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Re: nuking BGA

On Mon, 8 Jan 2001, forbem wrote:

>      I thought the BGA was from a nutrient imbalance because I was
> at one point adding too much iron fertilizer which was causing
> another algae problem but that has been corrected by
> good(lamotte) test kits.I am not sure of the exact reason why the
> BGA started but I thought this 'may' have been a reason.I have only
> been in this hobby for a year or so and I learn by mistakes
> occasionaly and by trying not to make them a second time.

Usually people report hair algae outbreaks as a result of overdosing with
iron.  I suspect that BGA outbreaks in planted tanks might be more
commonly associated with a shortage of something than with an excess of
something.  I can let my imagination run wild about how that works, but I
don't have particularly good evidence, so I won't.

>      I do not want to use chemicals to kill BGA but I thought that
> would be the only way to kill it for good without ripping apart the
> whole tank. I was under the impression that even if the underlying
> causes have been solved that the BGA won't just dissapear on its
> own without killing it. I thought it just gets increasingly worse until
> it chokes off everything in the tank.

BGA tends to be pretty resilient once it's established.  That isn't the
same thing as saying that you have to poison it to get rid of it.  There
is always some factor (more likely, combination of factors) that lets BGA
become a problem in the first place.  If you fix those problems then the
BGA will no longer grow well; thereafter simply removing the BGA (perhaps
repeatedly over a few weeks' time) should be all it takes to keep it from
being a problem.

>     I use the alkaline buffer to raise the KH of the water but since
> this raises PH I use the acid buffer to lower the PH back down to
> 6.8.I know their are other ways to raise KH but I thought alkaline
> buffer was a safe way to do so. I know my tapwater on Long Island
> is pretty good(I got reports from the water company) but I am using
> RO water because I wanted to present my fish with the best
> posssible enviroment possible.

After reading your letter I spent a little time at the Seachem website and
in the APD archives reading about the Equilibrium, Acid Buffer, Alkaline
Buffer and your original problems.

According to Seachem, Equilibrium beefs up the general hardness, but it
doesn't add sodium or chloride and it's not clear that it provides any
carbonate.  Clearly, Equilibrium is not a product that will by itself give
you a natural-like water composition.  In fact, Seachem doesn't claim that
it will, they claim that it will provide general hardness.

Acid Buffer is phosphate and carbonate free.  Aside from that, we don't
know what it is.  There is some reasoned speculation in the archive that
it may be an organic buffer and the statement that it needs to be added
several times a week to keep pH stable would reinforce that possibility.
We usually (as do you) add CO2 to our planted tanks, so we don't need the
Acid Buffer product at all.  What's more, *if* the acid buffer is an
organic product that needs to be dosed repeatedly than it could explain
two things.  It could be the reason why your potassium permanganate and
peroxide dosages aren't working (they're just burning up the acid buffer).
It might even explain your BGA problem by feeding your BGA directly with
organic nutrients.

Alkaline Buffer is even more mysterious.  It's phosphate and "caustic"
free.  I'm not sure what they mean by "caustic"; possibly potassium and/or
sodium hydroxide.  Their description leaves open the possibility that
Alkaline Buffer does contain bicarbonate, but who knows?  Apparently it
does provide some kind of alkalinity, as they suggest using it conjunction
with Equilibrium to provide alkalinity.

If either one of these buffers contains a non-carbonate buffer then you
cannot use the KH-pH-CO2 relationship to determine your CO2

An open question to the list... Does it seem like we get an unusual
percentage of problems reported by people who use RO water?  Problems with
BGA specifically?

Forbem, let me encourage you to use tap water in your tank.  That will
simplify your hobby and leave you with more time and resources to
concentrate on things that are more worthwhile.  If eventually you need to
add something to your tap water to improve conditions for your plants or
fish, then add only things that you understand; calcium carbonate and
sodium bicarb are probably the only water conditioners you will ever need.

>    I am not trying to make my tank unstable but I am frustrated with
> the BGA and at one point it got so bad that I thought it was going
> to kill off everything. it was getting increasingly worse on a daily
> basis and killing it was my only option because of the speed at
> which it spreads.

If it's spreading fast then you have *not* solved the original problem.
Otherwise, BGA won't kill things in a short term.  You can take a lot of
time to figure out what the problem is and get it fixed.  The catch is
that you have to do regular, thorough cleaning to keep it under control.

> Watching all my hard work and effort go rapidly
> down the tubes is a very unsettling sight to watch. I was very
> hesitant to use potassium permanganate but I felt it was my only
> option. I value the opinion of many on this list so if their are better
> methods to my madness I will gladly listen. I just want to rid my
> tank of BGA for good and get on with the growing plants part.

I sympathize, but you need to find a different way to do it.

> I don't feel the BGA is going to go away without adding chemicals to
> kill it because manualy removing it will always leave slight traces
> behind which I feel will cause another explosion shortly down the road.

This is wrong.  BGA is a natural part of your aquarium, but it shouldn't
be a prominent part of it - in fact, you should never really see the BGA.
It will only become a nuisance if you provide conditions in which it
outcompetes more desirable plants.

It sounds to me like you have your aquarium in a very tenuous state.  I
wouldn't be surprised at all if fish started contracting diseases or
simply dying from unknown causes.  Certainly your plants' health should be
damaged by the repeated doses of oxidants.

Stop.  Give your tank a thorough cleaning, change out most of the water in
your tank with tap water and dose the plant nutrients up to the levels
that you want to maintain.  Afterwords, practice good aquarium care
including regular cleaning and water changes and remove the BGA when you
see it -- don't wait for it to spread.  Give your tank at least 6 weeks to
stabilize.  If then you still feel a need to poison something in your
tank, get the instructions down *first*, do it once and do it right.

My guess is that once you get things cleaned up and stabilized that you
won't *need* to kill anything.

Good luck,
Roger Miller