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Re: Black brush algae (RE: Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #560)

Date: Tue, 6 Oct 1998 22:16:47 +0200
From: "Wim Hanssens" <Wim.Hanssens at village_uunet.be>
Subject: Re: Black brush algae

>My point exactly. However, I had no trouble getting rid of any other type of
algae. Only this BBA drives me nuts.

	Having initially encounted BBA about 6 yrs ago with a well established 75 gal tank, that was very densly populated with plants, driftwood, and gravel, with a modest population of tetra schools with several large Austrailian Rainbows as centerpeice fish.  This system runs lighting on timers, has W/D filter system, as well as E-Heim canister for mechanical filtering system combined tank water turnover was 3.75 times per hour, temp was a constant 78 deg (F).
	30 gal waterchanges were done monthly using collected rainwater, both Tetra Tabs for the graval fertilization and Tetra Flornina were used as directed.  Plants and fish florished, with the exception of PH (7.7 avg reading) this was a model system. The tank was a showcase for about 3 yrs from its setup, plants grew out of the top of the tank and I dare say that I gave away at least 15 buckets of plants to others from it.  Then one fine day the BBA arrived, the source of that arrival has never determined.  The BBA took over very slowly and was first noticed on the driftwood, it eventually found no surface in the tank that it would not adhere too.  Driftwood, spillway, rocks, graval and then plants in that order slowly were covered.
	At first I would remove it with a fingernail and actually pick out the graval that it would adhere too, many additional SAE 's were added, Plattys were added, flagfish as well none seemed interested in this BBA, no matter how hungry they got.  It eventually overcame the entire tank taking almost 2 yrs to kill all the plants, and pretty much seemed unkillable.  Even with weekly cleanings, taking hours to remove by hand the BBA, the only option left was a full nuking of the tank and all accessories.  Not one to go quietly into the that night, many many tests were done before hand most in bell jars using up everyones ideas.  The more I looked and asked the less I found out about this BBA as I had never encounted algae that was like this, and have many years of experience in the freshwater hobby.
	Observation of this algae was done for months, but a few things were quite evident.  It took about 3-4 weeks to attain full size from a small speck, it shed small furry type spores that would drift with the water, and wherever it landed would take hold and the cycle would begin again.
	A full tear down was done, over a two week period of time, driftwood, rocks and all internal tank components were submerged and soaked in 20% Clorox / 80% water solution, changed every other day.  All filtering elements, hoses were discarded, along with all graval and rocks.  Filter, hoses, valves, sump, bioballs and all hose fittings were treated with the 100% Clorox solution.  Several tests were made before hand and found that BBA turned fully white within 24 hrs with this bleach level solution, and when reinserted into the tank, would not grow again.
	As the driftwood was rather special looking it was some kinda of cyprus bogwood roots these were given additional treatments of 100% clorox, and wirebrushed to remove the top layer of wood as that was the only way the spores could be removed.   Needless to say, all kinds of rinsing and 4 days of drying in sunlight to rid it of any bleach traces, this was done for all wet components in the system, as well as all nets, cleaning pads, and brushes.
	Tank was reset up, new graval, hoses, filter elements added and cycled with some goldfish and that removed after the first week.  At the end of the week about 35 medium plants were added to the tank, and a few days later the former finned occupants were also added.  (Original tank fish were maintained in original tank water and then moved into a temp hospital tank, during the nuking process,  that never had any trace of BBA, and still doesn't)
	Observation was pretty constant, no sign of BBA anywhere was noticed.  At the 22nd day of the new set up, the lights came on one morning and lo and behold, my two prized and expensive cyprus driftwood centerpeices had full blooms of young BBA all over them, all very tiny but obviously BBA youngsters within minutes they were removed from the tank.  To this day they have never been returned to tank water.
	It was an exasperating experience with many drastic measures taken (ie. UV water treatment for 3 weeks, Diatom filtering for days on end, assorted anti-algae treatments) lotsa advice was received but not much seemed to apply or work.  From some of these rather radical tests did find out some interesting things about this BBA:
It has shown to survive a temperature range to 40 deg (F) to about 125 deg (F) as long as it has light.
Removal of light does not kill it it just suspends/retards its growth.
If a pile of it is removed it emits a real foul and pugnet smell immediately.
If you were to squish it between your fingers it seems to feel oily in texture.
Old Gravel with BBA on it that was used as a covering on several outdoor window box planters, retarded or limited the growth of the assorted outdoor pansys that were normally planted in them.
Old gravel that has wintered outdoors on the ground, put into a contanier with aquarium water and left in the sunshine, will exhibit new BBA growth within 4 - 6 weeks.
Tests at a LFS of every algaecide that they had, showed at best only a mild retarding of growth.
Water PH quality does not seem to affect its growth or propagation.

	The amount of information on BBA is quite limited, as I am not an experienced biologist, but I can tell you this is some hardy stuff now.  I did try searching the web, and was astonished at how many different kinds of algae that there is, and how little info showing a picture of the actual algae exists.  The possiblility does exsit that I might have found it searching the web, but didn't realize it.
	My primary concern has been how did it get into the system in the first place.   That answer has never been found, according to my logs, no plants or fish were added for 6 - 7 months prior to the outbreak.  But since then all new fish, plants and components like rocks or wood get to spend a least a month in the temporary aquarium prior to transfer into the main system.
	The only common elements with the tank was the use of Florina plant tabs (still in use) and Florina liquid (no longer used) and the driftwood, evidently the driftwood could not be cleansed of the original BBA infestation.  As I and a friend pretty much bought the entire shipment from our LPS of this driftwood, and his is still in use with no BBA this sorta rules it out as the source.  We no longer feed frozen anything to the tank, and have used assorted aquarian dry food products as primary feed for the fish.  As I tend to keep general logs of the aquarium, including testing, cleaning and inhabitants additions, the driftwood was fine for 15 months before the BBA showed up.
	Sorri for the length of this, but should anyone have any additional information on this subject, I for one would be glad to see it posted.  When I first had this problem, I saw little written on BBA on this group, it seems to be more frequent as I now have been reading it for a couple of years.  Possibly someone can add some educational wise information (please keep in mind were hobbiest of aquariums) or some dectective skills to the origin of this stuff, and maybe even some thing that can really eradicate it.
George McDonald
<georgem at NOSPAM_socketis.net>
(Delete NOSPAM. for correct email address)

 " My goal in life...is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! " 


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