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Re: contemplating hair algae

Lazarus wrote:

>I have had a recent outburst of dark hair algae in my
>75gal tank.  For the second time in its history.  I
>thought I would share some ideas.
>The first time it occurred, I obtained a couple of
>american flag fish, and that seemed to do the trick.
>A couple months later, after two weeks of neglect
>during Christmas vacation, I pruned out literally a
>huge bucket of plants.  Afterwards, green hair algae
>ran amuck.  Amano shrimp seemed to cure the contagion.
>Most recently , I pulled out a huge stand of
>telanthera.  Afterwards, I had a return of the dark
>hair algae.  But I still had my SAEs and my 2 flag
>fish in the tank, along with some amano shrimp.  The
>algae was not deterred.
>It seems that upsetting the balance of a tank is what
>causes algae to occur, in a tank previously free from
>algae.  Whether that be an increase in fish
>load/waste, a change in dosing, change in water change
>schedule, adding lights, or removal of plant biomass. 
>This imbalance eventually reaches an equilibrium, and
>the the plants outcompete the algae.  It just takes
>time.  My guess is that a lot of what we do to "cure"
>algae doesn't do much.  It's much like the history of
>medicine.  Most people with common illnesses get
>better without intervention.  The fallacy occurs when
>we attribute a cure to an intervention when in fact
>there was no connection.  Doctors practiced what had
>worked "in their experience" and these logical
>fallacies were passed from one generation to the next.
> So maybe adding the flag fish was not the miracle
>cure I thought it was.  The algae was going to go
>away, flag fish or not.
>Most recently I have added a trio of ameca splendens
>to my tank.  The algae has abated a bit, and I have
>noticed the fish nibbling on the algae.  But this
>time, I am not ready to attribute a decline in algae
>to adding three small fish to my tank.  But in my
>experience....  :)

I think we all agree that altering aquarium conditions by reducing plants,
increasing bioload, dosing, etc can shift equilibrium in favor of algae in
a previously balanced aquarium.  We also agree that we can return the
equilibrium of a previously balanced aquarium to its original state w/o the
help of algae eaters of any kind given enough time and once the plant
biomass is returned. Where we dissagree, is your conclusion that algae
eaters don't do much.

From my experience, once hair algae runs amuck in a large aquarium (yours
is 75 gal) you need more than 2 FFF or 6? algae shrimp to get it back under
control within a few days.  Personally, I would have recommended 3FFF for
every 20gallons if the hairalgae problem is run-amuck.  That's at least
11-12 in your case.  

No aquarist should ever feel free to ignore a dense, healthy plant load, in
reducing nutrients and controlling algae even in an establised aquarium
(not that the Lazarus was suggesting this).  The CURE for any algae problem
is as always; nutrient control.  Sure, you can pack an aquarium with every
concievable algae eater in significant numbers and you can control most of
the common algaes.  But then, without controlling nutrients you'll end up
selecting for algae varieties that NONE of them will eat.

Lazarus' aquarium was also previously balanced with a full compliment of
cycling bacteria.  Its easy to get an aquarium like that to return to
equilibrium w/o much algae eater help or significant nutrient reduction (as
long as the nutrient load was not actually increased to cause the problem).
 Just return the plants to their original density.  You need more help with
a newer aquarium IMHO, if you want to see speedier results.  A newer
aquarium w/o established plants and cycling bacteria can maintain a
persistent hair algae outbreak for several weeks and prevent all but the
fastest easy-to-grow plants from getting established.  If you've never had
to deal with this frustrating problem, count yourself lucky.  

This is where hair algae eaters become very helpful. With the right balance
of algae eaters, little external food, fast growing plants, bright light
you can break this problem in a week.