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Unfortunately, I can't ID the algae either. Any chance you can get a closer picture of it so we can see the actual strands?

I used to do a very thorough cleaning of my tanks, as well. Almost seemed compulsive. But when the plants grew in, it was not practical so I started doing what others had suggested, which is to gently hover over the substrate, getting just the debris on the surface. Never plunge into the substrate (that mulm becomes plant food much in the same way that leaves in a forest break down to fertilize the soil).

Once I started doing this, I found that I had fewer problems in general. It might also be because of the greater plant mass so I can't say for sure the learning to not over clean is what changed things, but I know it doesn't cause any harm.

I will still spot clean areas that I know need cleaning, such as close to my pleco's cave, but overall, I just do a water change and don't worry about the substrate. If the debris is light enough to stay in the water column, then the filters will get it. Many times my 55 amano shrimp will clean things off. Other fish, such as my 9 SAE's help. Anything that none of the fish will eat will decompose and fall into the substrate where the plants take it up.

I think the main key is to not over clean, but build up the plant mass in the tank. The more growing plant material, the more the plants will do the cleaning for you by feeding off of the ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and mulm.

As far as the cause of the algae is concerned, go back to the basics. Check to be sure your CO2 and ferts are dosed consistently and fully enough to not hinder plant growth, ensure good filtration and circulation (the betta will adjust to filter flow), and try to not run the lights too bright and/or too long.

Just like the common cold, we may not always know exactly which virus has attacked our bodies, but we still know what to do to relieve the suffering and to finally get rid of it. So you might be able to correct the environment that favors the algae by simply double checking the balance between the CO2, ferts, lighting and plant mass.

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166 Posts
Interesting way to at least keep the algae at bay while you're trying to figure out what's causing it.

Now that I know what plants you're growing, I'm questioning if the light is too bright. Each of the plants you listed, except hornwort, are very slow growers. They are known for getting algae as a result. I personally found it much harder to grow those plants than I have found growing stems.

This is my basic theory regarding the balance of ferts, CO2, lighting and plant mass.

There are three things that can affect a plant's growth: Ferts, CO2 and lighting. If any of these three things are out of balance from the others, then algae will be a problem.

The basic idea is to give each plant all the ferts and CO2 they need. Give both in excess (I prefer using the EI method with dry ferts). By ensuring the plants are getting all the ferts and CO2 they need, neither of these elements will hinder the plant's ability to grow.

Next is the issue of lighting. The lighting needs to match the plants you are growing. In your case, you need low to low/med lighting since all of the plants you are growing do not require bright light. If the lighting is too brights, then algae will grow.

That brings me to plant mass. I have heard some people suggest that if they are getting algae, that must mean there are too many nutrients in the water (too much ferts). So they decide to dose less, thinking that would improve things. However, it doesn't. All it does is hinder the plant's growth.

Here's my logic behind this. The numbers I'm using are simply used to convey the concept and should not be taken in any literal sense.

When a tank with low plant mass is dosed with ferts, the water column has a high concentration of ferts, but the plant only comes into contact with so much water. So with a low plant mass, there's a lot of extra ferts left in the water column:

So it would seem logical to reduce the amount of ferts being dosed. The concept is that the low plant mass will take in all of the ferts, leaving no extra ferts in the water:

However, I believe the plants are not able to come in full contact with all of the water so rather than getting all 10 ferts, it simply receives the reduced concentration of ferts in the water it does come in contact. The plant no longer receives all the ferts it needs while extra ferts are still left in the water:

The solution is not not lower the amount of ferts dosed, but to raise the plant mass. Now there are enough plants coming into contact with the water to take in all of the ferts being dosed. All of the plants get all of the ferts they need while not leaving extra ferts for algae:

Again, let me stress that this is simply my theory! I have no proof whatsoever that this is what really happens. I came to believe this theory based on the constant recommendation from others more experienced and knowledgeable to not reduce ferts (use the EI method), but to use "nutrient sponge" plants, such as hornwort. My theory explains why this is recommended. I've also found that when I have more plant mass in my tank, the water condition is much better and I have fewer algae problems. So I offer this theory for consideration.

I'm not sure if the reason you are growing those specific plants is because those are the plants you like best or because you're concerned that your tank won't grow stems very well. Or maybe you think those plants are easier. In truth, those plants can be difficult to grow, especially when that's all the plants in the tank. I have found stems to be much easier to grow!

Another plant you might like to try are Crypts. They are tough as nails and require very little maintenance (I have only had 1 Crypt melt on me, but it grew back quickly).

I can't say at this time that your over cleaning is removing necessary ferts from the substrate since you are not growing plants that are rooted into the substrate. The concern then shifts to removing/disturbing too much of the beneficial bacteria, causing the tank to go into mini-cycles. I know I did this to my tanks because I cleaned way too much.

I think the compulsion to over clean needs to be reviewed in your own mind. What is the real concern if you don't vacuum every speck of debris in the substrate? What will happen if you leave it? Will it cloud the water? Pollute the tank? Make the tank look unkept? And what are you receiving by over cleaning? Do you feel you are taking excellent care of the tank? Do you think it is necessary to clean tanks to that degree?

I think if you find the real reason as to why you feel the need to over clean, then you can take a hard look at whether the concern is truly valid. If you can change your thinking around, then you can see that over cleaning is not beneficial and can be harmful, while not over cleaning is actually better for the plants, inverts and fish.

I will say that my tanks are their cleanest when I have a high plant mass and just simply do water changes without messing with the substrate. The plants clean the tank for me. I now see the mulm as a good thing, like an enriched soil. Too sterile a substrate is not good. So when I see the mulm build up (I can see it where the substrate is up against the glass), I feel very good about it. I feel that I have a truly thriving tank, not a sterile one. It does not harm the water quality, the water is crystal clear, the fish/plants/inverts do fine with it and I'm not constantly disturbing the beneficial bacteria. Try to change the way you look at the mulm which will go a long way towards no longer feeling the need to over clean.

Whew! Did anyone really read all that? :blabla: [smilie=l:

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166 Posts
The wpg numbers generally work as a guideline for medium sized tanks. Nanos and huge tanks, the numbers aren't very good. And, unfortunately, I'm not good at determining when the numbers become skewed.

However, in general terms, 3.5wpg is extremely high. My "high tech" tank has 2.88wpg, and I have to be very careful to limit the time they're on. I only run all 4 bulbs for 5 hours, and then turn off 2 of the bulbs for another 3 hours (1 hour 2 bulbs — 5 hours 4 bulbs — 2 hours 2 bulbs).

Also, when you get into that high of lighting, it becomes an absolute must that you have pressurized CO2. It's not a luxury; it's a necessity. Further, it's best to dose dry ferts as the Seachem line doesn't really offer the same ferts as you get with dry.

Nitrates are removed by just doing water changes. It is the bacteria that's in the substrate and filters. That bacteria is what converts the ammonia to nitrites to nitrates. Once converted, they are in the actual water column. Keep in mind that tests for all three are done with water only, not substrate.

So when you over clean the substrate, you are actually removing and disturbing the bacteria that helps to keep the water quality safe for the fish. You are removing the actual bacteria, not the nitrates. A water change without vacuuming removes nitrates. This is not to say that the detritus in the substrate doesn't matter. It has to be converted by the bacteria from ammonia to nitrites to nitrates. So, sure, when you vacuum, you clean that up. But it's best to let the bacteria undisturbed to do the job.

As far as having debris on top of the substrate, definitely vacuum that up. That's the point of hovering over the substrate. Just don't plunge the water changer into the substrate.

Is there any way you could run only half of the bulbs in your light fixture? If so, I'd do that with no noon burst. None of the plants you have require high light.

There are a number of plants that feed from the substrate, but don't require constant pruning. Creeping Jenny is a very pretty bright green (or gold, depending on the variety) with small leaves that grows pretty slowly in my tank. I've already mentioned crypts which I think are low maintenance jewels of a tank. There are others, but my preference for plants is different from yours (I'm getting high light, CO2 required, ferts required "red" colored plants most of all). I'm sure if you asked around, others can give you a very nice list.

I'm clearly no expert (and I'd love it if I'm wrong somewhere that someone point it out), but my best guess is that you do have a large imbalance. Too much light, too little to no CO2, too little ferts, too few plants with plants that grow too slowly. The one thing in that mix that I see way out of balance is the light. Drop it down at least in half (1.75wpg) and see how that does. I suggest more plant mass with plants that feed off of the substrate. And only vacuum the surface of the substrate without plunging.

IF you had faster growing plants, then the lighting might be fine. But not for the plants you have.

Do not take this as all being factual. It's just my thoughts given the situation. It would be nice if others would join in with their ideas, as well.

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166 Posts
genetao, lighting alone is not all that goes into the presence and absence of algae. It also depends on the substrate, ferts, plant types and plant mass. Fish can also have an affect as some poop far more than others even when the fish themselves are the same size.

And as I said, trying to use the wpg rule with smaller tanks becomes skewed.

The type of lighting and the fixture itself can also have an effect. There's a big difference when you're getting lighting from a basic NO (normal output) florescent lighting as opposed to lighting from a top of the line TEK fixture, using T5 HO bulbs (high output).

The point is that there is no single "do this" or "don't do that" answer to algae. Maintaining an algae free tank is a matter of balancing a number of components with light being just one of the pieces of the equation.

What you can count on is that there is something there that's triggering the algae. Maybe it's too much light? Maybe one tank has more nutrients that aren't being used due to either slow growing plants or too few plants? Maybe one tank is getting light from a window? What about ferts in each tank? CO2? Substrate? Filtration? Water circulation?

The best thing I can suggest is that you go back to your basics of making sure you have ample plant mass (not all slow growers), ample ferts and Carbon (CO2 or Excel) and just enough lighting for the plants to grow well without using so much lighting that it triggers algae to grow. Keep up with the water changes to ensure good water quality.

If you keep getting algae, you'll have to work on adjusting the different factors until you figure out the root cause. If reducing the lighting didn't work, then double check the water quality. Maybe one tank has a higher amount of nitrates than another.

Keep in mind while you make changes that (1) once algae is in the tank, it doesn't automatically go away even after you've corrected the root cause; you'll have to actively kill and remove the algae, and (2) give each change sufficient time to know what difference it makes in the tank before making more changes; otherwise, making multiple changes simultaneously may leave you unable to figure out which of the changes actually worked.

I wish I could be of more help, and I hope you can get the algae issue resolved soon.
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