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Old 12-10-2003, 01:47 PM   #1
Minders
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I've never tested for phosphates, and to be honest, until I was reading these threads, never really thought about it. I've seen test kits for it, etc, but you see a lot of stuff in fish shops... not all of it worth buying!

I'd like to know a bit more about it. The reason is, like everyone else on this section, I am battling algae. The worst is the very long hairy stuff, but there is dark green, short hairy stuff too. It sticks to the leaves like it's been put on with super glue. I can scrub with a toothbrush, rub with my fingers, whatever. Can't get rid of it. Otos don't touch it. Apple snails aren't interested. My pencilfish pick at tiny amounts, but not enough to make any difference. I've recently had to pull out and replace an anubia that was choking on it (leaves curling under and dying through lack of... everything I guess). I decided that, seeing as it was getting thrown out anyway, I'd really have a good try at getting the algae off at the risk of damaging the leaves. No luck. It's stuck for good. They went in the trash. New ones put in under a canopy of giant swords for protection.

Anyway, I'm rambling... I noticed in some of these threads that phosphates were mentioned and I wondered what part they had to play in all this. Should I be testing for phosphates and if so... 1) What is a reasonable level, or should it be zero? and 2) What is their purpose in my tank, if any. Or are they just bad and should be dealt with?

I'm aware that my light levels are low, and have managed to find plants that seem to grow OK anyway (swords, anubias, java fern, vallis, echindorus magdalensis, crypts). My lights (2 x 30w, 36" Aqua-glo tubes) are on for probably 10-12 hrs, which might be too long (any advice appreciated) but I guess I've been trying to compensate for low light by leaving them on longer. My substrate is silica sand with laterite underneath and I add a liquid fertilizer. I have a small CO2 thing, but probably not big enough to make THAT much difference. My pH remains forever constant at 7.8 and I add blackwater extract with each water change. Temp 78-80F

I recently added a lot more plants thinking that more plants would starve the algae... but this hasn't turned out to be the case. So, as I've heard mention of phosphates, I thought I would find out more about it and see if this is something I could address that might help my tank stop being so hairy! Anyway, I wondered what part phosphates play in this... if anything.
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Old 12-10-2003, 02:05 PM   #2
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I know you just posted a great deal but a couple more pieces of information would help us help you.
How big is your tank?
What fertilizer are you using?
Have you tested for Nitrates and Ammonia?
How often do you feed and what do you feed?
Why is your pH so high, is it your tap water or do you have something in the tank that is keeping it up there?

I or someone else will think of another half dozen questions to ask you.

I hope you didn't thow away your anubius, it is probably still possible to save it.
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Old 12-10-2003, 02:33 PM   #3
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Erm... I did throw away the anubias. All three of 'em. :cry: I just couldn't get that very dark green stuff off. Even if I managed to get the fur off, there was still like a crusty, very dark green coating on the leaves which made it impossible for light, etc, to get to the leaves. They were all just curling under and dying. I did replace them with a new one that is quite big to take their space up. I figured as they were in the centre of tank, they were in the strongest light spot, thus the algae. So I moved the new one to under my giant sword plant and so far it looks OK.

Tank info: 60 US Gallons, Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates - varies. Comes out of the tap at 20ppm, but does go down in the tank due to the plants. My pH is 7.8 because we have very hard water here. I have no rocks or anything in my tank that would raise my pH. Just bogwood, sand and plants - nothing has made it go down, not CO2, not Blackwater extract, nothing. I guess I should be grateful it's steady and doesn't fluctuate all over the place. As far as plant food, I think it's Hagen Plant Gro, liquid feed.

Feeding - sometimes Aquarian Tropical Flakes, sometimes bloodworms, sometimes Daphnia. I alternate between them for good variety. I probably feed about 4-5 times a week. Oh, and a spider or fly if I get hold of a small one, just for fun!
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Old 12-10-2003, 02:56 PM   #4
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Ok another annoying question with no answer attached to it....sorry...I'm not familiar with the Hagen Plant Gro, could you tell me what they list as ingredients?

In a low light tank like yours, 1 watt per gallon, you only need a little CO2 to have an effect on the plants but with the pH of your water so high I'm not sure any of the CO2 is reaching the plants, I think it is just getting lost in the buffering capacity of your water. How often do you change water?

It would be hard to have a phosphate problem, with your tap running 20 ppm of nitrate. Usually the phosphate becomes a problem when you run out of nitrogens for the plants. You get them from water changes. Does your water company supply a water analysis?
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Old 12-10-2003, 03:11 PM   #5
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Ready? Nutrafin (Hagen) Plant Gro:

Guaranteed Analysis:
- Total Nitrogen (N): 0.15%
--0.15% Water Soluble Organic Nitrogen (Cheleated agent)
- Iron (Fe): 0.26%
-- 0.26% Chelated Iron
- Manganese (Mn): 0.05%
-- 0.05% Chelated and soluble Manganese
- Zinc (Zn): 0.003%
-- 0.003% Chelated Zinc
- Boron (B): 0.0005%
- Copper (Cu): 0.0005%
-- 0.0005% Chelated Copper
- Molybdate (Mo): 0.0007%
-- 0.0007% Chelated Molybdate

I change my water sometimes once a week, or sometimes I get lazy and leave it for 2 weeks. If I'm changing more often, I take out and replace around 10 litres, if it's a longer time, I'll do 20 litres. I've been trying to the 20 litre changes recently as I seem to have a recurring problem with hole in the head on my Rams. With my parameters checking OK, and I know that my tank hygiene is good, all I can do is change the water to keep it extra clean and hope for the best.

So if, say, phosphates aren't a problem... I wonder what is? Why is my tank getting hairy?

I have seen my nitrates go down to trace levels, but I've never seen them disappear altogether. There are twice as many plants now as when I did that reading, so perhaps it would be prudent to take another reading now.
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Old 12-10-2003, 04:43 PM   #6
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You should increase your light. With that low light level the growth of your plants is very slow, which will give algae some advantage. At the same time, increasing your CO2 injection would make a big difference with the hard water you have.

10 liters weekly water change would be 2.5 gal, which is not enough for a 60 gal tank. Depending on your fishes, you should aim for about 25% weekly water change, which would be 15 gal = 60 liter --> 6 times more than you do now. This will refresh the nutrient levels and remove stuff that accumulates in your tank. Both plants and fish will like it...

Check your tap water NO3 again, and also keep monitoring them in the tank.

I think it would make sense to test phosphates, not because you might have too high levels, but you might need to add them. The recommendation is NO3 to PO4 about 10:1, and if you say keep your levels around 10ppm NO3 you should try to get 1ppm of PO4, and perhaps that is where you are falling short...
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Old 12-10-2003, 06:16 PM   #7
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That's very interesting, and helpful. Thanks!

So, after all that fuss... I'm still not sure where phosphates actually come into the equation. What is their purpose in the whole cycle of things? Like I know that plants need nitrogen for leaf growth, and potassium for fruiting and flowering, etc. What exactly is phosphate?

It's funny. In the year or so that I've been doing this tank, I have learned an immeasurable amount... and then suddenly, I realise I don't know much at all! But that's what makes life interesting I suppose!
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Old 12-10-2003, 06:31 PM   #8
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Phosphates are needed by any growing plant or animal. Phosphates are considered one of the three macro nutrients NPK...
Do a little google to learn about what phosphates and phosphorous are and how they are used for what where...
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Old 12-11-2003, 12:12 PM   #9
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I'll bet your Phosphates out of the tap are the same as mine. 2ppm in the tapwater in Bath - and I've got the same algal problems you described. Last night it p****d me off so much I butchered most of my Swords :roll:
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Old 12-11-2003, 02:24 PM   #10
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So, with hard water and 20ppm nitrates coming out the tap, SHOULD I be testing for phosphate or not? Will it make any difference?
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Old 12-11-2003, 02:35 PM   #11
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phosphate and nitrate is the cause of the algae blooming in your tank.
Get those 0 and youre on!
Stronger light and Co2 injection is also appreciated.
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Old 12-11-2003, 02:46 PM   #12
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Actually reducing nitrates and phosphates should not be at 0. Reducing them to 0 will lead to many other problems.
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Old 12-11-2003, 02:58 PM   #13
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I've never seen my nitrates at 0ppm. They've been pretty low (what with the plants doing their thing), but never zero. I would imagine mine go down to <10ppm, but my test kit isn't any more specific than that.
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Old 12-12-2003, 12:44 AM   #14
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I don't think stronger lighting is necessarily the answer. I've got a 30g (U.S.) lit with 2 x 30 watt aqua-glo lights- about twice as much light per gallon as Minders. And I have THE EXACT SAME KINDS OF ALGAE AND ALGAE PROBLEMS AS HE DOES. No ammonia, no nitrites, 5-10 ppm of nitrates (negligible), pH around 8.2 (we've got hard water in L.A. too). But I do think adding more light might HELP both of us.
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Old 12-12-2003, 01:14 AM   #15
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Ok after reading everyone's responses I think I might want to suggest a course of action. At 1 watt per gallon your light is so low that your plants are growing slowly. However, if you just increase the light you are going to run into a worse algae bloom. You need to increase both the CO2 levels and the light levels. You really should double your lighting to the tank, I understand the idea of plants growing ok the way they are, that's what I did for a long time myself. The plants you picked can tolerate low light but they flourish under brighter light.

Anyhow, what this will do is start the engine of the best nutrient sequestor in your tank, the plants. The only way you are going to beat the algae is to get the plants to do it for you. The key is that you need to be patient, the algae is gonna get worse before it gets better if you do what I suggested. What's happening is the plants have to change their "metabolism" to work with the higher CO2 and light levels, oh if your crypts all melt when you increase the light, don't worry about it, they are just switching to leaves that are better suited to higher light levels. Once the plants complete the switch over they well start to out-compete the algaes. Lets just say mechanical removal of the algae won't hurt at this point.

Another thing to try is to create green water in the tank. The water column algae can suck all the nutrients out of the water leaving the epiphytic algae with nothing to work with. Several people I know have done this and swear by it now. I haven't had to try it yet, though I do run a ten gallon tank green for the baby shrimp.
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