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Re: [APD] Algae Horror

Stuart Halliday wrote, in part:

"Algae blooms when ammonia is present. Did any of your fish die, get 
Overfed or did the filter become blocked when you were away perhaps?"

That statement, as a blanket cause of algae blooms, may be sufficient but is
not in fact necessary for an algae outbreak.  To be an invariant
requirement, detectable ammonia by hobby kits must be both necessary and
sufficient, but it is not.  Algae blooms are far more likely to occur with
hobby kit detectable ammonia in the tank under live plant lighting levels,
but such blooms certainly may occur without ever seeing hobby-kit detectable

As hobbyists with limited access to field grade test kits or lab
instrumentation, we perhaps would be better able to judge cause and effect
in our tanks if we could learn to recognize that any upset in routine tank
care may be sufficient to promote plant growth slowdown or halt, and given
sufficient nutrient availability, some algae or another is quite likely to
appear or bloom.

Out test kits, even liquid based ones, are of limited range.  Quantities
below our kit's detection range are (to my mind improperly) reported as
"zero".  "Zero" in our kits does not mean that no ammonia/ammonium ion (or
other ion) is not present at all, only that it is below the levels that have
been shown to hazardous to fish - which defines the detection range of hobby
kits.  If you have and test with field grade kits with lower detection
ranges, you will find that ammonia is present, just below our standard hobby
kit detection range.  Our nitrification bacteria can and do operate quite
nicely without our ever seeing detectable ammonia, right?  Therefore it is
very difficult to say that ammonia in and of itself promotes algae at any
concentration.  In planted tanks, algae are an indication that things are
out of balance only, a sign of tank or nutrient imbalance.  A planted tank
which is not getting its usual care plus is being overfed and allowed to
concentrate all dissolved materials is definitely in line for some major

It may sound more than a bit pompous to say "no detectable ammonia by hobby
test kit."  That is however, the factual statement, where just saying "zero
ammonia" is at best misleading and in fact is false in any operating planted
and stocked tank.  It can keep us from drawing invalid conclusions at least
part of the time.


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