serious aeration issue - need advice
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:36 AM   #1
ShyShrimpDoc
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serious aeration issue - need advice


I have 2 27 gallon hex tanks. I have long kept my substrate as a mix of small particle fluorite and inert black sand. I have noticed when vacuuming them that there is a foul odor. I have also noticed issues with plant growth and anaerobic bacteria in one of the two tanks. The other has more plant life than any tank should (lightless jungle by the time you hit substrate level), and no real issues.

I am considering, and after a fairly long search managed to locate an undergravel filter for the tank with issues. My thought is to remove all desirable life, take a hose and suck out the sand. Then to put the undergravel filter in place, rinse the substrate and reinstall it. I will keep my canister filter for real filtration, and my UV will run during the process to help kill off anaerobes (though the oxygen will likely take care of them).

Here is my concern, the chemical which causes the odor (whose name I can't recall) will likely be present in the sand that is returned even after a good rinse, and this has already proven to be mildly toxic to the tank's crystal shrimp inhabitants.

I am debating hooking the intake to the canister filter up to the undergravel at first in hopes that the purigen will help pick this up. I don't usually run carbon, but can if it will help. Any thoughts? I don't want to kill the crystal shrimp or ottos that inhabit my tank, but it obviously needs help. Also if anyone knows where I can find a second filter (they seem to have stopped making them), please let me know. If this works out well I will do the other tank just to prevent issues. Substrate depth in the tank with issues is about 3", the other is about 2".

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Old 05-15-2013, 12:57 AM   #2
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correction: the tank without the issue has 3" of substrate. The one with problems has only 2. Also, in case it comes up both tanks have been established for over a year. The tank without issues has a lot more inhabitants and a lot more waster that runs through it. Both substrates get vacuumed every couple months. I am trying to put them in as much of a maintenance free state as possible before returning to med school. So saying vacuum them more will not fix the issue for me. water parameters on the tanks are different, the problem tank is colder and softer. I use RO water, hence the lack of carbon in my filters.
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Old 05-15-2013, 01:36 AM   #3
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When a tank is heavily planted, the roots will bring a lot of oxygen down into the substrate. That is probably why the tank with fewer plants has more anaerobic bacteria problems. I don't think an under gravel filter will help a lot, but a reverse flow UGF might help - that puts aerated water under the substrate, to flow back up out of the substrate. Getting more plants growing in the tank would probably be the best fix.
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Old 05-15-2013, 01:38 AM   #4
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You have no idea how much I like this response. it would be much cheaper and a lot less work. Not to mention make space in my other tank. I just hope they will start to thrive in that tank. It's not sparsely planted on purpose.

Also why don't you think that an undergravel will help aearate the substrate? My understanding is that it pulls the oxygenated water from the water column down through the substrate bed. Granted there will be variants in resistance and in corresponding flow, but it would sound like that would help deliver oxygen to the substrate as a whole.

Last edited by ShyShrimpDoc; 05-15-2013 at 02:03 AM.. Reason: Question
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Old 05-15-2013, 03:15 AM   #5
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You don't the want high amounts of oxygen in the substrate that an undergravel filter would cause. Plants via roots transport small amounts of oxygen down into the substrate. Plants also create a very slow flow of water by a process known as guttation. So put lots more plants and pick up a good aquatic plant book or search the web for articles detailing the physical and chemical processes taking place within the planted tank substrate to fully understand what's going on.

Remember this. This is a planted tank with fish, not a fish tank with plants. They bear only a superficial appearance to each other but are really two entirely different things.

Last edited by Steve001; 05-15-2013 at 10:55 AM.. Reason: .
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Old 05-15-2013, 05:41 AM   #6
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Ummm. Ok. If my point is to get rid if the population of anaerobic bacteria because its a shrimp breeding colony with plants to keep them happy, then would the flow be about right with an undergravel filter? I am raising shrimp to sell locally and help pay for food and minor expenses while in med school. I love plants, don't get me wrong. And I am not trying to be condescending. Just trying to get my perspective across. I have a few months to turn the tank around and reduce its maintenance needs. After that I am going to be way too busy again. And I don't have a lot of time during those few months. I am getting rid of the crystal shrimp and going with a neocard variant to reduce my workload as well. It's either make it a lot less work or rip it down. Because the way it's us now requires way too much attention.

I need to know if I can rely on the rootsystem to deliver enough oxygen to greatly reduce the amount of anaerobic volume and thus the associated pathogenic bacterial load. I also need to know if putting an undergravel filter will have a major negative impact on my ability to grow plants in the tank. I can spend hours searching and get a few opinions in a google search, but I'd rather ask the community here and draw from experience. Especially since theory and practice often don't intersect in an expected location if you know what I mean. I answer questions too (in areas I understand much better), that's what communities are for in my humble opinion.
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShyShrimpDoc View Post
Ummm. Ok. If my point is to get rid if the population of anaerobic bacteria because its a shrimp breeding colony with plants to keep them happy, then would the flow be about right with an undergravel filter? I am raising shrimp to sell locally and help pay for food and minor expenses while in med school. I love plants, don't get me wrong. And I am not trying to be condescending. Just trying to get my perspective across. I have a few months to turn the tank around and reduce its maintenance needs. After that I am going to be way too busy again. And I don't have a lot of time during those few months. I am getting rid of the crystal shrimp and going with a neocard variant to reduce my workload as well. It's either make it a lot less work or rip it down. Because the way it's us now requires way too much attention.

I need to know if I can rely on the rootsystem to deliver enough oxygen to greatly reduce the amount of anaerobic volume and thus the associated pathogenic bacterial load. I also need to know if putting an undergravel filter will have a major negative impact on my ability to grow plants in the tank. I can spend hours searching and get a few opinions in a google search, but I'd rather ask the community here and draw from experience. Especially since theory and practice often don't intersect in an expected location if you know what I mean. I answer questions too (in areas I understand much better), that's what communities are for in my humble opinion.
Forums abound in opinions both good and bad that's why I suggested you pick up a book on aquatic plant horticulture. There are plenty of scholarly articles on this subject found on the web too.

Last edited by Steve001; 05-15-2013 at 11:00 AM.. Reason: .
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:28 AM   #8
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Hydrogen sulfide.
I don’t think this is such a big problem. I would be in the more roots club. I have lots of crypts if you want to trade for some.
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:36 AM   #9
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Default Re: serious aeration issue - need advice

I think you are focusing more on the solution then on the problem.

I deduce from your OP that the substrate got too compacted creating anaerobic areas. If it smells like rotten eggs (methane) or hydrogen, then that is what is going on. If it smells like something else then you might want to figure out what it is first. I don't know how you can actually see or detect anaerobic bacteria in home environment. If you go ahead and do install UF, the likeness of the substrate compacting again is rather high, imho. Add to that a tangle of roots and you just end up with a bigger problem.

In summary, I would follow Hippy's advice: loosen the substrate and add more plants.

If your current sand mix is prone to compaction, replacing some if it with larger grain size might not hurt either.

Methane is rather toxic: use a long straw or small diameter hose to poke your substrate. If the top of the hose is above the water level, then the gas will not escape into your tank.

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Old 05-15-2013, 02:28 PM   #10
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Malaysian trumpet snails will turn your sand for you and help release some of those trapped gasses in small amounts
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:36 PM   #11
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Ok. Cool. As to how I know the bacteria are there... Microscopy on dead shrimp after out breaks. Thanks for all of your help. Thanks for the offer on the crypts. I have plenty of stem plants in another tank. I will start with them. I have assasin snails in the tank. Usually they burrow, but even they won't go deep in this stuff. I recently vacuumed the living daylights out of it too.

Thanks for all the help. Will update in a month or so and let you know how it went.
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psycofc1 View Post
Malaysian trumpet snails will turn your sand for you and help release some of those trapped gasses in small amounts
+1 for MTS
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:58 PM   #13
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i'm loathe to reccommend MTS .. i'd personally remove the sand and leave the flourite whilst adding more plants.. sand is prone to poor water flow flourite isn't the best either. the more vacuuming you do the better as this will lessen some of the organic load and potentially the smell

either way adding plants and having them grow well is the first and best step and will likely work well by itself
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:12 PM   #14
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I can't remove one and leave the other. It's fine grit fluorite and course sand. They are the same size and everything is black. Can't tell them apart, and given the grit size water exchange should be about equal through both.

I have to be honest, there are MTS sitting in a tank in the other room, and I just don't want to put them in my tanks. I am leaning toward installing the UGF, and running it slowly + adding more plants. I understand that most of you think it's unnecessary, but I feel like my window to fix this is closing time wise. I have been noticing issues in the tank for over 6 months and bit by bit figuring out what's going on. I have the canister filter so the flow on the UGF will be set with aeration in mind. I just don't want risk trying just plants and have it fail. I won't have the time to deal with it later.

The substrate was VERY thoroughly cleaned not that long ago. I moved everything out of the tank and vacuumed the entire volume of the tank though it, and then some. It's got a worm species living in there that was out of control. After vacuuming I went to stirring it up and using a power head driven fine filter to clear the water column.

And the chemical that's being produced is not a gas, its aqueous. It's not methane.

Last edited by ShyShrimpDoc; 05-16-2013 at 07:30 PM.. Reason: Sp
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Old 05-17-2013, 12:53 AM   #15
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Default Re: serious aeration issue - need advice

If the substrate is that fine then I would assume it would just work into the UG, and wouldn't let any water through. I mean if it is fine enough to trap gas it is too fine and will compact to much for an UG filter to have any beneficial effects. Then when you factor in the plants root system growing into it over time I don't see any reason to add a UG.

Just my. 02

I also have to add that I don't understand why some people don't like MTS. I have had them in my tank for over a year and I almost never even see one. I actually assumed that they had died off till I rescaped recently and discovered the population still going under the sand.

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