algae caused by tap water?

Discussion in 'Cleaning and Maintenance' started by potatos, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. potatosValued MemberMember

    I do vigorous cleaning of my tank, 30%weekly water changes, all with a gravel vac. i remove all the debris. and a reoccurring black hair algae forces me to cull many plant leaves. diatoms cover my plant leaves and inhibit their photosynthesis. diatoms have gotten worse since i upgraded my lighting, but the black hair algae has not. i am currently triple dosing with excel daily in hopes of killing the black hair algae.

    i currently treat my tap water with aquanova plus.

    my house is over 200 years old, and i think the pipes and water system may contain phosphates and other elements that are encouraging algae growth. is their a product that will make my water better, and remove these things?
  2. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    Phosphates wont encourage algae growth. Low phosphates will.
    The cause of hair algae is unstable/low Co2 levels and or LOW nitrates. DIY Co2 (or liquid Carbon such as Flourish Excel) and keeping your nitrates up around 20 will take care of the problem. A general clean up of the algae will be needed as well.
    You might try NOT cleaning the tank as much. This will cause mulm build up in the bottom of the tank which will decompose and increase your Co2 levels as well as Phosphates and Nitrates. Only vac the top of the substrate for awhile and let things build up in the gravel. The plants need it. Healthy plants = no algae.
  3. potatosValued MemberMember

    oh wow. i never thought that my ocd cleaning could cause algae! :eek:. will the higher nitrates cause other algae or stress my fish? (the german blue rams?). and part of the reason i do such through gravel vacs is to catch the danio fry that hid in the java moss and gravel. do you think i will still catch them if i only vacuum the surface?

    and will decomposing waste really help add co2? i have been looking for a way to fert. and give co2, since my flourish excel is almost gone.

    thanks so much for the reply, it was very helpful, and may revolutionize my cleaning schedule!
  4. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    High nitrates may cause stress to fish so only change out enough to keep the nitrates around 20 ppm. High Nitrates wont cause algae.
    Decomposing matter will indeed add Co2 and other nutrients to the water. I vac my gravel in small sections every other week. Never alot. I am not sure about the fry but I would assume a surface vac would catch them.
    A DIY Co2 set up is very easy to do and would greatly help your plants and decrease algae. You can have one set up and running overnight for around $10 in material. (Empty 2 lt. bottles, sugar, yeast, tubing, and a check valve. You will be amazed at how much this would benefit the plants!
  5. bass masterWell Known MemberMember

    Im pretty sure that high phosphates do contribute to algae growth and Ive found that both extremely low nitrates (under 5ppm) and very high nitrates (over 50ppm) can both stimulate algae growth. A lot depends on how heavily planted your tank is as to whether high nitrates will affect the algae or whether low nitrates will affect the algae. Keeping the nitrates in the 10-20 ppm range should be effective.

    The DIY CO2 method is definitely a great way to up the CO2 in your tank. The toughest part is just finding a way to dissolve it into your tank.... Theres a number of opinions on that

    this is a pretty good webpage on algae and this guy has a lot of useful information regarding plants
  6. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    You will find alot of info on phosphates causing algae on the net. It is now being found that just isnt the case. I add Po4 to keep my phosphate levels around 2-3 ppm in my tank. No algae.
    The algae Po4 and Nitrate myth IMO comes from Co2 levels being low. Its the thing we cant measure. When Co2 levels go low plants dont use nutrients. When they dont use nutrients the Po4 and No3 levels will rise (because the plants stop using them)
    Algae jumps in and people blame Po4 and No3...but it was the Co2!
    Same can be said of light- too much light and plants dont have enough co2. We already went over what happens without enough Co2. Not enough light and plants dont do well either. Its all about finding the perfect balance between light, nutrients, and Co2 levels.
    Here is a link I find useful for algae and describes some of what I have said.

    Some of the main causes of algae in planted tanks-
    1. Too much light
    2. Excess ammonium
    3. Low/ or variable levels of Co2 (# 1 cause of algae IMO)
    4. Low phosphates will cause Green spot algae
    5. Nutrient deficiencies in plants
    6. Poor circulation and/or filter maintenance
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  7. bass masterWell Known MemberMember

    Thats a very interesting link and had some very good points. I know there is a wide variety of opinions and Ive seen many different results with my tanks. Generally the tanks Ive seen that have algae outbreaks at high nitrate levels were the ones with either no plants or very few plants, another reason I believe the amount of plants in your aquarium can affect how you should address the algae issue. If its a heavily planted tank it is very unlikely high phosphates were the problem and it probably was the source of the algae. If one of the plants nutrients drops, it interrupts the whole process the plant needs to use up more nutrients, so an algae that has less of a need for that one nutrient comes in to use up the excess of all the other nutrients, which is why algae can spring up once one nutrient drops. However, if you have more nutrients then your plants can use, in the case of a very lightly planted tank, the algae may spring up because of the excess of nutrients. I dont know a whole lot about plants and algae really, thats just what Ive come to believe through reading a few different articles with different views and through my own observations on algae outbreaks. Overall I definitely agree that finding the right balance is the most important way to get rid of the algae, it cant necessarily be fixed by raising or lowering one chemical level.
  8. NejiValued MemberMember

    WOW your house is that old? You can try and get some new water pipes put in :) but algae if I'm not mistaken are caused by the light and phosphate levels in the tank. I know phosphate had a huge impact in the 1970's when the laundry detergent flowed out into the rivers etc.

    Algae I think is also a sign that your tank is healthy. If you want to get rid of the growing algae, get in oto cats :) Some people use plecos I have one in my tank but they poop a LOT and it's a pain sometimes. Snails do a good job too :) If you have a huge concern about the algae growing too fast in your tank, you should use some algae scrub to get it off the glass.

    I hope this helps :)
  9. potatosValued MemberMember

    wow thanks for all the responses. haha yeah, it is a very historic house, up in maryland. I think i have pretty low co2, since i almost never add the excel, and i have my bubbler running 24/7. diatoms are encroaching on all surfaces, but i think the hair algae is receeding due to the daily triple dose of excel.

    is my low nitrate level causeing the diatoms as well as the hair algae? the diatoms are becoming a problem, i guess due to my upped lighting

    i have one bristle nosed pleco, but he dose not do much, and rarely cleans my glass, he prefers the ornaments. i also have a nerite snail, only one because i do not want eggs. every otto i have tried has died, idk if they were already weak of if my ram killed them. i am considering getting a siemses algae eater, but i also want to discover the root problem (which i guess was my over ambicious gravel vacs)

    so in the end, would less vacuuming likely help the problems, or do i need to supplement co2

    btw it is a modeatly planted (once this is solved i plan on making it heavily planted) in a 30 gal with 48watts of light.
  10. bass masterWell Known MemberMember

    I dont know much about ottos, but I have heard that they like to be kept in groups, maybe thats why you havent had much luck :;dk unless you already did that, but idk... I would keep up the vacuums, up your co2 with the diy system, and check your nitrates to see where your levels are at. Also running your bubbler only at night will help with stability in your water when youre adding co2. During the day you want it off because it will get rid of the co2 your plants need, but during the night you want it on because your plants will actually be giving off co2 so by getting rid of some of the co2 with your bubbler, you will keep the co2 levels and pH more stable for your fish and plants.
  11. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    How old are your pipes? I had a historic family house that was over 200 years old, but the indoor plumbing was installed in 1972. If your pipes are old, then they could be leaching lead or mercury. If you haven't already, I'd suggest you test your tap water.

    In a fish only tank with standard lighting, I have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5 nitrate, 6.8 pH and phosphates too high to measure. I mention this because this tank has been running for years with no algae blooms. There is a tiny bit that is on the decor, but I leave it for the otos.

    You cannot blame phosphates with low lighting for algae, unless you also consider the fertilizers/CO2 that are in use for live plants.

    As you indicate that you want to have a heavily planted tank, you may want to try adding CO2, but with the low lighting, that may throw things out of whack even more.
  12. potatosValued MemberMember

    I just checked my water peramiters, and there is ammonia!! it is only about .3, but why is this happening? my nitates are at 3, nitrite is 0. have i been messing up my cycle with my vacuuming? and would a perpetual mini cycle be causing this algae?

    i thought i was being helpful with my cleaning :(

    by the way, i would be doing a water change today according to my past schedule

    thanks for the help, i am very confused!
  13. Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    Assuming your tap doesnt test positive for ammonia....
    Over cleaning can cause a mini cycle but its hard to say for surte that is the cause. Uprooting plants in large quantities can cause ammonia to rise in a tank.
    Not dechlorinating during a water change, over cleaning filter, too much food, and on and on. So many possiblities.
    Well so much for no water changes until the mini cycle is fixed. You know the routine....daily 50% with Prime or its equivalent.
    The ammonia if present could have also been the cause of your Algae....quite likely in fact.
  14. potatosValued MemberMember

    i will test my tap water. I have uprooted some plants, but only in order to remove the already present algae. i try not to overfeed, and even if i did, it would be removed my by extream gravel vacuums. i always dechlorinate my water.

    i guess that leaves tap water or over cleaning?

    can i test my water straight out the tap, or dose it need to sit and allow chlorine to dissipate? i tested it straight out of the tap and did not see any ammonia

    and i also have some kent marine pro-plant freshwater growth accelerator 1-0-0. it provides nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, boron and micronutrients, and no phosphates. i have not used it because i am scared of causing an algae explosion, which happened once after i used it, but the link you gave indicated thst it would not cause it. what do you think?

    from my understanding: i over vacummed, which removed ditirus that i should have left since it will give me more nitrates, co2, and fertilizer to help the plants combat algae. i also removed bacteria and caused minicycles that caused ammonia, which also added to the algae problem.

    solution- water changes, but only light gravel vacs.

    is that right?
    and how much water do you think i should change, how often (after the cycle) i would love to have heavily planted tank that required infrequent water changes

    thanks again for your continuous help sorting this out
  15. bass masterWell Known MemberMember


    as for the water changes after the mini-cycle issue, maybe step down to 20% each week.

    Also when you change your filter cartridge, do you keep some established media? I generally do not change those cartridges. I keep the same one in my power filter and just rinse it off in the discarded tank water after each water change. I have a small corner filter in my tank just to get a bit of activated carbon in the system, that way I do not risk throwing out any beneficial bacteria by changing cartridges in my HOB filter
  16. potatosValued MemberMember

    i dont change it very often, i just rinse it in old water. their is also a biosponge thing that i never remove, and i added extra sponge from petco made for bacteria colonization.

    i thought that bacteria was firmly attached to the gravel, and my vacuuming would only remove a minimal amount, and if i lost any, it would be ok because there is some in the filter, decorations, and on the walls. so why am i minicycling?
  17. bass masterWell Known MemberMember

    there is some bacteria on your gravel, I dont think that vacuuming would be enough alone to send your tank into a mini cycle, especially because the bacteria in your filter is what ends up doing most of the work as it has the most water flowing over it. Like Nate Mcfin said, theres just so many reasons a tank will go into a mini cycle. Sounds to me like your doing a good job in keeping established colonies of bacteria in your tank :;th
  18. potatosValued MemberMember

    then why do i have ammonia and so much algae? :confused:

    i am currently triple dosing with flourish excel, maybe that is messing with my water testing? (i use api master kit)
  19. bass masterWell Known MemberMember

    because there are so many different factors within your tank than just giving the bacteria room to grow and not removing the bacteria. Like its been said earlier in the thread, balance is crucial, and often times there are things out of our control that can contribute to the mini cycle. I wouldnt triple dose anything... because again, balance is crucial. keeping a steady amount of nutrients in the water will be your best bet for battling the algae, although this could be difficult because of the daily water changes. I would stick with changing the exact same amount of water daily, adding maybe a little less than the recommended dosage of the excel (but still the exact same amount daily), and try to stay away from adding any other chemicals to your tank.
  20. potatosValued MemberMember

    I retested my ammonia today and it was zero... am am not thouroghly confused. perhaps i messed up my original test, or the excel gave a false positive ( i did not add any today) should i still do a water change? ( i did not do it before because i was suspicious that i messed up or that i had a false positive)

    With my current light level, and no co2, should i still use my fertilizer? you talk about the balance, but i do not know what i am aiming for. why would a stedy amount of nurtients help? wouldnt they just be available for the algae?