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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone -

I have been trying very hard to keep three planted tanks happy for about four months now, and while I am not asking for specific advice on my tank particulars right now, I feel like I need a general moral-boost on algae issues, if that's even possible.

My question is: do people actually achieve a no-algae or very low-algae status in planted tanks at some point if they balance all the inputs and their plants outcompete the algae? Or is this more of a philosophical carrot that is dangling in front of us, never to actually be realized?

When I first began researching planted tanks I was optimistic about finding a way to get the plants to outcompete the algae without having to use Excel or other drastic measures. But now, as I encounter many algae challenges, I am going deeper into my research and getting discouraged as I see so many experienced aquarists with really excellent set-up still experiencing algae issues and even algae disasters.

I am trying to understand what is realistic in terms of how much algae will always be present in a well planted tank. Will there always be thread algae that needs to be twisted off with a toothbrush twice a day? Will there always be BGA kind of lurking at a low level ready to explode if the parameters go off center? Will BBA be inevitable at some point? Will anubias always be covered with black or green gunk?

I am discouraged, and really want to understand what is possible to achieve with a good amount of effort. I'm not currently that confused about what I am doing with my own tanks, as I am managing the algae fairly well, but just not sure the plants will ever really be able to outcompete the algae as I had hoped.

Thanks for any feedback,

Lainey
 

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From how I understand it is that algae is always present. No matter what. Whether or not it starts to overgrow and colonize is a different story. I have found in my tank, that hair algae seems to grow only in a few specific spots on my driftwood. Which I pull off once a week during WC time. Why it likes these particular spots I'm not sure, but it grows back. It is usually full of shrimp poop to(i think that has a big role with it). Most of the driftwood is covered in flame moss. It does not intrude into flame moss either, just likes 3 little patches of the wood itself. Strange I know. I get no algae growing on plants or leaves or anything. Other than that I get tiny(and I mean tiny) amounts of green dust algae on the front glass after about 2 weeks if I don't scrape the glass. So I try to scrape at least once a week regardless if I see anything growing or not.

I'm sure more people will share there experiences with algae lol.
 

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Let me first say that I've only been at this for a year, and have not been trying to achieve the balanced tank / no algae nirvana you are after. For me, tolerating some algae and using algae eaters an Excel is far easier and gives me good enough results (for me needs). That's not to say I don't try to find ways of preventing the algae. I'm just not pedantic about it.

Although I do believe zero algae can be achieved with the proper balance of CO2, nutrients, and lighting, I don't believe it has anything to do with plants out competing the algae. I've never seen anyone give a logical explanation on how this can be when the nutrients are there in plentiful amounts for both plants and algae. It's not like the plants can simply consume the nutrients before the algae gets a chance.

I think the balance has more to do with keeping certain nutrients high enough to discourage some types of algae, and other nutrients low enough to discourage others. Like all life on this planets, there are bounds to what different algae can tolerate. There are probably other things involved like healthily growing plants emitting chemicals to suppress algae, but I've never read any well documented studies on this.

As for being able to achieve this balance, like you I've read countless postings from many members with extensive planted tank experience who still have problems with algae, yet seem to be doing everything right. But then I've also seen postings from those that seem to achieve no algae without really even knowing what they are doing right.

Don't get discouraged. You've only been at this four months. However, you also need to set expectations and realize that zero-algae likely won't come easily. You'll likely need to first gain a lot experience - and I'm talking not just about forum reading, but also hands on experience taking on different types of algae. Those that have been doing this for many years are often very savvy at spotting the early signs of algae and know exactly what needs to be brought back into balance to resolve it.
 

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From how I understand it is that algae is always present.
I think this is partly true, although probably not for every type of algae. "Algae free" tanks likely have minute amounts of some types of algae, or algae spores, just waiting for the right conditions for them to flourish. This is why a complete tear down and disinfecting is not likely to help.

Also, over the long run, if you don't currently have spores for certain types of algae in your tank, at some point you probably will, simply because it is not possible to sterilize incoming plants and critters well enough to avoid all spores.

No matter what. Whether or not it starts to overgrow and colonize is a different story. I have found in my tank, that hair algae seems to grow only in a few specific spots on my driftwood. Which I pull off once a week during WC time. Why it likes these particular spots I'm not sure, but it grows back. It is usually full of shrimp poop to(i think that has a big role with it). Most of the driftwood is covered in flame moss. It does not intrude into flame moss either, just likes 3 little patches of the wood itself. Strange I know. I get no algae growing on plants or leaves or anything. Other than that I get tiny(and I mean tiny) amounts of green dust algae on the front glass after about 2 weeks if I don't scrape the glass. So I try to scrape at least once a week regardless if I see anything growing or not.

I'm sure more people will share there experiences with algae lol.
Ditto on the GDA on the front glass, but I usually just wait a 4-8 weeks and then scrub it off. You need to decide what you can tolerate and how much effort your willing to put into it. I've just added a large numbers of nerites. I'm waiting to see if they will take this task off my hands. :icon_smil
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't think I am under the illusion that there is such a thing as an algae-free tank, but I guess I am trying to understand whether it is very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely that I will be able to achieve a low-algae tank or tanks. By low-algae I mean cleaning the glass once per week and snipping off a FEW algae-covered leaves maybe once or twice a week and maybe a couple of other anti-algae gestures weekly or bi-weekly. That is how I am thinking about a low-algae tank, but not sure it's even possible.

Right now I am doing daily algae control measures and I still know what I'm doing "wrong" in terms of my plants, ferts, CO2 etc., so I still have some work to do to achieve balance, obviously, but the algae is so persistent at this stage that I have become concerned about the long term prospects for a reduction in my work load at keeping it at bay.

The best aquarium store I have ever been to actually uses algae as part of their displays! For example, there is a huge window-front display with discus that features massive amounts of black beard algae. I actually thought it was a kind of moss for a while. This is the plant they feature, and they simply don't try to grow anything else in there. While I think this is an interesting approach, it's certainly not the one I was hoping for:(
 

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My advice would be to take a stab at getting things better under control by posting what problems you are having an listening to suggestions. I think you can obtain your goal without too much difficulty that way. If you have multiple algaes out of control, most likely you have too much light combined with too little of one or more nutrients and/or CO2.
 

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Yea a list of your setup and how you do things would probably help. Like what type of plants and how much photo period you use etc. At one time I had GDA start to grow on my Alternanthera leaves. It wasn't a bad breakout or anything, but I would gently rub the leaves before a WC to get some off. As I did research on GDA I heard that people noticed that phosphorus seemed to rid the problem. So I added a tiny bit more in my fertilizing schedule and low and behold, it disappeared.

Oh and are you sure that store was "showcasing" beard algae? I think they just couldn't get rid of it lol. The tanks at my house that have excess loads of BBA have low current and no ferts/co2/heater at all since there not planted. So as an experiment, I have threw some plants in (easy low light plants, anacharis, watersprite, crypts, anubias) and started adding excel and flourish(if i remember to) and the BBA is not as heavy as it used to be. I want to add a powerhead and some DIY co2 to see if that will have any effect. But there is no space and no more electrical plug room. The BBA isn't growing on the plants either, just on the driftwood and filter tubes. If BBA was green, it would actually look pretty neat lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the responses. I am not in a good position to write about my tank issues at the moment because things are in too much disarray and I am aware of multiple problems pending resolution. For example, all my tanks have always tested at zero nitrates and after testing actual nitrogen ferts in water I found out that my nitrate test is not working as the nitrogen ferts also test zero. So that is being ordered and apparently I have no idea what my nitrates are at or have ever been at, although nitrites and ammonia appear to be zero - getting all new test kits since who knows if those tests are accurate. Also, I recently had to break down my 37g to remove six Siamese Algae Eaters who had outgrown the tank and since I couldn't catch them with baited nets, had to rip out and replant all my plants, which didn't help things. Also, one of my Eheims seems to have broken so that is being replaced but hasn't arrived by mail. Once things settle down I can post my problems more accurately, and maybe the algae will be better under control.

I guess I just want to know where I'm headed, if I really try and do things right.

Will it always be about the algae versus the plants?

I think yes!
 

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Children Boogie
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I have zero algae in my low tech tanks. And some in my Hi-tech tank. If I ignore my hi-tech tank, it can easily become an algae farm.

So what you can get from this is that algae is driven by light, strong light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is very helpful to me because I have been waiting for algae to grow in my three nano low tech tanks, and so far, none has.

So, does this mean that high-tech tanks with lots of co2 and ferts will always be more prone to algae? Or if you crank the ferts and CO2 do you end up achieving the same type of low algae status in the high tech tanks too? Is it just harder with high-tech, or is it not really possible?

Thanks,

Lainey
 

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Children Boogie
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plants will create an environment where algae doesn't readily bloom into a nuisance. It's not really about out-competing for nutrients. If your plants are healthy, they block out lights, and soak up ammonia that might trigger algae. So in a hi-light tank, you must provide appropriate nutrients and CO2 to keep the plants healthy, otherwise you'll have all sorts of algae (dying plants will contribute to algae as well).


It's the same issue in a low-tech tank but the plant's demand on lights, nutrients, and CO2 are much lower, so they stay healthy in that environment.
 

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This is very helpful to me because I have been waiting for algae to grow in my three nano low tech tanks, and so far, none has.

So, does this mean that high-tech tanks with lots of co2 and ferts will always be more prone to algae? Or if you crank the ferts and CO2 do you end up achieving the same type of low algae status in the high tech tanks too? Is it just harder with high-tech, or is it not really possible?

Thanks,

Lainey
You've got part of it backwards. Strong light sets the pace so if you miss ferts or water changes or your CO2 runs out, you get trouble. As to your previous questions, it sounds like you are having lots of problems. Setting up a new tank is a delicate thing. I think the best way is to fill it full of plants, not tiny ones but really fill it up and dose 1/2 of EI for a week or two. I know the first inclination is to buy way too much light, set the timer for 12 hours and dump too much stuff in the water but it leads to a lot of problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I think I may be confused about lighting. My understanding is that there are plants that need high light or they won't survive in an aquarium, and there are plants that need low light and those will not do well in high light unless they live in shade.

So if this is the case, then why would high light cause such an excess need for nutrients and CO2? IOW in a low light tank you have plants for which low light fulfills their needs and with high light it's vice-versa (unless you plant shade-plants in shade).

The way you guys are posting, it sounds like in high light tanks we are actually creating excess light in order to abnormally stimulate growth. Is this correct? If that is the case, then it makes sense to me that algae would overgrow in high light tanks since there is too much of everything. I did not think this was the case.

Thanks for any clarification on this...

And BTW I have 3 watts of compact fluorescent per gallon in all my "high light" tanks. I know I could have higher, but I thought 3 WPG was appropriate for what I want to do: grow medium-challenging lush plants with minimal algae.

Lainey
 

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Dude.... Algae is omnipresent. Minimizing is as best as you can do. If someone tells you they have no algae.... run away!
 

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So if this is the case, then why would high light cause such an excess need for nutrients and CO2?
more intense the light = more energy in the photosynthetic system... think of it like fire. Bigger the flame, more wood in the fire place, more stuff (nutrients & CO2) is needed to feed the system.

The way you guys are posting, it sounds like in high light tanks we are actually creating excess light in order to abnormally stimulate growth. Is this correct?
Some people do have way too much light but note that sunlight is much stronger than anything we have. It depends on the bulb and on how efficient it is. The WPG rule doesn't work for our modern light bulbs. You need to use a light meter to measure the light but most of us can't afford it so we read the plants condition and the algae that shows up to tell us if we have too much light.

And BTW I have 3 watts of compact fluorescent per gallon in all my "high light" tanks. I know I could have higher, but I thought 3 WPG was appropriate for what I want to do: grow medium-challenging lush plants with minimal algae.

Lainey
 

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With high light and low CO2 or fertz, you won't get much growth, and the algae will have a field day. You need all 3 (high light, high CO2, and enough fertz) in order to get high growth rates. There is still a balance needed, though. You can't just crank up all 3 and expect good results.

EI is the simple approach to getting the right balance of nutrients without worry about testing nutrient levels, and can be adjusted based on your lighting levels.

You'll need to inject CO2 if you have anything more than low light. Sounds like you have high light. I think the target is 25-30ppm of CO2. Since I just have DIY CO2, I don't worry about my CO2 levels since mine won't get that high (and I keep my lighting below "high light" levels).

As far as low light vs high light plants, they don't always fit squarely into one or the other category. For example, I find that anubias and java fern, traditional low light plants, grow faster and have much larger leaves in my high light tank then in my low light tanks.

I also "grow" (if you want to call it that) melon swords in my low light tanks, but they just kind of sit there as nice looking foreground plants (only a couple of inches high with very small leaves). They grow a foot or higher in my high light tank, but I still like the way they look in my low light tank.
 
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