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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently moved some plants and driftwood around and it was kinda like moving the couch after a few years - there was decaying plant matter and other various tank detritus.

I vacuum the gravel every week and keep the filter clean but it seems like stuff is collecting in the nooks and crannies.

Do folks do a deep clean every so often or do those bits of missed waste not mess with the parameters too much?

Thanks!
 

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The only "deep cleaning" I do is with my siphon hose with no gravel vacuum. The strength of the siphon pulls out any loose leaves and otherwise undesirable things from my tank. Gotta be careful, though, as it will suck up fish small enough.

My parameters seem fine without moving any aquarium decor...of course if you have anything more sensitive than what I've got it could be a huge issue.

EDIT: to add to what the above said, I also never vacuum my gravel, only the surface and maybe a little lower to get the loose leaves off the bottom. But never inside the gravel
 

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When I actually had gravel I would do a deep cleaning, as long as it did not interfere with the roots.
Most of my tanks have finer substrates, so all I do is to clean the surface. Maybe pick up the first layer of substrate, then allow it to drop. Rarely go deeper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I guess I should be clear. The siphon I use isn't a real vacuum. It just picks up stuff from the surface. And since I have sand, there really isn't any build up under the surface.

Guess I don't need to worry about it :)
 

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I've found that cleaning out my tanks is necessary for controlling things like hair algae (along with having a swarm of amanos) but otherwise it's not really that important.
 

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Given time we all get more of a grip on this question and it will often be different for each of us.
I let the siphon do some vac duty but not nearly as much as I used to. Over time, I've evolved in my thinking of debris. At one point, I was super tuned to getting as much "dirt" out as possible, moving wood, etc.
But now that I've been doing the planted for a while, I've changed. When I see folks doing fine by using dirt for plants, I think back to what the debris does. At some point much of it becomes nitrate! Nitrate is plant food but also algae food. My current plan goes like this. I only remove enough debris to make the tank appear "clean" enough to my eye except for two other things. IF I find my nitrate is running higher than wanted, I have to assume one good way to keep so much being produced is to remove the debris. That means the debris collected in the filter as well as what may be hidden under the log, rocks, etc. Also high nitrate does seem to lead to me having more algae. Hotly debated in places but that's what I see. So that can also lead me to do more cleaning, both filters and debris. What's under the log is pretty much the same as what is hidden in the filter so cleaning one may be the same as cleaning the other.
Much of the time, I do no vacing, even with the siphon. I have two good big filters and just clean them after letting them clean the tank.
 

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Depends I am using ferts, whether I have algae, whether I want super crystal water etc. There is no single approach. I've had super clean tanks and ones I never touch.
 

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There are a number of products on the market that also claims to clean gravel, I guess they fall into two categories, bacterial, and potassium permangenate based like Jungle Clear Water.
 

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As for me lately i scrapped my tank, i had to move it.

I did rinse all the substrate to remove all the accumulated organic matter, after 4-5 years of almost non-vacuuming. I had cyanobacteria issues the last months, and i think the cause was too much accumulated organic matter, but i maybe wrong. Another very possible cause was that there was anaerobic region(s) within the substrate because of long time accumulated organic matter blocking the passage of water and oxygen.

I agree plants will take nutrients from the mulm, however they do not make the mulm disappear (they don't absorb all the mulm itself). Terrestrial plants take nutrients from the soil, but they do not absorb the soil itself (just a comparison).

I agree that some tanks can run for years without vacuuming, especially the low tech, low light ones I guess. However personally i think there is a limit to what a closed system like an aquarium can take (accumulation of organic waste eventually lead to issues methink).

Since the tank has been restarted, i do vacuum just over the substrate regularly.

Michel, forgive my English.
 

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I been in the hobby for many years, but new to a planted tank...but also, I've been an organic veggie gardener for many, many years. Thinking of these tanks with sterile substrates with chemical root tabs and liquid fert dosing...'aqua hydroponics'. I think, especially if you have rooted plants, you can relax and let the plants process the organic waste in the substrate/water....and cut back on chemical ferts.
IF you don't have a planted tank, I think you want any/all crud outta there!
 

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The trick is properly sized substrate, (cap over dirt in my case) and Malaysian trumpet snails to keep it turned over.
Here's how you get that correct size - Andy taught me this - thanks Andy.
You make 2 strainer boxes, one with 1/4" screen, and the other with window screen.
You first strain your rocks (from a local beach in my case, and full of clam shell fragments to boot) through the larger 1/4" screen, that get's rid of the
stuff that's too big. You then screen it through the smaller screen, that (obviously) screens out the stuff that's too fine.

What you're left with is a perfect substrate of varying particle size, but coarse enough to allow detritus to settle into it, yet not too course.
Works great as a cap to dirted tank.
This tank is heavily fed, 3 years old, and as you can see no visible detritus on the surface, just underneath however... :)

Larger rocks were thrown in afterword for effect.
 

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I surface vac once a week. I pick off dead or dying leaves as I spot them, but for any food bits that may get stuck around the bases of plants or around rocks, skimming the surface of the substrate keeps the tank clean and free of floating stuff if the fish disturb it for some reason.

I tend to be one of those people that over cleans things, so to prevent myself from deep cleaning the substrate, I have a piece of mesh from a body scrubber thing that you can find everywhere for a buck or two over the end of my mini siphon. With the mesh in place, ( I use a plastic wire tie to keep it on the tube) I can press on the substrate, but I can't go to deep unless I break the mesh. If the mesh breaks it means I'm vacuuming too hard.

The mesh trick is also great for keeping fish out of siphon tubes. My fish are far too curious so the mesh keeps them safe and allows me to not have to babysit as closely during tank cleanings or water changes.
 
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