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Re: bleach treatment

Karen Randall wrote:

> In my experience, most algae need very specific conditions to thrive.  I
> have often collected badly algae infested plants from the wild.  While I
> always quarantine these plants for a number of reasons, I have _never_ had
> any of these "wild algae" infest even my quarantine tanks.  To the
> contrary, the algae dies off quite rapidly, and I am more concerned about
> over loading the biofilter.

These wild algae could be of many varieties and the ones which are most
stringent in their specific growing requirements will be the
cyanobacteria. These often require strong light and high nutrient
concentrations. Filamentous algae such as green thread algae like
Cladophora and Oedogonium are able to thrive under conditions which are
quite similar to those for macrophytes (our normal aquatic plants).
There are many species of green algae and so if you have tap water high
in copper, the chances of getting a species of algae which can colonize
a well maintained aquarium are small. You should be aware that when you
collect wild plants and live foods, that you are probably getting a few
hundred individual species (or more) with a sample. That 99 of these
species do not propagate and in some cases actually die will be of
little consolation if you introduce a virulent species of thread algae
which just happens to thrive under your specific conditions.

Karen has often mentioned her unique water conditions which are very
high in copper. I think she has said that there are many types of plants
that she just doesn't grow because they can't tolerate the copper. I
guess you could consider that copper in the water a mixed blessing. ;-)
> I have had similar experience with plants containing algae from other
> hobbyists.  Either I have conditions that will support a specific species
> of algae, or I don't.  If I don't, it will not take hold.  If I do, I
> probably already know that that type of algae is a problem for me.  I think
> the algae species which are a problem for us are those few that need
> conditions very close to those of the plant species we keep.

Olga wrote:
>Steve, it's true that tearing down a tank and thoughly sterilizing it etc.
>etc. (which is VERY drastic) will get rid of the algae to start with but I
>am of the opinion that that is a waste of time. It will be impossible to
>NEVER allow one drop of foreign water that just may contain an algae spore
>to get in your tank. What if you get a new fish? Are you going to bleach it
>to make sure that every drip of water on its body is algae free? And even
>bleaching plants to the point of death is not a guaranteed way to kill
>algae. I've had red algae on a rock recover after many minutes in bleach.

No, you can't bleach a fish. ;-) What I do is draw a bucket of aquarium
water and put the fish in there to acclimatize. Then I net it out and
put it into the main tank. I try to avoid adding water from other
aquariums to my tank by every precaution that I can. This is pretty
effective at preventing most kinds of algae from getting into the tank.
Paul Krombholz also puts his fish thorough a quarantine so that algae
within the digestive system and passed out as stool are not introduced
in his tanks. I don't have the capabilities to set up a quarantine
system. It seems worthwhile to use every method to avoid contamination
without becoming completely obsessive [completely obsessive]. ;-)

Paul Krombholz has mentioned that the red brush algae (a marine algae
isn't it?) is one of the most resistant to bleach treatment.
Fortunately, this algae will not thrive under conditions where
phosphates and iron are held to reasonable limits and where the pH is
held at 7 or lower. You cannot kill colonies of this algae by this
method so you must also resort to removing the affected leaves, scraping
aquarium walls, using SAEs and other hungry live bearing carps and/or
bleaching. If you have not done a thorough job of bleaching or if you
introduce infected plants or water and you allow conditions ideal for
the brush algae to thrive, it will re-appear. These sorts of outbreaks
seem to happen when one goes away for a vacation and something gets a
little out of balance (CO2 injection being the critical factor for brush

You are quite correct in saying that one cannot avoid introducing some
kinds of algae into the aquarium especially if you bring in plants which
you do not bleach at least for 1 minute or if you empty water from other
aquariums into your planted aquarium. Many kinds of algae can spread as
spores such as the cyanophyta and the unicellular green algaes.
Fortunately the filamentous algaes do not spread in this manner.

I also agree that tearing down an existing tank and bleaching everything
is a horrendous task. Expect to devote most of a weekend to this
activity if you're planning to set up a soil substrate. It's imperative
that you also have a second tank available to hold the fish and plants
while you are cleaning and preparing the first. If you have dozens of
algae free tanks already setup (I'm so jealous of those of you with
actual houses and basements and fishrooms) you can remove the plants,
net the fish into clean water in buckets, clean your net and then re-net
them into a clean holding tank. When I did my last major reconstruction,
plants and fish all went into a 20 gallon on the floor of my living room
so it was less than ideal. No plants went into this aquarium which did
not get at least a one minute bleach. The large, thick leaved plants got
a 3 minute bleach and the delicate ones got a 60 second quick dip. Both
Mayaca and Rotala macrandra were able to tolerate 60 seconds and
developed healthy new growth. I have not tried Elodea on the 60 second
dip and this tank now has so many species that it is crowded. Java moss
is a notorious place for thread algae to hide undetected. Paul tells me
it is also as tough as nails and I think he said it will survive a 5
minute bleach to kill Chladophora.

I'm not advocating people to use bleach as a partial treatment at all. I
do think it's worth taking precautions when setting up a new tank
ESPECIALLY when you're experimenting with various substrates. The bleach
treatment is only useful for preventing the introduction of filamentous
algaes. If you don't have a serious filament algae problem, I do not
recommend you tear down your aquarium. Even if you do have a problem,
you can always see if you can control it before you institute scorched
earth policy. Try controlling your iron concentration, your nitrates and
phosphates, the use of shrimps and other algae eating critters! Try the
PMDD approach to encourage plant growth. One of your best weapons
against brush algae is you; clean the stuff out. Remove everything with
bad growths. You can always use bleach on your rocks and ornaments. You
can also use vinegar or a de-chlorinator to remove traces of bleach on

If you introduce plants, fish and water from numerous sources you will
be getting a huge number of algae species in your tank. Most of those
are going to stay dormant even if you are able to suppress the growth of
those algae by controlling the factors which could cause them to
flourish. Possibly a good many will actually die out. Consider yourself
blessed if you don't have the nasty ones.

Here in Vancouver amoung our hobbyists we have a few species of fine
filamentous algaes which we often trade back and forth on our plant
cuttings. I'm not an expert but the long, slimey strands I've seen in
some tanks look like Spirogyra. If one of us has a microscope, I have a
book "Encyclopedia of Live Foods" which has some micro-photographs of it
and it is easily identifiable. I think this one only needs a 60 second
bleaching but probably can also be easily controlled by shrimps which
like to eat several kinds of soft filamentous algaes. I think it only
flourishes in high light conditions where there is an abundance of
chelated Fe in the water (say over 0.1 ppm or more) and enough
phosphates to give it rapid growth potential.

I also have some another type of filament algae which I got in an old
batch of Java Moss from Aquarium Services and which I have been most
careful to eliminate in my major tanks as I don't want to spread this
puppy to y'all. It's a nasty one. I think it might be Chladophora or
Oedogonium and I had some bits in my killie tanks but I've been
cleansing those tanks every time I find a colony of it. I suspect that a
lot of JM around town has it but I've never found any in Kerry's tank
and he has an abundant supply of JM.

I think some of the best reference material I have on algae species is
in TAG. The conventional plant books tend to classify things as "fur",
"thread", "brush", blue-green etc. Very unhelpful. Is there a good
reference book on algae? I'm too lazy to search the APD archives but I'm
pretty sure it's been mentioned in there (somewhere).

Steve in dark and stormy Vancouver