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Old 01-27-2007, 03:19 PM   #1
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All my plants die, need help. Brown Algae problem?

I need help. All the plants I put in my tank die a slow death.

It seems they thrive for a few weeks, then slowly die back.

Also they seem to be getting covered in some sort of "brown" algae that smothers them.

here is my setup:
55 Gallon Tank
2x12000k bulbs (65watts each = total 130 watts) on a 12 hr light cycle
I have Seachem Gravel meant for plants
I use gravel fertilizer and liquid fertilizer
My PH is 7.0
my nitrates and nitrates are always 0
i have less than 0.25 ppm of ammonia.

Here are some pictures.

My amazon sword is about 1/3 the size of when i bought it. You can see some "brown" algae on it.



You can see these are smothered with the "brown" algae. Only way these live is i let them get really tall, and tops are free of brown algae, then i cut the bottoms off and replant the tops.



The left plant is starting to get choked by the algae, the one of the right tripled in size in the first few weeks, and is now getting some algae on it and is dropping its needles very quickly.



Just another shot.




Any help with be much appreciated.[/img]
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Old 01-27-2007, 04:27 PM   #2
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I've got a feeling you mistyped your test results. If you do have 10ppm of Ammonia you need to be doing lots of water changes fast to get that under 1ppm for the safety of your fish.

If you actually have 0ppm Ammonia, 0ppm Nitrite, and <10ppm of Nitrate that's a much different situation.

Some additional information would be helpful.
1. Test results for Phosphates, KH, and pH.
2. Do you inject CO2 or add Flourish Excel?
3. Do you fertilize the tank at all? If so what, how much, how often?
4. Does the brown algae brush off easily or is it very difficult to remove?
5. What type of test kit are you using (brand, liquid vs dip strips)
6. How often do you perform water changes? How large?

I suspect that your tank is suffering several nutrient deficiencies, but we'll need the additional information to pinpoint the problem. Please note that there is a Read This First sticky at the top of the forum. It contains links to lots of information on keeping planted tanks and is highly recommended reading. Feel free to ask questions on anything that doesn't make sense.

Oh and welcome to the forum!
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Old 01-27-2007, 04:33 PM   #3
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my nitrates and nitrates are always 0
Having 0 nitrates is a huge problem along with the other items Purrbox mentions. Pristine, nitrate free water is not a good thing for planted tanks.
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Old 01-27-2007, 04:36 PM   #4
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OK, so Purrbox, JChillin and I were all typing at the same time.....but still....

First off, welcome to AA!!!

Second, if you haven't found and read them already, please read the stickies at the top of the planted tank forum. There is a wealth of knowledge there that will help you start to figure things out.

OK...so.....I'm guessing you do not have CO2 on this tank. With 130 watts over a 55 you're at 2.4 watts per gallon and in the gray area for CO2. That said, CO2 is great at controlling algae. There are two options for CO2: 1) producing CO2 by fermentation (ie yeast, usually referred to as DIY), or 2) pressurized CO2 from a cylinder. Each method has its pros and cons, and I'd suggest reading up a bit on each to see what would work best for you.

Your lighting is good, but 12 hours is a little long; try cutting it down to 10 hours and that will help with the algae a little.

I'm guessing your Seachem gravel is Fluorite? if so then all set on that front.

I really hope that you meant to say that your nitrites and ammonia were always 0, and that your nitrate was usually less than 10 ppm....if your ammonia is that high then something else is wrong although your fish would have let you know that a long time ago! What brand of test kit are you using, and how old are they? What specific types of gravel and liquid fertilizers are you using, and how much do you add? If you have fluorite you should not need gravel ferts except maybe for the sword plant. Most people shoot for 10-20 ppm nitrate and 1-2 ppm phosphate in their planted tanks all the time, and also add potassium as well.

You've got most of the ingredients for a successful planted tank....check out the stickies, give us a few more tank parameters and we;ll get you on the right track!

On a good note all of the plants i can see in your tank are true aquatic plants, so that isn't a problem. Many LFSs sell plants that are not fully aquatic and will die after a few months.
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Old 01-27-2007, 04:41 PM   #5
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First to answer the questions:

Fertilization: I use Seachem Flourish Tabs in the gravel and i dose the water with Seachem Flourish 2x a week.

The testing kit i have is by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and is a liquid test kit. I got them for Xmas so they are new.

My test results were from memory and were incorrect. Here they are again from my log:
0 for Nitrates and Nitrites.
0.25 ppm Ammonia
pH is 7.0

I do 10 gallon water changes every 2 weeks.

Algae will not easily brush off.

I do not inject CO2 or add Flourish Excel.

I have never done Phosphates, KH test before, i guess i need more test kits.

Yes the gravel is Flourite.

Ill read over the FAQ, any additional tips will be highly appreciated

What should my next move be? How do i raise Nitrates? Is my algae brown algae or black brush algae?
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Old 01-27-2007, 05:15 PM   #6
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I would stop dosing Flourish right now. It's not being used by the plants. Ammonia is bad and the results are conflicting..

You will need to dose Nitrate, Probably some Phosphate (But I would try 1 thing at a time, too much change can swing a tank into a downward spiral..)

Looking at the pictures, 2 Algaes come to mind. Green spot and Cyno. (Green slime) Is the algae slimey or hard? I will guess it's slimey since your N is @ 0.

Also. you should look into Carbon. Excel is probably a no go since it looks like that's anacharis in the back. Look in the top sticky to find out info on DIY Co2 systems.

Nice Balas BTW. Too bad all the ones I've seen are suicidal idiots.. (either slamming into the glass or trying to jump out of the tank..) They also used to eat my "inedible plants" or more like, snap them apart.)
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Old 01-27-2007, 05:20 PM   #7
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I can't tell if that's Anacharis or Rotala.....but that makes a big difference for Excel vs no Excel. Do you know what the tall stem plant in the back is (the one you've been cutting the tops off and replanting)? Can you get a better picture?
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Old 01-27-2007, 05:21 PM   #8
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Wizzard of Ozz - my Ammonia is actually .25ppm, i was initally wrong (memory isnt so good). Should i still stop dosing Flourish?

The algae on the back is slimey and hard. Most of the green brushes off kinda of easily, but then underneath, there is a more algae that is near impossible to remove without a razor blade.

Reading the FAQs, CO2 seems like a good next step, as well as dosing phosphate.

How do i raise Nitrates? my filter is a 90 gallon canister system (turned down to flow less). It uses two filter cartridges (with the filter media and the carbon stuff in it). I also have two extra containers i place in there with more of the carbon/zeolite granules.

i borrowed this from another thread.

Looks like this at the top and when i cut if off and plant it.

I can take more pics if neccessary.



Confused on my next step....
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Old 01-27-2007, 05:27 PM   #9
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You will need a source for Nitrate, typicallly this is KNO3 (salpeter, Potassium Nitrate and a couple other names).. Avoid the Seachem Nitrate since it would take 1/2 a bottle each week.. I think it's sold as a stump remover in the US.

It sounds like you have more then 1 issue going on.. but we will deal with 1 thing at a time.

And yes, stop with Flourish, it's not supplying anything there isn't ample of in the tank already. You may need to start dosing again when everything gets going. but for now. hold off.

Also, try a 20Gal water change every week.. it will help normalize a lot of nutrients.

That last pic looks like a Co2 deficiency.
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Old 01-27-2007, 05:32 PM   #10
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Here are more pics of the plants asked about






So this is what i am going to do next (someone correct me if wrong).

1) Weekly 20G water changes to Normalize nutrients
2) No more Seachem Flourish for now
3) Raise Nitrates (where can i buy saltpeter or other items to raise this, how often should i dose?)
4) What CO2 should i look into? I dont want a ghetto setup, i will spend up to $150 if someone can point my in the right direction.
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Old 01-27-2007, 09:25 PM   #11
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I would recommend ordering your ferts from www.gregwatson.com. You'll want KNO3 (Nitrates and some Potassium), KH2PO4 (Phosphates), and K2SO4 (Potassium). You could also order some CSM+B (traces) for when your Flourish Comprehensive runs out. Shipping is the lion's share of the cost, so it's best to order everything you might want at the same time. Once you have these on hand we can get you set up with a dosing schedule.

With a 55 gallon and your budget I would recommend looking into Pressurized CO2. Check with the local welding shops, firestations, etc to see if you can pick up a used tank between 5-20lbs. I would guess that a used tank would cost around $50. Then you just need a regulator. You can get a Milwaukee for about $80 from a variety of places (including the Aquatic Store) which many members here use with great sucess. The only other thing you'd need would be a method to diffuse your CO2. This could be as simple as feeding the CO2 through your filter (some work great for this while others airlock).
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Old 01-28-2007, 03:13 PM   #12
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I am gonna order my fertilizers today. Still doing some research on what i want to do for CO2. I think i am going to go with a pressurized system as it seems way more accurate.

I am ordering the following fertilizers: KNO3 KH2PO4 K2SO4 CSM+B

What should my dosing schedules be?

Also when testing, what results should i be looking to get for the following tests? pH Ammonia Nitrites Nitrates KH Phosphate

Should i start dosing as soon as i get my fertilizers or shuold i wait until i figure out my CO2 system?

How do you know measure CO2? and how do i know how much is going into my tank?
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:04 PM   #13
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I'll let someone who's more familiar with your size tank help out with figuring out a dosing schedule. You're tank is large enough that you'll probably be dosing dry, whereas I have to mix up solutions to dose my tanks. Easiest way to go is to use EI (Estimative Index).

I'd recommend cutting back your lighting to only 8 hrs each day until you have the CO2 and ferts ready to go. Add the CO2 first and get it set where you need it (may take a few days of tweaking) then return the lighting to between 10-12 hrs each day and start dosing your ferts.

Ammonia and Nitrites should always be 0 in a cycled tank. Anything else indicates that there is a problem (something knocked out the biofilter and/or dead fish).

Unless you're playing with your Nitrates to bring out reds, you'll generally want Nitrates to be above 20ppm. The reason for this is that the test kits most hobbiest use aren't very accurate under 20ppm, especially if they haven't been calibrated against a reference solution. By keeping your Nitrates above 20ppm you ensure that there is always enough Nitrates available to the plants. If you're going to try restricting Nitrates to bring out reds, then you really need to shell out the money for a lab quality kit.

As a general rule you want to have about 1ppm of Phosphate for every 10-20ppm of Nitrate in the tank. You can play with this ratio some by increasing the amount of Phosphate to Nitrate, but it's a good starting place.

KH and pH are used to determine how much CO2 is in your tank. As long as there isn't a buffer in the tank throwing off the KH to pH relationship, you can use one of the many calculators or charts to determine your CO2 level. In a tank that isn't being injected with CO2 the levels should be about 3ppm. If it's much higher you'll have to use another means of determining your CO2. You'll want to should for 30ppm or better of CO2.

Since you're going to be using dry ferts and injecting CO2, I'd recommend downloading Chuck's Calculator. It contains most of the calculations that you'll need.
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Old 01-29-2007, 09:25 PM   #14
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I just ordered the following:

Potassium Nitrate 1 lb.
Potassium Sulfate 1 lb.
Mono Potassium Phosphate 1 lb.
CSM+B Plantex 1 lb

Milwaukee CO2 Regulator w/Solenoid Diaphragm Valve & Bubble counter
SMS122 pH Controller by Milwaukee Instruments
CO2 Reactor 1000 by AquaMedic

I need someone to help me with a dosing schedule and maybe setting up my CO2 System. Any help will be appreciated.
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:40 PM   #15
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Looks like you're on your way to getting everything sorted out and your tank looking good.

I have a 55 and use GW's ferts too, and I'd be happy to tell you what I do, but before I go and list everything, just wanted to let you know that I do all weights and volumes metric....so everything's in grams and milliliters. (I work in a lab so i have access to plenty of balances and graduated cylinders). If that's OK for you, let me know and I'll give you "recipes" for each fert and how much to add to your tank to get a specified ppm. Adding ferts is part art and part science, so whatever numbers anyone gives you, you'll have to tweak for your specific tank, but it will give you a start.
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Old 01-31-2007, 07:41 AM   #16
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I have a scale accurate to 0.1 gram. I dont have anything to accurately measure mL however.

Can you still help get me started?
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Old 01-31-2007, 06:15 PM   #17
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Sure, I'll write down my recipes at home tonight and post them tomorrow. I could guess but that might be disasterous, so probably better off waiting. I'm writing myself a note now....

For the accuracy you'd need, some Nalgene water bottles have marks on the sides in 100 ml increments, so check and see if you have one of those. Alternately, a 20 oz soda bottle is 591 ml so that might work as a crude scale. I do mix up solutions but I can get you approx weights to dose dry quite easily once I have my numbers.
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Old 01-31-2007, 07:14 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Atl300zx
I have a scale accurate to 0.1 gram. I dont have anything to accurately measure mL however.

Can you still help get me started?
1 ml of water = 1 gram - you can simply weigh your water!

Or - 1 table spoon = 15 ml, 1 cup about 250 ml.
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Old 02-01-2007, 07:53 AM   #19
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that is some good knowledge to know. I am liking this site more and more everyday, wealth of knowledge.
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Old 02-01-2007, 02:07 PM   #20
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OK, here are the details: I used 50 gallons as my tank volume (to account for gravel, driftwood etc)

The first set of numbers is how much of each fert to dissolve in what volume of water. These are what I use but all can be modified to fit your particular container size. The second line of numbers is how much of the resulting solution I then add to the tank.

Monopotassium Phosphate: 1 gram in 250 mL, (I wrote down 10g but I think it's 1, will check and correct if I'm wrong)
10 mL=1 ppm P per 50 gallons

Potassium Sulfate: 33 grams in 500 mL,
60 mL = 9.2 ppm K per 50 gallons
I first tried to add more Pot sulfate per 500 mL so i wouldn't have to dose 60 mL but 33g/500 mL is just about as much as will dissolve, so don't tinker too much with this one. You can certainly double the whole recipe if you have a liter bottle (so 66 grams/liter)

Potassium Nitrate: 25 grams in 500 mL,
20 mL = 3.2 ppm N and 2.1 ppm K

CSM+B: 25 grams in 500 mL,
5 mL = 0.1 ppm iron (Fe)
Keep this solution in the fridge as that will inhibit mold growing, at least for a while. The mold is nasty looking but harmless.

The volumes given are what I dose when I dose. I don't keep a strict schedule but try to dose CSM+B and K 3 times a week, P 2 times a week (not on the same day as the CSM+B as the P will render the iron insoluble) and N as needed; my tank has a pretty high bioload so i don't need to add too much N.

I also add Ca and Mg but those are details that you don't need to worry about now unless your plants show deficiencies down the road.

Hope this helps!
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