Yet Another Algae Story - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 11:58 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Palm Coast FL
Posts: 12
Yet Another Algae Story

Hi All, This is my first post and am sad to say it's about the diatom "brown algae" that has all but destroyed the plants in my 37 gal tank. It has also started to show up in one of my 10 gal tanks too and also on the same two types of plants, Anubias & Crypt's.

After following many threads here about diatoms have made some changes already to the tank. I have since added a power head to increase water flow and added a pouch of API Phos-Zorb to the Fluval 50 filter. Carbon was removed. The Anubias and Cryptocoryne wendtii were really going brown. I had been using API Leaf Zone and Seachem Flourish alternately weekly. I have stopped this, but do continue to add some API CO2 Booster each morning.

The T5 Dual tube lights add up to 36 watts and is on 11 hours a day, aprox. The amount of light does seem bright enough, but may not be seeing it's only 1 watt / gal. Should I add a stronger light system?

I cleaned the filter and it was all brown inside, the tubes as well. Also, have trashed the plants. Now know I could have brushed the diatoms off and saved them. Ugh!

I have an airstone, but should I run it all the time or just at night now?

The 10 Tiger Barbs seem very happy and the water is very clear. It's funny thou, the two Bacopa carolinia plants left in the tank are unaffected by the diatoms, no brown spots at all and are growing!

I added the API Phos-Zorb on a hunch that my tap water has some phosphate in it, but don't yet have the test kit to test it for sure.

Thank You for any help or ideas you might care to share.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 01:10 AM
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How old is the tank. What are your nitrate/phosphate readings? Is it just dusty brown or is it hairy brown algae. I'm afflicted with the same brown diatom algae so I really can't give you any pointers. Some say ottos/nerite snails it it. I really can't say if they do or not, since mine isn't getting eaten.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 01:51 AM
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Phosphates don't cause algae... nutrient imbalances and too long of a photo period do. Stopping your ferts may have done more harm than good.

While your light fixture may not be too much for your tank, leaving it on for 11 hours a day might be.

More info is definitely helpful... such as test results (ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates) and how long the tank has been running.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 02:00 AM
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The balance between nitrates and phosphate is important. So post the readings.

You have done a lot right. Often the learning involves taking one step at a time. Buy some new plants and restart trying things out.

I too have a diatom problem. My tank has been set up for 8 months. I figured out my tank gets dirrect sunlight for about half an hour on sunny days. Since I can't move the tank I bought a bristle nose pleco. They eat algae and stay small - 6 inches. That solved my problem. A pleco may not solve your root problem, but your tank will be spotless and the pleco will have a never ending supply of food.

Another idea -maybe you need some fast growing plants and dose more regularly with ferts and especially API booster. I dose everyday with booster (I have low tech tank) and found it helped my plants and slowly has gotten rid of all my algae issues.

Lighting- how deep is your tank?
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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Location: Palm Coast FL
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Yea, Knew I left out some details. The 37 gal tank has been running for 42 days but the brown dusty diatoms have been noticed for the past 2 weeks. Pulled out the crypt and was able to brush the "brown dust" off the leaves, so I'm sure it's not algae per se, but diatoms. I only stopped the ferts today, so it could have been that.

I am using Flourite over Flora-Max substrate in the 37 and only Flourite in one of the "tens". Both these tanks are cycled and have brown algae "dust". The "ten" has been going for 54 days now and the crypt is growing great, but a few leaves are showing brown dust on them like the 37. So, there is a common thing happening here. I have since clipped the few leaves with the dust off with scissors and have increased the aeration some to create water movement and add O2, but I could still be using too much light on both tanks.

Do think the light is on too much thou, I agree, but diatoms grow with or without light I hear, perhaps this is wrong. Nitrites are 0.25 and ammonia is 0, nitrates are 0 also. The tank had zero nitrite at day 30, so it is cycled quite well. Don't as yet have a phosphate test kit. They're hard to locate in Florida. I'm ordering some stuff from the net soon and making up a list right now.

I do think this problem will just "cycle" itself away, from what I've read so far. I am optomistic about it. Years ago, I had all kinds of real algae and possibly even these diatom things too without even realizing it, and it never worried me. The tanks I had always cleared themselves, albeit with a little scrapping of the glass! Now, I have learned to do water changes and that may have stirred up the substrate some, causing or aggrivating the problem.

I will try to update this thread and see if I can pin down the offending "variable" to the diatoms.

Thank you for your help too!
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 03:00 AM
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If your nitrates are zero and nitrites are .25....the tank hasn't finished cycling. Did you flip they by accident?
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 06:50 AM
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Let me tell you my experience with this SOB.

About 2.5 months ago, i really suffered from diatoms. This was not the first initial diatom bloom that almost all tanks get. It came back. And it came back hard. So the reason why it came back was cuz I decided i wanted to lower my substrate near the front, but i did not want to remove my aquasoil that i had capping my flourite. So i decided, lets move the aquasoil to the sides, scoop up the flourite, then cover back with the aquasoil. Well, it worked, but at a huge cost. I am not sure if I did a WC after that but i think even if I did, I had already mucked up my substrate way too much. Diatoms came about 1 week later. It remained for 2 months. During these 2 months, i thought about ragequitting this hobby since I couldn't figure out what was going on. I kept arguing "its not diatoms! I see that the glass is pretty clean and browning only happens around the edges of some plants, but it does not wipe off". I found out i was overdosing EI, so perhaps it was overdose of ferts, and i reduced my dosing. I also had gotten a new light, the Kessil LED. Perhaps it was too much light. I also changed to a canister filter, maybe i wasnt cycled anymore. But here's the thing. Overdosing ferts has been proven to not be the cause of algae blooms by the majority. Kessil LED's PAR placed me around low to medium light. Filter shoudlve built up the bacteria pretty quickly as it also lives in the tank and can colonize the media quite rapidly. The only reason left was the substrate swapping I did.

So I increased my CO2 as much as I could and dosed regular EI. I started getting hair algae, cyano, staghorn, and BBA all along with these stupid diatoms. My tank was a mess. It got to the point where my plants were too unhealthy to continue. They were surviving, but it would take a long time for them to recover. I decided to finally do a blackout. 3 days, 0 light. I did not care about the plants since i figured if they die, they die, i cant do much about it, they arent going to live much longer anyways.

I uncovered the tank. All the browning went away. Clado was hit hard, so was hair algae, but it was still there. But the diatoms were gone!. It took me about 2 months to decide to do the blackout. Over the next few weeks, i got new plants in, used my old wisteria i kept alive in a bucket to help the tank recover, removed as much algae as I could and tossed plants that were too badly infested. Kept dosing EI, CO2, etc. Still had hair algae, spiro, and clado, but algaefix worked wonders.

To this day, the only algae I am battling with is BBA and I know why. Plants are doing very well and growing fast. I still dose EI and even double my phosphates and micros. No diatoms, no algae other than BBA. I learned from this experience to focus on growing healthy plants, not killing algae or controlling it. The plants when doing well will cover that for me. But first you need to get healthy plants in or have enough.

For the diatoms, try to be patient. Don't expect them to go away even in a months time. Keepup with good filter cleaning, maintenance, stable CO2 and water levels, add more plants, and Water changes. Blackout if you cant stand it, the plants should handle it no problem. I even had UG blackout. No problems, just a bit of it turned white. Eventually, you will see them go away. I want to suggest just black it out, then add in tons of fast growing plants to help stabilize the tank. But I also believe time is very important to defeating diatoms.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-23-2013, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Palm Coast FL
Posts: 12
Thank you for the replies. The nitrites are 0.25 probably because of too many WC's to fast. Nitrates are just not there yet it seems.

As far as ferts for plants, I "think" that a little goes a loooong way here. In our efforts to follow the "book" and do things really correct, do also think we are shooting ourselves in the foot at times. The flair-up of diatoms just might be a normal thing and part of the overall cycling process. The flair-ups just might even be somewhat random and only affect tanks were there is a "perfect storm" of conditions.

The one thing I "think" I'm certain that started the diatoms were disturbing the substrate too much with adding and removing plants and just stirring up the gravel. There was extra ditritus flying all around the tank then. Couple that with a dirty filter and low circulation, and then,... that could have been too much for the bacteria to deal with. I'm starting to think that when diatoms appear, they are sort of like a "third" good bacteria invading the tank, only they're not so good. Then the tank settles down again after a bit of house cleaning. Time will tell.
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