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No algae growth AT ALL

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Levinson, Apr 23, 2020.

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  1. Levinson

    Levinson New Member

    Hi, after many trials and errors during the building phase, I finally got my DIY ATS built and started running it.
    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

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

    externalFile (1).jpg externalFile.jpg
  2. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Back the scrubber way off - you can't hit a blank screen on a tank with no bioload with a long photoperiod at a high level of intensity or you will get photosaturation, meaning no growth

    Your screen is large enough for about 3 cubes/day of feeding, or roughly what you would feed into a moderately to heavily loaded 120-150 gallon tank, depending on how you look at it. But your tank is only 20-25 gallons and you have no bioload - so you're definitely running the scrubber to hard.

    I would back off the lights to only a couple hours per day. If you have the ability to dim them, that would help as well.

    On a brand new tank going through fishless cycling, you also have little biodiversity. My experience is that a scrubber does best on a mature and diverse system. Putting a scrubber on a new startup is perfectly fine, but it won't grow the same as you see in many people's pictures - so don't get hung up on growth, it will happen eventually but you can't force it
  3. Levinson

    Levinson New Member

    Thank you for the advice Turbo,
    It's not shown on the picture but I actually do have a dimmer switch for the setup. I've dimmed down the lights and reduced the photoperiod.
    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 well for some people. Would this speed things up a bit?
    The tank will be FO so I'm assuming the ATS being too big wouldn't be an issue (please do correct me if I'm wrong here).
    Sorry for being all over the place, I'm a total noob not only with ATS but with the whole saltwater scene, with this being my very first saltwater tank. I can't believe the first thing I decided to do getting into this hobby was to make my own ATS.
  4. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Normally yes, but also a blank screen takes 4-6 weeks to reach maturity, and that's in an established tank. This goes back to intensity and photoperiod as well, without a constant bioload of fish waste, the algae growth will be much slower to get going (typically). If you do have the ability to dim, great! That will definitely help as intensity is the main issue.

    So now that I know that, you can dim the LEDs way down (25% or less) and then you can run a longer photoperiod. Intensity is the cause of photosaturation, duration is not. This might allow you to get it going faster - run 9-12 hours/day at very low intensity.

    Also make sure your water flow is just above the minimum needed to get most of the screen covered. You might have to monkey with this a bit, but just concentrate on getting the center section fully covered - with your screen large relative to your tank size, you only need a portion of the screen to be "active". Too much flow will prevent algae from attaching easily
  5. Levinson

    Levinson New Member

    Reading some of Turbo's old posts elsewhere, I'm thinking it would have been nice to try the mortar coated screen. I don't want to start over with the screen so I'll just wait for the time being.
    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.
    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. Levinson

    Levinson New Member

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

    IMG_20200507_083939(1).jpg IMG_20200507_083913(1).jpg
  7. Levinson

    Levinson New Member

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



    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?


    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, sold to me 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.
  8. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    All of those reasons could affect nitrate level fluctuation

    As for the cleaning, I would have just rinsed it and rubbed with fingertips. The "black oil" type of growth is the only one you really want to scrub clean off, and that is very atypical/rare - it looks like a thin sheet of growth that you have to scrub very hard to remove.

    Anything that has a shade of green is generally OK so don't rush to judgement. Slimy growth should be removed, but this should mostly come off with fingertip rubbing.

    It kind of looks like you scrubbed the screen as it not looks pretty bare, but that's OK. I see some green so it should come back. Just be much less aggressive from now on.

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