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Thread: Understanding String Algae

  1. #101
    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    What ever happened to BScott? I miss his straight talk and his loooong posts for experiencing and learning.

  2. #102
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Algae Turf Scrubber at Work? Nitrate Down from 80 to 20

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    With the water warming, complaints about string algae are becoming a subject of discussion on some boards. A new twist has popped up, with the suggestion that one's string algae problems can be solved by installing an algal turf scrubber. Never heard of an algal turf scrubber? Well, I have never heard of them being used on ponds, but it was all the rage in the reef aquarium hobby years ago. You can think of the ATS as an algae version of a bog garden. The idea is to have a highly efficient algae habitat that will be so productive that nutrients will be used up to the point that algae will not grow well in the pond, because it is flourishing so wildly in the ATS. I am not aware of anyone having successfully adapted the ATS concept to a koi pond. I do not believe it can be done. In theory it might be done to reduce the need for water changes, the motivating factor behind efforts to use ATS on reef aquaria, but the notion that it can be implemented so effectively that algae will thrive in the ATS, but waste away in the pond, seems quite illogical to me.

    That is not to say that the ATS concept cannot have useful applications for the engineering-minded. It just is not practical IMO.

    The ATS was first promoted by Dr. Walter Adey, following much research into reef-keeeping. He is known for having a huge coral reef aquarium maintained for many years through use of an ATS system. In his book, Dynamic Aquaria, Dr Adey set forth the scientific principles behind the ATS. Basically, the ATS received light 24-hours a day, allowing the algae cultivated in it to not only consume nutrient, but to offset CO2 produced at night in the aquarium thereby preventing acidification. It was quite successful in his skilled, careful hands. ...Until it wasn't. It eventually was learned that the ATS removed not only negative nutrients, but also beneficial ones. So, to maintain coral growth, there had to be regular controlled additions of calcium, strontium and other minerals. Nonetheless, the success experienced led to a fad of all sorts of DIY ATS designs. These either did not work as promised, or proved to be quite expensive. A whole lot more technology and skilled attentiveness was required than even reef aquarists were willing to devote. (Of course, there were those exceptional individuals who knew no limits on the time and expense devoted to their mini oceans.) A variation then came along, called 'the refugium', in which algae was grown in a sump attached to the reef aquarium to help reduce the need for water changes to control nutrients that promoted algae growth in the aquarium. However, refugiums did not consume nutrient fast enough to prevent algae in the aquarium. And, the need to harvest algae to actually remove nutrient from the system was as much of a hassle as performing a water change. And, if the algae was not harvested regularly, its growth would block light reaching the lower levels, leading to an algae die-off that returned undesired nutrient to the aquarium. You will find refugiums still in use, but today they are not seen as a cure-all they were once promoted to be. Rather, by providing a habitat where little organisms could grow and reproduce, they are as much a source of live food supplementing the diet of the reef inhabitants as anything else.

    I think of ATS as an algae version of the bog garden that is supposed to purify the pond water naturally. As I've written in another thread about 'veggie filters', the concept is interesting, can be successful in theory and is wholly impractical for the koi hobbyist. ...BTW, if the idea is to prevent string algae from developing in the pond, Dr Adey's research established that string algae was the best algae for accomplishing nutrient removal in the reef setting. So, how are you going to keep the string algae thriving year-round so it is present and working when the seasonal bout of string algae shows up in the pond? And, it should be noted that in water cleansing facilities that have been established using the adey technology, water hyacinth have proved to be almost as efficient as algae and far less costly to harvest/maintain.

    Perhaps someday impracticalities will be overcome and these sorts of things will prove worthwhile in areas where drought prevents reliance on water changes, but I expect the cost and labor will be prohibitive.
    In a post last month (Reading API Water Chemistry Tests), I had nitrate at 80. Today, I took readings and got <20. What gives? My water changes haven't changed much, koi population has stayed the same, and my feeding did not change.

    The only thing I could think of for the nitrate reduction was my waterfalls. It had become a very efficient algal turf scrubber this time of year. The southwest facing direction of my falls made it optimally exposed to sunlight throughout the day. The keywords are 'optimally exposed.' The reason I say this is that at the height of summer, when sunlight was even more intense, my nitrate levels were never this low. So it isn't a simple direct relationship to the sunlight's intensity.

    I should study this further, starting with looking at the sun's position relative to the waterfalls, in terms of the sun's altitude (as expressed in angles, 0° being in line with the horizon, and 90° being directly on top). There is a seasonal effect to it, as the sun is shining from the south, whereas during summer it was from the north. There is also a micro-climate aspect to it, in that the waterfalls is partly shaded by the house and by plants such that it gets a more thorough piece of the sunlight at this time of year.

    I have yet to install my anoxic filter, so it really came as a surprise to me that my nitrate levels have started to come down to the 20 levels. Incidentally, I also felt the walls of my pond. The algae population by the walls has thinned out. I see this as caused by it being deprived of nitrates by the algae in the waterfalls.

    Hallelujah!

  3. #103
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    In a post last month (Reading API Water Chemistry Tests), I had nitrate at 80. Today, I took readings and got <20. What gives? My water changes haven't changed much, koi population has stayed the same, and my feeding did not change.

    The only thing I could think of for the nitrate reduction was my waterfalls. It had become a very efficient algal turf scrubber this time of year. The southwest facing direction of my falls made it optimally exposed to sunlight throughout the day. The keywords are 'optimally exposed.' The reason I say this is that at the height of summer, when sunlight was even more intense, my nitrate levels were never this low. So it isn't a simple direct relationship to the sunlight's intensity.

    I should study this further, starting with looking at the sun's position relative to the waterfalls, in terms of the sun's altitude (as expressed in angles, 0° being in line with the horizon, and 90° being directly on top). There is a seasonal effect to it, as the sun is shining from the south, whereas during summer it was from the north. There is also a micro-climate aspect to it, in that the waterfalls is partly shaded by the house and by plants such that it gets a more thorough piece of the sunlight at this time of year.

    I have yet to install my anoxic filter, so it really came as a surprise to me that my nitrate levels have started to come down to the 20 levels. Incidentally, I also felt the walls of my pond. The algae population by the walls has thinned out. I see this as caused by it being deprived of nitrates by the algae in the waterfalls.

    Hallelujah!
    Question:
    1. Did you change the brand of koi food
    2. Is the water temperature lower than before
    3. Did u put in more EM1 regularly than before
    4. Do you flush the settlement better?
    5. Does your mats look cleaner than before?

  4. #104
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    Question:
    1. Did you change the brand of koi food
    2. Is the water temperature lower than before
    3. Did u put in more EM1 regularly than before
    4. Do you flush the settlement better?
    5. Does your mats look cleaner than before?
    No, except for #2. It's a bit cooler now. I haven't seen nitrates this low except when pond was cycling up.

  5. #105
    MCA
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    Honmei MCA's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]I have yet to install my anoxic filter,/QUOTE]

    If you want both an excellent aerobic and anoxic/hypoxic/anaerobic filter.....put in a large shower with good ceramic media...not plastic media or even feather rock. The splashing of the water and the media surface make for great aerobic action. And when water passes through the media there is opportunity for anerorbic conditions before the water exits the piece of media and hits the aerobic surface of the next piece of media. A drop of water can do the the aerobic-anerorbbic shuffle a dozen or more times before it hits the pond.
    Koi keeping is not a belief system; it is applied science with a touch of artistry.

  6. #106
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Cooler water would mean better food being absorb and would mean less waste given the quantity of food, water change and maintenance are the same.

  7. #107
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    *** it really came as a surprise to me that my nitrate levels have started to come down to the 20 levels. Incidentally, I also felt the walls of my pond. The algae population by the walls has thinned out. I see this as caused by it being deprived of nitrates by the algae in the waterfalls.

    Yerrag, I think your conclusion may be as much wishful thinking as an interpretation of your observations. Consider that algae consumes ammonia as the preferred source of nitrogen before consuming nitrate. (When nitrate is utilized, the plant basically breaks it down to ammonia as a step in getting to the nitrogen. That takes energy. Evolution knows what it is doing. Ammonia consumption saves energy, allowing more consumption. [For the scientifically inclined, I know I'm being simplistic.] ) There may be somewhat more contact per algal strand in the waterfall zone and wherever there is current, but in the typical koi pond currents assure that ammonia is fairly evenly distributed throughout the pond. The decline in algae on the walls of the pond is not likely due reduced nitrate. It could be due to reduced ammonia production if stocking/feeding levels changed. But, since you say these have not changed, it would seem highly likely that there has been no change in the exposure to ammonia enjoyed by the algae on the walls of the pond. You may well be observing a seasonal shift in the algae population. This is not uncommon and does not necessarily relate to availability of nitrogen. It could also be related to your bacterial additives if they contain phosphate-binding bacteria. Phosphate is often the limiting factor for algae growth in a pond rather than nitrogen. That is, the reduction in nitrate may be wholly unrelated to the change in the algal population. Are you observing a huge increase in the total mass of algae around the waterfall to the point that there is more algae in total than there was a month ago despite the reduced algae on the walls? Are you finding masses of sloughed off algae in your settlement/filters?

    The most common causes for reduced nitrate (when stocking/feeding remain fixed) are increased water changes and increased frequency in dumping settlement waste (or otherwise eliminating waste more quickly). If your water changes increase from 20% per week to 25%, and settlement is dumped daily rather than once per week, it can make a huge difference in nitrate build-up. Seasonal factors can also be involved... rate at which leaves, pollen, etc. enter the pond. For those with nitrate in their source water, there can be seasonal changes according to rainfall levels, nature of substrates through which water flows, etc., etc.

    Whatever is occurring, I'm happy for you. Nitrate at 20ppm is a huge improvement over 80ppm.

  8. #108
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=MCA;215901]
    I have yet to install my anoxic filter,/QUOTE]

    If you want both an excellent aerobic and anoxic/hypoxic/anaerobic filter.....put in a large shower with good ceramic media...not plastic media or even feather rock. The splashing of the water and the media surface make for great aerobic action. And when water passes through the media there is opportunity for anerorbic conditions before the water exits the piece of media and hits the aerobic surface of the next piece of media. A drop of water can do the the aerobic-anerorbbic shuffle a dozen or more times before it hits the pond.
    No doubt bakki showers are nice. But my filtration isn't up to snuff to keep fines from plugging up the media, which would be a concern maintenance-wise. I don't know about kH and pH stability with bakki, but I've confirmed that in my aquarium, kH and pH have been stable. I don't need to add baking soda or change water to maintain kH.

  9. #109
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    Cooler water would mean better food being absorb and would mean less waste given the quantity of food, water change and maintenance are the same.
    The temp change from October to November hasn't been so pronounced to make such an impact in nitrate. But my earlier reply wasn't quite accurate. It may be that a month ago I had modified my bottom drain exit to the sump, such that it has become a very effective swirl or radial flow filter. Plenty of waste has been settling, and I have been using a siphon 2x a week to suck out the waste.

    Its impact would be that there would be much less waste as source for ammonia generation. But it does not explain how my existing nitrate levels would drop to a quarter of it in a month's time. For that to happen, I would have to change a lot more water than I've been doing. I only change at most a pond's amount of water a month. At that rate of dilution, I should see nitrate levels of only 40, assuming no new ammonia being generated by the pond ecosystem.

    So there has to be some nitrate sink in the pond that is consuming the nitrate.

  10. #110
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Yerrag, I think your conclusion may be as much wishful thinking as an interpretation of your observations. Consider that algae consumes ammonia as the preferred source of nitrogen before consuming nitrate. (When nitrate is utilized, the plant basically breaks it down to ammonia as a step in getting to the nitrogen. That takes energy. Evolution knows what it is doing. Ammonia consumption saves energy, allowing more consumption. [For the scientifically inclined, I know I'm being simplistic.] ) There may be somewhat more contact per algal strand in the waterfall zone and wherever there is current, but in the typical koi pond currents assure that ammonia is fairly evenly distributed throughout the pond. The decline in algae on the walls of the pond is not likely due reduced nitrate. It could be due to reduced ammonia production if stocking/feeding levels changed. But, since you say these have not changed, it would seem highly likely that there has been no change in the exposure to ammonia enjoyed by the algae on the walls of the pond. You may well be observing a seasonal shift in the algae population. This is not uncommon and does not necessarily relate to availability of nitrogen. It could also be related to your bacterial additives if they contain phosphate-binding bacteria. Phosphate is often the limiting factor for algae growth in a pond rather than nitrogen. That is, the reduction in nitrate may be wholly unrelated to the change in the algal population. Are you observing a huge increase in the total mass of algae around the waterfall to the point that there is more algae in total than there was a month ago despite the reduced algae on the walls? Are you finding masses of sloughed off algae in your settlement/filters?

    The most common causes for reduced nitrate (when stocking/feeding remain fixed) are increased water changes and increased frequency in dumping settlement waste (or otherwise eliminating waste more quickly). If your water changes increase from 20% per week to 25%, and settlement is dumped daily rather than once per week, it can make a huge difference in nitrate build-up. Seasonal factors can also be involved... rate at which leaves, pollen, etc. enter the pond. For those with nitrate in their source water, there can be seasonal changes according to rainfall levels, nature of substrates through which water flows, etc., etc.

    Whatever is occurring, I'm happy for you. Nitrate at 20ppm is a huge improvement over 80ppm.
    But isn't the concept and implementation of an algal turf scrubber all about dealing with an overactive biofilter, and chiefly about reducing and controlling nitrate levels? Granted that it has seen much use only in aquariums, but is extending that application to a pond unimaginable and that hard to apply?

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