Algea problem and plants starting to die - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Algea problem and plants starting to die

1. Tank size : 55gallons (48"x12"x18")LxWxH
2. Watts and type of lighting : Currently 2 48" flouresent 1 t-10 full spectrum, 1 t-12 unkown. I think they are both 40 watt. I have only had both bulbs for a week on this this tank. before i just had a 1 bulb fixture with the full spectrum bulb in it( same bulb). Did the math and realized it was not 1 watt per gall. i see recomended, so swapped out with this double bulb fixture.
There is also about 30 min of natural light that hits the tank during the 10 hours the lights are on.
3. Number and types of plants forgive me I didn't write down the plant names at the store the only one I could positively identify was the hornwort. These are best guesses based on the profiles pictures. They were all saposed to be "easy care plants" acording to fish shop. I can post some pictures if that would help.
A)One bunch of Horwort. Now covers about half of surface, its kept out of the light from the other plants.

B)two small (about 2 inches) sprouts off I think a java fern, definatly one of the ferns thought
C)three small (about2.5-3 inch) short ferns. I will keep looking to get these identified or post picture.
D)one potted plant (came potted told to leave potted) that looks like either a lutea crypt, or large leaf amozon sword. It has a long stem that little leaves and roots are/were sprouting from.
E)one very long leaved bulb plant that looks like either a ruffled aponogeton or a ruffled amazon sword. It had a long stem sticking out that small balls formed and little plantlets looked like they were forming. The leaves are stem from the bulb about 3 inches then the long thin leaves fan out from there. It didn't come in a pot. Just has that bulb.
4. Substrate type: Just plain small ugly gravel. (this will be changed out to a dark gravel when I have a weekend to commit to the overhall) I hate while gravel!

5. Age of tank: 6-7 months
6. CO2 injection None

7. Water Parameters
a. PH: 7.6-7.8

ammonia: 0
KH: 7.5 dH
GH: 11 dGH *water department
b. When test was performed: begining of week 2 late afternoon (water changes every 2 weeks)

8. Detailed description of plant problems
I noticed my plants were not doing well about 3 or so weeks after they were put in the tank. After doing some reading hear I desided a light upgrade was in order to the 2 40watts mentioned above. I've seen no change in the algea.

There seems to be algea growing rampant on the plants but only the plants. None of my plants seem to be growing except the hornwort and the rest are begining to look like they are dieing. The hornwort has the worst case of algea of all the plants. last thursday I pruned all the spots on the hornwort that looked like it had any algea. I rubbed it off Plant E (see above) and pulled all the dead parts off.

The algea is mostly black looking and rather cotton like. It completely covers the tops of the C plants and is oh the stems and tips of the D plant.

Today the hornwort has two to three ping pong ball sized masses of the black algea and numerous other areas that it is growning on. (yes in just 4 days) There are also many snail hitch hikers on it if that makes any difference.

The first real abundant blume of algea seemed to be right after the tank got a small dose of fertilizer a friend added to help the plants. (don't know what it was other than a general aquatic plant fertilizer she uses on her tank with beautiful healthy plants, that is where my B plants came from these tanks are in the same room by the way).
Also the D plant looks like it is being nibled on. There are small little holes appearing on it.

I've been afraid to drop in any more fertilizer since the algea seemed to get so bad after it was put it. I was intending to get that complete fertilizer you guys suggested but thought I'd see what you all had to suggest before I turned my tank into a total algea garden.

Hope this is enough information to give me some suggestions. This is my first attempt at plants and I was hopping to set up another tank that was heavily planted.... I'd like to figure out what I'm doing wrong before I grow another algea tank.

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post #2 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 04:00 PM
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Please do post pictures so we can see the algea we are dealing with because different types can be caused by different things. Also how many hours a day are the lights on?

Kindest Regards,

Keeping fish its not a hobby it is a passion!

I have a 55 gallon, 40 gallon, 29 gallon, 20 gallon tank, 5 gallon , and a 2.5 gallon all with real plants.
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post #3 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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Timer is set on 9.5 - 10 hours. Its not real exact. That is what I set it when I just had the 1 bulb and realized there wasn't enough watts for the tank size.
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post #4 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 04:29 PM
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D plant sounds like a sword of some sort with an inflorescence and plantlets
E plant sounds like it is Aponogeton undulatus with the same inflorescence (not sword since its a bulb)

Are the T8/T10 bulbs new? You say they have been on this tank for a week. Does that mean they were used before? These bulbs lose strength over time and generally need to be replaced every 12-18 months.

What is your filtration? My experience is that carbon/charcoal will greatly reduce plant growth, better with no chemical filtration or something less aggressive. I've had luck with Seachem Renew.

Sounds like maybe blackbeard algae? Do an image search and compare.
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post #5 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 04:55 PM
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A photo would help as Amanda suggested, but from your description I would agree with Quantum that it is likely black brush algae. This is actually a red algae, but so dark it looks to most of us as black. Some authors call it beard, others brush, I prefer brush to distinguish it from a different type, green beard. Here is a description by Neil Franks:
Among all the algae that can invade and gain a foothold in freshwater aquaria, red algae from the division Rhytophyta, can be the most frustrating to the hobbyist. This furry, thread-like flora attaches to various aquarium surfaces including the edges of plant leaves, filter tubes and even gravel. It may have many colors (purple, gray-green, black) and resembles beard hair or fur. In the aquarium literature, this nuisance is often called beard or brush algae. Baensch Aquarium Atlas' illustrate and talk about three forms. The long thread variety is called beard algae (once misprinted as bear algae), the shorter thread type is called brush algae; and a third type is described as having very short threads and forms dark roundish spots. While most algae from this family are actually found in marine or brackish water environments, there are a few species that inhabit freshwater (including the genera Audouinella). In nature, these epiphytic freshwater red algae are found in fast moving streams which provide a constant, but perhaps low concentration supply of nutrients including CO2. They also have the ability to attach tenaciously to all objects which makes them well suited to the moving water habitat. Unfortunately, they cannot be easily scraped or pulled from objects, thereby adding to the difficulty of their removal from the aquarium. In fact, when attempting to remove from plant leaves, the aquarist or even fishes may tear the leaf in the process. On the positive side, some hobbyists find this algae an interesting and welcome addition to their tanks. It may offer a special charm to driftwood or rocks, especially with the undulating movement created by the downwash of a filter outlet or powerhead.
It can be controlled most easily by light. I have this in most tanks, all my chunks of wood are covered in it and it does look very natural as Neil wrote. Three times it has suddenly exploded--and in all three cases, reducing the light brought it back under control. Once one has a balance of light and nutrients for the plants in the tank, keeping the light to that level will keep this (and other algaes) in check.

To your light: two 48-inch tubes (whether T8, T10, T12) over a 48-inch 55g tank is not too much light. But 10 hours duration may be. I would cut back the duration to 8 hours. Observe for a couple weeks; the existing algae will not go away, but if it does not increase further, that is it. If it is still increasing after 2-3 weeks, go back to 7 hours. When I had those 3 bouts, which always occurred in the summer months, reducing the overhead tank light by one hour worked twice, and blocking the summer sun completely with blinds and heavy drapes worked the other time. The increase of daylight in the summer I discovered was sufficient to add too much light, so rather than take the tank lights down a further hour to 7, I blocked the daylight. This past summer, no algae increase with the windows covered again.

The fertilizer might have been part of the issue too, if it was not a complete balanced one. Plants need 17 nutrients, and some of them are more important than others. I use Seachem Flourish Comprehensive which has everything (except hydrogen, oxygen and carbon which naturally occur in the aquarium). Some fertilizers only contain a couple of nutrients, and this can cause more trouble than good if it upsets the natural balance. Iron has been identified as one nutrient that in excess will feed this algae. There are likely others. Organic carbon does, which is why this algae is common in soft acidic water (such as what I have) but it is not restricted to that.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #6 of 9 Old 12-06-2011, 09:15 PM
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I agree with Byron cut back to 8 hours and see what happens.

Kindest Regards,

Keeping fish its not a hobby it is a passion!

I have a 55 gallon, 40 gallon, 29 gallon, 20 gallon tank, 5 gallon , and a 2.5 gallon all with real plants.
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post #7 of 9 Old 12-07-2011, 02:54 AM
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I agree with other's, and would add lot's more plant's, Reduce lighting period,root tab's under rooted plant's once a month or two, and or liquid/dry fertilizers added to water once or twice a week.
Bulb's sound fine but perhap's 10 hours ,plus light from window or skylight is a bit much.
As Byron said,, try one or all of the above and wait a couple weeks to note improvement.
It (alage ) will dissipate slowly but surely if the plant god's find you in their favor.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #8 of 9 Old 12-15-2011, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Here are the pictures of the plants. The algae doesn’t really show up that well but you can kind of make it out on the edges of the leave. The gravel sort of shows it to.
An update: I changed the light setting to 8 hours. I noticed the lights were not going off when they were supposed to. Evidently at some point I have managed to bump the timer to the always on position. I guess they call blonds dumb for a reason. I can’t believe i haven’t noticed. It’s probably been on continually for at least 2 weeks. I left the light off for a day and let the fish de-stress, and changed out 80% of the water. The lights are now set at just 8 hours. The alga doesn’t seem to be growing abundantly anymore. I removed about half (the algae infested parts) of the hornwort.
The algae eater seems to have beet me to the tank cleaning and feasted on the algae over the weekend. He cleaned all the glass and a good protion of the gravel and many of the bigger plant leaves are looking a bit less fuzzy. You’d think someone took the time to clean it! Even the algae growing on the filter is gone.
So should I trim off the other plants leaves that don’t look that healthy or should I just leave them be?
Does it look like plantD’s leaves are being eaten to you? The brown areas are not brown. They are lots of holes in the leaves. Is this a sign of the plant dieing? Any other suggestions for getting the plants back on the mend?

As for the light bulbs, the full spectrum one is at least 6 months old and that’s just the time I’ve had it. The other bulb I really have no idea either. Should I go ahead and replace them both?
I did get the Flourish Comprehensive for the plants.

The pictures in the order they appear: Hornwort with the algae spot, Plant B, Plant C, Plant D, Plant D up close, Plant E, Plant E up close, Plant E (plantlet)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Hornwort.jpg (81.0 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg PlantB.jpg (66.1 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg PlantC.jpg (68.8 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg PlantD.jpg (48.0 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg plantD_badSpot.jpg (31.1 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg PlantE.jpg (27.6 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg PlantE_algea.jpg (65.3 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg PlantE_plantlet.jpg (47.9 KB, 38 views)

Last edited by lcbrent; 12-15-2011 at 02:17 PM.
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post #9 of 9 Old 12-15-2011, 02:16 PM
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The algae doesn't look bad to me, so the light change should resolve that.

The leaves are showing various nutrient deficiencies. I won't speculate on which specific nutrients, as many symptoms can be related to more than one issue. The Flourish once weekly should deal with that, in combination with the improved light and duration.

With dual tubes it is nice to replace them at 6-month intervals individually rather than both together. This spreads the effect a bit so the light is more consistent during the year. Replace the one now, the other in six months, and so forth.

As for the leaves on the swords, it is the pouter leaves and I would removed them at some point. If the new growth which occurs from the centre of the crown is fine, the plant is fine. The older outer leaves usually die off anyway when the plant is moved or newly-purchased.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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