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Re: Algae Challenge
Caleb Clapp is asking if there is a sure-fire way to avoid algae.
If there was, and I knew what it, I'd be a rich man. Your post indicates
that you are hoping to find the "holy grail" - a single, definative answer
that will be applicable in all circumstances and for all hobbyists.
Unfortunately, I don't think that one exists.
You are however, on the right track......you have taken the time to read as
much information as you can get your hands on and to learn as much as you
can about your new hobby. I wish more people would do that. One thing that
you have to realize is that there is as much "Art" involved in this hobby as
there is "Science". Starting and maintaining a planted aquarium is not so
much like following a recipe for cheesecake, its probably more like painting
a picture. If you understand the "Art" as well as the "Science" you might
produce a masterpiece, if you prefer the "paint-by-numbers" approach you
will end up with Elvis on Velvet.
In reading your post, I get the impression that you are bouncing from one
school of thought to the next, in search of the key. You aren't alone in
this, most of us do it or have done it to some extent during our learning
process. The research you are doing will stand you in good stead in the
There are many approaches to having a successful planted tank, one which
operates pretty much algae free (or at least, one in which the algae is at
least manageable). The Sears-Conlin paper outlines one approach, and it
works very well for some people. Steve Pushak, from Vancouver, has a
slightly different approach detailed on his web site, where PMDD is used in
conjunction with a soil based substrate. His approach is based on his own
research and also draws on work done by Paul Krombholz (soil soup). Having
tried Steve's methods myself, I can say that they worked for me. Some plants
did better than others and some "tweaking" of certain nutrients were
required along the way, but the basic premise was sound and resulted in good
plant growth with minimal nuisance algae.
The German firm Dupla outlined a different approach in their book "The
Optimum Aquarium". George and Karla Booth, along with thousands of hobbyists
from around the world have had good results from following Dupla's 10 Golden
Rules and using Dupla fertilizer products. Again, from personal experience
in using Dupla fertilizers, I can say that they are quality products and the
"approach" can work well.
More recently, Seachem has introduced a line of plant care products that I
have used with great success.
In all of this, and for every different "school of thought", the hobbyist
needs a few vital skills - patience, perseverance, observation.
A planted aquarium is a miniature ecosystem that takes time to develop and
one that changes over time. The hobbyist has to have the patience to wait
and the observational skills to watch and learn from what happens inside.
One of the best "aids" to keeping a successful planted aquarium is a
comfortable chair - learn to sit back and watch it. Watch how the plants
grow, day by day, week by week. Another very helpful "aid" is a notebook -
start keeping a log book, recording your observations, your test results,
your random thoughts. Over time, this can become very valuable. Perseverance
is also vital, for sometimes, in spite of all of your best efforts, some
problems can be devilishly difficult to track down to a single, identifiable
causative agent. It takes a certain amount of "stick-with-it-ness" to last
long in this or any other hobby involving living things.
I would advise you, at least at first, to pick ONE approach and stick with
it, for at least six months, better yet a full year. Learn how it works
inside and out, how to tweak it and adjust it to your own conditions (every
tank is unique, your water is going to be different from mine, etc.) and
learn what to expect from it. It can be a grave mistake for a newcomer to
attempt to forge a hybrid approach, trying to take what you perceive to be
the "best" bits from this "authority" and that "expert". You ultimate goal
is not to mimic someone else's success but to find your own path to YOUR
success. Its there, within you, you just have to take the time and give it a
chance to develop.
For a rank beginner (not a put down, just an observation) it is usually a
better idea (in my opinion, anyway) to pick a "tried and true" commercial
approach (i.e. fertilizer) than it is to start mucking about with raw
chemicals. You have enough to learn already without the added worry of how
many grains of this chemical are needed to produce a certain level of a
particular nutrient in your tank's water.
Having a healthy, beautiful planted aquarium is NOT a function of x parts of
product #$% and y parts of product &^*. It is about looking and listening to
the plants and animals, giving them what they need when they need it.
Whether or not you use a commercial product or one you mix up yourself is of
For example, given that your tank uses Flourite, you might wish to use
Seachem's Flourish and other products in your tank. Be careful of adding
Flourish Iron however, as you have laterite below the Flourite (how did you
get laterite into an already set up tank, did you use Duplarit K balls?) and
it should provide plently of iron. This isn't to say that the laterite will
hurt, it just wasn't really necessary. I also can't say that you won't need
to add extra iron (Flourish Iron), just that you have to be careful about
how much you add - you have to learn to watch the tank and learn when just
an extra drop might lead to an explosion of algae. Its a fine line and one
that everyone needs to find for themselves and that takes time and
Note that just because you have used Flourite gravel, you don't HAVE to use
other Seachem products to fertilize your tank. You could just as easily use
Dupla fertilizers or Aqualine Buske products, or any other line of
"complete, balanced" fertilizers designed for aquatic plants. The trick is
to pick one and stick with it for long enough to know how it works in YOUR
tank under YOUR conditions. How does a bit more affect things, how does a
bit less change what you see, etc. Observation and recording what you see.
I would caution you about the way you have handled your plants - they don't
like being uprooted and kept laying around every few weeks while you re-do
the aquarium. Every time you uproot plants you weaken them and weak plants
take time to recover. Patience is key here. If you can't afford to pack the
tank with expensive plants right from the start, you might want to see if
you can get some really fast growing stem plants (Hygro, for example) that
won't cost much and will grow quickly and give you material for cuttings -
you want a fairly large mass of plants in the tank right from the early
stages. As the tank matures, you can replace those fast growing plants with
more expensive, slower growing plants (like Crypts). No tank is ever static.
Also, keep your fish load on the low side for a few months, concentrating on
fish which will eat algae.