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hoppycalif 01-21-2020 04:09 PM

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.

mistergreen 01-21-2020 04:29 PM

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.

hoppycalif 01-21-2020 06:43 PM

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.

dwalstad 01-22-2020 03:06 PM

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.

hoppycalif 01-22-2020 03:24 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by dwalstad (Post 1003187)
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!:D

dwalstad 01-23-2020 05:04 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hoppycalif (Post 1003189)
I enjoy doing this kind of thing!:D

Excellent! It's fun to investigate as well as enjoy your fish and plants. It provides purpose.

mistergreen 01-28-2020 08:12 PM

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.

hoppycalif 01-29-2020 07:21 AM

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.:rolleyes:

mistergreen 01-29-2020 07:50 AM

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.

hoppycalif 01-29-2020 07:54 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
1 Attachment(s)
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.

mistergreen 01-29-2020 02:05 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
How will you test for Fe? This sounds like a tough experiment to work out?
So algae will be your indicator? I wonder if you can collect and dry the algae and burn it and find left over iron.

Stan510 01-29-2020 02:46 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
The plants you chose are not the best to show a difference. They really should be plants like Hygrophila or Sagittaria or other all green plants that show a flush of greenness on the iron. Except for Vallisneria..it might even be greener with no iron in the water. Always exceptions.

hoppycalif 01-29-2020 03:28 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
The plants iin the tanks are Sagittaria subulata and a hybred swordplant, plus floating Salvinia. I'm not interested in the effect on the plants, because it is well proven that iron helps the plants. My interest is the effect on algae, primarily on the effect vs the amount of light the iron fertilized water gets. I'm very interested in the idea that iron shortage can inhibit algae growth.

Stan510 01-30-2020 07:35 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Dont use any plants. I can tell you,you can can grow pounds of hair algae in aquariums that never see a drop of IG,plus spot and blue green. A third aquarium with backyard dirt would also feed hair algae. It also minus a drop of iron. MY "Prediction" because I've done it!

Stan510 01-30-2020 08:44 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
2 Attachment(s)
btw,That sword plant that for the last year,was super struggling to grow 4" leaves? IS IN DIRT. Its one of the first plants I added..I used garden soils and sands..with an inch or so of sand. From,oh, October of 2018- Nov.2019 it came close to dying..I had even just cut off every leaf at one point. Just a bud.
And now....virtually all this since late November.

one more,The last Prof. Scientist I worked for loved the way I wrote my notes I left him. Had a sense of humor did he.

hoppycalif 02-17-2020 02:50 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
My experiment is starting!! The two tanks are now pretty well established, with no obvious algae, almost exactly the same plants in each, same light, same substrate, and a Betta in each one. Tonight I will start dosing Flourish Iron, to get 0.10 ppm in the water in each tank, dosed after lights out at night, every other night. If all goes well, I will get no obvious algae. After about 2 or 3 weeks, I will change the dosing time for one tank to right after the light comes on.

Now I need a Swiss trolley to ride in so I can get a brainstorm going!!

mysiak 02-18-2020 01:15 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
I'm sorry if I missed something, but Flourish contains Iron gluconate and it is being said to be uptaken very rapidly by plants (or broken down if plants can't fully utilize it). Do plants or algae consume nutrients during night?

It sounds like you're just adding additional step in iron availability:

Dosed with lights on: Iron gluconate -> Iron -> Plants/algae
Dosed with lights off: Iron gluconate -> Iron -> "some other organic Iron molecule" -> (light) -> Iron -> Plants/algae

From what I read, Iron gluconate seems to be so bio-available, that it might be impossible to detect any Iron even 1 hour after dosing during photosynthesis period (unlike other chelators).

But again, maybe I just got the wrong end of the stick. :)

hoppycalif 02-18-2020 11:08 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Dosing the iron, in low dosages, at night should cause all of it to be taken in by the plants, or attached to dissolved organic carbon in the water, leaving none for the algae. But, dosing iron as the light comes on may cause the iron attached to organic carbon to be released into the water as Fe ions, if photo reduction occurs with the level of light intensity we use. That would make it more available to algae, as well as to the plants. And, that might cause algae to start growing vigorously. I expect to see no algae response, because I expect that photo reduction is trivial at the level of light intensity we use. I wouldn't bother with this if I had never had an algae problem at low aquarium light levels. It would be very interesting if I do get an algae growth response. Meanwhile, I will be convincing myself that I can get two tanks to grow without algae problems, making additional testing possible.

mysiak 02-18-2020 09:28 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Thank you for the explanation, but I still must be missing something :)

Dosing with lights off
- let's consider the "worst" case scenario, all of the Iron will get re-attached from Gluconate to another organic carbon. Once you turn on the lights at certain intensity, Iron gets released and consumed by plants (and algae).
- the best case scenario - all of the Iron is consumed by plants during night. But why not by algae as well?

Dosing with lights on
- Iron gluconate is consumed either directly or broken down rapidly and Iron released and consumed by plants and algae.

Nevertheless interesting setup for experiments. I am curious if you'll see any major difference in plants growth with this different dosing schedule while using Iron gluconate particularly.

hoppycalif 02-19-2020 07:15 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
I don't think you are missing anything. It seems that nothing in an aquarium is a simple thing. I got interested in this when I read about the possibility that algae is handicapped by being able to get iron only from the water, but bioavailable iron in the water is rapidly removed. That made me wonder why algae is such a big problem in aquariums. The photo reduction idea might be a big factor. I will be astonished if I see a major difference with my little experiment, but I will be enjoying trying to do such an experiment, so it doesn't really matter.

hoppycalif 03-07-2020 09:07 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
My experimenting is hitting a snag! Before you can do a comparative test you have to be able to keep the two tanks growing equally, when they are set up equally. I haven't yet been able to do this. One tank is doing better than the other. And, neither is doing as well as I want. So, I'm thinking about adding/changing some plants. One thing I'm learning is that having floating plants, at least when they are Salvinia minima, it takes a lot of attention to keep those plants from blocking all of the light. They grow very fast! I have removed all of it, except what is contained in small plastic rings. But, even with that I need to remove excess plants weekly. I wish I had some hygro polysperma, but it is illegal to ship into California. I'm watching for someone selling it locally.

barongan 03-08-2020 07:49 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
interesting threadhttps://babang.xyz/assets/5/o.png

Yorkie 03-18-2020 11:33 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Hi hoppycalif

What happened next? Please don't leave me in suspense!

Yorkie

hoppycalif 03-18-2020 03:23 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Progress: I found a source for hygro polysperma, and bought a few sprigs. Now each of the 5 gallon compartments has one. So, I'm still waiting until I feel like I could detect a change if I try any type of experiment. The Betta's are enjoying their homes, so that part is ok.

Yorkie 03-23-2020 01:21 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
That's great, Hoppy. I'm watching this with interest. You and I have something in common - we both share a love for running scientific experiments. Having a background in the physical sciences, I need to get my 'fix'.

Am I right in thinking that you have done a good many measurements on aquarium lighting? Your name is carved in my memory banks from a few years ago.

Yorkie

hoppycalif 03-24-2020 07:28 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Yorkie (Post 1004581)
That's great, Hoppy. I'm watching this with interest. You and I have something in common - we both share a love for running scientific experiments. Having a background in the physical sciences, I need to get my 'fix'.

Am I right in thinking that you have done a good many measurements on aquarium lighting? Your name is carved in my memory banks from a few years ago.

Yorkie

Yes, you are remembering right. I spend several years trying to find ways to determine how much light we have and how much we should have. It is still a mostly a guesswork subject.

When I got back to this hobby about 25 years ago, after I retired, I did it largely because there was so much to learn, and so much that was unknown about the hobby. I have never regretted that decision.

Yorkie 03-27-2020 11:28 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hoppycalif (Post 1004593)
Yes, you are remembering right. I spend several years trying to find ways to determine how much light we have and how much we should have. It is still a mostly a guesswork subject.

When I got back to this hobby about 25 years ago, after I retired, I did it largely because there was so much to learn, and so much that was unknown about the hobby. I have never regretted that decision.

Hi Hoppy,

Thanks for your reply.

I also have a particular interest in aquarium lighting. There seem to be very few lighting manufacturers who design their products with the needs of plants in mind. And they blast aquarists' tanks with loads of photons at wavelengths that plants cannot use but algae and cyanobacteria bask in this light. But, I do realize that we want our plants to look right - not a weird shade of pink! This is not horticultural lighting.

JPC

hoppycalif 03-27-2020 12:42 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Yorkie (Post 1004663)
Hi Hoppy,

Thanks for your reply.

I also have a particular interest in aquarium lighting. There seem to be very few lighting manufacturers who design their products with the needs of plants in mind. And they blast aquarists' tanks with loads of photons at wavelengths that plants cannot use but algae and cyanobacteria bask in this light. But, I do realize that we want our plants to look right - not a weird shade of pink! This is not horticultural lighting.

JPC

I think the biggest lack of information we now have is algae and why it grows or doesn't grow. Diana Walstad's book is, in my opinion, on the right track in saying that it is the nutrients in the water that are the key to having algae or not having it. Algae have no access to the nutrients in the substrate, except for what leaches out into the water. And, I'm intrigued by the idea that it could be iron in the water that is the magic key to algae problems. Unfortunately, it is also very hard to find a good experiment that could enforce that idea.

Yorkie 03-29-2020 10:57 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
1 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by hoppycalif (Post 1004665)
I think the biggest lack of information we now have is algae and why it grows or doesn't grow. Diana Walstad's book is, in my opinion, on the right track in saying that it is the nutrients in the water that are the key to having algae or not having it. Algae have no access to the nutrients in the substrate, except for what leaches out into the water. And, I'm intrigued by the idea that it could be iron in the water that is the magic key to algae problems. Unfortunately, it is also very hard to find a good experiment that could enforce that idea.

Hi Hoppy,

Diana Walstad, in her book, talks about light wavelengths below 520 nm promoting algae growth. But, plants also need light from this part of the spectrum. Chlorophyll a and b peak responses occur at 430 nm and 453 nm, respectively. However, with a lighting fixture that permits control over its spectrum, the amount of light being emitted below 520 nm can be reduced. The fact that white LEDs are essentially blue LEDs with the appropriate phosphor added results in a lot of light from 400 nm - 520 nm, as I'm sure you are aware. Please see the attached.

Yorkie

hoppycalif 03-29-2020 04:08 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Yorkie (Post 1004697)
Hi Hoppy,

Diana Walstad, in her book, talks about light wavelengths below 520 nm promoting algae growth. But, plants also need light from this part of the spectrum. Chlorophyll a and b peak responses occur at 430 nm and 453 nm, respectively. However, with a lighting fixture that permits control over its spectrum, the amount of light being emitted below 520 nm can be reduced. The fact that white LEDs are essentially blue LEDs with the appropriate phosphor added results in a lot of light from 400 nm - 520 nm, as I'm sure you are aware. Please see the attached.

Yorkie

Yes, I have seen those charts, but I haven't seen any data that would support a belief that certain wavelengths of light cause algae problems. That, too, is a very hard experiment to try.

mistergreen 03-29-2020 04:43 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Besides, limiting your aquarium lights to a certain spectrum to avoid algae wouldn't look aesthetically good.

Yorkie 04-05-2020 10:59 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
1 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by hoppycalif (Post 1004699)
Yes, I have seen those charts, but I haven't seen any data that would support a belief that certain wavelengths of light cause algae problems. That, too, is a very hard experiment to try.

Hi Hoppy,

Perhaps I've confused things by referring to the chlorophyll a and b peaks. I wasn't suggesting that specific wavelengths could promote growth of algae. Diana Walstad has drawn that to our attention by introducing us to iron photoreduction at less than 520nm.

Now, I do want to suggest that certain wavelengths may indeed promote algae (and BGA). Please see the attached absorption spectra. The two accessory pigments, phycoerythrin and phycocyanin are to be found in BBA and BGA, respectively. So, light in the band from 500nm to 620nm may have the potential to promote both BBA and BGA. And, higher plants only require a small proportion of light in this band. I may have suggested elsewhere on this forum that reducing the intensity of light in this mid-band when the tank is not 'on display' may help to reduce BBA and BGA. Then, when the tank is 'on display' for the benefit of we humans, the spectrum would switch to one that is aesthetically pleasing.

Yorkie

hoppycalif 04-05-2020 05:19 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
There is certainly some information that might indicate that the spectrum of the light we use could affect how much algae we have. But, we would need to experiment to determine if it really does that, and that would be difficult to do. Changing the spectrum, while maintaining the same light intensity isn't an easy thing to do.

crinum1111 04-24-2020 08:37 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Hi,
Recently read the Walstad book I found it helpful too and this was a key point of interest for me as well. My interpretation after a few readings was to deliver iron to the roots .With some caution though as iron toxicity in low ph substrate is of potential concern . Don't know if even high cec rated substrates take up the iron aggressively enough . I might try dosing moderately with full spectrum ferts ,plus bit of extra npk ( i'm running no fish currently ), a bit of trace and flourish tabs on fast growing iron hungry plants .If I get a good crop of fast growing iron hungry plants going probably switch back to just full spectrum fertilizer then .

hoppycalif 04-25-2020 02:54 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
My experiment isn't going to be a success. I suspect I don't have enough substrate in it, and the plants are not doing very well as a result. But, if I can't get both sides of the tank to start out doing well it isn't possible to see the effect of changing something on just one side. When I think about this some more I will probably start over again, but I need to keep the two betta's living while I do it. I'm still intrigued by what I read in Diana's book about iron.

Yorkie 04-30-2020 11:29 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hoppycalif (Post 1005233)
My experiment isn't going to be a success. I suspect I don't have enough substrate in it, and the plants are not doing very well as a result. But, if I can't get both sides of the tank to start out doing well it isn't possible to see the effect of changing something on just one side. When I think about this some more I will probably start over again, but I need to keep the two betta's living while I do it. I'm still intrigued by what I read in Diana's book about iron.

Hi hoppycalif,

It's a shame that the plants are not growing well and that your experiment will not be a success. I will follow this with interest should you decide to try again.

Yorkie

hoppycalif 05-01-2020 12:42 PM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
I have torn down the tank(s), and have replaced the substrate so it is almost a full 2 inches total thickness, with "dirt" (Black Gold from Ace Hardware) making up the bottom 3/4-1 inch. The top is Safe T Sorb. I should have more plants arriving on Monday, and I salvaged several from those still living. I plan to not use the little in-tank filters again, since the Bettas don't really like them.
By next Wednesday or so I should have it back to life. Meanwhile the two Bettas are in big cylindrical vases, in about a pint of water. My fingers are crossed!

hoppycalif 05-13-2020 09:30 AM

Re: Algae and Iron
 
1 Attachment(s)
I have my double 5 gallon tank set up again, almost. I will add some more crypts as soon as I get them, probably in 2 days. The substrate is much better now, but I am still poking it every couple of days and getting lots of bubbles. So far, no bad smell, so the bubbles aren't that bad. Now, I will see if I can treat both halves the same and get two equally good/bad tanks.


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