Help me combat major hair algae problem - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-31-2020, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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Help me combat major hair algae problem

I'm running out of things to try to reduce a bad hair algae bloom in my aquarium.

The tank is a 12 gallon long AquaMaxx rimless aquarium. It has been setup for 6 months. Substrate is Carib Sea ECO complete. Filter is an Eheim Classic 250. I have a CO2 tank and controller which keeps the pH at 6.5 and the CO2 level at 27 mg/l day and night. The lighting is a Nicrew Classic 36 inch fixture with 18 Watts (LED). The light is on for 7 hours a day. Plants are easy to grow low maintenance types (see pics). Livestock is a dozen White Clouds, 2 oto's, and a bunch of cherry shrimps.

When the hair algae first started to appear, I measured my nutrient levels and found I had zero nitrates and .01 mg/l phosphates. Thinking that was the issue I dosed macro elements (using Seachem liquid Nitrogen/Phosphate/Potassium). Also dosed some Seachem Flourish at label directions. My readings were then:

Nitrates: 8.0 mg/l
Phosphates: 0.5 mg/l
Potassium: 20 mg/l

A few days after dosing, my hair algae went crazy. I kept reading that nutrients don't affect algae, but in my case this does not seem to be true. I keep removing the hair algae every day or two but I can't keep up with it.

I would appreciate anyone that can recommend something else I can try. I've spent a lot of money on this tank and it's a shame that it looks so bad. Pleaee help me out if you can.

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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-01-2020, 02:25 AM
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I was fighting hair algae in a new 5 gallon setup about a month ago and tried Deanna's recommendation of dosing high levels of excel from this thread (https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/2...hc-advice.html) which worked great. I started with an 8 ml dose, then did a 50% water change a week later and dosed 12 ml. It took a few days after the second dose for it to all die off but it worked and hasn't come back yet.

On livestock, I had a few Neos in the tank (rescued from another, I didn't really want to stock it yet) and they all did fine at the higher doses. Since it worked so well I decided to dose my 20g tank after a water change and started with a 20ml initial dose - the otos and betta didn't seem to mind, but my glowlight tetras panicked and swam at the glass looking for an escape. I did another 25% water change and it helped calm them down, about an hour later they were back to being spaced out and de-stressed. It also killed off my anacharis so I'm wondering if your Christmas moss might have problems too, but it did kill the hair algae in that tank with just a single dose. The root of it may be an imbalance in light/co2/nutrients and you might try raising your light or lowering the photo period too, but I'm too green still to really speak to that.
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-01-2020, 12:16 PM
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Damn, had exact problem like you. Everything was fine than boom. Hair algae.
Guy in local fish store suggested blackout for two days but in my case didnt helped. You can try with two days blackout and then clean as much as you can with tweezers. If plants are in good conditions they will survive without any problems.
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-01-2020, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your help. I think I will try the Excel one a week high dosing and maybe cut back on lighting hours at the same time.
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-01-2020, 05:31 PM
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Try Phosban for hair algae. Place it in you canister filter and hair algae will go a way in short order. I have had this issue when I first started doing planted tanks. I come from 35 years in saltwater.
In seawater you need a low phosphate level. What I found that the fish food was raising my phosphate. Doing testing I found it high so that due to the Lower flow in planted tanks it would allow hair algae to grow.
Tried the water change lowering light level and time.
Once the phosban when into the filter it change the hair algae problem in a week.
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-03-2020, 09:52 PM Thread Starter
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I too have kept saltwater and reef tanks for going on 30 years and have learned all the ropes. This is the second planted tank I've tried and I'm failing miserably at it.

I'm going to try the Excel once a week mega-dose as highlighted by Deanna in the link above starting this week.

I do have some Phosban laying around and maybe I'll try that too. Thanks for the tips.
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-04-2020, 02:04 PM
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What I did with the algae issue in my 29 gallon tank was double dose excel following format on the bottle. so instead of the loading dose after WC being 5 ML per 10 gallon, I did 10 (actually closer to 15) and used it to spot treat with pumps off for about 10 minutes. Then daily I did about 6 ML mixing with about 6 ML of water to give a little more volume and spot treat with that as well. Also, you may want to take a long look at your light cycle because 7 hours may even be too much
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-04-2020, 07:21 PM
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I was having similar problems, but not as severe. Someone here, one of the plant veterans mentioned that upping the Phosphates to above 5 ppm should help with hair algae.
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-04-2020, 09:57 PM
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I was having similar problems, but not as severe. Someone here, one of the plant veterans mentioned that upping the Phosphates to above 5 ppm should help with hair algae.
Yep, bottoming out on Phosphates can bring on hair algae quick.

And never use a phosphate remover in a planted tank. Plants need phosphate and it is a key to good health.
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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-04-2020, 10:51 PM
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I tested and found the level of phosphate. An havenít had hair algae for two years in this aquarium. No plant issues. Phosphate in food is the major cause of hair algae. This is long been known in the saltwater hobby.
Keep the level low and I never have the problems. In fact Phosban works better in freshwater than in saltwater. Due to interference of the elements in salt.
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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-04-2020, 10:52 PM
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The plants still need phosphate, so if it's not in the water column OP has to have phosphate source in substrate.
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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-05-2020, 01:16 AM
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The PO4 need in planted tanks is definitely something that needs to be maintained, generally in the 1-5ppm area (sometimes we go higher). However, in non-planted tanks, and I assume sw tanks for the same reason, the objective is to always strive for zero phosphates and zero nitrates to inhibit algae as much as possible and this is the opposite of planted tanks. Without plants we have no means to inhibit algae easily, so we try to starve it, which can often work when you keep light reasonable and use various media to pull the organics out. However, with planted tanks, we want to encourage healthy growth, as the plants will then inhibit algae growth. I should add that snails work in both situations, although I do not know if they do in sw.
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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-06-2020, 12:34 AM
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I tested and found the level of phosphate. An haven’t had hair algae for two years in this aquarium. No plant issues. Phosphate in food is the major cause of hair algae. This is long been known in the saltwater hobby.
Keep the level low and I never have the problems. In fact Phosban works better in freshwater than in saltwater. Due to interference of the elements in salt.
I am glad to hear you have not had hair algae issues for a long time. Most tanks don't, unless something is seriously off. But I doubt using Phosban has anything to do with it.

Phosphate causing algae is like an old wives tale that has been debunked over and over again. Not really even debatable at this point. I am in contact with loads of the most successful folks in the hobby, and not a single one would ever use a product to remove PO4. In fact, most dose levels that might make your head spin.

But like I said, if you found a system that works for you, the more power to you. But to suggest that folks limit PO4 to combat hair algae is counter intuitive. It is well known that PO4 bottoming out can cause hair and all kinds of other algae. Weak starving plants are a magnet for it.

Any pics of the tank? Would be curious to see what types of plants and tank you are talking about.


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Last edited by Greggz; 08-06-2020 at 12:42 AM. Reason: typo
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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-06-2020, 12:45 PM
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I'll share my experience with hair algae, for what it's worth.

I have a low tech, heavily stocked planted tank: no fertilizers, no CO2, Eco-Complete substrate. I have some driftwood attached with a suction cup up at the top of the tank (this entire tank is set up to please Princess, my male dwarf gourami). This driftwood gets covered in algae, which I don't mind. The fish spend a lot of time foraging in it, and I like how it looks moving in the current. I prune it when I do my water changes. BUT the hair algae started spreading to my plants and really going nuts, so I cut down my lighting by about 25%. Its growth has slowed significantly, especially on the plants. Also, I swear some of the other plants are growing faster with the reduced lighting.

My take away - it seems that light supply, and also maybe height/distance, are the driving factors in my tank. Good luck!
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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old 08-06-2020, 01:41 PM
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so I cut down my lighting by about 25%. Its growth has slowed significantly, especially on the plants. Also, I swear some of the other plants are growing faster with the reduced lighting.

My take away - it seems that light supply, and also maybe height/distance, are the driving factors in my tank. Good luck!
Good point.

It's all about balance. And that balance is in relation to the particular plants in the tank and their needs.

Another example that comes to mind would be CO2. Take a well running high tech high light tank and turn of the gas, and hair and all other kinds of algae can come up quick. Sometimes folks chase dosing, when light or CO2 could be the culprit.
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