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Algae Eating Crew

April 30th, 2012

Believe it or not, but this piece of African bogwood used to be completely covered by black brush algae (BBA). I got my act in order, and have been routinely dosing the tank for the past few months, cranked up the CO2, and added some extra Amano Shrimp and Zebra Nerite Snails. As a result, I’ve literally witnessed a daily receding of this BBA as the algae crew have fed.

BBA on Wood

What’s very interesting is that I still feed the catfish in this tank veggie wafers, but I guess either the catfish aren’t sharing, or the shrimp/snails prefer the BBA. I honestly believe that it’s the zebra nerites that are doing more BBA eating than anything else in the tank. I had never previously realized that zebra nerites had such an affection for BBA, but I’m quite pleased that the latest crew seem to enjoy it.

BBA on Wood

As I mentioned, I regularly feed algae wafers to the catfish in this tank. While the shrimp and nerites don’t seem to go after these provisions, the Malaysian Trumpet Snails cluster around the wafers. Today I watched one MTS slither over the back of a Red Lizard Catfish who was also yearn for some veggie goodness.

Snail climbing on Red Lizard Catfish

The take away is that in my tanks, algae is inevitable. I’m going to get lazy on my dosing, CO2 is going to run out, or I’ll let a filter go slightly too long between cleanings. It’s good to know that when this happens, I’ll get some help from Amano Shrimp and Zebra Nerite Snails to keep things looking decent. My laziness is their gain!




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Algae: Spot Treatment Techniques

January 20th, 2010

While I have compiled a reference on getting rid of Algae in the Planted Aquarium, I did not talk extensively about spot treatment techniques to get rid of individual sections of algae where you just can’t seem to get rid of it. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to target your attack:

Syringe Treatment:

This method uses a cooking syringe like you would use to inject marinade into a turkey, but for the marinade, you use either Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) or Seachem Excel. First, it is very important that you temporarily turn off all of the flow in your aquarium. While circulation is incredibly important to maintain an algae-free aquarium, when you are spot-treating a specific area of the aquarium, you do not want H2O2 or Excel to disperse throughout the tank. Generally, I like to do spot treatments when I’m doing water changes, simply turning off the flow for the duration of the water change. Load the syringe full, and squirt the troublesome areas of your aquariums. I usually try to limit my spot treatments to a single syringe dose once every 2-3 days. Use caution, particularly with Seachem Excel, as prolonged exposure to over-dosing of these chemicals can injure or possibly kill your fish and invertebrates. I like to do a spot treatment to weaken the algae, and then let natural algae eaters like Amano Shrimp finish the job for me. Combined with water changes, proper CO2/nutrient levels/circulation, and an algae-fighting-crew, you’ll eliminate your troublesome algae in no time.

Old Toothbrush/Wire Brush:

Sometimes algae such as Black Brush Algae (BBA) completely covers hardscape items, making the syringe treatment seem excessive to fully rid yourself of the infestation. In these cases, it is often effective to vigorously brush the algae from the rock/wood with an old toothbrush. For large patches, it may be worth removing the hardscape item entirely, and scrubing it with a wire brush in a 5G bucket of water.

Bleach Treatment:

When you pull items from your tank, you have the opportunity to use harsher chemicals such as a watered-down 1:20 water/bleach solution to kill the algae. Never use bleach in your tank, except for completely empty aquariums — it will kill all of your plants and inhabitants otherwise. Ensure that whatever you bleach is rinsed thoroughly until you can no longer smell bleach on the item.

Spray Bottle:

For hardier plants such as Java Fern, Bolbitis, Anubias, etc you can remove them from the tank and spray them with H2O2 or Seachem Excel. Simply fill a small spray bottle with your solution, and lightly spray the plant. Always do this in a well ventilated area, preferably with a mask to protect yourself from any fumes. With this method, you do not need to inundate the plant, but simply a couple sprays, and then add it back into your aquarium. Alternatively, you can fill a small container with H2O2 and dip the plant for 1-2 minutes.

Conclusion:

Using a combination of these methods, along with the ones I’ve already outlined in my Algae in the Planted Aquarium article, you should be able to defeat any algae that enters your tank.

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Algae Disaster!

June 22nd, 2008

Admittedly, I’ve been milking my Nova Scotia pictures for all the blog posts I can get out of them. Let me fill you in on why that is. Exhibit A (for algae), see below:

Algae Filled 40G

Apparently, it was a bad decision for my to hang some house plants above my tank. At the time, I figured that they would help with high humidity levels, and add a nice accent to the room. Well, what I didn’t realize is that the hanging baskets leaked. I instructed my “tank watcher” to water the plants while I was away in Nova Scotia. Well, apparently, much of that water dripped through the fertilizer laden pots, and straight into my 40G tank.

Algae on the surface

Multiply that by 2 weeks worth of time, lots of light and additional dosing, and I came home to algae soup. I literally filled a quart container with just algae. I did a huge water change, and am still pulling quite a bit of algae from the tank. I’ll probably end up just tearing the whole thing down, and redoing it. It’s time for a new aquascape anyways! At least the fish don’t seem to be affected by the algae bloom.

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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

Business Broker

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.

Business Broker

Algae Wars – 20 High

September 21st, 2007

Ever since I setup this tank, I’ve been fighting terrible algae throughout. The wood constantly recovered itself with new hair and black brush algae. I would scrub it off with a toothbrush every couple of days, and back it would come.

IMG_9177

I’ve had thread algae, staghorn, BGA, you name it in here. I’ve always been adding CO2, but it must not have been enough to thwart off the black brush algae. I finally resorted to chemicals, by overdosing Seachem Excel by several times the normal recommended amount. Combining that an extensive cleaning of both the glass and ornaments, and adding a hang-on Mag filter for more circulation I think the tide is finally turning. I’ve also added in more plants to out-compete the algae for nutrients. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to work on the aquascape without worrying about algae ruining everything.

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