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Old 11-29-2002, 05:45 AM   #1
lanstar
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Here's a question for you more experienced folks....

I've got a planted freshwater aquarium that's been running for about 4 months now. 4 Watts/gal broad spectrum power compact lighting, CO2 injection to 15ppm, GH & KH both @ 7dH. Temp @ 80F

In the beginning, I went through several different kinds of algae outbreaks. The last of which was a big outbreak of hair algae. I ran the filter with some Phos-guard in it and the hair algae disappeared almost overnight.

During that time and until recently, the plants had been growing like crazy and all the fish were happy (fish still are happy). I was left with a fairly manageable infestation of green algae growing on the glass. I had to scrape it off about every two days to keep the glass looking clean.

Being a lazy person, I thought I might reduce the glass cleaning if I could reduce the nitrate level. I bought a nice, used "batch" denitrator from a friend. This unit uses an ORP probe to measure the redox level in the denitrator box. When the level drops below the preset, a pump comes on and puts fresh aquarium water in the denitrator box, allowing the nitrate poor water to run back into the tank via an overflow. It takes about 6 weeks to culture the bacteria in the denitrator. During the "break in" period, you lower the "trigger" point on the ORP controller weekly to make the water in the box get more and more oxygen poor before it gets pumped back into the aquarium. The denitrator box contains bio-balls for the bacteria to grow on and some things called "nutra spheres" that supposedly help feed the bacteria.

To make a long story short, everything was going well until the denitrator was almost completely "broken in." During the last week of the process, the green algae growth diminished significantly. However, the hair algae has come back with a vengence! Further, although the Wisteria and most of the other plants in the tank still look okay, the Amazon Sword plants are developing brown, dead areas on their leaves. None of the plants seem to be producing oxygen bubbles at the rate they used to, even though the CO2 concentration remains at about 15 ppm and I've maintained the same daily and water change fertilizer / micronutrient doses I've always used with such good results.

I have a nitrate test kit whose first color change occurs at 20 ppm. It reads "zero" which I interpret to mean something between 0-20 ppm.

I stopped using Phos-guard after initially reducing the phosphate levels for two reasons-- 1) I'm told that nitrobacter/nitrosomonas need a small amount of phosphate to do their ammonia -> nitrite-> nitrate job; and 2) I figured changing 20% of the water twice a week would keep the phosphate levels in check. It seemed to be working.

My question is... what made the hair algae come back when the nitrate levels dropped? -and- Is this related to the unhappy Amazon Sword plants and the reduced production of oxygen bubbles when the lights are on?

I have thought of several possibilities but don't know which, if any, is the likely culprit. Things I've thought of:

1. Reduced nitrate has stopped the higher plants from taking up phosphate, letting phosphate levels rise and the hair algae have capitalized on that.

2. There is something in the "nutra-spheres" (in the denitrator box) that is feeding the hair algae. Unrelated to phosphate levels.

3. It was never the higher plants that were keeping the phosphate levels under control, it was the green algae. When I starved it of nitrate, the green algae stopped growing and consuming phosphate and the hair algae took advantage.

And with reference to the dead spots on the Amazon Sword plants....

1. The Amazon Swords are unhappy because of the low nitrate levels.

2. They are unhappy because the nutrients in the substrate have become depleted and the timing is coincidence.

(The leaves on the other plants (Wisteria, Moneywort, Crypts) all still look fine)

Do any of you folks think any of the above seems the likely culprit? Anything else that I haven't mentioned that you think could be responsible?

What should I try first?

thanks and Happy Holidays...

Tim
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Old 11-29-2002, 03:25 PM   #2
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Hey I like your name! Anyway....

Algae is aka "unbalanced". Something is unbalanced in your aquarium. If you have a pressurized system (I am guessing you do since you get 15 ppm), I would put the CO2 up to maybe 20 ppm, since you definitely have enough light for that CO2 level.

If your tank is heavily planted and the plants are growing fine, you should not have a nitrate problem. This is what I would do...

1.) Increase CO2 levels to 20-25 ppm and see how plants do.
2.) Check your nitrate levels, 10 ppm is ideal.
3.) Put some Jobes Spikes under the substrate near the amazon swords and observe.

This is what I would do, and my guess it that with 4 wpg, you don't have enough CO2, but plants should be fine with 15 ppm.... Does you fertalizer have and Pottasium in it; that is a vital nutrient for plants?

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Old 11-29-2002, 04:00 PM   #3
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I'm with SNPicollo on getting your CO2 levels up. Most people I've talked to with your lighting intensity run 30ppm CO2. Keep your lighting cycle to about 11 hrs/ day. I don't see why you would need a denitrator, thats what the plants are for. If your tank isn't already heavily planted I would add more plants. Plants also need phosphate to thrive. Zero phosphates will result in zero growth and nutrient difficiencies. You didn't say what type of algae was growing on the glass. I'm gonna assume it was "greenspot" algae. Greenspot algae is pretty much unavoidable. I think everybody on this board gets it on the glass of thier tanks and a simple monthly glass scraping will take care of that. I'm thinking, by severely limiting nutrients to the higher plants in your tank you're severely limiting thier ability to compete with the algae in your tank. At 4 watts per gallon the nutrient requirements of your plants are pretty high. By not keeping your plants healthy the algae is taking the opportunity to use what ever nutrients they can scrounge. Algae can thrive on just one nutrient while plants require a balanced diet of all the macro and micro nutrients. My advice is to do several 25% water changes this week to get your tank balanced again. Get rid of the denitrator and phosgard, crank up the CO2 to 30ppm and ,if your tank isn't already heavily planted, get some more plants, and cut the lighting down to 11 hrs/day. Oh, and make sure you do water changes at least 25% once every 2 weeks to replenish micro nutrients and get the water balanced. Once a week is probably better. I'm not a big fan of water changes either, but I know that my tank inhabitants love them. Every time I give my tank a water change my plants reward me with renewed color and vitality and my fish dart about like its mardi gras. Hope that helps!
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Old 11-29-2002, 04:16 PM   #4
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have you tested your tap water for phosphate?
I'm not sure if i've ever heard about the bacteria needing phosphate? Its possible, but all I knew was they needed oxygen and food (ammonia for nitrosomas/ nitrite for nitrobater)
I tried a denitrifying substrate set-up that i'd learnt from them reef aquariums folks in a planted tank (25gal.) one time. The plants didn't seem to like the NO Nitrate conditions too good!
I haven't done anything with swords yet, but i've read alot about adding Jobes plant sticks at there roots to help them out.
I'm fairly new here and to useing forums, or i'd probably link you to some other pages here... but if you type jobes in the search you'll probably find alot of talk about them.
david
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Old 11-29-2002, 07:22 PM   #5
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Thanks, folks, for all the good information.

Yes, the CO2 injection is pressurized.

I'll pull the Phos-guard, and (sniff, sniff - six weeks of break-in down the drain) turn off the denitrator.

I'm fertilizing with Duplaplant tabs at water changes and Duplaplant 24 daily. I bought a box of each before I discovered that there were much less expensive alternatives (aka PMDD, Yamato Green, etc.). I don't know the exact nutrient makeup of the Dupla tablets. The paperwork doesn't say.

I've got test kits for CO2 (good quality Lamotte), Nitrate (high range - el cheap-o), Iron (good quality, low range Lamotte), and the standard GH, KH, ammonia, nitrite stuff. I can't find a phosphate test kit locally but I have ordered one at an on-line pet store. I need a better nitrate test as well. One that will read below 20 ppm.

I've read up on the Jobes spikes and I'll go searching for some of the appropriate ones this weekend.

In the mean time, I'll start doing partial water changes, and run the CO2 levels up 5 or so ppm at a time and see if the plants begin to perl more vigourously.

I'll let you all know how things go.

Thanks again to you all for the very helpful responses!

Tim P.
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Old 11-30-2002, 12:23 AM   #6
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The best type of spike for Jobes is the ferns and palms, it is the one with really low phosphates. Others are good, but the ferns and palms are probably the best.

-Tim
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Old 11-30-2002, 04:31 AM   #7
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Well, I did another 20% water change, turned of the denitrator, added in some fertilizer tabs and PMDD and some supplimental iron (it was a bit low too) and turned the CO2 controller from a pH setpoint of 7.6 down to 7.3 (which means it comes on at 7.3 and goes off at 7.25).

One of the Echinodorus barthii is putting off a solid column of bubbles about 1/16th of an inch apart as they rise up to the surface. An E. tennellus is doing similarly. The hygrophila difformis (Wisteria) is just sitting back going "Yeah, baby, that's what I like."

I'm scared to death that I'll wake up tonight and there will be a huge tentacle of hair algae at the foot of the bed that will growl at me and then wrap itself around my ankle and drag me into the tank.

No, I trust you guys, I really do. But I'm taking a flashlight and a ball bat to bed with me tonight... just in case.

Thanks again...

Tim
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Old 11-30-2002, 01:56 PM   #8
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Lol!! My tank used to have a huge hair algae problem, and it smelled like vegetables! I don't know what eventually stopped it! Since your plants are really showing signs of improvment, the algae should have a lot less food!

-Tim
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Old 11-30-2002, 09:13 PM   #9
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hard to see it, but....

It's a chart about pH / KH / CO2 relationships.

http://www.geocities.com/simplemaninnc/co2.html
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Old 11-30-2002, 11:40 PM   #10
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If your KH is 7 and your pH is 7.3.... 3.6*7*10^(7.7.3) would be.... (I love my TI-83) 12 ppm!!! That means your ppm before was 6 ppm! Didn't you say it was 15 ppm? I might (very well) be wrong and made a mistake. How do you calculate your CO2 levels?

-Tim
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Old 12-01-2002, 02:50 AM   #11
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I've been using a Lamotte CO2 test kit. It uses a direct reading titration method similar to the Tetra KH test except the titrated sample is 15ml instead of 5ml like the KH test.

For me, the formula method applied to KH as read from a Tetra KH test kit consistently reports lower CO2 concentrations than the Lamotte CO2 test, kit.

Faced with this conflict, I used impeccable logic:

The more expensive test kit (the Lamotte) must be more accurate.

Seriously... I suppose the discrepancy could be due to imperfect calibration of my pH probe - which would throw off the tabular computation method.

bwiser: There is another, easier to read, KH/pH/CO2 chart on the Krib at:

http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/kh-ph-co2-chart.html

Tim
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Old 12-01-2002, 10:45 AM   #12
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I found this one yesterday in my wandering around... actually, from reading and clicking alot of stuff. Starting in Backdraft_Bagel (nick name here) Profile and clicking on His Site
And ended up a this [b][u]Chart
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Old 12-01-2002, 11:11 AM   #13
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lanstar, its sounds like its coming around
I used a CO2 a long time ago... didn't seem to work too good. Not sure of the brand. I've heard alot of good about Lamotte kits. But i've also heard about a few things that are really hard to test with much accuracy. It seems like couple of them are CO2 and Iron.
It sounds like CO2 is ready to get out of the water any way it can... slights surface aggitation etc. And with the test kit I used I was transfering water to a vile. Makes me wonder if just adding the water to the vile could have made any difference?
I've seen one that I believe, stays in the tank all the time, and changes colors?
But, still, i think there's even more variables in the water chemistry the can make a difference as to whether or not the plants can use it.
I haven't bothered with high dollar test kits for a while now. I use the cheaper ones, more often, and look for consistancy.
And do the observation thing
From your observations, it sounds like a little more CO2 was a good thing
might?? wanna???
kick it up another notch!
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Old 12-02-2002, 05:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by bwiser
lanstar, its sounds like its coming around
Well, I hope so...

Quote:
I used a CO2 a long time ago... didn't seem to work too good. Not sure of the brand.
The only problem I've had is needing to replace the pH probe about every 10 months or so. They "wear out" (get sluggish to react).

Quote:
I've heard alot of good about Lamotte kits. But i've also heard about a few things that are really hard to test with much accuracy. It seems like couple of them are CO2 and Iron.
Yes. Iron is difficult to test for because it can be in so many forms. The CO2 isn't too hard though. The CO2 test is a titration test (like GH/KH - drop at a time until the color changes). As soon as you add a drop and see even the slightest color change, you're done. I do need a good white background and good lighting to to it accurately though.

Quote:
It sounds like CO2 is ready to get out of the water any way it can... slights surface aggitation etc. And with the test kit I used I was transfering water to a vile. Makes me wonder if just adding the water to the vile could have made any difference?
Yes it can. The "destructions" caution against agitating the test sample. It says to use the syringe and let the test water trickle down the side of the test vial until it is at the desired level. Agitating the water can make the test show a lower CO2 concentration than you actually have. However, my CO2 test results show levels higher than the KH/pH formula would predict. Again, I suspect a not too finely calibrated pH probe as the culprit.

Quote:
I've seen one that I believe, stays in the tank all the time, and changes colors?
Yes, I've seen those.

Quote:
But, still, i think there's even more variables in the water chemistry the can make a difference as to whether or not the plants can use it.
I haven't bothered with high dollar test kits for a while now. I use the cheaper ones, more often, and look for consistancy.
And do the observation thing
Yes, observation is the most sure-fire indicator. I fell in to the "measure everything" trap early on. I finally got to the point that if the plants were bubbling and the fish were looking happy, I just kept doing what I had been doing. In fact, it was when I got "smart" and decided to change things that the hair algae attacked!

Quote:
From your observations, it sounds like a little more CO2 was a good thing
might?? wanna???
kick it up another notch!
I just might do that. I was kind of going slow to make sure that the water chemistry was back to a balance where the extra CO2 would be used by the plants more than the algae!

I did another water change this evening and removed a TON of hair algae at the same time. I've got this huge bunch of Wisteria in the back of the middle of the tank. This stuff is a thick bunch about 12" wide x 8" deep x 24" tall. I call it the "Don King" plant. I pulled two double handfuls of hair algae and hair algae coated leaves out of this thing. In any event, it'll be back to the surface in about a week.

If I could grow everything like I seem to be able to grow Wisteria and Algae, I'd be happy! I transplanted one shoot of this stiff over to the left end of the tank where things were a little bare. That shoot has grown to completely cover the left end, front to back, to a height of about 8" in 2 weeks.

Anyone want some Wisteria? Send a truck by and I'll load you up.

Now, if I could just make my Amazon Swords "fart" again, I'd think things were really on the mend... Until recently, they would all release these huge oxygen bubbles right from the base where all the stems enter the gravel... about once every 5 or 10 minutes. Since the leaves started to show dead spots, they've lost their flatulence.

Thanks again for all your help.

Take care...
Tim
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Old 12-02-2002, 10:30 PM   #15
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My wisteria grows like crazy also. I had to remove most of it from my 75 gal. I just keep a little in there now. I put some in my 10 gal guppy tank. And brought a bush 24" long by 8 " wide to my LFS for store credit. They gave me $6 for it. Better than nothing. I also have some foxtail that grows about an inch per day. I chop like 6" off it once a week and replant the tops. I was bringing that stuff to the LFS also but thier tanks don't really have good lighting or co2 so it just rots in the tank. I'm trying to get them to setup a big plant display tank where they could display all thier plants for sale. I even told them I'd set it up for them. Maybe some day they'll take the hint.
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