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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've setup my first planted tank about a year ago, I've made lots of mistakes but things are looking good now.

I'm used to using a gravel vac on my non-planted tanks. For this tank, the substrate is completely covered by plants. How do you vac a planted tank substrate (if not at all)? Any advice for a newbie?
 

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Ok,I put some thought into this:) I know that all substrates will over time develop a "pan substrate" as sand or even gravel will harden from detritus and chemical reactions. With planted tanks,I would tell people who don't want to start over,then they should use a stick,dowel,and jab the soils...loosen it while vacuuming.
Do it slow,methodical and that should aerate the soils and give the tank a lower amount of organics..organics that are not feeding the plants.
 

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I use a turkey baster to fluff up the substrate (unless I'm using root tabs). If it's a deeper substrate I use kebab skewers to stab at it and aerate a little then suck up the excess with a turkey baster. You get very used to swooping the gravel vac over the plants to pull up excess organics.
 

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I don't use carpetting plants. There, problem solved.

I use what I think is black diamond blasting sand. I'll take a standard gravel vacuum, and pinch the hose tight to reduce the flow, ram it into the substrate that needs cleaning, and then release the hose so that water flows through. I don't move the hose, and I control how far up the substrate goes into the tube. Once I'm satisfied with the water, I pinch the hose tight again, move the hose to a nearby spot, and repeat the process.

Keep in mind, that I do minimal planting. So what works for my low tech, minimally planted tank, will not work for somebody else's tank.
 

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I don't use carpetting plants. There, problem solved.

I use what I think is black diamond blasting sand. I'll take a standard gravel vacuum, and pinch the hose tight to reduce the flow, ram it into the substrate that needs cleaning, and then release the hose so that water flows through. I don't move the hose, and I control how far up the substrate goes into the tube. Once I'm satisfied with the water, I pinch the hose tight again, move the hose to a nearby spot, and repeat the process.

Keep in mind, that I do minimal planting. So what works for my low tech, minimally planted tank, will not work for somebody else's tank.
I straight up gravel vac the open area of my low tech, but I have gravel not sand.
 

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First thing to know about a planted tank: You usually do not need to vacuum. You want some buildup in the substrate over time as things grow and change. I think it's a bad idea to vacuum most of the time - especially if you're new - unless you 100% know what you're doing and can handle anything that's thrown your way with a tank.

If you have shrimp? Hard no. They're detrivores and need a lot of the stuff you're removing in order to thrive.

My rule of thumb (and most* people here on the forum if you use the search function) is to manually remove any unsightly large detritus that you see. I use a length of airline tubing and gently siphon out whatever I need to get on a targeted basis. Never had a reason to disturb substrate in nearly 30 years unless I'm planting or making a major adjustment.

If you have so much buildup that you need to conduct regular removal, you should reevaluate how you're caring for the tank. Maybe feed less or feed in a more targeted manner. Consider adding some snails. Focus on what's causing breakdown. I've found all of those things to be more useful than intentionally disturbing substrate. Mostly because my philosophy with tanks is that in terms of messing with the tank or disturbing anything = less is more. I only do what I absolutely have to - fertilize, feed, maintenance, minimal cleaning.

*Note that "most" does not mean all
 

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With my I use the turkey baster approach with my nano tank and on my larger one the gravel is larger and I usually vacuum a little bit each water change, but never pushing the hose deep into the gravel. I know where stuff accumulates the most and target those spots especially. I definitely still have detritus building up in the deeper layers which I am fine with, but I don't want too much on the surface.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The reason for my question is I have some BBA and a guy at the LFS told me that it's probably caused by organic build-up and I should do a lot of gravel vac to fix it. If it is organics, would activated carbon or Purigen take care of the problem?
 

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Turkey baster to the harder to reach spots (in between plants/ plant groupings, inside caves or nooks and crannies in rock/ wood work etc) with filters off, manual removal of bba and water changes will help with some organics/ bba. Have you noticed it growing or spreading or is it kind of contained?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Turkey baster to the harder to reach spots (in between plants/ plant groupings, inside caves or nooks and crannies in rock/ wood work etc) with filters off, manual removal of bba and water changes will help with some organics/ bba. Have you noticed it growing or spreading or is it kind of contained?
I'm not sure if it's spreading or just growing slowly, but it is in places all over the tank, especially on the branches of my driftwood.
 

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If could be your driftwood decomposing. That's one of the primary contributors to my bba battle. Excel/ peroxide spot treatments along with manual removal and water changes keeps mine at bay.
 
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