Nasty Dirty Substrate... - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Nasty Dirty Substrate...

Guys,

I have been under the idea that the substrate in our planted tank never needed to be siphoned because plants will utilize the fish waste & left over fish food in the substrate as a source of nutrient. Therefore, I have not been siphon the substrate in my tank for the past 3 month, not even once.

I have lemon tetras, cardinals and rainbow in the tank. They seem to be fine except I do see flashing and fish scratching sometimes. But they are all eating and active.

BTW, I treated tank with ICK in Jan while I am transferring everything from a 38G to a 75G. So I treated the tank with Super Ich Cure. Now there are no more white spots on the fish.

I decided to keep discus in this planted tank a week ago and added two very heathly adult discus in the tank. It was a bad idea and both discus truned dark and started scratching with rapid breathing within 24 hours in my planted tank. I knew it is the water. So I started siphon substrate and the water I got was like sewage water and stink really bad.

I have been sihponing the substrate three times since last week and have been doing 60% w/c every time I siphon the substrate. Now I'm scarred of putting my discus back into the tank.

The substrate consisted of Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil with Eco-Complete. Should I ditch the substrate and start over? I'm currently treating the tank with Praziquantel and the treatment has been ongoing for a week already. But I still see tetras scratching sometime and rapid breathing as well.

I dont trust the water anymore. At least they are not good enough for discus. What should I do?

Furthermore, I did put new fish into this tank without QT before, so I'm responsible for all the ongoing issues with my tank. I want to kick myself for that.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 02:31 PM
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First and foremost, test for ammonia/nitrite/nitrate if you haven't already done so.

Substrate doesn't need to be kept super clean, but if mulm (fish poop and other assorted detritus) progressively accumulates, it does need to be occasionally reduced. If you see it literally piling up on the Eco-Complete, or completely clogging the space between granules (easiest to see at the front of the tank through the glass), then it's time.

Sounds like your substrate has gone anaerobic by the stench. In cases where deep siphoning is necessary but not possible (like for carpets), I've been able to chemically reverse clogging and early anaerobic progression in inert substrates. Measure 2tbsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide per 10G of tank volume. Mix with 10X that amount of water. Using a syringe, inject in a grid pattern spaced 2" apart, with about 1tsp. of the solution per location. You'll normally run out of solution before you cover the entire substrate. Repeat the next day, starting where you left off. Though I'm not familiar with "dirted" tanks, so I'm not sure if this would be appropriate. Perhaps there are better methods or replacement is warranted.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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I've been seeing posts about anaerobic and how people adviced to avoid anaerobic in their planted tank. But I have no idea about anaerobic, is it good or bad for the fish or the plants in the tank?

I have 2" dirt covered with 2" ecocomplete mixed with gravels. So the substrate is 4" deep. Is this too deep? Is there any other way to clean up this mess without adding chemical to the water? Because I'm concern the dirt will leech the chemical and later release back into the water.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 03:31 PM
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I have a pretty thick carpet of dwarf sag in my 55g, with about 2 inches of sand above 3inches of eco complete. I use a bamboo skewer every other month and poke holes down to the glass. This keeps my substrate in good shape. Do you have any cories in the tank? I find they do a great job of keeping the sand cap moved.


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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 03:38 PM
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Malaysian trumpet snail's are also helpful, but can get out of control depending on how often or how much you feed.
Lot's of stem plant's can also help, for plant's have the ability to transport oxygen to their root's thus eliminating low oxygen in substrate.
I prolly got three inches of black diamond over two inches of miracle grow, and have not vaccumed or touched substrate in a couple year's.
Lot's of trumpet snail's,cory's,keep sand surface moved around so no sulfide buid up.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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There are large size air bubbles coming out of my substrate every single day. Is this normal?

I got the red round snail which they came with the plants and now they are taking over the tank. I dont have any MTS.

You guys don't siphon substrate? I guess I'm in a different ball game when trying to keep discus in the tank. The flukes love dirty substrate I think. So you guys are saying I can put my discus back the tank?
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 04:02 PM
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Would for me, depend on what the reading's were for ammonia,nitrites.
Rooting around in the substrate could easily stir up organic's which could lead to ammonia spikes,nitrite spike.
Large bubbles could just be oxygen escaping, but the smell you mention is no doubt partly hydrogen sulfide which also would escape with rooting around.
Personally,,I think once the sulfide react's with oxygen in the water ,it is pretty much harmless otherwise those who run deep sand reef tank's would encounter this with some frequency.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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I dont normally test my water because this is not a brand new tank. Everything looks fine.

Ammonia was at zero and nitrate was at 7 PPM last time I checked. I dont have a nitrite test kit, I doubt there is nitrite reading.

Do you guys use UV light? I'm thinking about turning it back on. The SunSun canister filter comes with a 9w UV light built in. Hopefully a 9w would help kill pathogens in the water.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 05:30 PM
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Anaerobic is bad because it produces hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs and is toxic.

You should always test your water whenever fish are unhealthy or acting strangely. The biofilter can be damaged or overwhelmed.

In an established tank, if the biofilter is successfully keeping ammonia at zero, then nitrite should be zero too. Though rarely that's not the case. And the few times I had nitrite readings, it caused scratching and rapid breathing, which is why I asked about that specifically.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 07:13 PM
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AND you should go to the fish section and ask for links which would give you the complete "care and feeding of" Discus as they are in a class all their own.
I don't own a siphon as you call a vacuum. Not making fun of, just letting you know so when you ask about them in say a pet shop...
I do let my actual plastic tube that I change water/w get close to the bottom in
arias that have a build up of detritus to suck that up. But have never gone into the gravel other than to plant.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line...in the opposite direction...
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-17-2014, 07:23 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I will go grab a Nitrite kit today and test my water.

I cleaned my canister filter two weeks ago after it didn't get cleaning for two month. The filter pads were clogged with fish food and tetra colorbits. I rinsed them in tank water. I've have to say I overfed the tank without realizing it.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-22-2014, 03:15 AM
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A couple of FYIs:

You need to test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates as they are sort of interelated, and you need to know what is happening with all of them to ensure your tank is healthy. (If you don't have a test kit, the API Master Freshwater test kit is highly recommended, but follow the instructions precisely to get accurate results.)

As I understand it, if the bubbles rising from the substrate are hydrogen sulfide and they reach the surface of the water before breaking, the gas will be released into the air, which is stinky for you but fine for your fish. If they break in the water column, that's when it can be damaging/fatal to fish and other fauna.

Discus are extremely sensitive to water conditions and require all sorts of care to keep them properly fed and the tank clean and healthy. You might want to return the discus if possible to the store and try again after you have sorted out the tank problems and educated yourself a little more on discus care. (They are so beautiful, so I can certainly understand your wanting to keep them. )

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