Tank running for two years, recurring algae problems - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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Tank running for two years, recurring algae problems

Hey guys, this is my first post here and I have a few questions about the current state of my aquarium.

A little bit of background, I've had this 75 gallon tank running for two years. Being a student, the tank is in my parents' house and I am away for 8 months at a time. In the time I have been away, there have been recurring algae problems. At first it was swathes of brown algae that covered the Hemianthus Callitrichiodes. The plants are still growing but much of the lower leaves have fallen off/rotted away. The current problem is green algae, which is suspended in the water column and the glass rather than the tank decorations. Any methods of combating this? I have tried large water changes and upping my Flourish doses.

The substrate is CaribSea Eco Complete, but last year I took out the entire substrate and rinsed it because the tank was in complete disarray. Does this have an affect on the nutrient and mineral levels in it? There appears to be a thin layer of algae crusted over the top. Any way to get rid of this? Brown algae seems to be the most common problem since the tank was set up.

I have yet to put fish in it or any other living animals due to the recurring algae growth.

My current regime is:
20 gallon water change per week
Dosing a bottlecap (~10 mL) of Flourish Excel every 3 days
Scrubbing the glass whenever necessary

I have attached some pics below, any advice would be appreciated! Thank you
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 11:58 PM
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What is your fertilizer routine?
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 01:00 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post
What is your fertilizer routine?
I dose 10 mL of Flourish Excel every 3 days, but that's about it. Are there any guides to plant fertilization on this forum?
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 04:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daichotomy View Post
I dose 10 mL of Flourish Excel every 3 days, but that's about it. Are there any guides to plant fertilization on this forum?
Plants do best when they have everything they need to grow. Algae how does best when plants don't have enough to grow

In addition to carbon oxygen and hydrogen plant need:

Macro Nutrients: Nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous,and sulfur.

Micron Nutrients : Iron, chlorine, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel

Flourish excel is mainly just a source of carbon. So basically you are dosing no nutrients at all. I would recommend you try a good all in one fertilizer such as nilocg thrive (available at Nilocg.com)
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 04:51 AM
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What Surf said above. You MUST use fertilizer or else your plants are slowly dying. Out of everything Surf listed, you are only dosing Co2/Carbon via excel (btw this kills fish and shrimps at higher levels). I also made this mistake somehow when I first started. Check out the Fertilizers and Water Parameters forum instead of this Algae one.

Basically you buy a liquid macro and then a micro fertilizer and continue excel (or inject co2 imo) to get where you need to be. The cheapest way to fertilize once you get up to speed is to buy actual dry salts for the nitrate, phosphate and potassium, and something like csm+b for your micros. The rotala butterfly website and calculator can help you there.

You shouldn't go out and buy these until you understand what you need, but I use:
Nitrate - Potassium Nitrate. This also gives around 85% of your potassium.
Phosphate - Mono potassium phosphate. Also gives around 5% of your potassium.
Potassium - Potassium sulfate. This lets you dose just potassium (and sulfate) when you may not need to dose Potassium Nitrate for your Nitrate because it's already too high.
Micros - CSM + B. Beware of over dosing this. Staghorn algae seems to love it.
Carbon - Injected co2. Easy and fun to setup.
Calcium/Magnesium - The Gh brothers. Get Gh up or similar. This is crucial if you use RO water.

I aim for the following, and all of the pros journals here are similar (check out that forum and sticky!!!):
Nitrate - 10-20ppm
Phosphate - 3-5ppm
Potassium - 10-20ppm
Micros - You really just need to make sure the CSM+B doesn't add more than 0.5 or so Fe (Iron). There is a hanna test for iron that is a bit more expensive than most tests but the only accurate one.
Calcium/Magnesium - Usually a 10:1 ratio. 30/3ppm seems to be acceptable. Measure Mg like so: Mg ppm = ((17.86 x dGH) - (2.5 x Ca ppm)) / 4.1. Basically, if you know the Gh and calcium, you can derive the other part, magnesium.

As for dosing, it's as simple as understanding how much a tsp of a fertilizer will add to your tank in ppm. Say 1/8 tsp of monopotassium phosphate adds 5ppm. Great, you should be good if you are starting from 0. Now come back tomorrow and measure it. How much did you lose? How much do you need to add to get it back to 5.0? Also, The Estimative Index (EI method) is a well know "workout routine" for dosing dry ferts, which is something you can follow if you want. Otherwise, just measure and do some basic arithmetic.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 04:13 PM
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I think another important thing not mentioned in addition to the fertilizers/co2 is the lighting. Can you provide details on the light? My concern is, you start fertilizing and co2 injection properly, but have too weak of a light. You will get even more algae growth (and faster too). OR currently your light is too strong, and that excess energy allowed the algae to flourish since the plants were essentially 'stalled' because of lack of fertilizer, so the algae was able to establish itself.

Also I dont think you rinsing the substrate had a huge influence on the algae outbreak. If anything you would just get rid of some detritus which should actually help. You might've killed some beneficial bacteria but since you don't have any animals in there it doesn't matter too much

Quote:
Originally Posted by aydemir View Post
Also I dont think you rinsing the substrate had a huge influence on the algae outbreak. If anything you would just get rid of some detritus which should actually help. You might've killed some beneficial bacteria but since you don't have any animals in there it doesn't matter too much
Just realized that if you killed off enough beneficial bacteria to induce a cycle you might have triggered algae growth, but you said it was already there so again, probably not a big factor. Also since you have plants in the tank and any ammonia in the substrate that would've went into the water (like aquasoil for example) has already done so, I wouldn't expect much of a cycle regardless

Last edited by Darkblade48; 05-01-2019 at 05:04 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 11:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for all the advice. I do use RO water so my mineral levels are likely insufficient. I have gone through all the options and I feel like using mineral salts would be the best way to go in terms of efficiency and cost. I am contemplating using the Nilcog EI based NPK + CSM + B with the GH booster. Does anybody have any experience with that?

EI based NPK + CSM+B with GH booster - NilocG Aquatics

Also, are there any nutrient test kits you guys could recommend?

Regarding the lights, I will post a picture as soon as I get back home.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daichotomy View Post
Thank you guys for all the advice. I do use RO water so my mineral levels are likely insufficient. I have gone through all the options and I feel like using mineral salts would be the best way to go in terms of efficiency and cost. I am contemplating using the Nilcog EI based NPK + CSM + B with the GH booster. Does anybody have any experience with that?

EI based NPK + CSM+B with GH booster - NilocG Aquatics

Also, are there any nutrient test kits you guys could recommend?

Regarding the lights, I will post a picture as soon as I get back home.

On second thought, I have come across the PPS-Pro method of dosing and I believe that is the better way. I am going to opt for the GLA PPS-Pro Fertilizer package instead.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 05-01-2019 at 05:04 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-01-2019, 02:16 AM
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The method isn't too big of a deal once you get all of your necessary fertilizers. I've only done EI (or really, just testing every day and adding if needed now) so I don't have advice for you there.

Test kits you need are below, and most are just droppers unless otherwise stated:

Nitrate
Phosphate
Gh
Kh
Hanna Iron tester if you have the cash (https://hannainst.com/hi721-iron.html)
Calcium - API test kit and read the instructions for use in low ppm setups like freshwater: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...g-calcium.html
Derive magnesium from Gh and Calcium readings via https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...now-ca-gh.html

That's all I use on a monthly basis that is related to fertilization. I don't think there is a test for ptoassium so I always err on the side of caution and add potassium with potassium sulfate when I don't need to dose any potassium nitrate. This usually happens when I've over fed my fish, or am slightly overstocked.

ALso, realize that you might get algae blooms if you increase light and ferts too fast. The plants need to adjust to the new nutrients. If you dump too much on them they won't use it and algae will. Take a look at this pic for deficiencies once you get going: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/03...g?v=1515364045
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-01-2019, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post
ALso, realize that you might get algae blooms if you increase light and ferts too fast. The plants need to adjust to the new nutrients. If you dump too much on them they won't use it and algae will. Take a look at this pic for deficiencies once you get going: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/03...g?v=1515364045
This is a great point, plants (like anything in our tanks really) will need an adjustment period...as for length of that adjustment period I couldn't tell you
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by aydemir View Post
I think another important thing not mentioned in addition to the fertilizers/co2 is the lighting. Can you provide details on the light? My concern is, you start fertilizing and co2 injection properly, but have too weak of a light. You will get even more algae growth (and faster too). OR currently your light is too strong, and that excess energy allowed the algae to flourish since the plants were essentially 'stalled' because of lack of fertilizer, so the algae was able to establish itself.

Also I dont think you rinsing the substrate had a huge influence on the algae outbreak. If anything you would just get rid of some detritus which should actually help. You might've killed some beneficial bacteria but since you don't have any animals in there it doesn't matter too much



Just realized that if you killed off enough beneficial bacteria to induce a cycle you might have triggered algae growth, but you said it was already there so again, probably not a big factor. Also since you have plants in the tank and any ammonia in the substrate that would've went into the water (like aquasoil for example) has already done so, I wouldn't expect much of a cycle regardless
My lighting system consists of two 48" LED lights by Aquarium Masters.

https://www.bigalspets.com/ca/seapor...html?sku=56118
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 02:23 AM
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A UV light can cure the green water issues.
If it takes 4 days to eliminate the green water run the UV for 8 days.

PPS-Pro, nothing wrong with that, same compounds that are basically in EI dosing.
Edward has lowered the micro dosing to be more in line with reality.

Hopefully you are posting pics of a good recovery soon!


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Growing is not that difficult.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 06:20 AM
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Quote:
I am contemplating using the Nilcog EI based NPK + CSM + B with the GH booster. Does anybody have any experience with that?
CSM+B is one of the most popular micro fertilizers. The NPK salts are sold by many companies are are also widely used. Nilocg.com is a good company to purchase from It is helpful to fertilizer nutrient calculator to determine how much to add to reach your target nutrient levels. A good one is :
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php

Basically you select the compound (for example potassium nitrate) enter the size of the tank, and the desired concentration of nitrate in ppm, and it will then tell you how much to add to the tank.

One thing to keep in mixind is that the iron in CSM+B is PH sensitive. it will start to break down at a PH of about 6.5. So ideally you want to keep your tank PH between 6 .0 and 6.5. CO2 will reduce the PH of the water and GH boosters also tend to reduce Tank PH. So as long as your CO2 and GH levels are stably your PH should be consistant.

Also for CSM+B some people add it dry to the tank while others mix it with water to make a solution. Some people find a solution is more convinenet for smaller tanks. If you make a solution you should put some vinegar in the water first and make sure the PH is 6 or less. The low Ph would insure the solution remains stable while it is in the container.

Quote:
Nitrate
Phosphate
Gh
Kh
Hanna Iron tester if you have the cash (https://hannainst.com/hi721-iron.html)
Note Hanna in addition to the iron kit They also sell a good Phosphate and KH checker:
https://hannainst.com/hi717-phosphate-hr.html
http://https://hannainst.com/marine-...-hc-hi772.html

Like the Hanna Iron checker these cost about $50 each and are accurate and easy to use. The KH checker comes in a version with PPM output and another with a dKH reading. The first 4 test are are the most important. The others can be purchase later if you want. Many people start out with the API test kit which has a contains tests for PH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. API also sells one kit for GH and KH and another for Phosphate. API test kits are cost less but generally you try to match the color of the sample with colors on a card to determine the concentration in your water. Some people have difficulty matching colors. Also color matching is generally not as accurate and as the Hanna checkers which have a digital output.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by daichotomy View Post
My lighting system consists of two 48" LED lights by Aquarium Masters.

https://www.bigalspets.com/ca/seapor...html?sku=56118
Based on the size of your tank (height mostly) I would say you're in the low-medium light category...just my opinion though. A par meter would be a much better measure to judge the level of light your plants are getting. Also in the first picture there is only one LED fixture? If that is the case your lighting is definitely inadequate for a planted tank with any plant that requires medium or high amounts of light.

Anyways my point being - if you fertilize as described by others, my concern would be that the plants aren't able to grow fast enough to utilize all the ferts because the light isn't intense enough. To put it very very simply, plants utilize 3 things to grow (again not an accurate explanation but it works well enough here):
1) light
2) ferts (macro+micro)
3) co2


If all three of these are at optimal levels, you will not have algae problems. The plant growth will be maximal and if conditions are correct (fert/co2 level/intensity of lighting) there will be no excess of nutrients for algae to become a problem. Of course you will have small amounts of algae growing in your tank (like in a natural setting) but no nuisance algae/takeovers. BUT, if just one of these is too low (light for example), it will act as a bottleneck to the plant growing process, and the growth will be slower. In addition, since the plants aren't using the other 2 elements to their fullest capacity, those will be in excess in the tank (ferts/co2 in this case). These excess elements will be used by algae to grow, hence why it is important to find a balance.



Common occurences:
- Low light, fertilizers, no co2: Algae because plant growth stunted by light/co2
- Good light, fertilizers, no co2: Algae because plant growth stunted by lack of co2, LOTS of algae this way
- High light, no ferts, no co2: Algae, not as much as above
- Low light, no ferts, no co2: (ultra low tech) Not much algae, but slow plant growth. Throw in some anubias/moss balls and you have a very easy low tech algae-free setup...only low light plants with this setup.



There are more combinations but they all follow the same reasoning. All 3 elements need to be in balance for optimal plant growth and minimal algae save for the ultra low-tech setup mentioned above.
Sorry for the long response. I just feel that lighting is too overlooked as an aspect for algae when it is usually the root cause. If you have the right lighting your plants can grow without the need for co2 and ferts, the growth will just be incredibly slow, and you won't have too much algae to worry about. Obviously some plants cannot be grown successfully without a good balance of those 3 elements, but usually the beginner plants (i.e. anubias, moss balls, moss in general, etc) can be grown in a low tech setup with low intensity lighting. Plants that would need high lighting are usually of the smaller leaf variety (carpeting plants for example).
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 10:11 PM
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Considering you being at school for eight months at the time you need to keep things simple. You have low to medium light intensity, no fish, and changing 20 gallon RO water per week.

I would get few Ramshorn snails for cleaning up the algae and for keeping the aquarium clean. Feed them raw spinach and five minute boiled cucumber to keep them healthy.

For fertilizer I would dose only the new changed RO water to 30 ppm Ca from CaSO4, 5 ppm Mg from MgSO4, 30 ppm K from K2SO4 and 1 dKH from NaHCO3 baking soda.

Per 20 gallon RO:
30 ppm Ca, 9.8 g CaSO4
5 ppm Mg, 3.8g MgSO4
30 ppm K, 5.1g K2SO4
1 dKH, 2.3g NaHCO3 baking soda

If you are ordering the compounds, add also KNO3, KH2PO4 and CSM+B for later use. As far as the green water algae you will need UV light if it doesn’t disappear in few weeks.

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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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I have two 48" LED light fixtures in there, I removed one of them to take the photo. I do not know my PAR measurement, but I will consider investing in a par meter in the future. My goal in the future is to have a fully aquascaped tank with a carpet and lush plant growth with fish, so I may need to buy a new lighting set. My brother will be at home for the whole year and we agreed on him maintaining the tank when I'm away. That's partially why I decided to adopt the PPS-Pro method for its convenience and ease of maintenance. I will do some further research on lighting and see if I need to upgrade to a better system.
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