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Lets Talk about ~Algae~

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Scooterman

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Algae!:eek:

We all have it!
Lets talk in detail how to control it, good vs. bad algae!
Ok I'll start with the good.

Coralline algae, why do we want it so Bad?
Here is a few good links to read up on as to why we need this purple/red stuff!

The Good!
Coralline algae are important carbonate producers in present-day and fossil environments and are supposed to be valuable facies indicators.
However, corallines are a highly complicated group. The identification of fossil coralline algae bears several problems and the intraspecific variability is very high. Their distribution is very wide spread: Corallines occur from the tropics to polar regions, and from the intertidal down to more than 200 m water depth.



http://www.garf.org/coralline.html

http://www.paleoweb.net/algae/

http://www.garf.org/NORM/coralline/corallinenorm.html

http://www.simplifiedreefkeeping.com/reef_archive/floridaliverockb.html

http://www.cyberlearn.com/ridge.htm#startRidge



The Bad

Hair algae

This occurs as long greenish or grey strands. Some algae eating fish may consume it. It can be removed manually by winding around a toothbrush.

"Brown algae" (diatoms)

This is often the first algae to appear in a newly set-up tank, where conditions have yet to stabilise. It will often appear around the 2-12 week period, and may disappear as quickly as it arrived when the conditions stabilise after a couple of months. It is essential to minimise nutrient levels to ensure the algae disappears - avoid overfeeding and carry out the appropriate water changes, gravel and filter cleaning, etc. Limiting the light will not deter this algae, as it can grow at low lighting levels and will normally out-compete green algae under these conditions.

What are cyanobacteria?

Cyanobacteria is the scientific name for blue-green algae, or "pond scum." The first recognized species were blue-green in colour, which is how the algae got their name. Species identified since range in colour from olive-green to red. Cyanobacteria form in shallow, warm, slow-moving or still water. They are made up of cells, which can house poisons called cyanobacterial toxins. A mass of cyanobacteria in a body of water is called a bloom. When this mass rises to the surface of the water, it is known as surface scum or a surface water bloom. Although we don't know the extent to which cyanobacterial blooms occur across Canada, we do know they mostly appear in the hot summer months and are quite prevalent in the prairies.





http://www.thetropicaltank.co.uk/algae.htm

http://www.aquaticscape.com/articles/algae.htm

http://www.botany.uwc.ac.za/algae/
 

Witfull

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oh,,,on the home page i saw "lets talk about Scooterman"...and i click on it only to find out its a thread about algae...pffft...wheres the fun in that..:D

ok, heres another one that is both good and bad - caulerpa - its pretty, eats Phos and nitrates and a host of DOC's...also invasive, fast growing and very hard to get rid of.

here is one of the most infamous, C. taxifolia.
http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov/hcd/CAULERPA.htm
 

reedman

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When contained (in a fuge or a species that doesn't take over) they can be very nice looking. Also, when used in an algae scrubber filtration system they have proven to be very helpful in maintaining a healthy reef. Furthemore, algae is a primary source of nutrition for many of our inhabitants. After all, the ocean has plenty of algaes and all are good there.

Aren't the zooxanthele in the corals actually and algae too?

I love topics that get derailed after the 1st post (he he).

Great topic for discussion!
 

NaH2O

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I suppose many consider macroalgaes like caulerpa a "good" algae. If left unchecked and properly maintained, it can be detrimental to a system by going sexual and releasing all the nutrients back into the tank.

Here is a thread on Does Halimeda release toxins?

One other point I wanted to make is feeding macros out of the fuge. IMO, this is simply putting the nutrients already absorbed from the tank right back in. The fish will only utilize so much, then the rest will come out in the waste.

OK - sorry for my disorganization. This is a great topic and there is a lot that can be discussed.
 

reedman

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Here's one to think about. What kind of tank does macro algae belong in? An SPS tank is about the worst conditions possible for macro, as we are trying to minimize nuutrients already with heavy skimming. For this type of tank I 100% agree with what Nikki says.

On the other hand, if you are keeping some soft corals that like a higher nutrient water or an algal display with some fish and corals, that is different. In general I would think most macros are regarded as the devil in a reef tank. I personally have halimeda and calerpa growing in mine that I harvest occationally. Its contained in the back part of my display and remains unseen. I don't mind it and I think it serves as a good export.

I have also seen some tanks get overrun with the stuff. I think nikki hit a key point in that if they are not kept in check, then they will over run a tank and be a nuisance.
 

Scooterman

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It is amazing how algae has such a big roll in aquariums, of all walks alike. In an SPS tank, I guess your goal is to keep as much algae out as you possibly can, with the exception of coralline that is. Some good points, here, so in some tanks we may want to grow & harvest on a regular basis, can someone elaborate on this procedure, how do you set up such a system, & how well does it actually work?
 

Curtswearing

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The main reason people like coralline algae is because they compete with microalgaes in colonizing the LR. There are a number of different species. Some of them don't like intense lighting and some prefer to grow under a particular spectrum of lighting. For growth, it appears that balanced tank parameters (calcium & alkalinity) and low Phosphate is needed.

Here is some info on Coralline Algae

Having macroalgae's in a main display tank should be done with caution IMO. Caulerpa's have holdfasts that are extremely difficult to remove. Also, if it is in your display tank, it is much more difficult to prune.

While we are talking about setting up the best way to set up an algae scrubber, what would you say is the best way to prune and export?
 

NaH2O

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Curt - when you mention algae scrubber...do you mean the ATS with the screening, or do you mean just a refugium with algae growth + harvest?

On the different corallines...I definately see the different varieties in my tank. The variety that is growing on the underside of my live rock is much darker in color than the kinds that are on top of the rock (and starting to appear on the bottom of my tank).
 

reedman

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I think it was Nikki that made the point about having a refugium, harvesting the macros and then feeding them to the fish defeating the purpose of the harvest in the first place. I think this is all too often overlooked with the algaes. If you want to export nutrients the algae (and the nutrients bound up in the algae) need to be removed.

I'll have to look a bit for the articles I saw on the algae scrubbing filtration system. They looked very effective, if you have a lot of space to set it up. I immagin the aroma would be a bit much for a normal setup too, but those are details and we're talking systems here ;)
 

Curtswearing

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Flatlander uses an ATS. His setup can be found near the bottom of this Thread. I have seen a monster ATS at Inland Aquatics. Here is an article where Morgan describes his ATS system. More information on algae exportation can be found Here.

Algaes suck...
Mikes post on the usefulness of algal filtration was extremely detailed but I would like to expand on it somewhat anyway. :D Just like most methods of filtration, Algal Filtration comes with it's own set of issues and they should be discussed.

If you are using algae for filtration, it is important to run a quality carbon to remove the gelbstoff that the algae is putting into the water. There is a lot of info on carbon here.

First lets point out the differences between an ATS and a regular macroalgae refugium. An ATS typically uses turf algaes as opposed to macroalgaes like caulerpa or Chaetomorpha. Turf algaes typically reproduce via fragmentation rather than sexually or budding or sporulation (although some algaes can reproduce both ways). Mechanical filtration would be highly recommended to prevent fragments from making it into the display tank to grow turf algae there. (This is why it's dangerous to manually rip hair algae while the rock is in the tank...you're just spreading fragments around. If possible, take the rock out and dunk it in waterchange water and do the ripping there and then rinse with fresh saltwater before putting it back into the tank. If this isn't possible, put in a filter sock or other mechanical filtration to catch the fragments).

The important thing to think about with algae is that it is sessile. It doesn't have the ability to run and hide when predators come around. As a result, they have come up with strategies to prevent predation. Most turf algaes just fragment to make sure that their offspring survive. However, most other macro's have another plan...Activated Defense Systems.
Activated defenses against herbivores and predators are defenses whereby a precursor compound is stored in an inactive or mildly active form. Upon damage to the prey, the precursor is enzymatically converted to a more potent toxin or feeding deterrent.
This is the reason that most fish won't touch caulerpas, chaetos, halimedas, ulvas, etc. It's also the reason that it is very dangerous to move non-native macroalgaes like shown in the link Witfull posted. There is typically only a couple of predators that are immune to the toxins in an area. If the macroalgae gets transported to a different area where none of the herbivores have immunity, it overgrows everything.

In a reef tank, it's important to remember that the same porousness of the thallus that allows a macroalgae to absorb nasties also allows it to release tannins and toxins. A good percentage of the nasties that go into an algae, goes right back out. It's the equivalent of having what you say to your child go in one ear and out the other. This is one of the main reasons that if you are using algal filtration on a softy tank, I think you should use a fast growing species and export (properly) often. Why put up with the disadvantages of a macro but get very little exportation? JMO though.

reedman said:
Here's one to think about. What kind of tank does macro algae belong in? An SPS tank is about the worst conditions possible for macro, as we are trying to minimize nuutrients already with heavy skimming. For this type of tank I 100% agree with what Nikki says.
BINGO!!! Great point Reed. Putting macroalgae on a highly skimmed, nutrient poor system is a recipe for disaster. If they aren't getting enough nutrients, most macros will go "sexual" in the hope that their offspring will find enough nutrition to continue living. A number of macros are holocarpic and the whole organism becomes the reproductive structure. With holocarpic algaes, they aren't just releasing gametes. They are releasing the Nitrates, Phosphates, DOCs, and toxins as well as the entire cytoplasm and this puts a SEVERE strain on the dissolved Oxygen in the tank. Would you collect skimmate for a couple of weeks and then pour it all into your tank at once? That's basically what happens.

To add insult to injury, the "safe" precursor compound in caulerpa (caulerpenyne) is a toxin to SPS and it is constantly released as the algae respires. It doesn't even have to enzymatically turn into Oxytoxin (or be released sexually) to be dangerous to SPS. Halimedas are a pain....they don't go sexual as often as caulerpas but when they do, ALL of the algaes go sexual instead of just one plant. IMO, SPS tanks should not use algal filtration....only softy tanks. And even then it is necessary to prune properly. Now that you know about activated defense systems, what is the best way to prune and why?
 
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Witfull

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wow curt,,you sure are keeping your calculater fingers in shape for upcoming tax season ( only 5 months to go)
 

NaH2O

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Mike, thanks for getting directly to the point :D

On the harvesting....Curt has pointed out some important information that is key to harvesting correctly.

it's important to remember that the same porousness of the thallus that allows a macroalgae to absorb nasties also allows it to release tannins and toxins.
When harvesting, you want to avoid any toxins from getting back into the system, as well as other nutrients. Pinch and hold when harvesting, and rinse or soak in water (the water taken out of the tank when you do a water change, for example - don't rinse in the tank). This will help reduce the amount that goes back into the tank. Scissors just cut the algae and leave the algae to leak stuff out. Picture the algae as all one piece, not individual cells. If you open it up the contents spills out (kind of like those Flavor-Ice popcicles). By pinching off you are helping reduce the amount of leakage, and by leaving the algae in a bucket of water you are allowing the "inside stuff" that is going to leak out to leak, but not get back in the system.

Another point I wanted to make about macros.... As Curt stated, they are sessile and need a defense mechanism. The leaking of toxins helps the algae to gain more property area. These toxins can harm nearby corals that are too close, and then the algae has more room to grow.

I also wanted to comment on how incredibly efficient algae is. Hair algae, for example, has the ability to capture detritus as an increased food source. Have a hair algae patch? Blast it with a turkey baster or power head to see what and how much comes out.
 

Curtswearing

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We have discussed Coralline Algae, Algal Filtration. Now let's move on to the nasty stuff.

Diatoms aren't really much of a problem. They arrive after a cycle ends and usually disappear shortly thereafter. The only time you get them again is if you have a build up of silicates. RO/DI water is useful but silicates sometimes get past the RO/DI filter. Here's some information on how this happens can be found on this write-up by Nikki.

Let's move onto cyanobacteria. Here's an article written by our very own member Cougra. Cyanobacteria.
It is neither a true bacterium, nor is it a true alga, in fact it has certain characterises that apply to both categories of organisms. It is primarily a photosynthetic (alga properties) organism, but does have the ability to grow in low-light to no-light areas because of it’s unique bacterium like qualities. It's cellar structure closely resembles that of bacteria and on the whole can be treated like true bacteria.
High levels of phosphates are probably the most common cause of cyanobacteria outbreaks in a tank. A few ways it can be introduced through water change using tap water or well water or plain RO water (phosphates are removed during the DI process not the RO unit), food (especially flake food), through poor quality salt mixes, or putting your hands in the tank after washing with soap and water.
That's the plain English description of what they are and their usual source. How do you get rid of them if you have them? Why are there different colors of them? What are the best prevention methods?
 

mojoreef

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Ok I want to play devils advocate....hmmm..I do miss that role....hehe.

So tell me what good is any of it?????


Mike
 

Witfull

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it good for fustrating you at almost every step of the way in reefing...the first post on a site,,,my tank is turning brown...then its turning green,,,,,then you need a haircut due to hair growth....all we want is coraline,,,,,next thing you know....gaaa every other day i got pink spots on the front of my tank,,,, then a sprig of macro makes its way from the fuge to the display....blam,,,your pulling runners day and night,,,,

oh what would we do without algae???
 

Curtswearing

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I suppose we could go way, way back in history and be thankful for cyanobacteria. So far, I have found it quite useful to have an atmosphere to breathe. :)

A little less further back in history was the emergence of phytoplankton which is a necessary component of the ocean. Photosynthetic Plankton (phytoplankton) was an evolution of cyanobacteria.

I was going to get to where I think you are heading a little later on but I'll answer now. I'm guessing you are talking about Nitrogen fixation which wasn't mentioned yet. Have you ever seen oxygen bubbles in your cyanobacteria on your sand bed? That can be Nitrogen gas leaving the sandbed but it could also be Oxygen produced by the cyanobacteria. Beyond that, they can be useful if you don't have enough turbulence at the air/water interface. They cyanobacteria will bind the excess CO2 that results from the poor gas exchange.

Another thing that it could be for is if you had excess Phosphates and allowed the cyanobacteria to grow for a bit. Then siphoned it up. It's a much more efficient export of Phosphates then macroalgaes.
 

reedman

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answer to the devil

Well, here's my 2 cents for how algaes can be good.

In the proper environment (not an SPS tank) they can provide a great breeding ground for pods. Several species of shrimp seem to love hanging out in the stuff, and I have seen seahorse tanks with macros that were stunning. I also think that, again in the right tank, they can make for a great display. They provide nutrition to tangs and other herbivors and shelter to some fishes that are used to that environment. Some folks like the look of halimeda in the tank. There aren't many corals that have a growth pattern anywhere similar to halimeda (if you like that). If you are looking to have a "natural" looking reef scape, you should probably have some algae (after all it is on the reef right?!?).

That said, I would not deliberately introduce algae into my system, because I want a tank that looks very clean and shows off the corals that I have. I don't want to harvest algae and I certainly don't want to try to contain it (it's futile).

Cool specimen for the right setup.
 

mojoreef

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I suppose we could go way, way back in history and be thankful for cyanobacteria
Curt were talking algae here, cyano isnt one, lol. stay with me bro

Ahh Reed (blues fan).....
In the proper environment (not an SPS tank) they can provide a great breeding ground for pods
Ahhh the bug thing...So why would you want to have such low nitritional food growing in your tank??? remember devils Ad..
Several species of shrimp seem to love hanging out in the stuff
which ones?? :razz:
I have seen seahorse tanks with macros that were stunning
Ok your tuggin on the heart strings here but to be honest, if the macro was plastic they would be just as happy.
I also think that, again in the right tank, they can make for a great display
Ok I will give ya that...the marine planted tank.
They provide nutrition to tangs and other herbivors and shelter to some fishes that are used to that environment.
thier are tons of places for small fishes to hide in a tank, I think algae would be one of the last places they would seek. Nutrition wise.....thats a double edges sword. If you grow macros to export and then allow fish to graze it, well no export. Also I think thier alot of alturnative sources of food you could find that would be far more nutritional.
If you are looking to have a "natural" looking reef scape, you should probably have some algae (after all it is on the reef right?!?).
Hmmm on reefs my friend algae is usually the sign of death to it. Algaes, calurpas and so on are direct competitors to corals, they eat the same foods but play alot nastier when it comes to a confrontation.

Mike
 
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