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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The last thread on this topic didn't get far.

Has anyone successfully controlled hair algae in a NPT?

My 5 gallon NPT has a steadily increasing case of hair algae. I don't know what to do about it.

I am removing the most affected leaves. If I removed every leaf that had some I would really strip the tank, and I don't want to do that.

I added a bunch of algae eating shrimp, but they don't seem to have touched this stuff (pity)

I've been adding a local version of Flourish Excel (Dino Spit), to increase the available carbon levels, for a couple of weeks now, at the recomended dose. I don't want to increase the dose lest it harm the fish or shrimp. It doesn't seem to be making any difference.

I have just moved one of my smaller Siamese Algae Eaters into the tank, temporarily. I am pretty sure he'll get the algae back under control, but I don't want to have him in this tank for longer than a week or two, as it is really too small for him. If he appears stressed to me I'll move him back to the larger tank sooner than that. So this might work to get this algae under control temporarily, but isn't a long-term solution.

The tank in question is 5 gallons, very heavily planted with mostly fast growing things (hygros, ambulia, duckweed, crypt, anubias, milfoil). Plants growing really well, fish are happy (several male guppies, loads of "algae eating" shrimp - they are an un-named caridina species native to northern Australia, and they certainly eat algae, just not this algae, it seems). The water has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5ppm nitrate, 0 iron, around 3ppm phosphate (coming out of the soil).

Any other suggestions?
 

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Hi helenf. Mine will not be the popular answer, but I killed off black brush/beard algae with lots of Excel (gluteraldehyde) and my shrimp were ok. Initially I lost one, at the first and smaller dose. Maybe coincidental because I lost no more with subsequent higher doses (2cc per 10 gallons). I dosed for 10 days. At the same time, a rooted plant, water sprite, went nuts and finally found the surface. I think the Excel killed off the algae, but the sprite's overall growth & going aerial has kept it at bay.
I also did all of the recommended things before the Flourish Excel; I vac'd the bottom debris in case it was too much nutrient. I lowered my lights to 2-3 watts per gallon. I added extra plants including duckweed...:laser:
So far so good. I just stirred up the soil transplanting a few days ago, so I am watching it closely. I no longer think we can totally avoid algae. Hang in there. Best wishes!
 

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I had red hair algae in the past. I added CO2 by DIY (1 bubble every 4 seconds) and a branch of Ceratophyllum demersum. They disapeared in two weeks. I don´t know if it was CO2 or Ceratophyllum, or both.

Good luck!
 

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Helen,
If your tap water comes out nutrient-free, try some major water changes. Try to get the nitrate and phosphate levels down to zero. If you recall the thread on Duckweed and Frogbit root length, the tank with long roots and no nitrates also has no BBA or any other type of thread/hair algae. I even transplanted an Amazon Sword from another tank teeming with BBA. After a week in the nitrate-free tank, the algae on the sword was a thin gray ghost of it's former self.

You can also institute a light blackout - something I've done before without problems. Your plants won't grow but neither will the algae. Coupled with a reduction in water nutrients, a few days without light might just do the trick.

If that works, you might try reducing the amount of food you give the little beasties to keep nutrient levels down.

If that doesn't work, I would try to get ahold of some genuine Excel, (don't know what's in your Dino Spit) remove the fish and then dose the heck out of your tank. If you have invertebrates in the tank that you can't get out, run an aerator to keep oxygen levels high. I lost a mature Angel Fish to Excel and I think that was the culprit.

Hope this helps,
Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys,

I don't know whether I can get the tank to be phosphate free, because it is leaching out of the soil, but I can certainly aim for it to be nitrate free, probably reducing my feeding will achieve this. I'm currently feeding much more, I think, than the fish actually eat, though the snail cleans up a lot of the leftovers. I'll try reducing the amount I feed and see what happens.
 

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Is hair algae also referred to as thread algae? If so then from a couple of sites that I came across during a search on this awhile back, they state that this type of algae is caused by an excess of iron in the water column. Do you know if your water source has a lot of iron in it?

Also, wouldn't it be a little difficult to keep a planted tank phosphate free since plants need phosphates just as much as any other micro/macro nutrient? As for the nitrates, I'd try to keep a bit in your tank, if I were you. After my 10g had removed all ammonia and nitrites when it was first set up, it quickly used up the nitrates and until just last month, it has been nitrate free but I started noticing a change in the plants around December of last year. The plant growth slowed down quite a bit and my Wisteria gradually started to look pathetic. Since I added KNO3 to the tank, my plants have perked up a lot compared to what they were a few months ago.
 

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The only areas I have hair algae in my NPTs is on the window side. So my vote would be for decreasing light levels.

If you wanted to remove your critters temporarily, peroxide is an option for killing it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I don't think there is any measurable iron in my water at all.

I've been doing some water changes and reducing the feeding, and the nitrate level has dropped to less than 5ppm so far. The algae is still growing, though the SAE is making a dent I think. The bad thing I noticed today is that the algae has started to take root on the top leaf of my favourite plant - the anubias nana - this is bad! I really like that plant!!!

Going to keep reducing the nitrate, try to get it to zero and keep it there for 2-3 weeks. Hopefully that will be enough to get rid of the algae.

Wish me luck!
 

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I don't think there is any measurable iron in my water at all.
I didn't want to add anything else to this thread until receiving a new Iron test kit. As in your tank, the new test kit tells me the same thing the old test kit did - my aquariums don't have measurable Iron either.

After re-testing the three pertinent tanks for Nitrate again - the two tanks with Black Beard Algae are still the ones with elevated Nitrates. NPT #4 continues to flourish without a Nitrate level and has no trace of BBA. Although I've read the book and understand the implications, from everything my old eyes are seeing, Nitrates are the key, at least where BBA is concerned.

In another twist, NPT #2, a ten gallon tank, has BBA in only one place - under the outflow of the filter used for water circulation. Although the charcoal has been removed and the mechanical media is regularly taken out for chlorinated cleaning to kill any nitrifying bacteria, maybe there is still enough bacteria left in the rest of the filter to provide sufficient Nitrates to feed the BBA? I'm going to sterilize that filter to see if the BBA patch won't go away.

If it doesn't, could areas of concentrated water circulation be the problem. Probably not completely since NPT #4 was great circulation, at least at the top of the tank. Hmmmmmm..... could lower level circulation be a problem in that it supplies any nitrifying bacteria attached to the gravel with the ammonia normally taken up by the plants, thereby stimulating a source of Nitrates? :confused:

And does anyone know how Excel works???

Jim
 

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helenf,

Here's a site I found of various different algaes(hair algae being one of them) that I found rather helpful. It might be of some help to you. :)

I didn't want to add anything else to this thread until receiving a new Iron test kit. As in your tank, the new test kit tells me the same thing the old test kit did - my aquariums don't have measurable Iron either.

After re-testing the three pertinent tanks for Nitrate again - the two tanks with Black Beard Algae are still the ones with elevated Nitrates. NPT #4 continues to flourish without a Nitrate level and has no trace of BBA. Although I've read the book and understand the implications, from everything my old eyes are seeing, Nitrates are the key, at least where BBA is concerned.

In another twist, NPT #2, a ten gallon tank, has BBA in only one place - under the outflow of the filter used for water circulation. Although the charcoal has been removed and the mechanical media is regularly taken out for chlorinated cleaning to kill any nitrifying bacteria, maybe there is still enough bacteria left in the rest of the filter to provide sufficient Nitrates to feed the BBA? I'm going to sterilize that filter to see if the BBA patch won't go away.

If it doesn't, could areas of concentrated water circulation be the problem. Probably not completely since NPT #4 was great circulation, at least at the top of the tank. Hmmmmmm..... could lower level circulation be a problem in that it supplies any nitrifying bacteria attached to the gravel with the ammonia normally taken up by the plants, thereby stimulating a source of Nitrates? :confused:

And does anyone know how Excel works???

Jim
I find it interesting that you think the cause of BBA is from nitrates. I had asked about this type of algae in one of the other sub-forums here and I was told that it's either caused by not enough CO2 in the water or by too much light.

I had come across a couple of sites that state that BBA loves phosphates and that it's best to keep the nitrates up in the 5-10ppm range but most of the sites say that not enough CO2 is normally the cause of this algae. I had found that out for myself. The last couple of weeks have been quite hot and humid out so I had gotten an airstone for my 10g to help keep the temperature from rising very quickly. Well, during that time, I had started to noticed some small black strands on some of my plant leaves. I had managed to remove most of it but now the airstone is out of the tank so things should improve(hopefully!) now that it's gone.
 

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I find it interesting that you think the cause of BBA is from nitrates. I had asked about this type of algae in one of the other sub-forums here and I was told that it's either caused by not enough CO2 in the water or by too much light.
Definitely light has something to do with how fast BBA grows, but I haven't seen a correlation between the onset of BBA and the existing light. NPT #4 is my second brightest tank per gallon behind #2, and has no BBA. Then again, #3 was the brightest when it was getting sunlight. In trying to battle the BBA, the back was covered to keep out the sun and the light period was dialed back on the timer. The BBA is still growing, albeit not quite as fast. Who knows....?

As to CO2, my experience tells me something else is going on. Before switching my tanks to NPTs, I did quite a lot of CO2 injection and saw no relationship, inverse or otherwise, to BBA growth. Then when NPT #3 started to get swallowed up by BBA, one of the first things I did was inject CO2 and dose with Excel. I'm convinced the Excel killed one of my fish, so it was stopped the next day. The CO2 injection continues. It's fed into the venturi port on the submersible pump and the worst BBA in #3 is directly downstream from the pump, which is just the opposite result one would expect.

Perhaps CO2 stimulates plant growth so much, that waterborne nutrients are sufficiently depleted to prevent the growth of BBA. This would also explain the success of Excel although I am not convinced this is the sole reason. Regardless, it isn't working in NPT #3.

Pertaining to phosphates, NPT 4 has none and there are small amounts in #3's water. In just comparing the two, maybe phosphates are the key and not nitrates? :confused::confused::confused:

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks both for the discussion.

I've only just managed to get the nitrates to zero in the tank in question. I'll try to hold it there for at least a couple of weeks and see what happens to the algae. I've had to move the SAE out of that tank, as it really is too small for him, so currently there is nobody who might eat it - I'm going to have to fix this stuff another way.

I am dubious in general when I see the discussions about algae saying that this algae is caused by low PO4 and that algae is caused by low CO2 and whatever. It seems to me that while this might be true for many tanks, such statements are probably making an assumption about the kind of tank involved, and the assumption won't hold for all tanks.

For example, high-tech tanks usually have: high light, high CO2, low nitrate, limiting phosphate.

Low tech tanks usually have low light, limiting CO2, high nitrate, mid-high phosphate.

El Natural tanks usually have (I'm guessing, based on my experiences so far): moderate to high light, limiting CO2, very low nitrate, high phosphate (mine have this, anyway).

So between these three general kinds of tanks, I doubt that one could say for sure that the same limiting or excess nutrient will be a cause of a particular algae in a particular tank. Maybe :)

I'll let you know how I go with this tank.
 

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Any updates to the hair algae, helenf?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The hair algae seems to have mostly gone, not that I've looked closely recently. It's more that I haven't noticed it as an obvious presence in the tank, so I assume it's gone.

The tank as a whole is growing well, but looking rather untidy. I think I need more careful and frequent pruning. I do think that the pruning I've been doing is probably contributing to keep the algae under control, as the plants have space to keep growing. Also regular removal of duckweed (to feed goldfish in another tank) surely helps as well.

In general this tank is doing very well as a fairly "self sufficient" system, so I'm pleased with it. I've not been spending much time on my tanks recently, and they could all do with more attention, but the fish and other critters are healthy, and the plants are growing, so I guess that really all is well.
 

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Hi I'm new to this forum and have been running a NPT tank since july of this year after having read Diana Walstead's book and reading DataGuru's webpage (both great).

My plants have been growing well and the tank has been remarkably algae free although lately I have had an increasing problem with hair algae and a lack of growth from stem plants. The things that I have done which seem to help are
1) removal of floating plants such as the fast growing duckweed and riccia
2) removal of fast growers such as vallis and general prunning
3) reducing water changes and reducing filter maintenance
4) increasing feeding especially vegatables
5) adding more fish
6) reducing my photoperiod from 10hrs to 8hrs

I don't know what others think but I have found that in a NPT where I don't add ferts and CO2 that the key to growing plants without algae is supply and demand of nutrients. It seems that high light and high plant biomass together creates a high demand for nutrients & CO2 which if not met by the substrate and feeding causes algae to grow.

It seems that as I have solved one problem, the hair algae dies back a bit then returns which usually means that I need to prune and try one of the above steps - I haven't quite reached a steady state yet.
 

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6) reducing my photoperiod from 10hrs to 8hrs
QUOTE]

It's hard to draw any conclusions when you change 6 variables at a time.

I would not rely much on reducing photoperiods to cure algae problems. To get good plant growth, you need to have a photoperiod of at least 10-12 hours. And you must have good plant growth to combat algae.

I routinely remove hair-algae from one of my best tanks. I wouldn't worry about a little algae.
 

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Hi Brenmuk,
Welcome to the fabulous world of NPTs!!! :)

My perception of algae control is only about 90% formulated, so take what follows accordingly. ;)

#1 - Algae lives entirely off nutrients floating in the water. If you remove one or more of these necessary nutrients, the algae will disappear. None of my four NPTs have any noticeable algae.

#2 - Most rooted plants also absorb particular nutrients from the water. Any nutrients removed for algae control must not be needed by your rooted plants. In my humble opinion, the nutrients you need to keep from building up in the water are iron, nitrates, or phosphates.

#3 - One way to remove nutrients from the water is install lots of floating plants. They get their nutrients exclusively from the water, so they compete directly with algae.

#4 - Proper feeding is another way to keep nutrients from the water. Feed too much and the nutrients build up in the water, encouraging algae growth. Feed too little, the plants and fish suffer. I've begun using automatic feeders for everyday feeding and I seriously think it helps to dial in just the right amount of food.

#5 - If you're having problems growing certain plants, you might be lacking one of the hard water nutrients plants like to pull from the water like calcium, magnesium and potassium. Our water is super soft. When one of the larger tank's GH slips below 8, I dose 1/2 tsp of calcium carbonate, 1/2 tsp of potassium chloride and a 1/4 tsp of magnesium sulphate.

#6 - Water changes are good for algae control if the new water you add to the tank contains fewer nutrients than the old water you're removing. Otherwise you could be shooting yourself in the foot. Test your water from the tap. That will tell you how often your tanks need changing. Our average is somewhere around 15% every 6 - 8 weeks.

#7 - I don't think the length of the photo period is that critical. Three of my tanks get 14 hours per day and one gets 10 in two five hour increments. I can't see any difference except the plants in the 14 hour tanks grow faster. Look at it this way - whatever is going to happen with the algae, it will happen faster with more light.

#8 - Filters are OK in the beginning but if allowed to mature, they will start competing with your plants for ammonia, a vital source of nitrogen. You can use a filter, but pull the media out every couple weeks and kill the nitrifying bacteria with chlorinated tap water. Only one of our tanks has a filter now, and it's of the UV variety.

#9 - Snails and some fish actually like to eat certain algae. I haven't had much luck with 'animal' algae control so I can't really recommend it. I have too many snails and not enough of the algae they like to eat. :(

Hope this helps!
 

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>>>>Try to get the nitrate and phosphate levels down to zero.

My nitrates are 20-30 ppm and my phosphates way over 5 ppm and I have little to any algae issues these days. Without these important macros your plants will suffer but the algae will live on any smidgen of either that may occur from decaying plant matter or fish waste. You need to provide enough nutrients for your plants to thrive and out compete the algaes, not the other way around.

>>>>Is hair algae also referred to as thread algae? If so then from a couple of sites that I came across during a search on this awhile back, they state that this type of algae is caused by an excess of iron in the water column.

This is pretty much a myth that was debunked a while ago but still persists for some reason. I dose CSM+B which has iron, every other day, and dose chelated iron too, yet I have no thread or silk algae.

See here for an excellent page on algae with facts and not myths or maybes (particularly see the section on thread algae):

http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/algae.htm
 
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