of cyanobacteria (but not all are cyano so be sure your looking at the correct ones. It can form anywhere in the tank and when scraped off of something it comes off in sheets or globs. It can also be many different colors from black to red to green or commonly blue green. It's always shiny looking and always spreads in a sheeting manner. pictures of cyanobacteria in a planted aquarium - Google Search.

If this is what you have to need to treat your tank with Erythromycin for 5 days as this is a bacteria and not algae. I don't see it on the back wall in the pics.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:58 PM   #18
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Thanks. I'm still not sure one way or the other. It could be cyanobacteria. My fish appear happy, and it doesn't appear to have grown particularly in 24 hrs.

I added some Java moss and some sort of pond cover type plant (small green leaves - looks a bit like tiny Lilly pads), and 2 "algae shrimp" - I'm assuming they're Amano shrimp. I'm hoping the lilly stuff will help shade out some of the algae, and the Java moss will bring my nitrates down.

Lastly, I added an air stone for nights, per the advice here to help plants and fish overnight.
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Old 07-11-2013, 11:28 AM   #19
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Adding an airstone does nothing for plants just so you know.
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Old 07-11-2013, 02:11 PM   #20
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I was just going to throw in my two cents about the nitrate test. I've noticed, the chart is slightly different on the single test kits than that in the complete test kit. What I mean is, I ran out of nitrate test so bought a single one to replace it rather than buying the full set again. The colour chart that came with the single test was slightly different (perhaps better). Essentially, what looks like 40-80ppm on one chart is what is 20-40ppm on the other.
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