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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I’m new to planted aquariums and I’ve really enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of your beautiful planted tanks. As a child and teen (years ago) we had several aquariums but things seem a lot more complicated now, maybe just because it’s me rather than my parents holding responsibility. If someone would be willing to help me with some newbie questions, I’d be grateful.

I have a 21 gallon tank that has been up for about two months. I started with some live plants but am now planning to add many more plants to make it a true planted aquarium. I have six guppies and two African dwarf frogs in the tank and a variety of about ten other fish which I call ‘the staff’. These ten are in there to combat algae (pleco, algae eating shrimps, golden Chinese algae eaters).

So, a week ago things were pretty bad. Last Friday (the tank is in my office and I’m only in that office Tuesday to Friday) I covered the end of the tank closest to the window and left the light off for the whole weekend. I had just added a few more ‘staff’ and by Tuesday morning things were looking better. My plants suffered from having the lights off all weekend. At the beginning I did have the lights on for 12 hours a day every day but have now cut back to eight hours a day. My canopy has two lights. I don’t know enough about it to tell you exact details but they are not the same and I was told the back one is good for the plants and my plants are growing quickly, although they looked better with 12 hours of light each day and for sure looked better before having the light off all weekend.

I think that’s all the background. Now for the questions:

1. Hair algae is definitely a major problem. What is a ‘SAE’?
2. What does ‘get your water parameters in check’ mean?
3. I have stopped fertilizing (liquid) while I deal with the algae. Good idea, or not really?
4. Will adding a lot more plants help eliminate the algae?
5. What is this about CO2? I don’t know anything about this. Could someone start at the beginning please and explain or point me in the right direction to learn about this. Should my filter be dumping the water back in as slow as possible or as fast as possible?
6. My pH levels are around 8.0 to 8.2. The aquarium store guys tell me it’s high but that I shouldn’t get into messing around with it (I believe the unstated concern was that I would kill everything.)
7. Is there anything else you see from my background description that I should be doing differently?

Thanks so much to anyone who can take the time to give me some pointers. I appreciate it! I'm off to read through some more of the FAQs.
 

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1. Hair algae is definitely a major problem. What is a ‘SAE’?
Siamese Algae Eater

2. What does ‘get your water parameters in check’ mean?
Parameters include pH, GH, KH, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates.(Those are the basics.

3. I have stopped fertilizing (liquid) while I deal with the algae. Good idea, or not really?
You should only stop dosing what is causing the algae. Different nutrients cause different Algaes. Excess Phosphates I believe cause Brown Algae. Try to figure out what algae you have and find the main source. Usually there is the imbalance of Light, CO2(Carbon Dioxide), and Fertilizers.

4. Will adding a lot more plants help eliminate the algae?
Fast Growing Stems like Hygrophila species or Anacharis will definitely help suck up those extra nutrients. What are you dosing as far as ferts and how much daily/weekly?

5. What is this about CO2? I don’t know anything about this. Could someone start at the beginning please and explain or point me in the right direction to learn about this. Should my filter be dumping the water back in as slow as possible or as fast as possible?
If it is not producing a good enough flow it may be clogged. I will suggest cleaning the intake of your filter to see if there is any gunk in there. I have an Aqua Clear 20 and I have it on a low flow due to my fish preference.

6. My pH levels are around 8.0 to 8.2. The aquarium store guys tell me it’s high but that I shouldn’t get into messing around with it (I believe the unstated concern was that I would kill everything.)
I would leave your water as is but it is a bit high. Messing with your water pH is going to cause stress on the fish if you are not careful.
 

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1. An "SAE" is a Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis)
2. The most important water parameters are Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate, it allows you to be sure the tank has been properly "cycled", there's a sticky in the forum about tank cycling, and the relevance of these three things if you're unsure.
3. If you are using Seachem Flourish Excel, then it's a bad idea to stop, it's used as a source of CO2 for plant growth, and also contains an algaecide, which helps in your current problems.
4. I'm no algae expert, but the basics I believe are too much light with not enough nutrients, but I'm sure someone else can explain it better than my understanding, I haven't had a bad problem with it yet, so I can't help much.
5. If you're using a CO2 system, then minimal water surface disruption is important, as it causes the exchange of gasses at the surface.
6. I agree with your pet store guy, messing with pH for small tanks is a huge chore, and a road I never want to go down, it's hard enough for me to handle controlling pH in a 55gal tank.

The only things I would ask are, how many watts of light are you running on the tank? Too much light can be a definite algae cause, as well as how much direct sunlight the tank is getting, you said you covered one side of it?

I'm also not a big advocate of "algae eating" fish, it seems to me like a quick bandaid for a bigger problem, and I believe your chinese algae eater if it is gyrinocheilus aymonieri, will grow to 6+ inches, and you're doing it a disservice by putting it in such a small tank.

Hope I helped!

Phil
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Next Steps

Thanks so much for your replies.

So, I do check amonia, nitrite and nitrate weekly and although I can't explain exactly what they all mean, I have carefully read the instructions and everything is well within the ideal levels for those three. (What is 'GH' and 'KH'? How do I test for that?)

I'm planning to return to 12 hours of light but still keep the window exposure side of the tank covered (algae definitely worse at that end of the tank).

I'll go back to adding fertilizer regularly. And I'll check to see what it is and if it contains any algaecide.

I'm going to continue to research the CO2 info. If DIY isn't really me, does the Hagen system give me what I need?

I'll make sure my water return is as low as possible. The fish seem fine, it's the plants that are struggling a bit.

I'm going to add anacharis and/or hygrophilia to that empty spot in the tank.

I believe that the two bulbs are each 15 Watts. The kit that I have is the Hagen Waterholm 21 Euro. So is that enough light or do I need to do anything different with lighting?

And no more algae eating fish. I'll let the guys that are in there do what they can. I'm considering the red ramshorn snails. Anyone feel strongly one way or the other about that?

So that's the plan at the moment. Any additional feedback will be eagerly awaited and gratefully accepted. :smile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm quite sure I have hair algae. I am doing water changes twice a week.

Is Excel a fertilizer? What I have is called Tropica Aquacare plant nutrition. Apparently this used to be called Tropica Mastergrow. It says it is rich in iron but does not contain nitrogen or phosphor.

The fish get fed twice a week only.

Thanks.
 

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So, I do check amonia, nitrite and nitrate weekly and although I can't explain exactly what they all mean, I have carefully read the instructions and everything is well within the ideal levels for those three. (What is 'GH' and 'KH'? How do I test for that?)
GH-General Hardness and KH-Alkalinity are just a measure of how hard your water is. By Hard I mean how many minerals are in the water. I believe Hagen makes a test kit for GH/KH. Now when you say your ideal with your parameters people would tend to want to know the numbers.(ie ammonia- .25 ppm). Just post those up and they can give you an answer to the algae sometimes.

I'm planning to return to 12 hours of light but still keep the window exposure side of the tank covered (algae definitely worse at that end of the tank).
Thats a good start. Avoid as much sunlight as possible.

I'll go back to adding fertilizer regularly. And I'll check to see what it is and if it contains any algaecide.
Flourish Excel is an Algaecide and a Fert so it doubles as both. Stop dosing and your going to have more algae problems in my opinion.

I'm going to continue to research the CO2 info. If DIY isn't really me, does the Hagen system give me what I need?
The Hagen/Nutrafin System is nothing but a fancy DIY CO2 unit. You can make a system for far less for the same outcome. But overall production of CO2 is not great with DIY CO2 but there are many people that have beautiful tanks with it.

I'll make sure my water return is as low as possible. The fish seem fine, it's the plants that are struggling a bit.
Yeah some plants prefer a current. I had just recently moved my Java Mossed Driftwood more under the current and it is staying green but I had to move my Cryptocoryne away cause it was going into a crypt melt.

I'm going to add anacharis and/or hygrophilia to that empty spot in the tank.
Get a good bunch. The Anacharis, if you dose Excel, will die off. It is a primitive plant and does not do well with Excel.

I believe that the two bulbs are each 15 Watts. The kit that I have is the Hagen Waterholm 21 Euro. So is that enough light or do I need to do anything different with lighting?
For very low light plants it should be fine. I believe that is around .7 watts per gallon.(Someone correct me if it is not). The only plants I would say could truly thrive is Java Moss. If you can try to see if you can up your lighting to at least 2.5wpg.

And no more algae eating fish. I'll let the guys that are in there do what they can. I'm considering the red ramshorn snails. Anyone feel strongly one way or the other about that?
They do a great job on algae. I have Ramshorns, Pond, and Malaysian Trumpet Snails in my tank and not only do they eat algae but they eat dying leaves. The only problem is they are unsightly to some people.

So that's the plan at the moment. Any additional feedback will be eagerly awaited and gratefully accepted. :smile:
If you are able to find new homes for some of you bottom feeders(maily the pleco) then you should be fine. They will get too large for home Aquaria in my opinion.
 

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I'm quite sure I have hair algae. I am doing water changes twice a week.

Is Excel a fertilizer? What I have is called Tropica Aquacare plant nutrition. Apparently this used to be called Tropica Mastergrow. It says it is rich in iron but does not contain nitrogen or phosphor.

The fish get fed twice a week only.

Thanks.
What you have is a trace element. Your missing other important nutrients that your plants need wich are Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium. (N-P-K). Excel is a source of Carbon so if you decide to go with Excel CO2 is not as important. Im unsure of how well it would work in your size tank but it should work pretty well. :)
 
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