pearling is one of the things i look for.
but not every plant will pearl significantly.
the best thing is the growth, but that takes time to see a difference, and its not always easy to notice. if you have any red plants, they get less red if CO2 gets worse (all other things being equal).
since your CO2 is high (if your fish are gasping), then perhaps its a distribution problem. any low-flow spots in the tank?
I hardly every see any pearling in my tank. I've noticed that my Stargrass grows like crazy and the Rotala Indica and Ludwigia Red has started to grow better. Ludwigia Red is mostly red, new stems are green but then changed to red as they get closer to the top of the tank.
I had issues with flow in the bottom left corner of my tank (where BBA was growing on the substrate) and also around the Anubias. I'm hoping that me moving the powerhead to the same side as the filter output will help with flow and distribution of CO2 and nutrients.
I've been down the same road as most everyone that's complained about BBA.
Amano has also, he said he suffered for 10 years with BBA. I suffered for about 3 years.
The crux is the plant growth. But if you are new, you lack the experience to know what to look for. So you sort of are screwed either way.
But......you got to start somewhere.
So the pH meter and KH method is a decent place to start I think.
pH meters are not cheap, decent liquid test kits are though.
Good KH test kits might run 7-20$.
Test often when dialing things in. Then slowly and progressively adjust more and more CO2. This must be done slowly.
Pay careful note to the plants, ignore the algae EXCEPT for NEW algae growth.
You mentioned PH and KH method, would you mind explaining this? I've never heard of this. I have both PH and KH tests
I will start watching the plants more carefully to see if I see any changes (hopefully for the better) and only look for new algae growth and battle that instead of old algae
Also, how am I supposed to bring my CO2 up more when I already brought it up to the point of my fish gasping at the top for air?
1+ It takes time, patience, and careful observation. IME, it is always come down to co2 and flow for co2 and nutrients distribution.
I did just move my powerhead so I'm going to see how the plants start to react now. I'm hoping for the better
I don't disagree that if you have BBA highlight can make it worse/harder to control, but co2 isn't always the problem. There are plenty of folks here that run co2 until there fish are gassed and they still have BBA. I've seen BBA grow in all tank lit conditions. I've seen BBA growing in an indoor koi pond with no direct light. How 'bout all those dim-lit LFS tanks.
BBA is one notorious PITA. All my low-med light tanks don't have a BBA issue, only my 60G that has CO2 on it. Some LFS tanks don't get the attention they deserve either, but that's another story