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fish_4_all 12-31-2006 08:59 PM

Green water
Well I have tried to collect as much information as I can to try and help with this nightmare so here goes. Key thing to remember is it is ammonia that causes it and you wil NOT see any ammonia on a test strip. I have never gotten an ammonia reading when I had green water but it is the cause. I can induce green water in a matter of hours by adding ammonia to any established tank. In the right quantities I still cound not get a reading on my test kits as short as 3 hours after adding it. For those that might think about trying this, remove your fish first. If the ammonia doesn't kill them, the massive bloom will.

First, and I know I will have those that disagree but the main cause of green water is undergravel filters that have been running for about a year or more. They cause green water because of the collection of debris and waste under the filter plates. Once the plates are full enough that circulation no longer manages to bring enough oxygen to the bacteria, they die. This causes ammonia which is then used by the green water to grow and explode overnight. No, you will never be able to read anything on an ammonia test but the green water is using it to grow. The cure, get a tube under the plates and remove as much debris as possible and do a couple water changes with deep gravel vacs to get even more of the debris. I had this problem and I know it was the cause.

The next cause, and one that a lot of live plant keepers miss, is the decomposition of plant matter. In a heaily planted tank, there is very little chance you will get all the leaves and waste with a gravel vac, if you can do one. The decaying leaves will collect in spots and there is a descent chance it will cause ammonia to build faster than the plants can use and in a dead spot. The result, green water or slime algae. Hopefully green water because slime algae will choke any plant it covers. The only way I know to combat this in a heavy planted tank is to get some ramshorn snails and some Malaysian Trumpet Snails. They will eat the decaying leaves and help to prevent the buildup that can lead to green water. In a less than heavy planted tank, moving the plants around is a good way to prevent anarobic pockets and algae blooms. The key is to deal with the leaves and fish waste before it makes you deal with something else. It ojnly takes a small amount of the tank to be "dead" to produce enough ammonia to great a bloom.

Now all of this assumes 2 things, one is a cycled tank and the other is a balanced tank. If you have a massive amount of organic material in your tap water, this can be a cause. CO2 will not cure green water, it only effects other forms of algae and then only in a balanced tank.

Other sources of green water:
Dead fish in an ornament or under the substrate
Dead Malaysian Trumpet snails
Too many root tabs in the substrate
Decaying plant roots
Dead spots in a tank where the water becomes almost stagnant
Dead fish in any filter
Dead snails in filter
Failing to add dechlor to a water change in which chlorine then kills beneficial bacteria and causes a mini cycle or worse.

There may be other causes but this is the best collection of the cause sI could find and what I have been through. These are proven causes as either myself or someone I know has dealt with any or all of them.

Lupin 01-01-2007 01:42 AM

Nice thread.:thumbsup: Will stick it to the sticky thread.:mrgreen:

bettababy 01-01-2007 03:55 AM

You said that this was tested on an established tank, I'm wondering if nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels were also tested at the same time? I'd be very interested to know what those were BEFORE believing it was simply ammonia that caused the green water bloom.

Also, the easiest way to combat algae is to not have an issue with it in the first place. We know the causes, so we know how to avoid them.

There are many ways to combat any type of algae in a tank, but to do so, you must first know what is causing it, and there are MANY things that cause it, and the causes differ according to species of algae.
There are many many types of algae.

I also avoid UG filters! Even in a planted tank, if the tank is cared for properly, power heads are more effective at water circulation and less problem to keep clean and not harm the tank with waste levels. In an unplanted tank, there really is no need for a UG filter.

fish_4_all 01-01-2007 01:36 PM

Re: Green water

Originally Posted by fish_4_all
Now all of this assumes 2 things, one is a cycled tank and the other is a balanced tank. If you have a massive amount of organic material in your tap water, this can be a cause.
There may be other causes but this is the best collection of the causes I could find and what I have been through. These are proven causes as either myself or someone I know has dealt with any or all of them.

I realize there can be other causes but assuming you can elliminate the other, such as nutrients, then ammonia from decomposing matter is one of the first things to look for. I did test my nitrites, PO4 and nitrates and they were not higher than they had been before. That is until I killed the green water at which time half my tank died with them and everything spiked out of this world. But that is another topic.

I did not test this but it comes from someone who has; Tomm Barr:
In established tanks where there were only plants, levels of NO3, PO4, and iron were dosed at levels 4-5 times the concentration you normally would. Non of this induced any type of algae if the nutrients were balanced. The addition of pure ammonia lead to an almost immediate bloom in all cases wehre nitrients were balanced. Algae could not be induced with almost and level of dosing that was not toxic to the plants as long as all of them were BALANCED. NO3:PO4 10:1, CA:MG 4:1, Iron at almost any level, CO2 at a "steadily" over 30ppm. Nothing induced green water. Add a small amount of ammonia, pea soup.

I know there are other causes but this is what I could come up with from experience and reliable sources. This just gives someone something to check when they have tested everything they can think of and the tank appears to be balanced.

From " The situation that causes GW (Green Water) is usually a combination of high nitrates, phosphates, and mixed in some ammonia/ammonium. Substrate disturbance is usually the culprit. What happens is the algae (GW form) will flourish off of the ammonia/ammonium and phosphate,"

Very good article Eddie.
As for UG filters, I said they CAN cause it, not do. If they are maintained properly, Like you do, you don't overfeed and you don't have a heavy bioload then UGF are fine and can work for years. But if they fail and the circulation is lost anywhere under the plates then that can and will cause green water. Even with powerheads it is possible because I never used anything but powerheads on my UGF when I used them on a 55 gallon and I got Pea soup every 6 months. Yes I overfed and had too many fish but that when I was young and fish-uneducated and before I had the internet. 8)

Again, all I was addressing was the initial cause, I know how hard it is to get rid of once you get it. I had it for over 6 weeks in both my tanks. I changed nothing that I did and it eventually went away. The cause, likely MTS that had died in the substrate after I put 75-100 in each tank. Ammonia source disappeared, green water did too.

I do NOT know any way to get rid of it except to do massive water changes and do a black out. Other than that I just let it run it's course when it happens and make sure the fish are not gasping for air. Treating it is another topic and like I said, I do not know how I got rid of it, just that 9/10 times it is initialy caused by nutrients AND ammonia in some form or another. My planted tanks have 30ppm NO3 and 3ppm PO4 by the end of the week dosing EI, No algae. I also dose up to .3ppm iron 3x a week, no algae. The one time I had a fish die about 6 months ago and didn't find it, Green water, the BBA and Staghorn algae because of chemical imbalances caused from the green water and damage to the plants.

I agree that planted tanks have a lot of nutrients and that the high nutrients contribute but without the ammonia, no algae bloom, other wise my tanks would have nothing but algae. Yes, sunlight can cause it but if you have a tank by the window you are either raising plecos or algae eaters of some kind or deserve the algae.

I have not tested this yet, but some say you can grow infusoria, (green water) using bottled water and simply by adding ammonia in small amounts with the container in the sun.

The most frustrating thing is the fact that a dead fish can cause it but by the time you get rid of the green water you will never find the fish. :shock:

If anyone has a way to get rid of it besides a black out, I am all ears :tease:


Originally Posted by betababy
Also, the easiest way to combat algae is to not have an issue with it in the first place. We know the causes, so we know how to avoid them.

Good point but preventing a fish or snail from decaying that has died and usually hid is sometimes hard to do. :wink: Like you said, the best thing to do is prevent it. Weekly water changes with gravel vacs and maintaining your equipment to prevent as many causes as you can.

As for other algae types, can't help you there. Had BBA and staghorn and they went away when I removed my DIY CO2 and started dosing Excel. Reason they went away, haven't a clue.

The only thing I have been told from Tom Barr about algae in planted tanks: If you have all your nutrients balanced dosing EI and have proper lighting then CO2 is the cause of the algae, period. If your CO2 is not above 30ppm and steady then that is your cause, end of story.

To say he is addamant about his statements would be un understatement.
He tested this, according to him, for many years and many trials and it always came back to CO2 in a well lit and EI dosed tank. The same with green water and an EI dosed tank if it is heavily planted, the cause is ammonia, period; the duration, a lot of things, but the cause is AMMONIA.

That is why I don't inject CO2 anymore and use Excel. And it has worked, why, not sure but I won't use it again unless I can get pressurized.

I realize that the whole green water cycle is a whole lot more complex but hopefully this will help some to try and avoid this abnoxious aquarium pian in the neck.

fish_4_all 01-01-2007 05:56 PM

Ok, after beating the internet search to death, I have to make a correction or better a clarification.

The key is EXCESS ammonnia. Not just the presence of it. Now that the above spiel was made, it needs to clarified. But isn't that science at it's best. :shock:

Bettababy and Eddie were right that it takes more than just ammonnia, it does require some other nutrients. Also, a tank always has ammonnia in it otherwise the beneficial bacteria would die and your tank would cycle all the time. The amount of ammonnia is what matters. I found no concrete numbers but I would venture a guess that the amount of ammonnia has to exceed the processing capacity of the beneficial bacteria. Someone with a much higher biology and chemistry degree would have to do those experiements because I wouldn't even know where to start. If this would have been in the main articles I have read I would have actually undedrstood it better myself.

All I know is I hate green water more tha any other algae because I can never find what caused it in my tanks.

fish_4_all 01-01-2007 07:37 PM

That's a really good point. I actually used to think that algae was "created" by these conditions. It is not created. Almost all forms of algae are present in your aquariums and it is an impbalance that causes them to show up. As you said before, a diatom filters and UV sterilizers are the only real way to truely combat them as I think it is supposed to kill the spores and the algae. Unfortunately it isn't recommended for planted tanks but I don't know the science behind that statement either.

fish_4_all 01-01-2007 08:11 PM

So the diatom filter would be completely safe but there is a chance the UV filter may remove or change iron causeing a short term iron problem. Sounds good to me either way. Better than dealing with it for 5-6 weeks. until it just goes away.

Bettababy, do you have any experience with either one and plants?

herefishy 01-02-2007 02:05 AM

Here, here, betta_baby! Undergravel filters inherently need more water flow than a miniscule air pump can provide. Having been a keeper of fish since I was 11 or 12 years old, I have found myself continually looking to make a better mouse trap, or in this case a better, more efficient way of filtering my aquarium's water. I've come to the conclusion that the most efficient method is and always will be a combination of equipment. For my under gravel filters, I am using power heads, many of which are set up for reverse flow.(I wish I had patented this as I have been using this for some 20 years now on some tanks). Marineland is now marketing this and it works tremendously well. The water is filtered through a sponge filter media(much like the billi-filters of old), DOWN the lift tubes, and up through the gravel. This supplies the bacteria be with life giving oxygen and canstant water flow. Power filters are used on almost all of my tanks 20g and larger. External canister filters(Eheim 2028, Magnum 350 are examples) are used on my largest tanks, 90g and larger.

poohbear 08-09-2008 01:41 PM

green in water
I am having problems with my water turning green. My fish wich is a red devil he is the only fish in my 46 gal tank. I have nothing else in the tank but rocks. He does not like any thing in it. He is acting funning when the tank turns. Right now he is in a tote in my bath tub. He is acting fine in it. I have done every thing the pet store has told me to do. The green stayed gone for a couple of weeks and he was doing just fine until now that the water has turned green again. So do you know what I should do Please help .

bettababy 08-10-2008 12:41 AM

The first thing to understand is that green water is algae, and algae needs a few basics in order to grow. It needs nutrients, light & oxygen.

With that said, we'll need a lot more information about your tank to determine what is causing the green water (suspended algae bloom). Once we know the cause, then we can help you to fix it.

What are the water params for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, & pH?
What is the water temp?
How big is the fish?
How often are you doing water exchanges on the tank? gravel vacs?
How often do you just top off the water level instead of removing water first?
What kind of filter are you using? (make/model)
What are you feeding the fish, how much and how often?
What kind of lighting is running over the tank? How many hrs each day is the light on?
Are there any live plants in the tank?
Any air stones?

The more information you can provide the faster someone can help you. Details are important.

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