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Is this stag horn algae? Looking for help!

seb tries to scape

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Hi guys, hoping you can help me after I just found the beginning of a potential algae outbreak (stag horn?) in my new setup. Tried to take pictures of the algae (not the clearest) and also a whole tank shot for context.

Aquascaper 900
Oase BioMaster 600 Thermo
Chihiros WRGB2
CO2 Art regulator and inline diffuser

Lights on 14:00 - 22:00 with 1 hour ramp up and ramp down. Only using 35% brightness.

CO2 is on 12:30-21:00, running 4-5 bps.

15ml of Tropica Specialised nutrition dosed at 13:30 each day.

Water params are GH6, KH2. PH 7.2 before CO2, PH 6.6 during photo period.

Tank was setup on 29th May. 75% water changes daily in first week, every other day in second week, every 3 days in the third and fourth week and I’m currently changing every 4 days.

Pre filter clean each week.

Livestock, only 8 Otocinclus at present. Been in the tank 2 weeks.

Hardscape is iron wood and seiryu stone. Tropica soil in the back and ADA la plata sand in the foreground.

Had diatoms a few weeks ago which the Oto’s feasted on and are keeping it at bay, but yesterday I noticed this hair like algae on the wood, some of the Vallisneria leaves and also spreading to one of my Microsorum’s.

Would prefer not to dose chemicals but not entirely sure what the algae is, what’s causing it or how to deal with it.

This is my 3rd experiment with CO2 and previously I’ve not succeeded either (BBA previously) and hoping to avoid another catastrophe with this setup. I successfully keep low energy, no CO2 tanks but would like this one to be a success using it.

Very much welcome any advice.
 

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jaypeecee

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Hi @seb tries to scape

I don't see a CO2 drop checker (DC) in your tank, which is needed to indicate the CO2 concentration in the water column. And, what are the tank dimensions? Finally, for the moment, what is the tank water temperature?

I do see Stag Horn algae (Compsopogon) beginning to grow on the wood and on the edge of the plant leaves.

JPC
 

seb tries to scape

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Thanks for the reply.

My drop checker wasn’t working properly (always stayed dark blue even with new fluid) so I just took PH readings every few hours over the course of a few days to set the injection rate.

I’ll buy a new one and check it properly in case I’ve made an error somewhere.

Tank temp is 24c and I try and temp match when doing a water change.

Full tank dimensions are 90cm wide, 50cm deep and 45cm high.
 

jaypeecee

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My drop checker wasn’t working properly (always stayed dark blue even with new fluid) so I just took PH readings every few hours over the course of a few days to set the injection rate.
Hi @seb tries to scape

Was the DC in a position of water flow? How did you make up the liquid in the DC?

If you were taking pH readings of the tank water column, this will introduce potential inaccuracies. But, more to the point, your CO2 concentration is probably too low. I estimate somewhere between 5 and 15 ppm. You need this figure to be 20 - 30 ppm and stable throughout the photoperiod. I'm not surprised that your DC remained blue all the time. According to Aquarium Gardens*, your tank is 186 litres. If I were you, I'd ask them to recommend a suitable CO2 bubble rate for that tank. That should reduce the amount of experimentation that you will otherwise need to do. And also take a look at the CO2 section here on UKAPS.

Hope all goes well.

* I am assuming that you bought the tank, etc. from Aquarium Gardens.

JPC
 
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_Maq_

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... your CO2 concentration is probably too low. I estimate somewhere between 5 and 15 ppm. You need this figure to be 20 - 30 ppm and stable throughout the photoperiod.
@jaypeecee , why do you think lower level of CO2 could be harmful? It's still elevated, so what's the problem?
 

jaypeecee

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@jaypeecee , why do you think lower level of CO2 could be harmful? It's still elevated, so what's the problem?
Hi @_Maq_

I didn't say that a lower CO2 level could be harmful. The point I made was that what the OP is seeing is probably less than he is expecting. And, rightly or wrongly, aiming for 30 ppm has become 'the norm' in aquascaping and CO2-injected tanks.

JPC
 
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John q

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My drop checker wasn’t working properly (always stayed dark blue even with new fluid) so I just took PH readings every few hours over the course of a few days to set the injection rate.
I suspect the issue here is instability.

Staghorn algae thrives off instability... fluctuating co2 levels, fluctuating co2 levels, I said that twice for a reason. Water changes, are they consistent? Nutrient levels... are they consistent?

I'd wager @jaypeecee was hinting at co2 stability. @_Maq_ is probably suggesting, and I tend to agree the plants will be fine with less than 30ppm co2, however its got be stable 😉
 
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seb tries to scape

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Thanks all. Stability is such an important word in aquascaping isn’t it!

I try to keep everything stable. I water change early in the morning, hours before CO2 or lights come on and use a dosing pump and timers to keep everything as consistent as possible… however in the last week I did a wc after co2 should have started and yesterday I discovered my dosing pump had run out of fertiliser earlier than expected so despite best efforts there has been some instability in my routine.

At 4-5 bps CO2 I was concerned I’m over injecting but fish are happy so despite the abundance of micro bubbles in the water and plant pearling, I’m happy to accept I need to recheck the levels. The filter gives good surface agitation so I think a lot of CO2 does gas off so perhaps more is off gassing than I thought and is causing fluctuation / opening the door to stag horn.

Aquarium Gardens is a fantastic place but Scaped Nature is my local shop so I support them as much as possible and the tank was supplied through them.

I’ll get a new drop checker tomorrow and spend the weekend monitoring and tweaking if necessary.

I will update with my findings but additional advice or thoughts still welcome, cheers.
 

seb tries to scape

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Didn’t manage to get a new drop checker yesterday so I’m heading out today to get one. Very keen to get it sorted as the algae is definitely becoming more established.

I cut a few of the more affected plants off this morning and got some closer shots of the algae, it’s actually turning a bit more of a green colour, but still greyish and it feels quite tough, is it perhaps not stag horn?
 

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_Maq_

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Lights on 14:00 - 22:00 with 1 hour ramp up and ramp down. Only using 35% brightness.
Unless your tank is in a dark room without windows, your plants wake up and begin photosynthesis with sunrise. After 12 hours max. from that moment, most tropical plants go to bed, so to speak, they quit photosynthesis, no matter if you keep your lights on. Non-tropical plants can photosynthesize a bit longer, perhaps 14 hours, but no longer.
So, you'd better adjust your CO2 injection daily schedule.
Besides, I don't see any demanding plants in your tank. You should consider abandoning CO2 injection altogether. Most of your plants are slow-growers, they will not grow much faster with CO2 enrichment, anyway. And those which are fast growers will grow more slowly, so that your attractive setup will last longer without much trimming. ;)
 

seb tries to scape

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You should consider abandoning CO2 injection altogether. Most of your plants are slow-growers, they will not grow much faster with CO2 enrichment, anyway.

Can’t argue with any of that!

I have become ‘proficient’ at establishing successful low energy (low light and non CO2) aquascape’s which last for the long term (into years rather than months) but each time I use CO2, I experience algae related problems which push me away from it.

Low energy, non CO2 aquascaping is my comfort zone and I want to push myself beyond this to give my the option of using more advanced plants if i so wish.

So whilst I could just switch off the CO2, I still won’t learn how to manage it correctly. Also, would the algae just die off I just stop injecting?
 

_Maq_

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Also, would the algae just die off I just stop injecting?
You know and I know and we all know that nobody can tell. Algae are like the cancer - too complex a problem that we should not expect any simple solution.
I can understand you sense a challenge in learning how to manage CO2 enriched system. Still, you can go another way - keeping more demanding plants without CO2. That's the challenge of mine, btw. Many, if not all, demanding plants can be cultivated without CO2 enrichment.
 

jaypeecee

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I'd wager @jaypeecee was hinting at co2 stability.
Hi @John q & Everyone

I am very much aware that CO2 stability is considered Public Enemy No.1 where the Red Algae family are concerned - particularly BBA and, to a lesser extent, Staghorn. But, I suggest that you read the paper below, which very much points to water flow rate (velocity) as being the most important factor. Slightly acidic water (pH 6 to 6.5) and water temperature around 26C. Here's the paper:


JPC
 
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seb tries to scape

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Update, now have a drop checker since Monday and dosing 3 bps the drop checker is now staying a good lime green colour.

I removed as much algae as I could over the weekend, including trimming off affected plant leaves, but it’s coming back quite quickly. Still very much early, but signs of it beginning to show all over the tank which isn’t good.

Definitely starting from the piece of vertical wood in background middle, it’s more of a green thread algae than a black / grey algae.

Wondering if it’s organics leaching from the wood triggering it?

This is only week 7 of the setup and it was using new filter sponges so not a mature setup so maybe it’s still finding balance and I just need to keep removing it and wait for the plants to crowd it out?

I don’t have this kind of outbreak when I setup without CO2, just keen to get on top of it before it risks damaging the scape.
 

Wookii

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This is only week 7 of the setup and it was using new filter sponges so not a mature setup so maybe it’s still finding balance and I just need to keep removing it and wait for the plants to crowd it out?

Yes, I suspect this might be the case - you appear to be doing everything else pretty much by the book.

I would suggest spot dosing the affected areas with glut (eg Seachem Excel) as that will kill the algal cells in those areas, but you vallisneria might not react well to it.

I would also suggest adding some algae eating crew to your tank. Ramshorn snails and Neocaridina shrimp (such as cherry shrimp) perform a great job of grazing all surfaces in the tank, eating algae cells before they have time to establish and become visible to the naked eye.
 

seb tries to scape

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Cheers @Wookii , I’ll add some more algae eaters in for sure. I’ll give the Excel spot dosing a miss for the time being, partly because of the valls, but also as I prefer to try and avoid chemicals if possible but if it doesn’t improve I’ll definitely spot dose the wood.

Sounds like I should maybe just chill a little then 😂

Lost my previous CO2 setup to BBA, I didn’t act fast enough and it fully took over the scape. Much more experienced now but can’t help fearing I’ll balls it up again!

I’ll update again in another week or so 🤞
 

seb tries to scape

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Little update. After my last post I realised flow in my filter wasn’t as strong as it should have been and then realised I had a chunk of filter floss that I added on start up, but had become clogged and was affecting flow.

Removed the floss, good flow restored but my CO2 injection rate was off again as a consequence. Re- tweaked and CO2 is now stable again (lime green throughout photo period), flow is also stable. Seemingly all good and correct in that regard.

However all this fluctuation has unfortunately allowed the algae to completely flourish and is multiplying rapidly.

I added 25 horned nerite snails and 10 amano shrimp, but unfortunately a number of the snails haven’t survive after delivery, so I am down on algae eaters.

I’m adding 30 cherry shrimp from another tank this afternoon and will trim back as many affected plant leaves as I dare when I do the routine maintenance.

I’m heading off for a week tomorrow so we’ll see how bad it is on return next weekend.

Plants are established and are growing well. Hoping with a good algae crew, they’ll protect fresh leaves from becoming infected and with enough trimming back of affected, I hope I’ll be able to swing the balance back in my favour.

If I can’t swing the balance in another 6 weeks, I’ll shut the scape down, abandon CO2 and admit defeat with it.

Just can’t understand how I’m able to achieve stability and healthy plant growth over the long term in non CO2 setups, but as soon as I do a 100L+ and add CO2, it becomes a disaster!

As much as I want to be able to achieve lush growth with CO2, enjoying the hobby and providing an awesome home for the inhabitants is the most important.
 
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