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PH Problems?

Okay, here's a fun question for the group.. I hope it's not too lame, and I apologize for the length.. 

One of my tanks is a 125 Gallon. It's been set up for over 6 years now. Has 3.5 inches of "fine" natural gravel, not quite sand. It gets "vacuumed" occassionally, but hasn't been changed in that 6 years.  It currently has an Eheim "ThermoFilter" cannister, a Fluval 404 (with 15watt UV Sterilizer), a Magnum 350 (attached to the bio-wheels) and an EboJager 150watt.. 

For a long time, I've had pretty good success with it, including plants. But starting about 6 months ago, I started battling SERIOUS algae problems. At first, it was brush algae. So I added 3.0 watts per gallon (2x96 and 2x50) of Compact Flourescent (love those guys at AH Supply!) and added a CarboPlus to pump up some CO2 in there along with very minimal additions of TMG and Fe cause I'm inspired by ya'lls plant tanks! (this, coincidentally, is roughly the same time I found this list, so I found lots of great advice! Thanks!). 

The brush algae and green spot algae went away, and my new problem became BGA (well, at least I THINK it's BGA. It PEARLS which is odd, but it's slimey and wipes off easily!). 

See the following URLs to see this insidious algae! Warning: large resolution files so you can see the details). Btw, the new Kodak DX3900 takes great digital pictures! 


So I took OUT the carbo plus and replaced with cannister CO2 and a CO2 injector. Pearling was immediate (and only on the algae! :( ).  I halted ALL nutrient additions (TMG, Fe, Discus Trace, etc.). 

My tests at this point (I test it every 2 days) indicated the following:

GH: 4
KH: 2
PH: 6.4 (it's remained there for ages due to distilled water changes)
NO3: 50 m/gl
PO4: 2.4 (yeah, HIGH!)
TEMP: 85f

So I added some PhosGuard (after a 30gallon distilled water change) and some Baking Soda to increase KH cause 2 is too low. My hope was that lowering phosphate would lower the BGA (if, indeed, it is bga). I ALSO removed 1/2 of the fish (my loaches and ghost knife got too big along with my two angels) and put them in another tank. So the overall LOAD should have decreased as well.

A few days after
GH: 4
KH: 3.5
PH: 7.2 (!!!!!)
NO3: 75 m/gl (increased?)
PO4: .5
TEMP: 85f

I don't understand these results. I've cranked up the CO2 to the point where I'm "nervous" and the algae pearls but the plants don't.. And the fish (All discus and some SAE's and Rams) seem okay too, but appear to breath quickly (which makes me crank down the CO2).. Removed the PhosGuard since my readings for PO4 are acceptable now. 

WHY did my PH go up? Does PhosGuard do that? I removed the PhosGuard right away!

To add insult to injury, yesterday my pH registered at 7.48 (OUCH!!) with both my pH meter AND chemical testing (well, 7.3 with chemical test). So I changed 50% of the water with RO (Arrowhead Distilled Water) immediately, trying to siphon out as much algae as I could...

TODAY, the pH is still stuck at 7.0-7.1 (scratches head)... 

So for some reason, a totally stable pH (stable for a  long time) is suddenly HIGHER without buffers present AND with injected CO2... Algae thrives and plants do NOT (cept for the cabomba and jungle val!). 

Now, HOPEFULLY someone will see something STUPID (I've been known to be just that.. Grin) that I'm doing (perhaps just making changes too fast??), but here's another clue..

Someone told me the other day (a planted tank guy) that after 3 years, you MUST re-do the tank because a deep gravel substrate will "break down" and cause problems like weak growing plants.. Could this possibly be the problem? Could such a condition ALSO put the pH outta whack? 

Also, IS that brightgreen filmy stuff BGA, or is it really algae of some other variety? (I know that BGA is bacteria rather than algae). 

I'm thinking of putting PEAT back into my Eheims and perhaps Discus Buffer like I used before, but I stopped using those a year ago so I could use more natural solutions to such things.. 

Thanks in advance for reading my diatribe..

Desperate to get my tank in order BEFORE my big plant order comes from AquaBotanic! <grin at Robert>,



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