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Thread: No algae growth at all

  1. #1

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    No algae growth at all

    Hi, after many trials and errors during the building phase, I finally got my DIY ATS built and had it running.
    It's been 6 days and I'm not getting any growth, no slime, no hint of colour on the screen, no nothing.
    Is this normal? Is there something not quite right? 6 days not enough to expect any sign of growth?
    I got a little anxious and put some dried shrimps in the water 3 days ago. Should I remove it or leave it till I get some algae growth?
    The details of the setup are as shown below.

    *Waterfall ATS specification
    Screen size:18cm(W) by 15cm(H) approx
    Pump: 13w, 1,000L/h (Leecom PF-150, just a cheap Chinese pump)
    Light: DIY LED light, 18 x 1W (660nm only) on each size, did not test the actual output/current.
    Total water volume: 80~90 Liters approx

    - Have been cycling the tank for about 3~4 weeks before putting in the ATS.
    - The tank+sump is placed in a dark area with no light kept (dark all day and night).
    - No live stock have been put into the system yet.
    - Initially, some dried seafood bits have been put in to start the cycle (then removed).
    - 3 days ago, I got a little anxious and put some dried shrimps in a mesh bag in the water.
    - Lights were on and off every 2 hours (12 hours on, 12 hours off /day total), then I've increased the light time yesterday so it's 15 hours on, 9 hours off /day total (short off times put in between on times).
    - The screen had been roughed up but I'm

    * Water parameters

    At the start of the cycling:
    - ammonia 0.5ppm
    - Nitrite 1ppm
    - Nitrate 40ppm

    When putting in the ATS:
    - ammonia 0ppm
    - Nitrite 0ppm
    - Nitrate 80ppm

    Today:
    - ammonia ?? have not tested yet
    - Nitrite 0.5ppm
    - Nitrate 80ppm

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  2. #2
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    You are not going to get much growth at all until you get some livestock producing ammonia. Even with an established screen. But with a new tank and a new screen and no livestock, you might not see any color growth at all for a month.

    Try to keep the light as dim as possible, and 1-sided, until the screen holes eventually fill in with some color of growth.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by SantaMonica View Post
    You are not going to get much growth at all until you get some livestock producing ammonia. Even with an established screen. But with a new tank and a new screen and no livestock, you might not see any color growth at all for a month.

    Try to keep the light as dim as possible, and 1-sided, until the screen holes eventually fill in with some color of growth.

    Hi SantaMonica, as always, thanks for the response.
    It's not shown on the picture but I actually do have a dimmer switch for the setup so I've dimmed down the lights as you've said (but they only work for both of the sides and can't just turn off one side).
    I've also pulled out the rotting shrimp. I initially thought putting in some dried/frozen seafood bits would be enough to produce ammonia and get the algae growth started but guess I was wrong.
    I'd like to put some small livestock just to kick start the ATS but the nitrate level seems a bit high (at around 60~80ish ppm) at the moment. Maybe I should do a water change to lower the nitrate and put in some livestock?
    I'm thinking of getting some hair or other types of algae from a pet shop and seeding them on the screen by smearing it all over. This seems to have worked for some people. Would this speed things up a bit?
    Sorry, I'm a total noob with this being the very first saltwater tank. I can't believe the first thing I decided to do getting into this hobby was to make a diy ATS.

  4. #4
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    Ammonia and nitrite is the issue before adding fish. Needs to measure zero. Nitrate does not matter.

    You can add hair algae if you want but it usually does not help, and just rots away.

  5. #5

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    I've added about 20 lugworms to the tank 3 days ago to have some bio-load (although very little). The nitrate is pretty high (80ppm~100ppm-ish) so I felt a little sorry for the worms but I've read they are pretty hardy and some of them started to eat after a day so I'm hoping they'll be alright.
    Also tried rubbing chunks of algae, which I scraped off from someone else's reef tank, against the screen. Some tiny bits are hanging in there with the water flowing down the screen. We'll see if it actually does anything (not that I'll be able to tell).
    I'm tempted to try many different things to get some growth started, like getting some tank water from the local fish shop for a water change, etc.
    Another part of me says 'dude, just leave it and wait' and/or can't be bothered to do anything to it.

  6. #6

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    I think there are some algae on the screen! ..or I could just be seeing things.
    Sorry about the crappy photos.

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  7. #7
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    Yes, just let it fill in.

  8. #8
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    Yes, just let it fill in.

  9. #9

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    This was what it looked like earlier today (4 weeks since I had ATS running, no water change, only top off)

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    Mostly shades of dark green with brown and red bits or lumps. You can also see some no-growth spots where the bulbs were (photo-saturation?).

    ...and this is after cleaning it (for the first time ever). Not 100% sure if it was a good idea to clean it. I was starting to have some light green algae but I read the dark green/brown stuff should be removed when you can. Maybe I should have left it to grow a bit longer?

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    Over the past 2 weeks, the nitrate went down for a bit then back up again. Something like 120ppm -> 80ppm -> 40ppm -> 40ppm -> 80ppm. This seems a bit odd to me. I have very small bio-load and don't feed much (20 lugworms with a pinch of feed once every 2~3 days).
    Could the reasons be any of the followings?
    - there were too little algae to make a difference.
    - something in the tank may be rotting away somewhere.
    - the top off water (not treated and contains nitrate 20ppm) is the cause of nitrate increase.
    - faulty test kit.
    - not enough bio-load/nutrients for the ATS to really work properly, even with high nitrate levels.
    - not enough phosphate limiting the algae growth.
    - it's just me being hasty again and should just give it more time.

    The only inhabitants in the tank are still the lugworms. I'd like to bring the nitrate level down a bit more (0~20ppm) before introducing any others into the tank. I don't mind experimenting with the worms in the tank BTW (sorry not sorry worms, you guys were being sold as fishing baits).
    Also, does raising phosphate level help ATS algae growth? I'm asking because I was given Neophos from Brightwell (phosphate in a bottle for aquarium) and was wondering if it'd be a good idea to put some in. I don't have a phosphate test kit so I don't know its current level. If it promotes the growth of dark slimy stuff, I won't bother.

  10. #10
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    What you have there is weak lighting, causing dark slime which does not hold on to plastic screen well, and so it let go in the middle where it was thickest. Will need clearning every 3 to 5 days. Or stronger lights.

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