High organics solutions needed - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 01:52 PM Thread Starter
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Hey all,

I've got a small amount of various algae species (BBA, Clado, GDA) and a persistent scum layer on my water surface.
I've determined both are likely due to high dissolved organics. I'd rather treat the causes than the problems.

Causes of high organics:
Tank stocked to max capacity (1" fish per gallon)
Garden soil ("dirt") substrate has mixed with the sand cap and now dirt is in direct contact with the water column.
You can't really vac your dirt...
I've not found a good routine and method for cleaning my canister filter. I've tried weekly, and I find enough grime in their to suggest it would help, but some people suggest all that brown build up is actually just bacterial growth and is doing more to clean my water than I'm doing by regular cleaning.

Possible solutions:
Feed fish less? Nope, I already feed only once every 2 to 3 days, and what I feed is eaten within 5 minutes easy.


I could try putting down a new 1 inch layer of Black Diamond? Not sure that would help except it would show me just how much detritus is collecting on the bottom of my tank, and I could potentially vacuum it, though it's much lighter than gravel.

I could try Purigen or activated carbon to try and suck up the free organics?

I could replace all the media in my canister with bio media or, as some do, with those green scrubbing pads?

I'm not looking to increase surface agitation, that is just hiding the cause of the problem.

Lastly, I'm planning on relocating about 1/3rd of the fish to another tank this summer when I have the time to do so. But I'd rather do what I can right now.

Any other ideas? Any experiences with carbon or Purigen being especially helpful to clear up excess organics?

Christian, husband, brother, friend, hobbyist.

Last edited by Blacktetra; 05-06-2019 at 04:10 PM.
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:09 PM
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Well as your probably aware tank with soil have generally high organic loads. That's usually what's feeding the plants (Walstad). The limitation is usually light and/or having enough uptake to deal with it. If you look at most Walstad tanks light is not high and plants are usually limited to easier ones.

Are you dosing the water column? If you are then I would go with Carbon to help reduce the organic load that gets into the water. I don't know your light situation, but you could possibly reduce the light cycle if it's running a full duration until things get under control.
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:30 PM
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The simple answer is water changes.
You have a high bio-load. Once all of that is broken down it's turning into food for your plants and your algae. As long as the tank is cycled and established it'll do a great job of breaking everything down. What you have left over is probably in higher amounts than your plants can use and your algae is loving it.

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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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I am running around 40 PAR/umols.
CO2 is fairly consistent drop of 1.2pH from lights on to lights off.
I dose all ferts needed Ca, Mg, NO3, K, phosphate, and micros.
In my 4 years of experience in this hobby I'm fairly confident that my problems aren't due to insufficient fertilization, excess light, or insufficient CO2, just excess organics.
I run a total of less than 10 hours of light/day, and split it into two photoperiods.

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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:39 PM
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I know you want to dismiss it, but gas exchange can be a big deal and your “scum layer” certainly indicates a problem here. I’d look into a surface skimmer (very inexpensive) if you don’t want to increase surface agitation with flow.

Just addressing one of your questions: Purigen is excellent at removing nitrogenous organics. The right quantity will remove all that your BB don’t remove.
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacktetra View Post
I am running around 40 PAR/umols.
CO2 is fairly consistent drop of 1.2pH from lights on to lights off.
I dose all ferts needed Ca, Mg, NO3, K, phosphate, and micros.
In my 4 years of experience in this hobby I'm fairly confident that my problems aren't due to insufficient fertilization, excess light, or insufficient CO2, just excess organics.
I run a total of less than 10 hours of light/day, and split it into two photoperiods.
I'm just suggesting if your dosing the water column with everything then you can use carbon/Purigen. Lighting you didn't mention which many times is the issue. Either way 10/hrs of light even when broken could be alot depending on your setup. Algae grows quicker with more light. BTW I have over 10 years experience with planted tanks so I'm not just talking the talk.

I have found in these situations, the best thing to do is attack it on multiple fronts instead of having someone pinpoint the problem. So add carbon/Purigen, reduce light period maybe 1 hr, do slightly more water changes, etc.
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Last edited by Asteroid; 04-03-2019 at 02:43 PM. Reason: .
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
I know you want to dismiss it, but gas exchange can be a big deal and your “scum layer” certainly indicates a problem here. I’d look into a surface skimmer (very inexpensive) if you don’t want to increase surface agitation with flow.

Just addressing one of your questions: Purigen is excellent at removing nitrogenous organics. The right quantity will remove all that your BB don’t remove.

Thank you for the reply.

I'm aware that gas exchange plays a large part. I've got my flow at max and aimed at the surface. I've considered getting an air stone and pump but the below mentioned purchase will come first.

My tank is only 12" deep, so it's taken me quite a lot of looking around to find a skimmer that will fit in that size tank without also being a large visible foot print (i.e. eheim's skimmer) I was shown an option by someone kind enough to post in my journal and I'm considering going that route. I just want to do what I can to directly address the organics level, not just remove the scum.

I'll consider Purigen in addition as well, thank you.

Christian, husband, brother, friend, hobbyist.
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacktetra View Post
I was shown an option by someone kind enough to post in my journal and I'm considering going that route. I just want to do what I can to directly address the organics level, not just remove the scum.
Can you post that link? I'd like to take a look at it.
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
I'm just suggesting if your dosing the water column with everything then you can use carbon/Purigen. Lighting you didn't mention which many times is the issue. Either way 10/hrs of light even when broken could be alot depending on your setup. Algae grows quicker with more light. BTW I have over 10 years experience with planted tanks so I'm not just talking the talk.

I have found in these situations, the best thing to do is attack it on multiple fronts instead of having someone pinpoint the problem. So add carbon/Purigen, reduce light period maybe 1 hr, do slightly more water changes, etc.

I apologize @Asteroid if I was being arrogant. My intention was to point out that I'm fairly certain my issue isn't a gross error of lighting, fertilizing or CO2. They most certainly contribute, and I should be willing to have my specs examined any time I ask for help. Especially since I never had scum problems until I started using CO2 and increased my lighting now that I think about it...


After taking a look I've got my lights on for two 5 hour blocks, and now that I've said that "out loud" I'm realizing I might do better to cut them both by one hour.


Thank you for the input. I'll be attacking things from multiple fronts.


It looks like my list is:
Photo period reduction.
Skimmer purchase.
And either carbon or Purigen.
I'll wait to see if anyone else votes for one over the other. I imagine Purigen, being "rechargeable" is a better bet long term.

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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:04 PM
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Did I already post this?
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Acry...AbTest=ae803_4

Your tank looks a bit overgrown especially in the top right corner, its scary but, trim off the worst of the algae covered leaves and stems. Use a turkey baster and agitate the surface while vacuuming all over. Run your hands all over every plant, rub off and vacuum organics.
Your tank could probably use a 3X 50% to completely reset.

Reducing the photoperiod definitely! I'd go back to 6 (not sure about the siesta) or at least 8 (maybe 4 and 4) and slowly move up once algae is under control.


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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:04 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Can you post that link? I'd like to take a look at it.

The skimmer is here:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/aqua...e56ec475d303c7


The journal is here:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...20-long-2.html

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by cl3537 View Post
Did I already post this?
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Acry...AbTest=ae803_4

Your tank looks a bit overgrown, its scary but, trim off the worst of the algae covered leaves and stems. Use a turkey baster and agitate the surface while vacuuming all over. Run your hands all over every plant and shake off/vacuum organics.
Your tank could probably use a 3X 50% to completely reset. Run your hands all over every plant and shake off/vacuum organics.

Reducing the light intensity and photoperiod by 10 - 20% will also help.

Yest, you did, I was just mentioning it to Deanna.
The picture is a few days old. I've since trimmed a bit.
The worst offender is some very old rotala I'm struggling with. I'm trying to get as much fresh growth out of it I can before throwing away all the old stems, they're pretty awful at the moment.
However it takes a good week or so for 1 to 2" of stem to grow and I've only gotten my CO2 stable in the last week or so. (and shortening my photoperiod and adjusting my CO2 timer to match will likely upset things and require a few days to straighten out again.)


I do a 50% WC weekly, and I regularly use a turkey baster and try to clean things up.
I think the only way to do a really thorough job of this would be to remove all my floaters to a container, rip out all of the italian val (as it's impossible to really get back in there otherwise). Then get attach a length of tube to my inflow and use that to suck things up. If I just use my water change hose and drain water I'll run out of water to drain before I'm done cleaning.
I'm sure a really deep clean wouldn't hurt, it's just a pain as it could take me two hours or more to accomplish. I'll do one eventually, they often happen every two or three months when I rescape things.
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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Also, I'll consider doing two 50% WC's back to back to see if that helps.
I have to buy RO from across town at the pet store and mix 50/50 with tap so it's a bit of a bother.
I usually go every two weeks to buy water but I can make an extra trip if needed.
I wish my tap wasn't like 12kH and 24gH, then I could just skip the RO entirely and do as many WC's as I wanted.

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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:34 PM
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No problem @Blacktetra I just thought maybe you misunderstood my post. Anyway another thing I would be careful about especially with dirt-based tanks is gravel vacuuming. If you gently going over the top and sucking things out your probably OK, but you don't want to disturb the substrate. You also stated

"Garden soil ("dirt") substrate has mixed with the sand cap and now dirt is in direct contact with the water column."

The dirt substrate contains a tremendous amount of organics. Any gravel vacuuming that lifts it or moves stuff around will cause problems.
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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No problem @Blacktetra I just thought maybe you misunderstood my post. Anyway another thing I would be careful about especially with dirt-based tanks is gravel vacuuming. If you gently going over the top and sucking things out your probably OK, but you don't want to disturb the substrate. You also stated

"Garden soil ("dirt") substrate has mixed with the sand cap and now dirt is in direct contact with the water column."

The dirt substrate contains a tremendous amount of organics. Any gravel vacuuming that lifts it or moves stuff around will cause problems.

This is true. It's likely that my uprooting jungle val every week or two is part of what contributes to the problem. I'm looking forward to setting up a "grow out" tank to keep this plant in. I don't like reducing the number of species I have available for my use, but I'm starting to get tired of trying to contain the val, and now that I have high CO2 levels my dwarf sag is getting to be 3 times as large, and a bother to control as well. I'm likely going to remove both from this tank, which should help with the constant uprooting of plants.

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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-03-2019, 03:53 PM
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Also, I'll consider doing two 50% WC's back to back to see if that helps.
I have to buy RO from across town at the pet store and mix 50/50 with tap so it's a bit of a bother.
I usually go every two weeks to buy water but I can make an extra trip if needed.
I wish my tap wasn't like 12kH and 24gH, then I could just skip the RO entirely and do as many WC's as I wanted.
Sigh you are in the same hell as I am (misery loves company):

1) Rotala Rotundifolia looking ratty waiting for new growth to get to the top before topping and throwing out old stems.
I've been doing this for a couple weeks now as you said I get maybe half an inch a day of new growth on some stems the lower ones even less.
2) Deep cleaning, the water gets drained so fast, I tried just using small tubing and not the syphon tubing but its just as fast just better suction.
3) Water lettuce(pistia) I have never had surface scum but everytime I do a trim I have to remember to remove it before otherwise scooping or skimming(With Eheim 350 skim) becomes a hassle.

Just to point out I am sure you know, but water lettuce is a huge nutrient hog I have removed all but a few pieces of it from my tank. I am not sure if it uptakes as much other nutrients as it does nitrates but I know it eats a lot of nitrates.

If you are buying RO water I wouldn't waste it, after the major trim and cleaning do one 75- 80% water change and not the multiple ones.
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