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What the heck is this???

4894 Views 27 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  genetao
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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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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Take a look at this thread--might help, might not....especially Post #4:

Grey snot" algae identified

Tinanti aka Cavan Allen if ya what to ask him about it....


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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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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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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One other tip is that well fertilized algae is more nutritious and better tasting for animals that graze on algae. If poorly fertilized, it can become inedible for various reasons, including being very low in protein and also accumulating a higher level of defensive, bad-tasting and/or poisonous compounds.
I never even knew there was such a thing as "quality" algae! Haha!

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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