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> Tom,
> I think you answered the questions well,

Then I got lucky:)

> but I have a couple of ideas.
> If the present nitrate level is undectectible and there is a lot of algae,
> then it's because whatever nitrate is present in the water is being used up
> by the algae. 

Well I doubt it's truly absent. There's always a tiny little bit there.
Algae just doesn't take a large amount of NO3 to grow. But I think your
getting at that you need to add more than the little bit that's there to
help the plants, 1-2ppm won't help. Is that what you are saying? That kind
goes back to the rebuilding the tank up after a good water change to 5ppm or
so etc. I've kept my NO3 real low for some time. I experience some algae if
I knock it down to below detection, namely green water. But even that is
multifactorial. I have to do something else besides just that to induce it.
But with each parameter you mess up you have less leeway with algae.
So if everything is going well and you mess only one thing up, you often
will not too much trouble with it.

>  My cousin's 65 gallon tank had the same problem.  Lots of
> algae on the glass and on leaves, but nitrate was low.  This is a tank that
> has no CO2.  He bought a couple of gold nugget plecs and they've eaten all
> the algae.  

I like all pleco's and these are fav's.

> The plants are now growing well and as an indicator of better
> nutrient availability, the watersprite is also doing very well. It's not
> being starved from below.  Sometimes just getting rid of the algae in this
> way, allows the higher plants to take advantage of the available nutrients .

Well in a slow growing tank without CO2 things do not go the same speed.
Your comparing a bike to a car. It doesn't take much effort to push a bike
but a car does. Think of the effort as NO3. You just do not need nearly as
much NO3 for a non CO2 tank. But you can still get a great growth and all
without algae. It will not be as fast as my 20 gallon with CO2/110 watts of
powercompacts though.
These are two entirely different tanks and methods of growing plants.

> Unfortunately with only a 29 gallon tank, any serious rasping algae eating
> fish is going to outgrow the tank.  It's almost like you need to borrow
> someone's fish for a few days to do the work and then give the fish back.:)

Shrimps are good. Otto's and snails etc. Gold nuggets too.
> When the bioload is so low, why do 50 percent weekly water changes?

If you rebuild your tanks up after each big water change and before do a
good algae hacking/scrub down/fluff up any leftovers and detritus etc. Then
add fresh nutrients back you are resetting your tank for the plants each
time. Also 50% is nice since it makes adding the nutrients back a snap. I
mean how much does KNO3 and K2SO4 and KH2PO4 cost? Not much.

> I've
> got a 30 gallon tank with 55 watts compact fluorescent.  The tank is not in
> a basement so it gets plenty of light through a west facing window.  There
> are Beckford's pencilfish (numbers are growing slowly due to spawning) -
> over 12 of them, 6 pygmy corys, 1 oto, 1 neon tetra.  The plants are growing
> well but I only perform a 30 percent water change on this tank once every
> three weeks.  The tank gets topped up once a week due to evaporation and
> PMDD is added at that time, but basically the bioload is so small and the
> plant load so large that there isn't a problem with accumulation of DOAs or
> calcium.  Half of the surface is covered with Ludwigia repens which has sent
> roots down to the substrate.  Crypts, Echinodorus bleheri, Aponogetons, Java
> moss and Nymphea lotus are doing fine, albeit not growing at a tremendous
> rate. There's some salvinia on top as well mixed in with the Ludwigia.  The
> perfect low maintenance tank and the fish are happy, else why are they
> breeding?
> Yes, there is a bit of hair algae which I remove every few months in among
> the floating plants, but I view this as good because the fry have someplace
> to hide.

Sounds like a good tank to me and I wouldn't change anything.
Slower growth and slower algae build up. you also have lots of floaters that
block the algae light source and also have no CO2 problems!
> I think the algae infested tank written of is over-complicated.  At 110
> watts compact fluorescent, that's high light for a tank that is not chockful
> of stem plants.  Adding CO2 just makes the need for more plants.  If the
> lighting could be put on a timer such that even with let's say 12 hours of
> lighting, there is an intensity variation such that one light starts 3 hours
> before the other goes on, then both are on for 6 hours and then one only for
> the remaining 3 hours, the tank should be alright without CO2 and without
> adding tons of stem plants.

Try floaters.

> Using a liquid fertilizer should give the
> plants a boost but the lower light levels should also prevent the algae from
> consuming all the nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) coming from the fish.

the lower lighted tanks gives you more options as far as the nutrient
additions. Not the macro's but the traces. Macro's care easily supplied via
fish food. These lower lighted tanks are the only way many folks grew plants
in the past. You can add the nutrients in the gravel entirely and just
supply the N and P etc from the Fish food. Works for me. Diana Walstad has a
book on it and it works with soil, flourite and sand plus laterite, SeaChem
plant tabs etc. 
> Just thoughts.....
> Gabriella Kadar
> Toronto

Many folks have great difficulty jumping from say a 2 watt a gallon tank to
a 4-5 watt a gallon tank(I sure did!). There are reasons for it though.
Tom Barr