Ph and Hair Algae Issues- What am I doing wrong? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 12:41 PM Thread Starter
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Ph and Hair Algae Issues- What am I doing wrong?

Sorry in advance for the length of this post. I'm basically going to vomit forth everything I'm doing in hopes that you guys can point out where my tank is going horribly wrong.

TLDR Version: struggling with new tank for 6 months, ph problems and hair algae

Long Version:

I started a 75 gallon planted tank in February. Fluval FX6 filter, Fluval eSeries heater at 77, 48" Finnex Planted+ 24/7 fixuture. Fliter Max III prefilter. EcoComplete substrate, various plants of various sizes. No other wood or rocks. One temple decoration from my prior smaller tank.

This was going to be my upgrade from my 13 gallon. I had some issues with it early on, but it seemed to stabilize after 6 months. It's still running with shrimp and endlers.

Here's what I'm doing on a weekly basis.
* Adding flourish and flourish excel at 2 caps each 3 times a week.
* Doing a 20 gallon water change weekly. Started with tap water and prime. After original problems with fish deaths and diatomes, bought a SpectraPure MaxCap RO/DI System and installed it in the garage. Been using it for 3-4 months. Adding the following to the RO/DI water each time: 5 teaspoons kent RO Right, 6.5 g Seachem Acid Buffer, 10.4 g alkaline buffer.
* Pulling out the worst of the hair algae. Washing arms with castile soap beforehand.

Doing filter maint about once a month. Using fluval media and pre-bagged purigen. The purigen has been refreshed twice. Rinsing out the prefilter about twice a month.

Doing testing, my amonia, nitrates, nitrites are always zero with the exception of nitrates where I pick up just a little every once in a while. Here's where the first problem is: my PH is high. Like 7.8-8.8 high. It drops down with a water change, then pops back up over the course of a week. I had hoped that with the r/o filter and chems, eventually it would drop and stay down but so far that hasn't happened. Before the r/o filter, I tried adding the buffers to the tank over the course of the week. After 10 days it still hadn't stabilized at the 6.8 or 7 I was shooting for and I got the r/o.

I added fish and some cherry shrimp from the 13 gallon tank. The shrimp died quickly and the fish hung on for a while. After I got the RO filter, I added more fish (rasboras and 3 kinds of tetras). Most of them have died now. They perk up when I do the water change, and by the end of the week they get more and more sluggish. Never saw any ammonia or nitrites. Barely picked up nitrates a couple of times.

At first, I had the diatomes (gritty feeling brown algae) bad. I expected it since it was a new tank. A couple of months ago it gave way to hair algae. God that is horrible stuff. I've spent hours picking that stuff out by hand. It's growing like crazy.

So what am I doing wrong (other than adding fish before I got the water under control, still full of self-hate over that)? My first thought was it was the tap water (I'm in Houston which has some of the worst water in the country supposedly). The R/O filter hasn't helped which is odd.

The two latest theories I'm going on:
* There's something wrong with the substrate. Maybe I got a bad batch and it's leaching something into the water.
* I'm doing something massively stupid with the buffers and they aren't doing their job. Maybe I have my ratios off.

Any ideas? I'm so frustrated I'm getting close to throwing in the towel and starting another hobby.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 12:57 PM
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How bad is your tap water? pH,GH,KH?

Maybe a mix of tap and R/O would be better.

FTS(full tank shot) got any pics? Others will ask too.

Do you know your PO4 levels?
Recently increased to 3ppm and algae has eradicated itself.

Swimming is not that difficult.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 01:16 PM Thread Starter
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Don't know the PO4 level. Will order a test kit. Actually haven't tested the tap water. Will go do that now. You can see the blinds reflected in the pic. They stay closed and early morning is the only time it gets much light at all.

Today is tank cleaning day, so this is basically a before pic. So embarrassing:
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Tap water PH is 8 (which is actually lower than what the tank reads most of the time, right now it's 8.2).

kh 6 dkh, 107.4 ppm
gh 9 dkh, 161.1 ppm

Last edited by Darkblade48; 06-19-2017 at 04:25 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 01:51 PM
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I live in Houston as well and have very similar tap water parameters. In regards to the algae, I see you are providing micro nutrients (Flourish), but not macro nutrients (K, N, P). My tank usually runs at 20 ppm on nitrates and 2-3 ppm on phosphates after dosing KNO3 and KH2PO4, which I bought from GLA. Excel provides a minimal amount of carbon. If you don't want to buy a CO2 system and your water chemistry is right, and you're still getting algae, then you'll need to dial back on the lighting.

No need to use RO water.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 02:10 PM
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Can't help but think the lack of CO2 with a lot of light is the main problem here.

Even a 2 liter DIY yeast/sugar CO2 bottle changed out twice every month would help some if you kept it running 24/7. You need CO2 to get good healthy plant growth, no two ways around it. Even a small bump in CO2 would be better, look at how Hoppy is running his 60 gallon.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 03:49 PM
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I have the Finnex lights as well on a 75 gallon tank and it's more heavily planted than yours. I started running into problems with algae and finally realized, I had too much light on that tank. I was doing some Excel, but no continuous CO2. I took the light out of 24 hour mode and now run it on the "high noon" setting for about 5 hours a day. That, along with Otos has left me with a stable tank. No more Excel and an occasional dose of ferts.

Try cutting the lights back for a week or two. You'll likely see a huge difference. A lot of light without the CO2, ferts, and plant load is a recipe for aggravation.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCL View Post
I have the Finnex lights as well on a 75 gallon tank and it's more heavily planted than yours. I started running into problems with algae and finally realized, I had too much light on that tank. I was doing some Excel, but no continuous CO2. I took the light out of 24 hour mode and now run it on the "high noon" setting for about 5 hours a day. That, along with Otos has left me with a stable tank. No more Excel and an occasional dose of ferts.

Try cutting the lights back for a week or two. You'll likely see a huge difference. A lot of light without the CO2, ferts, and plant load is a recipe for aggravation.

Sent from my Pixel C using Tapatalk
My response was regarding the hair algae issue btw.

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Last edited by Darkblade48; 06-19-2017 at 04:25 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by punkndisorderly View Post
Tap water PH is 8 (which is actually lower than what the tank reads most of the time, right now it's 8.2).

kh 6 dkh, 107.4 ppm
gh 9 dkh, 161.1 ppm
Out of the tap is one thing, out of the tap and aerated with an airstone for a couple hours will give you a better baseline, as there is a fair chance that the municipal main's water has some dissolved CO2 mixed in, lowering your pH reading incrementally.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
85 gallon stock tank, "pond"
5g low-tech Java Fern jungle.
2.5g +1.2g satellite stream-clay crypt and Fern tank.
20 GallonH Streamsoil dirt tank
Pendant-hooded, LED A19 bulb lighting.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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OK so too much light and too few nutrients and maybe PO4 are the cause of the algae.

OK, so how about this for an attack plan:
- order a test kit for PO4
- cut back on lighting to maybe 5h a day until I can start on co2
- Look at co2 system, either diy or tank system (looks like I have a lot of reading to do)
- Look at dosing to increase potassium and nitrogen (and more reading)

What about the ph? Any idea why it would be running even higher than the tap water? Why does it steadily increase between water changes? I'm assuming the ph, or ph swings are causing the fish deaths.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by punkndisorderly View Post
OK so too much light and too few nutrients and maybe PO4 are the cause of the algae.

OK, so how about this for an attack plan:
- order a test kit for PO4
- cut back on lighting to maybe 5h a day until I can start on co2
- Look at co2 system, either diy or tank system (looks like I have a lot of reading to do)
- Look at dosing to increase potassium and nitrogen (and more reading)

What about the ph? Any idea why it would be running even higher than the tap water? Why does it steadily increase between water changes? I'm assuming the ph, or ph swings are causing the fish deaths.
Generally I don't think your KH and GH are much to blame, If you do regular water changes you are somewhat resetting some of the accumulative DH/KH. There will be a bit of evaporation which will slowly add to your tank's water hardness as you just top-up with tap water. That why tank glass or Plexi covers are nice, they keeps some of the evaporated water from escaping.

Before you start throwing chemical solutions at the tank. Try building a simple 2 liter CO reactor. There's many threads here in DIY on how to do this, and on the internet.

The Krib usernet archives has some great, ( if not somewhat dated..) articles about DIY'ing CO2 systems.

Also read the Krib's warning articles about handling and storage of CO2 cylinders, * if you decide to go with pressurized CO2*. As there's a steep and dangerous learning curve with using high pressure CO2 systems.

That's why trying out with a small DIY yeast/sugar system, you experiment with something that either works or doesn't and you're not out a lot of investment. It will take a little less than a week or so to see if the DIY CO2 will fix your problem. You can make a simple low pressure CO2 infuser with a small, cheap water pump or powerhead and airline connected to the CO2 bottle that sucks the CO2 gas into the pump's inlet and it diffuses the tiny bubbles into the tank water. It's how my present 20H tank is running right now. There's some basic cautions with using even a DIY system like keeping the CO2 reactor above the waterline and (or) having a check-valve inline from the bottle.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
85 gallon stock tank, "pond"
5g low-tech Java Fern jungle.
2.5g +1.2g satellite stream-clay crypt and Fern tank.
20 GallonH Streamsoil dirt tank
Pendant-hooded, LED A19 bulb lighting.

Last edited by GrampsGrunge; 06-18-2017 at 04:47 PM. Reason: ....
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-18-2017, 10:48 PM
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A few problems I see right off the bat:

1. You are dosing Micro nutrients but no macro nutrients. This means your plants have no way to grow, so the only thing that can grow in your tank is algae. You can reduce the light and pump all the CO2/Excel you want but if you only dose micro nutrients and not macros you will just grow algae forever.

If you like the Flourish products then you will want Flourish Nitrogen, Flourish Potassium and Flourish Phosphorus. These are very expensive in the long run, and eventually you will want to switch to dry dosing, but to get the tank back into balance this is the easiest option, just follow the instructions on the bottles.

2. pH will always run higher in the tank then out of the tap. Tap water has CO2 in it to various degrees, lowering the pH. Once it is in your tank the CO2 is used up by the plants or outgasses causing the pH to rise. Run an air stone through a bottle of tap water overnight and compare the pH before and after. You will probably see an increase of 0.5-1 points. Unless you are keeping really sensitive soft water fish this isn't really a problem. You are far more likely to kill your fish trying to constantly adjust it then just leaving it alone.

3. The rest of your parameters seem fine. I don't think you need RO water with what you have. I use 50% RO water to get my water TO your parameters, I start with gh and kh of 16 and even that isn't necessarily a problem. You can use it if you want, just make sure you aren't lowering the kH and gh below 2-3 or you will get large pH swings that WILL kill your fish.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-19-2017, 02:20 AM Thread Starter
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OK, sounds like I've got some stuff to try.

I've got nitrogen and potassium coming along with a phosphate test kit. In the meantime I'm going to look into a CO2 setup of some sort and cut the lights down to 4-5 hours a day.

Will check in in a week or two and give an update.

thanks for everyone's help
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