Brown algae for Months - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, I am new to this forum but was hoping someone could help me out with my diatoms problem. I began a project of making an aquascape at the beginning of last summer (7ish months ago). I decided to do a Nano (10 gallon) low tech setup with some easy to grow plants. I used eco complete soil, a nicrew led light, an aqueon quiet flow filter. The plants I included were Java ferns, java moss, staurogyne repens and water wisteria. My goal was to carpet the tank with the repens. Since I began, I have had terrible success and diatoms have continuously thickly coated everything in the aquarium. Especially the SR. This has caused stunted growth and melting. I bought Nerite snails to hopefully combat the problem but they hardly do anything it seems... I also dose with flourish excel to add carbon and originally planted flourish root tabs. I have tried adjusting light period (down to 6 hours) for about a month. This led to slower diatom growth but zero plant growth. I eventually bumped it back to 10 hours as some people told me more light would allow plant growth and green algae to compete. This just led to thicker brown algae. I tried buying phosguard in the hopes of removing excess silicate and phosphate that I assumed my tap water must have, (did this for about a month) with seemingly no success at all. I spoke with a LFS and they said to try using RO water as it has no silicate or nitrate present. I did that for a month with zero success. I now am back to filtering my tap water with phosguard before water changes but still don't seem to be making any headway.

To be fair I have made changes to the aquarium so I wondered if maybe I was reseting the cycle or something. I ended up stirring up the substrate a bit when I changed a piece of driftwood out. I noticed a lot of detritus came up so I decided to pull out the smothered SR and gravel vac the whole thing thinking maybe I had just accumulated to much detritus from over feeding early on. And that is where I am now. Still with lots of diatoms...

I have been checking my water parameters to make sure the cycle has been maintaind.

Ammonia zero
Nitrite zero
Nitrate 5-10ppm (my tap water is 5ppm)
pH is naturally high too (around 7.6)

I'm considering ripping all the SR out for now and planting it in a sealed container in open air under light so that it can bounce back again (I've done this in the past) it allows it to grow without diatom problems.


Does anyone have any idea what would be causing such a stubborn diatom issue? I feel like I'm fundamentally doing something wrong.
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 01:25 AM
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Welcome to TPT.

A couple of pictures of plants with algae could help.

I have been battling a similar problem in one tank for 2+ years. I've tried everything I could think of to no effect. Let's hope the community can pitch in.
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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 02:29 AM Thread Starter
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I'll try to take some pics tonight. Do you have multiple tanks with only 1 tank that has this problem? Is there anything that your tank has in common with my setup?

Here are some pictures. I recently cleaned off some of the Java fern but you can still see some leaves are coated. A few of the SR are relatively cleam from a snail but not many. I notice that it seems the diatoms are worst near the substrate. It's possible this is just because there is less flow, but could it also be a buildup of silicates/ nutrients? Debating yanking the SR out and just doing multiple deep gravel Vacs to try to sucks out as much of the diatoms as possible (should also remove silicates since their shells are silicate).
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 02-12-2019 at 11:02 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 03:22 AM
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At the moment, I see no commonalities and your post put a big question mark over my prime suspect. You are using Eco-Complete while I am using AquaSoil, which I thought was the root of my problems. My tank is 36x18x18 and is the only tank out of 8 that I am really struggling with. I cannot pinpoint what is soo different in this tank from the rest. I set up the tank with used AquaSoil and 1 bag of new AquaSoil and the tank had no end of various algae from the start. I have re-built this tank twice already and about to do it again. If it was my only tank I would have given up already. Nothing in my 20+ years of having multiple planted tanks tough me how to deal with this one. And I am certainly dead set on figuring it out.

At the moment, I have what looks like brown dust everywhere. Diatoms? I am not sure. The only algae I did not have in this tank is BBA. I've changed light intensity, spectrum and light durration, LED light and t5 lights. I've tried no ferts and lots of ferts. Large water changes and no water changes. Capped AquaSoil with sand, bare bottom for 6 months, Increased flow, decreased flow, used PhosGuard, co2, no co2, different plants,.

I've read a number of threads on similar issues, looking for a common factor. We'll figure it out, eventually.
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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 03:43 AM Thread Starter
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You said you tried bare bottom? How did that work out?
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 06:00 AM
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ahhhh, that's the same algae build up I have on the glass, substrate, etc. in my 5 gallon. Diatoms you say. My tank has the same Ammo/Nitri/Nitra readings as yours. As it is now, I'm vacuuming substrate ever other day as I see it growing on my substrate, glass cleaning maybe in 2-3 weeks time as it starts to look like yours but I won't wait that long to get to your look, lol. I've tried Phosguard, light siesta 3 on 4 off 3 on to no avail with my weak oem light(3leds). I've tried Excel with no results but have since stopped. I've also tried Tetra Algae Control but it only affected my swordtail hanging at the surface gasping for air. LOL. My tank been setup for approx. 8 months now. I do feel the more nutrients I apply the faster this algae comes back.
It's disgusting!

I just acquired a better light source so ... and a new plant so... . Will I ever find that balance? According to API phosphate test it's nearly zero and thinking it's silicates in water source but I have no tester to test that.

hmmm, they say diatoms will go away on it's own, now, would it be wiser to just let the diatoms be to see if it consumes it's food source and starves itself to extinction? To do that would be not to clean and no water changes as long as Ammo, Nitra and Nitri are at tolerant levels for my fishes? or using ro water? if there's no phosphate or silicate can the diatoms live off some other nutrient in the tank? But then again isn't that what Phosguard fer? to clean out the diatoms food source, silicate/phosphate?
I have no ro water, maybe could try doubling up the dosage of Phosguard to see what happens.

Last edited by Pocho; 02-12-2019 at 06:12 AM. Reason: added wording
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 12:33 PM
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I had some pretty serious diatoms in two of my tanks. I got nerite snails and bristlenose plecos. The bristlenose is eating like mad and the tank looks 100 times better. The Nerite snails have done some great work on the leaves of my Dwarf Anubis too.


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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 02:08 PM
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Whats the stocking of the tank?

How long has it been cycled/set up for?

I have a similar problem but mine seems to be clearing up
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-12-2019, 04:26 PM Thread Starter
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One thing I am wondering is if you don't remove brown algae (via wiping and vacuum) do they just break back down into silicate to feed the next generation?

As to stocking. I had about half a dozen neons until last week when they contracted ich and it wiped them out. I now have a single panda Cory who I think is immortal. He's been with me for 3 years I think, nothing seems to bother the guy.
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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 03:22 AM
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I did a good substrate vacuum yesterday and I had to do another wc today as the algae was building up on the substrate in one days time. Sick!

this time I wiped the side glass that's under the colored gravel and vaccumed the brownish and black build up. SAD

I must admit, a 4yo kid who knew no better, dumped alot of fish flakes in my 5 gallon tank a month ago in which I cleaned up the best i could without disturbing the substrate.

Started out, thinking it's a 5gal. tank chore for my grandkid want, now, it's turned into a expensive hobby that I've got only myself to blame fer.
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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 07:40 PM Thread Starter
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The same happened to me although it happened not long after I set the tank up. A family friend fed them while I was gone and although I specified the amount, for some reason people think fish need to eat more... I thought I got most of it but I guess not. I pulled all my SR out so that I could begin vacuuming.

I've done 2 gravel vacuums this week hoping to pull out diatoms, and whatever is feeding them. I was shocked at the amount of junk coming out! I'll probably try to do one more force good measure.
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post #12 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jah410 View Post
The same happened to me although it happened not long after I set the tank up. A family friend fed them while I was gone and although I specified the amount, for some reason people think fish need to eat more... I thought I got most of it but I guess not. I pulled all my SR out so that I could begin vacuuming.

I've done 2 gravel vacuums this week hoping to pull out diatoms, and whatever is feeding them. I was shocked at the amount of junk coming out! I'll probably try to do one more force good measure.

omg! and I thought I had it bad. Same here, after vacuuming the gravel and looked into the bucket there was a lot of junk and the water smelled. I thought my charcoal/Phosguard would take care of the smell, phophate, silica but it's not so. AHHHHH! thanks for pointing that out, the Phosphate leeching out of the fish food flakes that's in the gravel could be the cause. It seems I'll need to do a couple of thorough gravel vacs in the near future. I'm debating if I should replace my substrate now thinking either that or removing and cleaning my substrate, I'm thinking the algae build up could also be growing on the bottom glass under the substrate.
please keep us up to date in fixing your problem


the problem with this there's no instant fix and needing patience to see if what you've done fixes the problem. "sigh"

hmmm my 5 gallon tank maybe small enough to clean under and replace the substrate within a half day.

Started out, thinking it's a 5gal. tank chore for my grandkid want, now, it's turned into a expensive hobby that I've got only myself to blame fer.

Last edited by Pocho; 02-16-2019 at 10:59 PM. Reason: wording
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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 03:39 AM
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I've only had brown algae when using tap water instead of RO.
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post #14 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 08:14 PM
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I did another 50% water change and disturbed the substrate to see if the bottom was growing algae cause I had been observing bubbles coming out of the substrate. The bottom glass doesn't look messed up with filth/algae but there was a lot of smelly decaying particles within the gravel.

Geez, is this type of algae growing in the substrate and glass a normal thing for freshwater aquariums? It's fustrating trying to keep a clean 5 gallon tank and I can only imagine most of you who have larger tanks and multiple tanks at that.

I removed/ditched my elodea densa which I tried to grow for a month, it looks like it's melting even if some roots seemed to be getting longer.

Started out, thinking it's a 5gal. tank chore for my grandkid want, now, it's turned into a expensive hobby that I've got only myself to blame fer.

Last edited by Pocho; 02-19-2019 at 08:19 PM. Reason: wording
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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 12:35 AM
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If you have no light then nothing should grow. Actually I think my brown algae was the only thing that grew in lower light.

Once the silicates are eaten up the brown algae should disappear is my guess.
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