Struggling With Plant Growth And Algae

Discussion in 'Aquarium Plants' started by OttawaBob, Apr 22, 2017.

  1. OttawaBob

    OttawaBobNew MemberMember

    Hello all - hoping for some help here, as I've nearly reached the end of my patience and am nearly ready to throw in the towel on my aquarium.

    I've had a 55G planted tank set up for about two years, but I've spent most of the last year fighting algae - and losing the battle. I've played with my lighting, I've invested in CO2, and I've done a complete replacement of the plants in my tank, but nothing. My plants grow really slowly (if at all), leaves whither or melt, and just four days after a major tank clean and water change the glass and plants are covered with green and hair algae. Leave it a few days longer and the leaves start getting covered in brown algae. I'm stuck doing significant cleans and water changes twice a week, and it's making me crazy.

    I'd appreciate any insight or guidance. I'll list my tank particulars and a couple photos.

    55G Freshwater Planted tank with mixed gravel/fluorite substrate
    Eheim Classic 350 (2215)
    Pressurized CO2: one bubble per sec, diffused into filter intake
    Lights: Edge LED, timer 9am-5pm

    NH4: 0-0.25
    NO2: 0
    NO3: ±0
    PO4: 0.0
    KH: 4
    GH: 4
    pH: 7.2
    Temp: 25C

    I dose with Fluorish comprehensive. I used to dose once weekly at water changes, now dose 2-3 times weekly with little noticeable effect.

    Anubius and Java Fern growing slowly, but reasonably healthy
    Crypts, swords, bacopa and flame moss growing very slowly if at all, and looking unhealthy.

    2 Gouramis (Opaline and Golden - they get along fine)
    3 Rainbow Boesmani (lost a few over the last few months)
    5 Cory Cats
    9 Harlequin Raspboras
    3 Siamese Algae Eaters
    2 Nerite snails

    The photos below are taken four days after a full cleaning and water change with scrubbing of glass and removal of all hair algae.

    I'm worried that maybe my light isn't strong enough? Injecting CO2 and ferts should have my plants growing like weeds, and yet they don't. The bacopa has been in my tank for a month and each stem has grown maybe half an inch. I know algae growth can be associated with too much light, but given that I'm dosing CO2, too much light would also make the plants grow faster, no?

    Please, I'm desperate for informed suggestions on why my plants aren't healthier. If I get that going, I'm sure the algae will take care of itself.



  2. Demeter

    DemeterFishlore VIPMember

    Dosing the tank with more fertilizers will often worsen the algae problem as the bad plant growth is usually due to the lighting. The plants can only take in so much nutrients based on the light, the limiting factor. The more light they get the more nutrients they can absorb and the faster they will grow. Dosing CO2 in a badly lit aquarium is pretty pointless if the plants can't use it.

    That being said, I'm not super familiar with LED lighting so can you tell us a few more things?
    What type of lighting is it (can you provide a link to the product?), how many Kelvin (K), lumens, watts, color range, basically all the info you would find on the box the light came in.
  3. OP

    OttawaBobNew MemberMember

    Thanks Demeter, really appreciate the reply. I've attached a photo of the technical specs off the box. I've tried to figure out how to get the PAR value for this light, but can't figure it out. I've also included a link below.

  4. -Mak-

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    Your tank doesn't look cycled, ammonia is often a contributing factor to algae.

    The lights don't look like plant lights, so I'm thinking the plants aren't able to use it very well but the algae can.

    Flourish comprehensive lacks macro nutrients, but I think that's less of a problem than the lights right now.
  5. Jocelyn Adelman

    Jocelyn AdelmanFishlore VIPMember

    So I did some reading on your lighting and it seems a lot of people have gsa with it (then again who knows if due to the light or the keeper ;) ) overall though the light SHOULD be ok... is it on high setting or do you have sunrise/sunset? How long is it on highest setting?
    aquatic life edge par - Google Search
    (I focused on the ones from planted tank)

    Light aside, left discuss ferts. Flourish comp has very little macros (NPK).
    Gsa shows up often with lack of phosphates. Basically you are mostly dosing micros (in the comp) and not really macros.
    If you like liquid ferts I switched some time ago to nilocG aquatics EI based liquid ferts.
    Liquid NPK+M | Liquid Micro and Macro | 500ml Bottles

    They also make an all in one (same as comprehensive) that has a better ratio of NPK to micros called thrive
    Thrive All In One Liquid Fertilizer | 500ml Bottle
    Haven't tried the all in one but a few on here use it and love it.

    Before hand I was dosing multiple seachem (comprehensive, potassium, phosphates, trace, iron, and advance). My plants were fine, growing well, but it was pointed out to me the cost and the fact that I was dosing low amounts of the same thing.
    I stayed with liquid for ease of dosing (eventually will mix my own) but wanted to give the Ei ferts a chance... again, my plants were fine before, a bit of algae here and there but nothing to write home about. However, ever since switching my plants are super vibrant and if possible growing too fast for me to keep up with maintenance.
    Best thing over seachem is that I no longer have to measure out portions of caps in the dark... it's a pump bottle!
    I would also add root tabs as well, esp by the crypts and the sword.

    I will say that I tried their version of excel, while the pump is convenient I prefer seachems version more, plants pearl like mad with the excel, not as much with enhance.

    I would try adjusting your ferts first, and then if it doesn't help get a new light. Either way you need to adjust the ferts, with a great light and co2 flourish comprehensive just isn't going to cut it.

    All that being said, while you have spent on the co2 system, your plant selection and plant mass doesn't really need co2. Certainly won't hurt but not really necessary. If you want to keep the co2 (esp after spending the money on it) I would suggest a few more fast growing stem plants.

    Beyond my long post, I would suggest you read this
    Aquascaping Tips And Tricks
    Has a lot of info on the correct balance for tanks, as well as a discussion of seachem ferts :)
  6. OP

    OttawaBobNew MemberMember

    Thanks all for your responses.

    Jocelyn, I really appreciate your long and thoughtful response. Your diagnosis of the macro shortage feels right and will be my first line of attack. Not least for the advantage of a pump dispenser (no more caps in the dark!).

    Unfortunately, I got some poor advice previously, which led me to buy the CO2. Once I get the plants growing, I'll think about taking more advantage of it and add stem plants as you suggest.

    Thanks again - I'll follow up and let you know how it goes.

  7. Jocelyn Adelman

    Jocelyn AdelmanFishlore VIPMember

    Looking forward to the positive update :)

    As for the co2, I wouldn't look at is as a drawback, it can only help you going forward :)
    If you wanted to you could even turn it off for now and dose excel instead... besides adding carbon the gluteraldehyde has a mild algaecide effect as well. After algae issues corrected or even after a few days excel (maybe even lower co2 plus half dose excel? Not sure if that would work...) then go back to co2?

    Also, I've found hydrogen peroxide does wonders on algae... tons of you tube videos on in tank usage (just don't use too much or could harm your beneficial bacteria), also any that you can remove easily (flame moss) take it out and dip it.
    (Wasn't thinking sorry didn't mention before)
  8. Herkimur

    HerkimurWell Known MemberMember

    I have not read anyone's reply.
    Just wanted to chime in and tell you my thoughts as a gardener.

    When the ratio between plants/size/amount and DNA is not in balance of the amount fertilized, very often you run into problems.

    For example, if a plant is greedy (corn) and you fertilize the heck out of it (urea,nitrogen) the possibility of growing moss around its roots is rare.

    Take the same amount of nutrients and dump it under a giant cactus and you will eventually (and very quickly) have moss popping up around the base and the soil of the cactus.

    Seeing that your plants can only absorb so little in so much time, and not having a 7000k lighting unit to fuel photosynthesis at its max, it is no wonder your tank has algae (which isn't entirely bad since algae is life).

    You're understocked (plants), probably over fertilized (fish urea counts too) and underlit (is that a word ?).

    Go buy some greedy plants.