Can someone confirm this is brown algae (diatoms) and what I can do?

americanninja

I've got this new issue I'm battling and I'm not familiar with it. Hoping you all can help me. I started this tank back at the end of May 2021. Had plenty of issues but it has been stable since July. Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate (I keep it around 20-40ppm). I do water testing and water changes weekly (about 30-40%). All fish are active/healthy with vibrant colors and water is crystal clear. I also feed only once per day and only enough that they can eat within a few minutes (3-5).

My issue is this ugly looking brown stuff, what my research, I assume it's brown algae/diatoms. I would like someone to confirm this though. I've had it repeatedly on the clay pots, on the lava rocks, and on the large shells I have in the substrate, and sometimes I see it growing on the back wall along the substrate line and on the substrate itself.

Every week I do the water change, I scrub the glass (all 4 sides), I siphon the substrate to try to break up/remove the brown algae on the rocks. And I have even taken out the clay pots and scrubbed with a sponge, as well as, taken out the Lava rocks, rinsed and set in the Sun for over 24 hrs and put back in. When I sun soak the lava rocks, they remove the brown algae (and I assume kill it).

Please see the photos attached. This is after one week of cleaning all surfaces and sun soaking the lava rocks.

Can someone please confirm this is diatoms/brown algae and I would love to know how the heck to kill this **** stuff. Advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
 

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StarGirl

Yes it looks like brown algae "diatoms" to me. Just clean one thing at a time, scrape one side of glass at a time and it will go away when your system evens out. :)
 

naterock15

I agree with star girl, I had a MASSIVE outbreak of this stuff. I didn’t take everything out and clean though, I started by lowering the amount of food I put in the tank, then limited how much light it would get during the day, the more uneaten food is left over the more this stuff will flourish especially in a newer tank, if you add plants it can really burst. I would say from my experience to add a “stick fish” or a “otto” as they eat this kind of algae, I added a stick fish to my tank and limited the food and light, it went away in about 2-3 weeks! Hope it worked out! - Nate
 

americanninja

Thanks for sharing your experience. Yeah, I had some Egeria Densa plants in my tank. When it was going though the early stages of the cycle, it was growing like crazy. I would have to trim it every week, I literally grow about 3 or 4 x the original amount, which was nice, I didn't need to buy more from Petco. However, once I noticed this brown stuff, the plants just stopped growing. They looked okay, but they were simply not growing. I assume the brown junk was stealing all the nutrients, not sure, but you are right about the brown (diatom) stuff growing like crazy with the plants.

Since the plants weren't growing, I decided to toss them, I noticed the growth of the diatoms slow, but still I would have to scrub some of the rocks, the walls, during every weekly water change.

What seems to have the biggest impact is the lighting. I decided to limit lighting to only 6hrs per day. I have the lights on a timer, so it's exact. I now only need to scrub and clean some of the rocks every 2 weeks or so, and it appears to have stopped growing on the walls of the tank. But it's still in the tank and comes back, after every water change and scrub, just not as bad. I have two small pieces of white coral in the tank which quickly develop the brown diatom coat, so I use them as an indicator of when its time to scrub and clean.

At this point, I only siphon the substrate to dislodge the brown junk and get it out and I scrub the two small coral pieces and the glass is fine.

I don't see the connection between the food though. I have cichlids and a lace catfish. The cichlids eat all the food before it even sinks and I feed the catfish sinking food and he eats it up in seconds, no food left behind during the feedings. And I only feed them once a day, so they are quick to eat their supper and eat it all.

Regarding lighting, I'm wondering what is better. If I have the lights on for only 6 hrs per day, is it better to have it on from 10am to 4pm or 12pm to 6pm. I would have thought it would be better to be from 10am to 4pm, as there is already natural light from outside, so it's not like it's adding more light, compared to say at 6pm when it's already getting dark and then I would be adding more light. The LFS guy told me to leave the lights off in the morning, because there is already natural light and it's giving too much light to help the diatoms grow. Is this correct thinking?

And thanks for the recommendation on the stick fish. I will have to give that little guy a try, would he survive in a cichlid tank though? I have 2 blood parrots and a green terror. They live happier with the lace catfish, but when I tried to add a pleco, the green terror looked like he was trying to hunt/attack it. He has in the past, when I previously had mollies in this tank happily living with the two blood parrots, so I've learned my lesson with this little guy. The behavior is quite obvious as he attempts to stalk the fish but pretends that he is just checking out the area and then he will attack from the top, it's quite interesting to watch, but then I realize I have a problem.
 

naterock15

not to sure on if your other fish will hurt it, most of my fish stick to the top of the tank and the stick fish stays towards the bottom, I have a common pleco that’s pushing 6-61/2” though, if the stick fish gets to close during feeding he will kind of nudge it aside, they aren’t very fast swimmers from what I can tell, they really only come out during feeding during the daytime, when the lights go out (in my case) that’s when he goes about eating the algae. As in terms of light, I turn my very dim blue lights on some days in the morning till I get home from work around ~6pm and then turn the bright ones on till around 10pm when I go to bed they are fully off. But for most times it’s only on for a total of 4 hours a day, that being said I no longer have live plants and my living room has just a tad bit of light that gets in, I leave my ceiling light on for them during the day though, lighting was the biggest concern for me as I would have the blue lights on for the time the bright ones were not, trying limiting the light some more and see if that helps if you don’t have live plants of course. Fish don’t really need the lights on in the tank at all, some residue light from a lamp would be fine, I would keep it out of direct sunlight as that will cause a algae bloom (IME), everyone’s tanks are different but I would limit the light as much as possible, maybe only have it on during feeding, and keep a lamp on in the room, best of luck! -Nate
 

americanninja

So I’m wondering if I misdiagnosed this one. This annoying stuff will just not go away. I haven’t done a water change for 2 weeks now, and the algae has had a bit more time to grow and I noticed that it appears to be hairy. I tried to capture it in the photos. Maybe you can see it. You can see on the top of the red lava rock there are little fuzz/hair on the algae. Also on the top of the intake filter sponge it can be seen.

I don’t think the brown diatom stuff has hair, I thought it was more like dust. Anyone know what this is and how to deal with it?
 

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naterock15

So I’m wondering if I misdiagnosed this one. This annoying stuff will just not go away. I haven’t done a water change for 2 weeks now, and the algae has had a bit more time to grow and I noticed that it appears to be hairy. I tried to capture it in the photos. Maybe you can see it. You can see on the top of the red lava rock there are little fuzz/hair on the algae. Also on the top of the intake filter sponge it can be seen.

I don’t think the brown diatom stuff has hair, I thought it was more like dust. Anyone know what this is and how to deal with it?
That is what the algae in my tank looked like, I did weekly services to my tank so my filter never got like that though, my little tank has the same stuff in it right now because I lost the cycle due to a heater failure ( didn’t realize for over a week) (plants only) water was in low 60’s. Just keep light to a minimum and food very light and it should go away on its own. Try doing a big water change, scrub everything down with bleach(decor) ( make sure to get ALL of it off) then follow the low light, low food above and it will/ should go away. I would also try and get the nitrates down a little bit by increasing the water changes, this may be a cause for your diatoms as well, my nitrates are around 3-5ppm, lightly stocked though, with the messy fish it will go up more
 

StarGirl

That is what the algae in my tank looked like, I did weekly services to my tank so my filter never got like that though, my little tank has the same stuff in it right now because I lost the cycle due to a heater failure ( didn’t realize for over a week) (plants only) water was in low 60’s. Just keep light to a minimum and food very light and it should go away on its own. Try doing a big water change, scrub everything down with bleach(decor) ( make sure to get ALL of it off) then follow the low light, low food above and it will/ should go away. I would also try and get the nitrates down a little bit by increasing the water changes, this may be a cause for your diatoms as well, my nitrates are around 3-5ppm, lightly stocked though, with the messy fish it will go up more
It comes off easy you can just brush it off with a toothbrush. Bleach is a little much for brown algae. You have to be really careful using it.
 

americanninja

Thanks both! I hadn't seen the fuzz/hairy stuff before, so I decided to spray rubbing alcohol on the rocks to kill the algae and then made sure to rinsing the rocks well and dunked them in a bucket of water to make sure I diluted/removed the rubbing alcohol. I also used a toothbrush to scrub, but I wanted to make sure the algae was killed off with the alcohol.

I also did a large water change. I was previously doing very frequent water changes, so perhaps I do need to do a bit more frequently to keep the nitrates low. I haven't really checked recently as I have been doing a good 30% water change every week, but perhaps do to the fish growth in the tank and having to feed more these past 2 months, it's possible that nitrates have been going up faster then before. I will start testing again weekly and doing large water changes to see if that keeps it under control.
 

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