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Severe Algae: Chicken vs. Egg and 2 years of struggling to grow anything planted


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I want to start by saying my goal right now has been to grow moss. Simply moss. *deep breath, exhale slow*

I had a tank which crashed due to my inexperience and losing CO2/fertilizer regularity.  That was the underlying reason for the plants struggling.  Following a few months of that, I trimmed the plant that was doing "too good" (PSO) and seemingly destroyed any progress I had on the tank.  Everything dwindled down slowly over time except for my anubias. 

Following that, we moved houses, which led to everything in tubs with a light and almost no day to day care.  I also lost the ability to setup the tank for an extended period of time which led to massive BBA outbreaks and extremely bad conditions for the plants.  This post is my attempt to try to explain everything that has happened since those initial struggles and offer any bits of advice I can to help others who may have struggles with algae.

I'll start here, with this video, and my morning of thoughts when the robots on youtube finally got one right and recommended a video I actually wanted to click and watch intently.  I would encourage you to click it on and listen to George as you read and then go back and re-watch with the added visuals. 
 

When I first setup any sort of a "display tank" I had some pretty high expectations for myself. I had a tank, with good substrate, easy plants, and I wanted to let the plants grow before I did anything else. The idea being it was a planted tank, not an aquarium.  I want to have plants in my aesthetic and I wanted to be able to have consistency in my dosing schedule and just enjoy the greenery.

I planted the tank, it looks amazing and like 100's of videos I'd seen of aquascapes that led to success.

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Immediately I had issues with the plants uprooting themselves, not taking hold, melting, and withering away.  All of that $ spent on plants was basically a waste.

Attempt 2, I did a lot more research on planting depth, tried to ensure they didn't pop out of the substrate and things stayed in place, withered away, melted, and was basically a waste.

Attempt 3, I tried to add the anubias from the tubs, convert it to new growth and then add another batch of plants and *hope* they actually take hold.  Things were on edge of sustainability.... I can't keep buying plants to fill in this tank and have failures.  This is the point when everything started to crash continuously for me.  The anubias had BBA, the dwarf hairgrass had brush algae, melt, KH issues, lighting issues, lack of nutrients, and ultimately was not setup for success.

Between power failures, my own struggles with consistency, overdosing because I thought it was a lack of nutrients causing the plants to fail and noticing too many shadows on the tank I had to take a step back and really just adjust how I was viewing the entire situation.

One of Cory's videos had encouraged consistency, longer time between water changes, a month or several weeks at minimum.  I was focusing on consistent weekly water changes and trying to keep that schedule, adjusting my lighting and dosing as a focus for my changes.  There was some success to playing with those variables (separately), but ultimately the tank did crash and has struggled.  I currently have the lights turned way down and I currently have the dosing set for 2/3 of a dose 2x a week of easy green

I think every sentence above speaks to how frustrated I have been with my inability to grow anything. I know if I add a stem plant in the back, it will help.  If I add moss it will help.  My struggle is getting enough new growth so that the entirely of the new growth can push out the algae for good.  More on this concept later.  I have had the tank to a place of stability where the algae is not increasing several times. Weeks of stability, but eventually something happens and it always takes hold again.  I have even gone to doubling, tripling the amount of amano shrimp in my tank as a means to passively increase the ability of the tank to clean itself.  Through all of these struggles there has been a few nuggets of advice I want to pass along and hope that if anyone is as discouraged as I am, to hold your chin up and try to keep pushing through the algae issues.

First, I really want to commend, ecstatically so, the ability of amano shrimp to be great and cleaning algae in a tank.  It doesn't matter what it is, they will *eventually* get to it. My best example I can give you is 2 bushes of anubias that have pretty long roots. It's almost like clockwork how they let it fill with BBA, clean it, go elsewhere, and then cycle back to clean those roots.  Waking up and seeing those pale bright green roots is one of my favorite things.  They can clean any variety of algae and they will do so without needing much of anything besides oxygenation and time.

Second, manual removal and manual effort is the only real way to get through a severe algae issue.  When it first started I was at a loss because every bit of my anubias was caked in BBA covered leaves. If I remove those leaves, the plant will be encouraged to grow, but have nothing but a rhizome and a few roots to do so.  Giving the plant time to do it's work, manually removing the leaves as new ones appear, scraping it off leaves when I can, using a brush on hardscape, scrubbing the hard algae off of the glass and hardscape, and manually taking out every bit of frustration on algae growing on the equipment is the only real way to make progress.  It's going to float around the tank and massive water changes will help to siphon out a lot of the floating debris, but it takes constant weekly effort to keep brushing it off and keep pushing it back to get ahead. Especially if the algae is stubborn and persistent. On wood, use a knife or razor blade and scrape it off.  Use a sponge or stiff brush on rocks to remove it.  Use a soft toothbrush on your leaves and then siphon everything out.  Remove the filter, clean it thoroughly, and get ready to do the same thing next week if you need to.  Keep doing this, until you get things going the right direction. That is how you give your plants a fighting chance when you're dealing with severe BBA.

Third, and I want to say this is my opinion only, I think everything that is green or brown brush algae and green hair algae can simply be stopped by adjusting lighting, dosing, and giving the tank time.  There are members here who have algae balls for their tanks as a main feature plant.  It's very cool to see.  I would prefer moss instead, but I totally understand there can be an aesthetic where something like green hair algae looks nice on the back wall of a tank as it grows in.  Manually removing it once, fixing the tank lighting, adjusting dosing, I think will generally fix the vast majority of issues for most tanks.  The plants can generally out-compete those two types of algae pretty easily.  A lot of people struggle when the brown/green brush algae becomes the BBA variety over time as things worsen.

Finally, what do I mean by the chicken and egg thing?  Well, this is where I am at now.  I have to fix algae so I can have plants, but I can't fix algae because I don't have enough plants.  Sometimes plants literally just won't work well in your water. Be it the type of plant and parameters in your water or a situation where those plants came from water that is very different than what you can provide.  I think a lot of my own struggles come from water chemistry differences as well as not having the bioload to actually out-compete the algae in question.

This is where I go back to my first statement, I simply want to grow some moss....

I am on the verge of getting rid of this stinkin' BBA, it's been a journey and I'm hopeful.  Make sure you have enough plants in the tank. That's the final tip.  If you're really, severely struggling with plants, add something like PSO that will just out-compete everything in the tank and grow literally.... like a weed.  (ref. Goliad Farms and their love of hornwort).

The main thing is to keep pushing through the struggle, adapt when you need to, and pay attention to what the tank is telling you.  Even daily, try to figure out what is going on.  It might mean spending 20-30 minutes sitting there and pondering. It might mean testing 3-5x a week to track how your plants are using fertilizers. Understanding what is going on is critically important and above all be patient and try to give your plants the best chance to grow in.  If you need to, consider adding more.

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I’m not crazy good at scaping.  I have learned that some algae can be good. I like the bright green algae that grows on some wood or rocks. It’s not for everyone. I use moss all the time. I two takes that are covered in moss. One has moss growing over the eco-complete. I love it. I it came from my yard. The second the moss is different ground moss. It is a test tank, I wanted to see how a tank with only moss as a substrate. So far been up and down as far as looks go, but it have been great for everything else including breed numbers. I do have rooted plants in the first tank but very easy ones of course Amazon sword and red melon sword, pennywort. I do have several  moss “trees”. Yes, moss “trees”moss glued on drift wood branches and I like them I had a plan it’s not there but it’s the long game.

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@Brandon p Well, the moss is officially on the way.  Here's to hoping I can grow it.  The plan for now it to just suction cup it to the wall and let the mat grow in a bit.

I also got some stem plants to add to the tank and hopefully provide that little boost I need to finish knocking this algae out.

CO2 is standing by ready to go when the tank is ready for it also.  I don't think this algae has a chance anymore! 😂

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You know, in my struggles with plants. I hated algea and moss. I would nuke it the minute I saw it. After many failures I let nature do its course I allowed green hair algie, black beard, green moss and even brown algie to do its thing. I fetilized my plants well with tablets and easy green. Gave them 8.5 hours of light. Overtime the plants won, the algea receeded and I have had success. Keep trying and dont give up. The feeling of sitting in front of you tank and seeing you plants bloom is imazing.

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On 7/4/2022 at 4:06 AM, Axredx said:

The feeling of sitting in front of you tank and seeing you plants bloom is amazing.

Oh for sure!  Even with a high tech CO2 setup, I haven't had a ton of success getting the tank to pearl.  There was several days where I'd just sit there in awe and then I had some plants flower for me, yet again, breathtakingly fun day when I saw that.

I know the plants were happy because of their growth and things like that.  The tank was happy because everything was working well.  I can't wait to get back to that! Especially considering now, I have substrate that other plants will enjoy and thrive in a bit easier.

It's funny, I say the plants only pearled a few times.  I'm sure it was many more times, but I just never paid enough attention at the right times.
 

On 7/4/2022 at 4:06 AM, Axredx said:

Overtime the plants won, the algea receeded and I have had success. Keep trying and dont give up.

1000%.  It's a quote from a movie, "Are you tired?"  Definitely not!

I appreciate the motivation, thank you!  Nice work getting through the algae. It's a good feeling when you get there and takes some doing.

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On 7/4/2022 at 2:02 AM, nabokovfan87 said:

@Brandon p Well, the moss is officially on the way.  Here's to hoping I can grow it.  The plan for now it to just suction cup it to the wall and let the mat grow in a bit.

I also got some stem plants to add to the tank and hopefully provide that little boost I need to finish knocking this algae out.

CO2 is standing by ready to go when the tank is ready for it also.  I don't think this algae has a chance anymore! 😂

Good luck. I have only had the diy CO2. That was helpful growing growing in the moss. I never had much luck traditional aquarium mosses. So I used the CO2 and did I of the no-no’s a had a tank in the window. The ground moss I went to using did great. I learned that light is super important and light as close to sunlight is the best. I have 3 tanks with moss one is in the sun one has a hygger light(which I like ), and a very good finnex. The moss grows more flat on the one with the sun and the finnex. With the hygger it grows well but differently. It grows much thinner, tall, and stringy. If that happens I personally try to trim that more often.  The others with the better light source I never have had to trim that. I hope that helps. I think you have all the things to work. Good luck 

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Posted (edited)

In the future This may help give you plants a  bit of a “do over” to shed some the algae.  Of course it will come back unless you find what is causing it but this at least will save money in constantly buying new plants until it balances out. I

f you try it I encourage you to share before and after photos with us on the RR thread. 

Edited by Guppysnail
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On 7/7/2022 at 4:44 AM, Guppysnail said:

In the future This may help give you plants a  bit of a “do over” to shed some the algae.

Definitely makes sense.  The difficult part, and I think one of my biggest issues was just not knowing enough, and not setting things up for success.  The frustration being that when you fix those issues it's not like the algae just disappears overnight.  I've taken hardscape and plants and stuff and directly treated with Hydrogen peroxide and it didn't make a dent.  I look forward to when it does make sense for me to try the RR method, but I am hoping that this is it!

It's been a journey and watching the algae latch on to melt, not having new growth, it's just so frustrating as a hobbyist when you know you're 80 or 90% of the way there.

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