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Old 10-25-2010, 10:07 PM   #1
Shana
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Staghorn


I have a big staghorn outbreak in my tank. Actually, I have all kinds of different algae in my tank, but the others are mostly under control. The staghorn is growing on my plants like kudzu, everything is starting to look fuzzy. One of my micro swords looks like a green-grey cotton ball. I removed some plants and cleaned them as best I could, then dipped them in H2O2, cleaned them, dipped them, cleaned them, replaced them. Those plants seem to be doing okay, but I have some with deep root systems that I don't want to tear up and I can't seem to get them clean. The algae is so difficult to get off, and it is impossible to remove from the leaf edges. I know the key to algae is supposed to be light, CO2 and filtration, but is there a treatment specific to staghorn? I mean, it's kind of pretty by itself, but it's taking over.

Here are my tank details:
30 gallon
96 watt compact flourescent light, on for 9 hours (3 hour siesta in the middle of the day)
Eheim 2217 filter
DIY CO2 (three bottles)
Drop checker is grass green
Heater at 78 degrees
Fairly heavily planted, with lots of wood.
Flourish once a week
Just got some Ecel, started using it every other day.
Fish: cory cats, bolivian rams, serpae tetras
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:40 PM   #2
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In my tank, whenever staghorn appears it is related to a dirty filter or accumulated debris in the substrate. A filter cleaning and substrate vac along with a water change always takes care of the problem for me.
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Old 10-26-2010, 04:08 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by spdskr View Post
In my tank, whenever staghorn appears it is related to a dirty filter or accumulated debris in the substrate. A filter cleaning and substrate vac along with a water change always takes care of the problem for me.
Does the staghorn go away by itself, or do you have to remove it and then after you do your filter maint. plus the gravel vac it doesn't come back?
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Old 10-26-2010, 02:21 PM   #4
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Does the staghorn go away by itself, or do you have to remove it and then after you do your filter maint. plus the gravel vac it doesn't come back?
It only grows on my vals that have reached the surface when the aforementioned conditions occur. It seems to appear almost overnight. After the filter cleaning and substrate debris removal and removal of the affected val leaves, it does not come back for months....until I get lax with maintenance.
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Old 10-26-2010, 03:35 PM   #5
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That's what I had read, but I'm a little confused. My filter is a new eheim 2217. I set it up about three weeks ago. Last weekend when I opened it to remove the charcoal filter pad I went ahead and cleaned all of the media. Except for a cump of java moss and staghorn in the intake hole it wasn't all that dirty. I do a 30-40% water change every week, complete with gravel vacuuming (actually, sand vacuuming). I remove the driftwood before I vacuum and run all of the moss under running water outside of the tank to remove debris. I scrape the tank walls and rub algae and debris off of the big leaves (amazon sword, anubias) at least twice a week. My fish are fed once a day, and believe me, those sepaes eat every grain of food. How can my tank be that dirty? The water is crystal clear since I installed the eheim. Is it safe for me to do biweekly water changes, at least until the staghorn clears up? And do I have to remove the affected leaves? That's going to mean cutting some of them to the ground and I don't know if they will recover.
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Old 10-26-2010, 04:22 PM   #6
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How long has your tank been up and running?

When you set up your new Eheim filter did you keep the old filter running or seed the new filter with media from the old one? If not you had no biological filtration happening in the new filter.

You have a decent amount of light over the tank and are not dosing any fertilizers to speak of. Flourish is mainly trace elements, once a week is too long to wait between doses and you are not adding any macronutrients.

DIY CO2 makes it hard to keep CO2 levels consistent, even with 3 bottles running. The Excel should help. I suggest adding it daily at 2x the recommended dosage for a few weeks.

You should never gravel vac more than about a quarter of the tank at a time. You need a certain amount of the mulm to remain since it is rich in bacteria that are important for a stable tank.

All of these things could be contributing to having an unstable tank that will be prone to algae. I would concentrate on feeding your plants and also knock back your photoperiod a few hours until the tank clears up then bump it back up slowly while watching for the return of any algae. Healthy plants are the best defense against algae.

To learn more about fertilizing plants I suggest you read the sticky on Dosing Regimes found at the top of the Fertilizers and Water Parameters forum.
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Old 10-27-2010, 12:27 PM   #7
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My tank has been up and running since the end of June, but it's been "renovated" a few times.. I've been rearranging things, including one time I had to uproot and move every single plant. I changed the light and filter and added the DIY CO2 (which is all I can afford right now, since I bought a new light and filter). So while technically it's been up for about five months, it certainly hasn't been stable for five months. And no, when I added the new filter I did not seed it. I went from a HOB filter with a plastic-cased, charcoal filled pad to a canister filter, so there was nothing I could really seed it with. I'm afraid my premature cleaning of the eheim might not have helped matters either, although all I really did was rinse the pads (long story, but it was necessary). I'll read up on fertilizers and see what improvements I can make there. I forgot to mention that my substrate is Flourite and sand, and I do use root tabs on my rooted plants, like the swords and the crypt. Thanks for the advice!
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:31 PM   #8
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Are you sure your algae is staghorn? If it is covering large areas including your intake, it sounds more like BBA to me. Both are types of red algae, but have different causes. BBA is most commonly associated with high light and low CO2 levels. Excel is an effective treatment for it if you do not have pressurized CO2. You can both overdose the tank and spot treat affected plants.

Certainly read up on fertilizing strategies posted on this website. With your level of light and only DIY CO2, your battle with algae may be ongoing. Once again, Excel is often effective against many types of algae, but is also expensive in the long run. Lastly, as others have noted, try to maintain stability in your tank once you have the algae under control.
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:52 PM   #9
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I've looked at the algae up close (more than I would ever want to, in fact) and it looks like staghorn to me. It's long, greyish-green branching tendrils that would be rather pretty if they weren't covering all of my plants. I can try to take a picture of it, but I'm not sure I could get one with enough detail. I don't have any algae on my intake or outflow bars, and little on my wood or substrate. I do get green spots on the tank walls, but those I can scrape off. This stuff is gritty and clings to the plant leaves like it's cemented on. It mainly grows on the leaf edges, or on the plants with very narrow leaves like my micro swords (one of which looks like a green cotton ball). Ugh. I would very much like to get pressurized CO2, but my aquarium budget is shot for the time being and I thought DIY would be better than nothing. My drop checker is a steady grass green, which I know isn't ideal but I thought was pretty good. Is the issue more the CO2 fluctuations from DIY?
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Old 10-27-2010, 03:45 PM   #10
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Okay, that sounds like staghorn to me. How is the flow in your tank? Make sure it is adequate. Spot treat the affected plants by using a baster to squirt Excel directly onto the algae (with the filter turned off during the spot treatment). Dose Excel at 2X the level on the bottle for the entire tank (with the filter running again). Make sure you have good water flow throughout the tank. Keep decomposing organics low by water changes and removing debris from decomposing plants. The green spot algae you are noticing is from insufficient phosphorus (improper balance between nitrogen and phosphorus). Once again, I suspect your staghorn is from elevated levels of available nitrogen whether it be in the form of ammonia, urea....etc.

How are your plants growing and what types of plants do you have? I suspect they are all slow growers. Do you have stem plants in the tank? If not, why not try rotala, ludwigia, wisteria, or even some floating water sprite. You certainly have enough light to grow them. If you actually do have too much available N in you tank, these plants will use it rapidly and grow quickly......less available for your algae. Just a thought that might help your problem.
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Old 10-27-2010, 03:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shana View Post
Fairly heavily planted, with lots of wood.
Here's another thought: when I started with my tank years ago, I had a couple of pieces of drifwood and a cork bark background. I had the most staghorn algae back them. After 6 months I removed the cork bark and driftwood as it was coming unglued and floating in the tank. Within a couple of weeks my staghorn went away. I later read that decomposing wood had been linked to staghorn outbreaks. Just another idea to what may be causing your problems.
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Old 10-27-2010, 03:57 PM   #12
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I have rotala and cabomba, but everything else is pretty slow growing: amazon swords, vesuvius swords, anubius, moss, and one crypt. My rotala and cabomba are comparitavely free of staghorn, but they do have a LOT of those long roots that grow on the stems, I don't know what they are called. Not the ones that grow under the substrate, but the ones that grow on the stems. I'm used to them having a few, but the cabomba loks like it's covered in cornsilk. That may be a seperate topic, but I thought I'd throw it in just in case it was indicative of something. I have my spray bar for the eheim placed horizontally on one side about an inch below the water. I think it moves the water pretty well; all the plants are swaying. My tank has been testing at 0 for ammonia, but I do the test AFTER the weekly water change which may not be such a good idea. I'm going to read up on fertilizers today. Somehow I had an idea that Flourish was an all-around basic fertilizer. You all have given me a lot to think about and work with, thanks again.
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Old 10-27-2010, 04:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
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My rotala and cabomba are comparitavely free of staghorn, but they do have a LOT of those long roots that grow on the stems, I don't know what they are called. Not the ones that grow under the substrate, but the ones that grow on the stems. I'm used to them having a few, but the cabomba loks like it's covered in cornsilk. Somehow I had an idea that Flourish was an all-around basic fertilizer. You all have given me a lot to think about and work with, thanks again.
The roots on the rotala and cabomba are normal. I do find that cabomba produces more roots in the fall. In fact my cabomba almost goes dormant in the winter months.

Flourish, as stated, is primarily micro nutrients. Under higher light levels, your plants will often become N and P limited, assuming your most important nutrient CO2 is available in sufficient amounts.
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