Diatoms (Brown algae for months)

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Jah410

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May 12, 2019
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Hi guys, I have been struggling with brown algae for nearly a year now in a 10 gallon low tech that I started. I don't find that I get algae blooms like I did early on, but for months, I clean off my plants, then slowly and steadily, they are recoated in diatoms over about a 2 week period. This blocks light from the plants and stops them from growing. Because of this, my plants have never been able to settle and start to actually grow, so my tank looks horrible for being 1 year old.

Here is my setup

Standard 10 gallon aquarium
Aqueon Quietflow 10 filter
NICREW BrightLED Aquarium Light, High Illumination Fish Tank Light for Freshwater Tanks
Carib Sea Eco-complete black substrate
A few flagstone rocks
Java ferns, water wisteria, staurogyne repens, water lettuce (floating plants)

Ferts: Thrive (complete fertilizer), Flourish Excel (Carbon source)

The biggest problem is the SR which can never grow fast enough before the diatoms coat the leaves. So far I have tried the following.

1.) Adjusting photoperiod (both more and less as the literature is split so I have tried from 6 hours to 12 hours) I find that the diatoms respond proportionally to the light the same as the plants, so less light gives slower diatom growth but slower plant growth to the point it all evens out.

2.) Extra excel flourish (told a lack of carbon source can lead to diatoms)

3.) Adding nerites (Added 4 nerite snails, don't find them able to keep up, and they prefer to clean off the glass, not my plant leaves...)

4.) Phosguard in filter (To remove extra phosphate and silicate in the tap water I use) I also strain my tap water through fresh phosguard to prevent the addition of any extra silicate.

5.) RO water for 3 weeks (No change at all)

6.) Major vacuuming of gravel and complete clean of tank to remove as much as possible. (I think this just reset a mini cycle)

7.) Addition of fast growing floating plants (water lettuce) to compete for nutrients. I find the SR under the shaded part of the tank to grow very little diatoms compared to the open part of the tank.

With all that said, does anyone know of any good reason as to why after a year, I still have diatoms slowly coating everything in my tank? This has been incredibly frustrating as I feel I have tried everything suggested in the literature, to no avail.
 

the loach

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Aug 6, 2018
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Describe the diatoms?

What are the specifications of the light.... lumens, temperature (Kelvin), CRI, watts...
 

Jah410

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Original poster
May 12, 2019
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Describe the diatoms?

What are the specifications of the light.... lumens, temperature (Kelvin), CRI, watts...
I've attached an image of the algae covering my SR. Unfortunately I can't determine any of the lighting specifics. I ordered the product from Amazon which does not specify what any of the lighting values are.

20190512_163258.jpg
 

the loach

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Aug 6, 2018
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Are those algae in sheets, or is it like dust you can wipe off? Do they just cover those plants or also the glass and rocks?
Can you show more pictures of the tank including the water lettuce?
 

Jah410

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May 12, 2019
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Sure, I can try to get some more pictures in a little bit. I did just wipe off a lot of the tank though so it may not be the most helpful. The algae does grow on the glass walls and on a flag stone I've had sitting in the bottom of the tank (mainly just there to see if the algae is still growing). It doesn't grow really thickly like you see many people show of during the cycling period of their tanks. It tends to begin as a dusting of brown, then continues to slowly and steadily thicken to a brown/ black sheet on the leaves. It doesn't have a smell, and usually rubs off easily although it's difficult to continuously do that to small SR leaves. Some of the alage on the leaves shown in the image don't seem to be rubbing off easily this time though... I did just rub a lot of it off the water wisteria in the back however. I'll try to get some images of some of the other leaves I may have missed.
 

Jah410

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May 12, 2019
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Here are some more pics of the aquarium. As I said, I recently cleaned off the glass walls where a fine layer usually builds up. Also cleaned off the rock in the center which had a thick layer (although the nerites had carved through a lot of it). I also included a Pic of the filter outlet. I heard that diatoms are terrible swimmers so they struggled to attach in areas of high flow, but as you can see, they like to settle on the filter outlet as well...

20190513_122937.jpg

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the loach

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Aug 6, 2018
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Tank looks nice !
Not sure that everything is actually diatoms, especially the "sheets" on the leaves. Regular diatoms come off as tons of loose particles when you wipe them off the glass. There are other algae (spray bar, top leaf 3rd pic) in there as well.
How many fish are in there? I see some neons...
What is the pH, KH, Nitrates, Phosphate, Iron level?
 

Jah410

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May 12, 2019
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Thanks, I think the setup would look nice if the alage wasn't always covering everything. What other kinds of alage do you think this could be then? The sheets do tend to break up into particles if I run the leaves off. As you can see on the SR there is some brown dust beginning to form. This is how it always starts, and then it eventually turns into that black/brown sheet you see on some leaves.

I have 5 neons and 5 ember tetra, and the nerites. I've always been good with water changes so I've never thought it was really overstocked. I just added a second filter I had laying around as I've read that poor filtration could lead to alage problems. When I test my water, I never find any ammonia or nitrites however.

My pH is naturally high around 8. It runs though some pH balancer, as it comes out of the well as a 6. When run through the balancer it comes out as 7, but then after aerating for a few hours turns to an 8...pH is weird.

My nitrate in my tap sits around 20ppm but the water lettuce eats that very quickly (within 48 hours it's back to 0)

Unfortunately I don't have tests for KH, phosphate and iron levels. I may be able to get this done at the LFS. I assume the phosphates are nearly 0 after running it though phosguard multiple times. Out water is naturally hard but runs through a water softener, although I see calcium buildup on my filter so maybe it's still hard... Iron... I have no idea.
 

the loach

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Aug 6, 2018
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First problem... 8 is too high for a planted tank. There is barely any co2 available at that level.
For now stop dosing fertilizers... it is all going to the algae.
0 nitrates isn't good for a planted tank either, get at least half of the water lettuce out.
Add peat in the filter to lower the pH. Get a KH test kit. Together with the pH test and a pH/KH/CO2 table you will be able to tell where you need to go for optimum plant growth.

Another problem could be your led lights. Unspecified led lights are the worst. They do this to hide the fact that they are (still) unable to compete with fluorescents in price and lumen per watt output. Also while there are leds available that can match fluorescents in CRI and temperature, many do not, and don't have the right spectrum which could promote algae growth over plant growth.
Also make sure you don't have any rocks, shells or substrate which might increase the pH.
 

Jah410

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May 12, 2019
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Okay, I have 2 options for lowering pH, I can get peat (which I can do if that is what you would prefer) but I am averse to all the tannins added to the water, or I could use my tap water from the hose which has a pH of 6.6. The water may be harder though, so that would be the down side. I could get this tested to determine how hard this water is.

The other question I have is you said CO2 is not held on water at that high of a pH, but is that also true for flourish excel since it's a alternate source of carbon?

Also I found the stats on that led light. Here is an image that summarizes the lighting.

Screenshot_20190513-203604_Chrome.jpg
 
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