Help. Algae, CO2, Fert, Lighting, Filtration...oh my!

  • #1
Hey Everyone,

It's been a while since I've posted. I had a little lull time with my aquarium, some issues with CO2, and then some! But I'm back. But now that I am, it's just been a mess. :( I've got an imbalance somewhere, but I don't know where to start. Here's the quick and dirty of my setup.

- 28 gal bowfront
- AC70 and AC30 for filtration
- Paintball CO2 ~2 bubbles per sec
- 2 Flood Lights (pics attached)
- Dosing EI method w/ FH Booster (Dosing Rate: Dosing Information - NilocG Aquatic Labs)
- Just a few pearl Danios at the moment. Future inhabitants will be Apistos
- wave maker to distribute CO2

So first things first, I've got algae... now this started when I ran out of CO2 and it wasn't running for a few months. I lost a ton of plants and am now just restocking. The Repens, Ludwiga, and Cryptocoryne Wendtil are all brand new... But the Anubias, Val, and Tiger Lotus are all brand new. I get algae on the glass, on my anubias, and even the Vals have been getting hit. I rub the Vals off each water change and it helps, but of course it comes back. So that tells me I'm either overdosing my Ferts or have too much light. These are actually lower wattage bulbs than I had before. So should my angle of attack be light first? I only run them for about 6 hours/day. I can always build a dimmer and scale it back. Or should I change from EI and do something else? Stop dosing all together for a week? I'm just lost.

Then comes the CO2 distribution. I've come to the realization that I think I need to get rid of my HOBs. 1) The flow is too much and 2) They suck trying to get the CO2 moved around even with the wave maker. I am going to put Apistogrammas in this tank so I'm thinking a lower flow Canister where I can run an inline atomizer and a Sponge filter. But I'm not sure of a good brand/model that wouldn't be too much. Eheim 2215 keeps coming up in my searches. But I'm not sure.

I'm attaching some pics of my setup. Please don't judge me in my moment of fragility... LOL! I am so frustrated. I just want a nice planted tank not overrun by algae. Is that too much to ask? LOL Oh, and I plan on adding a few Amanos if I can ever find them in stock somewhere. But that's been a rough going. Sorry for the long post and thank you all in advance!! :)


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  • #2
1. Filtration- AC70+AC30 should be more than sufficient for a 28 gallon tank as long as you have good filter media. Sponge filters are excellent at converting ammonia to nitrite and nitrate to nitrates. Some people call them nitrate factories. However, with such a light stocking, nitrates may not be a big issue unless you overfeed the fish. If you are concerned about the AC70 producing too much flow, you can always add a sponge prefilter to the intake tube. Also try to have the CO2 diffuser directly below the outlet of the filter so the downward flow of water will drive any CO2 bubbles downward.

2. Lighting- typically somewhere around 1.0-1.5 watts per gallon of light is sufficient for a tank. Thus, you need somewhere around 30-40 watts of light. You have two 8.3 watt bulbs which works out to 0.6 watts per gallon which is quite low. I know that adding more light when you have an algae problem sounds counterintuitive.

If you cannot increase the lighting, then stop using CO2. People normally use CO2 in high-light tanks to promote rapid growth in plants. If the plants do not have sufficient light, they cannot take advantage of the CO2. Algae diminish when healthy plants outcompete the algae for nutrients.

Ferts- If you are using an EI method of fertilization, that implies that you are testing for various nutrient levels in the tank and the supplementing as needed to maintain optimal nutrient levels. If you adding ferts based on the dosage calculator, but are not testing, you might have too many of some nutrients and not enough of others.

Water changes- You did not mention water change frequency or percentages. That is a key to successful operation of an aquarium.

CO2- You report two bubbles per second for your CO2 flow, but you do provide other details. Normally, CO2 should be on a timer so that the CO2 flow starts a couple of hours before the lights come on and then stops a couple of hours before the lights turn off. If you are running CO2 around the clock, that favors algae over plants, especially with low lighting.
Also, are you measuring the KH and pH of your tank to see what the CO2 concentration is in your water. CO2 when dissolved in water produced carbonic acid which lowers the pH of the tank as well as the KH alkalinity. By measuring KH and pH, you can calculate the amount of CO2 in your tank.

In the Barr Report chart you want to be in the green area.

CO2/pH/KH table

If you are in the blue area, you do not have optimal CO2 for the plants.
If you are in the red area, your fish will start to suffer.

Thus, please provide pH and KH readings for your tank.
While you are at it, please provide ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings.
  • #3
Looking at your tank, one thing comes to mind for me. More plants. You're dosing EI, but have a low plant mass, people that use EI typically have very high plant mass with tons of stems and fast-growing plants. Your tank does not have this. You could get more fast-growing stems to help with this or you could alter your dosing. You could do leaner water column dosing and use more root tabs, since water column dosing is going to cater more to the algae do to the small amount of plants
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Thanks to you both. Let me try to address the stuff I left out. LOL

1) Both AC’s have pre-filters, but the 70 still pushes pretty hard. The way the ACs are situated, I’d have to move the diffuser to the other side of the tank, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’ll be the smaller of the 2. I’ll try that out and see what happens.

2) I’ve got some more powerful lights, Their CFL’s, I gotta wait until I get home to see the exact wattage, but those things are BRIGHT. So bumping the wattage can help algae NOT grow? I guess the logic is more light will equal to more/faster growth taking away from the Algae’s supply of nutrients?

3) I don’t test, I just used the suggested rates by NilocG, it worked fine before I had my CO2 run out, but Rye3434 makes a great point about fast growing plants. I had a lot more stem plants when everything was going well.

I do 50% water changes weekly. I’ll get the readings tonight or tomorrow when I get home. Ammonia is a solid 0, that I know for certain because I tested this morning. Should I do the PH test when the CO2 is on or off? It’s on a timer, I have it come on just 30 minutes before the lights do.

Rye3434 I do have root tabs already in the tank. Would skipping a week of EI dosing make a big enough difference where I could see if that makes a difference in
  • #5
Rye3434 I do have root tabs already in the tank. Would skipping a week of EI dosing make a big enough difference where I could see if that makes a difference in
I think skipping a week would be fine. Chances are your levels are already decently high so you're not going to see deficiencies appear
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
I should’ve just kept it simple and stuck to my Thrive+. LOL
  • #7
Evaluating the intensity of lighting based on how bright it appears to the human eye is misleading. The human eye is most sensitive to light at 555 nanometers which is in the green region of the light spectrum. Humans are much less sensitive to light at the red and blue ends of the visible spectrum. On the other hand, plants utilize light over a much broader spectrum of color. That means that a brighter light might not be ideal for plants. Plants do best with lighting that provides a full-spectrum of lighting conditions.

CFL lighting is less efficient than LED lighting. Thus, you will need higher wattage of CFL than LED light for the same PAR value. PAR is a measurement of light usable by plant life.

I am not surprised that your ammonia level is at zero. However, what are you nitrate levels? If nitrates are high, algae growth is likely.

Also, it might be good to get a phosphate test kit. Although phosphorus, normally in the form of phosphates, are required by plants for growth, an excess of phosphates can lead to algae blooms.

If you are going to add CO2, you need to measure pH and KH so you can calculate the CO2 dissolved in your water.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Alright... Well #1 I feel stupid because I know that the first thing I should ALWAYS do when there's an issue is to test my parameters. BIG SIGH. Soooo... here's what I got.

Nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 80 :(
GH - 5
KH - 2
PH - 7.0

Soooo I immediately did an 80% water change to get those Nitrates down and as I thought about it, I was thinking about what Rye3434 mentioned about fast growing plants and it dawned on me that I had Frogbit before. Somewhere along the line I got rid of it and/or it started dying on me. I can't remember. But needless to say, that and my stem plants are all gone. So I think my EI dosing is doing nothing but shooting the Nitrates sky high with nothing able to consume them.

This week I'm cutting out my water column dosing and will test Nitrates every other day and monitor how it goes. Then the next week I may dose at half rate again testing to see how my Nitrates react and what the algae is doing. I'll toy with the lighting once I get these Nitrates under control.

RayClem I moved my diffuser to the other side of the tank under the AC30. I'll see how that goes. I think I'm set on getting a canister at some point so I can use an atomizer and also to get a little more control on the flow. I don't want to stress my Apistos out with too much flow. Good thing is they're doing just fine in the quarantine tank. I can't say the same for the Pearl Danios I threw in the main setup though. One is missing and the remaining 3 are acting weird. I'm assuming it's due to the high Nitrates. So I hope they'll perk up later this week.

Thank ya'll for getting me back to the basics and some stuff to try. I know I'll get it under control sooner than later.
  • #9
When things turn bad, always turn back to the basics.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Quick update... going no column ferts for 2 weeks has severely cut down on algae. There are some remnants on my anubias that I hope some SAE or Amano shrimp might clean up. But it's wayyy better. Plants are doing ok, I'm going to dose with a half dose of dry ferts. I think I'm done with EI. I'm still looking for some fast growing plants to add that aren't floaters... I don't wanna do with that again. LOL
  • #11
Awesome! Glad to hear you're doing better

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