Reviving a neglected tank without starting over? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-08-2017, 04:51 AM Thread Starter
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Reviving a neglected tank without starting over?

So...it's been awhile since I've done any maintenance on my tank. And by that I mean, for the last 6 to 9 months all I've done is feed the fish and top off the water. Somehow, the fish seem happy and the plants are all alive...but it's a choked with algae, unkempt, and just not at all the way it should be.

I think it hasn't been a total failure because the light isn't too strong, and when the co2 ran out at the beginning of the "no maintenance phase", I also stopped fertilizing. It was never a high tech tank to begin with, but the plants were mostly healthy and dense. It was, and still is, mostly dominated by crypts.

Probably not worth posting a photo, but if that would help I can upload some. Just your average weedy, algae choked tank. Healthy looking in a very natural way. Like a swamp. None of the algae are the kind that are difficult to eradicate, at least in my limited experience with low to medium tech.

So I guess my question is this: to restore the tank back to a more presentable state so I need to tear it down and start over, or is it better off to work with what I have? I'm not necessarily interested in aquascaping, or quick results, just looking to get it cleaned up and lush again. Also keep in mind that I have several geriatric fish to consider.

Any advice would be appreciated - thanks!


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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-08-2017, 11:18 AM
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As usual the answer comes down to "it depends ...". There is no hard fast rule. On a small tank, it's usually easier to just tear it down and start over. On a larger tank I'd try to fix it first. Do a general clean up on the tank. Remove as much algae as possible, clean the filtration system, prune back any plants, and do a big partial water change. Usually that goes a large way in turning your tank from an "algae farm" back into a great looking tank. If that fails, you can then consider tearing it all down.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-08-2017, 03:15 PM
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DO NOT CHANGE TOO MUCH AT ONCE. I can't stress this enough. Your fish have built up to these conditions slowly over the last 6 months. If you do a large water change, pull out all the algae and try to do everything at once I can almost guarantee that all your fish will die.

Make gradual changes over the next few weeks. Start with a 25% water change, double prime dose. After a few days pull out half the algae. Wait a few more days and repeat until the tank is algae free. The algae is probably soaking up the very high nitrates, if you rip it all out at once your fish will suffer nitrate shock. As you do 25% water changes the fish can adjust to the new water conditions and the algae will have less to feed on.

It will probably take a month to get your tank under control but you don't need to tear it down and start over if you're willing to take a month to fix it.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-08-2017, 03:58 PM
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Do you have a gravel vacuum? A good place to start would be to give 1/3rd of the tank's gravel a light vacuuming to open up the gravel/sand's transpiration. ( If indeed you have a decently thick enough substrate, usually 2" plus..)

Do you know what your tap water's parameters are? I'm assuming you are near the Great Lakes and it's probably moderately hard with GH. Certain parts of the Northern Upper Midwest area's aquifer are also pretty heavy with nitrates from years of farming. So the surrounding area's water could be part of why you grow algae so well..?

Another consideration, if you're good at cobbling together something, would be to set up a simple 2 liter DIY yeast and sugar CO2 system for your tank, CO2 is often times, even at less than optimal levels, the difference that makes a planted tank thrive. Note that if you are running airstones or 'bubble-walls' or a HOB filter that vigorously disturbs the water surface, introducing a lesser amount of CO2 will be not as effective.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-09-2017, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone!

I'll go ahead and start slowly cleaning it up as aja32 suggested. That's a good point about the algae soaking up nitrates. There's also a philodendron growing into the tank which I'm sure has been helping.

Very low fish load (5 tetras and 2 zebra danios in a 25g tank) but they're all very old fish so I want to not shock them too much.

Would it be best to get the co2 going again before or after the other changes? I was thinking maybe do a few water changes first, let the fish adapt, and then slowly reintroduce co2 before starting to remove algae and prune. How's that sequence sound?

Oh, and on the gravel cleaning...I will do that also but there's not much exposed sand/gravel.


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