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I’m thinking about starting a planted aquarium. I am reading that you are not suppose to disturb the gravel in a planted tank. In my tank with no plants I take my hand and swish the gravel around so waste and whatever else comes up and floats in the water then I catch it when syphoning out the water to do a water change. So, my question is how do you clean a planted aquarium without disturbing the gravel
 

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Are these real?
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It depends a bit, mostly on stocking level, substrate type, if you have heavy poopers etc.

Generally speaking, in lightly stocked, not overfed, heavily planted tanks there is little need to clean the substrate.

In my 36 gal tank, I use a gravel vac about once a year to lightly go over areas where mulm accumulates. Keep in mind that the "dark gold" turns into plant nutrients over time, and as long as you do regular water changes, has no detrimental effect on water quality. Depending on your substrate and on the size of the particular particles you may not see anything on top of the substrate as it falls into the cracks. In my example, I use flourite as a substrate, and small fish like tetras produced small sized packets that disappear below the substrate surface.

The "do not disturb" suggestion is to be taken with a grain of salt too. Obviously don't suck out plants through the gravel vac, but carefully cleaning around plants, between ground cover, etc will not upset things. It's just not necessary that much (with reasonable stocking etc see above).

Of course, if you use root tabs or other means to fertilize your substrate you don't want to deep clean! :rolleyes:
 

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I’m thinking about starting a planted aquarium. I am reading that you are not suppose to disturb the gravel in a planted tank. In my tank with no plants I take my hand and swish the gravel around so waste and whatever else comes up and floats in the water then I catch it when syphoning out the water to do a water change. So, my question is how do you clean a planted aquarium without disturbing the gravel
In my experience it depends on the tank. I use to keep a 70 gallon planted tank that was heavily stocked with fish and found that the only way I could keep things healthy and stable was if I vacuumed the gravel in the front of the tank during my water changes. The back of this tank was densely packed with plants but I kept the front vacant for aesthetics. In my current tank, I only clean debris off the top the top and leave everything else alone and have had no issues in the several months it has been up for.

Substrate size matters too, I've never disturbed tanks with very fine gravel or sand substrates and never had issues and typically chose those substrates in tanks that would be heavily planted whereas I've used a larger grade substrate for tanks that were less densely planted or for aesthetic purposes in portions of the tank.
 
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snails are your friend
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I gravel vac my planted tanks every water change, and don't stock any fish in most. You have to stay away from certain ones with shallow root systems (Blyxa is one I seem to easily uproot), but even where tanks are carpeted, you can put the end of the vacuum right over them with a little pressure and it gets quite a bit out gunk out. If there's a "trick" to doing this without disturbing the root systems much, it's to use less flow. When I use my Python water changer, I tend to go at about 1/4 of the max pressure the faucet will allow. Using a hose and bucket, you can simply crimp the hose to get the amount of flow that you need. I am a big believer in keeping things clean, especially substrate and filter media. There's a lot of organic waste produced in a planted system, and I am of the opinion that this is the root cause for nuisance algae that make our hobby difficult.
 

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Many of don't have a scientific explanation as to why, but we typically see less algae when we are more diligent with tank husbandry. Removing dying and decaying plants, cleaning filters regularly and gravel vacuuming as much detritus as we can. By removing all this excess waste before it has a change to break down in the tank, we usually see a reduction in algae.

Yes, detritus has nutrients that plants can utilize as they break down, but we are usually fertilizing anyway, and can easily add these nutrients back in with little to no cost or effort.
 

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I also am of the mindset from experience to also take the "do not disturb" suggestion with a grain of salt.

I have a 30 gallon low-tech planted aquarium with Seachem Flourite substrate that I started just about 1 year ago. I started off with not disturbing the substrate but to tell you the truth, especially with several varieties of Gouramis, Cherry Barbs, Otos, Corydora mates, it is better to vacuum clean the substrate gently weekly. In time, keeping the water chemistry in a good range that meets the needs of the inhabitants and also adding several ferts at regular periods, I can say the ecosystem is doing better and the plants are thriving. I have Taiwan Moss, Aniubias, Crypts, and Java Ferns that are doing well and the fish are all getting along well.

Unexpected "chemistry" may begin to build up on the bottom if you simple never vacuum the bottom substrate in an enclosed aquarium. True, in nature, there is no vacuuming going on weekly but then again nature provides an abundance of dynamic widespread systems of rivers, streams, lakes, etc. etc that are in motion.

You can wait a bit in the beginning, but in time, begin gently vacuuming the substrate on a regular schedule. If you use root tabs, take note where you place them to avoid pulling up the nutrients.

Just food for thought
 
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