You’ve finally made the decision to get hi-tech with things. You’ve added more lighting, a CO2 system, laid your fertilizer, substrate, and have even placed your precious sprouting plants. Next thing you know, there it is…ALGAE!!!
Short & long green hairs, green spots on leaves, and even murky green water. These are all signs that things are now heading down a path of being “officially out of hand.” At this point, you feel hopeless.
It’s everywhere, and it’s not slowing down, blanketing your precious plants that you purchased with the intent on providing them a safe nurturing tank, but you failed, and you just got started. Sorry if I don’t sound alarmed. Algae is one of the most common struggles a closed tank system experiences.
Many variables influence and promote the existence of algae, and it can be tough to deal with. But before you go scraping your system and breaking your tank down, there are ways to get this unsightly bloom under control.
Before we jump straight into fighting your freshwater algae, let go ahead and lay some of these old myths to bed.
These are typically common answers or how we like see them as frequent excuses. We hear it all the time. The real questions come in the validity of these excuses. There is some truth to these, but they are not answers, solutions, or scapegoats. There is something bigger at play. Understand this affirmation on fueling algae control and will be where most expert opinions and advice will originate:
Controlling Algae is all about Controlling Nutrients
It is normal in heavily planted tanks to need regular dosing since fish typically will not produce enough essential nutrients to ensure healthy growth without algae outbreaks. Plants, very similar to us (humans) depend on balanced diets and proper nutrition to be able to grow healthy and normal.
We have covered so much about algae and had yet to reach a fraction of what algae actually entails, but for the most part, we are doing just great in our conquest of providing the most detailed algae fighting guide that will help you balance your tank, so you won’t even know algae exists. Now, back to pointing the fingers at algae.
New tanks will likely see algae within the first two months of set-up. This is a result of newly established aquatic systems have not gained enough beneficial bacteria that help balance nutrients in the system. Low levels of these critical bacteria can result in complications in decomposition, nitrification, denitrification, and so forth… The best way to avoid this is by starting with a Dry Start Method:
Clearly, plants thrive when nutrients are proficiently provided in rich substrates. Ideally, soils are used, and either potting soil or aquatic soils can be found.
Chemoautotrophic and Heterotrophic bacteria are present in soils along with other beneficial bacteria. These bacteria are directly involved with the decomposition of organic wastes, nitrification/denitrification, performs reduction and oxidation on excessive heavy metals and gases into the vital plant nutrients.
Basically, you would be making a mistake if you decided to use sand or gravel when attempting to establish the correct environment that is suitable for your plants. This is extremely important in low-light/low-tech planted tanks.
Aquarium soil is terrestrial (land exposed to O2) and must undergo a drastic and very sudden change. After it’s saturated in the water oxygen levels with quickly diminish as bacteria swoop in use the O2 for organic decomposition. In the beginning, the soil will emit a generous amount of nutrients into the water column.
Let the soil settle down and sit on the floor before flooding the tank.
Use this method to help avoid unnecessary algal blooms and water turbidity.
Allow the soil to remain saturated for at minimum 1-2 months, but some suggest as long as 4 months for proper cycling. As water evaporates, be sure to add more because the soil has to stay submerged in waters at all times in order to transition into optimally settled aquatic soil; which happens to be an essential requirement for plants. The reason we wait is to ensure proper bacteria development is occurring during nitrification of Ammonium into Nitrates, circumventing NH4/NO2 elevations that are extremely poisonous to fish and other crustaceans.
Now, that we have waited at least 2 months, the tank can finally be flooded. After we have filled the tank, it is time to flush it out. This is done to diffuse out nutrients that soaked up into the water column. These excess nutrients can certainly promote unnecessary algae spikes in planted tanks.
If you were careful, you could flush a few extra times, but water has to be de-chlorinated before introducing it into the tank.
Never pour ice cold tap water into your system!!!
We have finally made it to the point where you can start introducing your desired plants into the system. When planting from a submerged start, it is best to plant heavily. Another good practice is planting lots of rooting plants. Plant roots increase the oxygen to the rhizosphere that is responsible for protection against heavy metal poisoning. This also helps oxygen to oxidize the extremely toxic Hydrogen Sulfide gas (H2S) transforming it into HSO4, a harmless salt. The increased oxygen from plant roots also help to oxidize Methane gas into CO2 and Water, and the roots will help prevent soil Redox from having insufficient levels.
It is a general rule of thumb to manufacture a system to enable sufficient water circulation and proper surface agitation in a planted ecosystem. This is not only to aid in your ‘War on Algae’ but also is critical in circulating nutrients throughout the planted aquarium.
Proper Water Circulation evenly distributes essential nutrients in the tank, making them more readily available for plants and bacteria. Suggestive circulation recommends a circulation flow somewhere between 5-8 times your tank’s volume size per hour. This is, of course, depending on your plant load and types of fish present. Some need stronger circulations, while others require a slower flow.
Your tank’s surface agitation is important, ensures proper gas exchange, and works to prevent the surface film from forming. It is true that plants produce tons of oxygen through photosynthesis, and even more in CO2 injected systems, but it does not hurt to add more [email protected] through surface agitation.
When the water is warmer, oxygen levels will decrease, this is most evident during summer months. If the temperatures are rising, be sure to increase the surface agitation to help add more oxygen to the system.
At higher temperatures, O2 levels decrease especially during the summer. When the temperature gets higher, it is beneficial to create a strong surface agitation or add another powerhead for this purpose only. I have found that it is not the temperature that affects the fish/shrimp/plants during summer months but rather the low O2 levels. At higher temperatures, the bacterial metabolism accelerates and uses up lots of O2 for nutrient recycling.
If you want your plants to have healthy growth then you will need to make sure they have all of their required nutrients: Carbon (C), Oxygen, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulphur (S). As for the macronutrients, and iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Boron (B), Nickel (Ni), Chlorine (Cl) and Molybdenum (Mo) make up the micronutrients.
When comparing a number of micronutrients plants need to the macronutrient, there really is no comparison. Plants uptake a lot more macros than micros. If these nutrients are off, there are dozens of commercial products and can also be found resting in dry and liquid fertilizers.
How many times do we have to tell you, that it is all about balance? A harmonious relationship between the CO2, lights, and nutrients. The struggle is real and similar to an economy; a planted tank has a system that if correctly implemented will solve your algae problems.
There is a clear line drawn between dosing a planted aquarium that has a few plants or a whole freaking plant dictionary. You obviously wouldn’t dose the same amounts and depend on how heavy your plant density is and the growth rate for your plants, the various concentrations and methods will change accordingly.
BALANCE!!! BALANCE!!! BALANCE!!!
If you’re into fighting algae then you may want to take these tips serious because algae are not for the faint of heart and once you embark on a journey algae destruction, be sure to do your homework in order to get your desired results.
After considering the density and projected growth rate of your plants, you should have the nutrient dosing calculated.
Much like the universe and everything we know, everything started from something, and with your planted aquarium, it all starts with lighting. Using a 3-tier selection of Low, Medium, or Hi-lights, you have now added a new potential algae inducer.
The intensity of your light plays a big role the rate of growth in your plants. The strength of the lights are directly correlated with how quickly your plant grows. The more intense the light, the faster your Aquagarden will flourish. This is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly as this could throw your dosing completely off. In laymen:
The Faster Your Plants Grow the Quicker Nutrients are Used Up
Not understanding this critical balancing step when setting up your tank, can most certainly bring algae about, due to…. You guessed it IMBALANCED WATER CHEMISTRY!
Disproving popular belief of planted tanks being simple and easy due to Nature’s influence. On the contrary, planted aquagardens are complexed and vigorously demanding, which is why we have stepped up to deliver a way to enjoy an algae free planted tank. While there are no definitive guides to how much dosing is enough, when all else has been taken away, the only thing that matters is balance.
Algae has a way of creeping up when you least expect it, and it typically happens when you think you have your tank right where you need it. Since the intensity of light acts as a variable to plant growth, low lights equal slower plant growth, thus relating to a slower uptake of nutrients. All of these play a factor when dealing with algae, so
Tiered Lighting System
To figure out the intensity of your light, simply calculate the quotient of maximum aquarium light output divided by the volume of your aquarium in either gallons or liters to calculate your tiered lighting level.
There are several methods of planted aquariums with different lighting systems. Each has their own difficulties in tank balance and algae control, while some may experience great success. It boils down to the aquarist and their allotted schedule.