Monday, January 16, 2012

No Lush Green Lawn for Time Being!!

  • In my Nov-Blog, I was able to maintain a clean looking aquarium for 1 month without any water change.
  • In my Dec-Blog, I had made some minor water (20%) change after 7-weeks to take care of yellowish water caused due to decaying tubiflex worm and ammonia outburst due to loads of new fishes.
In other words, I was able to maintain a clean looking aquarium for almost 2 months, without water change. The plant growth was decent with 4-watt LED Lights(3-Watt Blue LED and 1-Watt Yellow LED).
A month back, I had got some aquatic grass for building a aquatic lawn, namely: 
1. Microsword (a.k.a. Dwarf Chain Sword, Pygmy Chain Sword, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis).
2. Cobra Grass (a.k.a. Lilaeopsis novae zelandia).

And Sucker fish(Algae cleaning one man Army) to take care of the Brown Algae growing on my Amazon Sword.

Well, it turned out to be a terrible experience. 

The sucker fish was suffering from a disease called "White spot". I had that feeling that something is wrong on the first day itself. But the white fungus like stuff on the dorsal fin had disappeared the next day so I didn’t mind it much.

Next day, I saw my Guppies and Neon Tetra gathering near the bubbling filter. It was an unusual behaviour but I thought probably they like the swift water current created by the filter outlet.

The brown algae on the Amazon Sword had almost disappeared. Sucker was really an 'Algae cleaning one man Army'.

On the 3rd day, I saw some tiny white spot on my Neon Tetra and I was assured that the White Spots disease is all in. All my previous attempts at curing a White Spot infected fish were in vain. After some google hits, I came across the following website:

This is must read website, especially the "White Spot" article. After reading it, I was rest assured that I won’t be able to save any of my fishes, because by the time we see those white spots, the disease is already at a advance stage. 

I saw my fishes die in next 2-3 days. I was lucky to save a Zebra Danio because it was present in my Nursery Aquarium. Once all my fishes were dead, I removed their dead bodies and I just kept my aquarium idle with no fishes for a week (Well that’s the maximum time the white spot bacteria can stay without any new fish to propagate).

After a week, I performed around 70% water changed and brought in 
a. A pair of Rosy Barb 
b. A Single Betta (commonly known as Fighter Fish) 
c. A Pair of Albino Cory (Another Algae eater) 

Since, I was planning for growing a Lawn, I had added a 15 watt CFL light in addition to the (4-Watt) LEDS. These lights were lit for almost 12 hrs per day. The Albino Cory was unable to keep up with the Brown Algae Growth. They weren't that efficient as Sucker fish, but were decent. The Algae outburst was getting worse. But at the same time the 15-Watt CFL changed the whole scene.

The Tall grass (Vallisneria gigantean, a.k.a Giant Vallis) now started showing tremendous growth. It’s now 4-Feet in length.

Dirty Aquarium (taken with camera flash on) filled with Brown Algae. Note the Rosy Barb at the right. Note the Vallis (tall grass) has grown from one end to other end of the aquarium.

Dirty Aquarium (taken with camera flash off) filled with Brown Algae. The plastic cups contains the aquatic grass. The Cobra Grass has been covered with Cups (having slits). Rozy Barb uproots all the grasses. 

Brown Algae "Diatoms (Bacillariophyta)", covering the Amazon Sword.  

Brown Algae "Diatoms (Bacillariophyta)", covering the Cobomba.  

Rosy Barb at the left and Albino Cory at the Right.

Lessons Learnt:

White Spots:
1. You cannot save your fishes once White Spots appear. Its already too late once white spot appear. Quarantine of new fishes for 1 week is preventive measure.
2. White spot disease does not affect snails. Only species with gills are affected by white spot disease. 
3. Once infected with White spots and all the fishes are dead, leave the tank uninhabited for 1 week. This will kill all the white spot parasite. The White Spot parasite needs a host (gills breathing aquatic organism) to remain alive.
4. Perform a 50+% water change after 1 week of uninhabited environment and you are all set for the new fishes. No special medication needed to kill the white spot parasite. You can always clean the whole aquarium to get rid of the bacteria. But once you get a large planted aquarium, cleaning may not be the best strategy.

Algae and Plants:
5. Strong Light is essential for plant growth. Try to maintain 12 hrs of 1 watt per gallon(WPG) light.
6. Keep different kinds of Plants (stem plants, tall grass, short grasses, and sturdy slow growers like Amazon swords). The advantage of keeping different plants is you come to know better about the aquatic ecosystem.
                a. After a month, I observed that my tall grass has started growing rapidly. Amazon sword were also showing good results. Such strong performance across plants was due to 12 hrs of 1 watt per gallon(WPG) light.
                b. The tall grass which showed almost no growth for last 3 months, flourished rapidly in last month. They were the best performers.
                A close observation during the evening hours, I noticed that the leaves floating on the surface showed small bubbles due to heavy photosynthesis. The leaves floating at the surface were able to get access to carbon-dioxide more easily and perform Photosynthesis.
                For Photosynthesis, abundance of Carbon-Dioxide and light matters a lot. My tank certainly is low on carbon-dioxide for 2 reasons:
                    -  15 gallon tank has only 4 2-inch fishes.
                     - 6 hrs of heavy aeration.
Currently I will stop the fine-bubbling aeration for time being, to vindicate my understanding of low carbon-dioxide.

7. The brown algae are not truly Algae. These are Diatoms. Diatoms (Bacillariophyta) are photosynthesizing single-celled organisms. Since these not algae, strong light is not an essential requirement for its growth. High water nutrients (phosphate and silica) will make diatoms flourish. Good part is they can bring down the silica level to 1 ppm or lower and since they are using the excess nutrients, algae may not be able to grow/flourish.
8. For faster growth of Java Moss, just cut it in 1-2 cms length (instead of keeping a single large strand) and let them grow. Assumption is that all the other parameters (Light, nutrients, Carbon-dioxide) are decent.

Action Items:
1. Remove fine-bubbling aeration to avoid loosing the dissolved carbon-dioxide due to water turbulence created fine-bubbling aeration. The filter should be fine. 
2. Avoid chemical fertilizer during partial water changes, since they are creating access nutrients (Phosphates) leading to diatom growth.
3. Get some algae cleaning crew (Shrimps, Siamese Algae Eater, Otos).


  1. All fish dead :(
    Anyway, lesson learned. That was a pretty long post, btw :)

  2. Fish dead due to disease called white spots.

  3. It's sad that you let all your fish die instead of treating them. White spot disease (which is a parasite, not bacteria) is absolutely treatable. There are many medications sold for it, and many experienced aquarists treat with heat and salt (Google for detailed instructions). Ich stays alive in the substrate for a period of time after the spots are no longer visible on your fish; I recently treated my tank (using Seachem Paraguard) and the instructions were to treat for 14 days and keep the water pristine with small, frequent water changes. The spots disappeared from my fish in about 2 days, and I finished treatment about 2 weeks ago. None of my fish died. I hope people reading this will not just let their fish suffer and die if infected with Ich (white spot disease) instead of treating and saving them.