Tis the question.....to vac or not to vac. - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by mboley View Post
Very timely post for me. I just set up a second tank and will transfer half of my existing plants to the new tank next week. My substrate is a mix of Flourite Black, Black sand and Dark and the tank has been set up 14 months. I have never deep vacuumed the substrate but do vacuum off the surface mulm in the places it collects every couple weeks. I do use root tabs. I have good flow so to the naked eye the substrate looks clean in 90% of the tank.

From reading above I need to do a good vacuuming after I pull these plants along with a large water change. Would everyone agree? My question is how deep should I go? I'm not clear on that. I have a substrate depth of 2" to 4" front to back. Tank is high tech, if that matters.

Any input is appreciated. thanks
Sounds like you’ve got a good handle on it. Did your current practices work well on your existing tank?

But yea in a higher tech/light situation if you clear out a area do clean up excess you pull up, fork around with planting tongs in maybe top .5-.75” of substrate, lightly vacuum excess. Even fork around bit around plants you are leaving, I even have a turkey baster with small curved piece of 3/8 hose on end I’ll use to lightly “leaf blow” between plants or suck it out if spacing between plants allows it.

Just don’t bare rape your entire bed all at once if standing system is doing good, use your eyes and your feel for tank to tell you what is right. And yes higher tech tanks need less organics than low-med tech tanks, your playing Mother Nature, rigidly controlling the parameters.

Totally different tank than that little 7gal low tech mulm bomb I posted above which is doing fantastic with two simple to grow plants, one (Rotala) a creeping substrate maven that loves that overblown mulm layer and red root floaters which actually partially shade the Rotala and slow it down a bit. Floaters get most its co2 from air.

The pink pearl ramshorn snails that came in with mulm seed are thriving, huge thick pearly pink shells and watermelon pink flesh, their munching down on that red root floater, haven’t touch Rotundifolia and are giving me great gobs of snail poop to add to organic base that this tank is thriving off of.

If your new system isn’t set up I’d highly recommend doing a mulm seed like I did on that little tank. I’ll give all props for doing this to my friend who is a biologist/aquaculturist of highest magnitude.

As he explained it to me, think of shores of rainforest, ponds etc where organic debris accumulate. The organic matter along shorelines is some supercharged/ninja stuff in a high aerobic environment as far as bacteria and fungus colony goes. Collect some mulm in a brine shrimp net or coffee filter to strain it out, set on paper towel to pull water away.

Then if your still setting up tank just put good portion of it in a 16oz coke bottle and a strew it about gravel bed and then let let gravel bed set there for around 36hrs damp, partially cover top with plastic, treat it like you were dry starting moss etc. if you do see mold go ahead slowly fill tank.

If your tank is already filled just grab little nickel or quarter sized pieces of that strained mulm and set them out in a Tupperware dish, lid with couple vent holes in it, same time frame about 36hrs, don’t let them go completely dry or start to mold. Then take one of those damp gelatinous damp mulm coins, set one about every 8” of gravel surface area and sprinkle a little gravel on top to hold it down. They’ll swell back up and settle in about 5hrs, boom, gravel bed super seeded. You’ll easily be 2wks ahead on your cycling.

It’s really one of most amazing things I’ve ever seen in 35+ yrs of doing aquarium. Even with huge amounts of mulm I put in that little tank, ammonia never showed, nitrite did a little 2day slight spike and then straight to constant 10ppm nitrate and those 2 simple plants took off like a rocket, all I did was half strength dose of thrive and put it on a 12hr ramped light cycle, 4hrs at 45% at morn, 4hrs at 85% for midday and 4hrs at 35% for afternoon cycles. It’s a cheap ass $30 Nicrew rgb led with a $17 even cheaper multistage ramp timer and a Aquaclear20 for filter. It’s performing way beyond my expectations in this price range.

Beigin rant/

I guess my my whole point here is you seem in touch with your tank and it’s needs. A lot of aquarist can’t correlate a simple thing like over here plants look semi-healthy, algae not overblown on right end of tank compared to left end where plants struggle and algae rears it’s ugly head profusely to a simple water circulation/substrate nutrient saturation problem. Quit reading your damn test kits and look at your damn tank and it’s flora and fauna. They will tell you what’s needing improvement.

Massive “Shock and Awe” water changes at 50%, I’ve never changed more than 25% of my water in any tank I’ve ever owned in 35+yrs except in dire emergencies, and those were never one of my tanks,...salt, reef, freshwater or planted. Always someone else f’ up.

5-6 hr light cycles, WTH, Mother Nature has never supplied any plant growing on the face of this earth in tropic or sub-tropic latitudes, which are the areas most of the plants used in our aquarium trade come from, with anything less than a 9hr light cycle. Kansas City, my latitude here in KS, shortest day of year 9+hrs.

With these new multi stage ramp up/adjustable intensity led fixtures if you can’t supply your plants with a light cycle that can replicate lighting that these plants have spent 100,000’s if not millions of years adapting to as norm, by all means continue on with your 5-6hr artic circle light cycle at 125% intensity, your a idiot.

In my day of 90’s-2000’s you had to to use multiple timers and staging of t8, t5 and power compacts to do a natural daylight cycle. These days it’s grab a remote or load up a web app, ramp up cycle to full intensity, boom, done. Obviously from what I’ve observed here in this forum most people are too lazy and/or think it doesn’t matter, sorry your wrong, you can’t undo millions of years of evolution and preferences a plant or fish prefers at the click of a button. Mimic what Mother Nature has been providing them as closely as you can.

Want a real eye opener, it’s almost 3.5hrs after sunrise before real deep penetration of light into water layer begins, before that time most of light is reflected off water surface and back up into atmosphere, it’s actually dim light before that point. This is what natural daylight transmitted through water looks like dawn to noon, reverse it for noon to sunset cycle. This is lighting/ramp up cycle your plants are evolved to do, pearling only happens in the most optimal water conditions between about 11-1pm. If your worrying that your plants aren’t pearling for 5-6hrs straight you really don’t understand natural lighting cycles.



Don’t even get me started on the Dump And Run Blitzkrieg dosing routines and circulation in tanks of most people I see in this forum having problems with. The #1 problem with those tanks are the the people who are running them.

End Rant/

From posters in this thread @ced281 gets it, he/she gets that it’s about providing a stable natural environment for your organism to thrive in, not rapid environment swings to optimal levels, even if environment your starting at maybe be a bit sub-optimal, slowly heading towards a better setup is better than a rapid correction in either direction. Slow and steady always wins this race.
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Last edited by DaveKS; 05-10-2019 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Typo
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post #17 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 02:50 PM
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Well, I generally agree with the spirit @DaveKS 's rants.... watch your plants, observe your tank, have some patience, and in time, you do get to figure out what it needs.


but I want to temper it a little. Whenever someone goes too deep into how 'nature' does it, I want to remind him and/or other readers that our tanks, on its best day, is very far from nature....

Check out this link as the amano team was scouting for stuff.

https://www.adana.co.jp/en/aquajourn...-report-aj276/

Look at where our plants come from. This is what happens when you get nature unmodified, natural lighting, natural mulm buildup. Most of our plants aspire to become emersed. Underwater looks like crap. mulm filled, algae ridden. And that's a good set of pics. Google image search for "aquarium plants in the wild" for some real gnarly stuff. This is not a knock on how good mulm is for the growth of the plants, but in our altered reality of a planted tank scape, it does nothing and is actually most times detrimental to the appearance of the scape. And I'm saying this even as I personally rarely gravel vac because I'm too darn lazy. So yea, uhh, I leave it in there because it's good for the plants. That's totally the reason I'm going with

I feel some of the faults that you ranted against in the hobby today, @DaveKS is not there because we have devolved or think we can do better or we can change nature, but it's more a result of what aquascapers are trying to achieve. We force plants to stay underwater because their immersed form looks better, we trim them when they achieve the nirvana of unfettered co2 access, we clean away their food source because its unsightly and we cannot tolerate algae. At the heart of my take is .. this is NOT real nature ... but it sure looks beautiful.

https://showcase.aquatic-gardeners.o...8/index0f.html

So, I feel the best "answer" for this thread, @Jennifier, is another question that's thrown around on the forum by @Greggz a lot:

ask yourself, what kind of tank do you want?


A true(er) to nature tank? Because that's not going to turn heads. You can visit your local pond for that.

Just growing plants? Sure, by all means, keep the mulm.

A somewhat aquascape inspired tank? Well, you're going to have to start compromising and making decisions that are not "true to nature..."

That, will help you weed out the varied responses you're getting.

PS: @DaveKS
Definitely like the light diagram. Justifies the ramp up/ramp down for algae control. But you see, that's exactly where the 5-6 hour advice comes from, if the tank keeper doesn't have a ramp(able) light, there's not much other practical alternative for quick troubleshooting.


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Last edited by ipkiss; 05-10-2019 at 03:25 PM. Reason: modified first line a little for better coherence; added PS
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post #18 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 03:11 PM
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Great post @ipkiss

There is always a going to be a difference in opinion on tank husbandry to those that are aquascapers (everything aesthetic) and those that want to just grow plants. Kinda the difference between ADA and Diane W.

Our tanks are not set in a natural setting so you can't compare it to nature. As mentioned many of the plants we keep don't even exist in nature the way we keep them. In most cases to have any kind of aesthetic appeal they need our intervention and large water changes and shortened light periods are necessary in some setups. It's that simple. You can't make a blanket statement that you don't need them. You might not need them for a particular setup but it's not a universal fit or dogma you can practice for all tanks. It depends what your trying to do.
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post #19 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 04:41 PM
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I'm with you @ipkiss. No matter how "natural" we are in creating and keeping our tanks, it's all horticulture, not nature. I enjoy a messy/natural appearing biotope as much (maybe more) than the next person, but even those super "hands off" tanks require human care to keep healthy. The closer we get to European gardens in style; clean, well-ordered plants, in contrived groups, the more effort we have to put into maintaining that garden, just like their terrestrial counterparts require. Weeding, thinning, replanting, fertilizing- the more contrived/far from nature the garden, the more effort is required to resist the entropy of nature. Gardens, aquariums, lawns, homes with small children; they're all the same.

Take home point from an aquatic plant ecologist- Mulm is amazing for starting a tank, and is good to keep in the lowest parts of the substrate, but it needs to be cleaned out of the rest of the tank 99% of the time to meet the aesthetic desires of 90% of plant hobbyists. If you're looking for something that closely approximates the messiness of nature then mulm may just be what you want.
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I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #20 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 11:48 PM
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Enjoyed that ADA India page, that one pic of Rotala sp. growing along stream is a exactly type of forest environment Iím trying to setup in that little tank.

Iím torn now what to do for fish. Common sense tells me to just get a Plakat/wild Betta, hardy, easy to feed and find, bigger and showy. But then the geek in me kicks in and Iím looking at Scarlet Badis and Pygmy FL sunfish as options but harder to feed. Also maybe just a heard of green neons or some smaller Rasboras.

Green Kubotai Rasboras are actually kind of leading the pack now as a choice. Darker woody environment, slight over hang of floating plants to subdue light a bit and their color should really pop in that tank.
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post #21 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by ced281 View Post
Don't forget amanos (and other shrimp) poop too and make sludge/fine mulm that'll seep into the substrate. I think, even if the top layer of substrate looks clean, it's important to try and clean up the mulm that's sitting just below the substrate (in the context of running a planted tank with fertilization).

I guess what I'm saying is that I cannot vac due to my carpet and have not had to for it to be clean.
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post #22 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 03:08 AM
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I guess what I'm saying is that I cannot vac due to my carpet and have not had to for it to be clean.
What plants do you have that are carpeting? I've had no issues vacuuming Saggiteria spp., Glossostigma, Eliocharis pusillis, and Monte Carlo once they've established.
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I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #23 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 11:18 AM
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I surface vac with every water change which is bi-weekly these days as I'm down to 3 fish. The tank is fine; my fish are old. They just turned 11 or 12 last month. My substrate is a mix of Eco-Complete, Flourite and gravel.

Even though I keep a low tech jungle tank, I don't want see food, poop or whatever floating or laying around. It grosses me out to watch fish swimming by the front of a tank and seeing a trail of stuff that acts like a dust cloud. That being said, I used to be one of those that over cleaned which the fish didn't care about, but it didn't make my plants happy.

I've since come to terms with my tank OCD and now only deep vac in corners where there are no plants or in spots where there is little water circulation, i.e directly under the heater. Yes, I could buy and put a wavemaker or circulation pump in to provide better water movement in such areas, but since nothing is 'broken' or causing problems, I'm not going to fix it.

All that to say, I agree with Greggz. The cleaner things are, the easier it is to keep things in check.
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post #24 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
With these new multi stage ramp up/adjustable intensity led fixtures if you canít supply your plants with a light cycle that can replicate lighting that these plants have spent 100,000ís if not millions of years adapting to as norm, by all means continue on with your 5-6hr artic circle light cycle at 125% intensity, your a idiot.
Dave plenty of "idiots" like me use high intensity lighting for a fixed period. Mine is 8 hours, but I know some VERY good plant growers who are at 5 and 6. I can point you in their direction if you would like to see what they have accomplished with that method.

And I change 70% of my water each week, front load all macros (I think what you meant by Dump And Run Blitzkrieg?), and gravel vac/remove mulm every week. So pretty much the opposite of what you are describing.

But here is the thing......I have seen folks be successful with wildly different methods. Really no need to call those who use other methods "idiots".

Have you considered starting a journal? It's a great way to demonstrate what can be accomplished with various methods, and I would love to see other examples of your tanks. Do you have any larger tanks with a wide variety of pants? Would love to see them if you do, and it might foster some good discussions.


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post #25 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 02:06 PM Thread Starter
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I really appreciate the in depth conversation that happened here! I also wondered about some of these in depth concepts etc


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post #26 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 05:08 PM
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I haven't watched a Dennis Wong video in a long time. One of his videos popped up in my recommendations feed and it just so happened that the video that came up was Dennis talking about tank vacuuming. Since he doesn't use gravel as a substrate, he has to do things a bit differently to get all the gunk out.

He combines the use of a turkey baster and a siphon. I use both, but never thought about using the two together like he does. He uses the turkey baster to get the stuff moving, then has the siphon close by so he doesn't have to chase all the mess. It's cool idea and one I'm going to use.

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post #27 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 05:39 PM
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I haven't watched a Dennis Wong video in a long time. One of his videos popped up in my recommendations feed and it just so happened that the video that came up was Dennis talking about tank vacuuming. Since he doesn't use gravel as a substrate, he has to do things a bit differently to get all the gunk out.
Yeah that's a good video, and shows some of the painstaking detail Dennis goes to create his presentations. His maintenance and plant pruning are impeccable.


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post #28 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 09:12 PM
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Dave plenty of "idiots" like me use high intensity lighting for a fixed period. Mine is 8 hours, but I know some VERY good plant growers who are at 5 and 6. I can point you in their direction if you would like to see what they have accomplished with that method.

And I change 70% of my water each week, front load all macros (I think what you meant by Dump And Run Blitzkrieg?), and gravel vac/remove mulm every week. So pretty much the opposite of what you are describing.

But here is the thing......I have seen folks be successful with wildly different methods. Really no need to call those who use other methods "idiots".

Have you considered starting a journal? It's a great way to demonstrate what can be accomplished with various methods, and I would love to see other examples of your tanks. Do you have any larger tanks with a wide variety of pants? Would love to see them if you do, and it might foster some good discussions.
Yes, itís was a late night after work 4 beers in rant. I shouldnít have used that horrible word. I need to say ďIím sorryĒ to everyone.

As I stated to you before Iíve been out of this world for over 8yrs. It was actually the full time job this ďhobbyĒ became doing reef and high tech planted that drove me away. As far as bigger tanks and pics go those tanks were sold and pics lost to a lightning strike/computer back up fail a decade ago.

Iím actually just wanting a couple small nano sized, simple, easy to care for setups, had the little bow in storage so dug it out. Also picked up a old fluval 2gal+ AIO cube on Craigslist Iím going to resurrect for my office desk.

But yes, I know how successful you and many others here are. Sheer volume of bows and plants you maintain dictates what you need in your tank. But it also gives me a reminder of why I left the hobby as a whole. Still think youíd be better staging your lighting.

Also realized I was crossing theory on using mulm with Phil Edwards , of the AGA. Even when I was out of hobby I still kept up with the AGA contests every year.

But yea, I should have started a journal on that little tank. I had only just joined here when I started it, didnít take any pics of actual build up and wasnít aware of purpose of journal section as a whole.

Again anybody I offended by my rant, IíM SORRY
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post #29 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 10:04 PM
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Again anybody I offended by my rant, IíM SORRY
No worries, I've had to do it myself a few times. We all "rant" from time to time. I do like the way you announced your "rant", I haven't used that technique yet but will consider it!

And I do ramp up lights in a way. I use very low light LED's as "viewing" lights outside of the photo period, and a short period of "moon" lights too. But it's very, very low light.

I have from time to time ramped up my T5's as well. Start with two bulbs, then four, then six, then four, then two. It's a valid way for folks to find the sweet spot for their tank. A few more/less hours of peak light can certainly have an impact.

For me, the better balance the tank is in, the more light it can handle without problems. I run all six right now for a total of 8 hours. But I don't recommend that for everyone, depends on what each tank needs/can handle.


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post #30 of 40 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 01:38 AM
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5-6 hr light cycles, WTH, Mother Nature has never supplied any plant growing on the face of this earth in tropic or sub-tropic latitudes, which are the areas most of the plants used in our aquarium trade come from, with anything less than a 9hr light cycle. Kansas City, my latitude here in KS, shortest day of year 9+hrs.

With these new multi stage ramp up/adjustable intensity led fixtures if you canít supply your plants with a light cycle that can replicate lighting that these plants have spent 100,000ís if not millions of years adapting to as norm, by all means continue on with your 5-6hr artic circle light cycle at 125% intensity, your a idiot.
I am glad I don't fall into this category.
Wow, just made it @ 6.5 hours!!!
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Growing is not that difficult.
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