#1 WHAT IF I TOLD YOU... Ammonia is causing your algae problems?

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Lasse

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For the book - there is a huge difference berween a freshwater aquaria with higher plants - specialised in converting NO3 into NH3 in the uptake moment with a saltwater tank lacking the highly specialised plants in the display. I think it is a need of point out that the main and most important factor is competition for living space and limited factors. IMO in a saltwater aquarium the algae mostly will win that combat. Even against heterotrophic bacteria. In a saltwater aquaria - there is no limit for the inorganic carbon (needed for the photosynthesis) but there is a strong limitation of DOC (dissolved organic carbon) - needed for growth of heterotrophic bacteria. Just ad unlimited amount of DOC in your aquaria and watch what will happens. Heterotrophic bacteria are as effective as algae in order to take up NH4 but lack of DOC normally hinder their growth. However - algae will leak some very effective Doc's and algae plus more growth of heterotrophic bacteria will create a bacteria driven ecosystem instead of a coral driven system. Algae will - together with bacteria create this because the Algae's faster growth rate make it able to compete out the corals according to living space. It is true that photosynthesis in corals will leak some DOC too but IMO – with corals there is a little bit different situation. Some say that it is a different type of DOC compared with algae – creating other types of bacteria – but I´m not sure that´s true. My idea is more that the animal part of the coral just uses these bacteria (in the slime) as food, hence recirculate the nutrients again! But some of the coral released DOC will favour microalgae too but in a normal reef – you will not see them – they will be eaten directly.

This is a huge difference from a freshwater planted tank there the two main combatants can grow as fast as the other and they use the same type of carbon (inorganic), further the higher plants can in an effective way use the nitrificated N source too - NO3. In this environment – higher fast-growing plants will always win if there is nutrients enough (both the “normal” nutrients and inorganic carbon (read CO2 for all plants and HCO3/CO3 for some plants). It is true that just adding NO3 as a nitrogen source will give micro algae a disadvantage – but it does not mean that NH3 will favour micro algae – more give them both the same possibility.

In a reef tank, algae will always win against the slow growing corals and corallines in the establishing stage (and later on with many corals). However. some corals have a trick – during photosynthesis they swell – creating a larger surface for photosynthesis (primarly effect) but also put the space below them in shadow, hence no algae can growth below the coral (mostly softies but even many solitary LPS) – secondarily effect.

However – in a aquarium - you can manipulate where algae will grow through create special places for them like refugium and scrubbers – but in the end they will win the battle if they are able to grow without control. Grazing is a very good control tool - it does not only remove algae - it also creates new spaces for slow growing corallin algae in order to establish themselves.


Sincerely Lasse
 

JasPR

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another country heard from..... I'm finding this paper both intelligent and informative-- yet a simplistic version fo what actually happens in our glass boxes. Certainly we need to start at a basic level 1) there is a nitrification process performed by two dominate bacteria species which breaks down ammonia to less toxic forms of nitrogen, and 2) A closed water environment with living things in it has a predictable decline over time even when these bacteria are well represented. This is why we old timers would talk about new tank syndrome and and an overly aged system. In effect, there is a three dimensional story line going on simultaneously in every aquarium.
In truth there are MANY species of bacteria living in an aquarium. And they all occupy the bio-film layer as well as the water column. Since nature abhors a vacuum the 'micro food chain' will house dominate species ( those that are favored best by your tanks conditions) and a HOST of other background species that exist only in modest numbers. Heterotrophic bacteria and autotrophic bacteria families live both in harmony and in serious competition with one another. And algae lurks in the background waiting or an opportunity to fill the imbalance should it arrive.
 

JasPR

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For the book - there is a huge difference berween a freshwater aquaria with higher plants - specialised in converting NO3 into NH3 in the uptake moment with a saltwater tank lacking the highly specialised plants in the display. I think it is a need of point out that the main and most important factor is competition for living space and limited factors. IMO in a saltwater aquarium the algae mostly will win that combat. Even against heterotrophic bacteria. In a saltwater aquaria - there is no limit for the inorganic carbon (needed for the photosynthesis) but there is a strong limitation of DOC (dissolved organic carbon) - needed for growth of heterotrophic bacteria. Just ad unlimited amount of DOC in your aquaria and watch what will happens. Heterotrophic bacteria are as effective as algae in order to take up NH4 but lack of DOC normally hinder their growth. However - algae will leak some very effective Doc's and algae plus more growth of heterotrophic bacteria will create a bacteria driven ecosystem instead of a coral driven system. Algae will - together with bacteria create this because the Algae's faster growth rate make it able to compete out the corals according to living space. It is true that photosynthesis in corals will leak some DOC too but IMO – with corals there is a little bit different situation. Some say that it is a different type of DOC compared with algae – creating other types of bacteria – but I´m not sure that´s true. My idea is more that the animal part of the coral just uses these bacteria (in the slime) as food, hence recirculate the nutrients again! But some of the coral released DOC will favour microalgae too but in a normal reef – you will not see them – they will be eaten directly.

This is a huge difference from a freshwater planted tank there the two main combatants can grow as fast as the other and they use the same type of carbon (inorganic), further the higher plants can in an effective way use the nitrificated N source too - NO3. In this environment – higher fast-growing plants will always win if there is nutrients enough (both the “normal” nutrients and inorganic carbon (read CO2 for all plants and HCO3/CO3 for some plants). It is true that just adding NO3 as a nitrogen source will give micro algae a disadvantage – but it does not mean that NH3 will favour micro algae – more give them both the same possibility.

In a reef tank, algae will always win against the slow growing corals and corallines in the establishing stage (and later on with many corals). However. some corals have a trick – during photosynthesis they swell – creating a larger surface for photosynthesis (primarly effect) but also put the space below them in shadow, hence no algae can growth below the coral (mostly softies but even many solitary LPS) – secondarily effect.

However – in a aquarium - you can manipulate where algae will grow through create special places for them like refugium and scrubbers – but in the end they will win the battle if they are able to grow without control. Grazing is a very good control tool - it does not only remove algae - it also creates new spaces for slow growing corallin algae in order to establish themselves.


Sincerely Lasse
right on
 

MnFish1

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Much was discussed, but a key focus of the discussion were different overall tank maintenance strategies.

This is an algae outbreak reaction strategy. Much different from an overall tank strategy.

Hopefully this will clear up any uncertainty that this should be a regular weekly tank routine. The last thing I want is for people to go to their tank that is performing well and suck out every last bit of detritus. I practice a hands off as much as possible approach to my overall tank strategy.

There are plenty of people who do this as a routine every month or every couple of weeks and that is fine if it works for them and helps their tank achieve balance. I believe these are mainly people who have an imbalanced bioload to filtration ratio, do not have a sump, high powered skimmer, or very much live rock to improve their bacterial filter and buffer against an algae epidemic. The ultimate goal is to have a balanced tank without having to occasionally export detritus, at least not every month. And remember, manageable amounts of algae are a good thing! Detritus is also a good thing, it is the life source for your tank!

From what has been mentioned in the discussions, it sounds like the answer lies in the hands of a balanced stock list, a good clean up crew, a good amount of healthy rock (im sure a little rock basting every now and again is a good thing ;) ), and a balanced bioload/bacteria surface ratio. If you have all these things, you have a foundation for success and shouldn't have a need to export detritus - at least not every other month.

If by some chance you have all these good things and you're facing a huge algae outbreak, the answer may be to follow the algae outbreak control strategy and wait to see how your tank reacts... Then consider necessary adjustments to your overall tank strategy, your stock list, clean up crew, and re read the steps and other threads for inspiration on what could be altered to help your tank reach balance...


I've also requested this summary of sorts be added to both the article, and the main post.

I think I feel comfortable referring people in the algae help forum to this thread when they ask for help. Hopefully we can help some people out with their algae outbreak, and most importantly, getting them thinking about the big picture and overall tank strategy.

No article or thread is ever complete until it has a couple thousand people view and contribute their well thought out responses. Thanks again everyone for contributing.
I'm confused after reading several posts. But what confuses me most is the bold title at the top of the thread I(the title of the article - the problem (to me) is that there is no evidence that ammonia is causing any problem :
WHAT IF I TOLD YOU... Ammonia is causing your algae problems?
 

m0jjen

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So lets see if i get this right. If we have a low nutrient tank with alot of algae and ammonia is the source for nitrogen which feeds the algae, increading nitrification could/should in other words help with competing for the ammonia and reduce the potency for algae? In my case i have hair algae and i cant say i overfeed nor have alot of detritus, i recently reduced my filtration with removing passive siporax. Im debating weather i should reuse the siporax in a high flow reactor to make it nitrify for example. Would this be concidered a solid action of achieve better nitrification and try to compete for nitrogen sources (read ammonia)?
 
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I am going thru almost exactly some of what this thread is about. 2-3 years ago I could not do maintenance for a few months.

My tank was always close to 1 Phosphate and 35-40 nitrate for close to 8 years. Never an issue until I couldn’t do maintenance . Algae slowly came but never full on outbreak. I never test ammonia due the time tank has been up.

Dino’s popped up down the road. Slowly the algea built up into long strands waving in the flow. Then it was all out outbreak.

That’s when I came across brandon429 threads and here. I did a big overhaul where I posted some pix. First I had a leak so I ran sumpless 3 weeks.during that period my nitrate and phosphate went down, which I know is weird. Once the sump came in I pulled all the gravel, rinsed 130# of sand and redid rock work. The gravel was like cement in some areas so not sure what that meant as far as nutrient export. I will say what came out could not be helpful in combating algae.

I am 2 weeks into sand and getting diatoms. I am hoping to see a big turn around. I may also try vibrant since I did not strip fully down to see if that finishes of the Dino

Want some fish tea? Sweet or unsweetened


74D06CB8-E7F4-4CD0-AE5C-D2407CBA7709.jpeg
 

Belgian Anthias

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heThe
So lets see if i get this right. If we have a low nutrient tank with alot of algae and ammonia is the source for nitrogen which feeds the algae, increading nitrification could/should in other words help with competing for the ammonia and reduce the potency for algae? In my case i have hair algae and i cant say i overfeed nor have alot of detritus, i recently reduced my filtration with removing passive siporax. Im debating weather i should reuse the siporax in a high flow reactor to make it nitrify for example. Would this be concidered a solid action of achieve better nitrification and try to compete for nitrogen sources (read ammonia)?

When algae use amonia they grow about 8x faster as when algae use nitrate as a nitrogen source. The Amonia reduction capacity is what is responsible for the carying capacity of the system, the bio-load wich can be maintained in the system. Ammonia is prefered as a nitrogen source by most heterotrops, autotrops and photo-autotrops. They all need other building materials and have a different growth rate, also depending of the nitrogen source used. Fast heterotrophic ammonia reduction (assimilation) needs 40x more building materials as autotrophs ( nitrifiers) need to reduce the same amount of ammonia and a lot of photo-autotrops need even more. Heterotrops will outcompete the others for ammonia as there growth rate will be a lot higher if all building materials are available. But fast logaritmic growth is always followed by fast decay and the growth cycle must be maintained to have any result. Nature has limited heterotrophic growth for a reason.
The most logic to control algae growth in a closed system is increasing the nitrification rate wich can easely be done by installing a small bio. This way the ammonia reduction rate can be controled easily and can be adjusted to the circumstances . As Algae, using nitrate- nitrogen grow +- 8x slower as if using ammonia -nitrogen, algae may be controled more easily by hervivores. Nitrate is safely stored usable nitrogen wich can be used as desired by controling the nitrate level and by keeping it at a desired level. As nitrate plays an essential role in a closed bio-system it should be available at all times.
If a bio-filter is used the ammonium availability and the nitrate level can be managed, nitrate can be removed the moment it is produced, by natural simultane nitrification and mixotrophic denitrification. This can be done by adding some elemental sulphur to the nitrifying bio-filter wich increases natural autotrophic denitrification, a process with the acronym BADES . A nitrifying bio-filter wich does not produce nitrate may be created.
Nitrogen management in a closed system should not be considered a problem.
 
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ParsedOut

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I'd just like to say thanks to Fish_Sticks for this post. Read it when first posted about 3 months ago. My 20 gallon nano was going through a nasty case of green hair algae. Was tempted to try many of the suggested quick fixes, instead I played it cool. Cut down my feedings, blasting my live rock, increased flow, lowered my light a little and did a ton of manual removal. That all seemed to help a little, BUT I think the thing that really turned the corner on my issue was putting a bottle of live bacteria into my tank. I'm pretty sure I was suffering from a non-diverse colony of bacteria due to starting with man made rock and doing the standard ammonia cycling process. At any rate, around 2 months later my algae issue is gone entirely and I've started to really enjoy my tank again.
 

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I'm certainly not an expert on any topic on this forum. I do however think some of the principles in the OP's post make a lot of sense. I was really struggling with algae when I read it back in Feb. I've cut down on feedings, added a few more snails and have been turkey basting my rock a couple times weekly. I've seen a huge reduction in the amount of algae I deal with. It's nothing like it was before and my corals seem to be doing well. It certainly has worked for me so far.
 

Skindog

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I’m gonna take the blue pill! This is garbage, ammonia nitrite and nitrate are essentially the same thing, far too much contradiction going on here! I could go on but it would be pointless, so much wrong info!
 
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I’m gonna take the blue pill! This is garbage, ammonia nitrite and nitrate are essentially the same thing, far too much contradiction going on here! I could go on but it would be pointless, so much wrong info!

No, it is not according to plant, algae and coral uptake. There is a ton of scientific literature about that - just Google it. However - I am not sure that surplus NH3/NH3 is the main reason for algae take over. I have seen some measurements out at real reefs that shows a rather low but constant concentration of NH3/NH4 but NO3 levels that can vary from almost zero and up to rather high concentration depend on place and time of the year. See this thread. This measurement more indicate that in a real reef - the NO3 is the limited N source (it hits zero first). But - the fact that NH3/NH4 will be the fastest (an least energy demanded) nitrogen source for plants and algae is true.

Sincerely Lasse
 

Proteus Meep

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Saying Ammonia is causing your algae issues is like saying Red light is causing your algae issues,

there is the potential for a partial truth to either of the above statements, yet both are just a part of a puzzle of many varied interchangeable pieces and neither are on their own a solution to algae reduction as an absolute
 

Belgian Anthias

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I'd just like to say thanks to Fish_Sticks for this post. Read it when first posted about 3 months ago. My 20 gallon nano was going through a nasty case of green hair algae. Was tempted to try many of the suggested quick fixes, instead I played it cool. Cut down my feedings, blasting my live rock, increased flow, lowered my light a little and did a ton of manual removal. That all seemed to help a little, BUT I think the thing that really turned the corner on my issue was putting a bottle of live bacteria into my tank. I'm pretty sure I was suffering from a non-diverse colony of bacteria due to starting with man made rock and doing the standard ammonia cycling process. At any rate, around 2 months later my algae issue is gone entirely and I've started to really enjoy my tank again.

http://www.cryerfamily.eclipse.co.uk/BacteriaBottleParable.htm
Live bacteria in a bottle?

If a healthy piece of coral is entered into the aquarium the coral contains all bacteria, dinoflagellates, cyano's and other live needed to stay healty. Different types of coral or corals from different habitats will have a different coral holobiont. This diversity can not be delivered in a bottle!
A nitrifying biofilm is a mix of hundreds of different types of bacteria and archaea, heterotrophs, autotrophs, sulphur bacteria, etc . This diversity of live can not be delivered in a bottle?

During the 1990s, marine microbial diversity proved to be more obvious than previous studies showed, more than 95% of marine microbes could not be grown (Fuhrman and Campbell 1998) because most of the marine microbes have a complex nutritional and / or need a physical environment; Until now (2016) it could not be simulated in culture conditions.
One does not need any additions of so called " live bacteria" to install diversity. Diversity is entered with the live stock! A piece of a microbial mat! In the slime of a snail or a coral, on a fish, on and in any creature, one will find a lot more live diversity as one may ever be able to put in a bottle.

How a bottle may contain more " live" diversity as one may find on the gills of a fish or on a grain of sand ? What type of bacteria one may put in a bottle, will stay alive, and is not already present in numbers in the system? What is in the bottle?

I have reasonable doubts about the theory of "a non diverse colony of bacteria" being responsible and certainly about he assumption made that " bacteria in a bottle" are responsible for the change.
Anyway, enjoy your tank!
 
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Belgian Anthias

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So, if you remove the detritus, you solve your algae problems. Don't let anyone fool you otherwise!

I thought the definition of detritus is: waste wich can not be remineralized in the present conditions.
As it can not be remineralized it may and will build up. As it can not be remineralized it does not contribute to the amount of available building materials. How detritus will contribute to the growth of algae?

However, if the present conditions change, present detritus may contribute to the availability of nutrients as some of present detritus may be reminerilzed due to the changed environment. When some of the detritus is removed, wich may change the present conditions, what will happen to the detritus left over? Will it stay in its unusable condition or will it become usable?
 

Lasse

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I thought the definition of detritus is: waste wich can not be remineralized in the present conditions.
As it can not be remineralized it may and will build up. As it can not be remineralized it does not contribute to the amount of available building materials. How detritus will contribute to the growth of algae?

Agree to 100 % - but US aquarist tends to use the word detritus for particular organic matter including biofilms.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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