Moderate / Heavily planted tank with hair-algae outbreak?

  • #1
10-gallon w/ a betta and 5 ghost-shrimp.

Anubias barterI var. minima
2x Anubias var. nana "petite"
Anubias barterI sp? (bought from Petco)
Rotala wallichI (~15 stems)
Hornwort (filling every open space except a little "viewing" patch in the front)
Frogbit (Limnobium laevigata) (~10 small ones)
1x Water Lettuce (small)
Java Moss (~ 4"x4" patch, attached to the glass via plastic screen)
((1x strand of Aldrovanda vesicula...more of a test to see if it will live or not))

Running a DIY low-flow submerged canister filter / bubbler

pH reads at 7.4
Everything else (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate) reads at zero

Lighting: Tank sits in East-facing window. Receives dappled sun until about 10:30 a.m. (So now in high-summer it's probably getting about 5 hours or so). No supplementary lighting.


How the heck is algae even growing? There should be enough plants in there to soak up every last bit of stray nutrient, no?

I'm in the process of setting up some DIY CO2 injection just because it's the last recourse I have before I have to start ferting every day or something, which is not something I -want- to do. I have some Seachem Flourish Excel that I was considering adding in diluted amounts maybe once a week, but not daily, as the bottle suggests.

I -do- plan on trying to add some Amano shrimp (maybe 3 or so), not just to help out with the algae, but as some variety to the ghost-shrimp, but the 10-gallon (or betta, one or the other, it seems), isn't suitable for a lot of the common so-called "algae-eaters", since there's no guarantee that I'll be able to give them a larger tank if they outgrow it.

  • #2
How often do you do water changes and how much are you changing?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Lol, today was actually the first time I've done a water change; About 25%, because no toxins or anything was building up, and I check those at least twice a week.

(Edit) I didn't actually answer the question. It's been about 3 weeks since the water was changed, as I re-built the tank around that time.

The reason I planted heavily in the first place was on the advice of a veteran fishkeeper in the hopes of drastically reducing the amount of maintenance I would need to do to the tank. (Also I enjoy the plants, as they are my hobby on dry land as well )
  • #4
How do you test for toxins?

How long has the tank been setup? You really need to be doing regular water changes for the health of the fish and the plants.

25-50% weekly is a good place to start.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
By toxins, I mean Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate, which I test for using the API freshwater master kit.

The tank, in it's current incarnation, has been set up for 3-4 weeks, about 6 weeks total, with just gravel, a filter, and plastic plants at the beginning.

I started adding the plants because I was effectively doing a fish-in cycle, and wanted to mitigate any "spikes".

Weekly water changes are what you do to bare aquariums with replaceable carbon filters...not planted aquariums with bio-filters.
  • #6
A cycled tank should have no ammonia or nitrites. Nitrates should ideally be between 5-20 ppm.

Plants don't really stop ammonia or nitrite spikes. Water changes are the best way to protect your fish during cycling (Prime is a close second in my opinion).

And yes, weekly water changes are still best for planted tanks with filters. All of my tanks are planted and cycled, and I still do weekly water changes. If I skip a week due to being out of town or my busy-ness, I can definitely see a difference. Plants and fish are much healthier with weekly water changes. You're not only removing excess nitrates, but removing the physical waste and replenishing the minerals in the water (which both the fish and plants use).
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
In that case, my tank may not be fully cycled, if I'm reading no nitrates. Hard to tell because plants -do- use it as a resource.

Also, my water doesn't have a lot in the way of natural minerals (rainwater). Last I checked GH was 5 drops and KH was 3 (sorry I can't remember what that means as far as ppm).

I have gotten some potassium carbonate in order to raise the KH without spiking the pH though, I just haven't gotten around to actually dosing it yet. I have to mentally prepare myself to test water parameters for 4-5 days in a row as I dose small amounts.

As for other minerals, I mix crushed oyster shell into the top layer of my substrate and also in the gravel inside my canister filter, which stops the pH from dipping below 7.4 (native pH out of the tap is 6.4).
  • #8
I'm thinking you may be cycled if you have so many plants (especially hornwort), as the betta and ghost shrimp have very low bioloads.

Your pH is fine and it won't hurt the fish to increase it when you increase KH. You could add more crushed oyster or coral to your filter to achieve this.

I would still do weekly water changes of 50%. It's a small tank so it shouldn't be too difficult. It'll be good for your fish and plants, and it might help the algae.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Again, I'm attempting to make this a "low maintenance" tank. Enjoying the feeling of it being a bit more natural is a welcome side-effect of having live plants.

Also, my crushed oyster shell has reached it's maximum as far as pH. As a calcareous substrate, it only dissolves in water of a certain acidity. Once the water is alkaline enough, it stops dissolving, and thus, stops raising the pH and adding calcium / minerals.

I don't have coral sand, and don't know where to get it other than ordering it online, so I can't say at what alkalinity it stops dissolving, but at this point in time, I feel the best way to raise kH is via potassium carbonate, as sodium bicarbonate dissolves so readily that it could easily push the pH beyond 8.0 in as little as 10-15 minutes of adding it. I saw this behavior when tweaking the parameters of my brine-shrimp tank before adding the artemia.
  • #10
Regular water changes are still necessary. Tanks aren't natural - they are a closed system. In a river or a creek, there is constant water flow. Many of our aquarium fish are found in rivers. In a lake, the water body is large enough to dilute wastes, and rainfall replenishes the water. In a tiny tank (and all tanks are tiny relative to the fish's natural environment), frequent water changes are required to keep the fish healthy. Arguably they're more natural too, as you're simulating the constant flow of fresh water like is found in rivers.

Crushed coral usually raises pH to 8 or 8.2 I believe, and usually pretty slowly (especially since your pH is more basic). You can add a little bit of crushed coral to see how that changes your KH, and add more if necessary. Your betta will be fine in a higher pH.
  • #11
TexasDomer has provided good advise like always. It wasn't too long ago that I owned a heavily planted 10 gallon tank. Unfortunately, with such a small tank, when you are looking for a "low maintenance" tank the smaller the tank the more maintenance it requires. At least, that is from the experience I've had (I used to have a 50 gallon saltwater tank).

The thing about plants in a freshwater aquarium is that yes, it reduces the likelihood of needing to perform a WC, but unfortunately, by introducing plants you are increasing the likelihood of seeing algae growth that are not Diatoms (i.e. Brown Algae). With plants comes new requirements such as CO2 injections, proper water flow/ circulation, and the right dosage of fertilizers for your plants. Also, you need a clean up crew such as snails or shrimp.

So you see... what I am trying to get here is that with any direction you choose to start this hobby, there is always some type of "maintenance" required for it. In my opinion, you cannot get around it.

Just my two cents.

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