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Algae – Hair/Thread & Cladophora

February 29th, 2008

At the last GWAPA meeting, I gave a presentation called Algae in the Planted Aquarium. While preparing for the presentation, I had to gather a lot of information from a number of different sources on the Internet. I’ve decided to declare this week Algae Week, and share that gathered information by posting about two types of algae each day. This is the final installment featuring Hair/Thread Algae & Cladophora.

Hair/Thread Algae

Hair Algae

Hair/Thread Algae consists of long green filaments reaching as long as 30cm in length. It often mixes itself in among moss, and is sometimes grown purposely as an extra food supplement for tank inhabitants.

Cause:

  • Excess iron levels – Concentrations >0.15ppm

Cure:

  • Manual removal – Use toothbrush to remove as much as possible.
  • Maintain proper water change schedule – weekly / bi-weekly changes.
  • Rebalance Nutrients – Strive for the following nutrient levels: N (10-20ppm), P (0.5-2ppm), K (10-20ppm), Ca (10-30ppm), Mg (2-5ppm), Fe (.1ppm).

Cladophora

Cladophora

Cladophora is by far the toughest algae to remove from the aquarium. Forming green, tough, wool-like mats, it seems to favor intermingling itself into hairgrass, substrate, and hardscape items.

Causes:

  • Marimo Balls – Being in the same family as these algae balls, they can sometimes introduce Cladophora to your aquarium.
  • Healthy Conditions – Unfortunately, Cladophora seems to favor the same healthy water conditions that your plants require.

Cure:

  • Manual removal – Use toothbrush/tweezers to remove as much as possible.
  • Excel/H202 treatment – Use a syringe to spot treat problem areas.
  • Luck – Very difficult to 100% remove.

Sources:

Aquatic Plant Central – Algae Finder
AquaticScape




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Algae – Green Dust & Fuzz

February 28th, 2008

At the last GWAPA meeting, I gave a presentation called Algae in the Planted Aquarium. While preparing for the presentation, I had to gather a lot of information from a number of different sources on the Internet. I’ve decided to declare this week Algae Week, and share that gathered information by posting about two types of algae each day. This is the fourth installment featuring Green Dust & Fuzz Algae.

Green Dust Algae (GDA)

Green Dust Algae (GDA)

Green Dust Algae (GDA) is a “dusty” green film that appears on the surface of the glass. It’s caused by zoo-spores, and seems to avoid attaching to hardscape items or plant leaves.

Cause:

  • Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate a concrete cause for GDA.

Cure:

  • Leave alone – GDA appears to have a finite lifecycle, so that if you allow it to run full cycle without scraping it from the glass, it should harden, and fall off after roughly 21 days. After this time, scrap any remaining GDA from the glass, and do a thorough cleaning and water change.
  • Nerite Snails – Nerite snails can help eat through some of the GDA on the glass, but the approach above will likely have to be undergone for full removal.

Fuzz Algae

Fuzz Algae

Fuzz algae often shows up on plant leaves giving their edges a slightly fuzzy appearance.

Causes:

  • Nutrient Imbalance – Strive for the following nutrient levels: N (10-20ppm), P (0.5-2ppm), K (10-20ppm), Ca (10-30ppm), Mg (2-5ppm), Fe (.1ppm).
  • Low CO2 – Strive for 20-30ppm concentration of CO2, as permitted by fauna.

Cure:

  • Maintain proper nutrient/CO2 levels
  • Algae Crew – Siamese Algae Eaters (SAE), Amano shrimp, Otocinclus, and Mollys are known to eat this algae.

Sources:

Aquatic Plant Central Thread
Aquatic Plant Central – Algae Finder
AquaticScape

Business Broker

Algae – Staghorn & Brown(Diatoms)

February 27th, 2008

At the last GWAPA meeting, I gave a presentation called Algae in the Planted Aquarium. While preparing for the presentation, I had to gather a lot of information from a number of different sources on the Internet. I’ve decided to declare this week Algae Week, and share that gathered information by posting about two types of algae each day. This is the third installment featuring Brown (Diatoms) and Staghorn Algae.

Staghorn (Compsopogon sp.)

Staghorn Algae

Staghorn algae is aptly named as its branching resembles the antlers of a stag’s horns. They are coarse, branching strands that commonly attach to plant leaves and equipment. The strands can appear white, grey, or green in coloration.

Causes:

  • Nutrient Imbalance – Strive for the following nutrient levels: N (10-20ppm), P (0.5-2ppm), K (10-20ppm), Ca (10-30ppm), Mg (2-5ppm), Fe (.1ppm).
  • Low CO2 – Strive for 20-30ppm concentration of CO2, as permitted by fauna.

Cures:

  • Manual removal – Use toothbrush to remove as much as possible.
  • Water change – Maintain weekly/bi-weekly water change schedule.
  • Increase CO2 – This will stimulate plant growth, which should help the plants out-compete the algae for resources.
  • Bleach treatment – Dip affected items/hardy plants into a bleach/water solution using a 1:20 ratio of bleach to water. Before putting them back into the tank, make sure the item is free of any bleach odor.
  • Maintain proper macro (NPK) dosing scheme

Note:

  • Most fish/inverts will not eat staghorn algae.

Brown Algae (Diatoms)

Diatom Algae

Brown Algae, or diatoms, often present themselves as a brown, muddy, muck that covers plant leaves and hardscape items. It is rare to be seen in a fully established aquarium.

Causes:

  • Newly setup tank – Aquariums that have just been setup seem to be prone to diatom algae.
  • Excess nutrients – Silica in particular appears to be a trigger. Contact your water utility company for a report detailing silica concentrations in your water supply.
  • Possibly old bulbs – Sometimes, old bulbs can encourage the conditions for diatom algae.

Cure:

  • Time – Allow it to use up the excess silica, and it will often disappear on its own.
  • Manual removal – Siphon/scrape diatoms manually for quick removal.
  • Algae CrewOtocinclus and Nerite snails are fantastic at clearing a tank of diatoms. They help with other sorts of algae as well.

Sources:

Aquatic Plant Central – Algae Finder
AquaticScape

Business Broker

Algae – Blue Green (BGA) & Green Spot

February 26th, 2008

At the last GWAPA meeting, I gave a presentation called Algae in the Planted Aquarium. While preparing for the presentation, I had to gather a lot of information from a number of different sources on the Internet. I’ve decided to declare this week Algae Week, and share that gathered information by posting about two types of algae each day. This is the second installment featuring Blue-Green (BGA) and Green Spot Algae.

Blue Green (Cyanobacteria)

Blue Green Algae (BGA)

While often referred to by aquarists as an algae, Blue Green Algae (BGA) is in fact a bacterial slime that can easily coat everything in your tank. Appearing as either a green, black, or purple coating, BGA is perhaps best known for the unique earthy smell that it has when pulled from the tank. As a nitrogen-fixing bacteria, it will fully deplete your water column of any available nitrogen.

Causes:

  • Low nitrates – Usually present when all of the nitrogen/nitrate has been removed from the water column. While this is a triggering condition, it is also exacerbated by the bacteria itself using any remaining nitrogen.
  • High organics – Overfeeding, or excess organic matter in the tank can trigger BGA.
  • Old light bulbs – Sometimes present when light bulbs are no longer emitting usable light. This may be more of a matter of your plants no longer being able to out-compete the bacteria.
  • Poor water circulation – Circulation is key in a planted aquarium so that no “dead spots” are present where nutrients have been used up locally, but fresh ones are not being recirculated throughout.

Cures:

  • Increase nitrates – Dose nitrates until the concentration reaches ~5ppm.
  • Add fast growing plants – this helps to out-compete the algae for resources.
  • Blackout – BGA cannot survive without light.
  • Excel/H202 treatment – Use a syringe to spot treat problem areas. Then manually remove dead patches.
  • Erythromycin – use antibiotics at half dosage to kill the bacteria. Mardel Labs’ Maracyn contains erythromycin and has been used effectively without harming most plants.

Green Spot (Choleochaete orbicularis)

Green Spot Algae

Green spot algae is very commonly seen on the glass of tanks when there hasn’t been a water change in awhile, or when an inadequate fertilization scheme has been conducted. GSA also appears on long lasting leaves, such as Java Fern, Anubias, and Bolbitus.

Cause:

  • Low phosphate (PO4) levels – almost exclusively caused when phosphate levels are depleted.

Cure:

  • Scrap glass – Use a razor blade to most easily remove from the glass.
  • Dose Phosphates – Dose PO4 to a concentration of 0.5-2.0ppm.
  • Nerite Snails – Nerite snails can help you remove green spot from leaves, as well as, the glass.

Sources:

Aquatic Plant Central – Algae Finder
AquaticScape

Business Broker

Algae – Green Water & Black Brush

February 25th, 2008

At the last GWAPA meeting, I gave a presentation called Algae in the Planted Aquarium. While preparing for the presentation, I had to gather a lot of information from a number of different sources on the Internet. I’ve decided to declare this week Algae Week, and share that gathered information by posting about two types of algae each day. By the end of the week, I’ll have covered the most common types of algae encountered, along with suggestions on how to cure your tank. So off we go…

Green Water (Euglaena)

Green Water

Green water is free floating single-celled euglenoid protists. It contains chlorophyll a and b, plus carotenoids, giving them their green coloration, but they are not plants. With over 40 genera of Euglenoids and over 1000 species, this form of algae is one of the most abundant forms of life on the planet, and is an essential part of the food chain. Unfortunately, aquarists don’t want it in their tanks.

Cause:

  • Initial Setup – Usually present shortly after an aquarium is initially setup, prior to the full establishment of the microorganisms (free-swimming plankton that feed upon it).
  • Nutrient Imbalance – Strive for the following nutrient levels: N (10-20ppm), P (0.5-2ppm), K (10-20ppm), Ca (10-30ppm), Mg (2-5ppm), Fe (.1ppm).
  • Medication – if the medicine affects the biofilter of the tank.

Cure :

There are a number of cures for green water:

  • Blackout – leave the lights out, and block out any ambient light from the tank for 5 days. Your plants have reserves that the algae does not, so they will survive, but may look a little ratty for a week or so.
  • Diatom/Micron Filterfine particle filters can clear the water.
  • UV Sterilizer – zaps the algae with ultraviolet light, clearing the water. Some reports say that UV light also affects nutrients in the water column.
  • Flocculants – Clumps small particles together, allowing your mechanical filtration to remove them from the water. i.e. AquaClear
  • DaphniaPlaced in a breeder net, the daphia will consume the algae.
  • Small Water Changes – do small (5-10%) water changes, every day until clear.

Notes:

  • Avoid large water changes, as that prevents microorganisms from establishing themselves.
  • In addition to the cures, make sure to identify and eliminate the source of the problem, or it may return.

Black Brush/Beard (Rhodophyta)

Black Brush/Beard Algae

Black brush, or BBA, algae can be one of a number of specific genera of “red” algae in the Rhodophyta family. Most of the algae in this family are actually marine, but a few freshwater species exist that particularly target our planted aquariums. This algae may be black, brown, red, or green in coloration, and can quickly coat your plants and hardscape if not kept in check.

Cause:

  • Nutrient Imbalance – potentially excess N, P, Fe. Strive for the following nutrient levels: N (10-20ppm), P (0.5-2ppm), K (10-20ppm), Ca (10-30ppm), Mg (2-5ppm), Fe (.1ppm).
  • Low pHNeil Frank observes that African Rift tanks never have BBA. It’s believed that BBA thrives in acidic environments, which is unfortunately what most plants prefer.

Cure:

  • Increase CO2 – This will stimulate plant growth, which should help the plants out-compete the algae for resources.
  • Excel/H202 treatment – Use a syringe to spot treat problem areas. Then manually remove when BBA turns grey/white.
  • Manual removal – Use toothbrush to remove as much as possible.
  • Bleach treatment – Dip affected hardscape items/hardy plants in a bleach/water solution using a 1:20 ratio of bleach to water. Before putting them back into the tank, make sure the item is free of bleach odor.
  • Maintain proper water change/dosing schedule – weekly / bi-weekly changes.
  • Algae Crew – Siamese Algae Eaters (SAE) and Amano shrimp are known to eat this algae.
  • Copper (not recommended) – There are commercial algaecides containing copper that will kill BBA, but they will mostly likely also kill your plants.

Sources:

Aquatic Plant Central – Algae Finder
AquaticScape
The Skeptical Aquarist

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GWAPA – February 2008 Meeting

February 24th, 2008

Yesterday, GWAPA held their February meeting down in Vienna, VA at Rick & Mary’s home. I had been preparing for this meeting for the last couple weeks because I gave the meeting’s presentation on Algae in the Planted Aquarium. I thought the presentation was pretty well received, and I hope the members in attendance felt the same way.

Me giving the Algae presentation

Rick and Mary had two tanks on display, a 75G and an ADA cube, both which were planted very nicely. In my haste, I forgot to get pictures of their tanks, but the 75G is a nice jungle-style, open-top tank with Bacopa monnieri and Ludwigia repens growing emersed out of the top of the tank. This tank was also outfitted with a neat pH/temperature monitor, and automatic water changing system. Mary’s ADA tank was recently planted in the Amano style, with white sand creating a path from front to back, and was well on its way to becoming a fantastic scape.

Look at the size of this auction!

The meeting set a GWAPA record for attendance with 39 people showing up. With many of them bringing items for auction, the auction was huge with over 130 items for sale, including many plants that are very rare in the hobby. I managed to come away with Ludwigia arculata, Goo obo gudgeons, Lagenandra thwaitsii, Eleocharis parvula, and Limnophila aquatica. The gudgeons are F1’s, bred by a club member, and will go in my 54G with my other rainbowfish. I’m still figuring out where all the plants should go.

More pictures/info about the meeting available on GWAPA’s website.

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Aquatic Plants Out of Water

February 21st, 2008

When I got back from Florida last year, I started a small emersed setup in my office to keep some of the cryptocorynes we bought there. First, an emersed setup is one that allows you to grow your plants terrestrially, or out of the water. Really, all that is required is a light, a closed container to maintain proper humidity, and some sort of fertilization plan. It’s not much different from starting seeds or a lite version of hydroponics.

Emersed Setup

Why would any planted aquarium keeper want an emersed setup? There are many reasons, but one good reason is to more quickly grow out enough plants to start a new aquascape. It’s also a good place to store plants that you want to keep, but don’t want in your current aquascape. Or, you can use one to flower your plants for get seeds, or just simply to see what the terrestrial version of a plant/flower looks like.

Dome and Emersed Tank

I started with a simple seed-starting tray and dome (above) from the hydroponics store. Make sure to get a high dome so that there’s room for your plants to grow vertically. Just recently, I transferred all of my plants from that dome/tray setup into a 10G aquarium in order to gain even more height.

Moss Pot

I use mostly coconut-fiber pots filled with a mixture of leaf compost and ADA Aquasoil. This is especially good for most cryptocorynes, but works for other plants as well. Then, after planting each plant, I lightly cover the surface of the soil mixture with moss. Mosses have a natural anti-fungal agent that helps to prevent your plants from being overwhelmed with white-fuzzy-fungus that can easily ruin the whole setup. After that, I fill the container to a water level of about an inch below the rim of the pots. This supplies the pots with a constant water source. Finally, I’m using plain fluorescent strip lights over top, and a small powerhead to circulate water around the tank.

Emersed Tank

CO2 is not a concern because it is abundant in the atmosphere. Algae doesn’t grow out of the water, so all of your leaves will be algae free. These two things are the largest reasons many of the large aquatic plant nurseries grow their plants emersed before they arrive at your local fish store. For fertilizers, you can use hydroponics solutions, dry ferts, or even aquarium liquid ferts.

Anubias nana 'petite'

Currently, I’m growing Cryptocoryne moehlmannii, Utricularia graminfolia, and several Anubias barteri nana ‘petite’. I want to build up a nice supply of A. ‘petite’ for some upcoming aquascapes. I’m curious to try and flower the Utricularia, and I just haven’t managed to move the crypt to a tank. I hope to expand the number of plants grown this way now that I have more space in my 10G aquarium.

Cryptocoryne moehlmannii Emersed

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Catfish Like Zucchini

February 20th, 2008

For many catfish, specifically “suckerfish” like plecos, it’s often stated that you want to keep wood in your aquarium as it’s an integral part of their diet. It’s also true that they ought to be fed other vegetable matter, such as algae wafers, veggie-based pellets, and so on. Well, fresh, clean vegetables are also a cheap and much appreciated treat for these fish.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

We had zucchini as part of our dinner last night, so rather than throwing the ends down the disposal, I cut the stalk off, and set aside 4 small circles of the squash for my catfish. Now, these vegetables were certified organic, so I was fairly confident that they would be pesticide free. In the summer we grow our own vegetables, so we know their source as well. If there’s any doubt, at the least do a thorough washing, and at the best, don’t throw them in your tank. Also, if they’ve been contaminated with any oils, butter, or seasonings, don’t put them in the aquarium.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

The problem with fresh zucchini is that it floats. Placing the pieces in a small dish with a bit of water, I microwaved them for 4-5 minutes, or until they stopped floating. This boiling process breaks down the cellular walls, allowing them to become water logged. Alternatively, you can tie them down to a heavy object. The last step is to slice a couple notches in the rind of the squash. The reason being that the catfish eat out the soft core, and could potentially get the “ring of rind” caught around their bodies.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

At first, when I dropped the cooled zucchini into the aquarium, none of the fish took much notice. I was surprised that the cories didn’t seem to care for it at all. Then, my chinese algae eater (CAE) found one of the pieces, and started going to town. Two other plecos (Ancistrus sp. L279) took notice and latched onto the same piece. A rigmarole of back-and-forth swapping of the vegetable pieces ensued for 20 minutes before I let them continue on for however long.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

Even when not scraping the inner core of the zucchini, the CAE sat over top of one of the pieces, claiming it as his own. While this was going on in my 54G, Red Lizard Catfish and some cherry shrimp were devouring two pieces in my 75G tank. Over the next day or two, I’ll pull out the rind once all of the “good stuff” has been eaten.

Bottom line, if you’re chopping squash for dinner, set aside a couple rounds for your catfish — they’ll love you for it!

Business Broker

Back to the Falls

February 18th, 2008

Today, with the day off work for President’s Day, and the 70 degree weather outside, my wife and I decided to hike back to the falls at Patapsco Valley State Park. You may remember that the last time we visited them in autumn, that the falls were reduced to nothing more than a trickle. Fueled by some recent precipitation, I was very pleased to see that they have been restored.

Patapsco Valley State Park Falls

I was also surprised to see how green many of the ferns and mosses were, despite some really frigid temperatures last week. I guess these particular plants are native, and thus well adapted to the temperature zone. If you happen to be local to the Maryland area, Patapsco Valley State Park is a wonderful way to walk away an afternoon.

Patapsco Valley State Park Falls

With many more miles of trails than you can possibly traverse in a day, it’s a great place to visit over and over again. After viewing the waterfall, we continued our hike, seeing a number of types of mosses, birds, and even a whole flock of 10-15 deer. A couple of them stuck around to let me take their picture. They were not very interested in me moving any closer than this, however.

Deer in Patapsco Valley State Park

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Microsorum sp.

February 16th, 2008

Last fall, two GWAPA members, Jim and Ghazanfar, traveled to Europe to attend the European Cryptocoryne Society’s (ECS) annual meeting. Armed with all of the proper phytosanitary documents, they were able to bring back a number of species of plants from the meeting. One of these plants is a currently unidentified Microsorum species that is quite different than any of the other Microsorum (Java Fern) species we’re currently keeping in the United States.

Microsorum sp.

This particular specimen has a many more branches than your typical Java Fern. At first, we thought it might be the Tropica cultivar, Microsorum pteropus ‘Tropica’ ,but after comparing multiple pictures, that seems to have a fatter fern with my smaller saw-like edges coming off. The species Ghazanfar & Jim brought back looks much more like a hand with multiple fingers, or a trident’s staff, with narrower leaves.

Microsorum sp.

It grows just as quickly as your regular Java Fern, but unlike the Windelev variety, the irregular leaf shape appears to be present on plantlets forming on the end of leaves, in addition to new leaves from the rhizome. I think it’s a little bit prettier, as the narrower leaves bend down slightly, creating a cascading effect that you don’t usually get from a much more upright Microsorum pteropus.

Microsorum sp.

I’m hoping that eventually the folks in Europe will help us identify exactly what this fern is. But until then, I’m going to enjoy it as a centerpiece in my 75G aquascape. More info/pictures can be found on APC.

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