Algae Bloom with Excessive Phosphates

Discussion in 'Algae' started by catsma_97504, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    How to you reduce phosphates that are off the charts? I have an API Phosphate test that measures up to 10 PPM. And based on the color gradients, I'd guess I have something like 60-100PPM!!!!!! And, the pea soup is getting old.

    My readings are: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate, 7.6 pH (up from the normal 6.5), 6 GH, 4 kH, and 10++++++++++ phosphates. My 90 gallon is having issues, but the 29 gallon seems to be least the water is crystal clear and the diatoms are minimal.

    What can I do that won't break the bank or kill my plants?
  2. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    Welcome to Fishlore. :;hi2

    Have you tested for phosphates straight from the tap? If there are high levels of phosphates in your tap water then you would need to find another water source for performing water changes such as RO or well water.

    Usually high phosphate levels are caused by over feeding & rotting/dying plant material. If the tap water doesn't test positive for phosphates or only has low levels, then start off by feeding less. No more than the fish can eat in 3-5mins twice per day. Any excess food should be removed immediately. Also remove all dead & decaying plant matter & perform a 30-50% water change. To maintain the lower phosphate levels you will need to pay more attention to plant maintainance & remove decaying plant matter & dying leaves daily as well as make sure you carry out weekly water changes of at least 25%.
  3. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    I agree with Nutters proposal on lowering phosphates (tank and filter maintenance is very important!) but I think there may be other things at play. It is beginning to be thought now that high nutrient levels are not the cause of algae at all. If you have enough nutrient levels in the tank to grow plants there is enough for the algae as well. If your plants don't have enough nutrients it gives algae a chance to take over as algae adapts very quickly to low levels of nutrients.
    Going back to your water I see several possible issues...
    1. Phosphate test kits arent very accurate and should be calibrated or at least tested on known solutions...unless your maintenance has been very lacking or your water source contains phosphates its very hard to imagine a number that high.(2-3 ppm is where I aim to have my phospates but I have had more without algae probs)
    2. your other tank is fine so I assume your water source is as well.
    3. LOW nutrients as mentioned above can cause your tank description you have 0 Nitrates. This is a very possible cause for algae problems. It may be possible to have other low nutrients as well that we don't test (Co2,pottassium, iron, magnesium, etc.)
    Why are the nitrates 0? If the tank is being overfed or poorly maintained I would expect a HIGH reading there as well. (15-20 ppm is where I aim for plants)
    4. The tank start date is listed as 2010...with all new tanks diatoms are almost inevitable. If the algae are diatoms they will go away on their own with time.I mention Diatoms because you said your other tank doesn't have any.

    5. Light- you have listed T5HO listed as your lighting. How many watts of T5HO and how many hours per day? This could be your answer here...
    6. Got Co2?- With T5Ho you may be low on Carbon as well. Balance balance balance,
    With all planted tanks we need to find the balance that makes our plants happy and our tanks algae free as a result. This balance is three things- Light, Co2, and nutrients.
    If you increase light the others must increase as well. If you limit nutrients Co2 and light must be limited as well. High light with low nutrients and Co2 will always bring on algae.
    7. Back to maintenance- clean filters and removal of dead plant matter are important to lower dissolved organic compounds. (DOC) By following Nutters advice DOC will be kept to a minimum

    I would look at other factors as your cause for algae. A picture would help a great deal as different types of algae have different causes. More info is also needed on the lighting as well.

    Sorry about the long
  4. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Thank you both for your suggestions. I'm stumped with this.

    Yes, I tested my tap for phosphates. It is between 0.5 and 1 ppm. I've looked at RO units, but the cost is prohibitive for me at this time. I also looked at some cheaper DI units, but one stated that it would filter 50-250 gallons depending on how must was being caught by the filter. Looking at the cost per gallon, it would be cheaper to dump my Mt Shasta bottled spring water into the tank!

    I do not believe over feeding is an issue. I've only been giving them what they could eat in 30-60 seconds to avoid anything reaching the bottom of the tank. Sometimes I feed them 1-2 times a day and other days I skip completely. I've also set up a shrimp hatchery that runs in an isolated corner of my tank...the shrimp swim out. I do not believe this is adding to the issue, but it is the first time I've tried something like this.

    As I've lost some of my plants and others have thrived, the losses may have added to the problem. When I realized this (the water was a thick pea soup and I couldn't see the plants or I'd remove them), I changed out 80-90% of the water. And, then 10-20% daily for a couple of weeks. And, switched to 20-30% weekly and do not see any difference.

    I know how important the maintenance is. I had to replace my water filter in January, and this tank recycled. Due to money issues, I could not immediately purchase a new filter. I had no fish in this tank for a few months. During this time I left the lights off and I must admit no maintenance either. Had only rocks, driftwood and plastic plants at this time. This tank had been set up and running for about 10 years at it's current location. I'm sure this downtime is a factor, but I thought replacing almost 100% of the water would have removed anything that could cause issues.

    Another possible factor is the new lighting. I replaced a standard florescent lighting strip with the T5-HO Lighting strip that has 3 built in timers. LEDs, 2x 10,000K lamps and 2x 420/460 lamps. I've changed the timer so that the lamps are on 8-10 hours daily with 216 watts. I've read that the LED-moonlights are low enough to not add to this problem, but to be safe I've turned them off.

    I've only tried adding plants this year, which is why I stated this tank was set up this year. I'm starting over.

    I've been reading about this. I have considered adding CO2 because of what I've read. Maybe this weekend, I should set up a DIY CO2 reactor.

    This is the first time I bought a phosphate test kit. I even tested my smaller tank and it is around 2 PPM. Nice to know that the test kits are not trustworthy. I even took some tank water down to the LFS and had them test it for phosphates. They got an off the chart reading as well. I honestly do not know how high it actually is. All I can say is that the test is so dark that the tube was permanently stained blue after the first test!

    Yes, this has been puzzling. 0 Nitrates even with weekly water changes! I stopped the daily water changes in order to let the Nitrates build up, but that isn't happening. My tank currently has 12 Black Neons, 6 Black Skirt Tetras and a very fat pleco. Had to move my GBR back to the smaller tank as they were being affected.

    I do not see any diatoms on the glass, although I did at first. I have not cleaned the glass in a couple of weeks now as nothing is there.

    I'll get a picture off my cell phone and upload it tonight when I get home from work.

    Thank you for helping me figure out what is going on. I've had fish only tanks up to now, and do enjoy live plants verses plastic.

  5. mathasWell Known MemberMember

    Does this phrase indicate that the water itself is turning green, rather than algae actually growing on physical objects within the tank?
  6. ButterflyModeratorModerator Member

    This may not be relavant but why are all the supplements being added to the tank? Discus Buffer and Seachem neutral regulator.
    How long has the tank been set up? Since you have 0 in ammonia, nitrites and nitrates I am curious.
    Some fish food is terribly high in phosphates so this is one place to look.
    Green water is frequently caused from too much light such as direct or indirect bright sunlight. Is the tank close to a window?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  7. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    I think the problem may be a combination of using those chemical regulators as well as too much light. Those T5HO's you have are putting out a massive amount of light & there is no doubt that you need to be supplementing co2 with them in use. I would start by using the minimum amount of light you can get away with. One tube only if possible, & even less would be better. I would also rig up a co2 system & go back to daily water changes without using the regulators. Once things started to stabilise & the algae clear a bit you could start thinking about trurning some of the lights back on. How much light you can use will depend on how much co2 & fertiliser your plants can make use of. As was mentioned earlier it's a balancing act between the three.
  8. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Yes, my problem is green water. When the tank was recycling I had diatoms and a tiny bit of brown algae. But as far as I can tell, both are gone. The decorations do not appear to have algae on them.

    I use the Discus Buffer and Neutral Regulator in a 2:1 ratio to condition my tap water with water changes and keep the pH stabilized. I've used these products for many years.

    The tank itself has been set up for 10 years. I lost my water pump last fall and most of my fish. The few survivors were moved into my 29 gallon tank. The tank was not kept up with any maintenance. I had a HOB filter that was small, but figured it could stop the water from becoming stagnant. During this time, I didn't turn on the lights either.

    In January, I purchased a new pump with the new lighting, and the tank recycled. This is when I emptied as much of the tank water I could, cleaning the gravel bed in the process. It took my tank about 23 days to complete the cycle and has had low to none ammonia and nitrites. Before the water turned green, the nitrates were kept around 10PPM.

    I'd leave the lights off, but do not want to lose all my plants. Most recently, I've tried turning on the lights in the morning...turn them off while I'm at work...then turned them on again for a couple of hours at night. I would think that this would help to reduce or eliminate the green water.

    This weekend I'll try to set up a DIY CO2 reactor. And, see how that helps. The only ferts I've added is a substrate tab when I added the plants. I know the plants need trace elements, but was afraid to add anything else.

    My teenage daughter was kind enough to let me use her digital camera. Here are a couple of pix taken tonight.

    Thank you again for everyone's suggestions. I'm willing to try anything that I can afford to keep live plants.


    The tank is in my living room and as far away from the window it can be. I've also covered the window to filter out the light, so I honestly doubt that is the problem. Besides, before the pump failure, I never had this problem.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  9. mathasWell Known MemberMember

    In short, the water looks green because of a large colony of photosynthesizing single-celled flagellates in the Euglena (or Euglæna, depending on what you're reading) genus. Some studies/sources have indicated that euglena can thrive on ammonia or other nitrogenous waste:

    Skepticalaquarist also mentions high organic waste plus high light, but also indicates that euglena tends to make a sudden appearance when their predators are temporarily wiped out due to medication or other reasons:

    Green water has been discussed in this thread (among others), with several possibles treatments mentioned.
  10. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Thank you for the information Mattas!

    I'm gonna try the micron cartridge again....and coating it with diatom earth while I'm at home and can watch for clogging. The last time I tried this, my filter would clog in less than 15 big surprise I know. This was helping, but I am a single parent and work outside the home. And, I wasn't comfortable with the idea of my filter getting clogged and possibly going out while I was away.

    Thanks again. Many suggestions to try.
  11. Goldwing_DonWell Known MemberMember

    :;hi2 Welcome to Fishlore catsma_97504 :;hi2
  12. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    OK - I've set up the DIY CO2 system with a smaller bottle for a bubble counter. I used two 2-liter bottles, each filled with 2 cups sugar, 1/4 tsp yeast, 1/4 tsp baking soda and are around 2/3 full with water. The bubbles are being picked up by my canister's intake.

    I realize that only two 2-liter bottles will not produce enough CO2 for a 90-gallon tank, but figured it was a start. I've left extra airline tubing to allow me to easily cut it to add a splitter for additional bottles. I'm thinking that I'll number my bottles so that I can change out part of the system each time. I'm thinking that I'll end up with 6-8 2-liter bottles overall. So, each set of 2 bottles would be changed out each week. That would allow each set to run 4-weeks in total. Does this sound like a good plan? I'm currently getting 10-12 bubbles per minute.

    In researching on the internet, there were articles and charts to determine how much CO2 was being injected into the tank by comparing with pH and KH, but every one of them said that their charts were useless in a tank with high phosphates. So, what do I need to aim for? I know to watch my fish for stress, but is there anything else? I'm trying to determine when I've gotten enough CO2 and can start increasing the time my lights are on. I guess if there's nothing else, I'll know when the green water clears up.

    I've been running a single tube for 1-2 hours in the morning and and another 1-2 hours at night. Will this negatively impact my plants with so little lighting? I started a new batch of brine shrimp in my in-tank hatchery so I will not be adding flake foods to the tank for now. And, now that the weekend is here, I'm going to start the micron filtering and watch it closely.

    I'll let you know how things progress. Thank you to everyone for their help and suggestions.:;dete
  13. ButterflyModeratorModerator Member

    Did you ever check your fish foods for phosphates :) I did and was much surprised.
  14. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Yes, I too was surprised! Depending on the day of the week, my tap measures between 0.5 - 1 PPM phosphate. I added a couple crumbs of food and I get 5-10 PPM :;fru

    The bottle states the food has 1% phosphates, but I never realized how much that actually meant!
  15. I use PhosGuard in my filter, and get R/O water at the store.
    It seems to help quite a bit.......:;2cents
  16. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    I dose ALOT of Po4 throughout the week. You will be surprised at how much your plants will consume with the addition of Co2.(assuming they dont have growth limitations due to low levels of Nitrates or other nutrients. You may need to dose nitrates as well if you cant get those levels up to 10-20 ppm.
  17. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    I have been using both PhosGuard and PhosPure. And, after 3 weeks, the phosphates are still so high I cannot measure them. After discovering that the flake food was adding as much as it was, I'm surprised that my smaller fish only tank isn't having an algae problem.
  18. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    IMO its the light causing it. I dont think the Phosphates are a problem at all.
    Here is an interesting link discussing phosphates and algae.

    I can tell you what got rid of a green water problem I had...UV sterilizer.
    24 hours and it was gone. I picked up the green killing machine from Petsmart. It is a cheap sterilizer as far as they go and it worked wonders. Once I got rid of it it never came back.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2010
  19. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Thanks Nate. I'll have to check into UV Sterilizers.

    Ugh, I've been running a micron cartridge in my filter since last Friday and the algae is getting worse. I've ordered a UV Sterilizer in hopes that it will should arrive this Friday. I'm afraid that I will start to lose fish or plants and not be able to notice.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2019 at 4:41 PM
  20. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    The UV will do the trick. No worries.