ATM Takes On: Hair Algae

Posted By on Feb 21, 2014 | 3 comments


The mantra of ATM Aquarium Products is to bring quality tools to the consumer, the same tools used by pros in all levels of aquatics.  What many do not know is that the team at ATM Aquarium Products is a team of aquatic and environmental specialists, with decades of experience working in many natural aquatic habitats around the world in a variety of industries.  We often work with our own affiliates and operations around the world solve problems in practical ways.

"ATM Takes On" will feature some issues that are commonplace among aquatic enthusiasts and how we've gone about correcting them.

Meet our first problem tank:  "ED"

ATM-take-on-title

Tank Manager: Curtis Beardman, ReefTastic, Tarboro, NC
ATM Project Consultant:  Stacey Blood

Habitat:  Reef
Age: 7 years
Volume:  1,135 L (300 gal)
Live Rock: ≈ 136 kg (300 lbs)
Temperature:  26 C (78°F)
DKH:  8 (143.2 KH) To convert DKH to KH use a multiplier of 17.9
pH: 8.25
NH4: 0
NO2:  0
NO3:  0
PO4:  0.00
Calcium:  280
Salinity:  1.023

Issue:  Hair Algae Infestation
Impasse:  No NO3 or PO4 in water column

Our first tank is a 300 gallon reef tank we will call "Ed".  It has recently been inherited by Curtis Bearden's aquarium service company, ReefTastic in Tarboro, NC.  Needless to say, the tank came with its set of challenges.   Curtis and ATM's Stacey Blood discuss the project.

Curtis:  "This tank had a serious hair algae problem, as you can see.  I had been tasked with turning this tank around, but I wanted to take a different approach on this one.  The team at ATM tends to have some great ideas so while in a meeting with Stacey Blood about a different subject I brought this up."

Stacey:  "Curtis made my day with this one because I've been looking for a real raging fire to put out so I can document the case.  Since I am usually consulting remotely I rely heavily on expertise on-site and I knew Curtis would make it all go according to plan and catch the subtleties that emerge during the process."

Curtis:  "The real catch with this situation is that nitrate and phosphate were both zero.  My first instinct is always to reach for Agent Green and start plowing through phosphate, but with none in the water column it kind of took that weapon out of the arsenal for the time being."

Stacey:  "When I get the parameters of a problem tank I start looking through them to find my place to attack.   In this case, 280 calcium jumped out and I heard the angel choir."

Curtis:  "So that's where we hatched the plan.  Death by calcium.  I thought this would be fun because there is a lot of debate online about whether this method really works.  Stacey was very convincing in his argument for this route and I agreed its the best way so I said alright let's do it!"

Stacey:  "The key is to forget the algae is there.  This is always a nutrient removal exercise whether you pull it out of the water column or pull it from out of the algae.   Thinking of it this way will keep your eye on the ball.  With the algae currently enjoying a pleasant 280 value, it should bring the algae to its knees rather quickly jumping it up to 450.  We'll pull the nutrients out with it through the skimmer."

Curtis:  "Can it be as simply as cranking the heat up on the calcium and using the skimmer to pull all of this out?

Stacey:  "Guess we'll find out!  Now there's more to this than it seems, so the following is Curtis' log that details his logistical procedure and how it all went down.  Enjoy!"

step-by-step

Date 1/29/14
Turned back running time of LED lights from 12 hours to 8 hours a day.
Performed 30% water change

Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 8 dKH 8 (143.2 KH)
PH: 8.25
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: 0
Ca: 280
Mg: 990
Salinity: 1.023

 ATM-take-on-ha-1

Date 1/30/14 - 2/3/14
Begin raising the calcium level. (1/30-2/1)
Begin raising magnesium level. (1/30-2/1)
Raise carbonate alkalinity. (1/31-2/3)

Is it hair algae or a toupe?

ATM-take-on-ha-3

Date 2/4/14
Turned skimmer and UV sterilizer off and added ATM Colony*
Added calcium to continue raising levels.
Added magnesium to continue raising levels.

Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 9 dKH 8 (161.2 KH)
PH: 8.25
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: 0
Ca: 320
Mg: 1100
Salinity: 1.025

*Rotting things create ammonia so I added Colony to get a boost out of the bio-filtration. I could only leave the skimmer off for one day in this situation, so I got what I could attached out of that one day. Remember Colony requires 4 days of no UV / skimmer

ATM-take-on-ha-2

Date 2/5/14
Turned skimmer and UV sterilizer back on
Raise carbonate alkalinity
Added bag of activated carbon

Date 2/6/14
Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 9 dKH 8 (161.2 KH)
PH: 8.3
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: .08
Ca: 360
Mg: 1150
Salinity: 1.025

Begin ATM Agent Green dosages to prepare for PO4
Started to run the skimmer a little wet. Performed 20% water change.

 


Date 2/7/14
Turned lights off (blackout)*

2/10/14
Turned lights back on
Added calcium to raise level.
Added magnesium to raise level.

Date 2/10/14 - 2/11/14
Protein skimmer filling often, emptying
More PO4 coming in, adding ATM Agent Green
Raise carbonate alkalinity.

Parameters
Temp: 26.1°C (79°F)
KH: 11 dKH 8 (196.9 KH)
PH: 8.3
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: .02
Ca: 400
Mg: 1350
Salinity: 1.025

Even though this is a case study, I still have to get this turned around for my client quickly. Blackout will make the algae even weaker for when the calcium storm hits it.

Date 2/12/14 – 2/17/14
Added calcium to raise level.
Added more ATM Agent Green

Date 2/18/14
Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 8 dKH 8 (143.2 KH)
PH: 8.16
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: .016
Ca: 425
Mg: 1250
Salinity: 1.025

More PO4 in, added more Agent Green to beat it down
Added calcium to raise level.
Added magnesium to raise level.
Skimmer now workin' hard, needs regular emptying

ATM-take-on-skimmer-1

 

Date 2/19/14
Raise carbonate alkalinity

Date 2/20/14
Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 9 dKH 8 (161.1 KH)
PH: 8.22
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: .3
Ca: 450
Mg: 1300
Salinity: 1.025

Added Agent Green
Added calcium to maintain 450
Added magnesium to maintain 1300
Algae showing dramatic improvement

ATM-take-on-ha-6

Date 2/21/14
Parameters
Temp: 26°C (78°F)
KH: 9 dKH 8 (161.1 KH)
PH: 8.22
NH4: 0
NO2: 0
NO3: 0
PO4: .3
Ca: 450
Mg: 1300
Salinity: 1.025

Raise carbonate alkalinity
Hair algae has completely surrendered

ATM-take-on-ha-7

Hard to believe this is the same tank!

ATM-take-on-ha-8

Just in case you forgot...

Hipster Live Rock

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Tarboro, NC 27886
252-641-9033

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3 Comments

  1. That is very interesting, I have been battling cyno and hair algae in my “newer” 180. I think it is related to cycling because my params are good. I never thought calc and Alk had a relationship to algae. First thing on the agenda today is to check my Alk and Calc.

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  2. Wow! Great job stacey! You’ve always been so helpful when ever ive emailed a question and this hair algae removal attack was awesome. Keep up the great work! -joey

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  3. I never thought in a million years calcium and alkalinity would play a part in hair algae removal. I have been struggling with hair algae for a while now and it seemed to thin back whenever I did a water change, but came back full force a week later. I read the awesome write up you and Reeftastic did and I immediately checked all of my parameters. I found that I had very little phosphate .09, nitrate was 10, calcium 300, magnesium 1000, and alkalinity 8. I did just what Curtis from Reeftastic did and brought the calcium, magnesium and alkalinity up to where he brought his. I also purchased a bottle of Colony, and Agent green. I used the Colony at the beginning of the process as well to boost my bio filtration. It was strange how my phosphates started rising as I brought up my calcium, magnesium and alkalinity. Once I started to see the phosphates going up I started adding Agent Green. My skimmer went crazy!! It took about 3 weeks but my hair algae is gone and my tank looks great!! Thanks ATM and Reeftastic for the great information that actually worked!

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