pleco questions for a newbie
i have a 65-70 gal malawi cichlid tank and i'm having some issues with brown algae. The tank is cycled and has been up and running for the better part of 2013. The algae i can clean off the glass easily, but it is slowly growing on the gravel and the ornaments too. including the fake plants. I cleaned the plants off once and it was quite hard to get off with a brush.
I have bought a pleco in hopes that he would keep it clean, or at least the glass but he didn't really do anything. I didn't feed him anything and i think he just ate enough algae not to die. Bare minimum. I got rid of him and got another one, and same problem. they do nothing.
My friends tank on the other hand is spotless! She was without a pleco for a while and algae started to grow and when she got a new one he's been working like crazy and keeps everything super clean.
-Is there a reason they are lazy in my tank? What should i look for when buying a pleco?
-Is there a particular age at which plecos are more active and after which they get lazier?
-Are there better breeds of pleco to get for algae vs some others?
-Are the smaller/younger ones better or one bigger one?
The one i have seems to have like a cut up tail fin or something, so when he tries to swim he has to wiggle his body a lot and that even kicks up the stuff off the bottom and looks terrible. So at this point he's doing more harm than good haha.
I keep saying this...
There is no single species of pleco. It's a label stuck onto loads of different fish.
In the states "pleco" tends to refer to fish from either the Pterygoplichthys or Hypostomus family. These are omnivores that will eat some algae when they are young. They also tend to get big, 10 to 18 inches for some species.
There are very few fish that will actually touch brown algae
The only fish I can think of that would work in a small malawi tank like yours is a "bristlenose".
Personally I find it rather shocking that you're chucking in a fish, not feeding it and laughing at the fact that something has taken a nip at it and hurt it enough to handicap it.
If the tank is well established but you're still getting brown algae,then you might want to look at:
1) reducing the amount of time your lights are on
2) consider if you are overfeeding
3) test your tap and tank water for phosphates. if they are anything but 0 you may have silicates in the water that is causing the algae. If so, try Chemi pure elite in your filters to see if that helps.
4) check your rocks and decor to see if any of them may be heavy in phosphates and remove or change them out if that's the case
I have 3 tanks. 1 is spotless = 0 brown algae. the other two have ongoing issues and all three tanks have been established for well over a year. Same water source. Same substrate. I have tried everything to get rid of it. No go. So, I clean it. That's just the breaks.
30 g FW planted:corys, female ABNP, blue angel, harleys, zebra danios, rummies,
15 g FW planted:2 male guppies, neons, pygmy corys, clown pleco, 4 types of shrimp, assassin snails
90 Gal Journal: http://bit.ly/1vC7gVX
fishless cycling: http://bit.ly/1DARf3T
fish in cycling: http://bit.ly/1ILvcfp
+1 to the above responses you've already received.
Plecos are not employees to be hired and fired, they are animals and you are responsible for their welfare.
If you have algae problems you either have an immature tank (time will cure this), or there is an imbalance of nutrients in your water or light time.
What is your water change schedule and how much do you change?
What filtration do you have?
How often do you clean out your filter and do you swill it in tap water or used tank water?
First, I would doubt the "brown algae" is diatoms, but more likely a form of brush algae. Some members have given info for diatoms, if that is what you have, but your comment that it is hard to remove suggests brush algae. I have seen this as "brown" or brown-black, and very tiny (not the normal "brush" appearance).
Algae is normal, and not a bad thing except when attached to live plants as it can then suffocate the leaf and plant. But without live plants, there is no harm in algae; it is actually good, as it performs some of the same functions plants do by using nutrients and producing oxygen. Keeping it off the glass is easy with a scraper; I find if you use one of the sponge models on the front glass every week during the water change, you will never see it on the glass. I leave it alone on wood and rock; an aquarium without algae is probably not that healthy (unless planted, that is a different story). Fish produce waste which become organics and nutrients, and with light, algae will appear.
To the pleco. I agree with those who do not recommend getting any fish to deal with any "problem." Find the cause of the problem and fix that. Fish have needs and requirements. A rift lake cichlid tank is no suitable environment for the South American plecos, Bristlenose or other. There are some suitable Synodontis species from Africa, though I've no idea how effective they are with algae. Not many fish will touch brush algae anyway; I'm only aware of two species.
Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]