- This topic has 7 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 1 month ago by Pete Giwojna.
April 15, 2008 at 7:55 am #1415arcprolifeMember
How do you know the good algae from the bad. My tank has been cycling for two weeks-the live rock was added 1 week ago. All my levels tested right on two days ago and in the same amount of time my tank has algae growing everywhere. It looks like a yellow-brown color. I went from nothing to watch out almost overnight what do I do. I just ordered copepods and amphipods to seed my live rock and they will be here tomorrow. The guy said it will come with macroalgae which as I have read seems to be good but I dont know how much and what kind of algae you want to have and what kind I seem to have. Thanks So much for all your help:(April 15, 2008 at 8:08 am #4124arcprolifeGuest
I also wanted to ask how do I grow the pink and purple algae on my live rock ther is some but my large piece seems to be loosing the brigter purple it had. did debugging kill it or will it start to grow soon.
Also, I tested my tank and noticed the specific gravity on one side was really high but the other side was just right. I have a aeration stone hanging in the tank and my filter but does that mean my tank is not well circulated. I guess that means all my tests could be wrong. Thanks so much:(
Post edited by: arcprolife, at: 2008/04/15 18:24April 16, 2008 at 12:35 am #4127Pete GiwojnaGuest
The yellow-brown algae you noticed is most likely due to a bloom of diatoms. They are harmless and most newly set up marine aquariums go through a stage where the diatoms or brown algae grows on surfaces in the aquarium. In most cases, the brown algae will disappear as suddenly as it appeared once it uses up the available supply of some key nutrient in the aquarium (usually silicates). Ordinarily, once the available silica has been exhausted, the population of the diatoms will crash and they will then typically die off on their own. So right now, while your tank is still cycling, you needn’t be concerned about the abundant diatoms — in all probability, that problem will soon solve itself.
If not, there are a few simple measures you can take to help eliminate the diatoms. As I said, brown diatom algae is usually the first problem algae that a new marine aquarist encounters. A bloom of brown algae often occurs soon after one introduces new live rock to a marine aquarium. This bloom occurs because the curing of the live rock introduces of silicates and nutrients (even pre-cured live rock from your LFS will have some die off after it is transferred to a new aquarium; that’s normal). As a result of the diatom bloom, a brown film soon coats everything inside the tank. Control of brown diatom algae is relatively easy. The first thing to do is to purchase Trochus or Astraea snails that eagerly consume the brown diatom film. I’ve had good results purchasing Trochus snails from IndoPacific Sea Farms (IPSF). There are other snails that will clean the glass such as Nerite and Strombus snails, but Trochus and Astraea snails are the brown diatom cleaner workhorses. The second thing to do is to perform regular water changes to remove any excess nutrients and silicates from the water. The third thing to do is to have an effective protein skimmer to help with the nutrient removal. The fourth thing to do is to cut down light intensity or duration. The final thing to do is to have some type of chemical filtration such as carbon or ChemiPure help with the nutrient removal. I would rank the methods above from most important to least important in the order they are listed.
However, aside from turning off the aquarium light, you cannot implement any of those measures to control the diatoms until your new aquarium is finished cycling. The snails won’t tolerate the ammonia and nitrite spikes that occur while the tank is cycling, and it’s counterproductive to perform water changes, or operate a protein skimmer, or use chemical filtration media while the new tank is in the process of cycling and establishing the biofiltration. Such measures will actually prolong the cycling process and reduce the numbers of beneficial nitrifying bacteria. So don’t do anything to control the diatoms other than turning off the aquarium light until your tank has completely cycled. Very likely the diatoms will disappear on their own sometime during the cycling process, and no other measures to control them will be necessary.
In short, the growth of the diatoms is nothing to be concerned about and will not pose a threat to seahorses or the copepods and amphipods you have ordered. You can go ahead and see the live rock with the pods when they arrive as usual; they may even feed on the abundant diatoms to a certain extent. A diatom bloom is an easy problem to correct, as described above. If you can update me with your current aquarium parameters (levels of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, plus the pH, specific gravity, and water temperature of the tank), I would be happy to look them over and determine if any of them need to be adjusted before you order your seahorses.
Whereas the diatoms do not present a serious problem, there are other forms of nuisance algae such as hair algae and cyanobacteria or red slime algae that can be much more troublesome, and you’ll want to guard against them as well. The hair algae is a very unattractive, dark green to black, fuzzy algae that cannot be mistaken for the much larger, desirable macroalgae. Likewise, the cyanobacteria or slime algae grows as slimy sheets that cover the bottom and substrate and are normally reddish, purplish, or black in coloration. Again, you cannot mistake them for any desirable algae. They are entirely different in appearance to the attractive coralline algae that encrust live rock.
So just hang in there for now, arcprolife, and the diatom bloom will probably clear up on its own. If it doesn’t, it will once the aquarium has cycled and you can add your snails and other sanitation engineers, running your protein skimmer, and begin making water changes.
Pete GiwojnaApril 16, 2008 at 12:37 am #4128Pete GiwojnaGuest
No, sir, a short hypersaline bath or treatment with fenbendazole should not be harmful for coralline algae. However, it may have been set back a bit if you were too overzealous in your initial attempts to scrub it off your live rock after mistaking it for a colony of hydroids.
The attractive coralline algae can appear in a number of colors ranging from purplish to pinkish or even reddish, and it will grow and thrive on live rock and other surfaces in the aquarium providing the lighting is not too intense and you maintain the pH, calcium, and alkalinity in your marine aquarium at the proper levels. Unlike most other algae, coralline is a form of calcareous algae and it needs sufficient calcium in order to grow and prosper.
The most common causes of bleaching or death of the coralline algae are lighting that is too strong or a problem with the water chemistry (i.e., the pH, calcium levels, and/or total alkalinity of the aquarium water are out of whack). So the best thing you can do to encourage the growth of your coralline algae is to keep the light levels in the aquarium low and maintain optimal water quality, including the calcium levels and carbonate hardness/total alkalinity. Here is some information you may find helpful in that regard:
Basic Water Quality Parameters.
Ammonia (NH3/NH4+): Optimum level = 0 at all times
Ammonia is highly toxic to both fish and invertebrates in even small amounts (> 0.01 mg/L or ppm). Causes of ammonia toxicity include: immature biofilter (new tank syndrome), impairment of the biological filtration due to antibiotics and other medications, overfeeding, overstocking and dead specimens that go undetected (Webber, 2004).
Nitrite (N02): Optimum level = 0 at all times
Nitrite is slightly less poisonous to fishes than ammonia, but deadly to many invertebrates at very small concentrations (0.01 mg/L or ppm). Even trace amounts of nitrate such as this can wreak havoc in a reef tank and cause serious distress to fish. High levels of nitrite result from the same causes as ammonia.
Nitrate (N03): Optimum level = below 10 ppm in fish-only tanks; 0 ppm in reef tanks.
Nitrate is the end product of the process of nitrification, formed during the Nitrogen Cycle by the oxidation of nitrite by aerobic bacteria. Nitrate is relatively nontoxic to fishes, but elevated levels (> 20 ppm) are stressful to seahorses over the long term and promote the growth of nuisance algae. Reef invertebrates can be much more sensitive to nitrate, and concentrations as low as 0.06 mg/L can cause problems for symbiotic stony corals. The nitrate level is therefore a good indicator of water quality. For best results, consider using live rock and/or a live sand bed (preferably situated in your sump) in conjunction with a good protein skimmer to help filter your seahorse setup. The skimmer will remove excess organic compounds before they enter the nitrogen cycle, and live rock and a deep sand bed will provide significant denitrification ability, all of which will help keep your nitrates down. Don’t overstock, don’t overfed, remove leftovers promptly (a good cleanup crew is useful here), grow and harvest macroalgae, practice good aquarium maintenance and maintain a sensible schedule for water changes.
pH: Optimum level = 8.1 – 8.4 (typically fluctuates between 7.9 at night and 8.4 during the day)
The pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of aquarium water. A pH of 7 is considered to be "neutral," neither acid or alkaline, while pH levels above 7 are considered to be alkaline or "base," and pH levels below 7 are considered to be acidic. Marine aquaria need to maintain alkaline conditions at all times, and low pH (< 7.6) is especially detrimental to seahorses because it is conducive to Gas Bubble Disease. Normal daily fluctuations in pH are to be expected in the aquarium, and are generally gradual enough not to be stressful (Webber, 2004). Maintaining a sump or refugium with a reverse photoperiod to the main tank can eliminate these natural pH cycles. Regular partial water changes are the key to maintaining stable pH. Buffers can also help but the hobbyist should beware that excessive use of pH buffers may increase KH values to dangerously high levels.
Specific Gravity: Optimum level = 1.022 – 1.025
The specific gravity measures the density of a your aquarium water relative to the density of distilled water, and aquarists use it to estimate the salinity of their aquarium water (Trevor-Jones, Dec. 2002). In effect, it’s one way to measure the saltiness of your tank, since the more salt that is dissolved in the water, the denser it becomes. This can also be done by measuring the total amount of dissolved solids in the water, which is expressed as the salinity in parts per thousand (ppt). Hobbyists must remember that constant evaporation of freshwater from the aquarium causes the salts to become more concentrated, which increases the specific gravity or salinity accordingly. Therefore, it is necessary to top off the tank with freshwater regularly in order to make up for evaporation and maintain the desired specific gravity. Seahorses tolerate a wide range of salinity very well and hyposalinity (specific gravity at 1.011-1.015) is often used to help rid them of ectoparasites.
Dissolved Oxygen (02): Optimum level = 6 – 7 ppm
High levels of dissolved oxygen are vital to the well being of both fish and invertebrates. The key to maintaining high O2 levels in the aquarium is good circulation combined with surface agitation (Webber, 2004). Wet/dry trickle filters and protein skimmers facilitate efficient gas exchange and oxygenation. It is important for the hobbyist to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in the aquarium because a drop in O2 levels is often an early indicator of impending trouble — a precursor of problems ahead. A drop in O2 levels will tip off the alert aquarist and allow corrective measures to be taken, nipping the problem in the bud before it adversely affects his seahorses.
Alkalinity: Optimum level = 2.4 milliequivalents per litre (meq/L), which is the alkalinity of natural seawater, is best for fish tanks; > 3.0 meq/L is recommend for reef tanks.
The alkalinity is basically a measure of the capability of your aquarium water to resist changes in pH from the addition of acid (Trevor-Jones, Nov. 2002). Acid is continually entering the aquarium, primarily as the result of respiration (CO2) and metabolic wastes produced by the aquarium inhabitants (Trevor-Jones, Nov. 2002). The addition of these acids tends to lower the pH of the aquarium water. The higher the alkalinity of your aquarium water, the more resistant it is to such downward pH shifts (Trevor-Jones, Nov. 2002). The amount of buffers (primarily carbonate and bicarbonate) in saltwater determines the alkalinity, so the alkalinity in effect is the buffering capacity (Trevor-Jones, Nov. 2002). When the buffering capacity of the water is depleted, the pH becomes unstable. Alkalinity test kits can now warn of low buffering levels in time to prevent potential pH problems (Trevor-Jones, Nov. 2002).
Carbonate Hardness (KH): Optimum level = 7dKH (the hardness of natural seawater)
Carbonate hardness is another measurement of alkalinity. It is usually expressed in the German unit dKH (degrees of carbonate hardness) and is often considered to be the total alkalinity. (Dividing dKH by 2.8 will give you the alkalinity in meq/L.) KH actually a measurement of various carbonates and bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium within the aquarium water (Webber, 2004). Maintaining a stable KH is very desirable since it maintains the buffering capacity (i.e., alkalinity) of the system and prevents subsequent drops in pH. Aside from stabilizing the pH, reef keepers need to maintain KH and high alkalinity in order to assure that the calcifying organisms in the tank flourish. Corals and other calcifying organisms actively use bicarbonate, which is the main component of alkalinity, so the alkalinity of a tank with a lot of calcification can drop quite rapidly.
Calcium (Ca): Optimum level = 350 – 400 ppm (up to 500 ppm in well-stocked reef tanks)
Calcium is a very important element in the water in any marine aquarium and is a vital element in reef tanks. Along with carbonates and bicarbonates, it is required by calcifying organisms such as stony corals, snails and other mollusks, coralline, Halimeda and other calcareous algae, and certain sponges (Trevor-Jones, Apr. 2003). Calcium reserves must therefore be replenished on a regular basis. Regular water changes may achieve this, but reef keepers may require the addition of biologically available calcium to maintain adequate levels (Trevor-Jones, Apr. 2003). Seahorse keepers should be aware that brooding males provide calcium to the developing fry in their pouches, which the embryos probably incorporate into their skeletons. Deficiencies in calcium could thus adversely affect your seahorses’ reproductive success and the health of the fry. In fact, seahorses that receive a diet deficient in calcium often suffer from decalcification of their exoskeleton, a debilitating condition commonly known as “soft plate” disease (Greco, 2004).
Phosphates (PO4): Optimum level = as low as possible in fish-only systems
High phosphate levels are detrimental to marine aquaria. In fish-only tanks, they promote excessive growth of nuisance algae, and in reef tanks they also directly inhibit calcification by corals and coralline algae (Holmes-Farley, 2002). Phosphates arrive in the aquarium in fish foods, through tap water, as an ingredient in low-quality carbon and marine salt mixes, and primarily through the waste products of the inhabitants (Webber, 2004). Phosphates can be removed by using commercial phosphate-binding agents, but growing and harvesting macroalgae and protein skimming are the best ways to reduce phosphate levels
Seahorse keepers with fish-only systems need not be overly concerned about many of the parameters mentioned above, but if you keep alive corals and/or coralline algae in your aquarium, then you will find it helpful to monitor most of the above water quality parameters. Again, the pH, calcium levels, and alkalinity are the most important for assuring a good growth of coralline algae. And, you must keep your phosphate levels as low as possible (ideally at zero) both to avoid problems with nuisance algae and because high phosphates will inhibit the growth of coralline.
Once your aquarium has finished cycling, there are a couple of other things you can do to encourage our coralline algae to grow and spread. For example, there is a product called "Purple Up" by CaribSea that is designed to stimulate the growth of coralline algae. It’s a supplement that you add to the water in order to accelerate the growth of pink and purple coralline algae. It adds Ionic calcium and replenishes iodine, which the coralline algae needs for growth. Since it is not a plant fertilizer, it does not promote the growth of nuisance algae, but rather just stimulates better growth of the beautiful coralline algae.
You can also pick out one or two small (2-3 inch) pieces of live rock from your LFS that are heavily overgrown with coralline algae and position them in your life tank atop your live rock where the water flow is strongest. This will help disperse new coralline algae spores throughout your aquarium and promote the growth of new coralline colonies.
For more information on encouraging the growth of coralline algae, please review the following articles and discussions:
That’s weird about the salinity or specific gravity in your two aquariums being so different. If they are plumbed together so that the water can circulate freely from one to another, the water quality in both tanks should be virtually identical. How are the two tanks connected, sir?
If water is not exchanged between the two aquariums continuously, then you will need to monitor the water quality parameters in both tanks separately and adjust them accordingly.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup, arcprolife. Here’s hoping that your diatom boom is soon a thing of the past and your coralline algae thrives and encrusts all of your live rock.
Pete GiwojnaApril 16, 2008 at 2:02 am #4131arcprolifeGuest
Thank you so much for the help. Im sorry I only have one tank the readings were different within the tank from one side to the other. I am thinking I have poor circulation and should maybe add two power heads but I dont know how to position them for the best circulation.My one little aeration stone must not be cutting it in a 57 gal. tank. Again I really appreciate your time and attention thanks for the great advice.:P 😛April 16, 2008 at 2:56 am #4132Pete GiwojnaGuest
Ahh, I see your dilemma now, sir. You have been getting markedly different readings for the specific gravity from one end of the tank to the opposite end of the aquarium. You’re right, that certainly shouldn’t be happening — ordinarily the specific gravity of a given solution is homogenous throughout for a small body of water. You can sometimes see some vertical stratification if there is not adequate circulation, since the less dense freshwater may float atop the more dense saltwater momentarily when you’re topping your aquarium off, for instance, but it is most unusual to see a difference from one side of the tank to the other.
That’s unheard of and I can’t imagine that there isn’t enough water movement in any aquarium to prevent such a thing from happening, so I think the difference in the specific gravity must be an artifact of how you are measuring the salinity. For example, if you are using a floating hydrometer, that might erroneously record a different specific gravity at either end of the tank because the water/air mixture nearest the bubble stream of the airstone would be less dense than the pure salt water without any bubbles in it at the other end of the aquarium. In other words, the hydrometer would sink deeper near to the airstone and float higher in the bubble-free saltwater at the end opposite the airstone, whereas in actuality the specific gravity of the water was the same at both ends.
If you are using a swing-arm hydrometer, then you may have gotten some air bubbles attached to the arm when you sampled the water near the airstone, and that’s what is giving you a false reading for the specific gravity. It’s very important to tap the swingarm and free any bubbles that may be clinging to it before you can get an accurate reading. Most likely if you double check the specific gravity readings from both ends of the tank more carefully, you’ll find that they are actually the same.
Is the airstone the only thing that is providing water movement in your 57-gallon aquarium? Do you have an external filter to provide mechanical and chemical filtration, as well as to circulate the water throughout your tank?
If not, I would suggest adding a hang-on-the-back external filter with a waterfall return or a canister filter with a spray bar return rated for an aquarium of 60 gallons in order to increase the water flow and circulation throughout the tank.
Best of luck figuring out the specific gravity quandary, arcprolife.
Pete GiwojnaApril 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm #4157nannurdGuest
I have had brown algae/diatom bloom for several weeks. I purchased a denitrator that has those levels well in check. All other parameters are WNL. In a 55 gal acrylic tank, have a CPR 2plus filter and protein skimmer, a powerhead on the opposite side, and a carbon biofilter in between with purigen added. A compact light is on 12-14 hours a day. What light cycle shoud I be using? There are only a couple of narssarius, bumblebees and three scarlet hermits in the tank. The purple corraline alge is starting to grow along with some green, but mostly the awful brown stuff. The tank has 25lb of live rock, some red kelp and a fan plant. I am, of course anxious to add seahorses, but am heaitant to even add more snails till this is under control. Please advise! Thanks much for your help.April 26, 2008 at 11:11 pm #4158Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, it sounds like your tank is experiencing a bloom of diatoms. As I have are ready pointed out, they are harmless and most newly set up marine aquariums go through a stage where the diatoms or brown algae grows on surfaces in the aquarium. In most cases, the brown algae will disappear as suddenly as it appeared once it uses up the available supply of some key nutrient in the aquarium (usually silicates). Ordinarily, once the available silica has been exhausted, the population of the diatoms will crash and they will then typically die off on their own.
Otherwise, we have been discussing some of the simple measures you can take to help eliminate the diatoms in this thread. As I said, brown diatom algae is usually the first problem algae that a new marine aquarist encounters. A bloom of brown algae often occurs soon after one introduces new live rock to a marine aquarium. This bloom occurs because the curing of the live rock introduces silicates and nutrients (even pre-cured live rock from your LFS will have some die off after it is transferred to a new aquarium; that’s normal). As a result of the diatom bloom, a brown film soon coats everything inside the tank.
Control of brown diatom algae is relatively easy. The first thing to do is to purchase Trochus or Astraea snails that eagerly consume the brown diatom film. I’ve had good results purchasing Trochus snails from IndoPacific Sea Farms (IPSF). There are other snails that will clean the glass such as Nerite and Strombus snails, but Trochus and Astraea snails are the brown diatom cleaner workhorses. The second thing to do is to perform regular water changes to remove any excess nutrients and silicates from the water. The third thing to do is to have an effective protein skimmer to help with the nutrient removal. The fourth thing to do is to cut down light intensity or duration. The final thing to do is to have some type of chemical filtration such as carbon or ChemiPure help with the nutrient removal. I would rank the methods above from most important to least important in the order they are listed.
It sounds like you have already implemented several of those control measures. The denitrator will do an excellent job of keeping the nitrates that fuel algae growth under control. And the protein skimmer will help remove dissolved organics before they enter the nitrogen cycle, so that’s going to help. Plus the activated carbon and Purigen should provide efficient chemical filtration, which will also be beneficial in the long run. The best things you can do right now to help hasten the demise of the diatoms are to load up on some of the Trochus and Astraea snails that love to feed on the diatoms and reduce your photoperiod considerably. If you have been running your PC lighting 12-14 hours a day, I would cut that at least in half. Keep your lights on only 6-7 hours a day or less until the diatom population crashes. The beautiful coralline algae thrives best under low light levels and will grow faster at the reduced light levels, whereas the light-dependent diatoms will be adversely affected by the shortened photoperiod.
One other thing to keep in mind is to double check the type of activated carbon you are using. Carbon is activated two ways, either with steam or with phosphoric acid. The type of carbon that is activated with phosphoric acid contains phosphates, which can be leached back into the aquarium water and promote the growth of nuisance algae. So you will want to avoid that type of of activated carbon. The carton or box that the activated carbon comes in should be clearly labeled and state specifically that it is "steam activated" or "phosphate free" or something to that effect if it’s a suitable brand for your aquarium.
In short, you needn’t be overly concerned about the diatom bloom and it won’t be harmful for seahorses or any of your other specimens. Just be patient, reduce your photoperiod, add some Trochus and Astraea snails to your cleanup crew, and the situation will eventually resolve itself.
In the meantime, best wishes with all your fishes!
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