Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) - please help

SiMorris

Hello all, sorry for jumping in with a problem looking for answers. Never been much of a forum guy so not sure about the normal forum etiquette so please bear with me. I'm getting a bit desperate now and trying to ask around different forums for help.

I have a 145L tank freshwater tropical tank that has been going for a couple of years now, hosting a variety of plants and fish (half a dozen small tetra, a couple of guppies, a loaches, platies and a dwarf gourami) with a few drift wood and rocks as decors. T5 light comes on during the evening, enough to keep the plants going but algae had never been much of a problem. The odd bouts of algae from time to time but never enough to concern me, and all was running well until I failed to quarantine a new plant that I bought. It started off with a light dusting of green algae on front glass panel of the tank.

Almost overnight (well, not literally but you know what I mean) a sheets of green stuff was covering the hardscape, broad leaf plants, sand, wood, stones, everything.

I thought it was just an algae outbreak which I could deal with. I checked the levels, ammonia and nitrites were zero, phosphate and nitrates were low on API scale.

I did more water change than usual (every week instead of two weekly) and manually removed the algae as much as I could but the dreaded thing just kept coming back faster than I could remove them.

I then bought a team of shrimps and snails hoping they'd eat it but they wouldn't even go near it. Some of the fish (guppies) did have a nibble every so often but nowhere near enough to keep it under control. It might have been just my imagination but the fish were getting lazy and less active. They're not gasping for air, but some of them were just hovering round the top a lot more.

Slowly the more delicate plants started to die off. Lost a few fish in quick succession and I began to panic. Used a number of algae removers but none did anything other than burning a hole in my pocket.

After lots of searching on the net and looking at pictures I then realised that it's blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) that I have in the tank. So immediately I used an extra pump to increase the flow, cut down feed for the fish, turn the lights off (T5) and even used RO water for water change to get the phosphate down. True enough it slowed it right down. The trouble is as soon as I have any lights on, the dreaded thing comes back with a vengeance.

I tried the Ultra Life Blue Green Algae remover which seemed to have worked initially (never completely gone) but just as I thought it was safe to restock it returned a few weeks after. I'm now at a loss as to what to do. I've seen someone mentioning using hydrogen peroxide but from the sound of it, it's a bit tricky to get right.

I also read somewhere that Erythromycin can work (is that the same as what you get from your doctor when you have a chest infection??), although the risk of wiping out all the good bacteria is a bit worrying. Does anyone even know where I can get the treatment (specifically for freshwater aquarium) from? Don't seem to find it anywhere, not on the net, not in LFS, not even eBay.

I'm now afraid to restock any plants or fish until it is under control, and I don't want to keep the tank permanently in the dark.

Can anyone here help?
 

Leilio

I have never dealt with blue-green algae before, but here is a useful video from an expert if you haven't watched it yet. Upon research, it seems like low lighting, high nitrate, and low temperature can work to inhibit its growth.
 

SiMorris

Thanks for the info, very informative and helpful. They're mostly consistant with what I've read all over the net, and I've been ticking them off one by one. The only thing that is sometimes contradicting is the nitrates. Some say low nitrates wil encourage the cyano growth, others say nutrients (which I assumed includes nitrates amongst others) will encourage the cyano to grow and therefore need more water change. So I'm a bit confused unless I mised something and got the wrong idea somewhere?

The thing that foxed me most is that my system worked really well and was well established for a couple of years, lots of plants, a low fish stock for the tank size and 2 weekly water change. The only thing I could think of that changed was a plant I bought just before and didn't think of quarantine it before hand. Less than a week later the problem started.

I have an external filter with 1000L/H pump, and in the filter there are 3 trays, one for foam mesh, one for carbon and one for Rawphos. Water goes through a U/V steriliser (that I added after the problem started, didn't help but I kept it going anyway). I've also since added a couple of powerheads to prevent any stagnant area.

Light wise just a couple of T5 that came with the aquarium, tubes have just been changed a few months back so not really old.

Fish wise I have half a dozen small tetra, a couple of guppies, a loaches, a platies and a dwarf gourami, now I've lost the guppies and the loaches since the problem started and have not restocked. So I don't think that's over stocked???

Due to the number of fish I have in it now, I don't need to put much food in at all, and the fish are so well trained they know when and where the food will be so hardly any will get to the bottom of the tank. Whatever crumps is left the shimps and snails seem to be clearing it off ok.


So a relatively low maintenance tank really, and hadn't needed to do much other than water and filter change and the odd bit of cleaning every so often.

Normally use tap water, treated obviously, for water change. Tried using RO water I bought from LFS for water change but gave up after a month, not making and difference and cost a fortune. It was mainly to see if the tap water had too much phosphate in it, even though whenever I tested it, it's always on the min API scale.

Now this green muck started destroying everything. A lot of the more delicate plants are dead, lost a few fish, and the tank looks more like a sewage treatment plant.

For the past couple of months I'm keeping a lid on it by weekly (sometimes more frequent when it grew back sooner) 2 hrs cleanig routine bacause it grows back so quickly I'm having to clean the tank weekly. Syphoning the substrates, peeling off what I can, wash removable ornaments, then when the water is cleared by the filter, a full filter wash and 25% new water. Followed by episodes of depression after watching more plants disappearing +/- fish dying. I hardly have the ligfhts on more than a few hrs a day now because it's just not pleasant to look at.

Is there something I'm missing? I've gone off the idea of erythromycin, from the sound of everyone's advice it's a bit risky especially when I don't know how to and how much to put in. Already tried the UltraLife BlueGreen algae remover with no success, I might just give this PureBlue I saw on eBay a try, unless you think there's something else I could be doing first?
 

AngryRainbow

Does the tank get natural light from any windows? I often see that people fix their cyno problem by actually blacking out the tank, not just turning the lights off. They do this by covering the glass with boards or thick blankets (make sure air can still get in through the top)

https://www.aquasabi.com/aquascaping-wiki_algae_black-out-treatment
 

SiMorris

Does the tank get natural light from any windows? I often see that people fix their cyno problem by actually blacking out the tank, not just turning the lights off. They do this by covering the glass with boards or thick blankets (make sure air can still get in through the top)

https://www.aquasabi.com/aquascaping-wiki_algae_black-out-treatment

There is some natural light in the room but the tank is not near any windows. During the blackout trial I covered the whole tank in thick blankets. It worked within days but only until I put the lights back on.
 

Leilio

It should be entirely normal for a well-established tank to get blue-green algae suddenly. If you really want to, why not try the blackout trial with hydrogen peroxide if you haven't already. Increase surface agitation by adding air stones to increase dissolved oxygen in the water. The nasty thing about blue-green algae is that it can grow back from a tiny piece in just a few days, so make sure there is none left before ending treatment. I am not an expert, but hopefully, more people can see your thread.
 

vyrille

There is some natural light in the room but the tank is not near any windows. During the blackout trial I covered the whole tank in thick blankets. It worked within days but only until I put the lights back on.
If you're fairly certain it's cyanobacteria erythromycin should be able wipe it out. It's effect on BB will be minimal especially on mature tanks so long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions. personally I'd use API erythromycin, but any will do. (And yes, this is the same stuff that doctors give for infections, chest or otherwise)
 

SiMorris

If you're fairly certain it's cyanobacteria erythromycin should be able wipe it out. It's effect on BB will be minimal especially on mature tanks so long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions. personally I'd use API erythromycin, but any will do. (And yes, this is the same stuff that doctors give for infections, chest or otherwise)

I don't seem to be able to find anywhere selling erythromycin for aquarium in the UK, some mentioned it's not legal to sell without prescription. Even if I could get hold of some erythromycin I wouldn't know how and how much to use . . . . so at least for now it's not an option for me.

Anyhow, I've just ordered the PureBlue Blue-green algae remover on eBay. Had a suggestion to keep fish in holding tank during treatment just in case, although it says it's fish, plant and invert safe, you'd never know. The difficulty is catching the little buggars!

If this fails I might just have to resort to blitz the tank and start all over, which will be a shame, a real shame. . .
 

SiMorris

Got the PureBlue blue-green algae remover this morning, which is pretty quick considering I only ordered it just before the weekend!
As for the tank, only cleaned it a few days ago and is already half covered in the slime. Didn't have time to deal with it this morning so had to wait till I got back from work.
As per instruction, made up the solution with the powder provided and put in the amount according to my tank size, pretty straight forward really. So far so good.
I tried to ask the seller how it works just so I can be sure if the fish is going to be ok, as I wouldn't be able to catch them without causing a great deal of stress to the fish. Understandably they wouldn't give me the ingredient list but reassure me that the fish will be perfectly fine. Anyway, they gave me their website address which has a bit of info on it if you're interested: www.aquamedics.co.uk
I'm going to keep a very close eye on it. I guess the most important thing is to make sure it hasn't wiped out the good bacteria together with the cyanobacteria and practically un-cycled the tank. So I'll be doing check on the ammonia level daily. Is there anything else I need to be keeping an eye on otherwise?
Fingers crossed.
 

SiMorris

On the fifth day after application of the PureBlue treatment, I was getting quite disappointed this morning, nothing much has changed, the blue-green algae has not got worse since the treatment began but neither had it got any better. So for the whole day at work I was planning how to blitz the tank, and worry about how many of the fish and plants I'll manage to save, and generally getting quite depressed.

Then when I got home from work, like magic fairies have been, the tank was completely cleared of the slime, not a trace of it! So the PureBlue blue-green algae remover has worked! I still can't believe just how sudden it worked, it's like magic, just couldn't believe it!

I've not seen the tank so clean for a long time! Unfortunately now that the slime has disappeared, it is even more obvious that a lot of the plants had died. Just spent the last hour or so clearing out the dead plants.

I won't get too excited though (difficult since the tank looks so nice now) because it's still early days yet, the slime could potentially come back anytime, I shall see, not that I'm suspecious or anything, you know when threy say it's too good to be true. . . . Really hope the treatment will last, then I can start to think about restocking the tank.

So so happy PureBlue has done the trick!

Checked all levels daily this whole week, ammonia and nitrite were always zero, nitrate and phosphate went up a bit yesterday, now back to 5 and 0.5 ppm.

I'll carry on keeping a close eye on the levels, and as suggested per instruction, will hold off water change for another week. Will report back next week, or sooner if anything changes.
 

SiMorris

It's been a few weeks now since the treatment started. I thought I'd post an update.
The treatment worked really quickly, and the result has lasted. Took a little effort to clear away the visibly dead plants and it looked quite bare initially. Few weeks on and the plants are now healthy, fish are happy. I've started re-stocking the plants and slowly added a few fish back in, lights are back on so I'm enjoying the aquarium a lot more now. It's back to normal maintenance routine, levels are stable and there is no sign of the slime returning, so I guess it really has worked, and properly got rid of the slime for good. Just hope it doesn't return, but if it did, I have a spare treatment kept aside so I can treat it before it kills anything in my aquarium. Thank you all for the advice and information, very much appreciated.
 

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