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rough eye

Green Hair Algae Ponderings

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rough eye

ok, so the algae started growing and spreading about 6 weeks ago, and the past 2 weeks seems things are changing. the Algae has become easier to remove, whereas before that (3 - 5 weeks ago) it was holding so tightly onto the rock i could barely rip it out with my fingers. this has led me to some thinking. 

 

in plant fertilizer, nitrogen is used for green leaves - these lawn doctor type companies blast lawns with predominantly nitrogen fertilizer, which makes the lanes look really lush and green, but the lawns are ultimately not very healthy, since phosphorus is needed for root growth. 

 

so i'm thinking, phosphorus in the reef tank is what makes the algae tough and cling harder onto rock. as i'm changing 10 - 20% water a week, reducing that phosphorus has made the algae weaker and easier to remove. but all this made me wonder:

 

maybe i should just stop pulling it - or pull it less often. maybe i should let it grow, use up as much of the available phosphorus as possible, and then pull it. i'd rather avoid running any special chemicals or dosing to artificially game the balance of the tank.

 

what are your thoughts?

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mcarroll

You aren't wrong on the chemistry of what's happening, and your initial approach of hand-pulling was on the money.

 

But....

 

A lawn is not an ecosystem (or it's a broken one) so put that completely out of your mind as an example.

 

You are trying to grow an ecosystem. 

 

Algae is a predominant part of that ecosystem.  So if you don't want to grow it, you shouldn't create the ecosystem that favors it.  I.e. A reef.  (I.e.  You really DO want to grow it.)

 

Further, corals of your reef are going to like the SAME conditions as the algae.  So the more you wreck the tank condition to "battle" algae, the more it's wrecked for the corals as well.

 

As in nature, algae is controlled by herbivores.

 

In a tank, that usually means snails and no other critters except YOU the reefkeeper.  So YOU are CUC #1 in your tank, followed by your snail crew.

 

Snails only have tongues, no teeth or jaws for ripping or chewing big algae, so anything that outgrows their abilities will be YOUR responsibility.

 

So you were on the right track when you were hand-pulling.  It's possible that you need a few more herbivorous snails.  And you can replace non-herbivores like hermit crabs and nassarius snails with herbivores.

 

If the algae seems too strong to remove, you just need to grab fewer strands so the algae will break off under the weight of the rock it's on....if the rock is lightweight, that could mean grabbing only a few, or a single strand at a time, but it's almost never this tough.  If you're working a really tough patch, I find that it's better to concentrate on a small area (eg. 1x1") so you can focus your efforts and actually see progress when you're done – a totally clean spot.  If you pull algae a few strands at a time and move all over the tank with your efforts (eg hitting just the dense patches) then you can spend A LOT OF TIME and then have the tank look almost like you didn't do anything.  Which can be disheartening.  If algae grows on something REALLY light like sand, then you're better off just siphoning it out and losing the sand.

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rough eye

i pulled some algae on monday, and again on wednesday, so i'm still doing that. but i wonder if leaving it to grow actually weakens it, and if pulling less often will make it more effective at soaking up the nutrients it's thriving on, for export.

 

the lawn analogy was just saying i don't approve of companies like lawn doctor 🙂 but the same general rules apply for all plants: nitrates go more toward leaf growth and phosphorus goes toward root growth. for balanced, healthy plants you need a balance of nutrients. algae i guess doesn't really have roots so it must go to its supportive structure in a similar way?

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rough eye

here's the tank at 3 months. strange to me the algae is mostly concentrated on that one center rock - the one that imported the most diversity into my tank. to a smaller extent that's some on that lower right rock, but none on the others. or maybe not strange, that center rock being the most porous and collects debris more.

 

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150439001_425777408500554_1414530393125915687_n.jpg

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Murphych

I feel your pain. I have dealt with GHA for 6 months. You pull and pull and in 3 days time it's all back. I'm.sure you (and I) will get there 

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mcarroll
19 hours ago, rough eye said:

150439001_425777408500554_1414530393125915687_n.jpg

Sounds like progress!  👍  Looks like maybe 2-3 hours work to pluck that rock mostly-clean.  Try hard to spend 20-30 min every day working on it....and if you notice regrowth on spots that you've cleaned, add herbivores.

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rough eye

i've been trying to pull some every day but i'm starting to think this isn't all hair algae and that much of it is turf algae. it's really short - less than 1/4 inch and real holds on tight to the rock. do i need to change strategy?

 

on an up note i'm seeing the emerald crab which has finally come out of hiding after a few weeks, spending time on that rock. the turbo visits it regularly although i'm not sure if it's avoiding the more algae-covered areas. the tail spot blenny munches on it regularly. even the hermits climb up there from time to time i'm just not sure if they're eating any.

 

i'm thinking of going to 2 water changes a week and see if that weakens its hold.

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mcarroll
2 hours ago, rough eye said:

've been trying to pull some every day but i'm starting to think this isn't all hair algae and that much of it is turf algae. it's really short - less than 1/4 inch and real holds on tight to the rock. do i need to change strategy?

It's hard to say without seeing a new picture.  It's only been a few days.  Have you even had a chance to add more cleanup crew and see what impact that has?  🤷‍♂️

 

2 hours ago, rough eye said:

i'm thinking of going to 2 water changes a week and see if that weakens its hold.

Please post your water test results for no3 and po4...and everything else too test too.  Somehow we're this far into the thread without that happening!  😉

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rough eye

i have no way to test po4 yet. my ammonia and nitrite has just about always been at 0 and nitrate has been close to zero the past few weeks. maybe i can get a picture or 2 tomorrow with closeups. 

 

i haven't added more CUC yet because i feel the turbo snail and emerald crab are just starting to come into their own, if that makes sense. also i wanted to see what kind of headway i could make with pulling it. turbos are so big i'd hate to add another of them so i think my options are either another trochus or an astraea snail.

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rough eye

here are close ups of that algae-infested rock from both sides. i tested nitrates = 0 and ph 8.2 this morning. all I have is the API test kit. specific gravity 1.025, temp 78º F.

 

there's a little debris floating around because i blew the rock off with a baster right before the photos were taken. on the first photo lower half and a little to the left of center you can see two small tufts, there was a large tuft between them that i was able to pull off in one piece. the second photo is the side i've seen the turbo snail traversing, below where those feather dusters are. i'm not sure if he'll work his way higher in time, and if he's eating the stuff or just going around it. tomorrow i'll begin semi-weekly water changes - i just did one on wednesday.

 

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mcarroll

Nice duster worms!  Are those aiptasia tentacles poking out of the far-left of the rock almost out of focus tho?

 

9 hours ago, rough eye said:

nitrates = 0

It's a reasonable guess that PO4 is similar.

 

With nitrates and phosphates at zero, everything else in the tank is pretty much starving, or at a standstill population-wise...and of course that is not what you want to be happening in a new tank.  Right now it's being dominated by that algae.

 

The way out is through.  Right?  You need to step in in behalf of all of the tank's algae-competitors...make nutrient levels rise by any means at your disposal.  Start with removal of filtration first...any kind of extra additives or media going into the system should probably stop.  Stop water changes if need be.  If you are being conservative with feeding, be more liberal.  (Don't overfeed tho...goal is still 100% of the food being eaten.)  If needed, say none of those things are able to change the status quo, you can dose liquid nitrates and phosphates (just like you would dose liquid carbonates for alkalinity).  All of those options should be on the table.  You need to have phosphate levels ≥0.05 ppm and nitrates levels need to be 5-10 ppm or so.  Higher is fine on either number.  Zeros are not good because things stop growing and begin starving when that happens.

 

I'd recommend getting test kits for NO3 and PO4.

 

In addition, keep up the manual plucking on that algae....it doesn't look like there's much overall progress, at least from this angle.

 

Pay attention to this guy's technique on removing the algae from the tank.  Also the advice on snail density.  (The rest of the things he talks about won't apply in your case.)

 

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mcarroll

(I've posted "this guy's" video so often that I feel like we know each other...  (We do not.) "This guy" is melev.  😉)

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rough eye
7 minutes ago, mcarroll said:

Nice duster worms!  Are those aiptasia tentacles poking out of the far-left of the rock almost out of focus tho?

 

no that's another duster. i haven't seen any aiptasia since i nuked a few of them and added the peppermint shrimp.

 

the suggestion of stopping water changes seems counterintuitive to me. if i let nitrates and phosphates build won't more algae grow just to soak those additional nutrients up?

 

as far as pulling algae i've just about given up. much of what's left now is so short i can't even get a grip on it with just my fingernails and when i can i can't keep a grip on it to tear it from the rock. and i've watched that guy's video a few times too. maybe i should skip the water change and grab a couple more snails tomorrow? also - i've been waiting on adding corals but plan to add some GSP and ricordea at some point. is it better to add those as competition for the algae or wait until the algae has been eliminated?

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mcarroll
14 hours ago, rough eye said:

maybe i should skip the water change and grab a couple more snails tomorrow?

Definitely sounds like at least 1-3 more snails might be helpful, depending on the size of what's available.

 

And don't give up on manual removal – snails can only eat fresh growth.  

 

I could be wrong since I can only judge from the photos, but it doesn't look like you're concentrating your efforts in a one- or two-square inch spot until the algae is "down to the bones".  This is important for you because the pace is slow and tedious...if you spread that effort over a wide area, it can be like you did nothing at all.  It's also important because snails will only be of help if the algae is quite low.  Once you have a clean patch, you can place one or two of your snails right on it so they know it's ready....they hunt by memory so they'll be systematically avoiding any overgrown algae patches at first after you clean them.  You an help with that.  👍

 

If you don't have the nails to grasp some strands right at the rock, then consider some stainless steel or plastic tweezers.  Needle nose pliers or hemostats are nice if you can get stainless steel.  In most areas I think fingers work the best, but that's my fingers.  Definitely use what makes the most sense and works the best for you.

 

If you feel like you have to do a water change for other reasons, then dose the new water with nitrates and phosphates to at least the minimum levels I suggested earlier.  That way there's no negative pressure on the tank's nutrient levels.

 

14 hours ago, rough eye said:

i've been waiting on adding corals but plan to add some GSP and ricordea at some point. is it better to add those as competition for the algae or wait until the algae has been eliminated?

Tentatively, better to add earlier than later, but...

 

...if you add corals while there are no nutrients (in particular, phosphates) to facilitate photosynthesis, growth, repair or adaptation then I would expect them to fare poorly.

 

As long as you can correct the nutrient conditions by any means (as already described), and as long as you keep up with the manual removal of algae until it's gone, corals will do fine.  They will shade out areas from new algae settlement, among other effects they might have on the tank.

 

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rough eye

ok so i read somewhere when in doubt do a water change. so i changed a gallon (10%) and figure i'll think about hitting the local fish store middle of the week or next weekend and see about adding another snail or 2, possibly a little soft coral. just out of curiosity i tried a toothbrush on the algae and i can see it would take something a lot stiffer to scrub it off because that did nothing. maybe i'll look into getting some stainless needle nose pliers or something.

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rough eye

so LFS guy said i should just get that rock out of the tank soon as possible. That would make me sad because i'd lose the stars and dusters and so on that are living in it.

 

on an up note, emerald crab has spent the day munching on a section of that algae, and turbo made a pass over it earlier. after water change yesterday i think i am seeing a little bit of brown in some parts of it.

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mcarroll

Keep plucking!!!

 

 

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Murphych

Yeah just keep pulling it out and hitting it with snails. It really does work

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rough eye

so i added an astraea. trochus spends all his time on the glass. turbo snail is everywhere. this 3rd snail is the one who seems content to hang out on that algae covered rock. i'm thinking tomorrow of picking up 1 or 2 more. 

 

does 5 snails and 3 crabs sound about right for a 13.5 gallon tank? 

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Daniel92481

I would opt for more than enough snails. You can always re home them if need be.  

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mcarroll
5 hours ago, rough eye said:

so i added an astraea. trochus spends all his time on the glass. turbo snail is everywhere. this 3rd snail is the one who seems content to hang out on that algae covered rock. i'm thinking tomorrow of picking up 1 or 2 more. 

 

does 5 snails and 3 crabs sound about right for a 13.5 gallon tank? 

All depends on the algae load.

 

After you add snails, I usually recommend seeing how they (and the algae) do for a month or so before adding more...at least a few weeks.

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rough eye

also i believe at this point the emerald crab is the most effective algae cleanup dude (dudette technically) in my crew.

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Tired

Water changes are usually good, but not when your nutrients are too low. All that'll do is put your nutrients even lower, or keep them at zero. Get your nutrients up, and don't scrub the rock. Scrubbing it only scrubs off the beneficial algae, while creating a nice, clean place for more pest algae to grow. 

 

Don't take the rock out, and don't worry too much. The algae isn't a little bomb counting down until your tank explodes, there's no rush to get it out. As long as it's not spreading, it's absolutely no problem. Just don't place any corals among that algae, and it won't hurt anything.

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rough eye

ok so this month i did a 12% water change on the 3rd, 10% on the 7th, 12% on the 11th, and then i added GSP and didn't to a water change until 20% on the 22nd. Algae is very easy to pull in some places now and in others still harder than pulling hair out of my head. i think waiting for it to be easier to pull is a less stressful way of approaching it, but i'm still not sure what made it easier to pull yet so i'll do another 20% water change tomorrow. 

 

i also added 2 ricordea frags yesterday 🙂

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