Fish Poop - How Much? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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Question Fish Poop - How Much?

Having both fish and plants in a tank compliments each other and completes the cycle. The fish poops, it feeds the plants, and the plants give off oxygen for the fish.

How long does it take for poop to breakdown and turn into plant food?


What is the right amount of fish poop? How to tell?


How to control the right amount of poop? What are your techniques, methods, secrets?


Background: I'm nearing a tear down of my tank and I am finally reviewing the layer of poop that has integrated with the top layer of my substrate. I never done a siphon vacuum in the 1.8years of running to clean the poop and questioning how serious it is. I noticed a light brown layer of mushy poop that forms under my intake pipe for my filter and corners of the tank. Should I be concerned? I'm down to about 3 fishes in a 9 gallon with feeding every couple days or so.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 07:37 PM
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I noticed a light brown layer of mushy poop that forms under my intake pipe for my filter and corners of the tank. Should I be concerned?
The light brown material is known as Mulm. Most of the Poop degrades very quickly however a small percentage of the organic meterial may last years before it fully degrades. This is normally not a concern. It will contain a small amount of nutrients and some people let it build up and for a nutrient soil for the plants. In other cases the nutrients in it could cause algae issues or bacterial issues. Each tank is different so for you it is difficult to know for sure how it will affect your tank.

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What is the right amount of fish poop? How to tell?
the only thing you can do is to monitor your nitrogen levels. If your ammonia nitrite and nitrate levels are safe you shouldn't have to worry about it and just vaccum out the excess during the weekly water change. If nitrogen levels are high do an immediate water change and perform a vacuum. You want zero ammonia, and nitrite. For nitrate you want to at least 5ppm but ideally not have anything above 20ppm. However some people have higher nitrates in there tap water. In that case you either live with the higher nitrates or filter it out somehow.

You can also use a phosphate meter in the same way. You don't want zero phosphate and you don't want to see it climbing every day. You want to maintain a stable level. Most tanks will be at about 1pm phosphate. But some run up to about 5ppm.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 03:00 AM
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Wow, down to 3 fish. Maybe you did too many water changes. Don't worry about all that testing that Surf is talking about. How does your water look and feel. That should tell you everything!
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
Don't worry about all that testing that Surf is talking about. How does your water look and feel. That should tell you everything!
My water feels wet whether it's low or high in nitrates. I'm impressed if you can judge the level just by looking!

A little bit of mulm isn't a problem, you can remove it when you water change if it bothers you. As the poop (and plants) break down you eventually end up with nitrates which the plants will consume. The question is does the amount produced v. the amount the plants use and the amount you remove during water changes balance out so they don't keep building up. If so, you have just the right amount. If your nitrates are high and rising, then you have too much - up your water changes a bit. The only way to know if your nitrates are high is to test. A fish shop can usually do it for you if you don't want to get a kit yourself.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
Wow, down to 3 fish. Maybe you did too many water changes. Don't worry about all that testing that Surf is talking about. How does your water look and feel. That should tell you everything!
Biggest crock of #$^& I have heard in some time.
Water can look crystal clear or heavily stained and still be lousy with metabolic waste or very little at all.
Water generally feels wet.
Weekly water changes will prevent too much concern along with careful feeding's in tanks less than 10 gal.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 03:49 PM
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Well I got it @Kubla... still chuckling about it too...

Priceless.

92% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
Wow, down to 3 fish. Maybe you did too many water changes. Don't worry about all that testing that Surf is talking about. How does your water look and feel. That should tell you everything!
The last two fishes died the day after a water change
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 03:55 PM
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I wouldn't trust advice from anyone that detours you from testing your water parameters. What was that old GI Joe saying? Knowing is half the battle? You could drive your car blind folded today and forget signs or road markings just going off of memory and driving by how the road feels, but why? Is it not better to check mirrors, look over your shoulder, and watch the road?

Test your water parameters if anything is in question if only to rule out possibilities. Some mulm is normal but lots of built up detritus to me says design flaw and Id adjust flow pattern, then if needed add more. Flow in most tanks should keep detritus suspended in the water column to be removed by filtration. I dont gravel vac, or even syphon off the surface of my substrate because the flow and layout of the tank allows the filter to operate efficiently.

Manual removal of decaying or overgrown plant material is also a good idea to keep up on.Weekly water changes of 50% will help keep dissolved organics, pheromone concentrations etc relatively low and balance the available nutrient profile. This is a great time to fan out mosses and other detritus sponges in the tank that can add to the issue if left to build up.

Like roadmaster said watch the feedings too, lots of folks run into issues overfeeding, its always easy to give more food, but once it hits the water it will likely take weeks to remove the effects entirely as even with 50% weekly water changes you are only diluting by half each week. If you feed heavily daily the accumulation could be problematic. The tests surf suggested will tell you a lot about whats being left to build up in your tank and that will help you adress the source of many problems.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 09:30 PM
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I should have used the sarcasm fault when I posted. The OP has a history of arguing against water changes and testing all the while extolling the healthiness of his tank. Unless things have changed drastically he's not looking for advice. He has in the past, declared himself God over his fish kingdom and takes the approach that just being in tune to your tank is better than testing.

I do EI dosing, 50% WC weekly except my shrimp tank and test my parameters.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2018, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
I should have used the sarcasm fault when I posted. The OP has a history of arguing against water changes and testing all the while extolling the healthiness of his tank. Unless things have changed drastically he's not looking for advice. He has in the past, declared himself God over his fish kingdom and takes the approach that just being in tune to your tank is better than testing.

I do EI dosing, 50% WC weekly except my shrimp tank and test my parameters.
I can tell you one thing, I wouldn't want to be a fish in his kingdom......it's a short miserable life for most.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 04:44 AM
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My apologies to all for blunt reaction albeit pertinent.
I sometimes am not inclined to visit properly,, previous threads that may help shed light.
Maybe also this way for newcomer's?I get lazy.
Much misinformation ,myth's already without contributing further .
Feel kinda stupid for not recognizing the obvious sooner, but I am old in addition to becoming more lazy.
I draw the line however at becoming lazy with the fishes I care for currently.
Weekly water changes for a few decades now have served me well.
Lot's of thing's I might try in plant only tanks but who really does this outside those who might be competing in aqua scaping design/methods.?
It occurs I am rambling, but this too seems to accompany getting old.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 07:39 PM
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I'm probably going to irritate a few folks, but I do want to half-defend reduced PWC's in *some* cases. For example, where I live, our municipal water supply has alarmingly high concentrations of ammonia and nitrate. Back before I understood water testing, I suffered very high stock losses and disease, while being religious about my PWCs. I couldn't understand why. It turned out my water from the tap was worse than what was in my tank. I've since invested in a comprehensive test kit, and learned to keep lightly stocked tanks with heavy plantings, and perform water changes only monthly to limit buildup of minerals from our hard water. BUT: I test water and maintain filters religiously, and my fish are in good health because I'm still putting in the time/effort to monitor that balance is maintained.

So, less PWCs are sometimes ok, but you still must test often, and it still means maintenance work. There is no excuse to just let it go, and then wonder why your fish die.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 07:54 PM
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That doesn't irritate me at all. There's exceptions to everything. I even question whether the OP really cares about the actual answer to his question. There have been posts in the past that were meant to cause arguments and controversy. There were even post by an odd "friend" that appeared to be an alter ego and were happening around the time that the OP was banned.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 09:46 PM
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Omg, how bad do you gotta be to get banned from an aquarium hobby board? Good grief...

As a return to the topic though, I will note for anyone who is curious later that malaysian trumpet snails are great at migrating the mulm to lower layers where plants can utilize the nutrients (and they reduce the chances of anerobic bacteria building up in pockets). You do have to be careful of overfeeding though, as they'd rather much the fish food, and if overfed can multiply quickly. If feeding is not excessive though, their numbers will typically stay stable and balanced.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
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Last edited by IntotheWRX; 02-20-2018 at 04:29 PM. Reason: asdf
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