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Old 08-23-2011, 04:07 AM   #1
Jeffww
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Why "aren't" chemicals the answer?


Every time I see someone with an algal problem everyone has these two answers:

1. Your tank is not in balance you need to get it in check.
2. Chemicals aren't the answer spot treat but maintain the "balance" first.

Now I'm no jedi but I'm just curious...why aren't chemicals the answer in combating algae. A systemic treatment of chemicals could easily eliminate the algae problems and as long as no other filamentous algae are introduced to the tank via fish or plants (easily preventable) then the problem is done. And it's done for good. As they say with treating for ich: An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

I think one of the reasons we shun chemicals is because well...we call them chemicals. We call fertilizers fertilizers since they fertilize! Ohhh that sounds green and nice. But in essence they are chemicals. And they are chemicals that are actually potentially hazardous to us people. Why don't we call algae treating chemicals something like "phytocontrol" or something?

But aside from that I also believe it's because of the whole mentality of "this is slice of nature. It is a nature aquarium." But when you look at botanical gardens on land when you have a problem with scale? You spray it. You have a problem with aphids? You spray it. Mites? spray. Termites? Spray. Ants? Spray. Beetles? Spray. We don't seem to care on land as much as we do with our aquariums. Certainly we do have fish in there but there are chemicals specifically designed to be fish safe. Surely it shouldn't be dosed as it would a fertilizer but "phytocontrol" agents could easily become a part of a monthly regimen after the first systemic dose (which can be done with the fish removed) that's not only easy on fish but would be able to keep algae down. I like making life easier and sometimes the "balance" isn't as easy as killing your dad.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:13 AM   #2
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If the tank isn't in balance, then algae will be an ongoing problem. One species will just be replaced by another, then another... algae spores are in the air so it's impossible to eliminate them completely.

Most algaecides are band-aids at best, and often can cause other problematic chemical changes that can compromise water quality. Many are pretty bad for livestock health.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:16 AM   #3
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Yes but how many problem species of algae are there? Maybe 5-6? I'm talking about BBA, staghorn, oedogonium, spirogyra and the like. GDA, diatoms, and GSA are all easily solved with simple adjustments. However these filamentous types are a very permanent fixture in a tank once established. On top of that they are very hard to introduce via spores and instead normally colonize from cells hitchiking on something. A systemic dose would wipe out (it can also be done successively) each species of nuisance algae and while the tank may be "out of balance" there will be no one to fill the niche. Or rather no one glaringly visible.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:18 AM   #4
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there are several reasons off the top of my head, the chemicals are not a cure as mite spray is not a fix its a bandaid to the problem if u stop it will instantly come back thus not a answer but a simple aid to help so the key would be find the problem an fix at the source instead of where u see it as it can and will be very costly in the long run. also if u go look at excel its very very dangerous to fauna if not dosed correctly so its better to not take the risk of killing all fauna which for some can be thousands of dollers also proving a ounce of prevention is worth it unless your pockets are that deep most of ours are not. all of the things u want can be done with out these bandaids just takes time an practice to get it right so why throw ur money to nothing im sure there are much better things u could do with it but to each his own..
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:23 AM   #5
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I recommend the usage of excel or h2o2 to "eradicate" algae all the time. But if you do not have a proper balance afterwards, it is pointless as you'll just have to do it again.

The common "algaecides" available in stores usually kill plants too.

Too much light, too little co2, and too little ferts are the problem 99% of the time. If you keep them unbalanced, you'll fight a million battles and never win the war.


I think sometimes you need to "kill" the problem or you'll never eradicate it. For instance, my BBA is invincible. It takes very high glut concentrations to kill. H2o2 has done nothing. But if I get most of it and stay on top of it, I can prevent it from coming back. But if I get everything "right" it will not just go away on its own... ime.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:23 AM   #6
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I think the method with which we use chemicals is undeveloped or rather "uncouth." Yes in large doses they are bad. Anything is bad in large doses. Even puppies. But I think that there is a solution out there easier than the ones we so religiously hold on to. The methods we adhere to shouldn't be dogma. There are other solutions out there but I just perceive a "holier than thou" attitude when it comes to dealing with someone using chemicals as a solution.

The fact that people think there's no chemical solution is because people seem to revile the solution. I know at least one person who successfully keeps their tank spic and span with the light spraying of excel on surfaces during water changes. There are other ways to go about this problem. Yes balancing is probably the best answer. But there ARE other solutions.

I agree with hydrophyte fully here. A combination of very regular killings and adjustments is the MOST effective way to deal with algae. And it's probably the perfect way to go about it. But something as simple as a mister full of excel can go a long way in dealing with spot algae and filamentous on leaves. If we put in algae control WITH our regimen rather than letting the problem come to fruition and then doing massive adjustments and killings over months life would be easier...the problems if they do occur would be less apparent and would fade much quicker.

I'm also curious if anyone has tried any of the new plant derived algaecides. Apparently they're very safe in large quantities to fish AND plants but specifically target algae. I know ADA has been selling them for awhile but at a HUGE premium like with all their stuff but I think recently some other brands have been putting out a comparable product for much less.

As soon as someone makes a systemic cure for algae I really do hope to see this whole holistic "balance is key" thing to fade away.
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Old 08-23-2011, 05:51 AM   #7
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Jeffww, that is a very good topic.

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Originally Posted by Jeffww View Post
A systemic treatment of chemicals could easily eliminate the algae problems and as long as no other filamentous algae are introduced to the tank via fish or plants (easily preventable) then the problem is done. And it's done for good.
Unfortunately that approach doesn't apply to all algae. Let me provide two constrasting examples:

BGA (which technically isn't an algae at all, but a photosynthetic bacterium) can be easily and completely eradicated from an aquarium using erythromycin. If eradicated, it will never return - even if conditions are perfect - unless reintroduced.

Back when I joined this forum seven years ago, it was seriously frowned on to use erythromycin. Use the natural approach instead. Eliminate dead spots with low oxygenation by improving flow, increase nitrates, and use a three day blackout.

The problem is it often didn't work. Some people kept doing blackouts over and over, and the BGA wouldn't be killed or would rapidly reappear; while the plants suffered progressively more with each blackout, leading to other problems. It was a sad situation really, and I sympathized with the frustration of everyone who went through this.

The natural approach just isn't very practical. There is nothing magic about three days of darkness that guarantees 100% BGA kill. Furthermore, there is no such thing as an aquarium without dead spots; show me one, and I'll show you an empty tank! Yet people defended this approach to the end.

Fortunately, erythromycin is more acceptable today. But look how long it took to gain the current level of acceptance.

GSA is different. It cannot be totally eradicated from an aquarium by any means that will leave anything else left alive. If the aquarium becomes "unbalanced", it will always rapidly return without reintroduction. Or perhaps it's so pervasive in the environment surrounding the aquarium, that it is constantly reintroduced; same end effect.

Assuming there is some chemical that will successfully control GSA in an aquarium, it would have to be used constantly. That is obviously undesirable, because all algeacides are toxins by nature. It's just that they're slightly more toxic to undesirable life, so by using them at the correct dosage, we can kill selectively. But increase the dosage, and everything dies; or use them for too long, and there are likely cumulative health issues for your livestock.

What about the other algae? Let's assume most can be truly eradicated. They will not come back unless reintroduced. To avoid reintroduction, you must never import any new plants to the tank.

I operated in a vacuum like this for years, and found that I had actually seemed to eradicate several algae types I previously had through natural means alone (good balance). Of course, sometimes I'd mess up. But no matter how far I let the balance slip, the only thing that appeared was GSA and GDA; and a bit of BBA on hardscape, but never on plants.

Of course, eventually I wanted some new plants. And they contained several new types of algae. Some of them appear to have been truly eradicated. But to this day, whenever I slip badly, Staghorn also pays a visit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffww View Post
But aside from that I also believe it's because of the whole mentality of "this is slice of nature. It is a nature aquarium."
"Natural" is a banner that people wave, without truly understanding. Yes, the plants and animals in our tanks are from nature. And yes, they have natural needs, which we fulfill. Furthermore, by taking advantage of certain natural interactions, we can have more stable, maintenance-free, enjoyable tanks.

However, how often do you hear:

"We should emulate nature as closely as possible!"

Or:

"We should do this or that because that's how it works in nature, so it should work in our tanks!"

I tell them go ahead. Let your tank freeze over in the winter. Randomize the lighting schedule to account for overcast conditions. Change water at random to account for rain. Let fish breed to overpopulation. Let disease run its course without medication. Make sure every flora/fauna combination in your tank is one found in a natural ecosystem, rather than cherry-picked from various habitats from around the world. Try to set up a self-sustaining ecosystem in a tiny glass box so you don't have to add any food. Don't ever trim the plants. And let algae grow at will.

The truth is, every one of us bends nature to our will in our tanks to achieve a desired effect, far more than we care to admit.

They have no answer for that other than ignoring it and continuing to cry "Natural is good! Natural is beautiful! Natural is best!" And dealing with that kind of pervasive ignorance and dogma is quite irritating.

Especially when it blocks progress and enjoyment of the hobby.

As an example, take Algaefix. I admit it's a pretty nasty algaecide. It kills algae. It kills shrimp. It sometimes even kills fish. But the bias and outrage against its use is so great that people won't even consider alternate uses.

I was faced with the task of saving a mass of java moss infested with invasive cladophora. That algae is tough. It isn't killed by any dose of H2O2 or Excel that won't also kill the moss. It also thrives in the same conditions as plants, so it can't be cured by balance.

Faced with the prospect of throwing all my moss out, I hit on a new idea of using Algaefix outside the tank, as a dip. The result was dead clado, java moss in perfect health. And no risk to my fish, since it was never used in the tank. Since then, I've found the same method works equally well on some other algae as well.

So I've discovered a very useful dip, which is spectacularly effective against many algae. It doesn't damage plants like other dips frequently do. It can be used to salvage plants that are normally unsalvageable, or to remove algae from new plants before they are introduced to your tank. You'd think people would be all over that, like my idea to use Excel as a spot treatment (yep, I introduced that). Right?

Wrong. I drop the suggestion every few months. It's not catching on. Algaefix=bad!

Oh well. Maybe in another seven years?
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:18 AM   #8
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Dark Cobra, I never thought of using algaefix as a dip. I currently have a huge mass of algae infested java moss that I want to put in a different tank, but I have been afraid of introducing the algae to the tank as well. I am going to have to try the dip in a separate container like you suggest. I was dreading having to throw the whole mess of java moss away.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffww View Post
Every time I see someone with an algal problem everyone has these two answers:

1. Your tank is not in balance you need to get it in check.
2. Chemicals aren't the answer spot treat but maintain the "balance" first.

Now I'm no jedi but I'm just curious...why aren't chemicals the answer in combating algae. A systemic treatment of chemicals could easily eliminate the algae problems and as long as no other filamentous algae are introduced to the tank via fish or plants (easily preventable) then the problem is done. And it's done for good. As they say with treating for ich: An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

I think one of the reasons we shun chemicals is because well...we call them chemicals. We call fertilizers fertilizers since they fertilize! Ohhh that sounds green and nice. But in essence they are chemicals. And they are chemicals that are actually potentially hazardous to us people. Why don't we call algae treating chemicals something like "phytocontrol" or something?

But aside from that I also believe it's because of the whole mentality of "this is slice of nature. It is a nature aquarium." But when you look at botanical gardens on land when you have a problem with scale? You spray it. You have a problem with aphids? You spray it. Mites? spray. Termites? Spray. Ants? Spray. Beetles? Spray. We don't seem to care on land as much as we do with our aquariums. Certainly we do have fish in there but there are chemicals specifically designed to be fish safe. Surely it shouldn't be dosed as it would a fertilizer but "phytocontrol" agents could easily become a part of a monthly regimen after the first systemic dose (which can be done with the fish removed) that's not only easy on fish but would be able to keep algae down. I like making life easier and sometimes the "balance" isn't as easy as killing your dad.
They do not grow plants...which is why folks have bad algae issues, they are not focusing or have a simplistic view about what grows plants.

It's ironically pretty simple, name one person who got into planted tanks to learn the algicidal methods available?

The goal is to grow a nice garden, not learn how to kill algae.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:34 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
J
Wrong. I drop the suggestion every few months. It's not catching on. Algaefix=bad!

Oh well. Maybe in another seven years?
Heck, hopefully by then you learned how to grow plants.

Then algae is a non issue.

I have told folks for the last 15 or more years, Amano tells folks the same thing, so do folks in the know.........when the plants dominate and needs are truly met......algae is a non issue. Poor horticulture is why folks have pest and algae. This is a simple and profound philosophy, crutches do help you learn good horticulture, it's that simple.

Bleach dips, salt dips, H2O2....etc etc........ everyone is looking for a magic cure, yet they cannot see the forest between all the trees. I've used many herbicides and algicides over some 30+ years, they have never helped me. Not in the long run.

They have not taught me anything worthwhile or helpful for horticulture........just a band aid at best.

Do some of the products kill algae? Sure....but they NEVER will grow plants.
(Excel is the only exception to the rule.) When the plants do not grow optimally, then we end up with algae. When plants grow optimally, then we can garden and have the tank we had originally wanted.

No pill, algicide, chemical will fix that issue. Get to the root and the cure, not the easy quick fix.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by im2smart4u View Post
Dark Cobra, I never thought of using algaefix as a dip. I currently have a huge mass of algae infested java moss that I want to put in a different tank, but I have been afraid of introducing the algae to the tank as well. I am going to have to try the dip in a separate container like you suggest. I was dreading having to throw the whole mess of java moss away.
Use a three day dip at the recommended dose. For 1G water, that's 0.1ml Algaefix. Too small to measure! So dilute and discard some of it. For example, if you have a vial marked at 1ml intervals, mix 1ml Algaefix and 9ml water, shake well, discard (or store) 9ml of the mix, and use the remaining 1ml; which now contains 0.1ml Algaefix.

Please let me know how it works, success or failure.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:03 AM   #12
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Heck, hopefully by then you learned how to grow plants.
Yep, and I have you to thank for that.

But I learned to kill algae elsewhere. The two skills complement each other, rather than being mutually exclusive. Fix the root of the problem first if possible so it doesn't recur. Then fix the problem fast or slow. Your choice.

And there's always the odd problems like the clado in the java moss that nothing else will solve or prevent. Every tool and technique has value in the right situation. Keep trying new stuff!
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
Yep, and I have you to thank for that.

But I learned to kill algae elsewhere. The two skills complement each other, rather than being mutually exclusive. Fix the root of the problem first if possible so it doesn't recur. Then fix the problem fast or slow. Your choice.

And there's always the odd problems like the clado in the java moss that nothing else will solve or prevent. Every tool and technique has value in the right situation. Keep trying new stuff!

I believe from past expieriences, that product Erythromycin to treat BGA which as you say is a form of bacterium, will also have negative effect on biological filter if used in the aquarium.
It makes no distinction between good,and bad bacteria.
Also believe that if light,CO2,and nutrient's are available in proper proportion's for particular application, then there is little need for chemical treatment's inside or outside the aquarium for there will be little algae to warrant the use of chemical's.
I agree with Tom Barr. Learning to grow aquatic plant's is much easier than fighting Algae. I believe folk's with high tech tank's,, where thing's happen at much accelerated rate,often panic at first appearance of algae and rather than look at CO2 distribution,flow,lighting period and or intensity,or nutrient deficiencies(sp) they focus on quick dips ,spot treatment's,alagcides, blackout's etc.
Folks with low tech tank's where thing's happen at much slower rate, and where CO2 is limited, along with demand for nutrient's, and much less light,, are often out of necessity,,, forced to focus on what is truly effective over the long haul, Plant growth.
Just my opinion from the low tech side of thing's.
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:01 PM   #14
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Has anyone tried a spot dose of erythromycin? It seems a much more controlled method
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:36 PM   #15
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Band-aids are great to stop the bleeding, but not the ultimate answer unless you are fond of buying them. Eventually, you should ask yourself, why do I keep needing to use these crutches? Do I want to keep using them? If your tank is in disrepair, H202, erythromycin, excel overdosing, phosphate limitations all may help remedy the algae short term, but if you don't know why it's happening it will return. I really think that is what people are trying to point out.

My philosophy is this: Use what works for you. If you like using a particular method to combat algae when it crops up, then use it. Don't worry about what others say, it's your tank and at the end of the day, it's what makes YOU happy that is important. I suspect there are many "algae band-aid appliers" out there that are just too intimidated to acknowledge their dirty little secret.

Quote:
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Has anyone tried a spot dose of erythromycin? It seems a much more controlled method
I would STRONGLY recommend against doing this. Period. The reason being erythromycin is a medication, an antibiotic. If you use it haphazardly, you will end up creating super-strains of BGA and diseases. This should be treated with the utmost respect and not used in similar fashion as excel. Think of how many strands of viruses are now immune to penicillin because of the massive misuse of the drug.
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