Help me with my algae battle.
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Old 11-17-2003, 04:09 PM   #1
eds
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I have a 30 gal tank, which has been planted with very low light (standard 20 W flour) for a couple of years. Substrate, primarily gravel, with some sand, and a couple of pounds of laterite. Bio-Wheel filter and no CO2 added. I do not test my water, and only irregularly add Flourish. As might be expected, minimal growth.

Plants include:
anubias (nana, congensis, frazerii)
java fern
small-leafed sag
crypt wendtii bronze
crypt balansae
corkscrew val

Fish include:
albino bristle pleco
8 oto
3 cory
4 red-eye tetra
6 serpae tetra
8 glow-lite tetra

I kinda went thru a period over the spring and summer where I let my tank get out of control. I generally did 10-20% water change per week. Photoperiod - approx 12-14 hours. I was putting off lighting upgrades, and did no water testing. When the algae started, I did not pay it the attention it needed, and it got out of control.

I got green hair algae on the rocks and glass, a fuzzy grayish brush algae on most of the plants, and blue green in the gravel and on some plants.

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded to an AH 55W CF light. There has been some pearling since then - primarily from my large anubias. For the past couple of weeks, I have stepped up my water changes, doing maybe 30% every 3 days or so. I trimmed back the worst affected plants, scrubbed leaves as best I could, and removed and scrubbed many rocks. I keep my lights on for closer to 12 hours (not using a timer, just being more aware of the time.) The stuff kept coming back quickly and strong.

Another problem is that the algae smells - especially when I am cleaning. A kind of decaying plant-material smell. Which my wife really hates. She says the tank itself smells slightly, but my sense of smell isn't thhat great I guess.

This past weekend I pretty much removed all of my plants and rocks (not gravel.) I bleached all of the rocks (except those with java fern on them - those I just scrubbed). I scrubbed and rinsed the plants,and trimmed unhealthy foliage. I removed maybe a pound of gravel that had lots of BG in it, and boiled that. And I stirred and vacuumed the gravel pretty intensely while doing a 40% change. I added big chunks of hornwort and anarcharis, in the hopes of starving the algae.

So my question is, what more should I do at this time to improve plant growth, and fight this algae?

This week I intend to get a test kit to check my tap and tank water, as well as the Hagen CO2 (Yes, I know DIY would be cheaper, and 30g is probably too big. I could supplement w/ Flourish Excel. At this point, pressurized is out of the question.) My birthday is on Thurs - and I specifically asked for both a test kit and the Hagen. If I do not get them, I'll buy them this weekend.

So what should I be looking for when I do my tests? What more can I do to discourage the algae? Should I be dosing Flourish or anything else now, or wait until I get test results and/or the algae is under control?

I'll keep you all posted and, hopefully , get some photos up when this is under control.
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Old 11-17-2003, 04:34 PM   #2
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The smell is probably coming from the BGA. You can get rid of them with antibiotics (Erythromycin).
With adding CO2 you are heading into the right direction. Depending on surface agitation, dissolving method and a few other factors, two 2 liter bottles should provide sufficient CO2.
As for test kits, you should get at least a NO3 kit (I recommend the one from Red Sea) to get an idea where your Nitrate levels are. Also, adding a little bit of Flourish or similar trace element mix would provide your plants with necessary micros in case your tap water is missing any.
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Old 11-17-2003, 05:10 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eds
I specifically asked for both a test kit and the Hagen. If I do not get them, I'll buy them this weekend.

So what should I be looking for when I do my tests?
You don't mention specifically what test kits you asked for. If you're just getting one of those generic Master Test kits, you'll probably get pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and maybe Nitrate.
What you really need to know, before anything, is your Nitrate and Phosphate levels. They should be in the ratio of 10:1 with each other (10 parts Nitrate to 1 part Phosphate). I'd shoot for 5ppm NO3 and 0.5ppm PO4.

Start there, and get those in check, and 9 times out of 10, your algae problem will soon go away. The smelly agae, though, is easy to kill with Erythromycin, as Wasser suggested.
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Old 11-17-2003, 07:27 PM   #4
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I asked for this one:

http://www.petsmart.com/products/product_708.shtml

I tests for freshwater pH, ammonia, nitrite, high range pH, GH & KH.

Should I get the Red Sea NO3 test instead, or in addition?

I'll pick up the Erythromycin tonight.
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Old 11-17-2003, 07:58 PM   #5
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I've got that AP kit, it's pretty good. The only kit in addition I'd recommend for now is a Phosphate test kit.
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Old 11-17-2003, 08:05 PM   #6
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I don't see much need for Ammonia and Nitrite testing in an established planted tank that's reasonably stocked. To me the only useful test in that kit would be the low range pH, although others might have a use for kH and GH tests as well. OTOH the kit isn't really expensive, so if you see a need for any of the other tests you might want to get it anyway...
Nitrate and Phosphate is what you should get... not sure which brand of Phosphate test kit would be the best.
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Old 11-17-2003, 08:26 PM   #7
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I'm gonna have to lock you 2 in a room and have you duke this out!

Like you said, wasser, it isn't too much $$, so if I get it for my b-day no big loss, and I can go out later and supplement with Nitrate and Phosphate. In any event, it will get me a little more educated about what's going on in my water.

I'll keep you posted.

How long should the eryth take to drive out the BGA?
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Old 11-17-2003, 08:28 PM   #8
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It can take up to a week or longer. I have used this method a few times, and it took up to 6 days in my tanks.
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Old 11-18-2003, 01:04 PM   #9
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Dosed erythro last night.
Realized my son uses the same antibio for his acne.
I guess my fish will have shiny smooth complexions.
Changed my request to a NO3 and PO4 tests.
I'll keep you posted.
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Old 11-20-2003, 01:34 PM   #10
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The EM seems to have worked very well. I gave it 2 full strength doses for 24 hrs each, then last night did a 25% water change and did a 1/2 dose.

The BGA seems just about completely cleared up, but for a couple of spots on a plant or 2. Certainly is not spreading as it was before, when the day after a water change I would notice more coverage of the gravel.

Not sure whether I should continue with half dosages, or simply wait and see if this was sufficient. Opinions?

The brush algae seems to be pretty shut down. Isn't spreading. I need to do a little more trimming of affected leaves.

Now all I have is some hair on the edges of some plant leaves and stems - mostly on the various anubias. And some common green on the glass.

Haven't got the CO2 in yet. Or the test materials. Went to a big pet store on Tues with the intention of spending some $$$, and they had nothing I wanted to buy. Bummer! This weekend I'll make a grand loop of a couple of LFS and a couple of big boxes in my area, determined to not come back before lightening my wallet.

The hornwort is really taking off. I can see I'll have to trim that puppy regularly. Trying to figure if and where I'll keep that and the anarcharis in my planting scheme. Or if I just toss them after they've done their jobs. Over the holidays my relatives will bring over digicams, so I'll be able to post some pix and pick your brains.

With my new light (55W AH retro) and getting a hold on the algae, the tank looks so green!

My red sunset hygro was my only plant casualty to the algae. I'll want to replace that to get some red in the tank. Right now all I have that isn't green is bronze wendtii crypt. When I get these plants healthy I have to work on my overall planting scheme. Want to avoid the "one-of-everything" look.

I rearranged a rock formation on one half of the tank to create many more shelves and tunnels. The tetras seem to like it - but they seem to spend more time hanging out in the shadows in the lower sections of the tank than before. When and if the plants take off, I assume I will take out some of the large rocks in the other half of the tank.

The cories seem very happy. And I see the otos out an about much more. I have 8 otos and an albino bristle plec. When the algae was really bad I pretty much stopped feeding supplemental veggies. Should I start again? The otos go after the sinking shrimp tabs - along with the cories and many of the tetras.
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Old 11-20-2003, 09:04 PM   #11
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Nice to hear it is going to the right way...CO2 rules! My BGA finally went away on behalf my raised CO2 level. Success!
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Old 11-23-2003, 06:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eds
The EM seems to have worked very well. I gave it 2 full strength doses for 24 hrs each, then last night did a 25% water change and did a 1/2 dose.

The BGA seems just about completely cleared up, but for a couple of spots on a plant or 2. Certainly is not spreading as it was before, when the day after a water change I would notice more coverage of the gravel.

Not sure whether I should continue with half dosages, or simply wait and see if this was sufficient. Opinions?
Remember the "take this entire prescription even if you feel better" advice the doctor/pharmacy gives out for antibiotics? What you've done so far is kill the weak BGA and left the strongest, and most antibiotic resistant organisms alive to reproduce more like themselves. (it's the same thing that has made so many of our once effective antibiotics become less and less useful in human infections). To prevent breeding a colony of "super" BGA, I'd continue to dose until it's all gone and then for a little while thereafter. (Taking care to watch Nitrite/Ammonia levels in case you also kill too many "good" bacteria). In the long run, the natural ecosystem of a healthy planted tank should keep it from coming back.

Good luck!

Tim
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