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Hi everyone, looking any advice here based on my current setup. started a tank about 3 months ago and I’ve been running into algae problems. I quick started the tank using previously cycled media. I think the types of algae I currently have are green dust algae, green spot algae, and hair algae. Ive had some BBA but it seems to have stopped progressing. I’ve been trying to focus on my plant health but I’m still unsure what I’m doing wrong. I cant seem to get the Alternanthera Reineckii to grow without algae taking over the leaves. My nitrates and phosphates seem a bit high so I started doing about 2 50% water changes a week. My plants don’t seem to be using it fast enough. Do I need to lower my dosage?
Here’s more info on my tank parameters, equipment, and dosing. If other information is required, please let me k ow and I will try to provide it. Thanks everyone in advance for your time and input.

40 gallon tank

Ammonia and itrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - about 40-80 ppm
Phosphates - over 10 ppm
GH - 6
KH - 5

900SA Twinstar - running at 75%
Oase 350 filter
Sera 500 co2 reactor (trying this as I like the no bubble look but I also have an inline diffuser I can use. I might have to switch back as the reactor kills the flow by a lot)
PH in the morning - ~7.4
PH when lights turn on - ~6.35
Ada aqua soil

Dose using EI based on nilocg - 10 ml of macro and micro on their respective days.

algae eaters - 8 Amano shrimp and 10 Otos


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I like your layout. It's cool how the driftwood comes out of the plants. It somehow adds depth to the scape. You really seem to know what your doing so I hesitate to say anything. Here I go anyway. The tank is kind of new. Have you gone through the back and forth with the lighting and CO2? It really is tricky to get the right balance and the everchanging plant mass does affect that balance. Don't be afraid to turn the lights down or to shorten the photoperiod. We won't think any less of you. Your tank is awesome.

I used to be miserly with the Phosphate. I kept it below 1 ppm like Scrooge by his little fire. I would tell people to lower their Phosphate or they would get algae. Thankfully, I was disabused of this notion. I didn't buy anyone a Christmas goose but I started dosing more Phosphate. My Phosphate is higher than it's ever been but I haven't been able to grow enough algae for my new Otocinclus. After all these years, I think I've finally found someone that legitimately has too much Phosphate. Your high Phosphate, as I think you know, might be contributing to your algae growth.

Here's what I would do. Play around with the light intensity and duration. Maybe try adjusting the CO2 to correspond to the different light settings you try. Flush out the excess Nitrate and Phosphate. Start over with lower Macro dosing to keep the Nitrate below 30 ppm and the Phosphate below 5 ppm. Then, since you cut back on the Nitrate and Phosphate by dosing less Macro fertilizer, I would get some Potassium Chloride or Potassium Sulfate and dose that. 1/8th teaspoon of Potassium Chloride should add 2.68 ppm K in your case.
 

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The abundant amount of nutrients, Co2, and light is perfect for growing plants and algae. Unfortunately you can't prevent algae from growing because it is a simple cell organism that doesn't need to grow tissue structure or leaves like a plant. It will easily grow faster than your plants - hence why it is spreading everywhere. No quick and fast solution but there are things you can do to help keep the algae in-check. In terms of husbandry best practices, when you clean the glass or manually remove algae, hopefully you are tying that with a water change. When you scrape algae it fragments and just ends up in other areas in your tank - usually they cumulate where there are dead spots or low flow - i.e. on the leaves of your slow growing plants - Alternanthera Reineckii.

Things you can do to combat algae:
  • Dose less nutrients
  • Shorten the amount of time the lights are on or lower the intensity
  • Use phosguard to remove reduce the phosphate levels
  • Introduce faster growing plants to help use up the nutrients
  • Spot treating with H2O2 (i.e. for the BBA)
  • Bleach dips the leaves of some of the slower glowing plants (1 part bleach, 19 parts water for 30 seconds - don't immerse the roots)
  • Maybe add a netrite snail (they can lay eggs everywhere - unsightly)
  • Physical removal including removing leaves covered with algae
  • Add a UV sterilizer
  • Use an algaecide (potentially harmful to invertebrates and fish)
Everything has the pros and cons but to tackle the algae issue you need to be aggressive. With shrimp and otos, it becomes a bit trickier but they are opportunistic feeders and hopefully you've weaned the otos on to prepared foods.

If it were me, I would first start by cutting down the nutrients and the light duration. I would next move to mechanical removal. This includes taking out the rocks, using a toothbrush, H2O2, hot water to ensure the algae is removed (or even leaving it out in the sun for a day or two). I would apply a similar methodology to the wood, probably no scrubbing, just applying H2O2 and letting it bake in the sun. Plants I would consider doing a bleach dip depending on plant tolerance and/or culling the leaves infested with algae. Gravel I would take those areas that are covered with algae and throw them in to a container of boiling water to kill the algae. Where I couldn't take anything out, I would apply H2O2 spot treatments. Finally, I would add a UV sterilizer IMO - helps combat anything floating in the water column.

No simple solution but by actively attacking the algae combined with lots of water changes you can bring it back into control. Once everything is in a good place, you can experiment by adding more nutrients and running the lights longer.
 
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