New Planted Tank - Need Advice On High Nitrates And Algae Growth

  • #1
20 Gallon tank
10 hour lights on - Twinstar Lamp
CO2 injection 3 bubbles a sec - rhino drop checker is light green
Monte Carlo Carpet was a dry start for about 1 month
Tank has been filled for about 2 weeks. Have 3 small fish that are not eating.
**Added Tetra Safe Start Plus

High Nitrates:
My PH, Ammonia and Nitrites are low but not zero. Nitrates are at about 80ppm. Is this normal on week two? I did a 15% water change today and once a week ago had zero effect on nitrate level. It's been consistent at 40 to 80ppm since day one.

Hair Algae:
Getting light hair algae growth everywhere. On substrate, plants and rocks. Thinking this may get out of hand very quickly and need a solution. Considered lowering light source to 6 hrs but concerned about plants growth slowing down too much.
**I have a 3 inch Siamese algae eater I am considering tossing in there. I have some amanos but thinking with high nitrate levels will probably die.

Fish are not eating:
Moved a few fish over from my old tank to help the cycle along. They seem to be acting fine except they don't eat when I toss some food in there. Are the nitrates making them sick or not hungry? I read somewhere some ppl with planted tanks have 200ppm nitrate levels and fish are fine but I am skeptical.

Safe Start Plus:
Looked at the back of the bottle and it's basically nitrates. Added because I read that it speeds up the cycle to a week or 2. I am at 2 weeks and it doesn't seem to be the case. Was adding this a mistake?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
TSS+ is not nitrates. It's ammonia consuming bacteria. Generally we advise not to test your water for the two weeks it takes TSS+ to cycle your tank, as parameters swing all over the place during the process. Did you do any water changes while using the TSS+? If so, it was probably deactivated.

What fish did you add to the tank? Can you take a picture? I am having a hard time imagining hair algae in a new tank. IME it happens most often in setups that are old and need a refresh, or if there is a plant dieoff.

California L33
  • #3
Nitrates at 80ppm is too high for a tank with fish. Get it down to 20ppm for the fish. Technically, 40ppm should be OK, but it gives it room to rise, and something is making it rise. Do partial water changes until you achieve this and don't add any more fertilizers. There may be some species that can tolerate high nitrate, but I can't think of any off hand.

For the algae- try a 72 hour blackout. Wrap the tank with a dark blanket, no natural or artificial light. (Since it looks like you don't have a hood make sure the blanket doesn't sag into the water or it will get wet and act like a siphon as soon as it wicks below the water line.) This should get rid of the algae without harming the plants. Then vac/clean the tank. There will be a lot of dead algae in it. Resume your photo period, but start with 3 hours a day for a couple of weeks. If you don't see unacceptable algae growth (there will likely be some) then increase it by an hour every two weeks until it's too much, then cut down. The trick is to give plants what they need to out compete algae -which is why they evolved from algae in the first place- while not giving the algae what it needs.

What have you used for fertilizer? This is likely the cause of your high nitrates, not the TSS.

That is, by the way, a really nice tank. I'm quite envious right now .
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  • #4
Junebug - added TSS+ first day tank was setup. 2nd day I added one guppy that didn't seem to be doing well by the end of day 2 so I took him out. After 9 days I had enough evaporation in the tank to fill 1.5 gallon of treated water, didn't take water out. At 12 days I added two amber tetras and one small Siamese algae eater. I am at a little over 2 weeks now and did a 15% water change today. If you look on the back of the bottle under ingredients it says nitrates; that's why I made the previous comment.

I could take pics of the algae later, but yes there is algae everywhere. It's not very heavy yet and I have been using a toothbrush daily to keep it somewhat in control. If I think logically, it's probably too much light and not enough established plants. Plus no clean up crew at the moment.

Califonia L33
- Thanks for the blackout tip. I will probably take that approach. I didn't add any fertilizer except the TSS+. It's Amazonia soil so I figured that would be good enough as far as ferts go. Planning to add potassium once the tank stabilizes.

Tank is pretty nice, I love the glass on it! Twinstar lighting and the UN tank line up perfect. Was less pricey than an ADA set up and seems to be very similar quality if not the same.
  • #5
Too much light and some nutrients present for the algae can cause hair algae quickly. I've done it with fry tanks too close to windows. You are probably going to have to back way off on lighting and work your way back up after plants get more established. Green hair algae will take a tank over quickly and make a mess of your plants if you let it get out of control. It's tedious to pick it off by hand.
  • #6
You have a lot of light and not a lot of plant mass, especially since the Monte Carlo was/is transitioning to submersed growth. Bring it down to 6 hours. Blackout might kill the present algae but if you change nothing it'll come right back. Brown algae is really common in new tanks. In addition, you should not do an in fish cycle with ADA soils - they release large amounts of ammonia on their own and that is enough to sustain the cycle and plants for the first few weeks.


Jocelyn Adelman
  • #7
Agree with -Mak- 10 hrs is wayyy too long, for a new tank six is good.

Also Amazonia is meant to have multiple water changes when first flooded as the substrate releases too much nutrients the first few weeks... will help you cycle and pocket though as it's free ammonia
Google it, its one of the reasons I haven't used Amazonia....

Sorter Photoperiod and increased water changes should work, wouldn't jump into a blackout yet...
  • #8
That's a long photoperiod for such a new tank. I would lower the time your light is on till you find a good balance. 80 ppm nitrates is very high and would be harmful/stressful to fish which could the reason for the fish not eating. Safe start plus and other beneficial products may help a little for the cycle however the results will not be that quick like most products claim.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Thanks for all the advice. I think its getting under control now! Did a combination of things you all suggested. Info about the Monte Carlo with the transitioning period and the ADA soil was a big eye opener.

I did a light cleaning by hand with a pipe brush on the plants.. I lowered lighting to 6 hours and did a water change at about 15%. Being desperate I added another algae eater from my old tank, an amano shrimp and a nerite snail. They are eating now and making quick work of the left over algae. Plants starting to look bright green again. Tested nitrates and they are around 40ppm so still high, but going to frequent small water changes every few days and see if that will bring the levels down some more.
  • #10
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