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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Planted Tank community,

Hello, I'm a tired dad of two young kids with a busy job looking for some direction on how to best start over. My 90G low tech planted tank is 7-8 years old. Despite barely running the lights, I've got an unsightly BBA problem that is bothering me to the point that I feel a reset is needed. This should be easy, but I don't know how to do this with a tank of this size and would like to salvage what I can. Any direction you can share from your past experiences would be welcome!

I'm open to general advice but have a few specific questions as well:

1) The tank is predominantly crypts, anubias, and various forms of java ferns. I would like to salvage some of these, where possible. I'm thinking the crypts are not likely to survive a transplant that doesn't happen quickly. Can I salvage some of the ferns and anubias by soaking in a mixure of water and hydrogen peroxide? Or spot dosing Prime or Hydrogen Peroxide? (I tend to think Prime just burns the leaves when applied directly)
2) To properly start over, am I wrong to think this involves completely draining the tank, scraping the sides, and disposing of all substrate (in my case, black blasting grit)? Do I need to remove the blasting grit? Or is it enough to remove the water, scrape the sides, let it all dry out (to kill the BBA) and then refill the tank with the same substrate?
3) Whatever the answer to #3 is, is there a way to execute the plan without hauling the tank out to my yard and flipping it over (wouldn't be a big deal but it's a large tank and might be too heavy for my wife to help lift). At this point, it feels like BBA can survive a nuclear winter so any advice on how to make sure nothing survives would be most welcome :)
4) Obviously my filter hoses will need to be free of BBA, but what about the filter media itself? Can I re-use my filter media to ensure I don't have to completely start over my cycle? Note this filter media (sponges and ceramic rings) are contained within two Fluval 406 canisters and never see the light of day.

Anything wisdom the community can impart on me will be much appreciated. I'm beaten up about the state of my tank and want to restore order. Thank you!
 

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You can completely overhaul your tank without moving it. I just finshed rescaping and swapping out the gravel in a 75 and a 55. Yes it was messy. I removed al lthe plants and put them in a 5 gallon tote with tank water until I finished removing the soil. I used poly fill in the filter to polish and suck up most of the mulm and gunk that got stirred up. I left the fish in there. They actually seemed to like all the activity. Not sure what the treatments will do for your crypts (and the replanting) all my epiphytes and even the stem plants seem to be doing ok so far.

I will say however, my situation was simply to remove the eco-complete, not to battle algae. I got rid of almost al the algae with water lettuce, pothos and a boatload of shrimp and otos. That and reduced feedings and raising the light up about 6 inches from top of tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You can completely overhaul your tank without moving it. I just finshed rescaping and swapping out the gravel in a 75 and a 55. Yes it was messy. I removed al lthe plants and put them in a 5 gallon tote with tank water until I finished removing the soil. I used poly fill in the filter to polish and suck up most of the mulm and gunk that got stirred up. I left the fish in there. They actually seemed to like all the activity. Not sure what the treatments will do for your crypts (and the replanting) all my epiphytes and even the stem plants seem to be doing ok so far.

I will say however, my situation was simply to remove the eco-complete, not to battle algae. I got rid of almost al the algae with water lettuce, pothos and a boatload of shrimp and otos. That and reduced feedings and raising the light up about 6 inches from top of tank.
Thank you! It's encouraging that you could make the change without moving the tank itself. I think I could probably execute something similar as long as I put the fish somewhere else. I do think I need to remove all the water in order to eradicate the BBA.

Have you tried the 1-2 punch?

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I'm going to need more information, unfortunately :)

I have tried keeping the lights off for long periods of time and dosing Excel. It has gotten worse over time despite this. Seriously, I only run the lights a few hours per week. I also don't feed too much.
 

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Keep in mind if you remove all the substrate, and get rid of all the water, you are looking at best probably a mini-cycle to get the beneficial bacteria going again. I kept my filters running the whole time and never got below 2/3s of the water volume.

edit: I just re-read you original post - it looks like you have mostly low light plants, Not sure about the crypts since I only just got a few myself. Those ferns and anubias might not be able to outcompete the BBA for nutrients. You could try adding some floaters like water lettuce and/or hang a good sized pothos out the side or back. Those plants suck up nitrates like crazy and can starve out a lot of algae. Pothos by the way are dirt cheap. You can usually get them in a small pot at home depot or lowes for 4 dollars...
 

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Planted Tank community,

Hello, I'm a tired dad of two young kids with a busy job looking for some direction on how to best start over. My 90G low tech planted tank is 7-8 years old. Despite barely running the lights, I've got an unsightly BBA problem that is bothering me to the point that I feel a reset is needed. This should be easy, but I don't know how to do this with a tank of this size and would like to salvage what I can. Any direction you can share from your past experiences would be welcome!

I'm open to general advice but have a few specific questions as well:

1) The tank is predominantly crypts, anubias, and various forms of java ferns. I would like to salvage some of these, where possible. I'm thinking the crypts are not likely to survive a transplant that doesn't happen quickly. Can I salvage some of the ferns and anubias by soaking in a mixure of water and hydrogen peroxide? Or spot dosing Prime or Hydrogen Peroxide? (I tend to think Prime just burns the leaves when applied directly)
2) To properly start over, am I wrong to think this involves completely draining the tank, scraping the sides, and disposing of all substrate (in my case, black blasting grit)? Do I need to remove the blasting grit? Or is it enough to remove the water, scrape the sides, let it all dry out (to kill the BBA) and then refill the tank with the same substrate?
3) Whatever the answer to #3 is, is there a way to execute the plan without hauling the tank out to my yard and flipping it over (wouldn't be a big deal but it's a large tank and might be too heavy for my wife to help lift). At this point, it feels like BBA can survive a nuclear winter so any advice on how to make sure nothing survives would be most welcome :)
4) Obviously my filter hoses will need to be free of BBA, but what about the filter media itself? Can I re-use my filter media to ensure I don't have to completely start over my cycle? Note this filter media (sponges and ceramic rings) are contained within two Fluval 406 canisters and never see the light of day.

Anything wisdom the community can impart on me will be much appreciated. I'm beaten up about the state of my tank and want to restore order. Thank you!
I feel your pain, but I have to say, you are going at this the wrong way.

There is simply no way to "eradicate" algae assuming you can somehow manually remove all of them. You would have to sterilize your tank which is completely impractical and probably impossible.

Rather than fervently attacking your algae problem, you need to focus on your plants. "Barely running the lights a couple of hours per week" is unfortunately the worst thing you can do, unless you are trying to cultivate plastic ornaments. Think of plants as living things, that thrive in full sunlight. They grow and photosynthesize with the help of light and nutrients. It is really that simple. Enough (not too much) light, and enough (not too many) nutrients.
I am NOT saying you need to go out and buy super expensive lights and blast your tank. But, without light plants will not grow, while algae are more flexible in that respect.

Your plan will leave you exactly at the same place as before. 😞
Instead, think about plants, ignore algae. Read about light and nutrients (macros, micros, CO2). Add a bit of patience. Learn from others.

Good luck!
 

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I reset up everything recently because I needed to move the tank. It did have some green string algae because I was sick for just long enough to make it an issue. I moved everything out cleaned the tank and rock (no wood in this tank) and treated the plants as I put them back in. I did put in new substrate because I wanted something more plant friendly than the sand I was using. The key to my success so far here is to make sure I'm consistent with water changes and fertilizing. It's been a few weeks and everything seem good.

I have also done this before, but used a different - and clean - tank. I moved the plants, rock/wood and equipment. I still used new substrate... not because I was worried about algae. I often just wanted a change and try something new. It did help cut down on snails though. LOL.
 

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Instead, think about plants, ignore algae. Read about light and nutrients (macros, micros, CO2). Add a bit of patience. Learn from others.

Good luck!
This is good advice. There is no amount of sterilization that will completely rid you of algae, the best thing you can do is make the conditions unfavorable for algae growth. The 1-2 punch is only effective if you have nailed down plant growth, maintenance etc.

I'm going to need more information, unfortunately :)

I have tried keeping the lights off for long periods of time and dosing Excel. It has gotten worse over time despite this. Seriously, I only run the lights a few hours per week. I also don't feed too much.
This is the one-two punch. Be aware that it is not without risk to your livestock, but it's a very effective whole-tank treatment. I've only done it once. As long as your maintenance is on point afterwards, you can move on algae free. If your maintenance is subpar, the algae will inevitably come back.
 

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If you're having issues with BBA and have a 90g tank, have you considered just picking up a Siamese Algae eater from your LFS? They do a pretty good job of BBA removal and you seem to have a tank big enough to keep up with the larger sizes that the fish could get up to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If you're having issues with BBA and have a 90g tank, have you considered just picking up a Siamese Algae eater from your LFS? They do a pretty good job of BBA removal and you seem to have a tank big enough to keep up with the larger sizes that the fish could get up to.
Thank you! I have owned a Siamese Algae Eater (not a Flying Fox), and he unfortunately never cared for the BBA. Could have just been that fish, but it made me think I should only get another SA if I really wanted one (as opposed to for BBA removal purposes).

This is good advice. There is no amount of sterilization that will completely rid you of algae, the best thing you can do is make the conditions unfavorable for algae growth. The 1-2 punch is only effective if you have nailed down plant growth, maintenance etc.



This is the one-two punch. Be aware that it is not without risk to your livestock, but it's a very effective whole-tank treatment. I've only done it once. As long as your maintenance is on point afterwards, you can move on algae free. If your maintenance is subpar, the algae will inevitably come back.
Thank you, I will read up on the 1-2 punch! I am ok to keep up with the maintenance afterwards. This has generally never been my problem. I was ok for a few years and then one time I made an adjustment to the light timer on a weekend so my kids and their cousins could see the fish and I forgot to change it back. A small amount of incremental light for a few weeks was what did me in. It probably could have been controlled if I was more focused but, alas, here we are.
 

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To recover the tank without stripping everything, take out and clean the plants (soak in h202 or excel or just manually clean under a tap), pour in a load of black sand to cover your substrate (by 2 inches min), replant, then do a 50% water change. This will have almost the same effect as cleaning everything because the sand essentially traps nutrients and makes it unavailable to the rest of the tank whilst keeping them available for plants later.

No need to remove any fish.

For the next two weeks, continue with cleaning and 50% water changes every 3 days making sure lights are low to off.

By then you should not be getting any bba and can start to turn the lights back on to grow the plants.

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To reiterate what others have said here, you can't just sterilize your tank and get rid of algae. You'll just end up back where you started, because it exists everywhere. It's also probably left reproductive cells on your fish (which you also can't sterilize).

The only way to really control algae is to get your tank in the proper balance. I had BBA start to show up in my tank a few months after I set it up. I just kept tweaking my fertilizers and lights until I got it to a good place, and the plants are growing nicely and the BBA stopped. The BBA is just totally stunted now and just sits on some rocks like dead peach fuzz.

Its the same thing when people get certain bacterial outbreaks in their tanks...you can't run a sterile tank. There is always bacteria in there (even pathogenic ones like columnaris). The trick is keeping it under control, not eliminating it entirely.
 

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I agree with Waserpest- if your plants are starving for light, algae will easily take the upper hand. I'd start by of course scraping what you can easily reach off the glass and maybe manually removing from some plants as well- cut off the worst leaves- and then set your lights to 6hr per day. It will take 1 or 2 weeks to see a positive change- watch to see if new plant growth stays clear of algae. Maybe bump the photoperiod up again to 6.5 or 7hr. I learned the hard way that I have to get my plants their healthiest to outcompete the algae- I still have a little BBA, green spot algae and hair or thread algae sometimes, but not so much anymore. Also play with the light intensity, apart from the photoperiod. If you can't raise your lights higher above the tank, one thing I've done is diffuse the light with plastic or window screen mesh between it and the tank lid. It worked a charm for 2 of my low tech tanks.
 
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