Substrate Cleaning vs. Not - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate Cleaning vs. Not

My tank is pretty heavily planted, which makes it nearly impossible to use a vacuum system to really clean the gravel. I even bought the thin and long Fluval product, but I still have to really dig around in the gravel, which upsets my roots, and I can only get into the easy areas in front.

I've had my tank set up for a couple of months now, and I'm worried I'm building up a toxic sludge under the surface of the gravel.

Do the plants help absorb some of this stuff? I've heard of folks who never vacuum their gravel. Does it bio-degrade and become inert over time?

I have lots of snails, shrimp, some corys, and a pleco to help scavenge leftover food, but obviously they don't get everything. I'm very careful not to overfeed, but there's still feces. And while I try to collect as much dead/decaying plant matter as I can, obviously there's still a lot that I don't.

I also bought some Microbe-Lift Gravel and Substrate Cleaner, but I don't know how effective the stuff is or how safe it is. I've used it once. It turned my water brown for a couple of days. It's supposed to do that, but if it's not really going to do what it says (which is clear up all the muck), I don't want to keep using it.

How do other folks cope? Just leave it alone? Do what little I can with the vacuum? Are there other products?

--Chris in Pensacola, FL
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 10:49 PM
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You shouldnt really vacuum a planted tank. That is plant food you are taking away. Its OK to collect the bigger stuff and blow mulm into the water column, for your filter to get, using a powerhead, but I wouldnt vacuum it.

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 10:51 PM
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Snails and shrimp get a lot of stuff when they scavenge. If you have Malaysian trumpet snails, they burrow in the sand and turn it over, keeping it clean. The plants remove TONS of stuff from the substrate as well. There are trillions of denitrifying bacteria in the gravel that are constantly breaking down detritus.

Basically, just vacuum the open areas of the tank. You'll be fine.

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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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Those are the answers I was hoping for! I didn't want to assume anything though.

I already have nerites and golden apple snails. How big are the MTS's? They sound like a good idea. Do they breed like crazy or not? I don't want anything that's going to take over the tank. How many is a good number to start with?

I have a 12 gallon tank.

--Chris in Pensacola, FL
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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:12 PM
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Yes, MTS will take over the tank in most cases.
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:16 PM
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Yes, MTS will take over the tank in most cases.
It depends on the tank I guess. I have them in all 9 of my tanks and never see any of them until after dark. I would guess you are over feeding if you have that many.

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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:41 PM
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What about for bottom dwelling fish who need clean substrates, like corys? Tons of people keep corys in planted tanks and don't vac, so I'm not even sure what people mean when they say to make sure the substrate is "clean" for these guys.

-VeeSe

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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VeeSe View Post
What about for bottom dwelling fish who need clean substrates, like corys? Tons of people keep corys in planted tanks and don't vac, so I'm not even sure what people mean when they say to make sure the substrate is "clean" for these guys.
I think this is referring to little Johnny's gravel tank in his bedroom with kiddie prints on the glass. With no plants dirty substrate is bad . Of course that is only what I THINK :p.


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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:55 PM
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What I do:

1) Give the plants and moss a lil brush/rub to knock stuff off.
2) Vac up whatever I knocked off the plants/any visible poo/whatever
3) If bucket still not full, do general vac of surface.
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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 11:58 PM
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Well, what are corydoras seen rooting around in in Nature? SCUM. Basically. Cories will be fine in an unvacced planted tank. MTS are very easy to control using small loaches and a slim feeding regime. And they don't eat plants, and they look VERY, VERY cool.

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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-29-2012, 12:14 AM
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never vac in a perfect world!!!!
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post #12 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-29-2012, 12:22 AM
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Substrate Cleaning

Hello Bar...

I don't vacuum my planted tanks and they've been running for several years. I just remove and replace a minimum of 50 percent of the tank water every week. If you commit to such a water change routine, there's no time for pollutants of any kind to build up in the tank before the next large water change. The water chemistry remains stable and the fish and plants are healthy.

Pretty simple.

B

"Fear not my child, just change the tank water."
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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-29-2012, 12:34 AM
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+1!

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post #14 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-29-2012, 01:31 AM
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If you have room to vacuum your substrate you don't have enough plants

But yea, my answer is leave it as well.
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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-29-2012, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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Great answer Fusion!

Thanks for all of the replies. I feel better about things now. And I'll try to find some MTS's.

--Chris in Pensacola, FL
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