Can low light for algae control affect plant health and promote algae - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-05-2016, 09:22 PM Thread Starter
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Can low light for algae control affect plant health and promote algae

Just wondering if slowed growth is considered an unhealthy aspect of plants that results in the flourishing of algae?

I have my light turned down to 40 PAR to combat algae.
I don't own a PAR meter, so it is a guess and estimated by the light manufacturer per the settings I have it dialed in at.

Things don't seem to be getting better and I wondered if my PAR is too low thus affecting plant health.

I am hesitant to increase my PAR, but I am out of ideas.

I remove as much alage as I can, but it still appears on my healthy growth, so I know something is still wrong. It takes about 2 weeks for algae to appear on the new growth. So it's not aggressive/fast but it slowly appears.

My concern is I am chasing the notion that a tank with algae, once balanced, will display a complete halt of any further algae growth. I cant help but think, once algae is in a tank it will continue to spread unless completely removed. I am not yet confident that a balanced tank will stop algae from progressing.

Maybe slow growth works in a balanced tank that does not have algae present. But what about slowed growth in a tank that has algae. Is there any reason to think faster growth can help a tank with algae as opposed to slowing growth down to combat algae?

Where is that line of too little light vs just enough, but not too much.
My path with PAR has been to keep dialing it down until I get to a level that algae is under control. But I have never considered increasing it to get better growth because of the fear of algae.
Should we be increasing and decreasing PAR like we try and do with CO2 levels to get just the right amount?

iso
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post #2 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-05-2016, 09:36 PM
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The answer depends a lot on what plants you are referring to. Anubias and ferns are going to react differently from how HC and most reddish plants react. Once you settle on a light intensity you can optimize the CO2 and other nutrients by slightly reducing one at a time and watching for an adverse effect on plant growth. If you were to set the CO2 and other nutrients at a level where you think they should be, I suppose you could then optimize the light intensity the same way, but until recently it wasn't easy to make small reductions in light intensity. I suspect this method of optimizing will be much more effective with individual nutrients.

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post #3 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-05-2016, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
The answer depends a lot on what plants you are referring to. Anubias and ferns are going to react differently from how HC and most reddish plants react. Once you settle on a light intensity you can optimize the CO2 and other nutrients by slightly reducing one at a time and watching for an adverse effect on plant growth. If you were to set the CO2 and other nutrients at a level where you think they should be, I suppose you could then optimize the light intensity the same way, but until recently it wasn't easy to make small reductions in light intensity. I suspect this method of optimizing will be much more effective with individual nutrients.
Thanks Hoppy.

I am at a "do nothing" state. I have done just about everything I can think of to balance things.

My only other approach is to continue pruning BBA infected leaves, siphon out rhizoclonium and clean the tank as best as I can. I did a light gravel vac in the less planted areas to try and reduce mulm as I thought maybe my tank maintenance was lacking. I also re-introduced a small powerhead to add more circulation, but my tank is only 17 gallons and I cant imagine my Eheim 2215 is not sufficient.

Basically I am trying to address the smaller aspects I may have overlooked.

In terms of PAR and my plants, I have monte carlo, fissidens fontanus, mini pellia, s. Repens, Limnophila Aromatica and anacharis for added plant mass.

At the moment I am testing how fast my LA stems grow to guage where I am at in terms of speed of growth. Everything seems to be very slow to grow.

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post #4 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-05-2016, 11:42 PM
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Are you using ferts at the correct dose? Ferts (I use IE/4) for a low-tech tank (10 gal.) help the plants grow with appropriate light.

You might try lowering the light a bit and see if the plants grow better. I think that once your tank has good conditions, the algae will die and not return. My opinion only - never read this anywhere. At that point it might help to take out whatever algae you can to remove excess nutrients. Who knows, a 50% water change might do something at that point too.

Good luck. I had terrible algae when I first started and my only action was to remove as much algae as possible. Didn't work very well.

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post #5 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-25-2016, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Just an update.

I have run 40 PAR from 1/4/16 2/13/16.

My rhizoclonium has slowed down and has gotten much better.

But the BBA has not stopped growing.

As a test, on 2/13/16 I planted some new s. Repens and reduced my PAR to 30.

On 2/25/16 I noticed fine traces of BBA forming on the leaf edges of the NEW s. repens. You can see that faint sign of black edging appearing.

So I just reduced my PAR to 20. I may just run it without any light...LOL

I am really getting agitated.

I can only think of 3 things occurring.

1. Lowering light intensity does not inhibit BBA growth.

2. The RGBW adjustments and resulting PAR on the sat plus pro are inaccurate. As an example, Current told me over the phone at 12" in height and RGBW set at 70 across all channels the resulting PAR equals 70. So set at 30 across all channels would equal 30 PAR and so on. Maybe it's much higher than what they estimate/tested.

3. Too low of a PAR inhibits the speed of certain plant growth and allows BBA to flourish.


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post #6 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-25-2016, 07:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isonychia View Post
...

I am at a "do nothing" state. I have done just about everything I can think of to balance things
What have you tried.
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post #7 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 02:52 AM Thread Starter
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What have you tried.
I have tried the following over the past 4 months. All changes were done one at a time with only a few exceptions.

  • Increased my CO2 as much as possible just below fish distress.
  • Increased lead time of CO2 from 1 hour to 2 hours before lights on.
  • Different variations of powerhead placements and surface agitation.
  • Changed from ceramic diffuser to a cerges reactor.
  • Reduced PAR amounts
  • cleaned filter (did not disturb beneficial bacteria) and did a light gravel vacuum to reduce possible excess mulm as possible culprit
  • Dosing EI with 50% water change
  • Tried reducing EI amounts slightly
  • Multiple water changes
  • Added excess plants (anacharis) to increase healthy plant mass
  • tested KH/PH change to measure CO2 concentrations, numbers showed approximate 1 point drop in PH.
  • Added more surface agitation and increased CO2 amount by one tick mark on the needle valve. I gassed my fish by doing this. (my fault because I didn't monitor water level and added too much thus reducing O2 addition and spiked CO2 amounts) Thus I reduce back down one tick mark on needle valve, so I know I have plenty of CO2 in the water. I am not sure how I could be wrong on the sufficient CO2 amounts.
  • My tank is 17 gallons and I am running an Eheim 2215 with a spray bar so my CO2 distribution must be effective.
  • Keep trimming as much BBA infected stems and leaves as possible

I think that may be it.


When I said I was at a do nothing state, I was trying to allow the tank to just keep running as is with the reduced PAR as I felt I tried everything else.


I was hoping reducing the PAR to what I read was considered LOW LIGHT would be the missing piece, even though I thought 30 PAR was too little for monte carlo, s repens, blyxa japonica, fissidens fontanus, mini pellia and limnophilia aromatica. The plants didn't die but the BBA still persists.


20 PAR, if Current USA is right on their settings, seems very low for the plants I have. Everything I have read tells me, that low of a PAR amount, is best to grow low tech plants that don't require high light. So how can that low of a PAR be benefiting to the plants I have. It just seems rather extreme to go that low on the light setting.


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post #8 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 03:24 AM
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"Just wondering if slowed growth is considered an unhealthy aspect of plants that results in the flourishing of algae?
"

You've got it.

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post #9 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 04:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isonychia View Post
[*]Dosing EI with 50% water change
What is your plant mass? At 20 or even 30 PAR EI levels of dosing could be introducing far too many nutrients if you don't have a healthy level of plant mass (at least 40% of the tank). I had a similar problem with clado I just couldn't get rid off and tried everything. Eventually I reduced ferts and increased my lighting which seemed to help, because I think it a healthy and high concentration of plants is what was needed.

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post #10 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by easternlethal View Post
What is your plant mass? At 20 or even 30 PAR EI levels of dosing could be introducing far too many nutrients if you don't have a healthy level of plant mass (at least 40% of the tank). I had a similar problem with clado I just couldn't get rid off and tried everything. Eventually I reduced ferts and increased my lighting which seemed to help, because I think it a healthy and high concentration of plants is what was needed.
Here is a FTS.

The bunch of plants on the right are anacharis. They now also have BBA on some of the stems. I am thinking I should remove them as I feel like all they do is collect debris, block out light and reduce flow. I have not seen a dramatic positive influence by keeping them in the tank anyway.



I read a lot of posts talking about excess nutrients, fertilizers, mulm etc. But I also read excess nutrients (I consider mulm a nutrient) does not cause algae. Yet people say try cleaning your filters, do more water changes, do a slight gravel vac. I have tried all those things. There is definitely a lot of conflicting info. My guess is a lot of it is too complicated to explain fully or not understood fully, so it often gets presented in different ways and sounds conflicting. For instance I always read this "add a lot of fast growers to absorb excess nutrients" That makes no sense when EI dosing gives more than needed and yet it works.

I am NOT judging anyone. I am far from understanding all this and am grateful for the help people provide. I'm just giving my thoughts based on the research I have done. I don't have the experience to back it up so I follow the paths other have paved until I decide to stray based on my own experience.

I have modified (reduced) EI in the past 3 weeks as I read it is MEANT to be followed loosely based on plant mass. I am simply not dosing as much. My nitrates are always about 20-40ppm, and my phosphates are always about 5ppm. I calibrated my Nitrate test kit so I feel a little more confident the numbers are right. My phosphate results could be skewed as I have not calibrated that. I still dose micros, but cut it in half. I try not to get too concerned with EI amounts and test results as I always read it was created so there is always enough. There should be no problems in having too much with a 50% WC every week. But I still decided to reduce the amounts as I figured I didn't have anything to lose based on my test kit results showing I had plenty even after skipping doses.


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post #11 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 04:25 PM
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There is something about thriving healthy plants that drives away algae. The more the better.

Im not sure anyone can explain why, alleopathy is one hypothesis but the jury is definitely still out. But you are right, for whatever reason it has little to do with "out competing algae for nutrients" as so often gets stated.

Any condition that is unfavorable for plants can encourage algae. That includes not having enough light for whatever species.

Just like nutrients, it is impossible to "starve algae" by reducing light past the point that it becomes unhealthy for the plants. Algae doesnt need a lot of light (or nutrients) in the first place.

A tank full of high light plants struggling to grow under 25 PAR can get algae just as easy as a tank full of low light plants under 150.

Quote:
Originally Posted by isonychia View Post
(I consider mulm a nutrient)
In a high tech set up, decaying matter and dirty conditions promote algae. Clean conditions deter it. Frequent water changes are a formidable weapon. Plants love it and algae hates it. General good tank husbandry should be the first thing addressed when facing algae issues. One of the main causes of algae is neglect. Not saying yours is neglected, just making a point.


Instead of looking at it like a battle against algae, focus on what the plants need to be at their best, and the algae problem will usually take care of itself.
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post #12 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 05:25 PM
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I pretty much agree with Burr.

Don't starve the plants of light and nutrients, co2. Focus on growing the plants and keeping the tank really clean. You might be over thinking it. One that size tank, the 2215 is plenty, you don't need anything else to help with flow. instead of reducing intensity try reducing the photo period (if you haven't done it) to 4-5 hrs or run low light and then a short high-light burst 1-2 hours. I've been pretty much able to grow any plant using those methods. I would be redundant and keep up with consistent water changes, put carbon and/or purigen in the filter. Cut back on feeding, keep pruning dying or non-growing leaves. And dose within ranges.
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post #13 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info guys.

So how do I go about deciding on a PAR level that will help my plants. I understand you are not simply suggesting light is the answer. I will continue what I am doing and continue working to keep things as clean as possible. That includes, cleaning the filter more frequently, a deeper gravel vac in places I can do that and removing any mulm that settles on lower plants leaves, fissidens, monte carlo etc.

As a reference point, the problem that started all this was too high light in the beginning. I misunderstood the RGBW adjustments on the sat plus pro. I thought I was running 35 par (I figured a safe starting point) but was actually at 83!!

So as instructed (start low and gradually increase) I kept upping the PAR slowly for 1.5 months at these intervals 35>40>55>70. It probably would have made sense if those were true PAR values, but in reality I was at these amounts: 83>85>88>92

So I was working with PAR numbers that were much higher than I realized. Instead of starting low, then ramping up over time, I started very high and went higher. By the time I realized the error, I had BBA and Rhizoclonium. I tried fixing things by going to 50 PAR and going lower and lower until BBA subsided. But as I noticed it wasn't helping.

My photo period is 8 hours. 1pm-9pm. I have never changed the photo period. It has been at 8 hours since October.
I don't think I have the option of fluctuating light intensity with the sat plus pro. I think I can only keep it set at a single intensity through the photo period.

Should I try increasing the PAR and keep the photo period at 8 or increasing PAR and reducing the photo period to 6?

Thanks,
iso

Last edited by isonychia; 02-26-2016 at 06:36 PM. Reason: edited
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post #14 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 12:49 AM
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If it was my tank I'd run good light for 5-6 hours tops, EI Dose within ranges, keep up with water changes on regular basis. Add Purigen and/or Carbon to the filter. I will trim the back wall of plants and try to get it nice and thick.
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post #15 of 40 (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by isonychia View Post
So how do I go about deciding on a PAR level that will help my plants.
Thanks,
iso
Here's a suggestion. Base PAR off how much growth you want in your tank. If you are still growing things out and want to increase plant mass then keep increasing until you stop seeing significant growth or you get algae.

If you are already happy with your plant mass then you want to keep everything as low as possible in order to avoid unnecessary trimming (~20 - 30 PAR).

For length if things are good there's usually no difference between 7-10 hours.

But for fun, I usually try to match the natural conditions of the plant (most are found on the equator), which is around 7-8 hrs of strong daylight followed by 1-2 hours of sunrise/sunset on either side and cloud cover in between. However if your light is static and you can't adjust for sunrise/sunset and cloud cover then I'd go for 8hrs strong light with 1-2hr rest in between.

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Last edited by easternlethal; 02-27-2016 at 02:24 PM. Reason: adding more to the answer
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