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Old 01-21-2020, 05:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Algae and Iron

Diana Walstad, in her book, “Ecology of the Planted Aquarium”, proposes that algae is limited in its growth by the limited availability of iron in the water. She says that while plants can get iron from the substrate, through their roots, algae doesn’t have that ability, and has to depend on the iron in the water. Furthermore, that iron in the water has to be bio-available, in the form of soluble ions, Fe2+ and Fe3+. But, those ions have a very brief “life” in water because it easily bonds to various water soluble organic carbon compounds. As a result, algae has a difficult time reproducing unless there is a reliable source of Fe2+ and/or Fe3+ in the water.

One way those iron ions can be reliably available is if the iron that is bound to soluble organic carbon compounds is exposed to lots of light. When that bound iron is exposed to light of adequate intensity and spectrum, the light can cause the iron ions to be released into the water, by a process called photo reduction.

I find this extremely interesting, and one of the most compelling arguments about “why does algae take over my aquarium”? So, I am going to do a simple experiment to try to demonstrate that process.

I have a 10 gallon tank, modified with a divider into two adjacent 5 gallon tanks. The same light fixture lights both halves of the tank. See https://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...k-divider.html

If I dose each 5 gallon half of the tank with the same amount of iron (from Flourish Iron), but add the iron as the light comes on for one half, and after the light goes off for the other half, there should be a significant difference in availability of Fe2+/Fe3+ in the two half tanks. I should see more algae growth in the half with the most available iron.

I'm about 2 weeks or so from being ready to start my experiment.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

What's your water pH? That affects the availability of iron too. Below 8.0pH should be fine. Below 6.0 is optimal.
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Old 01-21-2020, 07:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

I will have to measure the pH when I get closer to starting this. First I need to get a couple of Betta's to occupy the two tank halves. The water is pretty hard, but I forget the numbers right now.
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Old 01-22-2020, 04:06 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

Interesting. Since the pH and water is the same in both tank halves, pH doesn't really matter. There's also no need for fish.

You will have plenty of other confounds and wiggle room in your reporting, so I would keep it simple and do it as a "pilot experiment." If you get a dramatic difference, then you can trumpet your results and we can enjoy hearing about the details and speculations.

If you get no effect, then I could point to not doing experiment in triplicate. Or that both tank halves were exposed to light at some point during each 24 hr cycle. In the published experiment, there was light in each case, but one set had normal light, the other light where all the shorter, more energetic wavelengths (below 520 nm), which create reduced, algae-stimulating iron, had been removed. Algae didn't grow with the shorter wavelengths, but it did with normal unrestricted light.
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Old 01-22-2020, 04:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

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Originally Posted by dwalstad View Post
Interesting. Since the pH and water is the same in both tank halves, pH doesn't really matter. There's also no need for fish.

You will have plenty of other confounds and wiggle room in your reporting, so I would keep it simple and do it as a "pilot experiment." If you get a dramatic difference, then you can trumpet your results and we can enjoy hearing about the details and speculations.

If you get no effect, then I could point to not doing experiment in triplicate. Or that both tank halves were exposed to light at some point during each 24 hr cycle. In the published experiment, there was light in each case, but one set had normal light, the other light where all the shorter, more energetic wavelengths (below 520 nm), which create reduced, algae-stimulating iron, had been removed. Algae didn't grow with the shorter wavelengths, but it did with normal unrestricted light.
I agree that this will not prove anything, but I'm just looking to see if, in a normal planted aquarium setting, does big differences in how iron is dosed cause a big difference in algae problems. It has to be a big difference to mean anything at all for me because I find it very hard even with this set-up to get two tanks to act the same. So, the first step has to be finding out just how much variance is "normal". I have no idea what I will find out, other than that the odds are that I won't see any significant difference.

The reason for the two fish is to have something else to enjoy with this odd tank. I will really be embarrassed if one fish survives and the other gets sick.

I enjoy doing this kind of thing!
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Old 01-23-2020, 06:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

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I enjoy doing this kind of thing!
Excellent! It's fun to investigate as well as enjoy your fish and plants. It provides purpose.
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Old 01-28-2020, 09:12 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

Here’s a guy experimenting with a setup similar to yours.
https://youtu.be/kpDlWCJ734Y
He’s testing out fish food vs ferts.
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Old 01-29-2020, 08:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

Don't look for me to make a Youtube video, after buying a white smock and visiting my barber, and writing a script, etc.
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Old 01-29-2020, 08:50 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

Please put it on youtube!
I expect the video to be in portrait mode and out of focus, maybe with an errant thumb here and there.
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Old 01-29-2020, 08:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Algae and Iron

I now have a Betta in each tank, looking healthy, and both tanks look the same, as far as the plants are concerned. The pH of the tank water is about 6.6-6.8, which I assume comes from the tannins released by the dirt substrate. My tap water has a higher pH.
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