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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Algae Research Database

Hi Folks !

It soon will be my first anniversary as a planted aquarium addict. One thing I learned about this hobby by now is that algae is an ugly poorly understood monster that has no clear preferences and seems to occur in all different kinds of situations. The best of us have developed an intuition of fighting it, but the rest of us are learning mostly on our own mistakes. This can be pretty painful at times.

I am a graduate student who is trying to use statistical modeling to study complex processes. So, I thought why not try what I've learned to study algae growth. Such approach can find really interesting nuances that we have not noticed before. Hopefully this will shed some light on the problems we all are struggling with.

To conduct such research we would need to collect alot of data about algae growth. This should include a lot of detail that may have any kind of influence on the algae. To collect such data I thought to create a simple web application, not any more complicated then this forum or email program where anyone can enter their algae observations. I intend to make this data public unless data contributor wants otherwise. Anyone could visit this resource and see what problems other folks had, what condition they occurred in and what treatment was helpful. In a sense, I only suggest organizing the data that is published on the aquarium forum like this every day in a way a computer can deal with.

Once we collect enough data we can study the conditions of combination of conditions that influence the algae growth. This can definitely turn up some interesting data. Such approach is very good for finding subtleties that humans don't notice very well. Based on my experience, I'd say we can start analyzing data statistically when we have 500+ entries per algae type.

I can develop pretty much everything necessary on the technical side, but it's hard for me to predict the support something like this will have among the aquarists. So, if you think this is interesting and you think you may spend a minute or two sometime filling out the data form, please, post here. Also, if you would be interested in collected data, let me know as well. In general, what do you think of this idea. Ask me if I forgot to explain something.
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 05:30 PM
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I know I would be willing to enter the data and use it. But, I would want to see things such as GH/KH/PH/Co2 PPM, etc.... as these directly relate to algae also.

I.E. I've been having problems with a browwn string algae in my 46 Gallon Bowfront. I know the GH/KH/PH/Co2, etc.... but using the forums to try and find much info about this algae is hard.

125 Gallon AGA w/ Overflows
Filtration: Ehiem 2026 Filter, Dual "Ghetto" Overflow Internal Filters
Lighting: 1x96W Current USA CF - 2x96W Generic CF
Co2: Pressurized Co2 - Rex Grigg Regulator, SMS 122, and Rex Grigg Reactor.
Plants: Pogostemon yatabeanus, Foxtail, Bacopa, Egeria najas, Anubius, E. 'Ozelot Red', Ranalisma rostrata, Hornwort, Rotala Indica, Ludwigia Repens, Vals, Cabomba, Lilly, MoneyWort
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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enchanted,

Thanks for the willingness to provide data ! We can make this thing work !!!

There is really two fold motivation for the database: (1) organize the experiences, (2) try to learn something from it. I am glad to hear you are interested in that data.

If there will be at least some expressed support from hobbyists for the project the next step would be to determine the parameters for the database. GH/KH/PH/Co2 would certainly be included as well as light, temperature, stock, etc.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 06:26 PM
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This sounds great! I would submit data and be very interested in results.

90 gallon: 180 W, eco-complete/gravel, pressurized CO2,10 otos, 1 SAE, 1 peacock eel and some other fish
20 gallon low tech: A few swordtails, 3 neon tetras and java fern
10 gallon low tech: dwarf puffers, crypts and moss (no blue green algae for now)
10 gallon low tech: Cherry shrimp!!! crypts, moss, java fern
55 gallon no tech: tin foil barbs and plastic plants

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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 10:35 PM Thread Starter
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That's 3 of us

Anyone else thinks if such database existed they would use it ?
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 10:50 PM
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I think it's a great idea, but there are way too many variables to our setups that can lead to algae.

We can test GH and KH, pH, etc, but how accurate are our tests? In reality they may be consistent for each user for his/her own tank, but two different test kits and brands may have slightly differing results, leading to inaccurate data.

How will you measure water flow in the tank? I've found in my particular application that if the flow of water is slowed, dead areas accumulate algal growth.

There are levels of things like Fe levels in a tank that may be useful to know, but hobbyist level test kits are not reliable, good ones are too expensive.

Generalities can be concluded, like if you put a 400 watt metal halide light over your ten gallon tank for 20 hours a day, you're going to get algae. But I think you're (obviously) looking for very specific info that triggers algae, and it's just not possible to get that kind of concise info, any moreso than what we already know.


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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 02:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voshod View Post
Hi Folks ! One thing I learned about this hobby by now is that algae is an ugly poorly understood monster
Well, to most hobbyists it may be........

Quote:
that has no clear preferences and seems to occur in all different kinds of situations.
I do not agree.
They are used specifically for rapid bioassessment of water ways in the USA, as per the EPA.

I can use them rapidly to analyze water parameters and conditions of most planted FW and marine tanks by sight alone...........

Quote:
The best of us have developed an intuition of fighting it, but the rest of us are learning mostly on our own mistakes. This can be pretty painful at times.
Well mostly myths, corrleation and the belief that correlation = causation by most hobbyists sure do not help.

Adding to this, folks say grand ideas, we should do this or that, but then they never do or do not do it right and their results do not support their conclusions.

Lack of controls also presents a real issue to anyone wanting to analyze algae and plants together.

If you lack the control to produce a well run planted tanks as a baseline, and are willing to perturb things to seek an answer to a question, then it's rather difficult to answer much.

Few, if any aquarist are willing to do so, thus there will be a lack of folks able to answer such questions. I've done a great deal to isolate, find cause, identify, suggest, discuss and use research for support in this hobby.

Quote:
I am a graduate student who is trying to use statistical modeling to study complex processes. So, I thought why not try what I've learned to study algae growth.
Well, then look at Bachmann's work in Florida with macrophytes and algae, Raven's, and several text on culture methods, The EPA's rapid assessment and diatom use.

Lots of data to use and play with there.

Quote:
Such approach can find really interesting nuances that we have not noticed before. Hopefully this will shed some light on the problems we all are struggling with.
Well, if you play with data enough..........you can find most anything to support a speculation..........
A good model can help however, but good data will not be found here in this hobby nor good assumption to build into the model.

Quote:
To conduct such research we would need to collect alot of data about algae growth.
See above.

Quote:
This should include a lot of detail that may have any kind of influence on the algae. To collect such data I thought to create a simple web application, not any more complicated then this forum or email program where anyone can enter their algae observations. I intend to make this data public unless data contributor wants otherwise. Anyone could visit this resource and see what problems other folks had, what condition they occurred in and what treatment was helpful.
A model is only as good as it's assumptions and data

I'm not trying to discourage you or the project, however, many have looked into this notion and idea before you. There is data, there is a lot of data.
But little testing that's useful specifically for aquatic plants and algae together. Aquarist are much worse at methods than researchers.
You can do the analysis etc, but if the data is suspect, poor controls etc, not much can be said even with the best number cruncher around.

Most research on the topic has been done at UF.

Quote:
In a sense, I only suggest organizing the data that is published on the aquarium forum like this every day in a way a computer can deal with.

Once we collect enough data we can study the conditions of combination of conditions that influence the algae growth. This can definitely turn up some interesting data. Such approach is very good for finding subtleties that humans don't notice very well. Based on my experience, I'd say we can start analyzing data statistically when we have 500+ entries per algae type.
Even with 500 experiences, a few years ago even most everyone assumed PO4 excess caused algae, some think excess NO3 causes algae still, or Fe etc etc.

Does not mean you are right.
I was the one person out of maybe 10000 that said PO4 excess did not cause algae.

I was right. And I knew it.
I did not need stats.

A good test method and a well designed test will answer a lot more with much less effort. Lots of numbers, data and manipulations might be nice and sound impressive, but the bottom line is did the data support the conclusion or not.

Quote:
I can develop pretty much everything necessary on the technical side, but it's hard for me to predict the support something like this will have among the aquarists. So, if you think this is interesting and you think you may spend a minute or two sometime filling out the data form, please, post here. Also, if you would be interested in collected data, let me know as well. In general, what do you think of this idea. Ask me if I forgot to explain something.
Well, you might consider:

What elements related to plants start a tank off and keep it there dominated by plants and not by algae?

As any wise researcher will tell you, a good question is the place to start.
I'd focus on that data.

Light(intensity, type and area spread)
CO2 or not, Excel
Starting plant biomass and species type
Sediment type/nutrient supply
Nutrient dosing water column
What is known about inducing specific species of algae
The species of algae
Water changes
Water flow/current

And so forth.................

I do encourage you, do not get me wrong here, if we were in class, I'd hope a Phycology core class would address the issues the same manner.

Pick up some basic algae text and go from there.
Then look at Crisman, Bachmann, Hoyer's etc work at UF, there's also the Florida lake watch data base, you can play around for a long time there.
Those are natural systems, but many of the issues do apply here.

Regards,
Tom Barr




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 04:32 AM Thread Starter
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plantbrain,

Thank you for the informative reply ! In particular, I appreciate references to relevant research.

You mention that there is alot of data available on the subject ? As in recorded datasets ? Can you point me to such data ? (this is my first day as a self-proclaimed-algae-researcher :-) ) Will I find it if I look over the sites of the researches you mentioned ? Are there standalone data-sets or do I look for the data reported in publications ?

As far as the data quality goes ... in a perfect world with a clean data, there probably would not be any algae anyway but until we get there - we have law of large numbers at our service ! Hopefully people make mistakes in measurements and observations with out any particular bias, so many wrong observations should converge to a right one ... or at least theory says it should In any case, if this project fails, there at least will be some data on people's tanks available (I don't intend hiding it). May be someone else can make better sense of it.

I realize that some approaches are better then the others. Clean room experiments are pretty cool , but I have no experience with that, neither do I have time to learn. I have some training in number crunching tho, so I'll do what I know and someone who knows the other way should do that. Then we put our results together and algae will be defeated once and for all !

Right now I am just trying to see how many people would be interested in contributing and using the system. If no one contributes, it won't go anywhere, so I won't waste my time. For now I just wanted to see how this idea would be received in the community.

Quote:
but the bottom line is did the data support the conclusion or not.
Exactly ! I really don't intend making bald claims. I simply have no reason to. But it could happen that I can't make any claims at all. That would be called a failure.

Quote:
Light(intensity, type and area spread)
CO2 or not, Excel
Starting plant biomass and species type
Sediment type/nutrient supply
Nutrient dosing water column
What is known about inducing specific species of algae
The species of algae
Water changes
Water flow/current

And so forth.................
Wow ! This is good. What else would you look at ?

Quote:
What is known about inducing specific species of algae
What do you mean ?

So, if enough people would consider contributing to this system, my next step would be to develop data forms in a smart way and try to get inside people's heads as much as I can.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 04:42 AM Thread Starter
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eyebeatbadgers,

No doubt we would face difficulties that you mentioned. and we would do our best at resolving them. and if it works - free shots for everyone !!! if it doesn't we'll move on to saving the planet from something else.

There is a flip side to the project as well - organizing everyone's experiments in an orderly way. I would love to have access to such database when I was going though my algae troubles.

Would you contribute to such database ?
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 04:45 AM
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sounds like an interesting idea...
Just watch where the data is coming from too.. If from users in the interweb, it won't be too reliable.. They're/we're using inaccurate test kits most of the time.

And there are things as hobbyists, we can't afford to measure.

oh, and there will be people who would just make up the data. You definitely don't want that.


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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 04:55 AM Thread Starter
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oh, and there will be people who would just make up the data
yea, that would be a problem ! I'd have to make a big banner with red letters - NO MADE UP DATA ! seriously tho, more data we have easier it will be to deal with "incorrect" data.

btw, testing is not only thing that matters, so if someone can't test, they can still contribute with their observations. everything helps.
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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 05:20 AM
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I'm doing something similar right now for corporations. There's quantitative & qualitative data and for this thing to work you'd need reliable quantitative data. I'm not sure if observations by non biologists/scientists would work in this dataset.
This sounds very complicated, very much like the project i'm working on.


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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 05:29 AM Thread Starter
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mistergreen,

It would really depend on how complex are the underlaying functions are. This this project I am betting my time that they are not very complex. But as I said - if this doesn't work it doesn't work. I'll have little more experience and the world will have another data-set. I am mostly concerned about quantity of data. Quality is kinda given, there is nothing I can do about it. Would you contribute ?
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 06:13 AM
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sure, let me pull out the test kits.

here's a question that we encountered that might help you create this database.

What will the users ask of the database?

think about the scenarios.


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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 06:26 AM Thread Starter
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mistergreen, at this point I was asking if people in general think they would participate once the system is up. of course, if you have pulled out your test kits already, you can post your results here and I'll be sure to include them. thank you !

What do you mean by "what will users ask" ? Do you mean - what kind of a quality of the result people will expect ? I think the expectations are pretty low (as evident from this thread). Or do you mean what kind of functionality it needs to be useful ?
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