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Thread: Diatoms

  1. #1
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    Diatoms

    We've all experienced them at some point or the other and if we haven't yet, un-fortunately at some point in time we probably will. Knowing and understanding diatoms beforehand, will make you better prepared and equipped to deal with them than you going through a state of panic at the first signs of them popping up in your tank and not knowing what they are!





    Photo uploaded from and property of Scubs' Adventure


    Diatoms

    One of the first types of nuicance algae's to make it's way into our aquariums are diatoms...Otherwise known as "Brown Algae" or "Golden Brown Algae". It is easily distinguished by its appearance being brownish in color (as its name suggests) and is usually seen on the top layer of your substrate (almost like a film), over your tank walls and even all over your rocks. In essense, they will pretty much cover any surface. An outbreak of diatoms usually occurs when conditions are ideal for it's growth. An example would be right after you have completed your initial cycle after setting up a new tank where there are tons of nutrients available in the water for them to feed on. Silicates in the water are their primary food source as well as they can't resist nitrates and phosphates as well. Lighting is also another important element needed for their growth.



    How to Deal with/Control Diatoms


    Understanding that silicates, phosphates, nitrates and lighting all play a major role in the growth of diatoms, you will need to consider a few things to help eliminate, control, or better yet, avoid them as much as possible.

    - Lighting is one thing that could be minimized a bit during an outbreak of diatoms. If there is no light, then one of it's requirements needed for its growth will be cut off from it. You can either cut down your photoperiod to a few less hours a day during this time or if you can, you can even go a few days without lights at all (granted nothing else in your tank will be effected by this). Also, your bulbs themselves can add to the problem and this goes for pretty much any algae for that matter. Certain color spectrums (usually in the lower kelvin range like 6700 and under I'd say) will be more targeted towards "plant" growth which is the reason why lights in this range are usually used in freshwater planted tanks. Also, aged bulbs will shift in their color spectrum a bit so stay on top of changing them when required to do so.

    - Use ONLY RO/DI water unless your tap water has been tested and was found suitable for aquarium use. Alot of the time, tap water contains a lot of silicates, nitrates and phosphates in it that will only fuel the algae to grow. Some will recommend doing multiple frequent water changes in an attempt to flush out the "nasty water" but continuing to use nothing but tap water loaded with silicates, nitrates or phosphates will not solve anything. All you are doing is adding more fuel for the diatoms to feed on. So with that said, RO/DI water is what is needed here.

    - Increased water flow can help as well. Areas where flow is lacking are areas where waste/detritus can settle. What this does if not removed is the waste, un-eaten fish food etc will rott which in turn shoots up nitrate and phosphate levels. Once again we are providing a food source for diatoms. By preventing any dead spots in your tank, it will lift all of the waste into suspension into the water column where it can be "filtered" out of the aquarium. In addition to that, increased water flow (especially at the tank's surface) increases gas exchange which means less carbon dioxide available for the diatoms to use for growth as all plants and algae use carbon dioxide as well.

    - Be careful of your choice of substrate as some substrates have been found to contain silicates in it as well.

    - Salt mixes and food are also contributors to adding phosphates into the water so you'd want to choose them carefully as well. In addition to that, avoid over feeding your tank. Un-eaten fish food that is not removed from the tank will only fuel your diatom problem. Some good reading on phosphates can be found here http://www.reeffrontiers.com/forums/...02/#post611239

    -Manually removing diatoms with the aid of a scrapper, vacuum, siphoning tube etc is also an option. Keep in mind though that chances are if it's food source is still available in the tank, it will just continue to grow back, but I guess it would be nice to export some of the bound up nutrients the diatoms used for it's growth out of your system by manually removing the diatoms. Sometimes even just leaving the diatoms alone and just letting them run its course and work for you in a sense is also an option. Just let the diatoms grow on it's own and use up all of the available nutrients in the water until they are all gone at which point it will begin to die off. Some people actually harvest macroalgaes for this same purpose.

    - Some people employ the use of critters to help consume diatoms like snails for example, but this is only a temporary fix and quite honestly, not sure how much benefit it offers as these snails etc that consume the diatoms poop as well so they are just adding nutrients back into the water so I guess it is a personal judgement call. Sometimes people look at it as "Out of sight out of mind" but personally I rather get to the root of the problem and not use critters to "mask the problem" for lack of a better term.

    - Practice good tank maintenance/husbandry. This includes regularily cleaning filter floss, cartridges, sponges, filter socks etc every few days (or change them) in an attempt to remove any trapped waste that if allowed to sit and rott, will in turn result in increased nitrate and phosphate levels. Vacuum your substrate (or care for it according to it's type - ie ssb, dsb etc) regularily to remove any waste that may be trapped in it. Perform regular weekly water changes using RO/DI water and be sure that if you are using anything like carbon, that that is also changed on schedule.

    - A protein skimmer is also a bonus to have running on your system as it's primary function is to remove DOC's from the water column which fuel algae to grow. If you don't have a skimmer as yet, I personally would recommend one. Not totally necessary as people run successful tanks without them, but any little thing that can help make life easier for you and improve water quality is a good route to go in my books.
    Last edited by Krish; 02-24-2011 at 08:24 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Summing it up



    Whether it be diatoms you are experiencing, hair algae, cynobacteria, dinoflagellates or any other type of nuicance algae, most of them require the same basic things in order to survive which are DOC's (dissolved organic compounds), nitrates, phosphates, lighting and in some cases silicates (as seen with diatoms). Take these things away from them, and they cannot live. In cases like cynobacteria (or red slime algae) for example, certain medications or additives can be added to the tank to kill it off, but in my personal opinion, I think it is always better to get to the root of the problem and deal with it there than to rely on medications to give you just a temporary fix. You use the medication and the problem goes away for a bit and then a few weeks later, the problem is back because you didn't deal with the source of the problem beforehand. Same thing goes for the use of algae eating fish like tangs in the case of hair algae or the use of critters (tank janitors including hermet crabs, snails etc) which too are only just temporary fixes hiding your underlying problem. Even then, they may even contribute more to the problem than help as they too add to your tank's bioload and waste production so keep these things in mind. You need to find the root of your problem which can be assesed by taking a look at your make-up water's contents, salt mixes, tank maintenance schedule and how they are performed, the foods you are feeding your tank (and how much of it is added to the tank and going un-eaten) and even by your bioload. Too much of a bioload for your tank to support will only yield negative results. Test kits IMO are ok, but I tend not to rely on them too much where phosphate and nitrate levels are concerned. The reason why is because the fact that you may read un-detectable levels of nitrates and/or phosphates in your tank doesn't mean they aren't present. It could very well just mean it is all bound up in the algae that is using it for it's growth so you have to be careful there.

    All in all, algae is all a part of the hobby (especially when first starting out), but can still pop up from time to time on matured aquariums that have been set up for some time. We must all go through these un-desireable stages as our tank tries to mature and find it's balance. As much as we might hate to admit it, algae is a natural thing. Without some of the algae in our oceans, alot of the creatures and marine life that live there would just die-off. In our aquariums though, we tend to consider algae a nuicance in most cases and so when first signs of them appear, it is best to attack the problem immediately and see if we can find the cause of the "problem" and try and correct it. We can use the appearance of algae as signs that lets us know that something may not be right in our aquariums or that something has shifted out of balance. In some cases though, it is better to just let things run it's course especially where a new tank is concerned. Regardless of all of the above mentioned, keeping an aquarium IMO, is all about finding that perfect balance and maintaining it there which if attained, it will provide you with years of enjoyment in the hobby.
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    This will be up as a temporary article in a bit on the homepage. Just a bit of personal info I put together on diatoms. Feel free to comment or discuss anything related here.
    Last edited by Krish; 02-24-2011 at 04:20 PM.
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    Hmm - good info. I was advised to add the CUC when the first diatom bloom appeared - which is just now for my tank.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gort View Post
    Hmm - good info. I was advised to add the CUC when the first diatom bloom appeared - which is just now for my tank.
    CUC's are good in a way, but as I suggested on your other thread, you will have to take into account that although a clean up crew will eat some of the diatoms, they will poop as well adding waste back into the tanks so sometimes it doesn't really solve anything. Hard to say. I think it could possibly mask the problem a bit for you though as the clean-up crew may eat what is there leaving possibly no visible signs of any diatoms and continue to consume it as it grows back until things balance out and it stops growing which after this time, you may find that some of your CUC may start to die-off a bit depending on the available food source left there. Just a thought.


    If anyone has any pictures of their tanks when they went through a diatom outbreak, post them up. It will be a good source of reference for people to look back on and say, "Hey! That's exactly what I have in my tank!"
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    Finding the source is definitely key. Initially I had a huge diatom breakout, right after my tank cycled,probably because I filled the tank with the hose outside when I set it up (didn't know about this forum then). Up until recently I would get just a little build up, at the end of the day after the lights had been on for 8 or so hours; which would usually disappear in the morning, only to return that evening. Both nitrates and phosphates were very low/undetectable. After reading mojo's article on PO4 (http://www.reeffrontiers.com/content...ed-p-word.html). I tested my food source and found the main culprit. Since rinsing my foods the diatom has all but disappeared completely, although the nitrate and PO4 have stayed the same.
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    I was in the same boat when I first got into the hobby. Tap water tested off the ying yang in nitrates and who knows what phosphates . Silicates seem to be a major source of fuel for diatoms. I think this is why when all of the silicates are gone out of the water (or for the most part) and you still have nitrates and phosphates other algae's will grow rather than diatoms (just my assumption though).
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    I am still learning how Iodine promotes growth of algae to compete with diatoms. RHF explains a little about it in his outline water parameters. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance, Ed
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    Sounds interesting Ed...I've actually never heard anything related to that before. Hopefully we can get someone more experienced to chime in for us.


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    Another nice write up, Thanks krish. After my tank crashed here came the Diatom in a BIG WAY. I had over reacted when the tank was crashing and the enviroment was RICH with food for growth, plus I added 45lb of LR (fully cured) to the tank right after the crash (adding flames to the future fire). Diatom was all over everything, so i read up on it fed my fish very little once a day, turned my tank lights off for 3days and had my skimmer on full bore. On the fourth day I turned my lights on for 2hrs ONLY for a week then 4hrs the next week and so on. The Diatom started to die off my reading spiked a little and i just did water changes to ensure a fresh source was entering the tank (ro/di ONLY and Salt tested). Now I'm Diatom free (for now, who knows right).

    I agree IMHO that finding the source of the issue can result in a Faster, Correct, and truly a Long Term better results than adding Chem, Cleaner into the issue. That IMHO.

    Dtech07

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    Quote Originally Posted by DTECH07 View Post
    Another nice write up, Thanks krish....
    Dtech07
    No problem man!! Hopefully I'll get some time to an article on something else unless one of the other mods want to take a stab at it.
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    Hiya Ed!! Most algaes absorb and use Iodine and make it part of their matrix. The concept is that with some algaes iodine is actually required in order for the algae to grow, in other cases it aides with the growth rate. So what you would be trying to do is the hyper grwo the algae so that it uses up the resources quicker then the diatoms can.

    So a concept, but you also have to look at some of the draw backs. One you must test alot in order to make sure you do not does to much and reach a level that is undisarble. The second is that the algaes that use the iodine also convert that iodines into different forms and then release it back into the water. The second thing kind of worries me as we will never have the dulution that you get in open water, so seems like to much of a drawback for me anyway to do some good.

    hope it helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by mojoreef View Post
    Hiya Ed!! Most algaes absorb and use Iodine and make it part of their matrix. The concept is that with some algaes iodine is actually required in order for the algae to grow, in other cases it aides with the growth rate. So what you would be trying to do is the hyper grwo the algae so that it uses up the resources quicker then the diatoms can.

    So a concept, but you also have to look at some of the draw backs. One you must test alot in order to make sure you do not does to much and reach a level that is undisarble. The second is that the algaes that use the iodine also convert that iodines into different forms and then release it back into the water. The second thing kind of worries me as we will never have the dulution that you get in open water, so seems like to much of a drawback for me anyway to do some good.

    hope it helps

    Mojo

    Thanks for chiming in Mike. Almost sounds like iodine is a sort of "steroid" for algae in some cases LOL! I actually never knew or imagined that some algae's use iodine till Ed's post. Pretty interesting. This raises another question then...Someone dosing their tank with iodine for other reasons and experiencing an algae bloom, could that be a sign that they are over-dosing?
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    I'd imagine all life uses or needs lots of elements that we don't fully understand how or why.

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    Very Well put Mike, Thank you. (smile).

    I was going to try find article from Anthony C. I got side tracked. Explained very well. (thumbs up!)
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