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Old 03-23-2013, 08:51 PM   #1
Aquatechtoo
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What am I not considering?


Hi all. I'm new here - and fairly new to planted tanks, so I'm hoping the good folks in this forum (you all came highly recommended) can help me identify what I have not figured out yet with respect to limiting algae growth.

I have a 46 gal tank and a canister filter with a 300 gph output. I use mechanical and bio filteration as well Purigen. The tank is kept at 75 deg. I have a glass cover over the tank and a 4-fixture light that has a total of 156 Watts. I run the lights in the following cycle: 1 hr, 2 lights; 8 hrs, 4 lights, 1 hr, 2 lights and then 3 moonlight LED's for 1.5 hrs. The intention is to somewhat mimic a natural lighting period for tropical fish.

Water parameters are as follows:
Ph - 6.8 (7.0 without CO2)
Gh - 6
Kh - 4
Ammonia, Nitrite, and Phosphorus are all 0. Nitrates hover between 10-20 ppm on a routine basis. Water changes consist of a 50/50 mixture of R/O water and tap water. It seems I need to dilute my tap water as the Ph straight from the tap is 7.8 and the Nitrates are between 40-80 (hard to tell from the test kit).

Additional details about my setup: I do weekly water changes of 30%. I have a CO2 pressurized tank with an atomic diffuser at a rate of 1-2 bpm. I recently introduced a UV sterilizer to the tank in hopes of removing some cyanobacteria (it worked) and hoping it might help with any free-floating algae that might be present. There are some rocks and pieces of driftwood in the tank and the substrate is a mix of gravel and Eco Complete.

Floura consists of - swords, crypts, vals, stem plants, floating water lettuce, some carpet grass, as well as some anubias, an onion plant, and the recent addition of a hygrophila corymbosa and a tiger lily. I feed the rooted plants with root tabs and add 1/2 the recommended amount of Flourish Excel each day (to assist w/ Co2 and hoping it will help a little bit from its algecidal properties). I don't want to dose the full amount because of the vals' sensitivity to Excel. I also add 1/2 the dose of Flourish Comprehensive and Potassium to the tank once a week. I don't add any Nitrates, as I think the water brings in enough and the Purigen should be helping keep any Nitrates developing from detritus at bay. And I'm hesitant to add any Phosphorus, hoping that if I keep that the limiting factor, the plants will out-compete the algae.

Fauna include some 8 tetras, 3 otos, 2 mollies, 4 Endler's, 2 Celebes Rainbows, 3 Gertrude's Blue-Eye's, and 10 CPD's. Inverts include 2 Amano shrimp, 1 fan filter shrimp, 2 CPO's, a few ghost shrimp, and a bunch of MTS. I feed 3 times a week - 2 flake/pellet feedings and 1 feeding of either mysis shrimp or blood worms soaked in Marc Weiss Co. Garlic Boost Plus.

I share all of that in hopes something there lends itself to having you help me answer the question from the included image. What you see on the rocks is a result of algae build up after only 2 weeks. I have been fighting what I think is some BBA of late with some C2O2 treatments that works well. I also need to clean the glass weekly from GDA and GSA. My substrate and driftwood ends up having a green tint to it after 2 weeks, too. So, it appears that my balance of lighting and nutrients is out of alignment, but I am not able to figure out the magic formula to get this little ecosystem into a good balance. Do you all have any advice that I may not have considered yet?
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:57 PM   #2
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CO2 bpm? Bubbles per minute? At least 60 times as fast! LOL!
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:55 PM   #3
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CO2 bpm? Bubbles per minute? At least 60 times as fast! LOL!
Um, yeah...let's go with bps. 1-2 bubbles per second.
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Old 03-23-2013, 11:27 PM   #4
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Plants need N P and K. You say your P is 0. There you go.

You cannot starve out algae of N P K, it is not realistic. Add P.
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Old 03-24-2013, 12:21 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Zolek View Post
Plants need N P and K. You say your P is 0. There you go.

You cannot starve out algae of N P K, it is not realistic. Add P.
Thanks for the reply. That makes sense, however, won't an aquarium naturally produce some P by way of breaking down organics and converting leftover food and detritus into other byproducts (ammonia, nitrite, etc.)? And from what I can infer, could the nitrification process create enough P that plants can use, but not enough to register on a test kit? I ask because, in general, my plants are doing well. If the absence of P would affect plant growth, wouldn't that be observable, as in the plants would not look strong and healthy?

Regardless of whether or not this is true, I guess what you are saying is that I need to have some recordable level of P. So, my next question would be: should I start experimenting with the dosing of P and see if the algae retreats in the coming weeks, or should I remove as much of it as I can now and then experiment with dosing P and see if algae starts to grow back?

Last edited by Aquatechtoo; 03-24-2013 at 12:37 AM.. Reason: thought of another question to add.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:26 AM   #6
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You should probably look into a fert dosing scheme. I use EI dosing and it works great. Only thing I had to change on it was a little more phosphate to get rid of the green spot algae, and after about a week it is finally starting to disappear.

BBA is mostly a light/co2 problem. As the others have said you definitely need more co2 or at least a more stable level of co2 as opposed to 10ppm one day and 30ppm the next.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:34 AM   #7
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your celebese rainbows are dying for some salt. :-)
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:38 AM   #8
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Plants can appear to look strong and healthy but you want growth and new leaves. If they're not dying but not showing new growth something's lacking.
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Old 03-24-2013, 06:58 AM   #9
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Agree about dosing phosphate. I give double the amount used in EI and green spot algae is no longer a problem. GSA used to positively pop off the glass it was so hard. Plants look much better too, a vibrant green. Pennywort roots kink if they are low in either nitrate or phosphate and I do need to dose the stuff. Anubias is reported to be a phosphate hog as well.

Are you vacuuming the surface of the substrate when you do water changes? It seems to me plants can use the inorganic salts we dump in better than algae does and algae can use the organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus as well or better than the plants. Removing the detritus on top of your substrate might be taking away substrate for algae that is organic nutrient rich. You won't be taking away all the detritus, much will have already filtered down into the substrate away from the light.

I like the lighting schedule but think about using half the bulbs or raising the fixture if you can. Four T5HO on a 20" tall tank might be overdoing it. See the sticky thread in the Lighting forum to see where you are at. There are PAR ratings for many T5 fixtures there.

Your filter may list 300gph but it likely is moving less water than that plus heavily planted tanks keep some areas from getting a lot of water movement. Might consider a small powerhead to supplement the filter. I have slowly been working up to the often suggested 10x tank volume flow and with each increase in water movement been very pleased with the results.
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:27 PM   #10
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Thank you for the considerations! I've heard of the EI method, but obviously know nothing about fert dosing schemes. Do you know of any good resources that discuss dosing schemes w/ pros and cons of the different options? It seems like I'll need to find one that keeps algae at bay, but I'd like to find something that would also keep plant growth to a moderate rate, rather than extremely fast growth. Is that possible or am I asking for too much in a planted tank?
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idrankwhat View Post
Plants can appear to look strong and healthy but you want growth and new leaves. If they're not dying but not showing new growth something's lacking.
Yeah - that's the funny thing - my plant growth is good. For example: The Ruffled Amazon Sword produces 1 or 2 new leaves per week. The Crytocoryne Spiralis and Onion plant I have to trim back each week and the 'slow growing' anubias averages at least 1 new leaf per week.
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathyy View Post
Agree about dosing phosphate. I give double the amount used in EI and green spot algae is no longer a problem. GSA used to positively pop off the glass it was so hard. Plants look much better too, a vibrant green. Pennywort roots kink if they are low in either nitrate or phosphate and I do need to dose the stuff. Anubias is reported to be a phosphate hog as well.

Are you vacuuming the surface of the substrate when you do water changes? It seems to me plants can use the inorganic salts we dump in better than algae does and algae can use the organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus as well or better than the plants. Removing the detritus on top of your substrate might be taking away substrate for algae that is organic nutrient rich. You won't be taking away all the detritus, much will have already filtered down into the substrate away from the light.

I like the lighting schedule but think about using half the bulbs or raising the fixture if you can. Four T5HO on a 20" tall tank might be overdoing it. See the sticky thread in the Lighting forum to see where you are at. There are PAR ratings for many T5 fixtures there.

Your filter may list 300gph but it likely is moving less water than that plus heavily planted tanks keep some areas from getting a lot of water movement. Might consider a small powerhead to supplement the filter. I have slowly been working up to the often suggested 10x tank volume flow and with each increase in water movement been very pleased with the results.
Kathyy, thank you for the thoughts and asking the questions. I try to lightly gravel vac the top of the substrate w/ each water change. When I say lightly, I mean just hovering over the gravel; I don't actually put the siphon into the gravel. Do you think that is ok, or are you suggesting I need to be a little more aggressive with the siphon?

The fixture is on legs and sits about 4 inches above the tank. Do you think it should be raised more? I did some reading on PAR but I couldn't figure out how my fixture with its reflectors fell in comparison to the depth of my tank. I will check out the resource you suggested - thank you!

And yes, I do have a powerhead that I did not mention originally. I have a small (240 gph) Koralia sitting over top the CO2 diffuser to help push the 'atomized' carbon dioxide throughout the tank. Do you think that might be enough? I also have a spray bar on the filter output that provides some surface agitation as well as some flow to the corner of the tank below the spray bar that would otherwise not receive any direct circulation.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idrankwhat View Post
your celebese rainbows are dying for some salt. :-)
Yes, unfortunately, I got these guys when I started this aquarium and the guy at the LFS said they are great for freshwater tanks. Little did I know about their true water parameters and the importance of researching flora and fauna before running out to get something that looks cool, or pretty.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aquatechtoo View Post
Kathyy, thank you for the thoughts and asking the questions. I try to lightly gravel vac the top of the substrate w/ each water change. When I say lightly, I mean just hovering over the gravel; I don't actually put the siphon into the gravel. Do you think that is ok, or are you suggesting I need to be a little more aggressive with the siphon?

The fixture is on legs and sits about 4 inches above the tank. Do you think it should be raised more? I did some reading on PAR but I couldn't figure out how my fixture with its reflectors fell in comparison to the depth of my tank. I will check out the resource you suggested - thank you!

And yes, I do have a powerhead that I did not mention originally. I have a small (240 gph) Koralia sitting over top the CO2 diffuser to help push the 'atomized' carbon dioxide throughout the tank. Do you think that might be enough? I also have a spray bar on the filter output that provides some surface agitation as well as some flow to the corner of the tank below the spray bar that would otherwise not receive any direct circulation.
That is just how I do it. I will pump the siphon up and down a little if a section seems to have quite a bit of debris trapped under a mat of plants.

Ask about your particular fixture if you cannot find it on that thread's first post, somebody may know more or be able to give you some clue as to how much light that is. ATI and Tek have superior reflectors but some fixtures have much less PAR due to the reflectors or lousy ballasts, I know fishneedit are very low producers compared to most T5HO systems. Since you are having trouble right now reducing light intensity is one of the first things to modify, raise the lights if you are able. Hoppy checked light under window screen and it seems to reduce intensity by about 40%, if you happen to have a scrap use it. Some here have put cheese cloth down, could work but keep it away from hot bulbs!

Do you see some movement of plant leaves all over the tank? If not play around with the placement of your spraybar and powerhead to see if you can get some. May or may not help.
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Old 03-24-2013, 05:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathyy View Post
That is just how I do it. I will pump the siphon up and down a little if a section seems to have quite a bit of debris trapped under a mat of plants.

Ask about your particular fixture if you cannot find it on that thread's first post, somebody may know more or be able to give you some clue as to how much light that is. ATI and Tek have superior reflectors but some fixtures have much less PAR due to the reflectors or lousy ballasts, I know fishneedit are very low producers compared to most T5HO systems. Since you are having trouble right now reducing light intensity is one of the first things to modify, raise the lights if you are able. Hoppy checked light under window screen and it seems to reduce intensity by about 40%, if you happen to have a scrap use it. Some here have put cheese cloth down, could work but keep it away from hot bulbs!

Do you see some movement of plant leaves all over the tank? If not play around with the placement of your spraybar and powerhead to see if you can get some. May or may not help.
Thanks! I will look at the threads in the light section and post my own if I don't see one about Aquaticlife fixtures. Regarding the screen and cheesecloth - awesome suggestions! I never would have thought of things like those to help diffuse the light, but they make perfect sense. I'm hoping the floating plants I recently introduced might help too, but perhaps with a combination of both, I can find a good balance.

And, yes, throughout most of the tank, the leaves sway from the spray bar and powerhead. Ironically, the one section of the tank where the plants do not move much, if at all, is by the anubias, which is the shaded part of the tank. The filter intake is also here and visually, it is the cleanest part of the tank. The anubias leaves have GSA on them but underneath, the substrate is clean and this small section of the tank looks as close to pristine as I think it can safely get (my algae eating inverts don't send any time in this section). If I had chosen a low light, low tech tank, I think I would not be fighting the issues I am now. But, those kinds of plants are not the ones I am most interested in keeping. LOL.
Thanks for your help, Kathyy - it is much appreciated!!
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