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Wicked algae bloom suspended in water column...

12169 Views 22 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  uurt
Hi all,

Came up against a new problem last night. Got a call from a lady, new tank, bought at small a local full-line pet store - not a big chain, just a mom and pop place nearby (read: blind leading blind...) and they called me to FIX it... this happens quite a bit, but usually I can trouble shoot over the phone...... not this time....

55 g AGA with an Emperor 400, NO lights, tap water (!!!!), about 15 lbs LR (Fiji?) and a couple of (rotting) tree sponge and ball sponge.

They have lost a spendy assortment of fish, including a butterfly and a naso tang (which I plucked out of the water last night)... customer put their trust in someone who either doesn't know what they are doing, or doesn't care - this family runs a home for abused women and their children, and I'm struggling with what was more despicable - ripping off a charity by getting them to flush a lot of money, or just the ignorance of sending otherwise healthy fish to their deaths -- I'm struggling with this one..... but I digress (ahhhh feel better having vented a bit...)

Anyway, right now the water is GREEN. So green you cannot see from the front to the middle of the tank, let alone the back. Almost a milky green, but definitely green. Microalgae suspended in the water column, but not bad on the rock or substrate. Tank has been up since July 7, they've lost about 8 fish, there are currently two fish, a sailfin molly and a spotted cardinal (those cardinals are totally bulletproof). I got there last night, did a water test:

SG 1.023
pH 8.1
Alk 5.5
Ammonia - I forget the concentration but it's present - mute point
Nitrite 1
Nitrate 5
Phosphate 3+

They had added some ammo detox at the advice of the "other" store - they were also advised to feed the fishes 3 times per day! :eek:

During my assessment, I noticed they had not changed filter cartridges, so I popped back to my place and got replacement cartridges, and I have a canister filter that pushes 400 gph, I packed it with Polyfilter, carbon, purigen and phosphate sponge and brought it over to let it run. I haven't called them yet to see of there is any improvement this morning, but I'd appreciate any feedback from anyone who has experienced a bloom like this before, and what you did to get rid of it?

My thinking is that the nutrient rich water from going through a rough cycle is what's feeding the algae - that and the high phoshpate tap water that we all suffer here, just served to "enhance" the bloom. If running the canister strips out some of the organics, and even some of the larger particulate, perhaps we can flush some of it out of the system and stop the food source.

Has anybody else experienced this, and if so, how did you manage it? I've really never seen anything quite like this......


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WOW Jenn that is a different issue! I think you are on the right track with what you are doing!

Cutting back on the food intake, more water flow and running some carbon should help a great deal!

If it doesn't work I would almost suggest starting from scratch again and setting it up properly this time!

Have they added any other chemicals to the tank? :)

Phyto type algae will grow faster than hair types. When you get a sudden nutrient spike like that, suspended algae will take over. They will lock up nutrients and make them unavailable to test for. One good export is a honker of a skimmer running wet, something like a becket overdriven will pull the suspended algae out in a hurry. That's a pretty good export too.

Good luck, I told you the other day, you have the patience of a saint.
Hardly a saint -- but I do have the patience for "retail" :funny:

I suggested a skimmer too. The water had "foam" on it.... unfortunately I don't have a portable BA2000 skimmer ([email protected]$$ 2000 LOL!) Perhaps I need one......

I'm ready to explode over at that other place - I had 2 calls like that yesterday, one wasn't that far gone yet.... the new "aquatics manager" over there, an older gent, and nice enough, came "fishing" at my place a couple of months ago.... I'm in a conundrum about what to do about that (there's that word again, Jerel!!!), either to call them and discreetly ask them what the h-e-double hockey sticks they are doing, or tell them what I really think... people trust in them and they clearly are in left field.. but that is another issue....

They will be coming in today to get some topoff water, and I may have them vacuum the substrate - normally I don't advise water changes til the tank is cycled, but there is so much crud on the floor from 3 x daily feedings :rolleyes:

Interesting though that the algae will bind up the nutrients - so the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate values might really be much higher, but the algae has it all hung up? Eeeeenterestink...... (insert Arte Johnston voice there) Is it logical then, to assume (***/u/me) that if the algae suddenly crashed, there would be a huge ungodly chemistry spike?

Sheeze I should take all that narsty water and throw in some rotifers.....they would crash it in a hurry :D

That's why I love you guys - when I come up with something weird and wacky, somebody else has been there, done that.

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That's for sure! LOL

X nutrients will support X phyto. If phyto crashes, phyto releases X nutrients back into water.
I thought I heard something ticking....

So in your opinion, Jerel, will the canister help remove some of that before it 'splodes?

I did mention a skimmer to them - I think they are interested in getting one - that will definitely help.

Perhaps the phyto was a blessing in disguise then.

A big water change with a thorough cleaning is the way in a case like this to start with; the other issues like the tank cycle & green water are much easier to deal with after that. :)
At one time, way back, in a galaxy far a way......

Oop's, got side tracked. Something similar happened to me once, about twentymany yers ago. I had a diatomaceous (sp?) filter that "sucked that green right outta my tank" (think South Pacific, "Bali Hai" {showing that age thing again}). course, that tank had 2" cc with a ug no l/r (back THEN?????) and 'Dahg', my 14"volitans.

Hope it works out for ya Jenn

They came in. They are going to do a 12 g water change (I gave them lessons in vacuuming 101) and suck out all that uneaten food and crap in the bottom of the tank, they got a HOB skimmer, that should help too. I'm going back Thursday to check on things, and if the water is reasonably clean and chemically stable, we're going to put 25 more lbs. of LR in there.

We'll get them sorted out :D

Well Jenn another job well done!! Hopefully things will stabilize!:)
i do not want to scare you or anything, but i hope the water change will not change the chemistry in the tank enough to cause the microalgae to crash. it sounds like (lucky for them) that most of the toxics are bound up by the microalgae. i would think that doing the major skimming like Spanky suggested first would export these toxins before they could be released by a microalgae crash. i totally agree that a major WC would be in order. i am just concerned about the order.

i am glad that they got a hold of you, so they can be shown the "correct" way to maintain an aquarium.

Spanky-is my thinking way off here.

Well all that is in there now besides some sorry looking Fiji rock and a couple of sponges that had no business being in a 3-week-old tank in the first place, is a sailfin molly and a spotted cardinal. Everything else is gone :(

I'm going over there later this week to check up on things. They are eager to learn - willing to be patient but they are already asking me when they can get more fish :rolleyes: Unfortunately they have learned the hard way that nothing good happens fast - I'm still shaking my head at how they came to be in that predicament in the first place - I told them to second guess me... first thing I sold them today was Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist - asked them to read it and understand the differences between FO, FOWLR and reef - right now they are equipped for FOWLR - they want reef, but I said, "baby steps..."

I'll post an update when I go back - might be a good one for the archive (hint, Doug ;) )

great job on the book!!! i wish more people in your field would start out with that suggestion.

It sounds pretty much like I thought they might have to do and that is basically start over! Bummer on lost of life!:(
I have some books they could borrow if money is an issue. Better to borrow books and buy equipment right?
P.S. Jenn your PM box is full.
There was a thread started earlier this year (about mid-June) by schmitty entitled green. I don't recall if a solution was ever found, but there were pics posted there. . . (sorry, I'm being a techno-peasant and can't figure out how to link to a previous thread :rolleyes: )

Might be worth checkin gout anyway. . . well, off to correct my own algea issues. :funny:
Here's an update - albeit a bit late :)

Went there on Thursday - 6 days after the first visit. Water was nearly clear. Did a 6 g water change, repacked the canister. The skimmer cup is being emptied twice daily. I also added 25 lbs of Marshall rock (cured ~4 weeks). Tested the water again yesterday (Saturday, 8 days after initial posting here), and the chemistry is holding steady - still just a hint of nitrite, no ammonia anymore, phosphates still a concern but at least readable on the chart *g*. They got another 20 lbs of rock, so with the Fiji they already had they've probably got about 60 lbs of rock total - hey this is starting to look like a reef tank! :funny: The red tree sponge finally had died back enough that they turfed it - :rolleyes: the yellow ball sponge is OK, and they have a few snails, an urchin and a large cowrie that I couldn't see before (!!!) I told them that the cowrie will eat all their coralline - but they want to keep it for now. I suspect they eat coral too - but I haven't kept one since the late 80s so I wasn't keeping corals then, but we got rid of the cowrie when we watched it eat a swath through our coralline. I'm sure the urchin will have his share too, but he's little (for now).

The sailfin molly and the spotted cardinal have come through it all like champs.

The water is nearly completely clear. We'll leave the canister for a few more days, then let the tank settle for a few more weeks, and then we'll talk about fish...

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Jenn looks like things are definately on the up swing! Great job!!:)
Hopefully they've now had time to read Fenner's CMA and have a better idea of what fish they can put in a 55. Nasos are beautiful but definitely not on this tanks stocking list.
Sounds like you got it on track, hit them (gently) with the book till basics sink in .
BTW this thread is going to the archives so you have just a limited time to update :)
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