THE LOST WORLD
A 10 gallon Experimental Algae Repulsion Tank.
"Lost World" Specifications
Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Date Started: July 22 2007
Equipment: Aquaclear 200 containing, polyfibre, bag of purigen, and bag of ceramic rings/seachem matrix stones + Hagen Elite Mini Submersible Filter containing polyfibre and garden peat moss(to promote beneficial microorganisam and added circulation)+ 9 watt "AA" brand Ultraviolet Sterilizer with powerhead.
Substrate: Regular gravel mixed with fluorite and schultz aquatic soil.
Lighting: Canopy from 20 gallon retrofitted with 2 18 inch undercabinet fluorescent fixtures with one 15 watt terrestial plant growth tube(Aoguang - dont't know much about specs for this as it came with one of the fixtures and I have not seen replacements matching that name) and one 15 watt Phillips Plant and Aquarium tube for a total of 30 watts. Photoperiod is: 10 Hours Split.
Fertilization: PPS-PRO(with no phosphate as my tap water contains extremely high phosphate levels)
Tank Temperature: 25 - 29 degrees celcius. I don't use the heater as I find that my room temperature does not fluctuate significantly to effect the tank temperature.
Tank PH: 6.5 vs Tap Water PH of 7.0
Nitrate: Approx 8 ppm.
Ammonia 0 ppm, and Nitrites: 0 ppm.
GH: 80 Mg/L(slightly hard vs my tap water which measured as soft at 40 Mg/L), KH: 10 Mg/l(? in need of buffering as per test kit vs my tap water which measured as 30 Mg/l- associated with a low PH)
Chelated Iron: 0.1 Mg/l, Non-Chelated Iron: 0 Mg/l, and phosphates: 5 Mg/l(my tap water measured 3.5 Mg/l so looks like I may have to modify my PPS-Pro recipe to compensate).
Inhabitants: 2 Marble Hatchets, female betta, Bolivian Ram, Keyhole Cichlid, 3 Ottos, a Bristlenose Pleco, neon tetra, and an Amano Shrimp.
Comments: My experimental Algae Repulsion System. Will the "Lost World" be successful in permanently repelling the forces of algae without c02 and Fluorish Excel backup, or will be over-run with algae over time?? Is algae part and parcel of having a planted tank and unavoidable as the experts allege?? Will these combined anti-algae preventative measures solve one imbalance only to create another imbalance leading to other problems?? Those are the million dollar questions. Stay tuned; the battle lines have been drawn. This is a work in progress.
A Big Thank you to the fine folks at Aquariumplantcentral, especially John N, Edward, AaronT, Jimbo205, Newt, HoppyCalif, Left C, BertH, Tom Barr, and Dwalstad for their kind guidance and help, and for motivating me to tackle this project. I would also like to thank the fine folks at plantedtanknet for all their help and guidance. I don't normally recommend paying for membership on any forum, but given the wealth of useful information and helpful members on these two forums, I would recommend everyone who joins consider becoming a supporting member.
The "Lost World" was a tank that was created out of an "emergency need." When my 20 gallon non-planted tank sprung a leak, I had little choice but to transfer all the fish to a 10 gallon spare tank. The "Lost World" was the only refuge or safe haven for these fish, who were forced to flee their home.
The forced transfer resulted in an overstocked 10 gallon tank and forced me to think about what steps that I could take to best accomodate the fish and prevent excess bioload problems.
I also considered this a blessing in disguise because it gave me an opportunity to experiment with some controversial algae prevention measures, many of which flew in the face of conventional wisdom. After having a 2.5 gallon tank that had been the victim of a hostile algae takeover despite my best efforts to defeat the algae, I wanted the challenge of seeing if I could implement measures that could prevent algae which appeared to be a problem that those with planted tanks were struggling with. From reading many posts in forums related to aquarium plants, I was astonished to see how many people struggled with algae. Many of these people were not just newbies, many were individuals who had tanks for many years, were fully aware of how to fertilize, of best light requirements,were masters of nurient balancing and testing, and who were using pressurized C02. And yet they appeared to constantly battle bouts of algae. And of course what is more interesting is the fact that many people give up on aquarium plants cause they seem to be unable to grow them without having their tanks succumb to an algae bloom. Many of these individuals blame the plants and inaccurately conclude that aquarium plants are not worth the effort because you will only court an algae bloom in your tank if you try and grow them. I believe that too many people in the planted tank hobby get caught up in theory or someone's else's say so instead of experimenting for themselves to see what works and what does not. I believe this is a big mistake when you consider that many times in life, theory does not always translate to reality. Conventional thinking says: give the aquarium plants the nutrients they need and you won't have to worry about algae. Okay, as a algae preventative I agree, but when this is offered as a solution for dealing with an algae outbreak, I am not totally convinced. First hand experience and observation tells me otherwise. After my 2.5 gallon tank had a nasty, persistent algae outbreak, I decided to follow the Seachem Dosing Schedule for a 2.5 gallon tank. The idea was that addressing and fixing nutrient imbalances that were at the root cause of the outbreak should establish balance and the algae should recede. This is not what happened, the plants began pearling in the midst of the algae and the plants appeared to hold their own growthwise. The measures made no dent whatsoever in reducing algae or reversing the outbreak. It seemed that the existing algae was enjoying feeding off the influx of new nutrients as much as the plants were. I am also perplexed by the fact that you have many individuals who dose ferts religioulsy, ensure optimal lighting levels, test water to ensure that their tanks have the "optimal" range of nutrients based on an alleged experts definition of what represents the ideal range, dose/overdose chemicals like Seachem Excel which is known to inhibit algae, and who inject c02 within ideal ranges. When this is all done and the dust settles they still find themselves dealing with algae outbreaks. So what else is going on to promote algae growth??? When you wade through the debate about what causes algae, how best to prevent it, and what works and does not work, One thing is clear. Algae is complex and different types of algae have different causes and are a result of a interplay of many complex factors: there is no one solution to prevent algae. This tank was really set up to answer that long age old question: Is it possible to set up a low maintenance planted tank with the choice of appropriate plants, fertilization scheme, no specialized additives(Fluorish Excel), no C02 injection, and anti-algae measures that would enable anyone to maintain a beautiful algae free tank, or is this unrealistic? Some Natural Planted Tank folks would say yes minimal effort algae free tanks are a reality and have been doing it for years, but this is an alternative to a Natural Planted Tank for those who don't want to mess with garden soil as a substrate.
The "Lost World" uses a "machine gun" approach to prevent algae. You can think of it has a fortress designed to repel algae. "Beauty is also in the high of the beholder." I am not a master aquascapist, but too me this is a beautiful tank. I tried my best to address both "form" and "function." I consider the "Lost World" a LMPT(Low Maintenance Planted tank). I still do weekly water changes because I believe in the benefits of regular water changes and given that the tank is overstocked, I am not about to make that leap of faith and assume that the plants will take care of everything, There is a theory floating around that unchanged/old aquarium water repels algae so not doing water changes my be good for algae control. No/minimal water changes was not something I was comfortable implementing as part of this experiment.
The "Lost World" is an attempt to test many "theoretical" algae prevention measures. I also implemented some measures that I observed in my other tanks to slow down and in some cases prevent algae from forming. The conclusion that I came to was that "an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure." The goal to prevent algae, so that one was not forced to engage in constant battles with algae once it formed and kept returning. The plants in the lost world include low maintenance plants, with some chosen to specifically prevent algae. I did not implement C02(as this was to be a low maintenance tank and the choice of plants which may grow more quickly with C02 injection will do well without it) or excel. While I did consider using Excel, it would have forced me to rid the tank of one plant(egera densa) that is crucial to this experiment given the plant's sensitivity to Excel.
"Lost World" plants were chosen on the basis of their hardiness and ease of maintenace and minimal growth demands. The plants include: Tiger Lotus(including some sprouting bulbs),rotala indica, anubias, java fern, cryptocornes(wendtii and willisii), java moss, aponogenton(including some sprouting bulbs), egera densa, cardamine, and cladophora Aegagropila(moss balls).
The following are algae prevention measures to fend off algae? By the way, I know some people reading this will try to enter into and entertain a debate about why this will not work or why it is flawed. While I do welcome constructive feedback and recommendations/suggestions, I did not post this looking for a debate so I will not enter into or entertain a debate. The whole idea behind this was to put into practice some controversial algae prevention measures and let nature take its course. The outcome of the experiment itself will determine whether these measures were flawed or worth the effort. I believe "the end justifies the means." Let's wait 3 months and see what happens. Then, we can talk about what went wrong and why. It well could be that some of these algae prevention are measures are simply urban legends or old wives tales.
As it stands now, as per conventional thinking(http://www.aquaticguru.com/article-algae-problems.asp), this tank is doomed to be over-run with algae, because it has all the ingredients ripe for an algae take over, including overstocking, excessive oxgenation via excessive filtering, and excessive tap water phosphates.
For the record, this experiment is not about success or failure but more about determining whether controversial algae prevention measures have any merit. Some experts may outright discount these measures stating that they are nothing more than the equivalent of "snakeoil" treatement for algae. For these "experts" there way of preventing and treating algae in a planted aquairum is the right way and it is either their way or the highway. I have only have two things to say to these experts:(1)Try and keep an open mind as difficult as it may be, and (2) If you Google these measures, you will come across, some "exceptions to the norm," which would demonstrate that some people have experienced success using one or more of these anti-algae measures. To truly make your point, explain why there are exceptions to the norm or set up tanks in which you actually implement these measures to see if they actually work instead of outright discounting them. Otherwise, with the mixed results out there, from a Scientific Perspective, all you can say is that the evidence is inconlusive re:the effectiveness of these measures.
For anyone interested in further exploring these anti-algae prevention measures, below are some links that would give some credence to these measures.
Using a UV sterilizer to prevent some types of algae.
Using Barley Straw to prevent some types of algae.
Use of Cladophora aegagropila Balls as a possible algae preventative
Split PhotoPeriod as a possible algae preventative.
Heavy/Dense aquarium planting as a algae preventative.
Egera Densa to prevent Blue Green Algae(BGA). This is probably by far one of the most if not the most controverial measures to prevent BGA. The interesting thing is that you will often hear the some experts outright denounce this measure. Now, I am not saying they are right or wrong, but do a google search and you will find that some people have claimed success in usng Egera Densa to battle BGA, so what is really going on???
As a case in point and not the only one. The difficulty with using Egera Densa as a BGA preventative in this experiment is the use of a UV sterlizer. A UV sterilizer in and of itself pretty much prevents the formation of BGA and I have yet to personally observe any one of my planted/non-planted tanks with a UV sterilizer develop a BGA outbreak. Therefore, to totally control for the influence of a UV sterilizer, I would have to remove it, which is not something I want to do. As this is a work in progress, I will likely remove the Egera Densa, replace it with another fast growing stem plant, and then use Seachem Excel(at double or triple doses) as an added algae preventative.
The "Lost World" uses PPS-Pro fertilization to prevent or address plant/nutrient deficiences that could give rise to an algae bloom. Some state that excess nutrients in water contribute to Algae Blooms. Whether this is true or not, I decided to implement a fertilization scheme that made use of minimal fertilization. Hence, this was my reason for choosing PPS-PRO vs EI fertilization.
I am waiting to get some barley straw to add to test as an algae preventative. I have also added garden peat moss as filter media enclosed in some polyfibre in the Elite mini filter. The peat moss is to promote beneficial microorganisms that some say can play a role in algae prevention. It is also theorized that using barley straw results in a chemical reaction that releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide which would prevent the formation of some types of algae. Many individuals have successfully used barley straw in ponds to prevent algae. This is to test whether this is applicable to an aquarium.
40% of the tank contains plants to prevent algae from getting a foothold as that mass of plants should outcompete the algae for nutrients that the algae requires to establish itself.
Using algae to fight algae. Moss Balls/Marimo Balls/Tribbles (Cladophora aegagropila) are known to use the same nutrients as algae so by using these balls to deprive the algae of a food source, algae should not form.
The plant Egera Densa is known to naturally secret an antibiotic substance known to prevent the formation of blue green algae. Hence, the tank has 3 huge stalks of Egera Densa for this purpose.
Cardamine was used as a floating plant to absorb any excess nutrients to prevent algae from having a food source. I wanted to use water lettuce. Unfortuntely, I was unable to locate a local supplier. I thought of using Duckweed but Duckweed seems to get into anything and everything and is a pain to eliminate.
Use of a filter that creates excessive surface agitation. This is supposed to be a real "no no" I know. The so called experts will say, you are not supposed to do things that will drive off C02 given that plants are so dependent on what litte C02 they have available. On a small scale, I had a 2 gallon unplanted tank at work with 1 peppered cory cat fish. The tank was using aeration and excessive surface agitation. Plants were placed in this tank to see if they would grow. While the plants are not tank busters, they seem to be growing and doing well and most important of all there is very minimal if any algae. So based on first hand experience, I am not convinced that strong surface agitation and aeration will cause problems in a planted tank. With respect to algae, I believe that such agitation and aeration will likely keep algae from getting a stranglehold and overtaking a tank.
The use of a UV sterilizer to kill water borne algae spores. Also the UV sterilizer was transferred from the 20 gallon to ten gallon and regardless of whether it prevents algae or not, my main goal in getting it was to protect my fish from the possiblity of a water borne parasite infection due to the unwitting future introduction of a diseased fish into the tank.
Split Ten Hour Photo Period: See Update Below.
Update(August 12 2007): I finally got some barley straw today, placed some cut up bits it in a Aquaclear 20 mesh filter bag. I attached the bag in the area of greatest surface agitation where it would be hit by maximum light. The bag was loosely held in place by a $1.00 stainless steel clip attached to the top tip of the aquarium. As the barley straw takes anywhere from 1-3 months to become effective as an algae preventative, I am awaiting delivery of some concentrated barley straw extract. Once the extract arrives, I will remove the barley straw and begin dosing with the extract. Some critics of barley straw as an algae preventative claim that there is nothing magical about barley straw's ability to stave off algae and it only works because it shades out sunlight from penetrating the pond and causing algae growth. The use of extract would conrol for any shading effect.
I also decided to split the photoperiod up into two 5 hour sessions to test this additional algae prevention strategy. Instead of the lights being on from 7:30 A.M. to 5:30 p.m, they are set to be on from 7:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., Off from 12:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M, then on again from 5:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.
Minor Update(August 20 2007): No sign of any algae yet. Growth is still continuing at a phenomenal rate, especially the Tiger Lotuses and the Egera Densa. Crypt melt on the Wendtii crypt leaves is the slowest I have ever seen it. In the past I found that crypt melt usually results in the melting of all leaves in less than a month. I did notice some potassium deficiency signs starting to show on the anubias and cardamine as yellowing of leaves with holes forming(the holes were in the centre and I don't have snails in the tank and the fish are not cardamine or anubias feeders). This was only on a few leaves and hardly noticeable For this reason, I decided to switch to PPS with water changes and started dosing with the phosphate free formula, the magnesium and Trace Element Mix. I figured since I was already performing 50% weekly water changes it just made more sense to employ PPS with water changes instead of PPS-Pro. I suspected that PPS-Pro with 50% weekly water changes was probably robbing the aquarium water of some essential nutrients such as potassium and making them unavailable for the plants.
Monthly (August 22 2007) Water Parameter Update: As stated earlier, algae has not reared its ugly head yet, but what appears as potassium deficiency symptoms are beginning to show as a few leaves have yellowed and developed holes in the centre. The following are water parameters tested this date.
Ammonia: 0, Nitrite: 0, Nitrates: 40 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ PPM, Iron: 0, PH: 7, GH: 100 PPM(slightly hard), and kH: 30 ppm. Tested potassium levels will be posted once I receive the potassium test kit.
Minor Update (August 25 2007): As difficult as it was, I decided to remove all, with the exception of one, tiger lotus plant. The plant was growing at a monsterous rate and the leaves that were being formed were overtaking the tank's surface amass and were beginning to block light out. I was originally pruning the leaves but I was getting frustrated as it seemed the more leaves I pruned, the more and more quickly the tiger lotus formed new leaves. My fear was that my other plants would suffer as a result of reduced light levels. The removal was a daunting task in of itself as the tiger lotus plants had formed a massive root system that had become strongly embedded in the substrate. I removed the tiger lotuses, performed a 50% water change, and placed the tiger lotuses in my 40 gallon tank. One of the tiger lotuses that I removed had formed roots that had interwined with one of the cryptocorne wentii plants, another aponogenton, and a madagascar lace plant, so when I removed that tiger lotus, out came the other plants. I don't know how damaged the other plants will be from having their roots uprooted. Hopefully, they will recover. I replaced the tiger lotuses with ludwiga repens(Rubin), Bacopa Caroliniana, and Hygrophilia Polysperma. As tempting as it was, I decided to leave the egera densa alone as it was doing so beautifully. My original plan was to remove it so that I could test Flourish Excel as a additional algae preventative. As it now stands, I cannot do this, as egera densa seems highly sensitive to even minimal amounts of excel and in my experience it will self destruct even when minimal amounts of excel are dosed.
Major Update(August 28 2007): Edward at Aquariumplantcentral was kind enough to look at my City Water Parameter report and recommend the addition of calcum sulphate after every water change given that the water contained calcium levels that would be considered submariginal for aquarium plants. Edward is also the father of the PPS ferilization system and he recommended a switch back to PPS-PRo without any alternations based on my City of Winnipeg Tap Water parameter report. This seemed to me like sound advise from someone who was highly knowledgeable about growing aquarium plants and who was highly experienced in the matter. Also, I was coming to the conclusion that the City Tap Water analyis may be more accurate than my own testing considering that the city was probably employing more accurate and technologically advanced testing kits. I implemented his suggestions and began dosing 1/2 tsp of calcium sulphate with the weekly 50% water changes. Edward also suggested increasing the frequency of water changes to bring down the extremely high 40 ppm nitrate levels to more ideal 5 ppm levels. I increased water changes to 50% twice a week(every Tuesday and Saturday). This seemed like a good idea since I had an overstocked tank and I was beginning to notice an increase in what looked like mulm to the point where bits were visible in the water and my filter and polyfibre was becoming saturated to the point where filtration and filter water flow appeared to become quickly impaired. I have seen mulm before and am pretty sure that it was mulm and not any kind of algae. It had a stringly and spongy texture to it and was not attaching itself to glass or plants. It was just getting lodged in increasing quantities in the filter and free floating. The bits that were being trapped on the stems of some of the plants were not being consumed by my Otocinclus catfish or bristlenose pleco, so I knew that it could not be diatoms.
Although, there was no sign of algae yet, I was surprised by the fact that the new "fast growing" (stem plants hygrophilia polysperma, Ludwiga Repens "rubin" and moneywort appeared to be at a standstill as far as growth was concerned. I expected these to take off like weeds when I placed them in the tank, but this was not the case. Perhaps, they were still acclimtizing to different water conditions or it could be the split photoperiod. I guess, time will tell. One thing is certain,split photoperiod or not, if you are trying to quickly pack your aquairum with fast growing plants and have the room, it seems nothing beats the tiger lotus as evident by the difference in growth rates between the tiger lotus and stem plants that I placed in the tank.
Water Parameters: PH: 7.0, Temp: 30 degrees celcius, Ammonia:0, Nitrites:0, Nitrates 20+ ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, Iron: 0.1 ppm, GH: 100 ppm, KH: 20 ppm
Greenspot algae and BGA(Blue Green Algae) rears its ugly head.
I had first noticed traces of the BGA on the outside edges of the filter bag with the barley straw. Then noticed it on one of the the free floating rotala indica stems. The BGA had not migrated to the rest of the tank or stems and I believe that the UV Sterilizer may have helped prevent its spread. I immediately cut off the infected stem and discarded it and I rinsed the filter bag with barley straw. If I could do things differently, I would use barley straw extract from the start instead of straw as I believe the decay of the straw which is required for the production of lingens and humic acid needed to inhibit some types of algae may stimulate Blue Green Algae. The problem is that I am still awaiting the barley straw extract that I ordered from an E-Bay supplier. Although he got the payment promptly, he shipped the extract out late, so I won't receive it for another 2 weeks. That is the last time I deal with that supplier!! The tested nitrates were over 20 ppm at the time of the discovery, which raises the question of whether lack of nitrates fuels the growth of Blue Green Algae. Also, it would appear that Egera Densa and whatever antibiotic substance it is know to produce to prevent Blue Green Algae could not prevent the growth of Blue Green Algae. The Egera Densa was the fastest growing of all the plants in the tank, with the exception of the tiger lotus, and had put out numerous stems. And yet Blue Green Algae materialized.
The Green Spot Algae was visible on some cardamine leaves. It had not spread to the glass. The glass and water remain crystal clear. It is said that lack of phosphates,lack of c02, and exposure of older plant leaves to high light causes this type of algae and there is not much you can do about it. It is considered normal in small amounts in a tank.
Well, I am a believer but am not sure if it caused by lack of phosphates as the measured phosphates were 5+ and even if the test kit results were in question, I have an overstocked tank and given the waste produced by the fish(especially the bristlenose pleco) and the fact that phosphates are still dosed through PPS-Pro, I think that it would be quite a stretch to say that lack of phosphates caused the green spot algae. As far as high light, this is quite possible as the tank makes use of 3 Watts/gallon for a total of 30 watts and I can see intense light even with a split photoperiod contributing to the problem. As far as lack of C02, it may be possible as the tank does not have C02 injection. One thing is for sure, excessive phosphates and nitrates may not cause algae blooms other wise my tank would have had a huge algae bloom given the excessive nitrates and phosphates. However, keep in mind that I am running a UV sterilizer and this could be a mitigating factor by not allowing algae spores to survive and get a foothold. I would have to see the same result with the UV sterilizer turned off, but am too scared to try given the tank is doing so well.
Well I could let this experience scare me and forget about it. However, my preference is to keep monitoring and see what else I discover on the way. Plus, this is the first tank that I set up since taking up this hobby where I have seen such rapid plant growth, so it is not all bad. Besides, it is not like the algae took over the whole tank. We are only talking about a few leaves with green spot algae and these leaves can be pruned to get rid of the problem. There was only a smidgen of BGA and I doubt that it would have spread beyond the surface even if it was left alone. The problem wasn't so bad that it effected the tanks aesthetics. And I think at this point, it would be fair to say that algae won a couple of battles but not the war.
I still would like to experiment with the barley straw extract "when" I receive it. And I am considering removing the egera densa and replacing it with another fast growing stem plant as I would like to begin dosing with fluorish excel to provide the plants with a source of carbon and test as another algae preventative. Also, I would like to switch from split photoperiod to noonburst. One 15 watt tube would run the full 10 hours and the other one would come on after 5 hours, so both tubes would run 10 hours total. Finally, I may set up a DIY C02 injection for the tank.
The following changes were made:
(1) Major pruning of tank as things had really grown out of control. The end result a newbie hack job. Kind of when you go for a trim and end up with a crew cut. Hopefully, things will fill in again.
(2) Introduced Do It Yourself C02 injection. I modified the Hagen Elite underwater filter to act as a c02 diffuser/reactor by removing the peat moss it was holding, creating a hole on the bottom of the encasing, leaving the sponge to cover the impeller(to prevent damage to the impeller from accumulation of debris), and passing the C02 source tube into the hole. The bubbles once they go through the sponge are chopped up completely by the impeler. It seems to be working really well. The tubing used is c02 resistant tubing. Some may wonder if injecting c02 into this tank does not go against the grain of this experiment. I stated when I started this project, that this was a "work in progress." It has already been established that the anti-algae measures used so far could not stop the formation of green spot algae on some plant leaves and some Blue Green Algae. This naturally paves the way for implementation of additional anti-algae measures. C02 injection is touted as a major weapon in preventing or minimizing algae, so I decided it to add it to the arsenal. I chose c02 injection instead of Seachem Fluorish Excel as I did not want to remove or kill the egera densa in order to test the Fluorish Excel. While I realize that pressurized c02 would have been best to use and I needed to get a c02 drop checker to measure the c02 in the tank, unfortunately after sinking a fortune on a pressurized system for my 40 gallon tank and test kits, finances were tight. To accurately test Do It Yourself Injection, I had to ensure more consistent C02 output in between brew changes. For this reason, I opted to experiment with Champagne yeast instead of baker's yeast and to reduce baking soda to 1/8th teaspoon for the mix or omit all together. For the next brew, I will probably omit the baking soda all together, given that it may mess with the ideal PH range required by the yeast to best ferment. Also, I will try mixing baker's yeast and champange yeast at a ratio of 1/8 teaspoon baker's yeast to 1/8 teaspoon champagne yeast and adding 1/2 teaspoon of yeast nutrient to the brew. If I am unable to maintain a consistent bubble flow rate with these measures, I will go back to using the traditional recipe with baker's yeast and follow through with Tom Barr's excellent recommendation of changing the brew weekly, which should ensure consistent C02 production. Water parameters will be posted with the next update. And hopefully, I will be able to post C02 measurements once I can afford the drop checker.
The following is a picture of the lost world followed by a link to a short slideshow. Please keep in mind that this is an experiment in algae control/prevention and not mastery of aquascaping. I realize the aquascaping leaves much to be desired, but once the experiment is over and certain semblance of balance is achieved, the tank will be rescaped.
Monthly (September 22 2007) Water Parameter Update:
GH:180 ppm, (moderately hard likely because of the addition of Calcium Sulphate with every water change), KH:40 ppm, PH:6.5, Ammonia ??.50 ppm??, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 15 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, Potassium: 4 ppm(2 ppm is considered ideal), Iron: 0, c02: 20.871 ppm based on this c02 calculation chart. Once I received the c02 drop checker and test I will likely be able to post a more accurate c02 reading), Aquarium Teperature: 29.5 degrees celsius.
Somewhat of a puzzle was the spike in Ammonia, especially considering the reading was taken after the 2nd 50% weekly water change 3 days apart. At first I thought it was due to a fish death. All the fish were accounted for, so that was not the cause. The only other thing that I could think of was the fact that the reading was done on a day that the fish are fed frozen blood worms as a treat. Overfeeding of blood worms and increased waste production in a already overstocked tank could account for the ammonia spike. I quickly implemented by my trusted remedy. 1 tablespoon Septo-Bac mixed with one cup water, strained through a coffee filter and poured into the tank to neutralize the ammonia. I got a zero ammonia reading on the water when I tested on Sept 23 2007. The potassium levels were double the ideal norm and this was not surprising as I had dosed extra postassium and was reguarly dosing extra potassium in order to combat plant deficiency symptoms that I thought were due to a potassium deficiency. I will no longer be dosing potassium seperately based on these results. As iron seems to consistently test 0(ideal is .1), I have started dosing with Seachem Iron at 1/4 the recommened dosage, as I am already dosing PPS Pro for the iron and don't want to dose excess. I will monitor iron levels and adjust accordingly until the level normalizes.
As far as algae goes, there were some traces of blue green algae on some rotala and money wort plants. They were not noticeable and there was not a massive spread of this to the rest of the tank. I trimmed the stems with the Blue Green Algae. The emergence of this algae poses somewhat of a mystery. Nitrates have remained a constant 15-20 ppm and it is generally agreed that this should be sufficient to prevent Blue Green Algae, but that does not appear to have happened in this case. SOme have questioned the accuracy of the nitrate test kit that I am using. I have tested with at least three different test kits with the same result. The test kit(APC) I am using now, I have used to do a fishless cyle and measure the nitrate level. It has always proved accurate, so I cannot see why it would be inaccurate in this case. The green spot algae seems to have subsided with no sign of any new leaves developing it. This may have to do with c02 injection. The java moss had all died, so I removed and discarded it. The Ludwiga repens rubin had lost all its leaves and literally fallen apart. The Egera Densa continues to exhibit the fastest growth. The Hygrophilia Polyspema was beginning to take off after the c02 injection. The rest of the plants were showing steady growth, but the rate of overall growth appears to have slowed down The water remains crystal clear and there is no sign of any algae on the glass at all. Overall, I would say that the aquarium is 99% algae free.
I finally received my shipment of barley straw extract and began dosing the extract.
Minor Update (September 27 2007):
Some people had attributed my consistently high phosphate test reading and nitrate readings to the use of poor,uncalibrated,inaccurate test kits. I wanted to put this issue to rest for once and for all. I use nutrafin's P04 test kit and APC(Aqauarium Pharmaceuticals) Nitrate test kit. I calibrated the test kit as described here and much to my surpise both test kits passed the calibration with flying colors. Based on this, I think that it is safe to say that the nitrate and phospate test readings of the aquarium water are accurate. This again raises the question: Why did pockets of Blue Green Algae develop despite such high nitrate readings and what other factors in this case could account for the emergence of Blue Green Algae if not zero nitrates?? Also, it raises the question of how to tweak the fertilizer mixes used to create a more ideal balance given the presence of excess phosphates and nitrates in the water. Finally, there is the question of what may happen if the levels of nitrates and phosphates are not reduced. We know that an excess of these is not associated with algae or the tank would have been over run with algae instead of remaining 99% algae free. The issue is more how excess phosphates and nitrates will effect plant growth, given that you can have aquarium plant problems associated with excesses as well as deficiencies. I am hopeful that I will not have to take drastic measures to address the excesses as the water changes 2x/week should keep the excesses from building up.
Monthly (October 22 2007) Water Parameter Update:
GH:80 mg/l, KH:40 mg/l, PH:6.5, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 40 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, Potassium: 4+ mg/l, Iron: 0, c02: 20.251 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 29 degrees celsius.
Egera densa and cardamine continue to grow like a weed. The Anubias has sprouted some new healthy looking green leaves. There is no algae - green dust(none on the glass, this is really good news as this is the algae that has previously given me the greatest grief for the first 6 months of setting up a tank), green spot(none on glass and only on a couple of anubias leaves, no new formation), and no thread, string, black brush, and black beard anywhere in the tank. The fish appear to be all healthy and are doing well.
The money wort plant has all but melted. It fell apart at the stems and is slowly disintegrating. The same thing happened to the Ludwiga Repens "Rubin." The Madagascar leaf plant is appearing to hold its own but some leaves melted and it is not sprouting new leaves as it was before. The Cryptocornes are also holding their own but not exhibiting spectacular growth.
Pockets of Blue Green Algae that were previously confined to 1 % of the tank have spread to 10% of the tank and appeared to be on the move. Measures to eradicate the Blue Green Algae and prevent it from getting a stranglehold on the tank are discussed below.
The Blue Green Algae that had crept in and taken control of 1% of the tank, had now extended its control to 10% of the tank and appeared to be increasing. Now, I had a couple of options; (1) increased water changes, siphoining and blackouts and (2) Use of Erythromycin to nuke the Blue Green Algae. In the past with another 10 gallon planted tank, increased water changes and siphoning had put an end to the Blue Green Algae, with and without blackouts. In this case, I was already performing 50% weekly water changes 2 times a week and it was not helping. Also, I did not want to implement blackouts as the plants were doing so well and I felt that removing DIY C02 injection during the blackout combined with the blackout would kill some of my more sensitive plants. In the past, I had lost a beautiful Madagascar Lace plant to a blackout.
I decided to take the Erythromycin Route dosed based on the following as described by Avalon, a moderator on www.myfishtank.net. The link to the post that makes reference to this is: http://www.myfishtank.net/forum/aquatic-plants/39621-bga-plz-advise.html
Day 1[Oct 13 2007]: Dose EM[In my case, manual removal of as much Blue Green Algae as possible, 50% water change, and dosing with EM]
Day 2[Oct 14 2007]: Nothing
Day 3[Oct 15 2007]: WC, Dose EM[ In my case, I performed a 25% water change and EM dose]
Day 4[Oct 16 2007]: Nothing
Day 5[Oct 17 2007]: WC, Dose EM[In my case, I performed a 25% water change and Em dose]
Day 6[Oct 18 2007]: Nothing
Day 7[Oct 19 2007]: WC, Dose EM[In my case I performed a 25% water change followed by 4th and final Em dose to complete treatment]
The emergence of this Blue Green Algae is still a mystery. It was not due to lack of nitrates as calibrated nitrate test kits accurately indicated a nitrate level of 15-40 ppm constant from the time the tank was set up to present. With 50% water changes two times a week, you cannot blame it on poor water quality. Could the BGA have been caused by Eutrophic conditions as suggested by Avalon at www.myfishtank.net?
In my case, I started off with PPS-Pro which makes use of minimal fertilization and the Blue Green Algae had already reared its ugly head. I did switch to Tom Barr's Liquid EI method on September 22 2007 based on feedback from a member(who shell remain unnamed as I think he prefers to remain anonymous) that he had achieved success overcoming similiar plant growth and algae problems in his tank gallon by switching to this method. Also, my decision to switch was based on the extreme slow down of plant growth. Conventional thinking would suggest that certain nutrients were likely exhausted and needed to be replenished. I did not know where to start and so I thought the Tom Barr's Estimative Index would be the best place to start in my efforts to reignite plant growth. My Madagascar plants were not putting out anymore new leaves, the rotala indica and ludwiga Repens(Rubin) had both pretty much melted and were falling apart at the seams. The tiger lotus was not putting out any new leaves and the old leaves were beginning to melt. Since the Blue Green Algae had already surfaced prior to the change in fertilization dosing and the 50% weekly water changes twice a week would have prevented any excess buildup of nutrients, I don't believe that eutrophication is at the root of the BlueGreen Algae, but it is entirely possible as my phosphate and nitrate levels have consistently been over and beyond levels considered ideal for plant growth. Also, neither string or hair alage ever appeared in this tank and these are one of the few algae types known to materialize in the presence of excess nutrients. When I went to purchase the erythromycin, the pet store owner told me that many of his customers as well his store were struggling with Blue Green Algae issues and attributed this to Blue Green Algae spores in the City's tap water. I guess it is possible, but it fails to explain why my other tanks remain free of Blue Green Algae eventhough I use the same tap water for water changes. As far as this experiment goes, one thing is certain, Egera Densa does not prevent the formation of Blue Green Algae. In fact if anything, the Egera Densa stems were the biggest casualties of Blue Green Algae and appeared to be serving as the attack base for the spread of the Blue Green Algae. The cardamine leaves closest to the Egera Densa stems were smeared pretty badly with the Blue Green Algae Slime that I decided to put them out of their misery and prune them off. The Erythromycin all but totally nuked the Blue Green Algae and surprisingly water parameter levels would indicate that the biological filter was not adversely effected by the Erythromycin. I did not post pictures of the tank as there is no significant change in the tank aesthetics from the last picture. The egera densa and cardamine continue to grow at an explosive rate. I will likely have to prune the egera and cardamine within a weeks time. I don't know how accurate the iron test kit is and what is up with the 0 iron readings. I stated in my previous update that I would begin dosing with Fluorish iron to see if it makes any difference. Unfortunately, I got lazy and did not follow through. This time, I will try and committ to dosing Fluorish iron 3 times/week to see if it makes any difference. Given the extremely high nitrate and phosphate readings, even with 2x/week water changes, I will reduce water changes to 1x/week and cut out all fertilization(except iron and calcium in the form of calcium sulphate as tap water calcium levels are less than sufficient) until the phophates and nitrates level off. Then I will begin redosing ferts again. I can only assume that the extremely high fish load combined with "good" tap water parameters with respect to trace element makeup/GH/KH and existing high levels of phosphates and nitrates should prevent major issues from temporarily stopping fertilization. I guess we will just have to see and wait and keep an eye on deficiency symptoms. Lol, this is one time that I am hoping that the heavy pooping Bristlenose Pleco poops enough to help fertilize the plants.
As I stated prior to this project, after 3 months, I would open up the site to comments, positive and negative, so feel free to post your comments in my guest book by clicking here.
Minor Update (November 10 2007):
Lol, major growth explosion induced by changes made with respect with ferts dosed. I will discuss these changes more with the Nov 22 2007 major water parameter update. For now, I have posted pictures. The tank is literally getting choked out with explosive plant growth as you can see and I will have to do a major pruning job. There is no algae, geen dust, blue green aglae, thread algae, black beard, black brush, or diatoms. There is some spot algae on the cardamine leaves that are growing closest to the light.
Monthly (November 22 2007) Water Parameter Update:
GH:80 mg/l, KH:70 mg/l, PH:6.5, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 10 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, Potassium: 4+ mg/l, Iron: 0, c02: 37.188 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 29 degrees celsius.
The following fertilization regime seemed to ignite a growth explosion as you can see from the November 10 2007 update pictures.
Kent Pro Plant: 1/4 tsp Mon, Wed, and Fri.
Seachem Iron: 1/4 tsp Mon, Wed, and Fri.
6 Ml of Tom Barr's Liquid EI Solution mixed as described on Tom Barr's Web Site and 1.25 Ml Seachem Fluorish Comprehensive after 50% weekly water.
The only thing that concerned me was the possible inaccuracy of the Iron Test Kit. I found it hard to believe that the kit would indicate a 0 iron level when I have been adding iron regularly. I am using the Nutrafin Iron test kit. I find most of their test kits to be accurate. This one is highly questionable. The only other explanation is that the iron test kit is accurate and the UV sterilizer is responsible for depleting iron levels faster than they can be replenished. Given the continued high phosphate levels, I plan to greatly reduce or even eliminate phosphate from the next Tom Barr Liquid EI batch that I mix. Also, given the success I had with Kent Pro Plant, I may use Kent Freshwater Supplement as these were meant to be used in conjuction for maximum benefit. I may use it once a week after the weekly water change instead of Seachem Fluorish Comprehensive just for comparison purposes. Interesting to note the sharp jump in KH here from 40 mg/l to 70 Mg/l. I believe that this may be a side effect of dosing with Kent Pro Plant. Whether this proves to be detrimental to plant growth over the long run, needs to be seen. Also, this appears to have skewed the calculation of C02 levels as per chart. I really cannot imagine having 37 PPM of c02 in the tank, considering that I am running aeration using a powerful pump and bubble wand and the fact that extreme surface agitation is being created by the Aquaclear 200 filter which is technically overkill for a 10 gallon tank and was made to be used in much larger tanks.
As far as algae goes, I am happy to report that other than some green spot algae on some plant leaves(mostly the cardamine leaves closet to the light), there is no algae. No Black Brush/Black Beard algae, no diatoms, no green dust algae, no string algae, no thread algae, and no Blue Green Algae.
Minor Update(December 15 2007):
I had assumed that I would have even greater success with Kent Freshwater Plant fertilizer formula as I did with Kent Pro-Plant if I substituted the Seachem Fluorish Iron and Seachem Fluorish Comprehensive fertilizer with the Kent Freswater Plant formula. This was not be even with daily dosing of the Kent Freshwater Plant fertilizer formula. Even more shocking and perhaps only coincidental, for the very first time I noticed Black Brush Algae on a Cardamine stem. For this reason, I went back to the dosing(1/4 teaspoon Kent Freshwater Pro-Plant and 1/4 teaspoon Seachem Fluorish Iron on Mon, Wednesday and Friday, followed by 6 Ml of Tom Barr's Liquid EI formula and 1.25 Ml of Seachem Fluorish Comprehensive once a week after my weekly water change) that I had the most success with. I also have noticed that since this tank was set up, plants that like to root into the substrate Hygrophilia Polysperma, Rotala Indica, Ludwiga(different Varieties), and cryptocornes, and ambulia have done very poorly. I attribute this to the use of Schultz Aquatic soil which I am convinced is not the best substrate to use for plants that like to root into the substrate. My belief is also based on the fact that the same plants I attempted to grow in Seachem Onyx Sand fared much better as you can see at: http://azdhan.googlepages.com/thelostworld2. Based on this experience, I will not be using Schultz Aquatic soil as a planted tank substrate given its limitations in growing substrate rooting stem plants.
Monthly (December 22 2007) Water Parameter Update:
GH:100 mg/l, KH:60 mg/l, PH:6.5, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 10 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, Potassium: 4+ mg/l, Iron: 0, c02: 32.255 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color(bordering yellow) of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 28 degrees celsius.
A few things. One as already noted changing from the original fert dosing that lead to the Nov 10 2007 plant explosion resulted in the plants not doing so well, so I went back to the Nov 10 2007 fert dosing. Second, the substrate rooting plants have done poorly from day one and continue to do and I attribute this to the use of Schultz Aquatic Soil. Schultz Aquatic soil is good in that it does not appear to mess with water parameters, but as stated fails miserably at growing rooted plants. Also the holes in some of the hygrophilia polysperma and hygrophilia compact plants, not to mention tiger lotus leaves were the handiwork of snails and not a plant deficiency symptoms as I originally thought. Finally, as you can see the water again tested 0 for iron eventhough iron is being dosed 3 times a week. I may turn off the UV sterlizer a week prior to taking Jan 22 2008 water parameter readings to determine if it is the UV sterilizer or test kit that is reponsible for the zero iron level readings.
Other than that, the only algae that appeared was a bit of black brush algae, and its appearance appeared to coincide with the change in fert dosing on one lone leafless cardamine stem. I removed that stem and have not seen the black brush algae anywhere else in the tank. The fish continue to remain healthy and no losses. No other sign of any other kind(blue green, diatom, thread/hair, etc.,) algae.
Minor Update(December 30 2007):
I am sad to report that my Bolivian Ram passed away on December 30 2007. He had been swimming sideway and spending his time on the surface for a couple of days before his passing. I don't really know what caused his death. I can only speculate. As you can see from the logged water parameters, there was no known ammonia or nitrite spike leading to his death and water parameters and water temperature have been relatively constant. I don't overdose with any chemcals like excel, so it was not a chemcial that killed him. That leaves the possibilty that he could have died of a parasitic or bacterial infection. Given that a UV sterilizer is on 24/7, I doubt this very much. Could he have died of c02 poisoning. All the other fish including the otos, keyhole cichlid, bristlenose pleco and hatchets were not and are not displaying signs of c02 poisoning, so I cannot imagine that it would have been c02 poisoning. In addition, there is an airstone run by a powerpump that is on 24/7, which should keep the c02 at safe levels. The Bolivian Ram was constantly chased around by the female betta and she could have laid a beating on him, the injuries could have weakened him significantly, leading to his death. For now, the Bolivian Ram death remains a mystery. The only way to know would have been to perform an autopsy on the dead fish. Since I am not qualified to do so and would not even know what to look for, this would not have been possible. I don't plan on replacing him as the tank was already ovestocked.
Monthly (January 22 2008) Water Parameter Update:
GH:100 mg/l, KH:70 mg/l, PH:7, Ammonia:0.25 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 20 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm,Iron: 0, c02: 11.7 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, I was unable to get an accuate drop checker reading as my c02 drop checker had sprung a leak and rendered the solution transparent permanently, Aquarium Temperature: 25 degrees celsius.
One week after the Bolivian Ram's death, I noticed that my female Betta appeared quite fat and appeared to be having difficulty swimming around. In the past, I had noticed the Betta packing on weight but falsely assumed that it was due to overeating and perhaps feasting on snails. This time there was no mistaking, the Betta was suffering from dropsy.
Her condition deteriorated to the point where I had to put her down. Given the two back to back deaths that could have been due to something malicious in my water(some type of bacteria that the UV sterilzer had no effect on), I decided to treat the tank for 5 days to Erythromycin. It seems that I may have overestimated the protective powers of the UV sterlizer. When you consider that a UV sterlizer has no effect on Blue Green Algae which is really a form of bacteria, it raises the possiblity that there may be several other types of bacteria, some of which could be deadly to fish that a UV sterilzer would have no effect killing.
The logged water parameters were taken at the completion of Erythromycin treatment and the UV sterilzer was turned off. Iron still measured 0 which suggests that the iron test kit is inaccurate since iron is being dosed 3 times a week in addition to the amount dosed in the trace mix. As the UV sterilizer was off, it could not be responsible for the iron levels testing 0.
It appeared that my drop checker had sprung a leak as the solution in the checker turned from greenish/yellow to transparent. This problem persisted despite changing the drop checker solution and trying another batch of drop checker solution. I know that the drop checker solution was not the problem as the same drop checker solution used in the c02 drop checker in my other 2 tanks were showing a consistent greenish/yellowish color. I had ordered a seamless glass c02 drop checker to prevent this problem in the future but due to overseas shipping, the checker had not arrived. I was forced to rely on the c02 online calculator which indicated c02 levels of only 11.7 ppm. I decided not to take any drastic measures to increase c02 levels until I got a more accurate c02 measure from a c02 drop checker.
Of interest was .25 ppm ammonia level. As per Data Guru's chart, this only represents .001 NH3 which is the toxic form of ammonia. This level is far shy of the .03 ppm NH3 level cosidered lethal. Just to be safe and given that the tank had recently suffered two fish deaths back to back, I decided to treat the tank with 1 tablespoon Septo-Bacmixed in water, filtered through a coffee filter and added to water to quicky neutralize the ammonia.
As you can see from the tested parameters, I chose not to test potassium levels as the levels always tested high but from what I could see the plants or fish were not suffering potassium toxicity, if there is even such a thing. Also, iron tests will no longer be performed given the gross inaccuracy of the iron test kit used.
Finally, while there was no prolific plant growth and growth had considerably slowed down, there was also no signs of major algae. The green spot algae on some of the floating cardamine leaves persisted, but there was no diatom algae, no blue green algae, no thread algae, no black beard or brush algae.
Monthly (February 22 2008) Water Parameter Update:
GH:240 mg/l, KH:80 mg/l, PH:7, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 40 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, c02: 13.5 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 30 degrees celsius.
A couple of major developments that stood out since the last water parameter reading. Fish losses were beginning to mount and had me somewhat puzzled. I had lost a Bolivian Ram, Female Betta, Bristlenose Pleco, and an otocat all within the same 2 week timeframe. The deaths were especially troubling, since water changes were being performed weekly, there were no ammonia or nitrite spikes that would account for the fish deaths, a UV sterilizer was running 24/7 so it would be unlikely that any parasite would have killed them and this was also unlikely as I had not added any new fish, which could have introduced new parasites into the tank. Also, I had treated the tank with Erythromycin as a precautionary measure against any bad bacteria. This did not stop the death of the Bristlenose Pleco, whose skeletal remains I discoverd. I was down to one Amano Shrimp, 2 otocats, 1 Keyhole Cichild, and 2 Marble Hatchets.
All, I could speculate was the possible cause of the deaths. I suspect that the tank was severly overstocked from day one may have contributed to the fish deaths as it likely created a stressful environment for all the fish. The only other thing that I could think of was temperature fluctuations. Since the tank was no longer overstocked, I was hopeful that the remainder of the fish would pull through. I was going to put a heater in the tank to prevent any future temperature swings. Also, I was considering running a diatom filter to give the tank a good cleaning.
Another puzzling development was the development of pockets of black brush/beard aglae. The funny thing was the black brush/beard algae appeared the most concentrated on the filter bag filled with barley straw. The bag was placed in the tank as an algae preventative. This algae is primarily caused by the lack of c02. However, the drop checker in the tank with the 4dKH solution was always showing a lime green color, meaning that the c02 levels were within the 30 PPM range. Also, this was the case with an airstone being run. Every week, a new batch of c02 brew was mixed to keep the c02 levels consistent. As far as action to deal with the black brush/beard algae, I decided to dose Estimative Index dry fertilization, and to remove the airstone to increase c02 levels as I felt the c02 drop checker was not totally accurate. I did not want to dose Seachem Excel to combat the algae as I had egera densa, a plant that is sensitive to excel dosing. If the removal of the airstone did not reduce or eliminate black brush/beard algae, I was going to remove the egera densa from the tank, and begin spot treatment of the black brush/beard algae with Seachem Excel. I also decided to stop dosing magnesium and calcium sulphate with weekly water changes as my GH had climbed up to 240 ppm by doing so, resulting in very hard water, which may not be the most ideal for plant growth.
Monthly (March 22 2008) Water Parameter Update:
GH:100 mg/l, KH:70 mg/l, PH:7, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 40 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, c02: 11.7 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 30 degrees celsius.
On a positive note, there were no more fish deaths. On a negative note, the tank appeared over run with a combination of pockets of black beard/brush algae, green spot algae, and green dust algae. The question was what could account for this. Other than the fact that nitrates and phosphates tested on the high end, all other water parameters including KH and GH would be considered within the range suitable for good plant growth. I was not convinced that the nitrate and phosphate readings had anything to do with the formation of algae. It has been consistently demonstrated by Tom Barr and other reputable people in the planted tank hobby that high nitrates and phosphates do not contribute to algae. Also keep in mind that if you review the water parameters from the time that the tank was first set up, phosphates and nitrates have always been consistently high with no development of algae. When we consider c02 levels, there appears to be an inconsistency in the amount of c02 as per c02 calculation chart and the drop checker. It is suggested that a drop checker yields a more accurate c02 reading than the c02 chart. In this case, I am inclined to believe that the c02 calculation chart may be more accurate and the actual c02 levels may be closer to 11.7 ppm vs 30 ppm as per drop checker. This naturally leads to the question of how best to address this possible c02 deficiency in an attempt to cause the algae to recede. It seemed that there were two options: (1) increase the dosage of Seachem Excel instead of increasing c02. I had already started dosing Seachem Excel at the recommended dose since the last reading, or (2) increase c02. I had another Hagen canister laying around to hook up for added c02. I decided to embark on a combination of both. It appeared that I had my hands full. I would need to manually remove as much of the algae as possible, increase water changes to 2x/week and increase c02 levels and Seachem Excel dosing to battle the algae and keep it from totally overtaking the tank.
Monthly (April 22 2008) Water Parameter Update:
GH:100 mg/l, KH:70 mg/l, PH:7, Ammonia:0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: Approx 15 ppm, Phosphates: 5+ ppm, c02: 11.7 ppm based on C02 calculation chart, but 30 ppm as per lime green color of c02 drop checker solution, Aquarium Temperature: 30 degrees celsius.
While the black brush algae seemed to have receded with the dosing of Seachem Excel and increased potassium dosing, green spot algae had pretty much covered the glass of the whole tank. The plant leaves were also covered with green spot algae. Hardy plants that were fast growers like the tiger lotus were also not doing as well. While I was tempted to waive the flag of surrender to algae, I decided to hold off for one or two months. I did not follow through with my original plan to add another c02 canister. I continued dosing with Seachem Excel and only decided to start the 2X/weekly water changes starting April 23 2008. I also added 5 Amano shrimp to the tank to see if they would help consume some of the algae and dead plant matter that was left behind after siphoning the substrate. In addition, I replaced the 2 15 watt compact fluorescent bulbs to bring the lighting down from 30 watts to 20 watts(8 hour split, 4 on, 4 off). It is said the green spot algae may be caused by low phosphates and high light. As phosphate levels tested with a calibrated test kit measured above ideal levels, and I already follow Estimative Index Fertilizer dosings and was dosing phosphates, I was only left with the lighting issue to address.
While I think that it is safe to conclude that the anti-algae measured in this experiment were defeated by the algae, the setup raises more questions than answers. Some things to ponder that I don't have an answer for. Why was the tank plagued with so many fish deaths, considering that the fish were not overfed, 50% water changes were performed weekly, a UV sterilizer was running 24/7, water parameters were consistent, considered ideal, with no ammonia or nitrite spikes? I would hazard that having an overstocked tank to begin with may have contributed to overly stressed fish and deaths. That raises the question of why the deaths continued even when the fish population in the tank had significantly declined. I was really down to one surviving otocat and a marble hatchet fish.
It is said that high ammonia levels signal algae spores to proliferate. Ammonia readings taken monthly would indicate no major ammonia spikes. At the time that the ammonia readings were slightly elevated, there was no sign of algae in the tank. It is possible that the ammonia test kit is inaccurate, but I have used this APC test kit many times when cycling tanks in the past and found it to be most accurate. My nitrate and phosphate test kits are also calibrated for accuracy.
It is also said that low c02 levels contribute to unanticipated algae blooms in aquariums. Based on the c02 drop checker reading, c02 levels have been consistently at 30 ppm levels, which would be considered ideal. However, based on calculation of c02 levels using the on-line calculator, co2 levels have been consistently as low as 11 ppm. I was inclined to believe that the on-line calculator was accurate for this setup and c02 levels were submarginal. And all the more reason I would invest in pressurized c02 if I were to set up another 10 gallon high light, high tech tank.
One of the real difficulties with this setup and I accept full responsibility was that too many variables(ie., fert dosing) were changed along the way, which made it difficult to pinpoint the exact variable(s) that may have been responsible for the heavy fish losses and hostile algae takeover.
For all intensive purposes, this experiment is officially over. While I will continue to log water parameters for the next two months and document the final progress of the tank, the tank if it does not change for the better in that time, will likely be torn down, and redone using ADA Aquasoil. It will provide an opportunity to test ADA Aquasoil with a low tech c02 injected setup(low light plants, c02 injection, and excel dosing). Thanks to those who followed the progress of this project from the start.