Aquarium Decoration (Rocks, Plants and Substrates) • Rock setup and algae

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Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 5:59 am

Hi,

Just wondering what everyone does regarding algae in their tanks.

In my Mbuna tank I'm encouraging algae growth on the rocks, and cleaning it off the glass weekly. The fish eat some off the rocks, but clearly not enough to keep things clean. Here is my 55" tank - 90% of the rocks were white when I put them in (a couple are some type of red granite). I have the lights on for 12-13 hours a day, primarily so I can see the fish, but I'm assuming this also encourages algae growth.

Is this a pretty normal approach for Mbuna?

Image

Here's a wider shot of the rock setup, hood is off due to me seeding a new filter on the right. I originally had two separate piles of rocks with a gap in the middle, before turning it into a wall of rocks. I'm thinking of separating it again next time I do anything major to the tank. I also want to try and get the piles higher closer to the sides so I can hide some of the pipework and heaters. Possibly even doing three separate stacks instead. Unfortunately the pipes are pretty much fixed due to the cutouts on the tank, so I can't move them further in.

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aconite
 
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby shiftyfox » Sun May 10, 2020 7:23 am

Algae thrive on three basic things - water, light, and nutrients. If there is an excess of any of these variables, then algae will grow. Some algae growth is normal for all us fish lovers, but excessive amounts will use the dissolved oxygen in the water to grow. This reduces the available dissolved oxygen in the water for the fish
Cutting back the amount your lights are on and avoiding direct sunlight from a window, not feeding too much, regular water changes and filter maintenance will all help.
You could do a phosphate water test to see what the levels are like if you have any real concerns.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 8:41 am

Cheers, shiftyfox. I'm not really concerned about it - the fish seem happy so far, are breeding, and I'm doing 30% changes every 3 days to keep on top of nitrates. My wife thinks the rocks are better with algae as they match the cabinet and hood :wink:

The growth on the glass is pretty minimal with just a few areas that need sponging away, mainly near the substrate and behind the pipework.

I was more interested in knowing whether this is normal and expected or not, as I don't really have anything to compare it to. This was a sparsely populated generic community tank up until August last year, that had a pretty large pleco in it and the algae seemed minimal (had a little green algae on rocks but don't recall seeing anything brown like this).

The tank isn't getting any direct sunlight, and the room it's in is pretty dark normally (it's one leg of an l-shaped room with the windows all perpendicular to the tank, about 7 metres away, and north facing.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby DJRansome » Sun May 10, 2020 9:38 am

I agree, algae is normal and artificial or natural light six hours/daily may be too much.

Also what is your nitrate test result? Shoot for 20ppm or less. Your water changes would be more effective if you did 60% 1X weekly.

Did you change substrate? Is the tank new within the last year? A common situation in a "new" tank is brown algae which is really diatoms. Not really very related to nitrate or light it hangs around for months and then disappears on it's own. It is easy to wipe off.

Also try feeding less unless your fish have concave bellies. It is surprising how much that helps with algae and how little food it takes to keep the fish healthy.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 10:22 am

The tank has been running for 9 months now, same rocks and sand since I set it up. The only change I have made in that time is to add a second canister filter and remove a small internal (it was set up originally with a single canister and an internal).

My nitrates generally test at 30 on the API colour card before water changes. I did think about a single, large water change, with maybe one or two small vacuums during the week to remove poop, but was worried that a large change would be more stressful on the fish? Is that not an issue?

Assuming 30ppm, a 60% change would theoretically get it down to 12ppm, whereas two 30% changes would result in 14.7ppm, so I agree that it would definitely help doing a single large one if there are no other drawbacks. However, my tap water is testing at 10ppm of nitrates, so those calculations aren't exactly accurate, and also the second change wouldn't start at a 30ppm base. I'm probably over-analysing this :roll:

As far as the feeding goes, that is another thing I've never really been sure about... There are 26 fish in the tank at the moment, ranging from 2.5" to 3.25", and I'm giving them one level teaspoon of 1mm pellets a day. It all gets eaten pretty quickly. There are some bits in the water after feeding but I think it's from them churning crud up from the sand when they're foraging for the pellets, rather than uneaten food (the pellets sink anyway, and this stuff is floating in the water column until it gets sucked up).

Is that amount about right, or am I over-feeding?

Here are a couple of pictures of the growth - apologies for the quality - the rocks have little hairs on them, only growing on the sides facing the light. The stuff on the glass comes off with the wipe of a sponge.

Image

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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby DJRansome » Sun May 10, 2020 11:33 am

At least some of what you have is likely diatoms and may continue for several more months.

One water change should be less stressful than two as long as you are matching parameters. You don't move the rocks right? I often do 75% just because as long as I have all the apparatus out...why not? But if your fish are used to 30%...you need to increase your % gradually. Do 2X 40% and then 2X 50% and then switch over to 60% 1X per week.

I would try feeding 1/2 that amount and see what happens. My fish catch the sinking pellets before they hit the substrate and with strong filtration not much comes up with vacuuming...the feces are swept into the filter as opposed to falling to the substrate.

10ppm of nitrate in your tap water is more difficult to solve. Plants will handle nitrates, but are difficult to keep healthy as a whole separate project along with keeping the fish healthy. Something to consider. You need a LOT of plants and they need to be relatively fast growing...unlike anubias and java fern and even crypts.

26 fish sounds like too many for a 55G...are they all two inches or less?
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 11:56 am

Thanks for your help again, DJ.

The tank is 80 gallons, 55" long. This is the tank from the other thread you helped me out with that I'll be removing the callainos and perhaps the labs from.

I'll try reducing the amount of food and see how things go. And will also look at ramping up the water changes over the next couple of weeks with the aim of switching to a single large weekly change. That'll certainly be less work in the long run.

As far as the diatoms go, is it just a case of waiting it out until the tank is more established? Is there any value in trying something like Phosguard to reduce them?
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby DJRansome » Sun May 10, 2020 12:36 pm

You can test for phosphate from your tap and if you have phosphates then it might help. Phosphates and nitrates in your tap water is not healthy for you either...would contacting a water authority in the UK do any good?

But diatoms thrive with silicates. Those tend to come from substrate (pool filter sand is 100% silica) so waiting it out seems to be the only reliable solution. Some have luck with bristlenose plecos...this never worked for me.

Some have luck with pothos roots in the water and leaves above the tank. Never worked for me. Maybe I did not have enough of them.

Also if you can block the windows at all during the day...for anything you have growing that is not diatoms. And reduce artificial light hours.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 1:14 pm

I'll think about getting a phosphate test, and will re-test the nitrates from the tap.

Coincidentally, I had a guy from our water company come round to test our water last summer. Not something I requested, our house was chosen at random for an area test. Apparently everything came back 'within acceptable parameters' - not sure that means much though because the EU and UK limit for nitrate in drinking water is 50ppm!

Don't think I want to go down the pleco route, but might test out some Phosguard at some stage.

I'm not too bothered about the fact that it's building up and needs cleaning, but if it's stealing good stuff out of the water that's depriving the fish then that's not good.

Maybe reducing food and light, and increasing the water changes will help out. Will give it a couple of weeks of trying that before doing anything else, I think. Sounds like I was probably over-feeding them.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby BC in SK » Sun May 10, 2020 1:55 pm

shiftyfox wrote: Some algae growth is normal for all us fish lovers, but excessive amounts will use the dissolved oxygen in the water to grow.

Algae does not "use the dissolved oxygen in the water to grow" any more so then plants do. And like plants, through the process of photosynthesis, produce much more oxygen then they consume. It's when you get excessive growth to the point of the algae rapidly dying off and rotting that oxygen gets used up. In a natural environment, algae can choke off the light to lower areas, and with the dying off and rotting can choke away the oxygen supply.
DJRansome wrote: artificial or natural light six hours/daily may be too much.

DJRansome wrote:Also if you can block the windows at all during the day...for anything you have growing that is not diatoms. And reduce artificial light hours.

The OP never claimed that he/she dislikes the look of algae or that it is an actual problem that needs to be addressed so why the advice to cut the amount of light?
Algae is of benefit to an aquarium, especially a non-planted cichlid tank. It uses nutrients from the water column, produces oxygen, provides food for fry/fish as well as possibly many other benefits.
Their nutrient demands are generally far lower then real plants, and as long as there are fish that are being fed it is close to impossible to starve algae of nutrients.
Nobody looks at a well planted tank and assumes poor water quality......yet that is often the assumption when somebody grows algae well, even though it's nutrient requirements are significantly lower then higher plants.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby shiftyfox » Sun May 10, 2020 4:16 pm

Reduced periods of light is a personal preference of mine Maple, I have minimal algae growth and that’s the way I like my tanks.
I also prefer less intense lighting in my main tank as I feel it washes the fishes colours out. My Aqua sky RGB light is perfect for letting me choose the exact colour and intensity as well as it’s built in timer function is a perfect fit for my needs.

Strong algae growth can certainly have an effect on your water parameters. As you mentioned algae are plants and produce oxygen during the day. But at night the situation reverses and the algae consume oxygen. With a heavy algae infestation the oxygen can drop into dangerous ranges at night and threaten the life in the aquarium.

Exposed to light (during the day), the algae continue to consume carbon dioxide (CO2) like water plants. This consumption can lead to an extreme increase in the pH level, which in turn can lead to a life-threatening environment.

If the CO2 content in the water is no longer sufficient, algae are able to dissolve the CO2 out of the carbonate hardness (KH). The result is a decrease of this important water parameter which leads to an unstable pH level. The pH level drops significantly at night (to values as low as 4) and rises during the day to far too high values (up to values over 10), and this can mean the death of the fish.
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby Welder » Sun May 10, 2020 4:24 pm

I can agree with the above whole heartedly. I have two tanks currently and one with plenty of plants. The other is just full of algae. Kept in check by the fish to most extent. Nitrates 0. Tap water for the last 3 months has been 23. (Test figures from the water company and would agree with the api liquid test around 20).
The planted tank which looks much better quality runs at between 20 and 30. Which am I happiest with... The one that looks grotty :)
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby Welder » Sun May 10, 2020 4:28 pm

Interesting what shiftyfox says tho. Have you got reference to the pH range change and info on tank size, stocking etc that seems incredibly extreme. Just wonder how much algae would be needed for that??
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby DJRansome » Sun May 10, 2020 4:29 pm

I planted a tank once with vallisneria and the plants took off and nitrates went to zero.

However then having eaten all the fertilizer and me not adding any...the plants started to languish and I ended up with cyanobacteria.

I've never had luck getting the algae just right so the fish keep it in check. I either have too much or too little. :(
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Re: Rock setup and algae

Postby aconite » Sun May 10, 2020 5:51 pm

This is a really interesting discussion, and I've now started reading up on diatoms, silicates and what not. Loads to learn.

This is not a problem I'm trying to fix - I was just curious to see whether it was normal to have it to grow, and what other people were doing with regard to it in their Mbuna tanks. There do seem to be some differing opinions on the subject.

DJ - missed your earlier question about the rocks. I don't move them when changing water, just blow some water through them to clear out any hidden gunk. I've rearranged them once in the 9 months the tank has been running.

Welder wrote:I can agree with the above whole heartedly. I have two tanks currently and one with plenty of plants. The other is just full of algae. Kept in check by the fish to most extent. Nitrates 0. Tap water for the last 3 months has been 23. (Test figures from the water company and would agree with the api liquid test around 20).
The planted tank which looks much better quality runs at between 20 and 30. Which am I happiest with... The one that looks grotty :)


The grotty tank is in a state where the algae is removing nitrates for you? That sounds like a nice situation to be in. Just how grotty is it though? :)

As far as my tank goes, I'd be happy with the hairy rock growth remaining (as the fish seem to like eating it) and have the stuff on the glass and pipework stop appearing, although it's not really a hardship to clean it either way. Perhaps diatoms are the issue for me, as the stuff I'm removing just wipes off.

I'll have to give it time and try a few different things out to see what works. Will see how reducing the amount of food goes first, while upping the water change volumes. I do like having the lights on though, and now I'm stuck working from home so they're on more. For me, there's no point in having fish if you can't look at them. Guess there's a balance to be found.
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