Why dont nutrients cause algae?

ceg4048

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aaronnorth said:
...so they start as spores who search for light + ammonia (but they cant feed of other nutrients), once they get these they turn into flagellates, who can feed of nutrients, so we overdose nutrients to stop them producing more flaggelates as they think the environment is unsuitable to bloom!

correct :?:
Yes, although The Grand Kahuna of the EI freedom fighters would object to the use of the expression "overfeeding". The objective of EI is not really to overfeed. It is to ensure the sufficient food is always available. Because we know that too little food causes direct starvation while too much has little impact we know that it is not necessary to worry about keeping the dosing levels within imaginary boundaries of "not having enough" and "having too much". Some dosing schemes worry about "staying between the lines" so to speak. However, in order to accomplish this kind of tightrope act it is necessary to know, to some degree of accuracy, what the nutrient levels are. This involves a lot of testing and a lot of calibration in order to monitor the nutrient levels.

Since our theory is that algae flagellate triggers are completely independent of nutrient levels, EI allows you to exceed the minimum required concentration levels in order to ensure that you avoid breaching the lower concentration boundary. EI does not insist that you "overfeed". Many EI devotees reduce the nutrient concentration levels simply because it makes sense and is economically feasible. If flow is good, CO2 is good and lighting is not extreme then it's simply a waste of money to use the maximum dosing. It is really only necessary to avoid starvation, and lower levels which are higher than the minimum do just as good a job of suppressing the algae triggers as dosing to maximum levels.

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Dave Spencer

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Ok Clive,

So we have algae spores sat in our tanks like ticking time bombs, waiting for the trigger mechanism to operate.....then we have an algae explosion.

What determines the type of algae that results? I know for sure that any CO2 problems in my tanks result in BBA and staghorn. A new tank of mine will always see brown diatoms and Spirogyra.

I have just started up a 120cm in which I am seeing Rhizoclonium for the first time, for me. The only difference between this and other tanks is that it is lower in light levels. One other factor, though, is that it wants to target my mosses, with mosses also being a first for me.

What I am trying to get at is, are algae spores as a group waiting for the right light and ammonia levels, with a third link in the chain of events determining which type of alga we get? Or does the limitless differences in light and ammonia level combinations determine the type, independent of a third influence?

Dave.
 

JamesC

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Put some RO water in a glass jar on the window sill and watch the algae grow. What triggers it to grow? - can't be ammonia.

If ammonia is the trigger how come people who dose nutrients from Tropica, ADA, Seachem, etc don't all get algae? I've dosed urea for a few weeks and had no algae issues.

Just some thoughts
James
 

ceg4048

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Hi Dave,
Well I wish I knew exactly the trigger combination mechanism of each species, I would be a billionaire (or even a trillionaire). All we have so far is strong correlation. If a plant fails for example due to some combination of CO2 and/or PO4 starvation we have strongly correlated data to show that there is a probability of GSA. Why does GSA take advantage in this case as opposed to some other species such as BGA? We don't know, but it may have something to do with what components of the plant structure breaks down or what other chemicals and nutrients are release along with ammonia. GSA spores may be more sensitive to the combination of products released in this type of failure then other species. It may also depend on other environmental factors as well such as oxygen content and so forth. Failure due to nitrate shortage may cause a different type of structural failure and may cause a different combination of effluent into the water column which may be more conducive to those triggers which are being sought by BGA spores. Lacking the complete story, it might be enough for us to have a table of correlation and that's what JamesC has on his algae guide, and what I believe Dusko will also have in his guide.

Now, we know diatoms always seem to attack new setups, has a typical life cycle, goes away and is rarely seen again, so we don't worry too much, but the appearance of Rizo is correlated to poor CO2 and/or poor nutrients in general. The unstable ammonia levels in an immature tank combined with CO2/flow issues could easy be a trigger. So we've got to look at injection rate increase and flow patterns. My opinion is that mosses are more vulnerable in an immature tank because they are matted and essentially block their own flow, plus they are slow growing so spores have time to camp out and feed at the table.

A 4 foot tank counts a a big tank and we've all seen by now that the bigger they are the harder they fall; flow isn't as efficient, dosing needs to be adjusted up and CO2 distribution is marginal just because of the distances involved.

When you say that the "only" difference between this tank and your other tanks is the lighting I would tend to disagree if your other tanks were small tanks (i.e. less than 30USG). The difference between small and big tanks is almost exponential. :wideyed: Algae related to starvation such as what you are seeing can be a direct result of the inefficiency of big tanks and their inability to deliver nutrients/CO2 effectively to a leaf, perhaps located 18 inches beneath the water's surface as opposed to the 10 or so inches of a small tank. There could be an order of magnitude difference between the CO2 concentration exiting the diffuser compared to at the leaf surface of a plant located far from the diffuser. The velocity and momentum of the flow can also have an order of magnitude difference when compared to a small tank.

Algal spores are part of the periphytic biofilm covering every surface of the tank including the leaf surface. They are in prime position to attack if a particular plant struggles to assimilate nutrient/CO2 efficiently. In my 6 footer I struggled mightily with moss when the tank was immature and it was solved by increasing flow, injection rate increase, Excel supplementation and nutrient dosing increase beyond EI standard levels (as well as time for the tank to mature- which may have been the most important factor :rolleyes: ). This is one of the reasons that it's a good idea to wait before putting in slow moving plants. Fast growing plants remove ammonia effectively, are more robust, assimilate CO2 with greater ease and don't falter as easily when things get a little difficult, such as less than optimal flow or marginal CO2.

Not sure if this make you feel any better. :(

JamesC said:
Put some RO water in a glass jar on the window sill and watch the algae grow. What triggers it to grow? - can't be ammonia.

If ammonia is the trigger how come people who dose nutrients from Tropica, ADA, Seachem, etc don't all get algae? I've dosed urea for a few weeks and had no algae issues.

Just some thoughts
James
James, I have done it, in fact that also proves that it can't be due phosphates either right? Remember I was saying that the trigger is likely some combination of light+ammonia. Well the higher the light the less ammonia there needs to be. Try this: put two jars of RO water on the window sill and in one of the jars put some ammonia in. See which gets algae faster. Or, put one of the jars in a dark closet and see how long it takes for algae to grow in that jar. You'll wait an awful long time. It's clear that photon energy is the prime component and that ammonia is the accelerator. What I think can also happen is that that the water, even RO water doesn't stay devoid of life for very long. It gets algal spores, and bacteria. The bacteria populations rise and fall. Dead bacteria bodies die and decay, resulting in ammonia. How long would it take for an algae outbreak if you shut down your filtration and just used say, powerheads?

What's still not clear, even after your urea trials, is how much ammonia is actually released into the water column and for how long. It's not clear how much ammonia the the commercial ferts release. It's also not clear what level of photon flux density requires what ammonia level for a particular species to be triggered.


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jay

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JamesC said:
If ammonia is the trigger how come people who dose nutrients from Tropica, ADA, Seachem, etc don't all get algae? I've dosed urea for a few weeks and had no algae issues.


James

I "Think" that isn't the kind of urea you're thinking of (pee pee) :) Its some organic compound which is used in beauty creams as well. So no ammonia.
 

ceg4048

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Jay,
Have a look at the James' thread regarding urea trials=> Dosing with Ammonia and Urea

James provided some very useful data regarding dosing with urea which seemingly contradicts the "ammonia causes algae" theory.

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GreenNeedle

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Just me remembering searching Wiki before (I remain oblivious to most non-basic science)

Could it be due to Urea being created from Ammonia and CO2 that in some way it counteracts itself in that it can supply C and N at the same time? Probs wrong but would be a natural assumption for a non-scientist like me.

I would assume that RO water that was input into a vacuum sealed tank and then put in the light could maybe stay algae free but surely even with slight openings, dust etc would provide sources of allsorts surely.

I wait to be shot down as always. lol

AC
 

plantbrain

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A simple test that I did was to add progressively more and more fish or shrimp to a small aquarium that was doing great prior. This adds more and more NH4 waste.

Likewise, how much NH4 can we dose?
How much does it take to trigger an algae bloom?

We have to consider the biological bacteria factor. If we slowly add a little more NH4, then any left overs that the plants do not get are likely to be rapidly converted to NO3's.

Now what occurs if suddenly the plants stop taking up the NH4?
The bacteria cannot respond because they are use toa particular rate of loading NH4 into the tank.

If you adjust the NH4 loading rate slowly, then things will adapt=> no algae.

At least up to a limit.
If you keep adding progressively more and more NH4, no amount of bacterial filter will handle it.

That was the "fish test". We all would like to add moire fish and enough to not need any KNO3?
Why does this not work? Why does it work well in a non CO2 aquarium? But not so well in a high light CO2 tank?

Well, if you dose NH4, you need to account for the rates of growth.
This means good standard light readings, are my light intensities and yours the same?
Probably not, without a PAR meter and tank profile, we cannot compare them well.

So adding NH4 to a lower light tank will yield such results, where as adding NH4 to high light tank often includes some algae/GW mostly... if you dose enough.

This can explain why you might get algae easily in one tank adding NH4, but not another.
But if you push things more, you will get algae.

Try this simple test, take a nice tank that you have been dosing NH4 to and remove the filter, but provide the same water movement. Try adding some Jobes sticks into the water column.
These are all things that folks did in the past.

Dosing NH4 has a long history but few ever dosed that much, they where very careful not to add much.
Adding fish does the same thing. Try adding NH4 to a new tank, without a well established bio colony etc.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

plantbrain

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BTW, the James jar in the window test leaves out some really basic causes/oversights:

1. Spores are air borne. They have some reserves in them to get started to grow, much like a seed or tuber has reserves. 2. Dust and other things can and do fall into the jar. It does not take much, as more and more spores, fungi and other air borne critters/algae etc fall into the jar, the more nutrients enter the system, and it does not take much to grow any algae...........

This is not some sterile system and "pure water".
The spores that die, whether they are fungi, algae etc, leave behind the nutrients, these do not evaporate away.
So there is certainly some N and P in there.

You need to consider the simple 2 box model, what comes in, must go out.
How do the algae spores get there in the 1st place? ;) :!:
If they can magically enter the RO water in the jar, why can't NH4, P and all the other nutrient components?

The real theory is in the presence of aquatic plants, where the loading rate of NH4 is too high for a given light intensity, you get algae.

It's not that NH4= algae.
Given that so few test NH4 and light, and the issues with the rapid use by many critters/plants, algae, it's hard to say that 0.4ppm of NH4 will cause algae.

You will also note I have not given any ranges for algae inducement for NH4.

To test the theory, you need to use high light, the higher, the better.
This will make the system faster growing, more likely and more easy to perturb.

You will get results faster, more likely using high light.

Now you can play with CO2.

If the CO2 is suddenly reduced, now all the NH4 that was being used by plants, has no carbon to attach to, so the plants stop taking up the NH4.

This leaves plenty behind in the water column.
Algae need a good sensing mechanism to detect when is a good time to grow.
Changes in CO2 and NH4 seem to me, to be the best chemical signals and light is the other, more light=> the better.
This means that "no one else" is there growing and it is a good time to try and germinate and grow.

This also shows why it's a good idea to have a larger filter, moderate light, good stable CO2.
All of which we know helps a planted tank.

If NH4 is so good, why have filters, why not add more and more fish to planted tanks instead, and have high light to increase uptake of NH4?

Put this way, it's not contradictory.

Adding a little NH4 may not cause any issues with a planted tank. But under some conditions, it most certainly can.
Jar test in the window likely will not answer much, they do not answer the test question :idea:

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

JamesC

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Yep, you're right the jam jar test doesn't really tell you much. If my memory is correct I was adding 0.5ppm urea daily which also I see that other people have dosed fairly safely without problems. How quickly the ammonia is used up I have no idea, but I'd guess pretty quickly. There is as you say an ammonia threshold that once passed does cause problems as expreienced by me a couple of years ago when doing a major rescape. Must have caused an ammonia spike resulting in spirogyra.

Is there any benefit in adding urea/ammonia? Not that I noticed. What intrigues me is why the major aquatic fertiliser manufacturers put urea/ammonium compounds in their products. Can't believe it's to do with costs.

Thanks for the input Tom
James
 

Dusko

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It's not that NH4= algae.

I fully agree with this statement!
Lets mention the non-planted folk which cycles their tanks using the Fishless Cycling method. This method suggests adding NH4 to the tank to start the cycle or formation of nitrifying bacteria (nitrosomonas and nitrospira).
Some add inorganic NH4 others organic flake food or even frozen shrimps (again organic).
Most of the tanks these days have at least medium lights to start with.
Note! Theirs tanks aren't planted and aren't established yet, so nothing to stop the GW from taking over!
The tank goes through NH4 spike, than NO2 spike to be fully completed with NO3 spike (Cycle is complete). And no algae blooms (some minor algae but no blooms).
Why is that?

We all agree that nutrients can't cause algae blooms and still go after the NH4 :) (some did the same against PO4 in the past and even today).
Rain (NH4) can cause the flood (blooms) but what causes the rain?! Clouds (low Oxygen)!
Everything living (fish, snails, shrimps, microorganisms, bacteria, plants...) consume O2 and aquarium is a limited eco-system which is in high demand and for that reason we rather dose/add nutrients to it. Many stress about dosing e.g. CO2 which is a right thing to do, but on the other hand ignore the other VERY important gas O2.
Good Oxygen levels are as important as good CO2 levels.
Ponds and lakes are the best example of it!They experience algae blooms in summer time when Oxygen demand is at its highest.

e.g. One of my 43 litres planted tanks had only one pump which circulates 280 l/h. Algae growing non-stop on the glass and even on some plants (Spirogyra). This tank has medium lights, get dosed with TPN+NP 2 times a week and daily EC, not over stocked. It has moderate surface agitation. But still algae on the glass. I do have one Neritina snail taking care of it but the algae return after just a few days.

Now I introduced one more pump which circulates 350 l/h giving me 630 l/h in 43 litres aquarium! That creates almost 15 x of the tank volume per hour !!! :)
At first it sound a lot but fish behaves very normal and flow isn't that strong (flow reducers).
Already after a few days water looked much much better than before and no algae seem to be growing on the glass anymore. It is early to make any statements yet since I have introduced it only one week ago but still I know how fast I would get algae on the glass earlier. Also the plant leaves look much shinier than before (almost plastic).
Also, when dosing EC to this tank in the past my shrimps would go under stress (not moving at all), now with much more flow the Easy Carbo seems not to effect them anymore!

When we state DOSE ALL NUTRIENTS, we should actually mean it :D
Not many stress about O2, and Oxygen is one of the most important as much as the CO2, N, P, K! Without it bacteria (life in general) can't function properly.
So moderate surface agitation and sufficient O2 transport (water flow) is the way to go.

I think that I covered most of it in my recently edited Algae ID article (comments are welcome).

Try this: put two jars of RO water on the window sill and in one of the jars put some ammonia in. See which gets algae faster.

It is not the NH4 that caused the algae bloom but insufficient circulation, most likely low O2 and uncycled tank (no bacteria).
Tanks which are fully cycled and receive enough of O2 which is transported well through the tank can't suffer from NH4 to spike.

Insufficient O2 level and insufficient water circulation are the real reasons behind algae blooms in tanks which receive sufficient CO2 and all other nutrients.

Regards, Dusko
 

JamesC

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Very interesting Dusko. I'm also a fan of making sure that I have plenty of O2 in my tanks as I'm sure it is one of the reasons why my tanks are virtually algae free.

Thanks
James
 

GreenNeedle

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Dusko - I think this theory has something to it and last year I commented on how the clarity of my water seemed to have improved considerably (it wasn't that bad before) when I left the lily pipe a third above the water level producing much more turbulence and producing O bubbles moving around the tank with the CO2. However this was when I was only using the filter which made 6x (assuming full lph capability, which we know is reduced substantially.) Therefore it was just the lilypipes position which was providing more chance for gaseous exchange.

The excerpt from my journal dated 16/08/2007 reads:
I pulled my Lily pipe up to the surface to suck oxygen in and spit it back out and remarkably this seems to have improved circulation and water clarity at the same time.

I can't say for sure from that time wether it was factor in the algae because I had terrible trouble keeping the CO2 stable and was still finding my feet jumping from 1 regime to another dosing wise.

I would say though that I still have the Lily pipe one third above the water and these days since I have a reasonable grasp of what I dose and have more flow in the tank through a powerhead the clarity is there still and algae is nowhere near as bad as it was even when I only had the stock lighting last year.

One question though. How does Diana Walstad keep her non filtered, non flow tanks so clear of algae. I know she does have some algae but with no flow this theory should mean she is overwhelmed by it.

AC
 

Dusko

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How does Diana Walstad keep her non filtered, non flow tanks so clear of algae.

First of all she uses soils (good CEC) :) and floating plants (less light) and she often uses fast growing plants (Valls, Wisteria, Sprite, Egeria densa, etc) which can keep decent balance if nutrients aren't missing (low light = slow nutrient uptake)

But let me quote D. Walstad ;)
Water movement is often helpful because it brings CO2 and other nutrients quicker and closer to the leaves.
Quoted from her book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" page 104, D. Moderate Water Movement is Best.

I have very low flow in my 0.9 wpg tank and very little to no algae. Also no soils, plain gravel. I often forget to clean the filter and the flow reduces even more. Staghorn is the first to appear and green algae on the glass. Removing manually the algae, cleaning filter = better flow, nutrient re-dose and done deal :)
Of course light plays a big role so does the water temperature.

I still have to figure out one planted tank owned by a Greman aquarist. Hi-light (4xT-5's) over approx. 60 litres with no CO2 and no pumps/circulation. But he does have a huge clump of Java Moss in the middle of the tank. Weekly water change but no extra nutrient dosing. I wonder how much NO3 and PO4 comes from German tap water, as well as how much K, Ca, Mg, etc... He doesn't get any algae.
 

vauxhallmark

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SuperColey1 said:
One question though. How does Diana Walstad keep her non filtered, non flow tanks so clear of algae. I know she does have some algae but with no flow this theory should mean she is overwhelmed by it.

AC

Well, you're talking about two different things - oxygen concentration and water circulation/turbulence/flow.

Oxygen doesn't only come from mechanical water movement - it's also produced by plants. If Diana had a well planted tank with good lighting, and the plants were doing well, they would be producing lots of oxygen.

Just a thought,

Mark
 

GreenNeedle

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vauxhallmark said:
SuperColey1 said:
Well, you're talking about two different things - oxygen concentration and water circulation/turbulence/flow.

Oxygen doesn't only come from mechanical water movement - it's also produced by plants. If Diana had a well planted tank with good lighting, and the plants were doing well, they would be producing lots of oxygen.

Just a thought,

Mark

But we are saying here that good flow and a little turbulence brings in O and this helps keep the algae at bay. We already have good growing plants and most of us have as little algae as Diana, some less so I don't see what you are saying here.

Both Dianas tanks and ours have plants growing well and producing oxygen. We are now talking about bringing more oxygen in rather than what most people already have. I guess dismissing the 'surface agitation is bad' theory as this surface agitation is helping bring in more O (to go with the O that the plants produce) and in effect the theory would work against itself if it were depriving the tank of the extra O.

I merely commented on noticing better water clarity and that these days my algae is much less to the point of minimal. I cannot rule other things out though as over this same period I have become more knowledgable and also got better at keeping my regime in order so is it due to me being better with dosing, better at keeping CO2 stable, is it because I have water turbulence. Maybe it is all three and maybe the turbulence has had no effect at all. I was just commenting. If it has nothing to do with the algae reduction I'm still happy because that means my dosing and CO2 management achieved it plus my water clarity is better at the same time.

I am no scientist so I will let others debate the 'facts', while I just chip in my 2p with observations etc. lol

AC
 

Dave Spencer

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I have had a go at growing algae in RO water and sunlight, but I did this to show myself that high nitrates and phosphates don`t trigger algae, and that algae can thrive in a nutrient deficient environment, suggesting that nitrate and phosphate removers are a waste of money.

Dave.
 
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