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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While not new to planted aquariums, I've never become an expert. About 18 months ago, I set up a new 55 gal planted tank, loosely following an Amazon bio-type as I've done before. I used Fluval substrate with sand/gravel on top, added a large Monzanati branch and planted it with an Amazon Sword, Dwarf Sagittaria, Brazilian Pennywort and what I think is a type of Hygrophila. My lighting is two T5 bulbs, one for plants, the other more for color, on an 9 hours on, 15 off cycle. Over the first two months, I populated the tank with angels, various tetras, a few algae eaters. It was fully populated but not overcrowded. For water supplements, I use NA Thrive for the plants, Discuss Code for the fish after each weekly (10-15%) water change, plus Equilibrium every other week. (Up until recently, we had a reverse osmosis system in our house.)

The tank quickly balanced. I had some green algae, nothing overwhelming. Fish were generally healthy. Plants, especially the Hygro, grew very fast. I was filling a grocery bag with clippings every other week. The first two pics are of the tank about three months in.

Then several months ago, I noticed that the Pennywort and Hygro were not doing well. The Hygro, in particular, would seem to rot near the base, break off and eventually die. The Pennywort had a similar issue, although not quite as severe. Around the same time, however, the Swords seemed to do fine and, in fact, the Dwarf Sag went crazy and took over the tank. I really had to trim it back as it seemed to choke out the other plants.

This is also when I started to notice the dreaded black beard algae. Over the past two months, it has really spread over all of wood and many of the plants. I just tossed out a huge clump of Dwarf Sago that were covered in it.

My online research indicated a dizzying mix of possible causes and solutions. First, I realized that my T5 lights were going on 2-years old. I've ordered the Fluval 3.0 Bluetooth light to replace them. I've tried keeping the tank completely dark and covered for up to 5-days at a time; that seemed to maybe slow, but not stop the algae. My water is testing fine, but I only test for amonia (usually 0), PH (6.7-6.8), nitrite (0) and nitrate (usually low). I do not test for Iron, Mag or KH, but maybe I should? I've also upped the dosage of Thrive, hoping the added carbon will kill the algae. (I was using only half doses because I didn't want to encourage algae growth). The last several pics are the tank as it looks now, after I cleaned out a lot of the Dwarf Sago and some of the algae.
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I'd greatly appreciate your thoughts.
 

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I looked up the ingredients in Thrive C, Thrive S, Thrive + and Thrive All in One and don't see Carbon as one of the ingredients. Are you adding compressed CO2? Is the T5 you have for color blue? I read blue is not good. I like it so I use a little anyway. I don't test for Magnesium or Iron but I do sometimes test for KH. Maybe we should test for Iron but I don't know when to test for it and I don't understand it so I don't test for it. I just dose it gluconate. Some people swear by this magical 3 to 1 Calcium to Magnesium ratio. Something about how an imbalance inhibits other nutrient uptake. I Don't know about that but then again my tank isn't beautiful like theirs are.

I used to do 10 to 15 percent water changes like you do. It took a lot of convincing to get me to change to 50% water changes. I was stubborn about it. I think it's better to do the 50% weekly water changes though. I just checked my TDS for the first time ever yesterday and it's kind of high. My water change water has been dirty in spite of regularly changing half the water. You have to keep things as clean a you can to fight that algae.

I like the pictures you posted. It's a nice stand and tank. I don't have any fish but yours sure look nice. One last thought. If you half dose your fertilizer your plants might not be as healthy and become more susceptible to the algae. Your plants will give off Ammonia if they are sick attracting the algae to their leaves.
 

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Nice tank, I've been doing 50% weekly water changes since the beginning and have encountered very little algae, I highly recommend it. I would probably remove the wood and treat it either with flourish, or hydrogen peroxide, then scrub it with a brush, rinse and let it dry, or soak in a tub for a week before re-introducing it into the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses. One article I read suggested that weekly water changes might inhibit plant growth by removing too much nitrogen from the tank. But I've also heard several people suggest the larger water changes that you describe. I might as well try that. If I have algae, it seems likely that I have too much "food" in the tank rather than too little.

Regarding the Thrive C, I've posted a pic of the ingredients.
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I have had good luck with "Seachem Excel" / "Metracide" stunting algae while not harming the plants.
My experience with overdosing Metricide 28 (Fluorish...
Note that in this post I did NOT have any fish in the tank.

My experience with large water changes has been that the plants actually love the fresh water and start pearling quite a bit immediately after a large water change. This could be unique to my particular well water though.

I have also had very good results with adding a couple dozen ranshorn snails to a tank infested with algae. That was mostly brown algae (Diatoms) and green powder algae. I don't know if snails are particularly effective on black beard algae.
Snails for algae control, yeah or nay?
 

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You mentioned you had an RO system until fairly recently. Did the BBA start after the RO became unavailable, or before?

BBA absolutely loves hard water, and over time tanks tend to accumulate minerals as evaporation concentrates them if very large volumes are not being changed often and soft or RO water aren't being used. Unlike most plants, BBA can convert it's own carbon using hard water, so as the hardness increases and plants become unable to efficiently take it & the nutrients from the water column the BBA begins to outcompete the plants. This leads to a downward spiral where plants begin to die back, which releases even more nutrients into the water, which allows the BBA to grow even faster.

I spent years fighting with BBA before learning this, and I'm still working on fully correcting the issue in my 60g which had over time accumulated an incredible amount of dissolved minerals (for the sake of the fish I've been reducing it a bit at a time, as they had acclimated to it and I don't want to shock them).

I suggest testing your hardness to see if that is the source of the issue, as it sounds like the water supply was the main thing that changed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, things have gone from bad to worse. The plants really seem to hate the new Fluval 3.0 LED light, even with it set on "Planted Tank" setting. I manually reduced the light and extended the sunset/sunrise periods. We'll see how that goes. As you'll see, the leaves on some plants have gotten dead patches, the Dwarf Sag lost a lot of color and I'm getting some sort of scaling on the glass at the back of the tank. The beard algae has turned more silver -- which I hope is a sign that it's reacting to the increase in carbon dosing (although it also seems to be expanding in area in some places).

I also did a water test after not testing for a month: more bad news. Nitrate around 25 ppm, Nitrite zero but Ammonia at 1.5ppm. I normally don't bother testing for Ammonia since when I do, it's around 0. I suspect that this is partially the result of me cleaning the cannister filter recently (I do this about every six weeks). I removed and replaced an entire shelf of material, which I normally don't do. Additionally, pH was at 5.9. Although most of my fish are blackwater, that's a bit extreme. My source water is 7.6. Pretty sure the low pH is from placing a large bag of Fluval peat pellets in the filter to soften the water. After the water test and 40% water change last Friday, I cut the bag size for the peat by two-thirds. Immediately post water change, pH was at 6.4 and Ammonia at .5ppm.

Today I tested again. pH down to 6.1, Ammonia back up to 1ppm. I feel like I'm compounding my problems.
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