Tis the question.....to vac or not to vac. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Tis the question.....to vac or not to vac.

I have ran into several threads/videos etc of planted tanks or aquarium maintenance that say to gravel vac and not to gravel vac....IYO which is the most beneficial. As of now I am doing what I did with the old saltwater methods and while I do not "vac" my substrate I do use the vacuum to remove some of the detritus and other small dead plant bits etc....I do occasionally stick the nose into the gravel just to get up some extra junk but not so much to take beneficial bacteria or stir up the dirt and make it too cloudy.


What's your method?

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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 05:35 PM
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Organics build up in substrate, removing organics reduces algae's source of food and unnecessary contribution to overall tank pollution.

Remove by gently vacuuming exposed substrate, and when pulling up plants to trim give the area a good vac.

This is of course for non-buffering substrates that can be disturbed without large consequences.

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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 06:30 PM Thread Starter
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How often do you pull up plants? Can I re-scape? I thought you just left them alone

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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 06:33 PM
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How often do you pull up plants? Can I re-scape? I thought you just left them alone

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Some of my plants grow over 1" per day, so I have to either trim them and leave the stumps to regrow, or pull up the stumps (because they get ratty after a cut or two). Pulling up offers room to get the vac in there and clean out mulm and crud.

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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 07:57 PM
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How often do you pull up plants? Can I re-scape? I thought you just left them alone

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What substrate are you using, and what plants? It really depends on quite a bit of factors. As @Quagulator mentioned, inert substrate like ours is easy to do fast growing plants that you pull up, top, and replant with no mess.

As for vacuum, I do this every water change (weekly) with the same method as mentioned above. My substrate is Black Diamond Blasting Sand.
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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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I have caribsea eco complete. I don't vacuum like the videos where they tumble all the gravels, but I do shove about half a pinky nail into the rocks and keep going till it's clear. I water change 1-2 a week

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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Jennifier View Post
I have caribsea eco complete. I don't vacuum like the videos where they tumble all the gravels, but I do shove about half a pinky nail into the rocks and keep going till it's clear. I water change 1-2 a week

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Eco-Complete is amazing at trapping detritus / mulm.... so vacuuming is a good idea with it
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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-05-2019, 09:29 PM
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I'm with Quagulator on this. Doing a light surface cleaning with each water change with a deep cleaning every time you pull and replant is highly recommended with Eco-Complete. If you're leery of vacuuming around your plants make sure to swish your hand around the groups to get detritus out into the water so it can be removed with the dirty water.
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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 01:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Phil Edwards View Post
I'm with Quagulator on this. Doing a light surface cleaning with each water change with a deep cleaning every time you pull and replant is highly recommended with Eco-Complete. If you're leery of vacuuming around your plants make sure to swish your hand around the groups to get detritus out into the water so it can be removed with the dirty water.
+1.

The more uber clean your tank conditions, the easier everything else will be.
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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 09:12 PM
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Oh no mulm, itís death on wing for your aquarium.



Tank (7gal) at 3.5wk after setup, intentionally installing and seeding gravel bed with 2 big olí sheets of mulm. This is after I cut out 2/3 of plant mass of Rotala and threw away 2 handfuls of red root floaters. Zero cycling, zero ammonia, zero nitrite since day 2, steady 10íish ppm of nitrate, no co2 injection, 1/2 strength dosing with thrive. All started with 3 small sprigs of Rotala planted in mulm bed at each end of tank and 5-6 pieces red red floater. Near zero algae of any shape or form. Only problem is with surface scum but Iíve got a mini surface extractor on order to take care of that. Ph6.6-6.8, kh5, gh around 8.

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post #11 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 09:43 PM
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Mulm's not a bad thing to start a tank off with if it's put down on the glass before adding substrate and/or used to seed the filter. The trick is making sure it doesn't accumulate once the system's up and running "for real".

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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Last edited by Phil Edwards; 05-06-2019 at 09:54 PM. Reason: .
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post #12 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-07-2019, 08:08 PM
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I had the same question starting out. What I've found is that having one amano per every 2 or 3 gallons and proper fertilization keeps my substrate very clean.

Still, I will hover the vacuum an inch or two above my carpet plants and swish it back and forth just to clean up some extra detritus that is laying around. Same for my horizontal rock surfaces. I also swish my taller steam plants around to get gunk off of them.
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post #13 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 05:57 AM
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Mulm naturally accumulates at most substrate surfaces of every aquatic ecosystem on this planet and is broken down within top 1.5-2Ē oxic layers of substrate as long as you make sure substrate is well circulated. If you donít have adequate circulation then you start having problems with stuff like sulfide etc that nature deals with in anoxic layers of the ecosystem which is always well away from top layers.

This little tank was dry hardscaped, flushed through and drained to bottom glass to get rid of turbidity. Then I laid down fresh damp mulm on both ends of tank 1/4-3/8Ē thick, took a ketchup squeeze bottle and lightly washed mulm down into top 1Ē of substrate. Then I let it set 36hr in that high aerobic environment, all the bacteria and fungi in that mulm were supercharged and ready to go by time I slowly filled tank without disturbing mulm layer, planted and turned pump and light on.

The little aquaclear Iím using was specifically placed so output sweeps over top of those tallest rocks/cave, hits bow front glass, creates a down draft and pushes micro currents into subtrate under this 16x8 gravel bed at that low spot at front.

Within 2 days of planting this the 3 single little sprigs of Rotundifolia on each end had rooted in, grown 1.5Ē and where starting to send out multiple massive sized side runners across gravel.

Within 10 days those runners had completely encircled the whole tank, front, back and sides, sending up new stalks every 3/4-1Ē or so. Red root floaters had tripled mass and Rotala original stalks had reached surface and where now creeping 3-4Ē along water surface and branching out. Entire surface of tank was covered with plants.

To say mulm is bad for your aquarium is akin to saying compost and mulch is bad for your garden. Nutrients are recycled and made available for your plants again. Only difference is we have to deal with it more diligently in a closed aquarium environment. Why remove nitrogen and other compounds then have to replace them with a man made supplement. Let nature do what itís been doing for millions of years and just lightly supplement it as needed.

Only thing I plan on doing to this little tank is add surface extractor, slowly remove about 80% of that mulm and start doing 1gal (16%) water changes. Surface scum compounds are one of main ones that canít be dealt with in oxic layer Iíve set up in substrate and will be dealt with by physical removal and also periodically running carbon and/or purigen in filter box for couple days at a time.
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post #14 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Edwards View Post
I'm with Quagulator on this. Doing a light surface cleaning with each water change with a deep cleaning every time you pull and replant is highly recommended with Eco-Complete. If you're leery of vacuuming around your plants make sure to swish your hand around the groups to get detritus out into the water so it can be removed with the dirty water.
I'm on the same bout as @Phil Edwards and @Quagulator. I think all tanks can benefit from light surface cleaning. It really helps to get rid of detritus which as another member mentioned is a source of organics. Uncontrolled levels of organics eventually lead to algae blooms, etc.

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Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post
I had the same question starting out. What I've found is that having one amano per every 2 or 3 gallons and proper fertilization keeps my substrate very clean.

Still, I will hover the vacuum an inch or two above my carpet plants and swish it back and forth just to clean up some extra detritus that is laying around. Same for my horizontal rock surfaces. I also swish my taller steam plants around to get gunk off of them.
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).
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post #15 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 03:15 AM
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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
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