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Discussion Starter #1
Here's my info:

20G high planted tank.
Dose 1ml flourish comprehensive once a week.
Prime water conditioner.
Fish: seven glowlight tetras, one fancy guppy, three Japan blue guppies, one dwarf gourami, two peacock gudgeons, three nerite snails, one mystery snail
9 gallon WC one a week.
One full-spectrum 15W 8000K T8 bulb. on 8 hours a day.

I feed once a day. A pinch (less than a pea-sized amount) of New Life Spectrum - .5mm sinking pellets.

When I clean, TONS of gunk gets thrown up in to the water. TONS of it. There's TONS of gunk in the substrate and all over the plants, driftwood, etc.

The gunk appears to be poo and... well, gunk. Looks like brown dust. It's not strongly attached like diatoms, from what I can tell.

Any thoughts? I've cut down on what I used to feed, but it just doesn't seem like I'm overfeeding.

Here are pics:
















 

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Is this a new tank? The stuff sounds like mulm that isn't staying where it belongs, in the substrate. Mulm is dead plants and critter poop reduced by bacteria and other detritivores in the tank and is the equivalent of humus in the terrestrial garden. It will also cling to surfaces roughened by algal growth. I don't know why but as a tank matures that stuff will clump into larger bits and stay where it belongs. If left on the plants it will increase the chances of algal spores landing and sprouting. Found that out the hard way!

I count on the platies and corydoras plus water movement to keep gunk knocked off the plants, rocks and wood. If your guppies are picking at everything in the tank that should help. Knocking it off the plants and vacuuming it out of the tank during water changes should help and/or adding more water circulation overall.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is this a new tank? The stuff sounds like mulm that isn't staying where it belongs, in the substrate. Mulm is dead plants and critter poop reduced by bacteria and other detritivores in the tank and is the equivalent of humus in the terrestrial garden. It will also cling to surfaces roughened by algal growth. I don't know why but as a tank matures that stuff will clump into larger bits and stay where it belongs. If left on the plants it will increase the chances of algal spores landing and sprouting. Found that out the hard way!

I count on the platies and corydoras plus water movement to keep gunk knocked off the plants, rocks and wood. If your guppies are picking at everything in the tank that should help. Knocking it off the plants and vacuuming it out of the tank during water changes should help and/or adding more water circulation overall.
Tank is about 5 months old. I *DID* pull up a bunch of plants a month or so ago and re-scape.

Thank you so much for your input - what you said makes sense to me. I know it's not all poop, but I bet you're right - mulm.
 

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More circulation helps. Anything that keeps particles suspended in the water long enough for it to reach the filter. Lots of people use circulation pumps (koralia is popular), but personally prefer to use a massive filter.
 

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I had the same problem when the fish waste would get stuck in the moss and all over the substrate floor. I had over filtration for my small 20 gallon but there's no way for it to get sucked up once the waste gets to the bottom. Even when I do water changes and stir it up it still wouldn't get sucked up by the filter intake. I just put in a couple Corys in my tank and the ground cleared up along with the java moss. Made a huge difference night and day.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
What filter are you running?
Marineland Penguin 150 HOB

For me it looks like you need to improve your water movement.
I would agree, but not sure how to do it. It's weird that this is manifesting itself now after so many months.

More circulation helps. Anything that keeps particles suspended in the water long enough for it to reach the filter. Lots of people use circulation pumps (koralia is popular), but personally prefer to use a massive filter.
Like this? Amazon.com: Hydor Koralia Nano 240 Aquarium Circulation Pump 240 GPH: Pet Supplies

What about upgrading my filter instead of adding a 2nd one? Which would be better - add or upgrade?

I had the same problem when the fish waste would get stuck in the moss and all over the substrate floor. I had over filtration for my small 20 gallon but there's no way for it to get sucked up once the waste gets to the bottom. Even when I do water changes and stir it up it still wouldn't get sucked up by the filter intake. I just put in a couple Corys in my tank and the ground cleared up along with the java moss. Made a huge difference night and day.
I'll look into some cories. I had a few albino cories, but they were NEVER on the floor. They spent all day zipping across the front of the tank... back and forth.

Maybe I missed it, but what kind of filter are you running?
See above.
 

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mulm, sounds better than poop & debris :thumbsup:

using an airhose tubing as a siphon is a fast way to suck it out immediately, then try not to disturb the substrate anymore. Which is impossible to do when you move things around and that can be unavoidable. In which case, you'll usually want to do the airling tubing trick again and do a larger water change to deal with the ammonia spike.

When using the regular siphon, you can avoid stirring up the mulm by using a differently technique, that doesn't send the debris up anywhere but into the siphon itself. And be sure to add water back into the tank slowly, onto a rock, your hand a plate, etc. so as to not stir up the substrate more.

Bottom feeders are also a good idea to clean up any uneaten food that's fallen. Pygmy cories are adorable... they tend to school and have great personalities. Then are constantly cleaning/moving, and playing.

Last, increasing your water flow is another option to increase filtration. It's important to consider the amount of flow with what types of fish you have. eg. bettas usually don't like strong flows.

I'd try the airline trick, then siphoning/water change methods that don't stir up the gunk to see if that does the trick for you first. Then after water conditions are better (ammonia is back to zero) than you can consider adding some cories if you'd like. I'd wait on a new filter at this time... if you want to spend money on something, maybe consider investing in a second bulb for your light if possible to bring you up to 2w per gallon and let healthy plants help with your filtration. :icon_cool
 

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fyi- after getting the excess mulm out with the airline, you'll want to do regular water changes again with your siphon. Here's a good how to video that explains the technique that will suck up the mulm without stirring it up into the water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKELRscYWko

Watch how she starts the siphon too, as shaking one to start in such a small aquarium can also stir up the mulm... not what you want to do.


Here's a video that shows the airline technique. He added a piece of rigid tubing to the end, which can make it easier to hold, but you don't need to. But, it does show how the technique differs. (just skip past the first 50 seconds) Since there is so much disturbed mulm right now to be removed, using an airline is the best way to get out a lot of debris without removing a lot of water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF4RlBTFr3E

Notice how easy it is for the mulm to be disturbed when he's beginning the siphon, he pushes air into the line first, which caused the mulm to fly around. To avoid this, you can use a bulb aspirator to start the siphon.

Hope this is helpful!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
mulm, sounds better than poop & debris :thumbsup:

Last, increasing your water flow is another option to increase filtration. It's important to consider the amount of flow with what types of fish you have. eg. bettas usually don't like strong flows.

I'd try the airline trick, then siphoning/water change methods that don't stir up the gunk to see if that does the trick for you first. Then after water conditions are better (ammonia is back to zero) than you can consider adding some cories if you'd like. I'd wait on a new filter at this time... if you want to spend money on something, maybe consider investing in a second bulb for your light if possible to bring you up to 2w per gallon and let healthy plants help with your filtration. :icon_cool
I think finding the correct term is helpful to me because Googling "brown crap in tank" wasn't yielding the results I was looking for. :red_mouth

I'm going to try the cheap solutions first. ;) I'm tired of spending money on this tank!

I'm not sure if my tank topper can accommodate a 2nd bulb, but I'll look into it.

Thanks again all (esp Sherry) for the help!
 

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fyi- after getting the excess mulm out with the airline, you'll want to do regular water changes again with your siphon. Here's a good how to video that explains the technique that will suck up the mulm without stirring it up into the water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKELRscYWko

Watch how she starts the siphon too, as shaking one to start in such a small aquarium can also stir up the mulm... not what you want to do.

Here's a video that shows the airline technique. He added a piece of rigid tubing to the end, which can make it easier to hold, but you don't need to. But, it does show how the technique differs. (just skip past the first 50 seconds) Since there is so much disturbed mulm right now to be removed, using an airline is the best way to get out a lot of debris without removing a lot of water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF4RlBTFr3E

Notice how easy it is for the mulm to be disturbed when he's beginning the siphon, he pushes air into the line first, which caused the mulm to fly around. To avoid this, you can use a bulb aspirator to start the siphon.

Hope this is helpful!
The first video *is* how I've vac'd my substrate. However, the siphon head is bigger than I'd like, so I can't get into too many areas with it.

Both of my siphons have an aspirator attached to them to help start flow.
 

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When I see that gunk I think "fry food!"
 

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lol, Peter.

The first video *is* how I've vac'd my substrate. However, the siphon head is bigger than I'd like, so I can't get into too many areas with it.

Both of my siphons have an aspirator attached to them to help start flow.
Ok, sorry if I'm posting anything redundant. You mentioned trying to stir things up in the substrate before, maybe that was just when adding back in the water. Mulm that is stirred up is a lot more difficult to remove via a siphon than when it's settled. So I'd just avoid that and try not to move things around as much anymore or as little as possible. :smile:

Nice to have siphons with built in aspirators! What size is the siphoning side? Maybe if you can detached that piece and replace it will a smaller rigid tube from the hardware store? Might help when you return to normal siphoning.

ps- I also think you can feed your fish 2x a day, small pinches. Getting those pygmy cories or some bottom feeders again in a couple of weeks will help with any excess fish food. Until then, you should be able to siphon excess food off. The pygmys are great though because they will go up plants and the wood to clean, and not just stay on the bottom.
 
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