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Trying to understand what causes algae

Discussion in 'Algae' started by chiangstar, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. chiangstar

    chiangstar Aspiring Aquascaper

    Dec 5, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Hey all,

    I've been reading some articles about the topic as well as forum posts here and on other aquascaping forums. There is some really good information out there. I'm just hoping to get your thoughts and bump some ideas around about what is going on in my head about algae prevention etc.

    A lot of the information I was initially reading about algae and how to battle the different types of algae was that many types are caused by insufficient or fluctuating CO2 levels. This information alone lead me to bump up my CO2 to levels that you might consider on the higher side in an attempt to prevent an algae outbreak. I still started to get the beginnings of what I think was BBA and also green patches on my glass (possibly GDA - not sure). But as I read further, I came to realise that it should more appropriately be "insufficient CO2 for your given level of lighting and nutrients". Would this be a correct statement? If so, this would indicate that it is more about the balance between light, CO2 and ferts rather than any one particular factor. Going a step further, this would then reinforce what a lot of people say that if you concentrate on growing plants (providing the right balance of light, CO2 and nutrients for your given tank) then your plants will experience good growth and out-compete algae.

    I think part of the problem in this regard could potentially be that many people still use the WPG method of calculating 'sufficient' light intensity, which (if you subscribe to the idea that PAR levels are more appropriate) could potentially provide your tank with levels of PAR that you simply cannot provide CO2 to match - thereby potentially creating huge imbalance in your tank.

    The thing that confuses me is that I have another tank that houses fish and turtles. It gets roughly 7 hours of light (CFL) per day as well as well as sunlight, it gets some level of nutrients in the way of unused food and waste, has no CO2, and has a pH buffering substrate. It gets no algae at all and I don't take particularly good care of that tank. Surely there is an imbalance in that tank

    What are your thoughts?


  2. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 16, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Melbourne Australia
    Algae is a minefield there are many varieties caused by even more ?????

    Lighting I have mine on for 12 hrs simple T8 plant and daylight tubes.

    No Co2 its a low tech tank.

    I have a little algae the shrimps eat it as its a natural food for them.

    What makes it much harder to give advice on stopping it is finding the cause there are many reasons and combination of reasons.

    Finally no two tanks are exactly the same and that makes it harder again to locate the actual cause.

  3. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 4, 2010
    Likes Received:
    North Dakota, USA
    I think many of your points are good. Algae is opportunistic and will take advantage in a system with enough light when instability and opportunity presents itself. It can multiply rapidly when the situation allows for it. When the balance isn't struck essentially.

    Light is the throttle to the system, the more you have the more other things need to be in line. Low tech low light tanks strike the balance without much input from the owner. Higher light requires more manipulation of the other variables to maintain the balance, it also creates more opportunity for mistakes and instability.
    keithgh likes this.

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