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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 75 gallon Mbuna tank with about 18 fish total. It has been established for about a year now, and for the past month or so it has been horribly cloudy. It is green, so I'm fairly sure its algae. This all started when all the sudden I noticed fish dieing and checked my PH, it was well below what it was supposed to be. the test tube was basically yellow, although my tap comes out about 7.8. This somehow also affected the algae, because it is no longer growing on the rocks or glass but simply floats around the water column.

I haven't added any new decorations, filters, media, fish or substrate. I've tried multiple LARGE water changes with only temporary success. I've also resulted to chemicals (algaefix) that has always worked wonders at half dose, but is now having almost no affect. I've even had the lights off all day for the last 2 weeks and there is no direct sunlight on the tank.

Any suggestions or ideas of how this is even happening??
 

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It comes down to light and nutrients. But, regarding your pH, in any aquarium there are buffers of pH, also called carbonate hardness or KH, that get 'consumed' and once they drop to 0, so does the pH. As the fish grow and the fish load gets heavier, the usual maintenance and water changes may not be enough to keep these buffers up enough to stabilize pH. You should be monitoring not only pH, but KH as well. Check both your tap and tank. If your tap KH is low, say <5, then you should probably be adding sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) during water changes to boost it up. Then pH will rise a bit also, but more importantly, it'll stabilize.

The green algae probably also indicates an over abundance of organic matter in the system somewhere. Organic matter consumes buffers also. This all kind of fits.

I'd take an approach that tries to resolve this over time, not a quick fix.

--Vacuum out and remove every bit of organics that you can find.

--Also clean the mechanical filter media, but not the biomedia, leave that alone.

--Cut way back on the feeding to once lightly each day.

--Also just cut back on the lighting, you don't have to keep them off completely.

Accept the green water for now, as it won't hurt your fish. Try to get the organics out of the system while boosting your buffers, if needed.

Another note, if pH drops low enough, it inhibits the nitrifying bacteria. Meaning ammonia is no longer converted. It doesn't harm the fish because it get's 'bound' into a non-toxic form. But, as you resolve this and raise pH, it frees the ammonia into a toxic form. But, the good news is that the nitrifying bacteria will start to work again. So, just want you to be aware that there could be lots of chemical changes going on as you resolve this and it may not be a bad idea to test for ammonia and nitrite also.

But anyway, be sure to test your pH and KH of both tap and tank and post back results. Then maybe we can help come up with a plan suited to your situation.
 

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I think Tim has pinned the problem correctly. The way all this fits together is really simple but totally confusing until one does some study on how they all fit together. My first thought was that there might be a fish stuck somewhere, suddenly messing your tank up with his ammonia. Then I noted that you are in an area that has pretty soft water that doesn't have much natural buffering built in. This is a situation that demonstrates the need for testing. Even after the tank is up and running and looks okay, things can begin to slip just slowly until there is a real problem leaving us wondering how come.

I like test strips for ease and testing once a week as well as keeping a record of the readings so that if things begin to slip slowly the record will show it.

For some good reading on how the water qualities fit together, I like this site:
http://www.freshwater-aquarium-fish.com/water_chemistry.htm

Like Tim recommends, go slow and ease it back into the proper mode. Sudden changes can be much worse for the fish than things that are off a bit but they are used to them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow thanks so much for the loads of information. This sounds like it could be the problem since the ph still drops slowly after water changes, and it didn't happen until the fish were almost adult size which makes since about the increased bioload. The only thing I don't understand is how the algae managed to strive so abundantly with no direct light for two weeks? Anyways I will by a kh test kit tomorrow and report back. Thanks guys!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ok so I got the test kit and it looks like you were right. KH was very low. practically zero. My tap also read 0. PH of my tap was about 7.2 and a little lower in my tank. However ammonia and nitrites are at 0 and nitrates were <20 (probably because I did about a 75% WC about a week ago) so that kinda rules out the over-abundant nutrients theory.

So where should I go from here? on your last post you mentioned adding baking soda with water changes, how much and how do I go about doing that?
 

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so that kinda rules out the over-abundant nutrients theory.
It doesn't rule that out at all. Your nitrates are down due to the large water change. It might have been 80-100 before the change. Look for organic solids in the system, meaning filter, gravel, etc. and remove them. I'd typically like to see the setup. Can you post a pic? What filters are you using, what type of media, and what's been the cleaning schedule? Details will be helpful.

Then slowly start to raise the KH by adding sodium bicarbonate. Monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and KH.

I'd take one tablespoon of baking soda and mix it well in a jar or container, then add it to the tank slowly near the filter outflow. Check levels after about 20-30 to see what effect it's had. We can adjust from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You're right the nitrates could of easily been much higher than that before the large water change. I will do some major cleaning soon to remove any waste.

You can see most of the information about my tank on my tank profile but for your specific questions:

1. for filtering I have a fluval 404 and an emperor 280. In the fluval I have two layers of pillow floss followed by pads taken from a HOB filter as biological filtration. The emperor has a basket of filter floss followed by the bio-wheel.

2. As for the cleaning schedule I have been doing 20-30% WC's within 2 weeks of each other since I started the tank. I clean/change the filter media (not the bio media) probably once every 2 months. I also have taken out most of the rockwork to remove holding females a few times in the last several months, and removed most of the solid waste during those times.

I will add some baking soda tomorrow, but how critical is the condition of it? We have an old box that has been sitting in our refrigerator for months, should I buy a new box for this?

Below is a pic I took a few minutes ago. It is a pretty accurate representation of how the tank has looked the last couple weeks.

 

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I also have taken out most of the rockwork to remove holding females a few times in the last several months, and removed most of the solid waste during those times.
That's a good thing, but there is probably a lot of organics buried in the sand. If it were me, first thing I'd do is siphon out all the sand. First remove the rocks, of course. Siphoning out the sand is really a lot easier than it sounds. I do it occasionally on several tanks. Just use a length of hose and a 5 gallon bucket. It vacuums out quickly. Pour off the water, then rinse the sand like you did when you first set up the tank. Dump the sand into a storage container or another 5 gallon bucket and then siphon out another bucket. Should only take 2-3 buckets. Rinse and replace, but only put about 1/2" of sand back in there. Then you know you've gotten all of the organic solids out of the tank.

I clean/change the filter media (not the bio media) probably once every 2 months.
Rinse mechanical filter pads on all filters. Then you know you've gotten all of the organic solids out of the filters.

Don't feed for the next couple days. Then start feeding lightly once per day.

Limit lighting to about 6 hours per day for now. I wouldn't cut it off completely because we want to see if it'll clear even though we're supplying it light. We want to see that we've starved it of nutrients.

20-30% WC's within 2 weeks of each other since I started the tank.
When you get this cleared up and get back on a regular schedule, I'd bump that up to weekly and go for more like 40%. Or at least make sure it's 30%, not 20%.

The age of the baking soda doesn't matter.

And don't forget to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and KH at least once daily.

I'm not sure why the algae bloom occurs in some tanks over others, as I know there are tanks that get a large buildup of nutrients that never see algae blooms. But, it just comes down to all things being ideal for it to bloom in your system. We have to try to take away something that it's really liking.

Keep us posted as I'm real interested in seeing this cleared up and straightened away also.
 

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I did some reading and came up with a couple of other suggestions. Try adding something like the poly filter pads designed to remove, among other things, iron which the algae feeds on.

Also, what type of light bulb are you using? Meaning, what's the K rating, etc? What type of bulb and what's printed on the bulb? If it hasn't been changed out, then it most certainly is no longer giving off light the same as it did new, and it might be a good idea to replace it. It may now be giving off light in a spectrum favorable to the algae.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just added 1 tbsp about 45 minutes ago and success! KH is back on the chart. About 40 ppm, Which I'm guessing is still a little low.
I forgot to mention my lights. I have a 48" dual florescent fixture with one 6500k and one actinic. They were both purchased during the summer of last year so I don't think they are too old. The actinic still has a good color to it.

What are your suggestions on continuing to add baking soda? What is the KH ppm I should be shooting for?

Thanks again all your information and suggestions are very helpful!
 

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The actinic still has a good color to it.
Remove the actinic for now.

They were both purchased during the summer of last year so I don't think they are too old.
You can get a 6500K at Lowe's for a few dollars. I'd change it out. Fluorescents should be changed out every 6-12 months.

What are your suggestions on continuing to add baking soda? What is the KH ppm I should be shooting for?
You need to make changes very slowly and very gradually. Don't add any more right now. What is the pH reading now?

Test for ammonia and nitrite at least every 24 hours. This is incredibly important. All the tests mentioned in above posts are very important. Start a log of all 5 tests. It can be very helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I removed the actinic this morning. Lowe's is where I got the 6500K bulb. Its a standard GE daylight bulb so I wouldn't feel bad about replacing that.

The PH has risen since I added the baking soda. It was at about 7.6 this morning. Everything else looked pretty good:

Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 20
KH: about 40

I also have a test for GH. Is this important at this time?
 

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I know you said the old baking soda helped, but I would have at least minor concerns using baking soda that had been in the refrigerator absorbing fould odors for a year. I'd accept that as a test to see if it works and then buy a brand new box in order to maintain your levels.
 

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Flourescents don't need to be changed every 6 to 12 months unless you are relying on them to grow plants. Even then, although there will be drop off in intensity and possibly a colour shift, you can sometimes still grow plants. I have some Philips Ultra Vision 5000K tubes that were given to after 6 months of use in an newspaper office, and are still growing plants like crazy almost 2 years later. On tanks with no plants you can run them until they die.
As far as this problem goes, fine polishing pads should remove most of it.
 

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Notwithstanding all of the excellent cultural practices mentioned above, if you get impatient to fix the symptom you can use Clarity by Seachem. This, along with mechanical filtration will clear up your tank pronto and not affect your fish. Follow label directions!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I would have at least minor concerns using baking soda that had been in the refrigerator absorbing fould odors for a year.
I agree I was a little concerned with this. I will be picking up a new box anyways so I can keep the old one in the fridge.

As far as this problem goes, fine polishing pads should remove most of it.
If you look on the previous post, I have two layers (about 6 inches) of pillow filler in my fluval and a basket of pillow filler in my emperor. The algae is just too abundant and reproduces too quickly to be removed mechanically.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Notwithstanding all of the excellent cultural practices mentioned above, if you get impatient to fix the symptom you can use Clarity by Seachem. This, along with mechanical filtration will clear up your tank pronto and not affect your fish. Follow label directions!
I have resulted to clarity aids or algae removers in the past but I would just rather fix the core problems now.
 

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bmweiler09 said:
Notwithstanding all of the excellent cultural practices mentioned above, if you get impatient to fix the symptom you can use Clarity by Seachem. This, along with mechanical filtration will clear up your tank pronto and not affect your fish. Follow label directions!
I have resulted to clarity aids or algae removers in the past but I would just rather fix the core problems now.
Sure. My point is only that you can fix the symptoms now. You should still address the underlying problem. Kind of like taking a decongestant to keep your nose from running.

Clarity is a flocculating agent, not an algacide. It binds the suspended algae into clumps that can be more easily filtered.
 

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I have resulted to clarity aids or algae removers in the past but I would just rather fix the core problems now.
Absolutely. Don't just put a bandaid on it by adding additives. :thumb: There's no need to mask the symptoms as this is not harmful to fish. It's visually unappealing, but when resolving an issue, you just have to get past that.

Flourescents don't need to be changed every 6 to 12 months unless you are relying on them to grow plants.
Ok, need is strong, maybe, but if you want the tank to display the same as when you added the lights, then you do certainly shoudl change out bulbs every 6-12 months. And yes you can run them until they die, but the light intensity and spectrum may change, algae can change, and then trigger a problem like he's having. That's why for $3.50, I suggested he change them. We're trying to resolve a specific problem with a specifc tank and it's a cheap thing to do.

fine polishing pads should remove most of it.
Using polishing pads is another bandaid that doesn't deal with the source problem. He could also add a UV sterilizer, but I didn't suggest it because of a) cost, and b) it doesn't deal with the source problem.

Sorry, but just disagree with a lot of these posts. You're only masking symptoms that don't need to be masked. Avoid 'additivitis', which is grabbing a problem of something or other from Seachem or whoever every time there's a problem to be solved. And this is just my way. The OP is certainly free to consider it all, and choose a course of action.
 
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