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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
And how in the world do I get rid of it?

It seems to grow only on the hornwort, java moss and java fern. It doesn't grow on any of the anubias nor crypts. The thing that's strange about it is that when I try to pull it out, it disintegrates very easily, kind of like what happens if you throw tissue into the water. Any sort of disturbance to the algae breaks it up really easily. Given the fragile nature of this algae, I would think it would rule out thread algae or cladophora. But I'm a noob, so what do I know. The original reason I kept hornwort was because of it's fast growing nature and was suppose to out compete against algae. I didn't want to keep hornwort to help cultivate algae!

The hornwort still grows fast, and the rest of the plants look very healthy and lush. But for some reason, this algae seems to grow just as fast, if not faster. Its hard to pick it out without the algae disintegrating.

My tank stats:

10 gallon tank.

I use Seachem's full line of ferts including, Iron, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Trace, Excel, Flourish and Potassium. I follow Seachem's recommended dosing amount and dosing schedule. Substrate is typical gravel. I follow the EI regiment and do a 40% water change / vacuum gravel once a week to reset the tank.

I do not use CO2, hence the reason why I use Excel instead. (CO2 is rocket science/voodoo to me).

Nitrates: Typically between 10-20 ppm, depending on whether the test was done before or after the water change.

Lighting: 35 watts total; 2 -10 watt 6500K CFL's and one 15 watt fluorescent tube (Hagen Aqua-Glo) on for 8 hours a day.

The otocinclus don't touch the stuff, nor do the amano shrimp, and neither does the nerite snail. In fact, I even put the snail on top the algae-infested hornwort, and in a few minutes, it just hops right off. I'm thinking that none of my clean up crew touch the stuff because the hornwort is floating at the surface? But if that were true, then the java fern and java moss should get a good cleaning at least.

I've had this tank set up for many months before this algae started rearing its ugly head. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for your help.


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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Xspy and Helgymatt, thanks for your efforts in trying to ID it. Helgymatt, I do have pretty decent flow in the tank. Let me explain. I have an AquaClear 30 on a dinky little 10 gallon tank. I have it set to the highest setting, at about 150 gph, which I think is plenty. However, I have a piece of plastic diverting part of that flow, so that it doesn't churn the water too much. The betta in there doesn't appreciate high flow.

Texgal, thanks for trying to ID and give me some leads. I tried siphoning it, and it does get some of it, but its not so fragile that siphoning gets all of it. Besides, I'm trying to figure out how to prevent it from coming back. I don't really want to be siphoning every 3 days just to get some of it out.

I thought it might be Rhizoclonium too, but none of the description fits this algae. According to the website it states:

"Strands of fine green or brownish threads which are soft and slimy."

This algae is not slimy at all. Actually when I feel it between my fingers, it feels like nothing at all. It almost melts away like a gossamer filament or kind of how cotton candy melts in your mouth.

"Cause: Low CO2. Low nutrient levels. General lack of maintenance."

There might be low CO2 because of the high flow, but I use Excel carbon. I religiously clean the tank once a week, doing a 35-40% water change / gravel vacuum as required by the EI method. I also dose daily according to Seachem's dosing schedule and amount. Most of the plants are epiphytes, which would take its nutrition from the water column. The only one that's not is the Crypt, but that's rooted in a pot of AquaSoil. So there should be sufficient nutrients.

"Removal: Increase CO2 levels and check nutrient dosing. Give the tank a good cleaning. Overdosing excel should also clear it. Amano shrimp will eat it."

I started overdosing excel and haven't seen a change yet. And no, the Amano shrimp are not eating it.

Also, the tank does not have a heavy fish load neither. There are 4 neons, 1 male betta, 2 ottos and 3 amanos. With a strong filter, lots of plants, and frequent water changes, I figured it would be a balanced system. And it was pretty balanced until about a month ago. Man I have so much to learn still.....:confused:

Thanks again for all your efforts everyone ^_^

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Whoa really? I shouldn't be gravel vacuuming that often? That's news to me. I just figured that if I were doing large water changes once a week, I might as well be gravel vacuuming as well. I guess that's just part of my perfectionistic tendency, to make sure I have a sparkling clean tank. That was the original reasoning for me to get epiphytic plants, so that I can move them around when gravel vacuuming.

I do that to all my tanks except the nano tank with AquaSoil for substrate. The fish and shrimp hate it when I gravel vacuum.

Maybe I'll cut down on gravel vacuuming. That'll surely save more work on my part ;p

Thanks for the tip.

I'd still like to know what the heck this algae is and how I can stop it from growing.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi everyone. Thanks for your response. To answer some of your questions:

Complexity – Thanks for trying to ID the algae. I’ve tried to get a closer picture, but then the picture is blurry because my camera can’t focus that closely. The pictures I’ve already posted are at high-res, and cropped to only show the algae. I’ll see if I can get a better close up. I’ll try your suggestion of hovering over gravel. Although, it’ll take a whole lot of restraint on my part to not want to dig into the gravel and siphon out the mulm. But the problem is, almost all the plants in my 10 gallon are epiphytes, (java moss, mava fern, anubias, hornwort), which means that none of the plants actually have roots in the gravel. So I’m thinking that periodic gravel vacuuming is still the way to go. Call me compulsive. The plant mass is already fairly high. Not overly-dense, but not sparse either.

I dose virtually everyday according to Seachem’s suggested amount. So I’d assume that the plants are all well fed. Well except for the anubias petite. They two of them seem to be exhibiting some sort of deficiency (possibly nitrogen) because the older leaves are yellow. But I do dose Seachem’s nitrogen too. Maybe my nitrates are too low? Too much vaccuming like you were saying? I’ll check my nitrates tonight when I get home.

As for “checking the balance between the CO2, ferts, lighting and plant mass” how would you recommend that I go about doing that? I just follow the typical recommendations of 8-10 hours of lighting, dosing using the EI method, and use carbon Excel instead of CO2. If you have a solution, I’m all ears.

Rockylou – I’ve had this tank setup for about nine months now. I’ve gone through a couple of bouts of different types of algae (brown algae, then thread algae) and won. Now I’ve got this algae, and don’t really know what triggers it or how to stop it.

Coley24 – Don’t hijack other people’s threads! No only kidding (Haha!) [smilie=l: I’m actually relieved to know that I’m not the only one who has this problem since I wasn’t able to find anyone else who has this algae doing a search on this forum. I’m baffled just like you. I think the fact that you and I are doing the same thing has to point to the reason why this algae is thriving. Maybe Complexity is right, in that we’re over cleaning???? Dunno. I’ll try NOT gravel vacuuming for the next couple of weeks, and reduce my lighting period to about 7 hours and see if that helps.

In the meantime, I’ve figured out a way to get rid of the algae, but its obviously a temporary solution, and by no means is a conventional way to go about ridding algae. Because this algae is so thin and frail, this temporary solution only works for this type of algae. Take the algae infested plant, or rock or décor or what have you out of the tank (you don’t want loose algae floating in your tank and laying claim to some other part of your tank), then place the infected plant in a jar of water. Cap the lid on the jar, and shake vigorously for about 20 or 30 seconds. Then open the lid, dump out the greenish water, rinse the plant, fill the jar up with more water, and shake again. After the second cleaning, the plant is pretty much algae-free. At this point, it seems to take the algae longer to come back, but it still does. It’s sort of a pain, and I hope to find the solution, but at least this works in the interim. I’ll post my results in a couple of weeks and see if reducing light duration and NOT gravel vaccuming helps. Good luck with your algae battle.

Thank you all for your moral support!

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Whew! That sure was a mouthful Complexity ^_- I read it all, twice. Thanks for the in-depth explanation. You make some interesting points, and your theory on a higher plant mass touching more water is intriguing. I’ve been reading on the importance of a higher plant mass in a tank to combat algae. Not only does it soak up the nutrients, thus leaving algae with nothing, but I’ve also read upon another interesting theory of plants putting out a chemical called allelopathy. So that’s what I’ve been striving for. At this point, there’s not much of the substrate that does receive light, because virtually all of the substrate is being shaded by plants. My wife thinks it looks sort of like the Amazon River.

As for my lights, I have 3.5 watts per gallon because the “expert” at the LFS told me I should shoot for about 3 watts per gallon. So it may seem that I have too much light. But here’s the thing, in my 3 gallon nano, it only has 9 watts of light over it, and the hornwort and some other stem plants in it are growing this same algae. Where as my 2.5 gallon nano with 20 watts of light (which is more than double the amount of light of the 3 gallon) has very little algae. So I’m not so sure if excess lighting is the culprit. Besides in the 10 gallon that most prominently exhibits this algae problem, it has been running smoothly for several months without any algae! Same lights, (all bulbs less than a year old), same dosing regiment, same cleaning schedule, same Bat time, same Bat channel, same everything.

In the 10 gallon tank, this is actually the list of plants I have:
Anubias Nana
Anubias Barteri
Anubias Nana Petite
Java Moss
Java Fern

So I do have a couple of Crypts in my tank. I just didn’t list them because I didn’t think it mattered. The Crypts are planted in a small pot of AquaSoil Amazonia II and are thriving. These crypts have never experienced melt, although some of my other crypts have melted. In my 2.5 gallon nano, it started to melt when I first put it in the AS. But it came back, and grew great! Then, several months later, for some unknown reason, it just melted completely, and died. But I digress…..

I agree with what you are saying about stem plants growing faster and easier to grow. I actually have several stem plants in my other tanks but don’t have any in this tank (other than the hornwort) because I think stem plants grow too fast and require more pruning. (What can I say, I’m lazy). The whole reason I even have hornwort in there is to be the nutrient sponge. Well that and because it shades the slower growing plants (my wife calls it the canopy effect) like anubias and java ferns, so that algae doesn’t grown on them. And for the most part, it seems to work, except that algae is now growing on the hornwort instead!!!!!

As for water changes, I guess I’ve always thought of gravel vacuuming and water changes to be one in the same. That’s just the way I grew up knowing of water changes. You do water changes to clean the tank. And the most common practice now is to do frequent water changes because its better for the health of the fish. So for me, when I think of doing water changes, that also includes vacuuming. I figure it reduces the amount of nitrates, which is good for the fish. I mean, you’re suppose to clean the filter media every now and then to reduce nitrates, right? But I suppose I need to change two decades worth of thinking, and start shifting the idea of what water changes are; only changing out the water. I can leave the gravel vacuuming to be about once a month instead. And that’s cool with me, because its less work for me. And I actually like mulm, and use it to seed new tanks. I just don’t like seeing it float around when the substrate is disturbed. But I’ll change my ways. Thanks for your input!

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Tex Gal, thank you for your sympathy :)

Nope, I don't have a UV light. Just an AquaClear 30 and water changes.

CUC consists of 2 otos, 3 amano shrimp and a nerite.

I guess having this algae is not nearly as bad, as say, having BBA or BGA. At least this stuff comes off pretty easy and doesn't destroy the plant leaves like BBA. I just wished that an amano shrimp, oto or nerite would eat this stuff....

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Sorry for the slow reply. I strained my lower back about a week ago, and I’m still finding it difficult to be in a position in which I’m not in pain :(

In any case, thanks again Complexity for your thoughts. I did exactly what you recommended, and I lowered the amount of light in the tank. Originally I had:

1X 15 watt fluorescent bulb
2X 10 watt 6700K CFL’s

Which was a total of 35 watts. (It was a ghetto retro I made). About 10 days ago, I took out the 15 watt bulb. This left me with 20 watts of light (two 10 watt CFLs). Afterwards, I did a good cleaning, and removed all the algae. Then, I did a water change yesterday (but only one gallon at a time which was all my back was able to handle), and I still have that pesky algae growing on the hornwort. It wasn’t as bad, but it is definitely still there. The plants still look healthy, so I think I’ll stick with the lower wattage of bulbs. The only reason I even increased the lighting in the first place is because I was recommended to do so by a LFS guru.

The strange thing is that in the 3 gallon nano tank with only 9 watts of light, this very same algae is starting to take hold too. And 9 watts of light is very little in absolute terms, right? Its not like I’m over driving the nano tank with lighting. Heck, I even have some stem plants melting at the base because there’s not enough lighting. At 3 gallons, you can totally throw out the WPG rule, right? However, in my 2.5 gallon with 20 watts of light, I don’t have this particular algae growing at all. And finally in my 1.25 gallon Crystal Red Shrimp only tank with 10 watts of light, there is ABSOLULTELY NO ALGAE in this tank whatsoever!! It’s sparkling pristine, and all I dose is Excel and nothing else. With a tank this small, it would totally negate the WPG rule. Which leads me to believe that this algae is not very much affected by the amount of light. And still the amanos or otos don’t touch this stuff.

So to sum up:

10 GALLON – 20 watts – Strange algae still growing

3 GALLON – 9 watts – Strange algae has been growing

2.5 GALLON – 20 watts – Sparse amount of Green Dust Algae growing, but NOT this strange algae


Well I’m still at a loss. I guess if I don’t find the answer out, it’s not the end of the world. Removing it will just add to my water changes.

Thank you all for your help.

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·

Well I've taken a lot of the hornwort out of the tank (since that's where most of this annoying algae was growing) and reduced my lighting to just 20 watts. At this point, the algae growth has slowed down a fair amount, but not gone.

Once theory I have for this, other than the lower light levels (thanks Complexity and chagovatoloco), is that maybe the excess hornwort was sucking out too much of the nutrients, leaving a deficient situation. Thus the lower the lights, the slower the hornwort grows, the less nutrients they suck up, not to mention less lights for the algae! Because hornwort grows crazy fast! I'd say it grows almost as fast as elodea (anacharis).

So I'm gonna try over dosing other nutrients a little more and see if that doesn't help my situation. Naja002, thanks for that great find! I'd be a but surprised if its caused by a lack of nitrates, since my tank is usually around 15-20 ppm using an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit. But I'll try dosing more nitrogen.

Thank you ALL for your help! :prayer::prayer:

I'll update you guys in the next week.

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
UPDATE 12/20/08

Tank is almost rid of this snotty algae. I see little bits of it here and there, but nothing like it was before. I think reducing the light from 3.5 WPG to just 2 WPG helped. Also, I got rid of a lot of the hornwort which I think did three things:

1. A high plant mass was sucking out all the nutrients, leaving some of the slower growing plants (e.g anubias or java fern) starving.

2. The hornwort was blocking out the light and possibly starving the plants below of sufficient light.

3. THe hornwort was growing right underneath the light, which is a perfect place for algae to grow.

But by getting rid of a lot of the hornwort, reducing the amount of lights, and going back to basics of EI Dosing and actually start SLIGHTLY overdosing, this algae is in check. I think this all helps the plants to be healthy, and helps out compete against the algae.

THis tank was struggling with this snotty algae too, and it just so happens that it has hornwort in it also. But by increasing the light from 9 watts to 20 watts, and by increasing the dosing according to the EI Method, and by cutting back on the hornwort, I'm starting to beat out this stinkin' algae! I still see signs of it here and there, but for the most part, its looking a lot better.

I still don't know what exactly this algae is, but if it goes away, then, hey! thats A-Ok with me -_^

You were right Complexity, it just takes finding the right balance for plant mass, lighting and ferts, making sure that all my plants are healthy.

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
UPDATE 1-6-09


Here's the latest update regarding the mystery algae.

I've been following some of the people's advice on this board, and reduced the lighting in my 10 gallon tank from 35 watts to only 20 watts. Then I went back and re-read Tom Barr's write up on the EI method.

I think the problem I was having is that I wasn't feeding the plants enough. In the past, while scouring the internet, I come upon warnings to not have an excess of nutrients like Nitrogen or Phosphorus, otherwise I'll have an algae bloom. So I think I was a bit too stingy with the fertz, and because the hornwort is a nutrient hoard, I think it left my other plants in a deficiency stage. Once this happens, the algae is able to gain a foot hold and bloom. So originally, I was careful to NOT overdose on any nutrients, and strictly followed Seachem's guidelines. Why? Because I'm a noob and don't know any better, and might as well follow the manufacturers suggestion. As a result, I got a few different types of algae, some GSA, some thread algae, and some of this weird algae which I have yet to identify. So my thinking is, "Hmmm…. I'm dosing the full line of Seachem as they recommended, and now I'm getting algae. Maybe I'm overdosing on Nitrogen or Phosphorus. Better, cut back on that." I did that thinking that I was doing the right thing, when in fact, I was starving out the plants. So more algae grew. At this point, I came to this board for help.

Lowering the lighting in the 10 gallon helped, but fully. But re-reading the EI method, helped me understand one important thing: overdosing nutrients does NOT cause algae.

As Tom Barr states "An important aspect of this method is the knowledge that excess nutrients do not cause algae blooms as so many authors in the past and many today still maintain without having tested this critically in aquariums with a healthy plant biomass. It is a welcomed relief knowing that "excess" phosphate, nitrate and iron do not cause algae blooms."

These one or two sentences were critical to my understanding of how to properly grow aquarium plants. So what I started to do was slightly OVERDOSE on all nutrients. And it started to work great! This mystery algae stopped growing for the most part. There were still bits and pieces of it growing, but wasn't nearly as overgrown before. Tom Barr is right! And all that other stuff on the internet is just plain balonie. I think that's why Tom always gets irritated when people post their assumptions or guesses because it perpetuates misinformation on the internet.

In any case, my tanks were all humming along for a while as I happily slightly overdose on a daily basis. Then I go away for 5 days on vacation. When I come back, the dreaded algae is back! And in full force too!!! I'm sooooo pi$$ed, as I start siphoning out the algae and remove as much as possible. Since then, I've been continuing to slightly overdose, and harassing the algae when I see it, and everything looks great! Just remnants of this mystery algae remains. But I'm okay with that.

So to Coley 24, try slightly overdosing fertz and see if you have less algae, and make sure the amount of lighting you have is appropriate for the size of your tank and the types of plants you have.

Thanks for your advice Complexity. It helped point me in the right direction.

To HeyPK, I was just given 3 guppies. They are in a quarantine tank now. But they've been looking healthy, and so will soon go into the 10 gallon. Thanks for that bit of advice.

I'll write one more update in a few weeks to see if everything continues to look good. I'm anticipating it will.

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·

For what its worth, this strange nuisance of an algae is mostly gone. There's still small remnants of this algae every now and then on the anubias and hornwort, but not nearly to the extent that it use to be. So following the EI method has been most helpful.

Although now, I'm growing a little bit of every kind of algae it seems like. Some thread algae, green spot algae, stag, and fuzz algae. Its an algae buffet platter, none of which my otos nor guppies will eat neither :(

I totally love having planted tanks, but despise algae, especially GSA on my anuibas (grrrr.....)
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