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Need help identifying the cause of BBA exclusive to the front row of my 21 long

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I have a co2 supplemented tank, 21gal long, that recently started having some mild bba issues. I'll include close up pics of affected plants as well as some pics of my overall setup.

I just can't figure out what's causing it, and it's only happening to plants in my front row, nothing else. From my novice eye, nothing in the tank seems visibly deficient in anything.

I want to outline maintenance routine before I go into any more specifics, as the level of attentiveness I pay to tank maintenance makes me want to rule it out, unless someone can see something glaring that I'm not doing enough.


Maintenance routine:
  • every Friday night ~75% water change. Filters off, glass scraped and wiped clean, seams and corners scrubbed with toothbrush; any trimming necessary that I haven't taken care of throughout the week, like if I'm replanting a certain group or relocating a group, is done. While moving any plants, substrate under the groups current and new spot is vacuumed while agitating with turkey baster.
  • All equipment is taken apart and cleaned. Filter hoses, co2 diffuser (inline diffuser gets a pipebrush through it), filter itself along with impeller and head, prefilter, all cleaned. Biomedia is rinsed off lightly in old tank water from any previous siphoning. Filter and equipment are set aside, then I move onto cleaning lily pipes, skimmer, temp and ph probe.
  • One all equipment is clean I check out individual plants again, then start the main part of the water change with substrate vacuuming. All of the substrate gets vacuumed, with the same turkey baster method.
  • RODI water is pumped in slowly, remineralized with calcium and magnesium sulfates to about 6dGH/30ppm Ca/10ppm Mg. Ferts are dosed. Equipment is turned back on. Light goes off for the night once I make sure everything's running right.

Filtration:
  • Oase biomaster 250, 16/22mm hose and lily pipes (dymax); inlet/skimmer combo on back left of tank, outflow on front left of tank.
  • Eheim skim 350 on back right of tank, outlet pointing left towards filter inlet. This is here for extra surface agitation, also helps direct flow across the back wall towards the filter inlet.
  • I modified the prefilter by switching to the orange sponges (maybe 30ppi I forget) and using a pvc pipe drilled out with a ton of holes in place of the prefilter tube.
  • The height of the inflow lily pipes, because of it being for 16/22mm hose: a couple of the slits in the bottom sit at/under the substrate. No way to make this higher because of the skimmer attached but it's annoying for sure.

Dosing:
  • EI dosing. Frontload macros at 12/4/14 with KNO3 as N source, daily dose burr's micros every morning for a weekly accumulation to just slightly under .5ppm Fe.
  • I've tested PO4 with a salifert freshwater kit and my as is adsorbing it heavily, so I did a two week trial run of daily dosing 4ppm PO4 ontop of current dosing. Everything seemed fine with it but it did not have an affect on this bba, yet. The 4ppm daily dose of phosphate was what was required to keep a measurable amount in the water column.
  • NO3 measures around 20ppm by the end of the week with salifert freshwater kit.

CO2 injection:
  • 1.4 drop, co2art regulator and inline diffuser, nothing leaking. Diffuser is as close to the filter as I can get it.
  • Starts an hour before lights on, ends 30 min before lights off. I know this seems like a small window but I'm at peak saturation by lights on.
  • Off gas tank ph is 6.48 (tested after 48hrs of sitting open in a room), injected ph is 5.08. I hit this shortly before lights on and maintain this exact number for the entirety of the photoperiod.
  • Everything I've read seems to indicate a major cause for bba is co2 fluctuation but I'm just not seeing it here. Microbubbles can be seen at every part and at every level of the tank. Flow looks good but not excessive anywhere. Surface agitation is heavy.

Tank uses ADA ver2 for substrate (3 inches, no slope); a wrgb2 16" above substrate, another hobbyist emulated my lighting setup with a meter and got ~110umols PAR at substrate in the tank's center; photoperiod is 7 hours long, that includes a half hour sunrise and sunset. Tank is 5months old and none of these things have changed in prob 7 weeks, meaning no changes in schedule or ferts or lighting etc except for the two weeks I spent testing the additional PO4 dosing. Stock is 5 cherry barb, 5 zebra danios, 3 kuhli loaches, and 6 otos.


Some thoughts or concerns I have:
- I want to hear people's thoughts on being able to rule out poor maintenance, poor flow, excess organics/detritus buildup, and fluctuating co2 for the cause of my bba. Everything is regularly done and kept in pristine condition. I'm in the tank every day checking on new growth progress, seeing how older growth looks, and pruning if and where necessary. I only feed every three days. I'll leave half of one hikari wafer on a glass feeding dish suctioned to the inside of the tank for four hours and remove anything uneaten after that. Three days later, I hand feed thawed frozen bloodworms with a pair of tweezers into the same dish. Dish doesn't stay inside the tank obviously. CO2 is monitored constantly with a Pinpoint monitor that gets calibrated every 45 days and stays on and in the tank 24/7 except when I'm cleaning it on maintenance days.

- Two weeks ago, to try to rule out the potential "excess organics" as a cause, I removed every plant from the tank, carefully removed any portions with algae, inspected and trimmed everything, and did a massive deep clean of the substrate. Required me pumping in dechlorinated tap repeatedly to have enough water volume to keep vacuuming the substrate properly. Took a very long time.

- As much as I don't seem to get any particulate buildup in the inflow, the slits in the intake lily pipe being under/at substrate bothers me alot, I want to hear thoughts on if this could be causing or contributing to my problem at all. I also don't know how to fix this if it is an issue as I can't move the pipe up any higher and still have the skimmer work. Every few days there will be a couple of individual balls of amazonia stuck to one of the inlet slits that I knock off with a toothbrush.

- Here's the biggest thing, the filter outflow where it is. Do you think the size of the out pipe, combined with the fact that that's where my co2 is coming out, could be causing the bba? (high flow of co2 on plants) I don't think it's very excessive flow, but like this is the only thing that explains it only affecting the front row of plants. Again, not sure on what to do about this. Maybe it's too close to the glass (almost against front glass)?
I tried moving it back a little further away from the front glass a fg plants and a little closer to the intake pipe last night, we'll give it awhile to see how that change affects things, but I second guess myself on that a little too.

Idk. I'm honestly at my wits end with this. With the rescape I did when I deep cleaned I cleared out the fg alot and I'm about to fill it back up with some erio rats, I just wanna get this bba problem figured out before they get here and I mess up some really nice plants.

Pics will be attached with the front row, filtration and flow setup, affected plants, etc. I know this is alot to read, if you made it this far I appreciate you.
Flower Plant Leaf Petal Terrestrial plant

Plant Purple Light Rectangle Wood

Flower Plant Plant community Light Botany

Purple Leaf vegetable Grass Terrestrial plant Groundcover

Plant Flower Purple Terrestrial plant Grass

Plant Botany Purple Terrestrial plant Grass

Plant Leaf Purple Textile Wood

Plant Botany Leaf Purple Window
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Looks to me like the tank is recovering and doing well after your thorough plant trimming and cleaning. If there's only bits of it left you can get rid of it by turning off filters and direct dosing some excel or h2o2 with a syringe and then turn filters back on after 10 mins.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Looks to me like the tank is recovering and doing well after your thorough plant trimming and cleaning. If there's only bits of it left you can get rid of it by turning off filters and direct dosing some excel or h2o2 with a syringe and then turn filters back on after 10 mins.
I was using excel to control it a little prior to the trim and clean, but this isn't leftovers, this is brand new bba from after the plant and trim
 

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That's a beautiful looking tank! And your routine sounds extremely thorough.... I think it could even be a little too thorough? I get the feeling that with these setups there is a natural order that wants to establish itself and sometimes it takes a little while.... and it can't happen if we're too intent on scrubbing everything.... The amounts I see look pretty small and like @Eric Tran says, should be easily treatable with spot-dosing... I'd also try to just give it some time and see which way it's going.... 7 hr photoperiod is reasonable but you could try to shorten it a little more.....

finally the thing about phosphate, are you sure there needs to be measurable phosphate in the water column? I mean even if the Amazonia absorbs it, that doesn't mean it's gone, right? The Amazonia doesn't eat it, it traps it down there and the plants can still access it through their roots, correct? Not saying phosphate is causing the algae, just wondering if you need to worry about it not being in the water...
 

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If you notice most of it is on older growth thats not in good shape. This is normal even in a tank with 'no algae'. Damaged or dying plant tissue is an open buffet for algae. Its what they eat and thats why its important to keep any dead or dying leaf tissue removed

Id say you are on the right track. That is some top shelf maintenance you do! lol Main thing now is focus on healthy plants, which you already have for the most part

Dont decrease the photo period, light has nothing to do with bba or that little hair stuff. Healthy leaves dont get algae. Some of those leaves still getting it are probably just old or traumatized from the recent tear down and clean. That was a good move btw. Probably just need to keep harassing whatever's left and be patient for a couple of weeks

Keep up the extra PO4 until the soil stops pulling it in, nothing to do with this algae unless it runs out and the plants get unhappy

As for flow. Not sure if the substrate down in front is getting algae or just the plants. But thats a lot of unplanted space. My theory on flow is bba thrives in high flow areas because there is more volume of their food (dissolved organics) passing over. Thats why filter outflow pipes always get it even with no algae in the tank - because so much water is making contact right there. Whatever the reason, flow isnt causing it. Those plants just arent happy enough to ward it off yet, and theres not enough of them

As healthy as those plants look, and as good as you're taking care of maintenance, this wont be a problem for very long. Something just got a little sideways...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I see a little BBA but most of the pictures show staghorn.
Was just going to say what @Asteroid said, that looks like Staghorn, not BBA. Now that everything is cleaned up and in good shape, a quick Excel spot does should get rid of it.
BBA on bv and anubias, stag on hyptis and downoi, or am I misidentifying bba?

If you notice most of it is on older growth thats not in good shape. This is normal even in a tank with 'no algae'. Damaged or dying plant tissue is an open buffet for algae. Its what they eat and thats why its important to keep any dead or dying leaf tissue removed
The man himself! Yeah, every time I think I'm on point with maintenance I realize another area which I need to work on. I like it that way! This hobby definitely offers endless opportunities for messing around with something new and learning continuously. Husbandry is my weakest spot and the area I want to improve on the most, especially things like how individual sp like to be trimmed.

Id say you are on the right track. That is some top shelf maintenance you do! lol Main thing now is focus on healthy plants, which you already have for the most part
Thanks alot man, honestly the maintenance piece is something I learned from talking with people like Gregg, reading his and your journals, etc. So I appreciate guys like you putting the information out for the whole hobby to benefit from; and it's the most accurate advice I've gotten too, it's really unbelievable what clean conditions and regular maintenance does to a tank--sometimes it's a pretty immediately noticeable difference too.

Dont decrease the photo period, light has nothing to do with bba or that little hair stuff. Healthy leaves dont get algae. Some of those leaves still getting it are probably just old or traumatized from the recent tear down and clean. That was a good move btw. Probably just need to keep harassing whatever's left and be patient for a couple of weeks

Keep up the extra PO4 until the soil stops pulling it in, nothing to do with this algae unless it runs out and the plants get unhappy
This is something I've heard such conflicting points of view on so thank you for addressing this specifically; I hear "turn down the light" alot, but, then I'd have plants that have to reprogram to adjust to a new set of variables correct? And they'll be vulnerable and algae prone while they're adjusting to conditions changing. To add to that, I never understood turning down the light as a response to algae (maybe as a proactive measure to begin with if you're just not planning on having very high light and running a tank that fast) and I see excellent hobbyists like Raj, Gregg, Adam Merat, etc running seriously high PAR numbers on immaculate tanks.

When I asked those guys how they have such high PAR at substrate I got the same answer from everyone: husbandry and maintenance. Stay on top of it and learn your plants, what they like and what they don't like, pay attention to their changes. That's what I'm focusing on, just something that can only be supplemented with reading and primarily requires more hands-on experience. So no shortcuts there, I just have to keep at it :)

I'm already seeing things about the layout I want to change, getting ideas on how to do my trimming technique a little different or better to get groups nicer and tighter, but I think I'm going to try to exercise patience for the next few weeks and not do any more major changes or moves. I trust your advice that some of the leftover algae could be from traumatized plants or just taking advantage of leaves that maybe were not in as great a shape as the rest of the plant at the time. I'll keep things stable for now and focus on trimming and spot dosing to get these last little bits out of here.

As for the PO4: I'm glad to hear a definitive answer on that. I was hesitant to dose like that because it seemed excessive but I calibrated that phosphate test and the results don't lie. I spent a while debating (being pretty new to everything) whether or not the adsorption of individual compounds such as PO4 in relatively big amounts like this would accelerate exhausting the aquasoil's buffering capacity for other things like carbonates, but I got some pretty good advice on that yesterday that lines up with what you're saying here, and this has pretty much put that worry to rest.

As hard as it was finding a definitive answer it definitely wasn't hard finding discussions on the topic, I got down some rabbit holes over on ukaps reading into this. I'm actually probably gonna have to up it above the extra 4ppm I'm daily dosing now, I'm trying to keep 4ppm in the water column through the week and I'm way lower than that for sure 24hrs after a dose.

As for flow. Not sure if the substrate down in front is getting algae or just the plants. But thats a lot of unplanted space.
Too much for sure. Part of the big tear down just cleared out the whole front of the tank the way I laid it out, so I'm looking around for a few different sp I can fill it up with. My downoi there is now showing some really really nice new growth fast, and I have a couple erio rats and 3 or 4 sulawesi coming in Friday, lines up perfect for the next water change and maintenance day. Would've opted for more of the sulawesi but didn't have much to spend this week, so planning on hopefully being able to fill the rest out even more the following week.

Btw, I meant to shoot you an update on how the micros were going (I'm Ryan Camaratta on fb) but was going to give it a full two weeks to see how everything responded. Well tomorrow's day 14 of your micro mix and as you can tell the tank is loving it (y) meta seems to have improved alot over how rough it was before (it's still suffering, I just have to narrow down what it's unhappy with still), the downoi will be the first I've successfully grown in this tank, and everything all around is showing really steady healthy growth. I'm dosing 1.5ml daily before photoperiod and I think based off the numbers you msgd me for that version I'm sitting somewhere just below or at 0.5ppm Fe for the week
 

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BBA on bv and anubias, stag on hyptis and downoi, or am I misidentifying bba?
I only see BBA on that broken/damaged/cut anubias stem, the rest looks like Stag or the pics are too blurry to ID.

As much as I don't seem to get any particulate buildup in the inflow, the slits in the intake lily pipe being under/at substrate bothers me alot, I want to hear thoughts on if this could be causing or contributing to my problem at all. I also don't know how to fix this if it is an issue as I can't move the pipe up any higher and still have the skimmer work. Every few days there will be a couple of individual balls of amazonia stuck to one of the inlet slits that I knock off with a toothbrush.
This is interesting. Because like @burr740 I believe areas of high flow are a great delivery system for organics. They then settle into the openings on damaged plants like that anubias. The reason why I think you see BBA in filter spraybars, etc is because the plastic has pores and the organics through the excess flow collect there and are able to settle into these pores in the plastic. The filter intake grabbing the AS can be releasing the ammonia/toxins into the high flow area and contributing to the algae in those areas. Similar to if you pulled up a plant from the AS and the dust cloud went into the column and wasn't removed manually and had all those goodies in it.

I do agree with burr that with strong plant mass, consistent good maintenance the problem will disappear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I only see BBA on that broken/damaged/cut anubias stem, the rest looks like Stag or the pics are too blurry to ID.



This is interesting. Because like @burr740 I believe areas of high flow are a great delivery system for organics. They then settle into the openings on damaged plants like that anubias. The reason why I think you see BBA in filter spraybars, etc is because the plastic has pores and the organics through the excess flow collect there and are able to settle into these pores in the plastic. The filter intake grabbing the AS can be releasing the ammonia/toxins into the high flow area and contributing to the algae in those areas. Similar to if you pulled up a plant from the AS and the dust cloud went into the column and wasn't removed manually and had all those goodies in it.

I do agree with burr that with strong plant mass, consistent good maintenance the problem will disappear.
Okay I appreciate that because I was thinking aside from the two stag pics it was all bba. My algae id skills are still weak 😉

See, that's exactly the logic I was thinking, I just wasn't sure if I was making it a bigger deal than it likely actually was. I had a large stag problem when I first set the tank up because I was focusing so much on substrate vaccing that I wasn't noticing all the post water change soil dust and particulate building up on plant leaves.

Seems like water rushing over balls of amazonia could possibly have a similar effect, I'm just not sure how minimal that effect would be after passing through the filter.

It's definitely an interesting piece of the puzzle, and I'm surprised I wasn't able to find more people with the same thoughts or issues; seems like a tank with this footprint and a standard sized 16/22 intake combo would be pretty common. The only solution I could really think of would be a reducer to bring the hose from filter to inlet down and run a 12/16mm intake pipe, but the uneven and/or restricted flow resulting from that makes me dismiss it as any kind of solution even before I try it
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's a beautiful looking tank! And your routine sounds extremely thorough.... I think it could even be a little too thorough? I get the feeling that with these setups there is a natural order that wants to establish itself and sometimes it takes a little while.... and it can't happen if we're too intent on scrubbing everything.... The amounts I see look pretty small and like @Eric Tran says, should be easily treatable with spot-dosing... I'd also try to just give it some time and see which way it's going.... 7 hr photoperiod is reasonable but you could try to shorten it a little more.....

finally the thing about phosphate, are you sure there needs to be measurable phosphate in the water column? I mean even if the Amazonia absorbs it, that doesn't mean it's gone, right? The Amazonia doesn't eat it, it traps it down there and the plants can still access it through their roots, correct? Not saying phosphate is causing the algae, just wondering if you need to worry about it not being in the water...
Hey sorry about that, somehow I missed replying to you! So I agree that the logic of your first point checks out, one would think that letting nature take care of itself would be the best bed and that to continually disturb it like this would upset things. And I think in some ways it does, but not necessarily in the case of how I'm doing it.

So my main thinking for that, I'd use my tanks biofilter as the best example. I think bacteria population is still definitely affected from thoroughly cleaning substrate, filter, tank etc, but the biofilter is strong enough that whatever hit it takes, if any, is negligible to the tank's overall health, and the benefits of the maintenance outweigh it by alot. The detritus and build up is taken out and cleaned, but nothing's scrubbed or sterilized and the biomedia is left alone if not just gently rinsed off. Keep in mind that I'm still really new at this, but I'm basing my thoughts on all of this on
1) other people in the hobby that I trust alot by their reputation and how their plants and tanks are kept, and
2) my own experience with my own tank so far

What I've learned from watching, reading, and talking to people like Dennis, Joe, Gregg, etc and alot of others, people with truly impressive planted tanks, is that so much hinges on maintenance and cleanliness and plant husbandry in a high-tech tank. Plant husbandry is something I struggle with, having never touched a plant in my life before I started into this hobby a little bit ago haha, and I can't find a good way to learn more about it any faster than what I'm doing now which is just playing around with different species and placements and seeing what effects what. So the only thing I can focus on while I stumble awkwardly through getting better at husbandry is keeping my hands in the tank as often as possible and keeping the plants and environment in tip top shape. When things are jacked up to this level and running so fast, one little slip up is more prone to send things sprawling out than if growth were slowed down a little bit more.

This bba was alot worse when it started, and now (even just a few days after writing this post) is almost entirely gone, and the new stuff I've planted hasn't seemed to be affected at all yet. I'm hoping burr is right and this is most likely the end of it. The thing here is, I haven't changed any parameters. Dosing, lighting/photoperiod/par, ferts used in the dosing, co2 concentration, flow, everything's exactly the same save for the increase in maintenance and the good once-over I gave the tank. I'm thinking it was a combo of being overdue for a deep clean because of all the moving around and disturbing things and rookie mistakes I've made in the early days of getting the tank set up, as well as my last layout probably just not being set up as well as far as the husbandry is concerned. I think I had more plants in places where they were unhappy before the new layout. And the new layout isn't perfect either, but...the only way to learn is to wait til something gets unhappy again :)
 

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Hey sorry about that, somehow I missed replying to you! So I agree that the logic of your first point checks out, one would think that letting nature take care of itself would be the best bed and that to continually disturb it like this would upset things. And I think in some ways it does, but not necessarily in the case of how I'm doing it.

So my main thinking for that, I'd use my tanks biofilter as the best example. I think bacteria population is still definitely affected from thoroughly cleaning substrate, filter, tank etc, but the biofilter is strong enough that whatever hit it takes, if any, is negligible to the tank's overall health, and the benefits of the maintenance outweigh it by alot. The detritus and build up is taken out and cleaned, but nothing's scrubbed or sterilized and the biomedia is left alone if not just gently rinsed off. Keep in mind that I'm still really new at this, but I'm basing my thoughts on all of this on
1) other people in the hobby that I trust alot by their reputation and how their plants and tanks are kept, and
2) my own experience with my own tank so far

What I've learned from watching, reading, and talking to people like Dennis, Joe, Gregg, etc and alot of others, people with truly impressive planted tanks, is that so much hinges on maintenance and cleanliness and plant husbandry in a high-tech tank. Plant husbandry is something I struggle with, having never touched a plant in my life before I started into this hobby a little bit ago haha, and I can't find a good way to learn more about it any faster than what I'm doing now which is just playing around with different species and placements and seeing what effects what. So the only thing I can focus on while I stumble awkwardly through getting better at husbandry is keeping my hands in the tank as often as possible and keeping the plants and environment in tip top shape. When things are jacked up to this level and running so fast, one little slip up is more prone to send things sprawling out than if growth were slowed down a little bit more.

This bba was alot worse when it started, and now (even just a few days after writing this post) is almost entirely gone, and the new stuff I've planted hasn't seemed to be affected at all yet. I'm hoping burr is right and this is most likely the end of it. The thing here is, I haven't changed any parameters. Dosing, lighting/photoperiod/par, ferts used in the dosing, co2 concentration, flow, everything's exactly the same save for the increase in maintenance and the good once-over I gave the tank. I'm thinking it was a combo of being overdue for a deep clean because of all the moving around and disturbing things and rookie mistakes I've made in the early days of getting the tank set up, as well as my last layout probably just not being set up as well as far as the husbandry is concerned. I think I had more plants in places where they were unhappy before the new layout. And the new layout isn't perfect either, but...the only way to learn is to wait til something gets unhappy again :)
Does make sense! And I do agree a clean tank is a very good thing ♥ I’m always steeling myself for when I get algae so I’m following with interest to see how your situation develops!
 
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