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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So after being referred to the EI guide from Tom Barr after posting my algae issues... I have a question. :laugh2: >:)

Tom's guide


In my mind, and my initial strategy was as follows

My Previous Strategy:
There are 3 factors that contribute to plant growth:
- Light
- CO2
- Ferts/nutrients

2 of those contribute to algae growth:
- Light
- Ferts/nutrients

So my strategy was to provide a lot of light, a lot of CO2, and have the limiting factor being nutrients. In my mind, plants have first pick so there would be no nutrients left over for algae.

Light cannot be a "limiting factor for algae" in the sense that it is not "used up" from the water by plants, but instead distributed evenly in the aquarium... so wherever plant leaves do not exist, excess light hits and provides a place for algae growth.

... and then I got algae anyway lol :grin2:


So EI
Provide a LOT of Ferts/Nutrients, past what ever could be used. Provide CO2, and Lights.

My question here is... with excess nutrients everywhere, plenty of light (and some being wasted when not hitting a leaf). What is preventing the algae growth? What is the limiting factor here?

I've heard about growing plants producing chemicals that prevent algae... but that is not proven in depth and is very controversial. And it can't just be CO2... because I am pumping my tank with it well and still getting algae blooms.

So what in this case is stopping the algae from growing? :nerd::nerd::nerd:
 

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EI doesnt prevent algae. It takes nutrients out of the equation as being a possible cause by eliminating the probability of nutrient deficiencies..

It is a bad mistake to lay every algae problem at the feet of nutrients, yet so many people do just that.

The prime suspects are usually too much light, unhealthy plants, and dirty conditions.

Too much light - needs no explaining except to say most people start with too much

Unhealthy plants - nutrient deficiencies, low CO2, up and down CO2 (google rubisco), poor CO2/nutrients as a result of inadequate flow.

Dirty conditions - organic waste build up, dirty filters, rotting material, lax water changes, etc.

Excess nutrients, within reason, does not cause algae.

Micro nutrients can be toxic at EI levels for many people, myself included. But this, however, goes back to unhealthy plants. Anything that stalls plant growth encourages algae, often at a very high speed.

So my strategy was to provide a lot of light, a lot of CO2, and have the limiting factor being nutrients. In my mind, plants have first pick so there would be no nutrients left over for algae.
Light should be the limiting factor, not/never nutrients or CO2.

Your second sentence...it doesnt work that way. Plants arent magically scarfing up every morsel of nutrients until there is none left over for algae. It is literally impossible to run a tank lean enough to starve algae. A bowl of water sitting in the sun will grow plenty of algae.

The focus should be on healthy plants, using just enough light, and general good tank husbandry.

What EI does is eliminate the need to worry about nutrient deficiencies so you can focus on more important things that are much harder to get right, like enough CO2 getting everywhere, good flow and super clean conditions.

Back down the light. Dose enough nutrients and forget about them. Focus on CO2 and good tank husbandry.

Watch the plants to see if they are growing well. If you are dosing EI and have symptoms like twisted deformed growth, chlorosis, wilting, then you may need to cut micros back to .05 or .1 ppm Fe.

Do not assume your CO2 is good just because you have a green drop checker.
 

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Burr740 nice post above. I found it very interesting and useful. One of the clearest and easiest to understand explanations I have read on the EI method.

Your results certainly speak for themselves.

PS. thanks for the nice plants I recently got from you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Light should be the limiting factor, not/never nutrients or CO2.

Your second sentence...it doesnt work that way. Plants arent magically scarfing up every morsel of nutrients until there is none left over for algae. It is literally impossible to run a tank lean enough to starve algae. A bowl of water sitting in the sun will grow plenty of algae.

The focus should be on healthy plants, using just enough light, and general good tank husbandry.
Thanks for the great reply burr!

My only issue conceptually with this is that plants don't "consume" light out of the water column... so if you have bare sand (for aesthetic reasons) light will still get there, even if light is the limiting factor for the plant growth.

The only logical way this would work then in my mind, is if you are saying you want enough light for plants to grow but not enough for algae to grow. But I know even low tech tanks have algae issues.

I am trying to figure out what I am missing here. :nerd:

Only other solution that makes sense to me is that growing healthy plants do indeed give off something that inhibits algae growth.

Do not assume your CO2 is good just because you have a green drop checker.
Definitely making that assumption. But also notice my fish start hiding/acting strange when it gets yellow. Combo of both are my indication. How else do I tell?
 

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Thanks for the great reply burr!

My only issue conceptually with this is that plants don't "consume" light out of the water column... so if you have bare sand (for aesthetic reasons) light will still get there, even if light is the limiting factor for the plant growth.

The only logical way this would work then in my mind, is if you are saying you want enough light for plants to grow but not enough for algae to grow. But I know even low tech tanks have algae issues.

I am trying to figure out what I am missing here. :nerd:

Only other solution that makes sense to me is that growing healthy plants do indeed give off something that inhibits algae growth.
Well algae can show up on plant leaves as easily as the hardscape or glass. It can also be non-existent on any of them.

Often for me, algae appearing on older growth is the first sign that a plant is not happy. Im talking about plants commonly kept in high tech environments, stems, foreground carpets, etc - not anubias for example.

Correct the problem, and a little bit of pruning, algae goes away. Ignore and it'll get worse.

I dont have an answer for all that other stuff. I just know that a clean tank full of thriving plants is somehow resistant to algae.

Definitely making that assumption. But also notice my fish start hiding/acting strange when it gets yellow. Combo of both are my indication. How else do I tell?
Just because you're gassing the fish doesnt mean there's enough CO2 for the plants.

I've gassed fish in a 75 gallon tank before with DIY CO2. Not because there was too much CO2, but because there was not enough oxygenation going on in the water column.

Having good surface agitation and overall circulation can allow fish to not even notice levels that would kill them otherwise. In other words you can inject more co2.

Where is your drop checker placed in the tank? Up high will always have the highest concentration. Try putting it down low, in a back corner somewhere that has the least flow. See if it still turns yellow.

Sorta like testing a chain. The strongest link is irrelevant, it's the weak spots you have to watch out for.
 

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Here is my understanding of why algae happens in planted tanks. I discussed the reasons behind why in this article I wrote on fertilizing differences between EI vs. soil based tanks vs. other types of fertilizing systems. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/23-algae/679601-algae-nutrient-deficiencies.html

Basically it boils down to plants compete with algae in many different ways, if plants are growing well algae isn't. If plants get deficiencies then algae takes over easily because the plants can't compete well anymore.

EI is fairly stable as long as you dose regularly which reduces algae, but still provides nutrients to algae that allow it to grow. Soil based tanks with no water column fertilizing provide plant nutrients, but not nutrients to the algae. So they are even more stable and have less algae issues.

Basically the best fertilizing system in my opinion is soil based CO2 injected tanks > EI >>> PPS > others
 

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When i began i tried limiting nutrients. However algae need so little to grow up. In the end the only thing i was able to limit was the plants and i was getting full of algae, one algae invasion after the other.

Michel.
 

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The more light intensity you have, the more algae problems you are likely to have. Unfortunately there are a lot of plants that won't do at all well with low enough light intensity to discourage algae growth. And, without high light, most of the beautifully colored plants that are so popular will just be nice green plants. So, if you are so sick of algae problems you are thinking about switching your hobby to raising rattlesnakes, first try using low light - 30-40 PAR - and learn to really enjoy brilliantly green plants that do well in your tank. Otherwise, you will just have to learn to use pressurized CO2 effectively, learn how to keep your tank and everything associated with it very clean, and learn how to grow healthy plants of the type you like.
 

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The way I've always viewed it:

EI is no more of an algae preventer than co2 and light. If these three things are in the right amounts then the plants maximize their uptake and rid the water of waste products from the nitrogen cycle, notably ammonia.

A new tank with good light is always the easiest target for algae, since the bio-filter is immature and it's very easy to have ammonia sit in the tank. The addition of carbon/purigen and large water changes is always recommended to rid the tank of organics before they break down. These act as a bridge to fill the gap unto the bio-filter matures and the plants 'really' start to grow.

A tank that has very little plant mass and good light is the next most vulnerable tank. It might have a good bio-filter, but not enough plants to assist with the uptake. These tanks are very hard to maintain, especially if good light is needed (think Iwagumi.) If a thinly planted tank goes through any disturbance to the substrate and ammonia is released it's very easy to get an algae/algae bloom since the plants aren't present to assist with the uptake.

I think every tank has algae spores, but each one has a different threshold on those spores turning into full blown algae based on the ammonia that is left in the water column for too long.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I think I may have had a Eureka moment! (A lot of credit to you house)

An excess of nutrients does not cause algae
Too much light even, might not cause algae

According to EI
Ammonia presence ends up, more times than not, being the cause of an algae bloom.

Therefore, the limiting factor for algae should not necessarily be light or CO2 or Ferts... but ammonia. And because of this, you can give your plants an excess of all 3 previous, which will just encourage them to grow faster and thus sucking up any ammonia in the water column... and thus prevent algae. If plants are limited in any of the 3 above, growth then slows which slows the amount of ammonia the plants will absorb, and thus allows ammonia to build up more... and then algae can set in.


Cool
 

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I think I may have had a Eureka moment! (A lot of credit to you house)

An excess of nutrients does not cause algae
Too much light even, might not cause algae

According to EI
Ammonia presence ends up, more times than not, being the cause of an algae bloom.

Therefore, the limiting factor for algae should not necessarily be light or CO2 or Ferts... but ammonia. And because of this, you can give your plants an excess of all 3 previous, which will just encourage them to grow faster and thus sucking up any ammonia in the water column... and thus prevent algae. If plants are limited in any of the 3 above, growth then slows which slows the amount of ammonia the plants will absorb, and thus allows ammonia to build up more... and then algae can set in.


Cool
I kinda like that. Let me enjoy this moment before someone ruins it. :laugh2:
 

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Under higher light,CO2 will be limiting factor for most of the more demanding plant's.
We can easily dump nutrient's in the tank to cover plant's need's even under very high lighting.
As mentioned,,just because fish gasp with amount of CO2 you are injecting, does not mean that the plant's are getting enough for the amount of light energy being directed at them.
That is where clean equipment/filter's,good flow that is not conflicting with flow from another direction,clean diffuser's,,proper sized diffuser's/pump's for reactor's,drop checker's clean and solution replaced regularly, drop checker's moved around low in the tank to see that the gas is getting down lower and to all area's as also mentioned comes into play.
I do not see ammonia as being much at play unless you root around in the substrate and or pull up and move plant's frequently,over feed,over stock,poor filter maint, irregular water changes,and or all of the above.
See Burr 740's post's above to be most pertinent.(not the only good advice,just pertinent from my view)
 

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For me the key is in the uptake and the processing of organics. There are algae spores everywhere lying in wait to become full blown algae.

If you put a glass of tap water in the sun, algae grows. No added nutrients, the sun drives them, but there has to be fuel. Similar if you put good light on a tank that isn't dosed or has no real plant mass, algae grows strongly. There must be fuel. The dying plants with no nutrients now add more NH4 to the process and algae really takes off.

A tank that is running well, plants are growing, no real algae, now you start to overstock and overfeed, you don't remove any decaying leaves, the tank develops algae.

All these scenarios have something in common. NH4 is left in the water column. It doesn't have to be a lot, probably not even measurable, but algae doesn't need a lot to go from inactive Spores to full blown algae. Plants need more.
 

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I've heard about growing plants producing chemicals that prevent algae... but that is not proven in depth and is very controversial. And it can't just be CO2... because I am pumping my tank with it well and still getting algae blooms.

So what in this case is stopping the algae from growing? :nerd::nerd::nerd:
If you put one unhealthy plant in the middle of algae free, fully planted well run aquarium then only the single unhealthy plant will be infested in algae.
 

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For me the key is in the uptake and the processing of organics. There are algae spores everywhere lying in wait to become full blown algae.

If you put a glass of tap water in the sun, algae grows. No added nutrients, the sun drives them, but there has to be fuel. Similar if you put good light on a tank that isn't dosed or has no real plant mass, algae grows strongly. There must be fuel. The dying plants with no nutrients now add more NH4 to the process and algae really takes off.

A tank that is running well, plants are growing, no real algae, now you start to overstock and overfeed, you don't remove any decaying leaves, the tank develops algae.

All these scenarios have something in common. NH4 is left in the water column. It doesn't have to be a lot, probably not even measurable, but algae doesn't need a lot to go from inactive Spores to full blown algae. Plants need more.
I agree with much of this.
Good husbandry is critical with high energy tanks where everything is happening at a fairly good clip, due in large part to the light energy driving demand for CO2,nutrient's.
With good healthy plant mass, which is best biological filter,most will never see ammonia for it is readily taken up by the plant's as fuel for growth along with biological media one might have in their filtration.(keep filter's clean)
Tanks with soft acidic water get algae also, and at lower pH,the ammonia is less of an issue,( Ammonium) which plant's much prefer.
High light,or low light, and ammonia will bring the algae for sure,but it isn't/shouldn't be much of an issue, less your really neglecting good,basic, tank husbandry and or have loaded substrate's ,along with the afore mentioned over feeding, over stocking,and dirty filter's (common).
At high energy light level's,you better be on top of plant/tank/equip maint ,considering everything is said to be happening at 10 to 15 X the growth rate (plant's,and Algae) of low tech,low light energy tank's.
Only way to slow down these tank's is lowering/reducing the light energy, which is primary driver of growth. IMHO:wink2:
 

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You can also use temperature as a limiting factor to plant growth (within reason), same way you use light to limit plant growth. Sometimes if tanks are running at full steam 10-20x higher growth rate and you can't be bothered trimming as much anymore, lower the temp a little. Still provide all nutrients (CO2, ferts etc) in mild excess, same rules apply, just slower growth rate.
 

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I agree with much of this.
Good husbandry is critical with high energy tanks where everything is happening at a fairly good clip, due in large part to the light energy driving demand for CO2,nutrient's.
With good healthy plant mass, which is best biological filter,most will never see ammonia for it is readily taken up by the plant's as fuel for growth along with biological media one might have in their filtration.(keep filter's clean)
Tanks with soft acidic water get algae also, and at lower pH,the ammonia is less of an issue,( Ammonium) which plant's much prefer.
High light,or low light, and ammonia will bring the algae for sure,but it isn't/shouldn't be much of an issue, less your really neglecting good,basic, tank husbandry and or have loaded substrate's ,along with the afore mentioned over feeding, over stocking,and dirty filter's (common).
At high energy light level's,you better be on top of plant/tank/equip maint ,considering everything is said to be happening at 10 to 15 X the growth rate (plant's,and Algae) of low tech,low light energy tank's.
Only way to slow down these tank's is lowering/reducing the light energy, which is primary driver of growth. IMHO:wink2:
I agree mostly as well.

I do think ammonia is a bigger issue though. I agree if you have a strong bio-filter as you pointed out large healthy plant mass and a good filter it would be less of an issue, but it's hard to say when the bio filter will be able to compensate for a change in the aquarium. It could be a variety of things that would increase the organic load. I don't believe that bacteria just grows to adjust that quickly. If there's a gap in the processing of organics algae grows.

This is very obvious to me with the new tank and thinly planted tank I mentioned in the previous post. There's not enough of a bio-filter to process ammonia so it's available to the algae spores that are already there. So many people come on here, start new tanks run their lights 8-10 hrs and have algae. The plants don't really kick in right away, so there relying on a unseeded filter which isn't enough.

Every tank is different, my 4 footer I would forget to turn the eheim back on for days sometimes and nothing happened to the tank. The tank's own biofilter was larger enough to compensate, but put that same eheim on a 10g-20g, and it probably wouldn't turn out so good, since it would represent a much larger part of the biofilter.

As mentioned I don't even think the ammonia is measurable, we are talking microscopic algae spores. What they eat is probably alot smaller.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
house, I wholeheartedly agree with the agree with your ammonia theory and like how it fits into other algae/plant discussions.
For two reasons:
1) This explains why you can have an excess of EVERYTHING (light, CO2, Ferts)... and still not get algae.
but if you have an excess in one area (plants limited by others) you can get algae at an uncontrollable rate.
2) It dismisses the need for plants to produce some "special chemical" that kills/prevents algae growth (controversial topic), which is something people have looked for but to my knowledge have not been able to find.

This is a very good point of Edward.
If you put one unhealthy plant in the middle of algae free, fully planted well run aquarium then only the single unhealthy plant will be infested in algae.
How does this fit into the discussion? I have a theory but want to know what you guys/gals think first
 
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