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Old 05-21-2013, 07:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Cause and solution to BBA

Through the years I've seen almost any algae and conquered all of them. Some with the help of chemical warfare like H2O2, glutaraldehyde spot treatments (notice: I never used any 'real' anti algae products), some with more natural solutions (algae eaters, blackouts etc.) and some with just balancing the water parameters out and manual removal. Now and then some pop up but I don't panic anymore and I keep getting better in suppressing them fast. All but one: BBA!

I've had this algae in all my tanks, whether it was EI, ADA, or even my Vietnamese tank in which I never dose anything. Few things I know about BBA:

Red algae (aka rhodophyta). Originally a sea/brackish algae with a few species evolved to survive in freshwater (and not only survive, but multiply very fast as well I found out).
The most common freshwater species are: Audouinella, Batrachospermum and Lemanea.

30-40 years ago, aquarium books did only mention the existence of BBA, but they where never a real problem. So what did change? We use more light, higher kelvin ratings, more PO4, NO3 and CO2. Do these changes induce BBA?

I'm not looking for any anti algae products, I just want to know possible causes, favorite environment and things like that to keep them at bay at the long run. Things I read so far are summed below. I numbered them so you can comment on any of them specific. I'll start with my observations, discussing and commenting on anything is appreciated.

1: Low CO2: Number one because it is the most mentioned. More CO2 improves plant growth and thus suppresses BBA.

2: Fluctuating CO2: Algae seems to adjust faster to changing circumstances than plants.

3: High CO2: Contradicting as it sounds, some mention BBA getting less with less CO2. Apparently BBA favors high CO2, thus higher CO2 than needed for the plants will increase BBA.

4: Ammonia: Like with most algae, ammonia is mentioned as a trigger to BBA. Even very low spikes could induce it.

5: High organics: Mentioned by one of APC's own members many times. High organics (read dirty tank) causes BBA to grow, feeding on the organics.

6: High TDS: Using lots of salts (KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4, KCl etc), making the water a little more 'brackish' results in more BBA.

7: High kelvin ratings: Red algae use the red equivalent of chlorophyll: phycoerythrin. This pigment reflects red light and absorbs blue light and thus high kelvin ratings are favored by BBA.

8: Low flow: distribution of nutrients?

Any other possible causes I would love to here and will add them to the OP!

Last edited by Yo-han; 05-21-2013 at 08:58 AM..
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Old 05-21-2013, 07:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

1: Low CO2: Yellow dropcheckers, calculated CO2 concentrations of over 100 ppm, even 24/7 but BBA still grows.

2: Fluctuating CO2: Really hard to check but I think my CO2 is quite stable. pH controlled in one tank, with a diffusor in the other, both have BBA in small amounts.

3: High CO2: Could be the case in my 100G, but when I lower it, green algae pop up so I feel the amount of CO2 is needed for the amount of light I use.

4: Ammonia: Really plausible because 99% of the people can't check it. I borrowed a Seneye from my work for a few months after redoing my tank. This device measures ammonia continuously and the highest level was 0.001 ppm. Busted?

5: High organics: I don't have the tools to test this except for a salifert organics test which is far from precise and am not even sure it measures the right organics. Removing every dead leave every day, feeding less (especially frozen food), it all seems to benifit a little allthough the BBA still grows. (To be more precise, mainly on the wood, which probably releases organics, so this one sounds very plausible to me).

6: High TDS: Ones believed this was the solution because the BBA was mainly in my EI tank, having a TDS of 700-800. In theory it sounds very good, but after having a TDS of 200-250 in my nano all the time it still grows BBA. Might contribute, but not the main cause I believe.

7: High kelvin ratings: In theory, this sounds the best. I'm not willing to convert to kelvin ratings lower than 4000K again, but am very interested if someone else noticed this.
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Old 05-21-2013, 08:28 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

How about low water flow? Increasing water flow seemed to help with my BBA.

I'd also like to give a shout out to siamese algae eaters. SAEs LOVE BBA!!!
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:03 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

In my Vietnamese tank I've 20x flow. 250 gph for a 12G tank. And it is right on the outflow of my 500 gph as well, so not very likely unless the root case is local low CO2/nutrients. But I'll add it to the OP, to see what other people think about it.

SAE's are great (as are Jordanella floridae) when they are small, but prefer mosses when they reach about 4 inches and aren't suitable for small tanks.

But I'm looking more into a solution by solving the cause, not the symptoms.
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

In my experience

1 - Low C02 : Insufficient co2 the light levels always result in bba

2 - Similar to 1, not increasing co2 levels as plant mass increases increases the risk of bba due to now inufficent co2 levels as a result of increased plant consumption, this problem not surprisingly is worse in tanks with high/very high light levels.

3 - I have a tank that no livestock and very high co2 levels, 100 ppm+, and despite high light and regularly putting stunted/otherwise bad condition plants into it has never had any problems with bba.

4 - I am skeptical that ammonia is a cause in and of itself as you would think that all the people using ammonia releasing substrates such as aquasoil would experience bba outbreaks during the first couple months.

5 - I have found that high organics cause a 'dust' to form on plants, slow growing ones in particular that undoubltly inhibits plant growth, thus allowing algae, bba included, to gain a foothold.

6 - KN03 etc are 'salts' but are not salt (sodium chloride). As for high tds causing bba, I can't speak from experience since my tanks run soft low tds water and even with ei dosing don't exceed 250ppm before their weekly water change. That said I doubt that high tds causes bba.

7 - I've noticed no difference in algae growth between 6400k and 10000k bulbs.

8 - Low flow can cause uneven co2 distribution which could certainally cause bba.

I would say the number one cause of bba is too much light for the amount of co2 being used. I have always had the best growth and least algae( in tanks with livestock) with medium light, high co2, nutrient rich substrate and moderate-heavy water column dosing (EI). Additionally unlike with some other types of algae bba requires agressive treatment and I don't feel bad resorting to chemical methods(excel, h2o2, and bleach baths for hardscape/equipment) to keep it from getting a foothold in my tanks.
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Old 05-21-2013, 10:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

Quote:
I'm not looking for any anti algae products, I just want to know possible causes, favorite environment and things like that to keep them at bay at the long run. Things I read so far are summed below. I numbered them so you can comment on any of them specific. I'll start with my observations, discussing and commenting on anything is appreciated.
A very good discussion to have. I think there is a lot of misinformation about BBA on the net.

Quote:
1: Low CO2: Number one because it is the most mentioned. More CO2 improves plant growth and thus suppresses BBA.
This was started by Tom Barr a number of years ago who related all of our planted tank troubles to not enough CO2. CO2 is a difficult thing to measure accurately and so CO2 acted as an explanation for all of the problems we couldn't easily answer.

A few years ago I had a tank infested with BBA on every surface. I removed the fish and bubbled the CO2 through my reactor until the water fizzed like soda. The BBA grew just fine for weeks under these conditions. There is no way CO2 stops BBA from growing or even remotely stresses it out.

That said, there are 2 types of algae called BBA. One grows single long thick hairs the other grows small tufts from a single attachment point. The long single strand algae does seem to get stressed by CO2 but not the more common bushy BBA.

Quote:
2: Fluctuating CO2: Algae seems to adjust faster to changing circumstances than plants.
Again either incorrect or referring to the single strand BBA.

Quote:
3: High CO2: Contradicting as it sounds, some mention BBA getting less with less CO2. Apparently BBA favors high CO2, thus higher CO2 than needed for the plants will increase BBA.
Doubt high CO2 promotes BBA. It appears in all setups with and without CO2.

Quote:
4: Ammonia: Like with most algae, ammonia is mentioned as a trigger to BBA. Even very low spikes could induce it.
Ammonia might help grow it I'm not sure. Ammonia triggers green water thats for sure. Perhaps rotting wood and plants triggers BBA? But thats more of an organic issue.

Quote:
5: High organics: Mentioned by one of APC's own members many times. High organics (read dirty tank) causes BBA to grow, feeding on the organics.
I think high organics might be the right trigger for BBA. A lot of people mention having BBA in tanks that have old driftwood or in tanks they haven't changed the water in a long time. Leading me to believe that organics build up and promote BBA. I was just reading some interesting articles about dissolved organics and it seems they have multiple stimulatory effects on growing algae. I'll have to post some of the articles at some point.

Quote:
6: High TDS: Using lots of salts (KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4, KCl etc), making the water a little more 'brackish' results in more BBA.
I've never heard this one before.

Quote:
7: High kelvin ratings: Red algae use the red equivalent of chlorophyll: phycoerythrin. This pigment reflects red light and absorbs blue light and thus high kelvin ratings are favored by BBA.
Never heard this, but plants have a lot of accessory pigments that are used to absorb all kinds of wavelengths.

Quote:
8: Low flow: distribution of nutrients?
This might have some truth to it. BBA seems to grow in stagnant areas. I see it growing on driftwood in areas that don't have a lot of water flow. Perhaps organics build up in these areas near the wood and promote algae? Though I feel I've seen BBA growing in high current areas at pet stores.
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:06 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

I'm talking the short tuffs indeed.

I don't really believe in the low flow story because it's on the 500gph outflow and in my 20x flow biotope it is right in the flow as well. Must be some other thing related to flow if you find a correlation between flow and BBA IMO.

Organics are getting more and more attention in general I think, and it feels like it is on the right end. The most beautiful tanks are the ones kept spotless all the time. No matter what method you follow (EI, ADA etc.) with just fertilizing and water changes it still goes wrong. But people cleaning every dead leave every day do have the most spotless tanks. I started vacuuming the dead spot areas in my tank every other day and it seems like BBA is on it's return.
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:41 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

I have tanks with no water flow and no bba. (no fish either!) I don’t use co2 in these tanks at all so it seems odd that people think more co2 is needed.
I do find that keeping things clean helps with all algae. I would include in that cleaning the filters weekly.
Healthy plants are a key ingredient and many of these plants need fertilization to do well. One of the key ingredients for some plants is high levels of co2. Plants that are slowly deteriorating will often be the ones with the bba growing on their leaves.
The thing is to my way of thinking the cause can be almost anything that leads to conditions in which the plants don’t thrive. For one plant that might be N or it might be ph or it could be co2.
More than anything else I tend to think what we lack in this hobby is a good reference for the needs of specific plants.

In terms of fighting an outbreak of bba I tend to think the key thing is removing it and killing it off. Chemical warfare seems to help!
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

I believe in organics causing BBA and have proven it to myself, in my tanks many times.

Latest proof - about 2 weeks ago. 180 gal. tank, 60 2-1/2" tetras, no CO2, water movement inside the tank is 1200 gph, no plants. Cladophora grows on the inert gravel. No other algae. P is about 1, N is about 1. I feed the fish dry food.

Some weeks ago I started feeding them with frozen blood worms. Quite a bit - the fish looked full after feeding.

First algae to show up was BBA on the heater. Later a little Staghorn on the bottom.

Started to change water every other day. 50%. 2 weeks later BBA is nowhere to be found. Staghorn is minimal. Cleaning the filter will take care of the Staghorn.

The interesting thing about that lame story is that I know for sure how to get rid of BBA. Water changes. What does that do? I like to believe that it reduces organics. But I've also seen a severely overstocked tank that literally killed BBA within 4-6 hours. Made it disappear as if it never existed.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Cause and solution to BBA

I'll offer this information for what it is worth. All of my tanks are Walstad method, with my own tweaks of relatively high flow rates, lots of biofiltration, and partial water changes usually twice a month. I tend to keep lots of fish, which I feed generously.

I've never had any BBA. In fact, when I receive new plants infested with BBA (usually from high-tech tanks), I just put them in my tanks with no pre-treatment, and the BBA goes away.
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