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Old 03-30-2013, 10:19 PM   #1
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Struggling with algae

I'm posting in hopes that somebody can guide me--tell me if I'm finally on the right track with the algae problems. I've had this tank set up for 4-5 months. It's a 30g Marineland that came with the whole unit complete on top: hood, filter in place, lighting, etc. I fishless cycled it.

I want a fully planted tank so had about $150 of plants in it. I got through the green spot algae and the diatoms. Plants started growing. The limited fish were swimming comfortably. I used Flourish liquid once a week, watching for growth needs.

After 1-2 months with the tank still relatively new and livestock not so prolific, the lights quit. I called Marineland and the guy said it was a design flaw and their R&D was not planning to research and develop it to fix it so they couldn't do anything. I protested that the lights were advertised as sufficient for plant growth, so he agreed to send me a new glass top, filter and 6,500K LED light unit with timer.

For fauna, I now have a dozen or so Endlers, 3 nerite snails one otto (small guy or gal) and 25-30 RCS that are breeding happily. That's all the livestock I have now. And that's enough. I've been netting Endlers to take the my Mom and Pop lfs and will have to do the same with the shrimp soon. It's not the fish/invertebrates that are struggling.

I read that with a planted tank, one should not vacuum the substrate, as I do each week with my 5g. BTW, that 5g tank has absolutely no algae <fingers crossed> The 30g began with long thread algae and other short green algae. Next, I noticed darker brush-like growth on the edges of leaves. Each and every day, it got worse. I worked hard to keep it at bay, but I couldn't. It was beginning to engulf some of my plants--well most of them. Oh, I do a 40-50% water change every Sat. I have high nitrates in my tap.

I finally got a CO2 pressurized canister. I pulled out the worst affected plants, tried hydrogen peroxide (lost most leaves) planted back what I could, threw out some.

AND I vacuumed that sucker for days to clean the substrate! What? Was I feeding the fish too much? I think so. They are always hungry, but I think they do not go to the bottom to eat what has sunk. ?? And after the plants started to suffer, maybe their roots were not taking up nutrients.

I have some new plants now. The substrate is vacuumed and will continue to be until I figure this out.

The CO2 seems to be working. I'm a little skiddish about it--afraid the thing will explode on me or something (that's why I didn't get it sooner).

The first day on CO2, I lost two juvvie RCS. I think the pH change was too much, too fast. I'm keeping it constant now at 1 bps and only when lights are on. Oh, the lights are on now for 7 hrs. I cut back to 4 hours when the algae got so bad but it didn't help.

I hope all that made sense to anyone who reads this. LOL, I've been trying to work through this on my own by reading various articles, but it is getting expensive! Here's a pic of the tank as of tonight. It's kind of blurry. This is a new iPhone for me.

I use API to test ammonia, nitrites, nitrates. Those readings are good, except the nitrates are high. I have not tested pH since I got the CO2. Prior to CO2, it was 8.2 tank, 8.0 tap.
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Old 03-31-2013, 07:13 PM   #2
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I noticed in the picture you have the bubbler and the light on. You should not have the bubbler on during the day with a planted tank. (Upsets balance of dissolved O2 CO2 and may cause algae bloom). You also mentioned 1BPS for CO2. This, if not a typo, is too much and will cause a pH spike for sure. I believe you'll see adequate results if you taper it back to 1 BPM and use a bubble delivery system CO2 reactor/diffuser. (Can be a simple small air stone if nothing else)

Also, try only doing a 10-20% water change a week. I got rid of my algae problems when I did this simple step.
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Old 03-31-2013, 07:46 PM   #3
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Cut the photoperiod back to no more than 6 hours a day, and you still should not vacuum the substrate, it will damage the plants root systems, if they have any since you are vacuuming it...A little bit of surface agitation is fine (the air stone), so if you like it I would say it is fine. 1 BPS for CO2 is perfectly fine for a tank of this size and plants. In my 60g, I am doing 3-4 BPS and it is going wonderful. I have had my 60g fully planted set up for about 6 months now and have had no major algae blooms, just one, and by cutting the lights down, lots of manual removal, water changes and I spot treated the bad areas with Excel, the algae was gone in a week. I have never had it that bad since...
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Old 03-31-2013, 07:56 PM   #4
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When having algae issue limiting your light to 6 hours max as stated above it the way to go. Also if you have nitrates over 20ppm they could be contributing to your problem. Try to get nitrates down to 20ppm or under. I run my tanks at 10ppm of nitrates. Also running your bubbler while your using your CO2 is not advisable. It helps to remove gases from the water, especially CO2. It is good to run it through the night when CO2 is off.
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Old 03-31-2013, 08:07 PM   #5
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I happen to read you have high nitrates in your tap water. That is your problem. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the main limiting factors with regards the algae growth. I would be questioning why you have high nitrate levels in your tap water. I would suggest having a lab analyze a sample to check for all things. Do you live near a farm by chance? As far as the lighting goes. It really should be on atleast 12hrs a day. Most tropical aquatic plants exist in the wild near the equator not to mention the plants utilize nitrates amongst other nutrients during photosynthesis, which only occurs during daylight. I would feed your fish once daily, use fertilizers low in nitrates. All in all your algae problem wont be mitigated unless the nitrates are reduced considerably.
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Old 03-31-2013, 08:30 PM   #6
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Plants might be exposed to long light hours in the wild but in planted tanks usually 6-8 hours is all that is needed to grow plants without algae issues if CO2/liquid and ferts are all in balance. I have a 100% planted 220g tank with T5HO's and HID Metal Halides and can run my Metal Halides 6 hours a day max due to the amount of light. Each tank is unique as to what it needs as a photoperiod for plants but without having algae. Often very low light tanks with low light tolerant plants can run lights longer. I run the 4- 39w T5HO's for 10 hours in that tank as they produce very low light. Plants do need nitrates as it is a macro nutrient but they also need many other nutrients and depending on the type of plants, low light- slow growing or high light- fast growing and whether CO2 or Liquid Carbon is used to increase photosynthesis determines how much nitrates the plants will use. Too much light let on too many hours is often the main issue when dealing with algae problems. Excess nutrients, flexuating or inconsistant CO2 levels are also problems which contribute to algae.
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Old 03-31-2013, 08:51 PM   #7
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Not really arguing photo period, however your lighting is high intensity lighting, mine is not. The fact of the matter is, plants only photosynthesize during daylight. Respiration occurs 24/7. Nutrients are only utilized during daylight. The big issue is the water source having high nitrates to begin with. A high pH like that out of tap water is suspect as well. The plants really have nothing to do with the main problem.
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Old 03-31-2013, 09:09 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone! Rivercats, my tap nitrates are over 40 ppm. I've tried using nitrazorb to lower them. It worked some, but the packet deteriorates quickly and fouls my water for days. Someone in here told me to do frequent, massive water changes. I can't remember who it was, but it was a member who had the same tap issue. I was also advised to use Seachem's Prime. That brings the nitrates down in the 30 ppm range. I'm hoping good plant growth will help even more.

Dan, I will try the Excel. When you say water changes, is 40-50% once a week sufficient? Too much? I've been using a mini gravel vac so I can target where I vacuum better. Is it okay to just vac the barren areas?

I will cut back to no more than 6 hrs light and turn the bubbler off or lower it significantly throughout the day when co2 is running.

Cycleman, my co2 kit came with a ceramic diffuser, but I'm having a hard time adjusting it so that I get micro bubbles without turning it up to 2-3 bps. I have it sitting almost on the substrate.

I'm not getting much, if any, pearling. Tomorrow, I'm going to move the diffuser to the other side of the tank, the side my filter is on so maybe the co2 will spread throughout better and not just rise to the top. I'm also going to do the manual removal again.

I really appreciate your help, guys!
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Old 03-31-2013, 09:14 PM   #9
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50% a week is good, I do 50% a week on my large tanks. Yes, you can vacuum the bare areas, just be careful around the plants.
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Old 03-31-2013, 09:14 PM   #10
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If you can't cut your tap water with RO for WC's to lower nitrates have you tried adding some water sprite, wisteria, or other fast growing stem plants? These can often help. Something else that helps is if you have or can get a breeding box you can add duckweed into it as it absorbs nitrates like crazy. The reason I say use a breeding box is duckweed is messy and can over take a tank in a matter of a couple days. You can just keep removing duckweed from the breeder box and it will keep multiplying thus removing more nutrients.
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Old 03-31-2013, 09:34 PM   #11
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Sponge, I'm as sure as I can be that my tap nitrates are at least 40 ppm. I thought at first my chemicals in the API kit were off, so I went to three other homes to test their water. One in my town was exactly the same as mine, the others were much lower. I contacted the water supervisor, and he told me I was right; they are that high. he said about 45 ppm.

I'm wondering why my 5g (same tap water) does not have algae. The light is not as intense. It's a small "natural daylight fluorescent" lamp with 10 watts. The plants are growing okay in there. No co2. The only thing I have done differently in the 5g is to vacuum the gravel well each week, and I did not do that in the 30g.
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Old 03-31-2013, 09:43 PM   #12
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Rivercats, I have a small water sprite (algae took it down in size) and a small wisteria. For some reason my previous two larger wisterias did not thrive. People say they are easy to grow, but mine kept losing leaves until there was just a few on the top. I'm trying them again. I also added a houseplant so the roots can suck up some nitrates.

I've considered RO water, but 50% water change with it would be pretty costly here. Culligan wants to sell me (or rent?) a unit. I really don't need another bill, but maybe I'll have to do that--or move if I want a planted tank!

My 5g has a small colony of duckweed (the tiny ones) that came with a plant I bought. I'm not worried about the mess, but I do like the idea of a breeder box. Maybe it would get too out of control in my 30.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:06 AM   #13
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I actually bought a portable unit that can be used for traveling and can be used and put away. I paid about 140 I think and I love it.

Water sprite can even grow in really low light. We have it in 2 Fluval Edge 6g with thier little LED's and it still tries to over take the tank. You might be having a nutrient deficiency. It odd as they tend to be easy plants. If you don't use liquid carbon you can get Anacharis as it is another good one for nitrate removal. Ambulia is also a good stem plant that can tolerate liquid carbon and removes alot nitrates.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:26 AM   #14
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"Also, try only doing a 10-20% water change a week. I got rid of my algae problems when I did this simple step."

Maybe Cycleman is onto something here. I keep introducing high nitrates with my 40-50% water change. Maybe if I exchanged less, the nitrates would go down with plants, Prime doing their job of removing the nasty offender?

Is this likely?
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:08 AM   #15
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A "portable unit" for about $140? How much water does it process? I mean, is it very slow? If I'm doing 10 or more gallons at a time, is it doable? Can you give me the name of it so I can research?

I like the look of the Ambulia. It resembles my Cabomba that I just planted.

I think you are right about nutrient deficiency with the wisteria. The water sprite grew okay until the algae covered too many leaves, but I think it would have done better with ferts. I held back on fertilizing because of my high nitrates.

I'm going to have to learn more about nutrients and maybe mix my own. Since I have RCS, I can't use those with copper. Nitrates are out. Right now, I'm not dosing anything. When i vacuumed my substrate, I removed a lot of root tab fert so plants are pretty much just subsisting on that stupid nitrate and whatever the fish are giving them.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:54 AM   #16
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See... this is why I spend so much time reading these threads. I dont have an algae problem, but I thought "What if I do someday?" And one big thing I learned is that I shouldnt have my airstone on 24/7.

Thanks guys!
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:15 PM   #17
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This is the unit I have... portable countertop reverse osmosis drinking water system - remove fluoride, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs and more. I have the 100 gallon a day unit and it makes a gallon in about a 1/2 hour. I use 2 gallon handled water jugs for easy carrying much like the ones they sell.

Shrimp actually need trace amounts of copper like humans need iron. The trace amount of copper in micro ferts is perfectly fine for using with shrimp. If you would get dry ferts from somewhere like GreenLeafAquariums.com you could just order phosphates, potassium, and the micro mix. You'd mix the phosphates and potassium in one dosing bottle and the micro mix in another dosing bottle. I use the dosing bottles they sell as they make dosing very easy. Then you dose 1ml of each mix to every 10 gallons of water daily. It's very easy.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:32 PM   #18
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Thanks Rivercats. Looks like the bet way to help my situation is to go with the RO system. Either that or change out my lights, and I don't want to do that. I probably wouldn't have to get fussy about ferts if I can get my nitrates down.

I moved a couple of plants today, pulled some of the long, stringy algae off, and moved my diffuser to the other side of the tank where my filter is. i'm still having a hard time getting the co2 release right. If I turn it down to only one bps, I'm not getting much if any mirco bubbles. I mostly get the large bubble that pops at the surface. Don't I need the tiny ones?
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:24 PM   #19
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Believe it or not I don't use CO2. But from what I hear others talk about that seems like too few bubbles per second. And yes you want tiny ones. I believe that has something to do with the diffuser. You should start a new thread asking about the CO2 only.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:25 PM   #20
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Will do, Rivercats, thanks!
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