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Hi everyone! LONG time no post. Here's a fun question...I understand that saltwater tanks that try to use tap water almost inevitably get overrun with algae (speaking from experience here as well as my research). While freshwater tanks are generally less sensitive than their salty counterparts, would starting with RODI water or distilled water in a planted tank reduce the risk of algae? (Obviously, unless I was going for a strict blackwater tank, I would need to add some minerals back to the water before using it...I'm just wondering if the lack of contaminants would be helpful). Thanks :)
 

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Not in and of itself. Your tap water has enough chlorine/chloramine to kill any algae in the pipes. But if your water is such that plants will grow better by switching to RODI then getting that better plant growth will dramatically help to control algae.

Personally the most important thing for controlling algae for me is doing larger regular water changes and controlling nutrients. If switching to RODI/distilled means doing fewer water changes due to the problems inherent in getting more water, then I'd say it would be for the worse. /shrug
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Not in and of itself. Your tap water has enough chlorine/chloramine to kill any algae in the pipes. But if your water is such that plants will grow better by switching to RODI then getting that better plant growth will dramatically help to control algae.

Personally the most important thing for controlling algae for me is doing larger regular water changes and controlling nutrients. If switching to RODI/distilled means doing fewer water changes due to the problems inherent in getting more water, then I'd say it would be for the worse. /shrug
Fair. I've had awful luck with planted tanks in the past...guess I was just grasping at straws.
 

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There's obvious advantages to using to from the start- namely that you can control every part of what is in the water, therefore there's no guesses in what contaminants are in there. The disadvantages are kind of on the same line- you have to control everything about your water and it requires research and either a lot of time or a decent chunk of change for automation. I, personally, go into every build assuming that I'm about to battle algae, it's just easier that way lol. I think if you have the ability and understanding ro would be the way to go through all of the tanks duration. If you're just trying to do it too avoid algae at the start up unless your tap water is really funky I'd just go with that because you're going to wind up with the algae from the switchover eventually anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What kind of issues are you having?
I don't currently have any planted tanks, but when I did they always got bad algae problems regardless of what I did...CO2, large water changes, daily fertilization...I could never figure it out. I did use household light bulbs for the tanks, but I've never had problems growing houseplants solely under those same bulbs, so I'm not sure that was the problem.
 

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I don't currently have any planted tanks, but when I did they always got bad algae problems regardless of what I did...CO2, large water changes, daily fertilization...I could never figure it out. I did use household light bulbs for the tanks, but I've never had problems growing houseplants solely under those same bulbs, so I'm not sure that was the problem.
What kind of light bulb? If you want we can work through the possibilities and give a stab at figuring it out /shrug
 

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Do people on the salt side have an explanation for why using tap water leads to the tank to getting overrun with algae?
Excess nutrients in tap water definitely hit sw a lot harder than fw. It's the same premise as in fw but it's more intense. There's several other parameters in consideration in salt as well that caused much more problems because of the sensitive nature of marine critters (not to mention the expense).
 

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Corals use calcium to grow (that's why we install calcium reactors or dose calcium). Algae grows with phosphates. Saltwater users turn to RO/DI to eliminate phosphates in tap water to prohibit algae growth. Nothing really uses phosphate to the same extent as plants, hence why algae grows out-of-control.

If you want to reduce the likelihood of algae, you need to understand where it is coming from. It's not coming from your tap water because ozone (at the filtration plant), chlorine, and chloramine kills bacteria and organisms in the water (like algae). If it didn't, we would be having issues with our health.

Algae is introduced into your tank primarily through the LFS water and plants your purchase. In a rich environment with Co2, light, and fertilizer, it simply explodes. If you want to avoid algae (some say delay), you can start with only tissue cultured plants which are void of any pests. When you get new fish, make sure you don't transfer any of the water from the LFS into your tank. If you want the best chance of avoiding algae, I would use a quarantine tank (as an intermediate) where you can monitor the health of the fish.
 

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Algae is introduced into your tank primarily through the LFS water and plants your purchase. In a rich environment with Co2, light, and fertilizer, it simply explodes. If you want to avoid algae (some say delay), you can start with only tissue cultured plants which are void of any pests. When you get new fish, make sure you don't transfer any of the water from the LFS into your tank. If you want the best chance of avoiding algae, I would use a quarantine tank (as an intermediate) where you can monitor the health of the fish.
None of the quoted part is true. Algae spores are in our air, and will grow in any aquatic environment as long as there is light and some nutrients. Even a perfectly quarantined tank will grow algae if it is exposed to the environment, the tank is lit, and there is some nitrates or phosphates.

On top of that, environments rich in CO2, light, and nutrients do not automatically cause algae. There are members of this forum that run 200+ PAR over tanks with 30+ nitrate & 5+ phosphate that have no algae. Even in my tank, I'm running about 130 PAR, 20-30 Nitrate and 2-4 Phosphate, and I only have a bit of green spot algae on the glass. I'm increasing my phosphates to eliminate the GSA.
 

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None of the quoted part is true. Algae spores are in our air, and will grow in any aquatic environment as long as there is light and some nutrients. Even a perfectly quarantined tank will grow algae if it is exposed to the environment, the tank is lit, and there is some nitrates or phosphates.

On top of that, environments rich in CO2, light, and nutrients do not automatically cause algae. There are members of this forum that run 200+ PAR over tanks with 30+ nitrate & 5+ phosphate that have no algae. Even in my tank, I'm running about 130 PAR, 20-30 Nitrate and 2-4 Phosphate, and I only have a bit of green spot algae on the glass. I'm increasing my phosphates to eliminate the GSA.
I've had tanks with only water in them, never had anything in them, being hold tested develop algae- with lids on top in the sun. I don't think most of my algae problem have come from just things introduced considering I've used tc plants strictly in some tanks and still had algal blooms. I think it's been about imbalances in light and nutrients, like everything else in balancing a tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
All of this is just making me less confident I can set up a mostly algae free planted tank :(

EDIT; I have used 2700k, 4000k, and 5000k LED bulbs on my tanks before with the same results. All of these have grown and bloomed houseplants fine...things like Clivia, african violets, a phalaenopsis orchid, and even a gerbera daisy (which requires full sun).
 

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Most planted tank lights are around 6500 Kelvin. I've used cfl and led in this parameter with success as supplemental lighting on walstads and as primary lighting in propagation with success. Algae is kind of an indicator as well and can help identify parameter issues when you don't have adequate testing supplies. I used to HATE algae with a passion and would freak out at the first sight of it. That was back when I was supplied with everything I needed and didn't have to track down everything so I'd make quick work of identifying my imbalances and adjust fert dosing levels. Now that I'm retired and the most high tech thing I run is led lights and a bio Co2 system I've learned to embrace algae and use the knowledge I acquired through the years to try to work with what is easily available to me now. Don't get discouraged, it's a great learning experience.
 

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All of this is just making me less confident I can set up a mostly algae free planted tank :(

EDIT; I have used 2700k, 4000k, and 5000k LED bulbs on my tanks before with the same results. All of these have grown and bloomed houseplants fine...things like Clivia, african violets, a phalaenopsis orchid, and even a gerbera daisy (which requires full sun).
@minorhero commented correctly, the RO water will not directly give you algae free tank. Honestly (and I an really talking from experience here), the best way I have found to have an algae free tank is to have healthy plants and a really clean tank. Now, that is a really common statement that you will see alot - but most people don't immediately understand what it means. Once they figure it out on their tank - then it kinda makes sense but it does take time to learn.
Your RO water can give your plants a better environment to grow in. I start with the water because in my mind it really is the most universal part of planted tanks. In a perfect world, if someone from Singapore give you one of their beautiful plants and their macro dosing numbers you likely will not be able to grow the plant as well because there is SO many other variables. First, understand their water. With RO water, you should be able to "make" any water found anywhere on the planet.

So, if your water is good (many plants prefer to grow in low KH water. If your TAP water is high KH, that could be a problem), the plants will be happier (healthier).
If you have a good balance of CO2 to light PAR, your plants should grow (more CO2, more PAR, faster growth - assuming many other smaller variables)
Now the fun part (kinda a joke), algae likes sick, dying leaves. Algae likes unclean conditions. Algae likes most everything you hate to do.

Once algae settles in and restricts a plants ability to prosper (GDA / GSA on leaves), they become unhealthy - algae wins. Clean leaves, algae looses.
If your fertilizer balance gets out of whack and the plants suffer - algae wins
You force too much light on the plants and there is not enough food to support growth (not enough CO2, specific macros, specific micros) - algae wins.

Once you find the right "balance" for your tank - i.e. the right amount of food, light, proper maintenance, the plants will begin to prosper. As they prosper, it becomes more difficult for algae to prosper. Make no mistake, algae is always there even in really nice tanks - it's just not allowed to prosper.

Now with really well maintained tanks running lots of PAR, CO2, and just the right amount of food - algae just does not stand much of a chance against fast growing stem plants...
or
With well maintained tanks, the right amount of light, just enough CO2, and just enough food - slow growing plants can also be algae free.

Hope all this makes some sense :)
 

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None of the quoted part is true. Algae spores are in our air, and will grow in any aquatic environment as long as there is light and some nutrients. Even a perfectly quarantined tank will grow algae if it is exposed to the environment, the tank is lit, and there is some nitrates or phosphates.

On top of that, environments rich in CO2, light, and nutrients do not automatically cause algae. There are members of this forum that run 200+ PAR over tanks with 30+ nitrate & 5+ phosphate that have no algae. Even in my tank, I'm running about 130 PAR, 20-30 Nitrate and 2-4 Phosphate, and I only have a bit of green spot algae on the glass. I'm increasing my phosphates to eliminate the GSA.
I'm confused, you contradict yourself in the second paragraph and that's not what I said (taken out of context). If you have algae in a rich environment with Co2, nutrients, light, you will have algae. If you don't have algae, you won't have algae. You and I have much different opinions on how algae pops up in your aquarium.

I've never said algae spores are not transported in the air. That's in fact how we see algae end up in different places in an outdoor environment (wind, insects, birds, etc.). In an indoor environment, the likelihood of you seeing the 10 types of algae commonly found in an aquarium being transported through the air is very low (also consulted an air indoor specialist). In fact since our last heated discussion, I ran tests over a 2 month period and I welcome you to do the same. I set up a couple of scenarios... tap water with excessive light, high fertilizer with excessive light, excessive organic waste with excessive light, and water containing algae. Guess what, nothing happened in first 3 scenarios. There was lot of dust and I refilled each jar with distilled water to keep up with the evaporation but aside from them smelling and showing signs of dust, murkiness, or decomposition... no algae. Next I consulted, a TSC plant company and posed the same question and we came to the same agreement but like I said, I chose my words carefully and said delay. They have set up tanks and had customers set up tanks completely void of algae. In my next tank, I was going to demonstrate that...

Algae has the same requirements for plants - light, CO2, water, and nutrients. Once established, you can't tell one not to grow. The only way of removal is by mechanical means, either by you physically removing it or fish/invertebrate eating it. You could also try algaecides which ruptures these simple celled plant-like organisms but in my experience it is not comprehensive and does not affect all the types of algae the same.
 

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I'm confused, you contradict yourself in the second paragraph and that's not what I said (taken out of context). If you have algae in a rich environment with Co2, nutrients, light, you will have algae. If you don't have algae, you won't have algae. You and I have much different opinions on how algae pops up in your aquarium.

I've never said algae spores are not transported in the air. That's in fact how we see algae end up in different places in an outdoor environment (wind, insects, birds, etc.). In an indoor environment, the likelihood of you seeing the 10 types of algae commonly found in an aquarium being transported through the air is very low (also consulted an air indoor specialist). In fact since our last heated discussion, I ran tests over a 2 month period and I welcome you to do the same. I set up a couple of scenarios... tap water with excessive light, high fertilizer with excessive light, excessive organic waste with excessive light, and water containing algae. Guess what, nothing happened in first 3 scenarios. There was lot of dust and I refilled each jar with distilled water to keep up with the evaporation but aside from them smelling and showing signs of dust, murkiness, or decomposition... no algae. Next I consulted, a TSC plant company and posed the same question and we came to the same agreement but like I said, I chose my words carefully and said delay. They have set up tanks and had customers set up tanks completely void of algae. In my next tank, I was going to demonstrate that...

Algae has the same requirements for plants - light, CO2, water, and nutrients. Once established, you can't tell one not to grow. The only way of removal is by mechanical means, either by you physically removing it or fish/invertebrate eating it. You could also try algaecides which ruptures these simple celled plant-like organisms but in my experience it is not comprehensive and does not affect all the types of algae the same.
Would love to see the work in progress on your next experiment tank!! Very interested in your results. I'm hoping you can prove this works!!
 

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I'm confused, you contradict yourself in the second paragraph and that's not what I said (taken out of context). If you have algae in a rich environment with Co2, nutrients, light, you will have algae. If you don't have algae, you won't have algae. You and I have much different opinions on how algae pops up in your aquarium.

I've never said algae spores are not transported in the air. That's in fact how we see algae end up in different places in an outdoor environment (wind, insects, birds, etc.). In an indoor environment, the likelihood of you seeing the 10 types of algae commonly found in an aquarium being transported through the air is very low (also consulted an air indoor specialist). In fact since our last heated discussion, I ran tests over a 2 month period and I welcome you to do the same. I set up a couple of scenarios... tap water with excessive light, high fertilizer with excessive light, excessive organic waste with excessive light, and water containing algae. Guess what, nothing happened in first 3 scenarios. There was lot of dust and I refilled each jar with distilled water to keep up with the evaporation but aside from them smelling and showing signs of dust, murkiness, or decomposition... no algae. Next I consulted, a TSC plant company and posed the same question and we came to the same agreement but like I said, I chose my words carefully and said delay. They have set up tanks and had customers set up tanks completely void of algae. In my next tank, I was going to demonstrate that...

Algae has the same requirements for plants - light, CO2, water, and nutrients. Once established, you can't tell one not to grow. The only way of removal is by mechanical means, either by you physically removing it or fish/invertebrate eating it. You could also try algaecides which ruptures these simple celled plant-like organisms but in my experience it is not comprehensive and does not affect all the types of algae the same.
Did you ever create a thread documenting this experiment? You've mentioned several times that you've set up open jars of water with nutrients in sunlight, but you've never posted any evidence.
 

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@minorhero commented correctly, the RO water will not directly give you algae free tank. Honestly (and I an really talking from experience here), the best way I have found to have an algae free tank is to have healthy plants and a really clean tank. Now, that is a really common statement that you will see alot - but most people don't immediately understand what it means. Once they figure it out on their tank - then it kinda makes sense but it does take time to learn.
To the OP...

There is a level of maintenance and time investment in maintaining a really clean tank. I have been able to do it for short stretches of time, but my tank always devolves, for a number of reasons. I dont think there is a magic wand. Certain factors make algae more likely. For instance, large bio load (large fishes), will require more frequent filter maintenance and water changes. The most impressive tanks are rarely near the stocking limit. Also a tank with alot of plant mass is more likely to develop algae.

I've accepted that there is a certain level of maintenance I'm willing/able to do. I will weekly clean the tank during water change, wipe off the algae, trim the plants. Thats it. About 30-45 min a week. There is algae in my tank, but I grow species that it does not impact all that much. Fast growing stem plants, may eventually get algae, but you just trim off the algae parts and throw away. The stems will grow back in a week.

Algea in the water multiplies. Once there is some algae, a couple days later four times as much, by the end of the week, everything will be coated. My opinion is that water movement / exchange, and high degree of filtration relative to the tank volume is necessary to keep the water clean. The more water movement there is, the more CO2 you will need. Excessive plant mass requires more water movement, more filtration.

And of course, light multiplies the algea activity. If I don't have time to weekly clean my tank, I will turn down the light and put the tank in maintanance mode. The high light species will go into hibernation or die. They can be replaced later.

If you have explosive algae, my guess is too much light given the health/stability of the tank. I'm not speaking as someone who has mastered algae free tank, only someone that is willing to live with some algae, and knows that turning down the light will really slow down algae.

Some cheats you can use to combat algae inclue Glutaldehyde (? Flourish Excel), and a UV filter.

If I really wanted to make my tank ALGAE FREE. I would start with getting more filtration (larger canisters). I would need a more sophisticated CO2 delivery system. And I would have the light on higher intensity for less hours in the day. (As the tank is for viewing, I have the light on more than I should so I can see at end of day.) Challenging plant species need more light, but you can't blast 200 PAR for 12 hours a day.
 
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