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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My largely DIY high tech 75g tank has been running 3-4 years. Its been a good tank, but algae has been the constant.

It doesnt help that there are angelfish and keyhole cichilds and some SAE. These are relatively big and messy fish for a planted aquarium.

A couple months ago I added a Jebao auto doser which makes the tank so much more enjoyable. No measuring or daily dosing. No forgetting. I can keep the Nitrate/Phosphates exactly where I want them. And I keep them low at 5/.5ppm.

But algae is still a constant.

Everything grows. All it needs is light. So when I crank the lights I can get good stem growth, but algae also takes off. Slow growing plants eventually get algae. And I have to clean algae from the glass 2-3x a week. Unless I lower the lights... but then the more challenging plants wont grow as well.

I've come to the conclusion that the tank needs better filtration and an owner who is willing to do more filter cleaning. Or more effective filtration.

I have two canisters a 704b and a 302b. The 302b has the Griggs reactor and doesn't flow a ton of water. When it comes down to it, the 7-4b is probably not even close to its 525gph rating.

And the media is pretty bad. Basically just filter floss first tray and a few trays of ceramic ring bio above that. The 704b is a pretty big canister, so there is alot of bio, just not a ton of flow.

So is the problem that:
1) There isn't enough bio filtration? Ammonia in the water doesnt get converted fast enough?

2) THere isn't enough water exchange? Ammonia and organics not getting converted fast enough?

3) There is too much sludge in the canisters? I have to clean them every few weeks instead of every few months?

4) I need better filter media? Maybe I should have several layers of tight fitting sponge to keep the sludge from being recirculated?

5) I need an organic filter/reactor like Purigen?

Ammonia reading always zero, fish are happy and healthy.

SO.. what it comes down to..

1) I really AM too lazy to open and clean the canisters every couple weeks. That puts wear on them and its a PITA. Really a PITA. Every time I clean them I spill sludge, and there is a ton of brown sludge in the bottoms. Like a ton. More than you would think. Is this sludge responsible for organics in the water?

2) I need better filtration media or better flow? Maybe get a huge reactor and fill it with Purigen. Like spending $50/month on Purigen? Might be worth it.

3) I need a sump so that I can very easily change the media?


Need some guidance on getting appropriate filtration. The plan is to get the filtration sorted, then do some H202 treatments and see if I can run 100 PAR without glass algae. And if I can do that, then crank the PAR.
 

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Algae is caused by an imbalance in light, nutrients, and co2. You might have an issue of flow causing algae when nutrients/co2 not being distributed constantly and evenly but given the output of your 2 filters that's not super likely. Their combined actual output is around 4 times tank turn over per hour which is the low end of normal but still 'normal'.

I glanced at parts of your recent journal entries and it looks like you are doing 50% water change? Also you have a diy light. Do you know what your par/ppfd at substrate is?

Off hand the easiest thing to do is increase either frequency of amount of water change. You could also try adding an algaecide product to the dosing regime like excel or hydrogen peroxide. Plus of course manual removal wherever possible.

After that the thing to look at is the light. I don't know how bright it is, so maybe that's not an issue, or maybe it's everything... I mean there is a big difference between say 100 ppfd at substrate and 300.

Anyway I suspect your filtration is not the issue causing algae.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Algae is caused by an imbalance in light, nutrients, and co2. You might have an issue of flow causing algae when nutrients/co2 not being distributed constantly and evenly but given the output of your 2 filters that's not super likely. Their combined actual output is around 4 times tank turn over per hour which is the low end of normal but still 'normal'.

I glanced at parts of your recent journal entries and it looks like you are doing 50% water change? Also you have a diy light. Do you know what your par/ppfd at substrate is?

Off hand the easiest thing to do is increase either frequency of amount of water change. You could also try adding an algaecide product to the dosing regime like excel or hydrogen peroxide. Plus of course manual removal wherever possible.

After that the thing to look at is the light. I don't know how bright it is, so maybe that's not an issue, or maybe it's everything... I mean there is a big difference between say 100 ppfd at substrate and 300.

Anyway I suspect your filtration is not the issue causing algae.
The reason I am assuming it is my filtration, is besides the two canister filters, I also have an in tank UV filter moving more water. Everything is slightly swaying, but I'm thinking more water should be moving through the filters.

Everything is growing and seems to be healthy, but just like the glass, slow growing plants like swords will collect algae.

Nutrients are half-dose EI dosed daily, with extra DTPA Iron, auto dosed. I am keeping N/P around 5ppm/.5ppm. pH Drop is 1+ during 7 hour light period.

Baseline PAR was measured at 100. I am pushing more than that now, probably 125+ based on ammount of pearling.

Because everything is growing well, everything is swaying slightly, I have come to the conclusion that its organics in the water, ammonia from the fishes that is causing algae to proliferate. Im not sure the canisters are turning over enough water to convert all the ammonia. It could be all the muck in the bottom of the canisters is overwhelming the bio filtration.
 

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You said that when you increase light stem plants do well but then get algae. Also the slow growers like Swords get algae.

When you drive the stems harder and give them the light they crave, the demand for nutrients and CO2 also rises. Most of my stems would do the same thing at 5 ppm NO3 and 0.5 PO4. They would get weak from lack of nutrients and weak undernourished leaves are a magnet for algae. For reference I like to keep my water column NO3 at 20-25 ppm and PO4 at somewhere around 3 or so. Of course my tank is packed with fast growing stems so the demand is higher.

And it's always tricky keeping fast growing stems and low light slow growing plants like swords all happy in the same tank. Those can get by on almost nothing while the stems can't. Sometimes it helps to move them to the far edges of the tank or in shaded spots so they are not getting blasted by light.

Of course clean filters always help everything, but I doubt that is your root issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You said that when you increase light stem plants do well but then get algae. Also the slow growers like Swords get algae.

When you drive the stems harder and give them the light they crave, the demand for nutrients and CO2 also rises. Most of my stems would do the same thing at 5 ppm NO3 and 0.5 PO4. They would get weak from lack of nutrients and weak undernourished leaves are a magnet for algae. For reference I like to keep my water column NO3 at 20-25 ppm and PO4 at somewhere around 3 or so. Of course my tank is packed with fast growing stems so the demand is higher.

And it's always tricky keeping fast growing stems and low light slow growing plants like swords all happy in the same tank. Those can get by on almost nothing while the stems can't. Sometimes it helps to move them to the far edges of the tank or in shaded spots so they are not getting blasted by light.

Of course clean filters always help everything, but I doubt that is your root issue.
I appreciate your response.

What is in my tank:

AR "Purple" Growing well. Old bottom leaves collect algae. I know this could probably use more nitrates for faster growth, but the growth is steady and leaves dont show any deficiency.

Rotala Indica (Rotundafolia)- Growing very well. I know this is a lower nitrate plant.

Hygo polysperma. Weed

Amazon Swords- Weed they are green so algae covered leaves look normal.

Various crypts- strong growth, old leaves covered in algae.

Brazillian pennywort - Weed

Ambulia- Weed

If I increase nutrients like you suggest, algae grows faster. I know there are various schools of thought. Some say algae is caused by poor plant growth and decomposition. Others say it is caused by organics in water. Because everything is growing well, I am leaning towards organics and poor filtration. What kind of filtration do you have on your 120? I think its possible I'm not turning over water fast enough to keep up with the cichlid waste.
 

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I appreciate your response.

What is in my tank:

AR "Purple" Growing well. Old bottom leaves collect algae. I know this could probably use more nitrates for faster growth, but the growth is steady and leaves dont show any deficiency.

Rotala Indica (Rotundafolia)- Growing very well. I know this is a lower nitrate plant.

Hygo polysperma. Weed

Amazon Swords- Weed they are green so algae covered leaves look normal.

Various crypts- strong growth, old leaves covered in algae.

Brazillian pennywort - Weed

Ambulia- Weed

If I increase nutrients like you suggest, algae grows faster. I know there are various schools of thought. Some say algae is caused by poor plant growth and decomposition. Others say it is caused by organics in water. Because everything is growing well, I am leaning towards organics and poor filtration. What kind of filtration do you have on your 120? I think its possible I'm not turning over water fast enough to keep up with the cichlid waste.
Of the plants you have, only Ambulia, Polysperma, and AR Purple need much in the way of nutrients or light. So you could bump macros up but a big boost is not not really needed with that mix. I still think it will difficult to keep the crypts/swords algae free at 100-125 PAR. None of those need really high light. You could probably get by on more like 75 or so PAR and those should not suffer at all, but it would make it easier on the others.

Here's my filter information. The GPH is the manufacturer listing. I've never tested to see what the actual flow rates are. I do clean filters quite often as I do believe it helps keep things clean in general.
 

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Cleaning the glass 2-3x a week means there's a problem. I clean the glass in my setup now once every 4 to 5 weeks (not times per week). I take it you're not doing injected CO2 gas right? That's fine and is a match for your low fert regime but then you also don't need as much light either since plants will be limited by both CO2 and nutrients. Before you get all heroic in what you're trying with filtration etc. I recommend you try the easy way first and knock down the peak lighting intensity (not the lighting duration) by 30% for a week or two and see what type of effect that has on the algae. If you find your 2-3x a week cleaning is now weekly or longer, then you're on the right track. I was cleaning glass every three weeks and it was creeping up to more frequently than that when I was very pleasantly surprised to find decreasing peak lighting by 30% intensity really slowed the algae down, with no appreciable effect on fast-growing stem plants (5 mm per day for Ludwigia palustris mini 'Super Red'). This is particularly important in the summer when the longer days provide extra ambient light in any except completely windowless rooms: Green spot algae in the summer | Fireplace aquarium. Give it a go and see if that works for you, but I'm all "where has this been all this time?" now that I've tried simply cutting the peak light intensity.
 

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I think your beneficial bacteria are outcompeting your plants for Ammonium. The plants then have to convert Nitrate to Ammonium which takes a lot of energy. Then the algae jumps them. I don't know how to fix that given you have a bunch of big beautiful fish. I just read this in Walstadt's book last night. If Walstadt is right, the plants compete in real time with the bacteria for Ammonium. So...maybe get in there and clean that PITA cannister filter more often. Sorry, I know it's hard. I agree with turning down the lights at peak time. I also agree with increasing NO3 and PO4. The decreased light and increased fertilizer really works for me. Good luck. You have nice fish. They must be fun to watch.
 

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Weak canisters, insufficient media and lack of cleaning causing algae.... I think you pretty much answered the question yourself.

With large fish in a heavily planted tank, a sump with wet dry trickle and a ton of media will make your life a whole lot easier. Easier to clean and infinitely configurable too.



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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I recommend you try the easy way first and knock down the peak lighting intensity (not the lighting duration) by 30% for a week or two and see what type of effect that has on the algae. If you find your 2-3x a week cleaning is now weekly or longer, then you're on the right track.
I have done this before, in fact for the majority of last year, I was running low/medium light. The effect is that I don't have to clean the glass much, BUT only the swords and crypts really do well. With lower lighting, the AR goes into hibernation (I'm lucky to still have some). The ambulia will grow slow enough that it will collect algae over time. The brazillian pennywort does well in low light floated on the surface.

I'd say right now the Ambulia and Hygro Polyspemia are perfect. The AR could be better. The swords and crypts I think its clear are getting way more light than they need. The thing is though that the swords/crpyt forest is the fishes home. They sleep and hide in there. When one or two of the cichlids get aggro, they can hide and break line of sight.

If I could find something that had the same density as the swords but was also a fast growing med/high light plant, it would be perfect. I had some luwigia a couple years ago that was perfect for this, but it was also really close to the hygro in presentation. The hygro is more of a ground cover / spreader in high light.

Weak canisters, insufficient media and lack of cleaning causing algae.... I think you pretty much answered the question yourself.

With large fish in a heavily planted tank, a sump with wet dry trickle and a ton of media will make your life a whole lot easier. Easier to clean and infinitely configurable too.



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Yes. After four years I've come to this conclusion.

If I upgrade to a wet dry trickle, I suspect I will need a TON more CO2. Would need a big CO2 delivery upgrade.
 

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What if I told you that I use no bio-media in my filter and have very little algae, even on slow growers? Substrate PAR is 140.

You may have addressed this, elsewhere, but I’d look, first, to the CO2. When you say “DIY high tech”, does that mean that it is not pressurized CO2? If not, that would be my first guess as to the culprit in terms of instability for plants and, therefore, maximization of algae. In any case, what are your CO2 levels and how do you measure?

As others have mentioned, I’d also increase the N and PO4, especially the PO4 if you have GSA (is that what you have?), which seems to be your biggest algae issue.

You might also consider dosing Urea, in place of some of the NO3. The NH4/NH3 in Urea is more or less locked away from algae and only released as it is converted by plants and BB.

How about any other parameters that you measure? There might be a clue there, if we can see them.
 
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What if I told you that I use no bio-media in my filter and have very little algae, even on slow growers? Substrate PAR is 140.
Then I would say that you probably have sponges or other media instead which are performing the same function



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Then I would say that you probably have sponges or other media instead which are performing the same function



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Nope. All of the BB are in the substrate, tank and other surfaces.
 
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If I upgrade to a wet dry trickle, I suspect I will need a TON more CO2. Would need a big CO2 delivery upgrade.
If you want something low maintenance with minimal co2 then you can consider deep sand bed instead.


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Nope. All of the BB are in the substrate, tank and other surfaces.
Then why do you have a filter at all?

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Nope. All of the BB are in the substrate, tank and other surfaces.
That's not working for me. Do you do this to reduce the competition between the bacteria and the plants for NH4 and Oxygen that Walstadt mentions in her book?
Then why do you have a filter at all?

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Maybe the filter is good for circulation. Ought to flow faster without the biomedia.
 

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A powerhead would be enough for flow

Since bacteria doesn't really care, it can reside anywhere so yea, I agree with Deanna that you don't really need a filter if you know how to manage bacteria. But for beginners, not having a filter creates limiting factors for bacteria which can be hard to overcome without experience.

So the principal is that some denitrifying bacteria work better with oxygen and some work better without. So as long as all the conditions are in the tank bacteria will exist. Then the trick is to have enough of them to work within their environment to create all the processes which will ultimately clean the tank and help the plants.

IMO algae exists actually due to bacterial imbalances (along with poor plant health) - which is why you some people can even achieve clean tanks with dirted aquariums.

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IMO algae exists actually due to bacterial imbalances (along with poor plant health) - which is why you some people can even achieve clean tanks with dirted aquariums.
Maybe the bacterial imbalances are contributing to the poor plant health. I thought of this as a competition between plants and algae but never considered how too many bacteria could also compete. This is a revelation to me if it's true. I plan on optimizing the quantity of biomedia that I use. I used to think more was better.
 

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My reason for mentioning my filter setup was simply to point out that algae isn’t going to be much affected by filtration, other than to say that the filter should be cleaned frequently (I clean every other week). I think the algae issues are sourced in other aspects (CO2 is what I would suggest investigating, first), which mostly go back to healthy plants.

I’m not advocating throwing out your bio-media. In fact, if you do decide to try it, do it very slowly (over a month or so) to allow the balance to shift elsewhere.

Then why do you have a filter at all?
Two reasons: mechanical filtration and circulation, but no biological or chemical filtration.

You will only have enough ammonia-based BB in your tank to tank care of the ammonia. With the high flow through a filter, adding a base for BB to grow will shift most of the BB activity to that bio-media and this provides the most efficient way to remove ammonia. However, consider that filter efficiency of ammonia removal may not be a good thing if plants like it as well, particularly if the BB/ammonia balance can be achieved with the BB that develops elsewhere. We often forget that cycling isn’t just about bio-media in the filter. Of course, BB also throw off a lot of NO3, which plants will use, up to a point.

How much bio-media activity is necessary in a filter? No one knows. Even Seachem, a few years ago, reduced their recommended Matrix loading by about half. BB contracts and expands along with changes in its’ food source. I suspect that bio-media in a filter will allow faster adaptation to an increase in ammonia, but not an ammonia spike, which will still damage/kill our animals when pH is >7.

That's not working for me. Do you do this to reduce the competition between the bacteria and the plants for NH4 and Oxygen that Walstadt mentions in her book?
Yes, but it wasn’t based in Walstadt’s book (which is a good book). High-tech tanks need to be treated a little differently from Walstadt’s low-tech methods, but many of the basic principles still apply.

A high plant load should easily be able to eliminate the need for bio-media in the filter and even no plants can still work with no bio-media. However, without plants, rules about fish loads and cleanliness need to be observed more closely.

Before we understood the nitrogen cycle we all used HOB’s having only floss and charcoal (often no AC available) and both would be thrown out with the weekly 20% (no more) water change. Carbon doesn’t remove inorganics such as Nitrogen compounds, so the filters had no effect upon ammonia (and pH was generally above 7). All tanks were low-tech, so plants removed ammonia at slower rates than they do with high-tech setups.

Obviously, such common and recommended practices would cause ammonia to become a rapid killer if it wasn’t removed. So, why didn’t it? We thought the water changes were enough (and they helped) but we know now that the BB developed - everywhere - to balance the ammonia contribution.

Maybe the bacterial imbalances are contributing to the poor plant health. I thought of this as a competition between plants and algae but never considered how too many bacteria could also compete.
I think that we interlopers cause imbalances, but I don’t think that BB can, unless too many can actually limit a plants’ ability to maximize the plants’ food source (which we don’t know with certainty).

We can never remove enough ammonia to prevent algae. It requires infinitesimal quantities to get started. We can limit it’s expansion by reducing it’s food after it appears and it’s base of operations (snails help remove the periphyton that it builds and feeds upon). Healthy plants can out-compete it for food and - I believe, but it hasn’t been broadly proven - kill/inhibit algae by allelopathy.

Back to the basic recommendation: forget about algae until you make your plants healthy and vibrant.
 
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