Is there any detriment to detritus? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Is there any detriment to detritus?

So I currently have a 25g rimless cube with an overflow that leads to a sump. The back of my tank and my sump seem to collect quite a bit of detritus. My question is, do I even need to worry about it at all? In all honestly I kind of like the natural look and it makes a nice soft substrate for my neo shrimp and baby plecos. Here are a few pictures:


I'd say it is about a half an inch deep in the back.

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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 04:37 PM
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Some people will say it's a nitrate factory, but I see it like you do, a great place for the shrimp and fry to graze. Proper water management will address the nitrates.


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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 04:48 PM
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In my experience it doesn't cause any immediate problems, but as it builds up the water parameters in your tank will drift away from tap water. This makes moving fish between tanks (or adding storebought fish) more challenging.

Some really mature lowtech tanks can hit 400-2000 TDS and while the existing fish might be perfectly happy it will be almost impossible to add or remove fish that are used to tapwater.

Its not really a problem, but I would occasionally clean some of it up.


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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
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Some people will say it's a nitrate factory, but I see it like you do, a great place for the shrimp and fry to graze. Proper water management will address the nitrates.
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Originally Posted by 691175002 View Post
In my experience it doesn't cause any immediate problems, but as it builds up the water parameters in your tank will drift away from tap water. This makes moving fish between tanks (or adding storebought fish) more challenging.

Some really mature lowtech tanks can hit 400-2000 TDS and while the existing fish might be perfectly happy it will be almost impossible to add or remove fish that are used to tapwater.

Its not really a problem, but I would occasionally clean some of it up.
So I do regular weekly water changes of at least 50%. Would that be enough to maintain more "normal" levels of water parameters? I will be taking fry from this tank occasionally so I don't want to overly stress them out in transition.

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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 06:14 PM
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Your best bet is to get a TDS meter and see. In my experience the TDS of a tank tends to be quite sticky and even large water changes will revert quickly.

I'm not sure what is generally considered to be an acceptable TDS difference when moving fish, but I would probably try to keep the tank within 200ppm of tap water.


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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-13-2017, 06:42 PM
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My instinct would be to use a powerhead to churn that crapola up into the water stream serviced by the filter.
I don't even like gravel as it is basically a giant nitrate sink..

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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-14-2017, 04:09 AM
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Your present fauna may thrive in that "soup", but you may eventually kill new additions.
After suffering a major "bad" bacteria problem a couple of years ago, causing me to lose several prized Angelfish,
I did a bunch of research on probiotics.
I had simply removed a huge 2 year old Amazon Sword Plant, the disturbed substrate killed 6 fish.
If I hadn't done a Potassium Permanganate dip with the others, I would have lost more.
Not only killed my fish, but a dozen of a friends fish I gave the Swordplant to!
My 125 had zero mulm on the substrate. At a bare minimum, I would vacuum that crap out.
I now dose my tanks with "beneficial bacteria, to reduce mulm, and organic material.
I also feed probiotic flake.
It also populates the "gut" of your livestock, building up their immunity to "nasties"
An added benefit is crystal clear water! ( I also use Purigen).
My 4 year old sump under my 65 had 1 1/2" of mulm, like in your pictures, beneath the bio chamber.
There is now NONE. The bacteria eat it. A lot less filter cleaning too!
Sorry for the long post, just some food for thought...
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 03:56 AM
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Not only killed my fish, but a dozen of a friends fish I gave the Swordplant to!
We might conclude that pulling a well established plant with extensive roots could have released gases and undesirable bacteria into the water column, but putting that plant in another aquarium shouldn't have killed his fish - This seems like a bit of a mystery to me.

To the OP...what are your Nitrates? Besides being unsightly, it would seem that such a level of detritus would result in very high nitrates.
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 06:05 AM
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AbbeysDad,
I am sure gas wasn't an issue, as I put 1200 gph through a wet/dry filter.
After a PP dip a day later one of the survivors had 50% of his fins dissolved to fin rot, THAT fast!
(that fish regrew all of his finnage, and is still alive today!)
Don't know what it was, but it was aggressive!
If this nasty stuff was in the substrate, in contact with the root mass, it would make sense to me it would be in the roots too. Also I doubt every bit of Ecocomplete was flushed from the root mass.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 01:02 PM
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Good question! My gut reaction as a low tech Walstad-oriented person would be to just let it be, esp as it's just in the back- but science-wise, it's more complicated. I don't know the answer, but here are some variables that I'd expect would be in it- (as a scientist- but I'm less aquarium experienced than others here)

-TDS, as others have mentioned above

- anaerobic heterotrophic vs aerobic autotrophic bacteria. In brief, the decomposing bacteria multiply much faster and in some cases compete w your "good" bacteria. If your ammonia and nitrate parameters are generally good, then the primary issue would be upon disturbance. Dunno if you have MTS keeping some aeration?

- ammonia generated from high levels of decomposition- again, if your params are happy then it can be primarily a disturbance issue.And there is less ammonia in that type of matter.

- food source. Different substrate areas and available organic substrates might produce different critters that you do or don't want, depending (detritus worms, ostracods vs planaria, etc.)

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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 01:37 PM
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I'd use a DIY water bottle filter with a real high gph for ½ - ¾ of an hour
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Allred View Post
AbbeysDad,
I am sure gas wasn't an issue, as I put 1200 gph through a wet/dry filter.
After a PP dip a day later one of the survivors had 50% of his fins dissolved to fin rot, THAT fast!
(that fish regrew all of his finnage, and is still alive today!)
Don't know what it was, but it was aggressive!
If this nasty stuff was in the substrate, in contact with the root mass, it would make sense to me it would be in the roots too. Also I doubt every bit of Ecocomplete was flushed from the root mass.
Accelerated finrot could suggest that aggressive decomposition bacteria was released when the plant was pulled. This bacteria would be secure deep in the substrate regardless of filter flow rates.
Mind you that I'm just 'spitballing' here since I've never heard of moving plants killing fish before. Then again, I don't think I've ever seen a tank with such piles of detritus!

I generally tend to think that organic fertilizer is a good thing and sometimes [planted] tanks can be cleaned in excess removing these, only to require additional chemical fertilizer additives to satisfy plant needs. However, a tank with excess piles of detritus that isn't being properly decomposed is likely a potential negative. I have a lot of fish and a silica sand substrate with MTS and I rarely see any detritus.
Again, what are the nitrates?

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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-15-2017, 05:53 PM
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It's a good indicator your biofiltration capacity is lacking.

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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 11:13 AM
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I am suspicious that feeding numerous baby plecos probably creates a bit more waste than normal. I leave the detritus in my planted tank, but I don't think I could build that much detritus even if I tried.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 01:19 PM
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I need to vacuum my bare bottom pleco baby tanks daily, they create that much waste.
But a tank with the appropriate amount of flow will never collect that much crap outside of the filter.

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