Blue-Green (slimy)algae - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-10-2002, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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*120 gallon tank
*change 40 gallons per week with RO water with traces added back.
*pH 6.0 w/very low hardness and buffering capacity.
*350 w. compact florescent lighting
* Monster CO2 injection
*Tetra substrate
*15w. UV
*Magnum and Super Supreme 600 gph
*Master Gro and Ferro Vit
*8 Discus
*Ram trio
*8 Rummy Nose
*3 medium Plecos-Royal, Gold Nugget, Mango

Blue-green yuck has taken over in a big way and have NOT been successful in getting rid of it. Some months ago even tried the antibiotics--to no avail. Previous to this attack, for a year and a half I had 24 inch Amazon Swords and had to harvest approximately "5 gallons" of plant growth every two weeks so the fish had room to swim and be seen. Any clues as to what I'm doing wrong?
Have been a fish keeper, off and on, for over 30 years and have never fought this battle before.

Amazon Robert
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-11-2002, 06:10 AM
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Which antibiotics did you use? I've used erythromycin with success every time, albeit on considerably smaller planted tanks.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-11-2002, 05:09 PM
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Nice tank.
It sure puts mine to shame. :-)

Try a search on to get more info on it, then you can figure out how to treat it. The only algae I have ever had is everything except blue algae. :-)
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-12-2002, 04:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the replies thus far. I'm holding back on the erythromycin as the final resort so as not to take any chances with upsetting the balance or the wild discus ($). Some studies on the Net concluded that, if your trace elements and other nutrients were there in sufficient quantity, a nitrogen shortage caused the higher plants to be less competetive for nutrients and the algae won out. In that regard, I'm upping my feeding (fish don't mind) as being the safest way to increase nitrogen and see what happens.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-14-2002, 01:12 AM
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Some studies on the Net concluded that, if your trace elements and other nutrients were there in sufficient quantity, a nitrogen shortage caused the higher plants to be less competetive for nutrients and the algae won out.
Robert, I'm not at all doubting that this may be the case in your tank, but this is a very general rule that applies to most types of algae. In my tanks, for example, I've found that hair algae takes off like a rocket whenever my nitrates are deficient. For BGA, I'd check your levels of phosphates to see if they're elevated at all. For that reason, I'd be really cautious about upping any nutrients by increasing your feedings. BGA also loves high light levels, so you might consider a blackout and/or massive water changes for a few days, failing everything else. Best of luck, hope you find an answer soon...


(I'm the "Anonymous" above, BTW...)
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-18-2002, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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The phosphate level is zip. The nitrate level was quite low, as was the iron. I've started adding Ferro Vit and increased quantities of Tropica Master Gro. I've been using Jobe's and Tetra Hilena Crypto for root feeding but with limited impact. Further research on the Net seems to agree with my problem in that after about 2 years, your substrate peters out and, no matter what you add to make up for it, "it ain't the same". Now I'm steeling myself to buying a holding tank for the livestock and draining the 120 and washing 120# of gravel and installing a new substrate. When I recall what the tank looked like for the first two years, it ALMOST makes the idea of total tank breakdown tolerable. Thanks for all the interest so far. Looks like October for the schlep of breaking down the tank.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-18-2002, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Posts: 30's approximately 300# of gravel in the tank. Volunteers to help with the project are welcome!:hehe:
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-18-2002, 09:35 PM
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Robert, before you do that perhaps you should try getting your nutrients in balance first? Dosing with KNO3 for nitrogen, Fleet enema for phosphates, and possibly Flourish Iron for an extra source of iron? Again, I don't mean to challenge you, but I'm skeptical about the substrate "petering out" after two years. Mine is older than that and is easily more nutritious than it was when new because of the gradual accumulation of mulm (I rarely vacuum the gravel for this reason). Your choice, of course; I'd just hate to see you go through all that work when there might be an easier solution. Either way, best of luck, and let us know how it turns out.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-19-2002, 05:30 AM
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Hi Robert,

I've noticed the same "effect"...after a period of time 18-24 months plant growth seems to slow down. This would naturally lean one to think that the substrate is "wore out". Karen Randall (one of the country's leading aquatic gardners) wrote a really good description on the APD of what is more likely the cause of the plant growth slow down. Here's Ms. Randall's post.

I have kept lots of tanks going, and with excellent growth for many years
without replacing substrates. The current "oldest" is about 5 years old,
but I've had them going longer, it's just that I've recently (within the
last year) traded in several smaller tanks for two larger tanks.

I have one newer tank set up with Seachem Flourite, and so far, I'm pleased
with the tank. Time will tell how it ages. But my "standard" tanks have
all been set up exactly the same way. 3" or more of approximately 1mm
gravel with laterite mixed into the bottom 1/3-1/2 of the substrate. In my
older tanks I used Dupla laterite, and for the last several years have used
Substrate Gold with equal success and less cost. I use little or no
substrate fertilization after initial set up. In the "old days" I used
Dupla fertilizers. For that past several years (about 5, I think) I've
used exclusively TMG for trace element fertilization, supplemented with
KNO3 as needed. My tap wat supplies a small amount of PO4 with water changes.

In my tanks, slowing of growth even when appropriate levels of light, CO2
and other nutrients are maintained has _always_ been a sign of too much
plant mass in the tank, and often that includes a heavily root-bound
substrate. This is usually at about the 18 month mark, but can happen
earlier in a very high growth tank. When it happens, I feel around in the
substrate with my fingers. If I can't easily get into the substratea in
most areas of the tank, it's time for a major plant pull.

This isn't "trimming", this is pulling up all plants in one area of the
tank by the roots, and thoughly gravel vacuuming that area of the tank.
Yes, you pull out some laterite, but lots is still left behind. I usually
find that I can replant about 1/3 of the plant mass that I take out, and
the tank usually looks "full" as soon as I'm done... It's amazing how
quickly plants crowd a container when they are growing well. One exception
is that I usually leave stands of Crypts in place and untouched unless they
are spreading into areas I don't want them in. They seem to do better left
alone. It makes a mess, but it's worth it. You won't be able to see
through the tank when you get done, but at least using the brands of
laterite I work with, the tank will be back to normal clarity in the next
day or two. The plants take off growing vigorously immediately, and the
tank looks much better than before it was "attacked".

Claus Christensen is the person who first suggested this to me, and his
advice was to do 1/3 of the tank every couple of months so as not to
disturb it TOO much at once. Since I started doing this, I have gone to
doing 1/2 the tank with one water change, and the other half with another
water change about 2 weeks later. I have had no problems with this at all,
either in terms of algae problems or stress to either plants or fish. I
have even, on occassion, stripped out an entire tank and reset the plants
in one setting without having a problem, though this probably isn't the
best way to start. I have never yet taken a tank apart specifically to
replace a substrate in all the years I've been keeping planted tanks... I'm
too lazy. I find a way to keep them working.
Since reading this a few years ago, I've started to do the "rearranging" suggestion every 12 months or less. I've now got substrates that are over 3 years old that are just as good as any new ones I've added to other tanks.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-19-2002, 05:58 AM
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Great info as usual, Steve. Luckily rootbound substrates are never a problem for me since I compulsively rearrange my tanks every other week, it seems!
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-23-2002, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for taking the time for the interesting article. Forgive me if I'm still not convinced by her viewpoint/experience. Here's why. By way of example and explanation all in one, I used to harvest 24" Amazon Swords and make a couple of shop owners smile (I didn't charge for them or trade them). Every two weeks, I'd pull out and/or trim off a 5 gallon bucket of plant material. Just replacing monster plants with youngsters accomplished the effect described in the article. I'm not convinced I've got the right answer--petered out substrate--as I don't have enough evidence but circumstances indicates it remains a distinct possibility. Until I get my higher plants thriving and competing for nutrients, I'll probably suffer from the algal hoards.

My phosphates do not register. Because of very low iron and nitrates, I upped the feeding schedule and am dosing iron and phosphates. So far, no positive results. If the tank hadn't been such a stupendous success the first two years, this wouldn't hurt so bad.:fire:
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-23-2002, 11:21 PM Thread Starter
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Above I obviously meant that I'm dosing with Potassium--NOT phosphates!
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