Important Understanding & Preventing Algae in the Planted Aquarium (Lowering Nutrients is NOT the Solution)

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
HI FishLore,

Here are some scenarios that I often notice appearing on this forum that may be all too familiar:

A hobbyist, new most of the times, but intermediate or experienced other times, experiences an algae bloom in their planted aquarium that they just set up. To FishLore they go, stressing about their brown diatom outbreak and the beginnings of green hair algae. Or maybe it's the older aquarium that's starting to get some really ugly black beard algae on the lower plant leaves. Could even be the entire tank is not even visible due to a major case of green water algae. These are tragedies that have often occurred in our own aquariums (definitely has in my old ones), and the hobbyist will often receive the following advice:

"Oh, your algae is caused by excess nutrients! We must eliminate these nutrients and your algae will go away." or "Stop dosing your fertilizers and get a ton of algae eaters like amano shrimps or bristlenose plecos" or "Hit it with a bunch of excel and hydrogen peroxide, do a bunch of water changes" or "Do a 3 day blackout".

I believe that a lot of this advice is outdated because the secret to a successful planted aquarium is HEALTHY plants. Plants should define the system the aquarium, therefore the emphasis should be placed on taking care of the plants, rather than focusing on killing the algae.

If there's just one thing I've learned over the past years in this hobby: Algae is indicative of unhealthy plants. If you have algae, your plants are not happy. When your plants are happy and THRIVING, your aquarium will be entirely free of all algae without having to kill the algae yourself. If you work for the plants, the plants will work for you.

I've come to this conclusion after years in this hobby, through cultivating aquatic plants submerged in direct sunlight and maintaining lots of planted aquariums for clients, as well as some personal ones for myself. I've been able to keep entirely algae free lowtech setups, and entirely algae free high tech setups. But the one thing in common among all of my algae free tanks were that the plants were happy. They were thriving.

Here's a couple of relevant success stories I've had recently that have helped me reach this conclusion:

1) I set up a lowtech, low maintenance 10 gallon planted aquarium for a classroom. I tried to do a budget build, and ended up lighting the tank with 2x 6500K CFL bulbs, and used a cheap inert play sand substrate. I used pearlweed, myrio green, dwarf hairgrass, pogostemon octopus, potamogeton gayi, wisteria, limnophila heterophylla, and some other species. At first, everything was doing awesome! No algae blooms whatsoever, I was dosing Thrive once a week, feeding on weekdays, everything was great. Everything was growing well and it was all good. There was no hair algae, not even a brown diatom explosion.
Then, everything became overgrown and I didn't trI'm it. Light wasn't able to reach all around the tank, plants starting rotting from the bottom up, and you guessed it: algae started appearing. Just little strands of green hair algae, but I knew why it occurred. So I spent about half an hour uprooting the plants, trimming the rotting part off, replanting, and then giving the plants more space. Though I did as much manual removal as I could, I didn't remove all of the algae because it was entangled on the plant stem. The plants now had access to more light, less competition, more flow, no more shading or overcrowding, and the results were awesome. Within the next week, plant growth and health improved drastically and the algae disappeared completely on its own. I didn't have to do anything. The plants took care of it for me. I've never had to scrape the walls of green dust algae in the 6 months that it's been set up. There are also 0 algivores in this aquarium.

2) I recently set up a 20G long aquascape with tons and tons of hightech plants. There are no fish or shrimp in this aquarium. I used some demanding stuff like rotala macrandra, but mostly easier stems to get the job done. I had a horrible case of green dust algae in the beginning, but no other types of algae. Why was this? I used way too much light and was essentially incinerating the plants. I wasn't using enough CO2 or ferts either, which were causing the plants to suffer immensely since they did not have the necessary building blocks to handle such a level of light. I lowered the light, and optimized the CO2 and fertilizers. Instantly all the dust algae went away within two weeks.
I recently just rescaped that same tank and I got some green dust algae, this time on the glass instead of the plants. This time, I knew why. I aggressively trimmed a dominant plant bush, and replanted about 60% of the plant mass by cutting off the tops and replanting. The tops are still putting down roots and adjusting to their new spots. The old plant bush just got the vibrant tops chopped off. The plants are not that happy right now. They aren't absolutely thriving. Therefore, I'm getting a bit of green dust algae. I predict that within two weeks, it'll be gone once the plants send down their roots and and send out new shoots.
One memory that sticks out was a recently trimmed patch of pearlweed in this 20G long scape. I trimmed this patch of pearlweed with a blunt pair of scissors and the stems started to melt a bit at the point from where I cut. Within just a couple of hours of trimming that same day, I noticed thin, wispy strands of hair algae starting to form right where the pearlweed was trimmed. Granted, these strands could only be seen if you looked very closely at the plants, but nevertheless, it was amazing. Within hours of detecting that the pearlweed wasn't doing too hot, the algae had started forming. None of the others plants had any trace of algae on them. I gave it until the end of the next day (24 hours later) and the pearlweed had recovered. There wasn't a single trace of hair algae on it. This experience truly led me to believe that the plants are actively fighting off and preventing the algae. If they succumb to stress, growth issues, deficiencies, etc, then algae will prevail.

Here's the secret to healthy plants:
  • A good light that produces a quality spectrum to grow your plants. It doesn't have to be the most powerful light out there, but it should be a light that has a good spectrum and color to grow plants. A stock LED that comes with an aquarium kit will likely not do the job. Finnex is one of the best brands for a lowtech aquarium.
  • Consistent and good quality fertilization. Just relying on fish food or plain water to provide your plants with nutrients will almost never do the job. I'd recommend investing in a good quality fertilizer such as Thrive by NilocG or APT Complete by 2HR Aquarist. I do not recommend solely using Seachem Flourish or API Leaf Zone or Seachem Iron because these products do NOT contain all essential plant nutrients in the correct quantities. Most all-in-one fertilizers contain decent ratios, but I personally prefer NilocG's Thrive Line and the APT Complete because I've had a lot of success with these products. Fertilization should be consistent. Fertilization once or twice a week is fine, but with consistency, will provide long term success.
  • Practicing Good Aquatic Plant Husbandry Skills (Article linked)
  • Sufficient levels of Carbon Dioxide. If you are using a high light source or certain species of plants, then you will need to get pressurized CO2 to provide your plants with what they need. DIY CO2 or liquid CO2 will never produce the best results, although liquid CO2 can be an effective tool for lowtech tanks looking to inhibit algae. As long as you have a good substrate, great quality light, and great fertilization + plant husbandry, CO2 is not needed for most plant species, though it makes it 10x easier to grow plants with CO2.
Here's why limiting nutrients, doing blackouts, or using a ton of algivores does not permanently work:
  • If plant health should be prioritized to get rid of algae, then why would we starve the plants by eliminating the two most important macronutrients (N & P) from our water? It simply does not make sense to stop dosing fertilizer to get rid of algae. If anything, plant health will continue to decline and more algae will appear as time goes on.
  • The plants have 0 fighting chance if they do not have access to all essential nutrients, in sufficient concentrations.
  • NOTE: This is not saying to completely overdose your aquarium with fertilizers, but nutrients should be consistently dosed, no matter what the test kits read.
  • If plant health should be prioritized to get rid of algae, then depriving the plants of light needed for photosynthesis will not help them get a fighting chance. It will only weaken them further, though it could aid in the removal process of algae. This is a dangerous move that I've used, often with more failure than success.
  • Using a ton of algivores or algicides is like a bandaid on a cut that clearly needs stitches. There is something more serious that is underlying in your aquarium. Many times, plant health will continue to decline and the algae will continue to grow until it is too much for the algivores to handle.
NOTE: I am not saying that these methods are completely useless, but there should be more emphasis placed on plant health than there currently is. Some people have had success with the nutrient limitation, blackouts, algae eaters, etc. but even more people would have true success where not a single spot of visible algae exists if they completely focused on plant health instead.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
 

mrsP

Active Member
Member
Messages
363
Reaction score
298
Location
UK
Hi, thank you for article, it was really informative and interesting. I have two aquariums, a 40 gallon and 5 gallon, both hevily planted. I also have constant, slight algae issue with bigger one, hair algae and green spot algae. I have wondered that when I have transferred a plant from 40 to 5 it seems to always kill the algae growing on plant without me doing anything. I have often transferred small, sufferning plant to "save" it, and they seem to love the 5, even when I don't really do anything differently. This explains it. And it also gave me a hint what to do with my 40 to fix the issue.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
Amazoniantanklvr said:
Great article! Good job! 5 stars!
Thank you!

mrsP said:
Hi, thank you for article, it was really informative and interesting. I have two aquariums, a 40 gallon and 5 gallon, both hevily planted. I also have constant, slight algae issue with bigger one, hair algae and green spot algae. I have wondered that when I have transferred a plant from 40 to 5 it seems to always kill the algae growing on plant without me doing anything. I have often transferred small, sufferning plant to "save" it, and they seem to love the 5, even when I don't really do anything differently. This explains it. And it also gave me a hint what to do with my 40 to fix the issue.
Glad I could help :)
 

juniperlea

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,356
Reaction score
980
Location
US
Local gh and kh and lighting have some bearing. However, if you live in farming country, you need to find out what chemicals are added to the municipal water in order to make it 'safe' for human consumption. Algae and plant 'safe' water can't stand up to human 'safe' water.
 

MissPanda

Well Known
Member
Messages
701
Reaction score
1,014
Location
Calgary
I want to try that Niclog fertilizer. So many people reccomend it. I rescaped my tank, changed out the substrate and replanted all my plants. I now have a hair algae battle on my hands. It's such an ugly algae too. :shifty:
 

jake37

Well Known
Member
Messages
2,603
Reaction score
1,556
I'm not sure I 100% agree but I could be mistaken. I have a 120 and I think the plants are happy given the rate of growth and size of the plants (my swords are nearly 1.8 feet high; my java fern is nearly 11 inches high and the colours are rich but still I have a little bit of bba on the jungle val (this might be because I cut it from 6 feet long leaves down to 2 feet to open up the top) and some algae is forming on the rear plane - very hard green algae. Does this mean my plants are unhappy? I'm not sure I just saw 3 new anubia leaves this week and they normally grow very slowly. Does it mean something is out of balance - probably but what - not sure. Should I reduce or increase fetilizer; adjust the light or tweak something else - i'm not sure. Am I concern - right now i'm not too concern - I don't really like the bba on the jungle val but it seems stable and not growing out of control or spreading to other plants. The green alge on the back plane is pretty annoying esp since it is hard to reach back there to clean but it isn't the end of the world. I do think the bba is a direct result of my purning/cutting the jungle val but it had to be done as the plants on the bottom are seeing better growth due to more light.
--
Here are two pictures of my tank - for size comparison the tank is 24 inches tall (my point isn't to contradict your statement but rather indicate that while plants appear healthy they also appear out of balance so an adjustment needs to be made - the right front plant is a aponogeton ulvaceus which is out growing the tank's 2 foot height):
1.jpg
2.jpg
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
juniperlea said:
Local gh and kh and lighting have some bearing. However, if you live in farming country, you need to find out what chemicals are added to the municipal water in order to make it 'safe' for human consumption. Algae and plant 'safe' water can't stand up to human 'safe' water.
Agreed, but water quality and lighting tie in heavily with plant health. As long as the GH and KH aren't too extreme, and the lighting is geared specifically toward plant growth, then good results will always ensue.
The majority of aquatic plants are not too picky with the GH and KH, though some ammanias and rotalas can give issues if these parameters are too extreme.

jake37 said:
I'm not sure I 100% agree but I could be mistaken. I have a 120 and I think the plants are happy given the rate of growth and size of the plants (my swords are nearly 1.8 feet high; my java fern is nearly 11 inches high and the colours are rich but still I have a little bit of bba on the jungle val (this might be because I cut it from 6 feet long leaves down to 2 feet to open up the top) and some algae is forming on the rear plane - very hard green algae. Does this mean my plants are unhappy? I'm not sure I just saw 3 new anubia leaves this week and they normally grow very slowly. Does it mean something is out of balance - probably but what - not sure. Should I reduce or increase fetilizer; adjust the light or tweak something else - i'm not sure. Am I concern - right now i'm not too concern - I don't really like the bba on the jungle val but it seems stable and not growing out of control or spreading to other plants. The green alge on the back plane is pretty annoying esp since it is hard to reach back there to clean but it isn't the end of the world. I do think the bba is a direct result of my purning/cutting the jungle val but it had to be done as the plants on the bottom are seeing better growth due to more light.
--
Here are two pictures of my tank - for size comparison the tank is 24 inches tall (my point isn't to contradict your statement but rather indicate that while plants appear healthy they also appear out of balance so an adjustment needs to be made - the right front plant is a aponogeton ulvaceus which is out growing the tank's 2 foot height):
1.jpg
2.jpg
Nice looking tank! Can you provide any info on lighting, fertilization, substrate, CO2?

Here are some things that jump out at me immediately: There is a high plant mass (great!), but it seems as though the plants are heavily crowded and shading each other. With such large plants, how is the flow? Is there a lot of flow? Has it slowed down in the past months? Any deadspots (especially behind or around those vals?).

This scenario is similar to the one in my lowtech 10 gallon in the original post, where the plant growth was great until I let it go too far. It ended up getting overly shaded, rotting from the bottom up, algae everywhere. In this case, you've trimmed some of the plants before the rotting begins, but it still looks quite dark in some areas of the tank.

If there is algae, especially stuff like BBA forming on the plants, then yes, I would say that the plants are unhappy. Val is one of those plants that are difficult to trI'm because they grow so fast and don't like their leaves to be trimmed, but if left unchecked, they'll suffocate the whole tank. It is likely that the trimming sparked this BBA because they are now in damaged/recovery mode.

BBA is typically an algae that I see in tanks with poor flow, poor CO2 levels, etc. In tanks that were plagued with BBA, I typically installed a pressurized CO2 rig for my clients and then had them keep up with consistent plant trimming and maintenance. It sorts itself out pretty fast.
 

jake37

Well Known
Member
Messages
2,603
Reaction score
1,556
Yea the plants are crowded because I didn't plan well and am unwilling to pull them - I know I will move in 16 months so I figure I will take everything I learned about plant sizes and placement and apply it after I move.
-
The substrate in this tank is caribsea ecocomplete black. It isn't quite deep enough - as it is mostly 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep - all future tanks have been 3 feet.
-
CO2 was added about 3 months ago (the tank has been setup for 8 months); I give it 8 squirts of thrive C once a week after saturdays water change (I change water twice a week at 25% - I will not do more than 25% due to tank size and time it takes to pump water from/to the tank).
-
The lighting is a pair of 48 inch fluval plant 3.0. The lights use the plant profile. They go on at 8 and ramp to full from 8 to 9; like wise they begin to dI'm at 4 and shutoff at 5pm. The co2 comes on at 8am and goes off at 4:30pm. The co2 level has not been precisely measured but is somewhere between .7 and 1.2 ph drop.
--
The canister filters (one spray bar on each side - two different filters) did slow down but last week I did a complete tear down and cleaning and now the flow is extremely strong on both sides - I also added prefilters to prevent plant muck from clogging them again.
-
The bio-load is very high - you can't see it but there are 5 clown loaches; 6 gold zebra loaches 10 kuhli; 10 sterbaI cory; 4 angels; and a pile of cardinals (22). 2 bn pleco; 1 flash pleco.
-
I ensure nitrate is contained and it hasn't gone above 20 in months - normally staying closer to 10-15.
-
As I mentioned the jungle val had 6 foot leaves that I trimed completely 2 or 3 weeks ago. this is actually the second trimming as they regrew in less than 6 weeks after the first trimming.
-
When I move I will get a fatter tank (3 feet wide instead of 2) and I will make sure those pesty tall plants end up in the back or in rows to keep the front open - I just had no clue the two aponogeton would get so large - I love them but they are not small. Also I was caught off guard by the sword's sudden growth (I have two large ones - a ruffle and normal) and a lot of smaller ones - flame, melon, rosett.
-
Oh to answer your other question - occasionally I will see a little browning on the anubia leaves and then add potassium and iron (usually once every 6 or 8 weeks). If I see any browning on the swords I throw root tabs under them (usually once every 8 to 12 weeks).
--
The plants are layered so the low light plants are at the very bottom (anubia, java fern) and the plants that require lights are not blocked (lily, swords, ...). I did have to trI'm the lily to create a light column for the sword plant but as soon as I did that it got too large. I do have one 2 foot runner with 6 new plants each having roots about 3 inches long - not sure what to do with it since I don't want more swords.
-
The only plant i've noticed any real decay are the jungle val - maybe because of the heavy trI'm and they could use a thinning so perhaps I will pull a few of those to thin them out. I've not noticed a problem with the java fern (it appears very healthy) even though a large chunk is shoved up against the front glass seen in the picture on the right side. The only other plant that has an issue is every time I bump a lily leaf stem during cleaning it breaks. Most of the plants on the very bottom (most shaded) are anubia and most appear to be showing solid growth. Some of the older dying leaves on the cripus are showing small amounts of bba but about 90% of the bba is shown in the second picture on the jungle val.

The biggest problem I have is that some of the plants are just a lot larger than expected/planned and I don't have an easy way to 'thin' them without either removing them or redoing large chunk of the tank which is a pia because the it is deep and my arms are short.

Vishaquatics said:
Agreed, but water quality and lighting tie in heavily with plant health. As long as the GH and KH aren't too extreme, and the lighting is geared specifically toward plant growth, then good results will always ensue.
The majority of aquatic plants are not too picky with the GH and KH, though some ammanias and rotalas can give issues if these parameters are too extreme.



Nice looking tank! Can you provide any info on lighting, fertilization, substrate, CO2?

Here are some things that jump out at me immediately: There is a high plant mass (great!), but it seems as though the plants are heavily crowded and shading each other. With such large plants, how is the flow? Is there a lot of flow? Has it slowed down in the past months? Any deadspots (especially behind or around those vals?).

This scenario is similar to the one in my lowtech 10 gallon in the original post, where the plant growth was great until I let it go too far. It ended up getting overly shaded, rotting from the bottom up, algae everywhere.

If there is algae, especially stuff like BBA forming on the plants, then yes, I would say that the plants are unhappy. Val is one of those plants that are difficult to trI'm because they grow so fast and don't like their leaves to be trimmed, but if left unchecked, they'll suffocate the whole tank. It is likely that the trimming sparked this BBA because they are now in damaged/recovery mode.

BBA is typically an algae that I see in tanks with poor flow, poor CO2 levels, etc. In tanks that were plagued with BBA, I typically installed a pressurized CO2 rig for my clients and then had them keep up with consistent plant trimming and maintenance. It sorts itself out pretty fast.
 

DoubleDutch

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
19,388
Reaction score
13,520
Location
Holland (The Netherlands)
Experience
More than 10 years
Vishaquatics said:
HI FishLore,

Here are some scenarios that I often notice appearing on this forum that may be all too familiar:

A hobbyist, new most of the times, but intermediate or experienced other times, experiences an algae bloom in their planted aquarium that they just set up. To FishLore they go, stressing about their brown diatom outbreak and the beginnings of green hair algae. Or maybe it's the older aquarium that's starting to get some really ugly black beard algae on the lower plant leaves. Could even be the entire tank is not even visible due to a major case of green water algae. These are tragedies that have often occurred in our own aquariums (definitely has in my old ones), and the hobbyist will often receive the following advice:

"Oh, your algae is caused by excess nutrients! We must eliminate these nutrients and your algae will go away." or "Stop dosing your fertilizers and get a ton of algae eaters like amano shrimps or bristlenose plecos" or "Hit it with a bunch of excel and hydrogen peroxide, do a bunch of water changes" or "Do a 3 day blackout".

I believe that a lot of this advice is outdated because the secret to a successful planted aquarium is HEALTHY plants. Plants should define the system the aquarium, therefore the emphasis should be placed on taking care of the plants, rather than focusing on killing the algae.

If there's just one thing I've learned over the past years in this hobby: Algae is indicative of unhealthy plants. If you have algae, your plants are not happy. When your plants are happy and THRIVING, your aquarium will be entirely free of all algae without having to kill the algae yourself. If you work for the plants, the plants will work for you.

I've come to this conclusion after years in this hobby, through cultivating aquatic plants submerged in direct sunlight and maintaining lots of planted aquariums for clients, as well as some personal ones for myself. I've been able to keep entirely algae free lowtech setups, and entirely algae free high tech setups. But the one thing in common among all of my algae free tanks were that the plants were happy. They were thriving.

Here's a couple of relevant success stories I've had recently that have helped me reach this conclusion:

1) I set up a lowtech, low maintenance 10 gallon planted aquarium for a classroom. I tried to do a budget build, and ended up lighting the tank with 2x 6500K CFL bulbs, and used a cheap inert play sand substrate. I used pearlweed, myrio green, dwarf hairgrass, pogostemon octopus, potamogeton gayi, wisteria, limnophila heterophylla, and some other species. At first, everything was doing awesome! No algae blooms whatsoever, I was dosing Thrive once a week, feeding on weekdays, everything was great. Everything was growing well and it was all good. There was no hair algae, not even a brown diatom explosion.
Then, everything became overgrown and I didn't trI'm it. Light wasn't able to reach all around the tank, plants starting rotting from the bottom up, and you guessed it: algae started appearing. Just little strands of green hair algae, but I knew why it occurred. So I spent about half an hour uprooting the plants, trimming the rotting part off, replanting, and then giving the plants more space. Though I did as much manual removal as I could, I didn't remove all of the algae because it was entangled on the plant stem. The plants now had access to more light, less competition, more flow, no more shading or overcrowding, and the results were awesome. Within the next week, plant growth and health improved drastically and the algae disappeared completely on its own. I didn't have to do anything. The plants took care of it for me. I've never had to scrape the walls of green dust algae in the 6 months that it's been set up. There are also 0 algivores in this aquarium.

2) I recently set up a 20 gallon long aquascape with tons and tons of hightech plants. There are no fish or shrimp in this aquarium. I used some demanding stuff like rotala macrandra, but mostly easier stems to get the job done. I had a horrible case of green dust algae in the beginning, but no other types of algae. Why was this? I used way too much light and was essentially incinerating the plants. I wasn't using enough CO2 or ferts either, which were causing the plants to suffer immensely since they did not have the necessary building blocks to handle such a level of light. I lowered the light, and optimized the CO2 and fertilizers. Instantly all the dust algae went away within two weeks.
I recently just rescaped that same tank and I got some green dust algae, this time on the glass instead of the plants. This time, I knew why. I aggressively trimmed a dominant plant bush, and replanted about 60% of the plant mass by cutting off the tops and replanting. The tops are still putting down roots and adjusting to their new spots. The old plant bush just got the vibrant tops chopped off. The plants are not that happy right now. They aren't absolutely thriving. Therefore, I'm getting a bit of green dust algae. I predict that within two weeks, it'll be gone once the plants send down their roots and and send out new shoots.
One memory that sticks out was a recently trimmed patch of pearlweed in this 20 gallon long scape. I trimmed this patch of pearlweed with a blunt pair of scissors and the stems started to melt a bit at the point from where I cut. Within just a couple of hours of trimming that same day, I noticed thin, wispy strands of hair algae starting to form right where the pearlweed was trimmed. Granted, these strands could only be seen if you looked very closely at the plants, but nevertheless, it was amazing. Within hours of detecting that the pearlweed wasn't doing too hot, the algae had started forming. None of the others plants had any trace of algae on them. I gave it until the end of the next day (24 hours later) and the pearlweed had recovered. There wasn't a single trace of hair algae on it. This experience truly led me to believe that the plants are actively fighting off and preventing the algae. If they succumb to stress, growth issues, deficiencies, etc, then algae will prevail.

Here's the secret to healthy plants:
  • A good light that produces a quality spectrum to grow your plants. It doesn't have to be the most powerful light out there, but it should be a light that has a good spectrum and color to grow plants. A stock LED that comes with an aquarium kit will likely not do the job. Finnex is one of the best brands for a lowtech aquarium.
  • Consistent and good quality fertilization. Just relying on fish food or plain water to provide your plants with nutrients will almost never do the job. I'd recommend investing in a good quality fertilizer such as Thrive by NilocG or APT Complete by 2HR Aquarist. I do not recommend solely using Seachem Flourish or API Leaf Zone or Seachem Iron because these products do NOT contain all essential plant nutrients in the correct quantities. Most all-in-one fertilizers contain decent ratios, but I personally prefer NilocG's Thrive Line and the APT Complete because I've had a lot of success with these products. Fertilization should be consistent. Fertilization once or twice a week is fine, but with consistency, will provide long term success.
  • Practicing Good Aquatic Plant Husbandry Skills (Article linked)
  • Sufficient levels of Carbon Dioxide. If you are using a high light source or certain species of plants, then you will need to get pressurized CO2 to provide your plants with what they need. DIY CO2 or liquid CO2 will never produce the best results, although liquid CO2 can be an effective tool for lowtech tanks looking to inhibit algae. As long as you have a good substrate, great quality light, and great fertilization + plant husbandry, CO2 is not needed for most plant species, though it makes it 10x easier to grow plants with CO2.
Here's why limiting nutrients, doing blackouts, or using a ton of algivores does not permanently work:
  • If plant health should be prioritized to get rid of algae, then why would we starve the plants by eliminating the two most important macronutrients (N & P) from our water? It simply does not make sense to stop dosing fertilizer to get rid of algae. If anything, plant health will continue to decline and more algae will appear as time goes on.
  • The plants have 0 fighting chance if they do not have access to all essential nutrients, in sufficient concentrations.
  • NOTE: This is not saying to completely overdose your aquarium with fertilizers, but nutrients should be consistently dosed, no matter what the test kits read.
  • If plant health should be prioritized to get rid of algae, then depriving the plants of light needed for photosynthesis will not help them get a fighting chance. It will only weaken them further, though it could aid in the removal process of algae. This is a dangerous move that I've used, often with more failure than success.
  • Using a ton of algivores or algicides is like a bandaid on a cut that clearly needs stitches. There is something more serious that is underlying in your aquarium. Many times, plant health will continue to decline and the algae will continue to grow until it is too much for the algivores to handle.
NOTE: I am not saying that these methods are completely useless, but there should be more emphasis placed on plant health than there currently is. Some people have had success with the nutrient limitation, blackouts, algae eaters, etc. but even more people would have true success where not a single spot of visible algae exists if they completely focused on plant health instead.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
Agree for the fullest.

BTW this works for Cyano bacteria as well..

Algae as primitive plants thrive under bad conditions and lack of "something"
Healthy plants outcompete them.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
jake37 said:
Yea the plants are crowded because I didn't plan well and am unwilling to pull them - I know I will move in 16 months so I figure I will take everything I learned about plant sizes and placement and apply it after I move.
-
The substrate in this tank is caribsea ecocomplete black. It isn't quite deep enough - as it is mostly 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep - all future tanks have been 3 feet.
-
CO2 was added about 3 months ago (the tank has been setup for 8 months); I give it 8 squirts of thrive C once a week after saturdays water change (I change water twice a week at 25% - I will not do more than 25% due to tank size and time it takes to pump water from/to the tank).
-
The lighting is a pair of 48 inch fluval plant 3.0. The lights use the plant profile. They go on at 8 and ramp to full from 8 to 9; like wise they begin to dI'm at 4 and shutoff at 5pm. The co2 comes on at 8am and goes off at 4:30pm. The co2 level has not been precisely measured but is somewhere between .7 and 1.2 ph drop.
--
The canister filters (one spray bar on each side - two different filters) did slow down but last week I did a complete tear down and cleaning and now the flow is extremely strong on both sides - I also added prefilters to prevent plant muck from clogging them again.
-
The bio-load is very high - you can't see it but there are 5 clown loaches; 6 gold zebra loaches 10 kuhli; 10 sterbaI cory; 4 angels; and a pile of cardinals (22). 2 bn pleco; 1 flash pleco.
-
I ensure nitrate is contained and it hasn't gone above 20 in months - normally staying closer to 10-15.
-
As I mentioned the jungle val had 6 foot leaves that I trimed completely 2 or 3 weeks ago. this is actually the second trimming as they regrew in less than 6 weeks after the first trimming.
-
When I move I will get a fatter tank (3 feet wide instead of 2) and I will make sure those pesty tall plants end up in the back or in rows to keep the front open - I just had no clue the two aponogeton would get so large - I love them but they are not small. Also I was caught off guard by the sword's sudden growth (I have two large ones - a ruffle and normal) and a lot of smaller ones - flame, melon, rosett.
-
Oh to answer your other question - occasionally I will see a little browning on the anubia leaves and then add potassium and iron (usually once every 6 or 8 weeks). If I see any browning on the swords I throw root tabs under them (usually once every 8 to 12 weeks).
--
The plants are layered so the low light plants are at the very bottom (anubia, java fern) and the plants that require lights are not blocked (lily, swords, ...). I did have to trI'm the lily to create a light column for the sword plant but as soon as I did that it got too large. I do have one 2 foot runner with 6 new plants each having roots about 3 inches long - not sure what to do with it since I don't want more swords.
-
The only plant i've noticed any real decay are the jungle val - maybe because of the heavy trI'm and they could use a thinning so perhaps I will pull a few of those to thin them out. I've not noticed a problem with the java fern (it appears very healthy) even though a large chunk is shoved up against the front glass seen in the picture on the right side. The only other plant that has an issue is every time I bump a lily leaf stem during cleaning it breaks. Most of the plants on the very bottom (most shaded) are anubia and most appear to be showing solid growth. Some of the older dying leaves on the cripus are showing small amounts of bba but about 90% of the bba is shown in the second picture on the jungle val.

The biggest problem I have is that some of the plants are just a lot larger than expected/planned and I don't have an easy way to 'thin' them without either removing them or redoing large chunk of the tank which is a pia because the it is deep and my arms are short.
I think the problem right now is just too much competition and too much biomass. It's good that you have CO2 and all the other essentials like good lighting and good ferts.

I'd highly recommend a nice rescape, although it's time consuming and labor intensive. I'd also increase the CO2, and see if you can add in some small circulation pumps if you notice anywhere where the plants are slightly waving around (as they would in normal flow). Additionally, the fert amount is quite low. For a 120 gallon, 24 pumps of ThriveC are needed for a full dose. (1 pump treats 5 gallons according to website). Currently, you're dosing 1/3 of that. I'd try increasing the dosage amount to 15 pumps once a week and seeing how your plants like that. Especially with the massive amount of plants you have, it's vital that they receive all the nutrition they need.
 

jake37

Well Known
Member
Messages
2,603
Reaction score
1,556
I do notice quite a bit of circulation through the jungle val since the spray bars are directly above them and point down into them - but perhaps more is needed ?

Bit confused on fertilizer - you said the website said one pump per 5 gallon but the bottle sez one pump per 10 gallon. Wouldn't 15 pump flood the tank ?
--
Oh foobar. It was the old bottle that was one pump per 10 gallon (thrive+). Thrive C is one pump per 5 gallon. I'll up the dosage to 15 this saturday and see if that helps with the bba. I'll also measure ph in the morning and afternoon to see change. Shouldln't the target be 1 ph change for soft water (mine is 3kh/3gh)/
--
Actually this is really confusing. The old bottle claims a pump is 2ml the new one claims a pump is 1ml but a pump is the same amount of fluid. Hum.... time to measure how much comes out in a pump.
--
The pump is 1ml.

Vishaquatics said:
I think the problem right now is just too much competition and too much biomass. It's good that you have CO2 and all the other essentials like good lighting and good ferts.

I'd highly recommend a nice rescape, although it's time consuming and labor intensive. I'd also increase the CO2, and see if you can add in some small circulation pumps if you notice anywhere where the plants are slightly waving around (as they would in normal flow). Additionally, the fert amount is quite low. For a 120 gallon, 24 pumps of ThriveC are needed for a full dose. (1 pump treats 5 gallons according to website). Currently, you're dosing 1/3 of that. I'd try increasing the dosage amount to 15 pumps once a week and seeing how your plants like that. Especially with the massive amount of plants you have, it's vital that they receive all the nutrition they need.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
jake37 said:
I do notice quite a bit of circulation through the jungle val since the spray bars are directly above them and point down into them - but perhaps more is needed ?

Bit confused on fertilizer - you said the website said one pump per 5 gallon but the bottle sez one pump per 10 gallon. Wouldn't 15 pump flood the tank ?
--
Oh foobar. It was the old bottle that was one pump per 10 gallon (thrive+). Thrive C is one pump per 5 gallon. I'll up the dosage to 15 this saturday and see if that helps with the bba. I'll also measure ph in the morning and afternoon to see change. Shouldln't the target be 1 ph change for soft water (mine is 3kh/3gh)/
--
Actually this is really confusing. The old bottle claims a pump is 2ml the new one claims a pump is 1ml but a pump is the same amount of fluid. Hum.... time to measure how much comes out in a pump.
--
The pump is 1ml.
The NilocG website currently says that for ThriveC, one 1ml treats 5gal and that the pump for ThriveC is 1ml. I think the rest of the Thrives have a 2ml pump that treats 10 gallon. I don't know why they didn't just do a standard 1 pump per 10 gallon like the rest of their products.

How are your fish doing with the current CO2 level? Any gasping at the surface or irregular behavior already?
 

jake37

Well Known
Member
Messages
2,603
Reaction score
1,556
I haven't noticed anything obvious - i've been watching them. The sterbaI will sometime go to the surface but they also do that in my non co2 tank. The angels and tetra mostly stay near the middle or bottom as well as the clown loaches. The gold zebra are active swimmers at every
level.
--
Anyway tanks for the comments. I'll try upping the dosage and thin the jungle val a bit I don't think I will re-land scape because of effort level - the big problem is moving the ulvaceus and I just don't have anywhere to move it; i'd have to rip up the sword plants which have very large root systems now. If I didn't know I had to tear down the tank in 16 or so months I would be more willing to risk the tear up but I am using the information to do a better job with the layout after the move. 'Except for the bba in the jungle val i've been pretty happy with the plants - only real negative is that the jungle is so thick at the bottom is certain fishes can hide forever without being seen. The clowns are able to totally hide in the jungle val and go unseen for days and the male bn pleco I see once every two months. The female is much more out going. I think I need to also rethink how to do the plants so the fishes can't quite be totally hidden.

Vishaquatics said:
The NilocG website currently says that for ThriveC, one 1ml treats 5gal and that the pump for ThriveC is 1ml. I think the rest of the Thrives have a 2ml pump that treats 10 gallon. I don't know why they didn't just do a standard 1 pump per 10 gallon like the rest of their products.

How are your fish doing with the current CO2 level? Any gasping at the surface or irregular behavior already?
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
jake37 said:
I haven't noticed anything obvious - i've been watching them. The sterbaI will sometime go to the surface but they also do that in my non co2 tank. The angels and tetra mostly stay near the middle or bottom as well as the clown loaches. The gold zebra are active swimmers at every
level.
--
Anyway tanks for the comments. I'll try upping the dosage and thin the jungle val a bit I don't think I will re-land scape because of effort level - the big problem is moving the ulvaceus and I just don't have anywhere to move it; i'd have to rip up the sword plants which have very large root systems now. If I didn't know I had to tear down the tank in 16 or so months I would be more willing to risk the tear up but I am using the information to do a better job with the layout after the move. 'Except for the bba in the jungle val i've been pretty happy with the plants - only real negative is that the jungle is so thick at the bottom is certain fishes can hide forever without being seen. The clowns are able to totally hide in the jungle val and go unseen for days and the male bn pleco I see once every two months. The female is much more out going. I think I need to also rethink how to do the plants so the fishes can't quite be totally hidden.
Seems like your fish are fine with the current CO2 level, so they'll likely be able to handle more. Increased CO2 will help the plants thrive, especially considering the amount of biomass you have in there. Good luck!
 

Sanderguy777

Well Known
Member
Messages
884
Reaction score
412
Location
California
Experience
More than 10 years
I have a brown spot out break in my newly set up 60 gallontank

I have 9 platies, 4 guppies, 3 pepper corys, 1 sterbai, 2 Julio, and a bronze cory, and 2 50cent sized angelfish. I know that is a bad grouping, but I'm thinking that the angels will get rehomed or at least the peppered corys. Then I'll get more of the sterbaI and juliI corys.

I have 2 bags worth of java moss and a java fern from Petco, and 2 anubius and a pogostemin stollatus octopus plant. I also have 2 vals, but they are really tiny and just not doing well.

The tank had ich, so I treated for about 4 days and that stopped it. I'm not sure if it hurt the plants though... (I used apI super ich cure)

Just gravel for substrate (yes, that is leaving so the Cory's will have sand soon).

I have an alita a6 running a dual uplift matten filter and a 8x8 sponge filter.

I dose 1 squirt of easy green a day (so I extra squirt per week). No other ferts yet.

I'm using an led shop light since I'm a poor college student... and I didn't want to hardwire an indoor rated t5 fixture above a tank of water... LOL

Hope this is enough info for you to make a diagnosis. It is a very low tech tank with no co2 or chance of co2...
Thanks for the post, it does help a lot.
 

mrsP

Active Member
Member
Messages
363
Reaction score
298
Location
UK
Can I ask a bit advice? How should I trI'm java fern? And second, not so easy, how can I get rid of green spot algae?
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
Sanderguy777 said:
I have a brown spot out break in my newly set up 60 gallontank

I have 9 platies, 4 guppies, 3 pepper corys, 1 sterbai, 2 Julio, and a bronze cory, and 2 50cent sized angelfish. I know that is a bad grouping, but I'm thinking that the angels will get rehomed or at least the peppered corys. Then I'll get more of the sterbaI and juliI corys.

I have 2 bags worth of java moss and a java fern from Petco, and 2 anubius and a pogostemin stollatus octopus plant. I also have 2 vals, but they are really tiny and just not doing well.

The tank had ich, so I treated for about 4 days and that stopped it. I'm not sure if it hurt the plants though... (I used apI super ich cure)

Just gravel for substrate (yes, that is leaving so the Cory's will have sand soon).

I have an alita a6 running a dual uplift matten filter and a 8x8 sponge filter.

I dose 1 squirt of easy green a day (so I extra squirt per week). No other ferts yet.

I'm using an led shop light since I'm a poor college student... and I didn't want to hardwire an indoor rated t5 fixture above a tank of water... LOL

Hope this is enough info for you to make a diagnosis. It is a very low tech tank with no co2 or chance of co2...
Thanks for the post, it does help a lot.
I'll send you a PM as to not hijack this thread
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
OP
Vishaquatics

Vishaquatics

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,250
Reaction score
1,291
Location
USA
Experience
More than 10 years
mrsP said:
Can I ask a bit advice? How should I trI'm java fern? And second, not so easy, how can I get rid of green spot algae?
Java fern should be trimmed by tracing the leaf right to the rhizome, and trimming the leaf's stem right at the rhizome. You could try floating the leaf for a couple of weeks to see if it'll throw off some baby plants.

GSA will not go away from leaves that it is currently on. GSA can be caused by the following, but it is impossible for me to give a diagnosis of the issue you are facing because I do not know anything about your aquarium.

GSA is caused by too high of lighting, poor quality lighting, not enough CO2 in the water, and not enough phosphate in the water. Again, these are just possibilities, and not a clear diagnosis of your particular aquarium.
 

mrsP

Active Member
Member
Messages
363
Reaction score
298
Location
UK
I have quite strong lighting in my tank, I'll adjust that at first. It might be the biggest one thing to affect GSA in there.

Another weird thing, I transferred 3 severely GSA affected stemplants from 40 to 5 a week ago. Nearly all GSA spots are gone? I have only bunch of snails there, and I haven't noticed them eating it. It's a trial tank fo Walstad method(ish) with cheap light and some natural light from window 2 meters away. I'm doing not-typical water changes to it once a week, specially now when I'm getting a pea puffer next week to that tank. Not dosing anything to it either.
 

New Threads

Similar Threads

Follow FishLore!

FishLore on Social Media

Online statistics

Members online
275
Guests online
3,305
Total visitors
3,580

Aquarium Photo Contests

Aquarium Calculator

Top Bottom